Favorite Destinations from Family Travel Bloggers

One of the questions I’m asked all the time is, “what are the best family travel destinations you’ve ever visited?” It is always the hardest question to answer because there are very few destinations that I don’t love. But at the same time, we always have our favorites. Maybe it is from the mind-blowing scenery, or the amazing food, or the first-time we tried a new experience, or that special family moment that occurred on a trip. Looking back at 2015, we’ve had a great year with travel to some amazing places including Quebec City, California, Alabama, Iceland, Virginia, Montreal, Vancouver, and more. But if you ask any of us what our favorite family travel destination for 2015 was, we would have to say Iceland.

We loved Iceland because it is a land of stark contrasts with its barren lava flows, slowly carpeted with dusty green lichen, and its craggy volcanic mountains covered in emerald green growth or crystal white glacier ice. The land of ice and fire with active volcanic action and iceberg lagoons. Even the endless drives made the trip not about the destination but the journey. And of course, we found so much to do with kids in Iceland, from dog sledding to glacier hiking.

As we turn our sights to 2016, and begin to make our travel plans for the coming year, I started to wonder what destinations other families really enjoyed this year and what places we should perhaps put on our radar. So I asked a few of my family travel blogger colleagues for their best family travel destinations that they visited in 2015. This is what they recommend…

Best Family Travel Destinations from Family Travel Bloggers

North America

St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada — Recommended by Dr. Jessica Voigts from Wandering Educators

We absolutely LOVE St. John’s, Newfoundland for many reasons. It’s a very family friendly town, with plenty to eat, see, and do. Go whale watching, visit the easternmost point of North America, hike the hills down to the harbor, discover millenia-old rocks, eat Newfoundland Chocolate, pet a gigantic Newfoundland dog, and see all kinds of jellybean-colored houses.

newfoundland

Photo courtesy of Jessica Voigts from Wandering Educators.

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada — Recommended by Lillie Marshall from Around the World L

This past year I jetted all over, from Dubai to Turkey to Seattle, but one place stood out as the #1 best for family travel: Quebec City, Canada. Old Quebec is utterly charming, to the extent that all you need to do to have a great time for several days is to wander the city and delight upon what you find. Our family also LOVED all the meals we sampled, from Quebec’s local food markets to the restaurants. The city is also an easy and welcoming place for families, as it’s simple to get to from many major cities, safe, and packed with activities for wee ones. Our toddler particularly loved all the “horsies” clip-clopping by in the old-fashioned carriages!

Quebec City

Quebec City. Photo courtesy of Lillie Marshall from Around the World L

Nantucket, MA — Recommended by Robin Hutson from Luxe Recess

We traveled to Nantucket for the first time and don’t know why we waited so long to visit this quaint New England isle. The downtown village was full of fun shopping and restaurants, and we visited as the island prepped for Daffodil Weekend, the official start of the season on the island. It was charming to see daffodils draped on every store window, local pets, and the Nantucket lighthouse. Our hotel offered an island tour in its vintage fire truck where we saw many of the main island beaches while my children rang its bell. It’s a fun family vacation even in the off season.
Nantucket Lighthouse

Nantucket, MA. Photo courtesy of Robin Hutson

Cooperstown, NY — Recommended by Kirsten Maxwell from Kids are a Trip

Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Catskills in upstate New York, on the shimmering shores of Otsego Lake, lies Cooperstown. The village is known for its ties to America’s pasttime, and offers visitors numerous opportunities to enjoy the game of baseball, but there are plenty of other diversions to entertain families. Cooperstown is culture and history, nature and exploration, but also a place for families to spend time together and enjoy a slower pace of life. While baseball may be the impetus for families to visit the area, it won’t be the reason they fall in love with the town.

Cooperstown NY

Cooperstown, NY: Photo courtesy of Kirsten Maxwell

Washington D.C. — Recommended by Dana Freeman from Find and Go Seek

There are so many monuments and historic buildings to see in Washington, DC. We love that this city is alive with the history of our nation both past and present.

