With travel making a comeback after a few years of postponed trips, families across the country are finally putting 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 few years of staycations and road trips, big-ticket family vacations are top of mind for a lot of people as well.
The Best Family Vacation Ideas for 2023
From all-inclusive resorts in the U.S. 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 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 and Water Park Vacations
- National Park and Camping 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 and beautiful Caribbean beaches 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.
Sandpiper Bay All-Inclusive Resort by Wyndham – Port St. Lucie, Florida
In Port St Lucie, Florida’s Sandpiper Bay All Inclusive Resort by Wyndham (formerly 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 Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando.
- 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 New York 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 fall family vacation spot for hikes and picnics when the weather is crisp and the leaves are changing.
- Explore More: All-Inclusive Resorts in the U.S. for Families
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. These Midwest family vacations at “America’s Summer Place” are 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 Family 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, a Disney Resort and Spa, 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. With its abundance of offerings and plenty of fun add-ons like luaus and paddle boarding, there’s a lot to recommend this Disney spot in Hawaii.
- 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 of Puerto Rico, 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
Woodloch Pines Resort – Hawley, Pennsylvania
With bumper cars, go-karts, splash pools, and a jungle gym just for starters, you’d be forgiven for thinking the kids club at Woodloch Pines Resort is an actual theme park. At this family-run resort in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, the kid-friendly amenities go way above the ordinary. But don’t worry, adults will have plenty of fun too—family-friendly experiences here include hayrides, pony rides, and bowling.
- Explore More: Hotels with Incredible Kids Clubs
C Lazy U Ranch – Granby, Colorado
Not far from Rocky Mountain National Park, the world-famous C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colorado, is an all-inclusive guest ranch that features both classic dude ranch activities (like trail rides) and modern kid-friendly amenities (like zip lining and a ropes course). A seasonal children’s program for ages three to 17 makes it an especially great pick for family reunions and family vacations where the adults can use a little alone time while the kids go off and play.
- Explore More: Dude Ranch Vacations for Families
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
The Coconut Bay Beach Resort and Spa on St. Lucia 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 idea for families with hard-to-please teens and tweens.
- Explore More: All-Inclusive Resorts Even Teenagers Will Love
Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya – Playa del Carmen, Mexico
The kid-friendly Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen (about 30 minutes from the international airport and a host of other Cancun family resorts) brings SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to life in a five-star all-inclusive resort setting where every room is a swim-up oceanfront suite.
Family vacation highlights at this resort include character breakfasts, live Nick-themed shows and entertainment, and a six-acre outdoor water park with slides, rides, and splash pads. (Read our Nickelodeon Riviera Maya resort review here.)
- 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. The resort is known for its ability to keep both kids and adults happy and entertained, which means everyone can have a great vacation.
- 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 at this Costa Rica family vacation hotspot 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 – San Salvador Island, Bahamas
The beachfront Club Med Columbus (from the resort brand that helped pioneer all-inclusive family vacation ideas as a concept) is a 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
Ocean Club and Ocean Club West – Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
In Providenciales, there’s plenty for families to do at the two Ocean Club Resorts, where you can stay at either Ocean Club or Ocean Club West and enjoy all the perks of the other Turks and Caicos all-inclusive resort during your stay.
Water-loving kids and parents will enjoy the shallow reefs of Grace Bay Beach, one of the best in the Caribbean, which are perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving; while for the horse lovers in the family there’s horseback riding on the beach.
- Explore More: Caribbean Family Resorts
Bocawina Rainforest Resort – Hopkins, Belize
Located inside Belize’s Mayflower Bocawina National Park, the Bocawina Rainforest Resort offers an all-access pass to the national park along with unlimited guided and unguided excursions there. Resort activities include ziplining, waterfall rappelling, horseback riding, and cave tubing, making this all-inclusive resort on Belize’s Caribbean coast a sure bet for adventure-loving families.
- Explore More: All-Inclusive Family Resorts around the World
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, and reduced fares for young children when planning your family cruise vacation. In addition to Disney, lines like Princess, Norwegian, Carnival, and MSC are good family cruise 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 new Disney Wish, you’ll be treated to Broadway-caliber live shows, Marvel and Frozen-themed dining, exclusive new Star Wars spaces for kids and adults, and some of the world’s best cruise ship water slides. And of course 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, MSC, and Holland America, 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. These lines offer over-the-top slides, pools, and water rides of all sorts, which pretty much guarantees that kids will stay happy and engaged throughout a cruise.
- Explore More: 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 $4,890 for 2023 river cruises. They depart on select dates in June and July and are already accepting reservations for 2024 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. The Walt Disney Company will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023 with special events at its amusement parks in both Anaheim and Orlando, as well as updates and renovations to some of the most popular Disney rides for little kids and Disney rides for teens and adults.
