With travel making a comeback after a year of postponed trips, families across the country are finally putting big-ticket family vacation ideas back on their radar. And they’re not just thinking about cheap family vacations or the most popular family vacation spots in the U.S., either. After a year of staycations and road trips, bucket list family vacations are top of mind for a lot of people as well.
Family Vacation Ideas for 2021 and 2022
From all-inclusive family resorts and family cruises to kid-friendly national park lodges and the Orlando theme parks, here are the best family vacation ideas to help fuel your post-pandemic travel dreams.
Jump to a section to explore different family vacation ideas:
- All-Inclusive Vacations in the U.S.
- All-Inclusive Vacations in Mexico and the Caribbean
- Cruise Vacations
- Theme Park Vacations
- National Park Vacations
- Road Trip Vacations
- Group Tours and Guided Family Vacations
All-Inclusive Family Vacation Ideas in the U.S.
All-inclusive resorts are one of the best family vacation ideas because they take a lot of the stress out of the vacation-planning process. While most people think of Caribbean family resorts when they imagine an all-inclusive vacation, there are also plenty of passport-free options that cater to families right here in the United States as well. Here are a few family vacations in the U.S. where everything’s included.
Club Med Sandpiper Bay – Port St. Lucie, Florida
In Port St Lucie, Florida, Club Med Sandpiper Bay offers something for everyone in the family: multiple pools, water sports, golf, a spa, a kids’ club, and private beach access. And should you ever want to leave the all-inclusive oasis, the resort is just two hours away from Disney and Universal Studios.
- Explore more: Florida all-inclusive resorts
Mohonk Mountain House – New Paltz, New York
With its jaw-dropping location on the shores of Lake Mohonk, Mohonk Mountain House is the perfect Adirondack vacation destination for families who love swimming, kayaking, and row boating. Surrounded by thousands of acres of woodland, this all-inclusive resort is an especially beautiful spot for hikes and picnics during the fall foliage season.
Grand Hotel – Mackinac Island, Michigan
In the Upper Midwest, a stay at the nearly all-inclusive Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island has been one of the most popular family vacation ideas in the country since its opening in 1887. “America’s Summer Place” is only reachable by ferry (no cars allowed), and the historic island hotel offers family vacation packages that typically include meals (breakfast and dinner) and resort amenities.
- Explore more: Kid-friendly hotels and resorts in the U.S.
Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa – Oahu, Hawaii
On the island of Oahu in Hawaii, family vacations get a decidedly Disney spin at Aulani, where the resort’s mostly all-inclusive rates include nightly bonfires, character experiences, live entertainment, walking tours, ukulele lessons, a kids’ clubs, and a game room—to say nothing of its many kid-friendly pools, lazy rivers, and splash pad.
- Explore more: Hawaii all-inclusive resorts
Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf and Beach Resort – Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
The Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico is another passport-free tropical family vacation idea. Located on the northeast side of the island, this sprawling resort borders El Yunque rainforest and is home to three lagoon-style swimming pools featuring a waterslide and waterfall. Its inclusive meal plan package includes unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, three meals per day, and use of the tennis courts.
- Explore more: Puerto Rico all-inclusive resorts
All-Inclusive Family Vacation Ideas in Mexico and the Caribbean
If you have your passport at the ready, your family vacation ideas list gets even bigger with these all-inclusive beach resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Coconut Bay Beach Resort and Spa – Vieux Fort, St. Lucia
On St. Lucia, Coconut Bay Beach Resort and Spa is home to Splash Water Park, the island’s largest water park with two giant water slides and a lazy river. But what makes it truly special are the separate family (“Splash”) and adults-only (“Harmony”) accommodations areas and pools. In addition to its five resort pools (two for adults only), there’s an on-site paintball facility, a kitesurfing and windsurfing center, a kids’ club, nine restaurants, and seven bars. And with adjoining rooms that sleep up to six and feature sitting rooms, sleeper sofas, and private balconies, Coconut Bay is a great vacation idea for larger families.
