If you're wondering where to go on your family vacations this year, let the experts at Essentialist — a personalized travel-planning company — help guide your decision with their expert advice. They've got the top picks for the best family vacations in 2020 whether you're traveling with toddlers or teens, looking for adventure or culture, or just in need of some inspiration.
For the family with young kids who love exploring other cultures....
The destination: Lisbon and surroundings
- When to go as a family: April for the International Chocolate Festival in the nearby historic town of Obidos.
- Why it’s great for kids: Lisbon is easy to move around and accessible — the city’s quintessential yellow tram is a classic experience for kids, fun, fairy-tale like castles but with a southern European vibe.
- Can't-miss experience: The travel service can connect families with local Lisboans, which allows for bespoke travel experiences within the city, including intimate cooking classes and personal tours of the local market.
- Recommended accommodation: Brown’s Central Hotel, which is located in the city center of Lisbon, near the Chiado neighborhood. There are 84 rooms here, with each having a Marshall amplifier to play Spotify playlists. Martinhal is another great option that was built with families in mind from the start.
For the family with teenagers who love Harry Potter…
The destination: London, England
- When to go as a family: Summer is host to a lot of family-friendly festivals such as Field Day in June and Taste of London. Museums like Southbank Centre and the Serpentine Pavilion offer great art programming events for families and are an ideal way for kids of all ages to engage with contemporary art.
- Why it’s great for kids: There is so much to occupy kids in London whether it's taking a spin on the London Eye or heading out on a Harry Potter tour. Not to mention fun family theater and, of course, shopping and eating.
- Can't-miss experience: A private visit with one of the city’s biggest sneaker collectors, who will show members his personal collection and the best, funkiest sneaker shops in East London. Guests who are fond of hats can further their UK-fashion experience by shopping around East London with one of the city’s most revered hat makers (the designer has fabricated hats for Lady Gaga and Meghan Markle). Guests will also get to visit her personal studio, where they will learn about the hat making process.
- Recommended accommodation: The Bankside — a south bank boutique hotel, which has suites with walls adorned with modern art, as well as a decoration that pays homage to the city of London.
For the family with pre-teens or teenagers who love the outdoors and adventure….
The destination: New Zealand (North and South Island)
- When to go as a family: The Northern Hemisphere’s spring, summer and fall are the best time to go
- Why it’s great for kids: A country full of dramatic contrasts, from small villages to massive mountains and stunning shorelines, that will wow everyone in the family. The Maori culture is particularly fascinating for kids to discover, as are all the outdoor activities that are possible.
- Can't-miss experience: A visit with a local Maori artist who shares insights on the indigenous traditions, including Maori art and culture. For nature-lovers, a private guided hikes in Rangitoto Island, outside of Auckland is a must.
- Recommended accommodation: Treetops Lodge & Estate in Rotorua, which is perched up a tree-lined, winding road and set on over 6,000 acres of virgin forest. It's a sustainable luxury lodge that epitomizes the spirit of ‘Manaakitanga’, hospitality, kindness and generosity.
For the family who love being active with urban adventuring...
The destination: Austin, Texas
- When to go as a family: Austin is nice all year, thanks to its great weather. However, summer months can be a bit hot, so going over spring break or for Thanksgiving weekend is ideal.
- Why it’s great for kids: From quirky shops to cool historic sites, Austin has it all. Plus, there's great (kid-friendly) food options as well as easy hikes, bike trails and swimming spots, making it easy to keep energy-fueled kids active. Essentialist recommends not missing the music scene, especially for older kids.
- Can't-miss experience: Meet a local artist who specializes in contemporary portraits at her studio. Here, you will receive personal explanations on her work and, can chat with a handful other local artists in nearby studios.
- Recommended accommodation: The Hotel Santa Cecilia — just steps from the heart of Austin’s South Congress neighborhood lies a secluded oasis of 14 rooms that were created in honor of the patron saint of music and poetry. The hotel offers guests a covered terrace with city views or a 50-foot heated lap pool with arbor for meals or just relaxing.
For the beach-loving family who also want a bit of culture and history...
The destination: Peloponnese, Greece
- When to go as a family: Summer — it’s perfect beach weather!
- Why it’s great for kids: The area has incredible laid-back beaches, with little waves (ideal for young children), sailing, an emphasis on organic farming, activities like bike riding and, of course, visits to iconic archaeological ruins.
- Can't miss experience: A hands-on cooking class with a local women’s network, which teaches travelers how to make local Greek specialties. Of course, you will finish off the lesson eating the day’s tasty works. For kids who love ancient Greece, Essentialist can set families up on a kid-friendly archaeological dig.
- Recommended accommodation: The Westin Resort, Costa Navarino — set between the Ionian Sea and the olive groves of the Southwestern Peloponnese, the resort is stylish, sustainable and steeped in a sense of place — in this case, the birthplace of the Olympian gods. There are playgrounds for every age and interest, from an 18-hole golf course to an onsite water park for kids, to a state-of-the-art spa where treatments utilize local herbs and oils.