In recent years, Disney has unveiled a number of innovative new rides and accommodations options at its theme parks, including a fully immersive Star Wars hotel adjacent to its Star Wars land at Hollywood Studios in Florida, as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at EPCOT. And the Disney water parks are a kid-friendly option for beating the heat. Note that Disney has also replaced its FastPass program with a service called Disney Genie, which may take some getting used to if you haven’t been to the Disney parks since before the pandemic.
For a Disney vacation in Orlando, book a stay at one of the Disney World Resort hotels to take advantage of special perks like extra time inside the parks ahead of the crowds. In Anaheim, there are plenty of affordable and convenient hotels near Disneyland for families on a budget, many of which are within walking distance of the parks.
Over at at Universal Studios in Florida, all eyes are focused on the development of Universal’s third Florida theme park, called Epic Universe, which is set to open in 2025 and is rumored to have a third Harry Potter theme park area to go alongside the two existing Harry Potter lands. Meanwhile, the Jurassic World VelociCoaster continues to thrill families as it heads into its third year of operation, and several new Minions-themed attractions are set to open soon.
For a trip centered around Florida’s Universal Studios theme parks, families love the affordability, location, and retro-chic vibe of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, one of the many Universal Studios Florida hotels.
Explore More Theme Park Vacation Ideas:
- Best Time to Visit Disney World and Disneyland to Avoid Crowds
- Best Disney World Foods and Where to Eat Them
- What to Wear to Disney World (and What to Leave at Home)
- What to Pack for a Disney World or Disneyland Vacation
- How to Plan a Disney World Vacation for Your Extended Family
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National Park and Camping 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. Those trips typically run in July and August. 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 parks include Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Yosemite for West Coast vacations. Acadia National Park is one of the great family vacation ideas for East Coast vacations. Visiting national parks with kids is an amazing way for the whole family to connect with nature and each other. And nationwide, fourth graders are eligible for a national parks pass through the Every Kid Outdoors Program. The pass grants entry to all children under 16 in the group and up to three accompanying adults to “most federally managed lands and waters.”
If you’re not limited to traveling during the busy summer vacation months, you can typically find beautiful weather and smaller crowds during spring break at the best national parks to visit in spring, as well as when the weather turns colder at the best national parks to visit in fall and the best national parks to visit in winter. Use recreation.gov to find a campsite in or near a national park or to get a permit.
Explore More National Park and Camping Vacation Ideas:
- Best National Park Lodges in the U.S.
- Best National Park Campgrounds
- Family-Friendly Hotels Near Yosemite National Park
- Camping with Kids: How to Plan Your First Family Camping Trip
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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 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 a state park or local park. Head to your local children’s museum if your kids are younger. Explore local beaches and turn your staycation into a family beach vacation. Blow up an inflatable pool and turn your backyard into a homemade splash pad water park.
And if the biggest barrier to your vacation is expensive airfare for the whole family, book a vacation rental or find a hotel deal within driving distance, making a road trip part of the experience. 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. Play a favorite family board game. Spend a day doing outdoor activities and hanging out together. Family vacations at home are only limited by your imagination.
Explore More Staycation Ideas:
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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:
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- Kid-Friendly Campgrounds and RV Parks
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- The Best Car Rental Booking Sites for Cheap Prices
Private Group Tours and Guided Family Vacations
Like all-inclusive vacations, there’s something liberating about family travel adventures where a small group tour company handles 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 2023, these Egypt family vacation packages start at $8,359 per child and $8,799 per adult, a true bucket-list family vacation with a price tag to match.
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 meant to bring families together on active vacations in some of the most impressive family vacation spots in the world. Each of these 2023 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.
Bookings are open for June, July, and August family vacations in 2023, with per person prices starting at $3,699. 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 like a great family trip idea, 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 family tours like this is traveling with other families. With Intrepid Travel, 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 is available to book on multiple dates in 2023, 2024, and even 2024. Prices start at $1,780 in 2023 (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.
Intrepid Travel – Machu Picchu to the Amazon
Speaking of Intrepid, families with budding adventurers will love exploring Peru’s cultural and biodiversity on the company’s Peru Family Holiday. In addition to exploring the Sacred Valley and learning about Peru’s indigenous cultures through personal connections on this nine-day guided tour for families with children ages five and older, you’ll visit the sacred mountain-top city of Machu Picchu for a once-in-a-lifetime experience no one in the family will ever forget.
The trip’s 2023 price tag of $2,990 per adult (slightly less for kids under 17) includes hotels, transportation, and breakfast each day, plus three lunches and two dinners.