Are you ready to explore the world with your family?
While the Caribbean is a popular cruise destination for families, the world of cruising extends far beyond those tropical islands. There are countless exotic itineraries to choose from. And why limit yourself to just a cruise? Combining a land-based itinerary with a cruise can make for a truly unforgettable vacation.
Here are the 11 best international travel destinations for family vacations, regardless of whether you incorporate a cruise. Get ready to embark on a wonderful adventure with your family!
France, with its “joe de vie,” culinary delights, and twinkling lights, is a prime family destination for kids of all ages, and differing interests ranging from history, art, and science to rollercoasters.
While France has many hidden gems, let’s start with the City of Lights and the magical world of Disneyland Paris. Although it is smaller than the US versions in California or Florida, it’s still a fun excursion for your little ones.
Then head to the Louvre museum to see the Mona Lisa in all her enigmatic glory. Next, enjoy panoramic views from the Eifel Tower, tour ancient Notre Dame, and explore the marvels of science in the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie.
Tip: Although visiting Paris is a must, it’s not a cheap family destination, and France has so much more to offer!
So, consider traveling to the idyllic French countryside to see chic chateaus and explore the breathtaking Côte d’Azur. Then head to the lavender-hued fields in Provence, and explore the region’s ancient Roman ruins and the historic beaches of Normandy.
Vietnam is an incredible, warm, and welcoming family destination, especially if your kids like the great outdoors, history, nature, and building sandcastles on the beach!
There are so many unique regions to explore, especially the iconic Mekong Delta, which is perfect for adventurous kids. They can enjoy a canoe ride in the picturesque small village, play on the beach, and learn about the history of the Vietnam war, so it’s both educational and fun !
Other enjoyable activities, especially for adventurous kids, include crawling through the iconic Cu Chi tunnels in Ho Chi Minh like Vietnamese soldiers. However, you might battle to get them out of there as they will love it that much!
Then explore the 15th-century delights of Hoi An with its charming pagodas, ancient shrines, and vibrant tea houses dotted along the way. You can also chat with the friendly locals and ask for recommendations for the best silk clothing and “banh mi” in town!
Tip: using strollers in Vietnam is incredibly difficult. Instead, travel with a toddler or baby carrier if you have small children.
Norway is frequently ranked as one of the world’s happiest and most content countries. With unmatched natural beauty, majestic mountains, fjords, roaming reindeer, and bucket-list northern lights. So, it’s no wonder Norway is one of the best international travel destinations for families!
If you are looking for a kiddie-friendly destination, look no further, as kids rule the roost in this ancient Viking land. No one will bat an eyelid in cities like Oslo when they clamber over the Frogmore Park sculptures, sway over the sloped Opera House roof, or an ancient Viking ship!
Other must-see destinations include the historic Trondheim, its picturesque timber-clad fisherman warehouses, and historic Røros, Norway’s most beautiful town Ålesund with its Art Nouveau multi-hued buildings adorned with medieval turrets and ornaments.
Norway offers a wide array of fun outdoor activities for active families, from skiing and tobogganing in winter to kayaking, hiking, biking, and river rafting in summer. Even in Norway’s major cities, the great outdoors is always easily accessible.
If your kids love wildlife, head to the mountainous Langedrag farm. Home to wolves, lynxes, and foxes, and depending on the time of the year, they could enjoy cuddling with little wolf pups, so it’s well worth a visit.
Other great family destinations towards the west include Bergen, with its iconic fjords, via the spectacular and scary Trollstigen (Trolls Ladder) road, including whale watching and dog slaying in the north, or polar bear encounters in the North Pole’s Svalbard archipelago.
Tip: if you are traveling on a tight budget, and your kids love camping, Norway’s freedom-to-roam act means you can pitch up a tent just about anywhere.
Singapore might be a small country, but it is jam-packed with great family vacation activities and delicious food. It is a rich cultural melting pot of Chinese, Indian, and Malay influences just waiting to be explored.
While there are many fun activities, including must-see family-friendly attractions like Sentosa Island, the futuristic, incredible Gardens by The Bay, and a Universal Studios tour.
It is also incredibly easy to get around with their efficient subway. As English is commonly spoken, most signs are also written in English, so you should not get lost, which is a bonus in any foreign country!
Tip: Singapore is also a prime destination for foodie families. So, no visit to this beautiful country is complete without tasting the vast array of local delicacies in a hawker center!
5. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is undoubtedly one of Central America’s most popular family-friendly destinations with its outstanding natural beauty, pristine beaches, lush tropical forests, and biodiversity. It caters to parents who want to relax and kids of all ages who love new adventures.
