The ultimate family holiday bucket list
Every parent has a list of the places they dream of taking their kids some day. Sure, we know that London and Paris, New York City and Disney probably rank high but we challenge you to think big and out of the box. Why not create a bucket list that that is made up of once-in-a-lifetime family holidays? Here are 15 places — some obvious, others unfamiliar — that you and your kids will never forget.
15. Rio de Janeiro
Sandy beaches, picturesque landscapes and impeccable culture – Rio de Janeiro has it all, making it the ultimate destination for your next family holiday.
Tourism has never faltered in Rio, but since the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, there has been an even bigger buzz surrounding the capital of one of the world’s most vibrant countries. Brazilians are known for their care-free nature, love of family and good food. So, take a plunge and set off on an unforgettable long haul adventure.
Although you’ll be busy exploring Rio’s history don’t forget to tuck into local food and if your little ones are fussy eaters, don’t worry there will be something for them too. Typical Brazilian dishes to tick off your checklist are; feijoada, a black bean stew with pork and sausages and Bolinho de Chuva, fried dough balls sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar – yum!
Rio de Janiero has two famous beaches; Copacabana and Ipanema. Both have different entities making them equally worthy of a visit but the crème de la crème has to be a trip to Sugarloaf Mountain. Set in Guanbara Bay, Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the most iconic natural landmarks. The summit is 394 metres high, and can be reached by cable car so brace yourself for breathtaking views of the city.
Adventurous travellers with a zest for culture.
Travelling to Central America can often be daunting for families with children, but as the only country which speaks English, without getting lost in translation you’ll have more time to experience this laid back country and it’s diverse ecosystems. From swamps to forest and even mountains, you’re sure to find natural adventures which ever way you turn – of course, the beaches are pretty great too.
Belize is home to seven World Heritage sites and home to around a dozen mayan ruins, which you can visit and explore – and even climb on. However, they are set to uncover more, so why not try and visit before these sites begin to change?
With over 500 species of birds, the biggest population of Jaguars, 300 species of fish and even 65 kinds of coral you’re never too far from making a friend. From exploring the Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve, you can witness the majestic Keel Billed Toucan. Snorkel or scuba dive the Belize Barrier Reef, the biggest in the Northern and Western hemisphere, where you can witness the rainbow of life below the surface.
You and the family will be able to travel with ease by road, air and water. For a small and often remote country, you’ll find the transport links to be surprisingly easy to navigate. However, with a population of 35 people per square mile, on average, you may find it more pleasant to ride a bike. The roads are maintained well, and with a small population you’re sure to find that traffic won’t be a bother.
As a country they describe themselves as having a Caribbean lilt when it comes to languages, but much of this has transferred in to everyday life, as you’re sure to fall in love with their laid back way of life. With just under 400km of coastline, you’re spoiled for choice on where to relax by the beach. If you did want a little more seclusion, the Cayes and Atolls offer that much needed remoteness with an often affordable price tag.
A perfect match for families who love to relax by the beach but aren’t afraid of exploring nature in all of it’s forms.
Find out more: travelbelize.org
Fallen in love with the glittering turquoise shores of Belize? Why not jet your family off to the best beaches the rest of the world has to offer.
The only country to sit upon both West and East Europe means you’re sure to find vivid colours and smells, friendly characters and incredible dishes, only a five hour flight from the UK. Plus, you’ll be able to make your money go a long way here.
Known for their hospitality and mouth-watering dishes, it’s unsurprising that many families travel to Turkey to get their teeth stuck in, literally. From a quick city break in Istanbul, where you can experience the fishermen, the quirky floating fish restaurants and the smell of fresh grilled fish wafting over the Galata Bridge – our favourite dish not to be missed, “balık ekmek” which is one of the best fish sandwiches.
Whichever seaside hotspot you do travel to, there is a sure way to cool down after a long day at the beach, and that’s with an ice cream. Turkey is famous for their Maraş dondurması, which is slightly chewier than what we’re used to back home. This ice cream comes with added bells and whistles, as it’s served with a spectacle that would make any child grin from ear-to-ear. The whole family will be taking part in a back and fourth, finding themselves playing in childish games where they’re sometimes left empty handed, with just a cone.