- Explore more: All-inclusive resorts for families of 5+
Club Med Punta Cana – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
At Club Med Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, kids ages 11 to 17 get their own space called Club Med Passworld, which offers activities like horseback riding, water sports, archery, and even learning to swing on a flying trapeze. It’s a great vacation option for families with hard-to-please teens and tweens.
- Explore more: All-inclusive resorts even teenagers will love
Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya – Cancun, Mexico
The brand-new Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya in Cancun brings SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to life in a five-star all-inclusive resort setting. In addition to its swim-up suites, the highlight here includes a six-acre outdoor water park with slides, rides, and splash pads.
- Explore more: Mexico all-inclusive resorts
Jewel Runaway Bay Beach Resort and Waterpark – Runaway Bay, Jamaica
At the all-inclusive Jewel Runaway Bay Beach Resort in Jamaica, it’s all about the water. The resort’s Jewel Lagoon Water Park boasts water slides, raft rides, and a lazy river with rock grottos and waterfalls. Kids and parents alike love the pool and beach, and in the evening the family fun includes live entertainment and drive-in movies.
- Explore more: Jamaica all-inclusive resorts
Planet Hollywood Beach Resort – Culebra, Costa Rica
With its movie memorabilia, walk-of-fame, red carpet, and Stars Kids Club, Planet Hollywood Beach Resort in Costa Rica is a family vacation favorite for younger kids and teens alike. Other popular amenities include multiple swimming pools, a splash zone, a spa, and seven onsite restaurants. The all-inclusive resort also curates special experiences such as zip lining, canopy tours, horseback riding, and water sports like snorkeling and sailing excursions.
- Explore more: Costa Rica all-inclusive resorts
Club Med Columbus Isle — San Salvador Island, Bahamas
The beachfront Columbus Isle from Club Med (the resort brand that helped pioneer all-inclusive family vacation ideas as a concept) is favorite among active families. Here the opportunity to go kayaking or paddle boarding, learn to sail or windsurf, join a fitness class, or enjoy scuba diving is all included. Bocce, beach volleyball, basketball, and soccer areas are also available. And older kids and teens can break off from the family for a bit to enjoy organized events arranged by the resort.
- Explore more: Bahamas all-inclusive resorts
Holiday Inn Resort Aruba – Oranjestad, Aruba
Situated on a pristine strip of Aruba’s famous Palm Beach, Holiday Inn Resort Aruba‘s all-inclusive vacation package lets kids eat free and offers unlimited drinks and a $75 spa credit for the adults in the family. You also pay a reduced rate on kayak and paddle boat rentals, sunset cruises, and other activities offered by Pelican Adventures. The resort’s a la carte dining options and spacious rooms with ocean views are also popular with families.
- Explore more: Aruba all-inclusive resorts
Equal parts theme park, water park, private tour operator, and floating all-inclusive resort, cruises make for an unforgettable family vacation that everyone in the family can enjoy. Here are some of the best choices for a family cruise vacation.
Family-Friendly Cruise Lines
Choosing the right cruise line for your family is the most important decision you can make on any cruise with kids. Disney Cruise Line has been the standard bearer for family vacation ideas at sea since its launch in 1998, but these days many other cruise lines appeal to families with kid-friendly amenities, too. Look for cruise lines that have kids clubs, waterslides, age-appropriate stage shows, kid-friendly dining experiences, reduced fares for young children when planning your family cruise vacation. In addition to Disney, lines like Princess, Norwegian, Carnival, and MSC are good options as well.
- Explore more: Best cruise lines for families
Your First Family Cruise Vacation
Disney Cruise Line‘s two smallest ships, Disney Wonder and Disney Magic, are enchanting without being overwhelming, especially for first time cruisers and those with younger children. On all of its ships, including the forthcoming Disney Wish, you’ll be treated to Broadway-calibre live shows, Marvel and Star Wars-themed activities, and some of the best floating water parks in the world. Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, is another highlight for families.