There are several great resorts dotted throughout the country with great outdoor adventures. Popular activities include ziplining through forest canopies, hiking to spectacular waterfalls, climbing volcanoes, horse-riding, and life-affirming dips in hot springs, to mention but a few.
Other family-friendly activities include exploring stunning national parks and picking up shells on the Pacific and Caribbean beaches. Or learning to surf at the Peaks N Swell surf camp and getting to know the friendly locals who are truly happy to stop for a quick chat!
Tip: while kids have a ton of energy, they get cranky by the end of the day, which usually ends with meltdowns. So, schedule thrilling adventures for the morning. And, let them nap, play on the sunny beach, or in the pool during the afternoons.
Thailand is hands down one of the best international travel destinations for kids! Apart from the diverse range of fun family activities, the friendly locals are the country’s greatest asset, so no wonder it is called the country with a thousand smiles!
There is an abundance of family-friendly activities. Moreover, Thailand is steeped in history and rich in cultural and religious diversity, with bustling Bangkok streets, delicious food, and stunning deserted beaches.
Your kids can experience the thrill of elephant encounters and snorkeling in the ocean. Visit Buddhist temples, explore lush rolling hills, enjoy spectacular evening fire shows, or celebrate Songkran and Yi Peng festivals with the locals.
Other incredible attractions include the historic temples of Chiang Mai, the Patera Elephant Farm, and the spectacular island of Ko Samui with its immaculate white beaches. And the best Thai massages you will find anywhere!
Tip: the best way to explore Thailand is by overnight train or bus ride. You will see a lot more of the spectacular countryside and truly connect with the friendly locals who always love welcoming foreign tourists to their beautiful country.
Even though this Caribbean tropical paradise was off-limits for US tourists for some time, there was a brief window when restrictions were relaxed and U.S. cruise travelers could visit Cuba. That window slammed shut in 2016. For now, we are leaving this as a placeholder in hopes that American tourists will once again have the opportunity to visit.
While there are currently no cruises from the US to Cuba, flying there is ideal. You will need a lot of time to explore this incredible country’s stunningly diverse landscapes.
It’s the perfect laid-back place to spend relaxing days in the sun on the beach with warm aqua-hued water that is perfect for swimming. Apart from the country’s delicious food, lively salsa music, dancing, and friendly people, there’s a wide range of kid-friendly activities to enjoy.
Cuba is well suited to active families, with fun outdoor activities like mountain biking, fishing, horseback riding, ziplining, or exploring the stunning Viñales caves.
This Caribbean Island is incredibly popular due to its outstanding landscapes ranging from coastal areas and idyllic rivers to majestic alpine peaks with a diverse range of colorful fauna and flora in protected areas like botanic gardens and national parks.
Tip: Cuba is one Caribbean island where U.S. dollars are most definitely not freely accepted. Nor can American visitors cannot use their debit/credit cards in Cuba.
8. United Kingdom
This list of the best international travel destinations for families would be incomplete if it did not include the United Kingdom. And there are far more local attractions and kid-friendly activities than Harry Potter movie tours!
Apart from exploring London’s iconic royal landmarks like Buckingham Palace, or the historic Tower of London, this buzzing metropole has a wide variety of fun activities for kids ranging from Legoland with its 150 rides to viewing sharks at Europe’s deepest Aquarium, aptly named “The Deep.”
London is also famous for its outstanding variety of tasty food from all over the world. In addition, it has some of the top UK Saturday markets to explore.
The UK has so much more to offer than merely London. So, venture out to Stonehenge for a quick day trip or go on a safari at Longleat, which is consistently voted as one the best, and oldest safari parks outside Africa.
Tip: if you are traveling with small kids, it would be helpful to know that strollers are known as pushchairs in the UK, cribs are called cots, and diapers are known as nappies.
Wearing layered clothing is a must as this region can have three seasons in one day, so be well prepared, and have fun!
Italy, with its moreish comfort food, spectacular architecture, illustrious history, and warm and welcoming people, is one of my favorite international travel destinations. And it should be on everyone’s bucket list!
With diverse landscapes ranging from the cobbled streets of ancient Rome leading to the stately Colosseum, the Instagram-worthy Leaning Tower of Pisa, breathtaking alpine peaks, and scenic Venetian landscape to Tuscany’s sun-kissed beaches on the Italian Riviera.
Although it does not matter whether you explore the North or the South. There are several kid-friendly attractions throughout Italy, like fun “Arte al Sole” workshops where your kiddos can learn to make their own pasta, make chocolate, or create their own works of art.
Alternatively, if you prefer a more laid-back vacation where your kids can master the fine art of riding horses in the countryside or relaxing in the pool. Rent a farmhouse in the picturesque rolling hills of Tuscany.