Known for it’s beautiful coastline many families are already frequent visitors of Bodrum, Antalya or Side. But, have you tried the turquoise waters of Fethiye yet? Slightly quieter than some of the other resorts, even the grandparents will be happy.
Perfect for all of the family from tots to grandparents without breaking the bank.
Find out more: goturkey.com
If you’re looking to get lost in the Grand Bazaar take a look at our family friendly destination guide for Istanbul for families.
12. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park was the world’s first national park. It opened in 1872 and has arguably remained one of the most interesting since. While Yellowstone’s official address is in the state of Wyoming, Yellowstone is actually in three states — including Montana and Idaho — giving you far more to explore.
Yellowstone has over 300 geysers, but Old Faithful is the most famous. It got the name Faithful because of the predictability of its eruptions. Old Faithful erupts about 17 times a day between every 60-110 minutes so you definitely won’t miss the chance to catch it on camera. Speaking of cameras, you’ll definitely need to to whip it out as you cross the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The pastel-coloured canyon is up to 4,000-feet wide and half as deep in places but it will be a sight like no other.
11. Geilo, Norway
Picture a perfect winter wonderland, with twinkling lights and snow-covered pines. Welcome to Geilo in Norway.
This small town north-west of Oslo is nestled in a valley, with floodlit mountain ranges on either side. Thanks to the Bergen railway, which connects Oslo and Bergen, Geilo became Norway’s first skiing resort, and it remains one of the country’s largest. Geilo has the magical combination of guaranteed snow (the type you can only find in Scandinavia) and uncrowded pistes. The town’s friendly and relaxed resorts are perfect for anyone new to ski – or perhaps trying out their ski legs for the first time in years!
Geilo is first and foremost a ski town, but the there’s also plenty to explore off the mountain. From dog sledding and horse sleigh riding to mountain top tours and snow scooter safaris, there are dozens of ways for families to get the full Nordic experience.
Many of the hotels offer extras to keep the kids happy. Bardøla Hotel boasts its own skating rink, but the town’s most impressive hotel extra, is probably Dr Holm Hotel’s six-lane bowling alley.
Geilo is one those hidden gems that’s so special, it won’t stay hidden for long. So go now.
Geilo is famous for having some of the most luxurious cabins in Norway. If you’re in a position to splurge, you’ll find gorgeous cabins surrounded by trees and a short distance to ski lifts, each with their own wood burning fire, private sauna and free WiFi. You’ll even get groceries delivered to you and your very own Christmas tree for festive stays.
Active families keen to experience magic of a wintery wonderland
Find out more: visitnorway.com/uk/where-to-go-uk
10. St Lucia
St Lucia is actually two islands in one – the beautiful Rodney Bay in the north which has plenty of modern luxuries, and Soufrière in the south, nestled amid old plantations, secret beaches and the formidable Pitons mountains. The islands are famous for golden sands, great diving and luscious rainforest canopies.
Zipline through the rainforest to see St Lucia from Tarzan’s perspective, explore the eccentric fishing village of Anse La Raye, try snub (a combination of snorkelling and diving), and of course, lie back on golden sands. Labrellotte Bay is perfect for families, as it’s nicely sheltered with calm, shallow waters, perfect for little swimmers.
A holiday in St Lucia is synonymous with luxury, and if that’s what you’re after, you can’t go far wrong with the Marigot Bay Resort & Marina. The thing that sets Marigot Bay Resort & Marina apart from other resorts is its personal assistant service. Nothing says welcome to the Caribbean like being greeted at the airport by your family’s own PA, offering cold towels, drinks and tropical snacks. Your personal assistant will contact you in advance of your stay, to find out what’s important to you and what you want from your family holiday. You’ll then find relevant information in your room, as well as your favourite snacks. Each afternoon cool beer, or ice-tea for the little ones, will be delivered to your room.