- Explore more: How to plan and book your first cruise vacation
Reduced Cruise Fares and Kids Sail Free Deals
When it comes to family cruise deals, it’s hard to beat “free,” which is exactly what you get on select voyages from some family cruise lines. Many others offer significantly reduced fares for young children as well. You’ll often find these deals on family-friendly cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and MSC, which also cater to the younger set with kids clubs, family-oriented entertainment options, pools and water play areas, menus built with kids’ palates in mind, and even kid-centered spa options.
- Explore more: Kids sail free cruise deals
Cruise Ships with Water Parks
For families with young kids and tweens, nothing beats a cruise ship water park when it comes to keeping everyone happy and refreshed on days at sea. And while pools and water slides come standard on many cruises nowadays, not all of them are a good fit for families with tweens or kids under 10 years old. The cruise lines that go above and beyond for families in this category are Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruises.
- Explore more: Best cruise ship water parks for kids and tweens
If your idea of a family cruise is less about water slides and buffets and more about cultural appreciation then one of the best family vacations you can ever give your kids is a journey through Europe by river boat, especially when it’s an all-inclusive family vacation geared toward kids with virtually every expense included in the up-front cost.
That’s exactly what you get with the Castles on the Rhine: Family Riverboat Adventure from Tauck, whose family vacation packages include private shore excursions, all gratuities, port charges, and hotels (when staying on land).
Beginning in Amsterdam and visiting the cities of Basel, Lucerne, Koblenz, Cologne, and Strasburg, Tauck’s eight-day European river cruise gets you on shore each day for family travel experiences like cycling along the Rhine riverside, sampling fondue in Switzerland, riding the world’s steepest cogwheel train in the Swiss Alps, exploring the medieval hilltop ruins of Heidelberg Castle, and enjoying a private dinner and tour at the historic moated castle of Burg Satzvey. On the river, there’s a “Carnival night” and “French for a Day” themed activities.
These all-inclusive family vacation packages start at $4,690 per person for 2022 river cruises. They depart on select dates in June and July and are already accepting reservations for 2022 family vacations.
Theme Park and Water Park Vacations
One of the most time-tested family vacation ideas, a theme park vacation is a surefire way to delight everyone in your family. Walt Disney World will celebrate its 50th anniversary with major renovations, new rides, and epic celebrations in 2021 and 2022.
Over at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the new Tron Lightcycle Power Run will debut in 2021. The semi-enclosed roller coaster, which previously made its debut at Shanghai Disneyland, features the two-wheeled lightcycles made famous in the Tron movies; the much anticipated Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway roller coaster will debut at Hollywood Studios; and the hotly anticipated Star Wars hotel is expected to open its doors in 2022.
At EPCOT, look for the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster; Journey of Water, a water ride based on the animated film Moana; a totally reimagined Spaceship Earth; and the new Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
Book a stay at one of the best Disney hotels resorts for Extra Magic Hours and 60-day advance FastPass+ booking privileges to get in ahead of the crowds. Our favorite Disney hotel is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort is also extremely family-friendly and comes with a (slightly) more modest price tag.
Explore more theme park vacation ideas:
- Best Disney World Hotels for Every Age Group and Interest
- Best Universal Studios Orlando Hotels for Every Age Group and Interest
- Best Disney Rides for Little Kids and Toddlers
- What to Wear to Disney World (and What to Leave at Home)
- Best Time to Visit Disney World and Disneyland to Avoid Crowds
- Ultimate Guide to the Disney Water Parks in Orlando
- Ultimate Guide the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando
- Ultimate Guide to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Orlando
National Park Vacations
Dubbed “America’s Best Idea,” the country’s national parks are also one of the best family vacation ideas anywhere in the U.S.
One of the best-kept secrets of America’s national park system is the hut-to-hike hiking trips through Montana’s Glacier National Park. Consisting of two dramatic backcountry lodges, Sperry Chalet near Lake McDonald and Granite Park Chalet near Swiftcurrent Pass, hut-to-hut hiking offers family-friendly amenities like hot meals and comfortable beds without the need to carry heavy overnight gear like tents or sleeping bags on your day hikes. And in terms of spectacular mountain views, it rivals the Swiss Alps for sheer natural beauty.
