While many assume “family vacation” is synonymous with standing-in-line vacations of the amusement park variety, many of us–including those of you reading this–know better. Chances are you’ve already discovered the value of travel in your own life and strive to share it with your kids. And you know that the best classroom in the world is, in fact, the world out there.
If you’re chomping at the bit to get that next family getaway underway–or at least the planning of it, here are nine passport-worthy destinations spanning four continents to consider. From Chiang Mai to Dublin, and Mexico City to Marrakech, you’ll find family-friendly recommendations and insider tips for each offered by these accomplished family travelers and contributors to the 411 Destinations family travel series. [Updated for 2019]
1. SWEDEN: A Stockholm Family Vacation
In the words of contributor Lola Akinmade Åkerström, editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm (@LolaAkinmade), “Stockholm was built for families.” It’s one of the easiest European cities to visit with small children, and has plenty to amuse them as well as with their bigger counterparts.
Take a look at the world’s largest open-air museum with five centuries of Swedish history and characters in period dress, a nordic zoo with reindeer and moose, a children’s experiment-based science museum with blowholes and a robot-controlled roller coaster, a children’s playground and storybook museum inspired by Pippi Longstocking, and then some.
Read more about all of these family-friendly activities in Stockholm with recommendations of where to stay and eat while you’re there in Lola’s 411 on Stockholm with Kids–> Read on!
2. THAILAND: The Chiang Mai Family Vacation
While southern Thailand may call to many traveling families with its beaches and balmy isles, contributor Heidi Wagoner of Wagoners Abroad (@wagonersabroad) proves northern Thailand is a worthy destination for families as well.
“I can assure you it is very family friendly,” she asserts, “especially in and around Chiang Mai. This slower paced city is surrounded by nature and plenty of educational opportunities for the kids.”
From a full-day adventure helping to care for (and even bathe!) rescued elephants to a guided cruise on the Ping River and chat with Monks, Heidi lays out the most memorable activities for families visiting Chiang Mai. She also offers recommendations of where to stay and eat while there in her 411 on Chiang Mai with Kids–> Read on!
3. BELGIUM: A Brussels Family Vacation
Home of the waffle, comic books, and the very flea market where Tintin purchases the Unicorn ship that launches his adventure? Contributor Veronique Autphenne, co-author of the Belgium with Kids guidebook (@BelgiumwithKids), declares Brussels to be “…a can’t-miss family destination.”
Among her favorites, she points to a medieval history museum where kids can try on real suits of armor. Also a restaurant and book shop with themed rooms, including one where you can munch your lunch inside a real Airstream trailer. And a city walk where families follow the map to some 30 comic murals, and then some.
To read more about Veronique’s recommendations of what to do, where to eat, and where to stay, don’t miss Veronique’s 411 on Brussels with Kids–> Read on!
4. IRELAND: A Dublin Family Vacation
And whether the Ireland family vacation starts or ends in Dublin, she points to plenty of magic moments to be had in Ireland’s capitol with kids. Among her family’s favorites? Lunch in a Victorian tea room, a visit to a museum with treasures from 8th century A.D. and the fascinating-yet-eerie “bog bodies” exhibit (!). Not to mention an amphibious city tour in viking helmets, and day’s outing in the city’s 1,752-acre park.
To read more about her recommendations, including a great place to stay and dine while there, be sure to read Jody’s 411 on Dublin with Kids–> Read on!
5. CANADA: Family Vacation in St. John’s, Newfoundland
“Jellybean-colored houses line the streets leading down to the harbor. Mermaids cavort at different places around town, including outside the Newfoundland Chocolate Company. And larger-than-life Newfoundland dogs win the hearts of everyone they meet.”
Contributor Dr. Jessie Voigts, publisher of Wandering Educators (@WanderingEds), advises that St. John’s Newfoundland is not only a great destination for a family vacation, but that, “One visit won’t be enough. This city has layers, like an archaeological dig, and you and your kids will want to keep discovering them.”
With an actual giant squid on display, whale and puffin watching, and the easternmost lighthouse (and point!) in North America, it’s easy to see how. To find out more about Jessie’s recommended activities, along with her recommendations of where to stay and eat while there, read her 411 on St. John’s, Newfoundland, with Kids–> Read on!
6. MOROCCO: A Marrakech Family Vacation
“From the echoes of the adhān to the rainbow-color stalls that line the souks, it is impossible to ignore the blend of sights, sounds and tastes that have come to live in this Moroccan city. Nor would you want to,” explains contributor Elena Sonnino, writer at Live. Do. Grow. (@ElenaSonnino).
She points to an ornate 14th century theological college to explore, and an intriguing spice market to discover. There’s also a memorable carriage ride beyond the bustling city walls, plus lush gardens where turtles and more than 300 species of plants await.
Read more of her tips for planning a family-friendly visit to the vibrant city, along with her recommendations of where to stay and eat while there, in Elena’s 411 on Marrakech with Kids–> Read on!
7. MEXICO: A Mexico City Family Vacation
“At first glance, it can appear an overwhelming destination to navigate with children in tow,” explains Co-Founder of GlobeTotting Katja Gaskell (@globetotting) who currently resides in Mexico City with her own three children. “But the reality is, however, that this big, brash city is also exciting and dynamic with lots to see and do.”
She points to fun river rides on colorful gondolas, an interactive children’s museum, a tour of Frida Kahlo’s childhood home, and takes the guess work out of getting around to its lovely parks and historic sites for visiting families. Don’t miss Katja’s tips and advice, including where to stay and eat while there, in her 411 on Mexico City with Kids–> Read on!
8. SPAIN: Cordoba Family Vacation
“Córdoba isn’t always the first place people think of when visiting Spain, but I can assure you that experiencing Córdoba with kids will be fun,” insists contributor Heidi Wagoner of Wagoners Abroad (@wagonersabroad).
One thousand years ago, it was the biggest city in Europe–making its historical and cultural layers a delight to delve into today. Among the family-friendly to-do’s she encourages for your list: Strolling flower-lined pedestrian streets and the historic Jewish quarter, walking a vast and ancient Roman bridge built in the time of Augustus, and of course visiting the Mezquita Cathedral (Mosque-Cathedral).
To read more about Heidi’s tips and recommendations, including where to stay and dine while there, don’t miss her 411 on Cordoba with Kids–> Read on!
9. GERMANY: Family Vacation in Cologne
“Want to get your kids excited about Gothic architecture? Then hop on a train to Cologne’s main station and step outside,” dares contributor Ann Belle of Belle NRW (short for Nord-Rhein Westfalen, @Ann_Travels). She explains, “Once outside they’ll do what everyone who walks out of the train station does: stare up at the 516’ Cologne Cathedral right next door.”
But Cologne has much more for traveling families to explore than its looming cathedral. Ann points to a kid-friendly art museum where kids of all ages can even work in its Art Lab, a chocolate museum, zoo, a sports and olympics museum, river tours and more.
To read up on her recommendations, including where to stay and dine while there, see Ann’s 411 on Cologne with Kids–> Read on!