Temperatures soar in St Lucia in August, whereas December to April is a great time to go. It’s not as luscious or green as the wet season, but the weather is dry and beautiful and you’ll find plenty of birds and iguanas in the forest.
St Lucia’s beautiful beaches, swanky resorts and alluring forests have long been popular with honeymooners, but it is still relatively undiscovered as a spot for families. However, as well as the laid back relaxing vibe you’d expect from the Caribbean, the island abounds with activities, both in and out of the water, making it a great choice for travellers with kids.
The magic of St Lucia is best found in its rain forests and natural habitats. Coconuts are part of the life blood of the island and its people, and cocoa, nutmeg, cinnamon and other spices grow locally. The sugar mills that were once the island’s main crop are now in decline, and bright bananas trees have taken their place. The Tet Paul nature trail is a fabulous way to get up close to St Lucia’s rich natural habitat. Kids will love spotting dreadlock flowers, money tails and other fantastical local flora. Marigot Bay boasts the longest stretch of mangroves on the island, where kids can spend hours hunting for sea horses, turtles, jelly fish and baracooders.
Families looking for pristine quiet beaches, crystal clear waters and personalised pampering.
Find out more: saintluciauk.org/
If a beach holiday is your ultimate bliss, the Caribbean is a dream come true.
Usually overshadowed by Melbourne and Sydney, this big city is suddenly getting the recognition for being the hippest city in Australia, and so it should. With year-long warm weather and plenty of green space – this makes the perfect city escape without that city feel. Brisbane is one of the fastest-growing cities in Australia, and with that brings a multitude of opportunities for tourists.
With a quarter of Brisbane’s population being within the 25-35 age bracket, you can more than guarantee that this buzzing city will be over flowing with activities, better suited for the older kids in your life.
Swimming within the river is near enough impossible because of the threat of Bull sharks, which is why you can revel in the family-friendly South Bank Pools. Its abundance of BBQ places which will help with winding down your afternoon. If, however, you did want to dip your toes into the sea, the Gold Coast is only an hour away by train or public transport. This particular spot is known as surfers paradise, and the name doesn’t lie.
If the green spaces in the city don’t seem to be enough for you, why not hike up Mount Coot-tha which is 300 meters above sea level, it’s only 6km away from Brisbane’s Central business District (CBD) and gives you an amazing panoramic view above the whole city. Want to make things a bit more adventurous by exploring some of the nearby botanic gardens and venturing towards the outskirts where you can actually go on some of Australia’s best bush walks, without having to venture too far from the CBD? Why not explore the historic and hidden lagoons of Logan, or the foothills of D’Aguilar National Park, where the remains of an old gold mine still exist?
Ideal for families who love to get lost in the great outdoors, whether you long for adventures with nature or to lounge by the beach.
Find out more: visitbrisbane.com.au
Experience the best city attractions in Australia and see just why everyone is converting their holidays from beach to city breaks for families.
More often than not this country is associated with those going backpacking, but this dreamy Asian country has more to offer than cheap drinks; unbelievable crystal beaches, cultural sites, mouth-watering food and mind-blowing accommodation, are in their abundance here.
Whichever part of Thailand you visit will determine the type of holiday you’re after, but with cheap trains and domestic flights more often than not you’ll be able to split your time between at least a couple of destinations. From the deep cultural and historical attractions embedded in the Northern peaks to the breathtaking beaches located on the islands of the south, including Phuket and Samui.
If astonishing blue waters are what you’re after then Phuket, Ko Samui and Ko Lanta are the most family-friendly areas to stay in and take advantage of – a day trip to Koh Phi Phi is recommended as the panoramic views are breathtaking, you’ll get a chance to see why it was chosen as a location for the film The Beach. Koh Phi Phi is also a great snorkelling spot, so don’t forget to pack those in the bag!
If you decide to travel a little inland, then why not explore some of the national parks that Thailand has to offer; from the South’s Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park which is just a little south of Bangkok. Here you will be able to explore the first marine national park with nearly 37% of it’s land being covered by freshwater marshland which makes this the largest wetland area in Thailand. You can visit the iconic Phraya Nakhon Cave and it’s iconic pavilion and even spot dolphins just off of the coast.