Then head over to the Italian Riviera with its charming array of old villages, incredible restaurants, and one of the most outstanding coastlines in Europe. With little hidden gems like Positano, Cinque Terre, and Portofino dotted along the way.
Tip: bug spray is a must if you plan a summer vacation in Italy! Especially if you are traveling with a tiny baby, mosquito bites can easily trigger nasty allergic reactions.
Once you have finalized your travel itinerary, book your main attractions and kid-friendly tours well in advance. Even if you are not exploring Italy during its pique tourist season. Italy is an all-year-round prime travel destination, so queues are generally long.
With its all-year-round balmy weather, tasty tapas, welcoming locals, and kid-friendly attractions, Spain offers families an abundance of fun activities!
Apart from the science museums, and spectacular beaches, it’s a prime destination for soccer fans with the likes of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. And your kids can experience the excitement of watching a live soccer match if you book tickets well in advance.
Alternatively, suppose you plan to visit Barcelona. In that case, you can join a Camp Nou Stadium tour, a truly unforgettable experience for budding soccer stars.
Then head to Barcelona’s Gaudi Park to explore its rich abundance of colorful art scattered around the park’s lush landscape.
And remember to pop into a chocolate museum to indulge in Spain’s finest sweet treats. Then meander through Barcelona’s charming neighborhoods, and catch your breath at Park Guell. Finally, explore the tree-lined La Rambla and the spine-tingling ancient Gothic Quarter.
Once you have had your fill-in Barcelona, consider adding Madrid to your travel itinerary. Apart from being Spain’s capital, this bustling city is a prime family vacation destination with beautiful plazas, fun amusement parks, and stunning architecture.
The only downside of visiting Madrid is that you might need help to choose between the abundance of tourist attractions. Like the Plaza Mayor and the outstanding Prado Museum, which showcases the nation’s finest works of art.
Madrid is also a budget-friendly destination, and most locals speak English, so it’s easy to communicate and get around, which is a bonus when traveling to any international destination.
Tip: apart from major cities like Madrid and Barcelona, most Spanish towns have traditional siestas from 2-5pm each day when most shops are closed. So, don’t be surprised if you encounter closed stores from time to time in rural towns.
You will also notice that most restaurants don’t offer children’s menus. However, kiddie-friendly dishes like baguette sandwiches (bocadillos), potato omelets (tortilla Española), and tomato and garlic enthused fresh bread (pan con tomate) will satisfy many of the pickiest little eaters.
11. New Zealand
Home to breathtaking dramatic landscapes, snow-capped mountains, lush valleys, and enchanting Hobbit houses. New Zealand is a one-of-a-kind travel destination. Especially for active families who love the great outdoors.
New Zealand is incredibly safe and laid back. It offers numerous fun activities and attractions, including well-maintained playgrounds and baby-changing amenities, so it’s ideal for families with small children.
And should you find yourself in Auckland, New Zealand’s stunning capital city, head to the Sky Tower, the tallest structure in the entire Southern Hemisphere, for breathtaking views of the city and its surrounding islands.
Because many of New Zealand’s main attractions are far apart. The best way to quickly get around is by hiring a car once you arrive or booking a guided tour that allows you to relax and enjoy the magnificent scenery.
No trip to New Zealand is complete without experiencing the sheer magic of the Middle earth film location for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogy. Your kids will love exploring Hobbiton, and its charming little homes, with rickety little doors carved into the lush hills.
Then head to the Hot Water Beach, located in Coromandel, where your kids can build their own little hot water pools with warm thermal spring water.
Even though there are numerous places to spot dolphins and whales in New Zealand. One of my favorite viewing spots is Kaikoura, on the beautiful South Island coastline, with an abundance of characterful seals, playful dolphins, gigantic diving sperm whales, and diverse birdlife.
Kaikoura’s water can be choppy at times, especially for small kids, so a serene whale-watching boat tour in the picturesque Bay of Islands during the summertime is a great alternative.
A visit to the “Te Papa” Museum of New Zealand in Wellington is a must! Especially if you want to learn more about New Zealand’s rich culture and fascinating history with fun, play-based displays for kids under 12 and spell-bounding storytelling sessions.
Tip: New Zealand is a costly travel destination. While your kids aged five or younger will mostly be able to participate in fun activities for free, you will need to pay entry fees for your older kids. So, budget accordingly, and have fun!
family vacations are a great way to create unforgettable memories and bond with your loved ones. Whether you choose to incorporate a cruise or not, you can use any of these 11 international travel destinations for wonderful family adventures. So, start planning!