Licensed tour operator Glacier Guides offers three- to six-day hut-to-hut hikes through Glacier National Park that are geared toward families with kids ages 10 and up. For outdoorsy families looking for a significant upgrade from tent camping, this hut-to-hut experience is one of the best family vacation ideas in the country.
Glacier Guides’ backcountry family vacation packages include a three-day Granite Chalet trek and a six-day hut-to-hut adventure that features horseback riding and an optional half-day whitewater rafting trip. The 2021 trips are now fully booked, but you can sign up with Glacier Guides to be notified when 2022 trips go on sale. Those trips are expected to run in July and August 2022. You can also book accommodations directly with the chalets on your own without a guided trip for significantly less if you’re looking for a more independent family vacation.
Other classic national park vacations include Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Yosemite out west. Acadia National Park is one of the great family vacation ideas for families in the northeast. And if you’re not limited to traveling during the busy summer months, you can typically find beautiful weather and smaller crowds by visiting the national parks in the spring. Use recreation.gov to find a campsite in or near a national park or to get a permit.
Explore more national park vacations:
- Best National Park Lodges in the U.S.
- Best National Parks for Families to Visit in Spring
- How to Make a National Park Trip Easier and Better This Year
Sometimes it’s easier (and a lot less expensive) to let the family vacation come to you. Instead of searching for cheap flights and then choosing between a hotel and vacation rental for accommodations, you can turn a week off at home into one of your best family vacation ideas ever.
Taking a staycation doesn’t have to mean just staying at home and doing nothing. Instead, treat it like an opportunity to transform your home into a family vacation destination. Have a nice big backyard? Pitch a tent and sleep under the stars. Roast marshmallows over a fire pit. Set up an outdoor movie theater and introduce your kids to one of your favorite childhood movies on the big screen. Take day trips to museums, aquariums, or state and local parks.
Most of all, treat your staycation like a real vacation. Turn off your work email notifications. Change up who cooks dinner or let the kids choose their favorite takeout food. Take a lazy afternoon and read a book. Make a fancy breakfast for the whole family. Relax chores and screen time restrictions for the kids. Family vacations at home are only limited by your imagination.
Explore more staycation ideas:
- Best Outdoor Movie Screens for Your Backyard Staycation
- Essential Beach Gear You Should Never Forget to Bring
- Ultimate Guide to Backyard Staycations
Family Road Trips
You may not remember every family vacation you went on as a kid, but you probably remember at least one road trip. That’s because there’s something quintessentially American about the family road trip experience. It’s practically a rite of passage for many families.
What makes a road trip one of the best family trips isn’t just the scenery or wherever your ultimate destination may be. It’s also a chance to spend hours at a time together—in the car, at roadside attractions, at rest stops and restaurants. Telling bad jokes, playing car games, forcing your kids to listen to “real music” for a change: It’s all part of building memories they’ll remember when they have their own kids.
Explore more road trip ideas:
- Family Road Trip Ideas Every Kid Will Love
- Winter Road Trip Tips for Cold Weather Drives
- Scenic Midwest Road Trips for Outdoorsy Families
- Kid-Friendly Campgrounds and RV Parks
Private Group Tours and Guided Family Vacations
Like all-inclusive vacations, there’s something liberating about letting a small group tour company handle all the details of your family vacation. It’s especially welcome when you’re dreaming of a family vacation to someplace you’ve never been before. Here are a few family vacation ideas that are perfect for small groups led by professional guides.
Adventures by Disney – Explore the Mysteries of Egypt
Family vacations don’t get any better than an overseas trip with Adventures by Disney, the small-group tour operator known for its authentic experiences, attentive guides, and kid-friendly activities. And family vacation ideas don’t get any more big-ticket than Adventures by Disney’s 10-day Egypt vacation.