Families who love luxury without the big digits.
Find out more: tourismthailand.org
Don’t want to take it too easy next time? Experience the 5 of the best family adventure holidays to get your heart racing.
With warm sunny days 320 days of the year, Cancun is a vacationer’s paradise and after a hectic 2015, a holiday in the sun might be exactly what you and your family need.
Famously known as the spring break capital of the world, Cancun is on a mission to reputation around focusing on promoting themselves as a family destination. To banish preconceptions, the Mexican tourism have grafted consistently over the last two years to ensure Mexico is a firm favourite for all holiday makers (and not just excitable students).
Activities families shouldn’t miss are Tulum, Chichen Itza and Coba – all Mayan ruins with incredible history and culture. Each ruin involves a lot of walking so you may not choose to do all three but once you see them up close it will be worth it. There is an abundance of family friendly activities to keep you entertained but don’t forget Cancun is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and sometimes a simple day on the beach can take the holiday up a notch. Our favourite beaches include; Playa Defines and Playa Tortugas.
Cancun is breathtaking and like most holiday destinations it’s easy to only visit typical touristic sights, but if you really want to get a taste for the Mexican culture ensure you visit Xoximilco. Xoximilco is a brilliant opportunity to experience the cuisine, music and traditions as you float on a Mexican gondola known as a trajinera. It’s an evening excursion the kids will love.
Find out more: cancun.travel
Japan has always been the hot spot for travellers who want to surround themselves with the old and new. Japan’s culture is fascinating and thrilling combining ancient history with the modern technological world but the Japanese ‘get up and go’ attitude is the infectious trait making travellers re visit time and time again..
The holiday is a move started to ease the pressure on the overworked salary men, but equally is quite fitting for a country whose land is 72% mountain. Japan may be known for its incredible skylines and city lifestyle, but the mountains give it a new edge for travellers to explore, like skiing – there are hundreds of micro ski resorts for endless family fan. Winter sports are not be for everyone, so alternatively a couple of days in Tokyo may be fitting for your family.
Travellers in search of an otherworldly experience.
Find out more: japan-guide.com
Want more information on long haul adventure holidays? Check out our Abu Dhabi Guide.
5. Washington DC
Washington DC is one of the most visited and loved cities in the USA. The city has an array of interesting experiences, from learning about American history and politics to seeing some of the most iconic sights.
One of the most iconic sights in Washington is the The White House and everyone is now entitled to request a public tour. We will admit the process is a little overwhelming as you’ll have to contact the British embassy in Washington, but this once-in-a-lifetime experience makes the admin worthwhile. Alternatively, if it’s too much hassle, you can always see it from the outside. Another sight not to be missed is the Lincoln Memorial, which was built to honour the 16th president of the United States. It’s grandeur, history and beauty make it an unmissable sight.
Kids will love the National Zoological Park, a must for any time of the year. The zoo location is a little quirkier than most and offers an escape from the city. The zoo is home to over 2,000 animals from 400 different species and includes a variety of exhibits. Your little ones will be in awe when they come face to face with two beautiful giant pandas. Who would have guessed there would be giant pandas in Washington?
Culture lovers who are happy to spend the day on their feet.
Find out more: washington.org
Want to dive into more American culture, San Francisco is a great place to start.
There’s no doubt about it, embarking on a family trip to Greenland requires preparation and some hard work, but the spellbinding beauty of the arctic circle makes it all worthwhile. Greenland is technically a territory of Denmark, and a common route is to fly from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s biggest airport.
Nature lovers will be spoilt for choice, with opportunities to see polar bears, whales and moose – not to mention huskies everywhere you look. To experience life on the ice in style, try hiking, snowmobiling or snowshoeing. For those seeking a little luxury (and warmth!) Greenland’s natural hot springs are a real treat, as popular with locals as it is with tourists.
During the Easter holidays and May half term, Greenland is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights dancing across the sky. The bewitching green swirls can be seen from almost anywhere in the country, but watching them while snuggled under a thick blanket on a dog sled is a truly bucketlist-worthy experience.
