There’s two types of parents: those who like to travel with their kids and those who don’t.
We get it, sometimes you just need a break and in those cases, booking an adults-only all-inclusive vacation is definitely the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re looking for some family time away from home, there are plenty of options for you to include the entire clan.
While there are some obvious family-friendly vacation destinations like Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Atlantis in the Bahamas that will surely have a plethora of activities and accommodations for all ages — if you’re looking to avoid tourist traps and less crowds, you ‘ve come to the right place.
The New York Post spoke with two travel experts about the best vacation spots for families in 2023, that offer child-friendly benefits, without the animated characters walking around and colorful roller coasters.
“Opting for a well-known family vacation spot often provides a comforting guarantee of child-friendly amenities and experiences. It’s like walking into a familiar café in a foreign city; there’s comfort in knowing what to expect,” Susan Zurbin-Hothersall, Travel Advisor at the Travel Edge Network told the New York Post. “However, with the right mix of curiosity and planning, the whole world can be your family-friendly oyster. Don’t box yourselves in — think beyond the obvious.”
In an effort to help you and your family become citizens of the world, we rounded up eight of the best “out of the box” destinations, according to the pros. From New York City (we couldn’t resist) to Costa Rica, there’s a vacation for all types of families on our list.
“[Family travel] is about building bridges between generations, creating shared memories, and growing together. Whether it’s the awe of seeing a centuries-old monument or the joy of jumping over ocean waves, these shared moments become threads in the fabric of your family’s history,” Zurbin-Hothersall said.
1. New York City, United States
While we may be biased, Manhattan really is the best playground for all ages.
“This city is a kaleidoscope of experiences. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll in Central Park, a Broadway show that sparks imagination, or the world-class museums that turn the city into a playground of learning — New York never fails to amaze,” said Zurbin-Hothersall.
While there are countless hotels to choose from, Zurbin-Hothersall loves The Plaza Hotel, for a classic NYC experience for just about anyone. “If it’s good enough for Eloise, it’s good enough for your children,” she joked.
Where to stay: The Plaza Hotel is a fabulous choice but if you’re looking for something a little bit more budget-friendly, consider the Freehand New York hotel in Flatiron.
For more information on the best New York City hotels, checkout our expert-based list on the best spots to get some shuteye in the big apple.
2. London, England and the English Countryside
“The blend of London’s urban buzz with the serene beauty of the English countryside offers a wonderful duality of experiences,” Zurbin-Hothersall said of her top family-friendly destinations. “Think royal palaces one day, and enchanting castles amidst rolling green landscapes the next.”
Where to stay: In London, Zurbin-Hothersall often recommends the Milestone Hotel & Residences in Kensington, since it gives a warm, luxurious and welcoming atmosphere for families. Some amenities really cater towards kids — children’s bathrobes, baby equipment and a concierge to assist with family activities and outings.
In the countryside, Zurbin-Hothersall likes the Chewton Glen in New Forest National Park for families as it offers spacious family suites and cottages. The property also includes a kids’ club, outdoor play area and a dedicated family dining room. “[There are] endless opportunities for outdoor activities and explorations; such as walking and cycling trails, archery, clay pigeon shooting and falconry,” Zurbin-Hothersall said. The hotel also offers guests the use of both an indoor and outdoor pool.
3.Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
“This city marries urban allure with outstanding natural beauty. Bike rides around Stanley Park, a taste of local life on Granville Island, not to mention the short drives to heart-stopping sites like the Capilano Suspension Bridge – Vancouver is an outdoor classroom your family will love,” Zurbin-Hothersall told The Post.
Where to stay: Zurbin-Hothersall’s top Vancouver hotel for families is the Fairmont Pacific Rim. “Truly a gem, it has spacious rooms and suites, some with stunning harbor views, babysitting services, a rooftop pool with a children’s wading pool. Book their Gold Level Lounge access which provides complimentary culinary delights throughout the day, which is ideal when you have a family,” Zurbin-Hothersall said.
With so much culture to absorb, exquisite food to eat and views to admire, Italy is a family destination for all types.
“Picture yourselves learning to cook pasta or pizza in a Tuscan farmhouse, or walking through history in Florence’s art-soaked streets. Tuscany weaves together culture, history, and nature into an unforgettable family tapestry,” Zurbin-Hothersall said.
Where to stay: “Many of my clients enjoy their time in the countryside at Borgo San Felice which is child friendly and offers amenities which cater to families — spacious accommodations with connecting rooms, a kid’s club, lots of outdoor space, child-friendly menus and a children’s pool ,” Zurbin-Hothersall said.
In Florence, Zurbin-Hothersall recommends you consider the Four Seasons Firenze since the property offers babysitting services, cribs, high chairs and extensive gardens where children can explore.
5. Reykjavik, Icelandic
While Iceland is geared towards those who seek adventure and scenery rather than luxury resorts, Zurbin-Hothers all highly recommends this country for a fantastic family vacation for those with older kids.
“Nothing spells adventure quite like Iceland. Between chasing the Northern Lights and soaking in geothermal lagoons, Iceland is an otherworldly family experience,” Zurbin-Hothersall said.
Where to stay: As a good base point, the capital of Iceland, Reykjavík, is a great spot to enjoy this beautiful country. From personal experience, I recommend the 101 Hotel for incredible service, comfortable accommodations and great location.
If you’re looking for something a bit more unique, consider the Bubble Hotel Iceland where you and your family (two guests to a “room”) can quite literally lay in bed surrounded by the snowy forest, with the chance to see the Northern Lights while snuggling inside your warm, cozy bubble.
6. South Carolina, United States
For a luxury experience in the states, look no further than Bluffton, South Carolina.
Where to stay: “Luxury meets Southern charm at [the Montage Palmetto Bluff resort]. It’s a treasure trove of family-friendly activities, all set against the backdrop of South Carolina’s breathtaking low country. The resort’s nature programs are not to be missed, offering a fascinating introduction to the local environment,” Zurbin-Hothers all raved about her favorite property in Bluffton.
“They have a variety of activities such as: kayaking, paddleboarding, boating, fishing, bicycle riding on miles of trails, kid’s camp, golf, the list goes on and on. I have enjoyed this property countless times over the years.”
Fun fact: Justin Bieber and Hailey Bieber got married at this exact resort in 2019!
7. Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
Recommended for those with kids over six-years-old, Lauren Doyle, travel expert at The Travel Mechanic, likes sending her clients to the Arenal Volcano National Park in Costa Rica for a fun-filled, adventurous family vacation.
Where to stay: Doyle specifically mentioned staying at the Nayara Springs Resort when visiting this part of the country. “They have wonderful accommodations to meet the needs of your family and the ability to spread out. The destination has lots of adventure excursions to keep [everyone] happy,” Doyle said.
8. Alaska, United States
Another top travel spot for families that Doyle highly recommends is Alaska — by route of cruising. Alaskan cruises, specifically lines like Disney and Uncruise Adventures are specifically catered towards kids but with a backdrop as beautiful as the state of Alaska, there’s so much for the entire family to enjoy, no matter what company you go with.
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