Imagine exploring the world-famous Valley of Kings, standing in awe before the Great Pyramid at Giza, visiting the Temple of Isis at Philae, snorkeling in the Red Sea, sailing the Nile on a felucca, shopping at a 700-year-old night market, and learning to cook traditional Egyptian dishes in a chef-led class. Now imagine it all without any of the hassles or hangups (or whining) you might expect on even the best family vacations. That’s part of the magic of traveling with Adventures by Disney.
In 2021, the Egypt family vacation packages run weekly through the end of July, with adult-exclusive departures beginning in September 2021. Additional family-focused Egypt vacation packages begin in March 2022. This is a true bucket-list family vacation with a price tag to match: Adults rates are $10,199 per person and children cost $9,689.
G Adventures – Discover Paris and Normandy
Cross Paris and Normandy off your family vacation ideas bucket list with the nine-day France Family Journey small-group tour from G Adventures and National Geographic. Tailored to families looking for unique bonding experiences, this kid-friendly trip takes in the history, art, and culture of France with visits to iconic monuments in Paris, cave dwellings in the Loire Valley, the gardens of Versailles, and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mont-Saint-Michel. Plus, you’ll learn about World War II history and get an in-depth look at D-Day where it happened on the beaches of Normandy.
National Geographic Family Journeys from G Adventures are a new kind of trip meant to bring families together on active vacations in some of the most impressive family vacation spots in the world. Each of these 2021 and 2022 family vacation ideas is designed with kids as young as seven years old in mind, and each itinerary is infused with National Geographic’s unique sense of appreciation for storytelling, wildlife, culture, and history. There are limited 2021 dates still available, and bookings are now open for June, July, and August 2022 family vacations.
Other National Geographic Family Journeys from G Adventures include bucket-list family vacation destinations like Iceland, Japan, South Africa, Peru, Costa Rica, Morocco, and Vietnam. In the U.S., family vacation spots include Yellowstone and Alaska.
Intrepid Travel – Enjoy a Taste of Thailand
If a long-tail boat trip through the canals of Bangkok sounds a great start to your family trip, the Thailand Family Holiday from Intrepid Travel might be the perfect family vacation idea for you. On this 12-day kid-friendly family vacation package, you’ll discover the markets of Bangkok, visit rescued elephants at a nature park, explore the history and ruins of Ayutthaya, and see up close how others live on an overnight homestay with a local family.
One of the best parts of small-group travel on a family-focused trip like this is traveling with other families. With Intrepid, the typical group size is about 10 people made up of three to five families (defined as any group with at least one child under the age of 18). Often the kids will form their own groups during a trip, giving parents a chance to rest or socialize, too.
Intrepid’s Thailand Family Holiday runs on select dates in July, August, September, and December 2021, and there are 16 dates scheduled for 2022 as well. Prices start at $1,670 per person in 2021 and $1,755 in 2022 (slightly less for kids). The minimum age for children is five years old, and there’s a 10 percent discount for children 17 years and under.
Austin Adventures – Uncover the Secrets of the Incas at Machu Picchu
It doesn’t matter how many pictures you’ve seen of it before you arrive. Nothing in the world can prepare you for the moment you first glimpse Machu Picchu in real life. This is the ultimate in big-ticket, once-in-a-lifetime family vacation ideas.
Austin Adventures’ nine-day Machu Picchu family adventure goes light on the physical exertion (there’s no high-altitude trekking) and all-in on the cultural immersion, with private guided tours of ancient ruins, chocolate making classes, local market shopping, and class II and III whitewater rafting on a trip designed with the needs of families in mind. The minimum age is 10 years old, and the trip features stays at upscale family-friendly hotels like Casa Andina Private Collection Valle Sagrado and the sensational Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel.
When you finally reach Machu Picchu on day seven of what might be your best family vacation ever, it’s not the rushed experience you get with many other family tour operators. Instead, you have an entire day to explore the sacred mountain-top city with a private guide. (Believe us, you’ll want the whole day.) Austin Adventures’ Machu Picchu family adventure will run on select dates in August 2021. The company sometimes offers teen-only versions of these family vacation ideas as well. The cost is $3,698 per adult and $3,398 for kids. Austin Adventures hasn’t listed any 2022 dates yet.