The local honey ice-cream is also worth braving the cold for.
Animal-mad adventure seekers with good thermal undies.
Find out more: greenland.com/en
Going on your ski adventure but not sure what to pack, don’t worry we’ve got the ultimate packing guide for all your needs.
When the recession hit Europe, tourism plummeted and economies disintegrated, but one of the only European countries to defy the odds was Poland. Visitors have risen consistently over the last few years proving that this unstoppable country really is a must-see destination.
Poland has a lot more to offer than its vibrant capital Warsaw (shown in the image above). The country has incredible activities for families, but for something truly quirky, explore the country’s range of winter sports. When you think about skiing or snowboarding you may think of the Alps, but Poland is just as much as a contender in providing epic moments on the slopes. The Carpathian mountains are the best for skiing but if you want to spend a couple of days together, Zakopane is one of Poland’s premier ski resorts. Due to the natural and geographical conditions in Poland, all manner of sports can be practiced in the country all year round which will be music to your ears for active families.
Active city breaks without breaking the bank.
Find out more: poland.travel/en-gb
If your looking for more thrilling European breaks, check out our Reykjavik city guide.
While parts of eastern Europe have become overrun with tourists in recent years, Latvia, sandwiched between Estonia and Lithuania, has remained under the radar, making it the ideal spot for families seeking an authentic taste of the Baltic.
Tucked away in Latvia’s thick pine forests are hundreds of deteriorating castles and manor house, dating all the way back to the medieval period. Many have been brought back to life and converted into guesthouse and museums. Surrounded by thick forest and with a canopy of stars overhead, this small nation offers a magical escape for anyone with a head for fairy tales.
Latvia’s capital, Riga, was crowned the European Capital of Culture in 2014 and as result benefited from EU funds. Many improvements were made, including a total renovation of the former KGB HQ which is now an unmissable museum.
Latvia has long been playing catch up to its more popular European neighbours, but tourists are starting to catch on. Visit now, before Latvia becomes the next Croatia and floods with tourists.
In the pine-filled Gauja National Park, you’ll find some fascinating and baffling Soviet relics. Prepare to be perplexed by a cement bobsled track that was built to train the Soviet Olympic team. Bond fans, young and old, will be intrigued by the top secret nuclear fallout bunker, still containing switchboards.
Families who’ve done Spain, France and the usual suspects and want to explore a different side to Europe. A must for anyone with a 007-worthy curiosity about government secrets.
Find out more: latvia.travel/en
Looking for more unusual ways to explore Europe? Try a fantastic family cycling holiday in Europe.
1. Cape Town
Cape Town is arguably an all-rounder from jaw-dropping views from mountains, relaxing beaches, beaches full of penguins – yes that’s a thing! Whether you’re looking to hike with the family, or to go green in the city, there’s something for everyone.
One of the best ways you can familiarise yourself with nature is by taking advantage of Cape Town’s 106-year-old garden with it’s 7000 species. Kirstenbosch recently celebrated its centenary and was installed with a tree canopy walkway, where you’ll not only be able to immerse yourself, but also grab a bird’s eye view of it.
No visit to Cape Town would be complete without a visit to Table Mountain, reached by the cableway. If you’re feeling adventurous, and are a keen hiker, you can take a few paths from Kirstenbosch to take you to the peak. From the top you will soar above everything below, witnessing breathtaking views. If you’re looking for alternative trails visit Cape Point and take their Shipwreck Trail to witness two of the 26 ships that unfortunately found themselves a little too close to the shore.
If you’re looking for a relaxing day to add to the itinerary, Company’s Garden is described as the city’s “green lung”. This is the perfect place for your little ones to run around and let off a little steam. The gardens aren’t the only thing going green this year, with Cape Town showcasing the only carbon-neutral taxi service – The Green Cab, which is even owned and operated by women.
Ideal for families looking to get back in touch with the great outdoors, with a side order of adventure.
Find out more: capetown.travel
If you enjoyed South Africa explore nearby Stellenbosch and it’s famous vineyards, which are family friendly.