27 Family Vacation Ideas for a Trip They’ll Never Forget

From once-in-a-lifetime trips to no-passport-needed family resorts, these are the best family vacation ideas for 2021 and 2022.
The best family vacation ideas
Photo: Shutterstock

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.

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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

Club Med Sandpiper Resort All Inclusive (Photo: Club Med)
Club Med Sandpiper Bay Resort in Florida (Photo: Club Med)

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.

Mohonk Mountain House – New Paltz, New York

Kayaking at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York (Photo: Mohonk Mountain House)
Kayaking at Mohonk Mountain House (Photo: Mohonk Mountain House in 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

The family-friendly swimming pool at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island (Photo: Grand Hotel)
The swimming pool at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island (Photo: Grand Hotel)

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. 

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa – Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa (Photo: Dave Parfitt)
Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa (Photo: Dave Parfitt)

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.

Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf and Beach Resort – Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

Aerial view of Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf and Beach Resort (Photo: Wyndham Grand Rio Mar)
Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Golf and Beach Resort in Puerto Rico (Photo: Wyndham Grand Rio Mar)

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.

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

Aerial view of Coconut Bay all-inclusive resort (Photo: Coconut Bay)
Coconut Bay Beach Resort in St. Lucia (Photo: Coconut Bay)

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.  

Club Med Punta Cana – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Club Med in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (Photo: Club Med)
Club Med in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (Photo: Club Med)

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.

Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya – Cancun, Mexico

Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya in Cancun (Photo: Nickelodeon Resorts)

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. 

Jewel Runaway Bay Beach Resort and Waterpark – Runaway Bay, Jamaica

Jewel Runaway Bay Beach Resort and Waterpark in Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Jewel Runaway Bay Beach Resort and Waterpark in Jamaica (Photo: Jewel Runaway Bay)

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.

Planet Hollywood Beach Resort – Culebra, Costa Rica

Planet Hollywood Beach Resort in Culebra, Costa Rica (Photo: Planet Hollywood)
Planet Hollywood Beach Resort in Culebra, Costa Rica (Photo: Planet Hollywood)

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.

Club Med Columbus Isle — San Salvador Island, Bahamas

all inclusive Bahamas resort Club Med Columbus Isle, aerial view of resort, beach, and water
Club Med Columbus Isle in the Bahamas (Photo: Club Med)

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.

Holiday Inn Resort Aruba – Oranjestad, Aruba

A long stretch of white sand beach at Holiday Inn Aruba (Photo: Holiday Inn Aruba)
Holiday Inn Resort in Aruba (Photo: Holiday Inn 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.

Cruise Vacations

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

A young girl enjoys a family cruise (Photo: Anutr Yossundara / Shutterstock.com)
Photo: Anutr Yossundara / Shutterstock.com

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 PrincessNorwegianCarnival, and MSC are good options as well.

Your First Family Cruise Vacation

Alaska cruise on Disney Cruise Line (Photo: Matt Stroshane, Disney Cruise Line)
Alaska cruise on Disney Cruise Line (Photo: Matt Stroshane, Disney Cruise Line)

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.

Reduced Cruise Fares and Kids Sail Free Deals

Norwegian Joy sailing in Alaska (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)
Norwegian Joy sailing in Alaska (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

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.

Cruise Ships with Water Parks

Splashaway Bay is one of the best cruise ship water parks for kids (Photo: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line)
Splashaway Bay water parks on Royal Caribbean (Photo: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line)

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.

River Cruises

Take a Family Riverboat Cruise on the Rhine (Photo: Tauk River Cruises)
Take a Family Riverboat Cruise on the Rhine (Photo: Tauk River Cruises)

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

The World’s Most Magical Celebration celebrates Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary (Photo: Matt Stroshane)
The World’s Most Magical Celebration celebrates Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary (Photo: Matt Stroshane)

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. 

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National Park Vacations

Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park (Photo: Glacier Guides and Montana Raft)
Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park (Photo: Glacier Guides and Montana Raft)

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. 

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Family Staycations

Outdoor movie screens: Young people with popcorn watching movie in open air cinema. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Photo: Shutterstock

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.

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Family Road Trips

Napa Valley Hotels Carneros Resort & Spa Pool
(Photo: David H Collier)

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. 

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Private Group Tours and Guided Family Vacations

Young girl views Machu Picchu from a distance (Photo: Willian Justen on Unsplash)
Young girl views Machu Picchu from a distance (Photo: Willian Justen on Unsplash)

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. 

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Josh Roberts
Josh Roberts is a parent, a traveler, a journalist, a novelist, and the former Senior Executive Editor of Tripadvisor's SmarterTravel, Airfarewatchdog, and FamilyVacationCritic websites. Recognized with multiple awards for excellence in travel journalism from the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) and the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), Josh has more than two decades of experience helping travelers discover where to go and what to do when they get there. His writing has appeared in The Boston Sunday Globe, USA Today, Business Insider, and the Huffington Post. His travel photography can be seen in Britain and Ireland's Best Wild Places (Penguin UK, January 2008). When Josh isn't traveling or wrangling his two children, he's busy writing novels like The Witches of Willow Cove (Owl Hollow Press, May 2020) and its forthcoming sequel. He co-founded FamilyVacationist in April 2020 with Christine Sarkis. Email him at josh [at] familyvacationist [dot] com.

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