Washington DC

Washington DC. Photo courtesy of Dana Freeman

Little St. Simons Island, Georgia — Recommended by Gina Vercesi from Kids Unplugged
A nature-lover’s paradise, Little St. Simons is a private island retreat about an hour south of Savannah. Only 32 guests are permitted on the island each night and once there, everything is included–from family-style meals to naturalist lead adventures, kayaking, fishing, and lounging on 7-miles of pristine beach. I think it’s the enthusiasm and knowledge of the on-site naturalists that makes LSSI such a special and unique place. Kirby took us on an after dinner safari one night in search of ghost crabs and owls, Cassandra joined us to paddle through the marshy waterways, and James biked with us to find baby alligators in the ponds. And from an unplugged travel perspective, a few days (or more!) on Little St. Simons is the perfect, semi-luxe way to get off-the-grid.
Little St. Simons Island, GA

Little St. Simons, GA. Photo courtesy of Gina Vercesi from Kids Unplugged

Gulf Shores, AL — Recommended by Karen Dawkins from Family Travels on a Budget

Spring break on Alabama’s gulf shore topped the list for me in 2015. Normally, I wouldn’t consider a spring break trip to the coast because Florida is so expensive and crowded, but Alabama’s gulf coast is both budget-friendly and uncrowded. Perfect! We spent afternoons at the beach, building castles, walking, playing in the surf. We enjoyed dinner at waterfront restaurants with great views of the sunset and fun menus! My daughter still talks about dinner at Tacky Jack’s, and I can’t wait to go back to The Gulf, an outdoor restaurant built from shipping containers. The highlight of our trip was a day-long catamaran excursion with Sail Wild Hearts. We saw the Blue Angels perform over the gulf, gave stand-up paddle boarding a try and saw the dolphins frolic alongside our boat. For me, the best vacations linger long after going home. That’s certainly true of our Gulf Shores, Alabama vacation — earning it the honor of best trip of 2015.

Gulf Coast Alabama Vacation

Gulf Shores, AL. Photo courtesy of Karen Dawkins of Family Travels on a Budget

Keystone, Colorado — Recommended by Shannon Entin from 100 Routes Across America

One of my family’s favorite destinations in 2015 was Keystone Resort, Colo. Staying in the village condos offers easy access to the slopes, as well as food, parades, skating, fireworks, shopping, and more. And with those amazing red wagons to help kids carry their gear, Keystone is truly a family-friendly destination. Our most memorable experience was our full-day, family ski lesson. I loved sharing the “ski school” experience with my kids – we all refined our skills and I was able to observe how and what the instructor was teaching them so I could carry those concepts forward.

Skiing in Keystone Colorado

Skiing in Keystone Colorado. Photo courtesy of Shannon Entin from 100 Routes Across America

Zion National Park, Utah — Recommended by Karilyn Owen from No Back Home

This year we had the opportunity to visit several amazing places, but according my 5 year old, the best was our road trip through Utah and Arizona. In particular, Zion National Park. Hiking miles through a river (the Narrows) was truly a unique and wonderful experience for us all. Spending time catching tadpoles and creating habitats for them while under the gaze of the Watchman Mountain was one of our favorite days spent in the park. Zion National Park is often overshadowed by other nearby parks, but is a true hidden gem and the perfect playground for families to fully immerse themselves in the beauty of nature.
Zion National Park

Zion National Park. Photo courtesy of Karilyn Owen of No Back Home

Sedona, AZ — Recommended by Leslie from Trips with Tykes

The breathtaking natural beauty of Sedona, Arizona and its laid back vibe made it an ideal destination for our family in 2015.  The natural waterslide at Slide Rock State Park and outdoor hikes challenged our 6 year old.  Meanwhile, our thrill-seeking toddler laughed gleefully through every bump in the road on a Jeep tour through the red rocks.  It was the perfect destination to explore nature and connect as a family.

Sedona-Arizona-With-Kids-Pink-Jeep-Tours

Sedona, AZ: Photo courtesy of Leslie Harvey

Oregon Coast — Recommended by Julie Henning of Road Trips for Families

We moved to Eugene, Oregon in March and have been exploring Oregon Coast as much as possible. Located about an hour drive from our hew home, Highway 101 has been our primary route both up and down the western edge of the state. We’ve explored the tidepools at Yaquina Head Natural Area, flown kites at Rockaway Beach, surfed the sand dunes in Florence, and dug for steamer clams near Brighton. Devil’s Churn gave us a strong appreciation for the power and beauty of the ocean and the morning fog kept the ghost forest in Neskowin covered in an eerie shroud. Tourist shops house tubs of salt water taffy and local artisans make glass blowing look easy. Each little seaside town has its own character and charm and the experience shouldn’t be rushed.

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast. Photo courtesy of Julie Henning of Road Trips for Families

Tofino, Vancouver Island — Recommended by Katja Gaskell of Globetotting

Of all the places that we visited on our British Columbia road trip this summer, Tofino has to be my favourite. Set at the southern end of an area called Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island, part of the Pacific Rim National Park, this is Canada’s (almost) westerly point. It’s also incredibly beautiful – wild, natural and rugged.

The town itself is peppered with restaurants and cafes, including the fantastic Sobo, as well as surf shops and a handful of operators running whale- and bear-watching tours. We took an early morning boat ride in search of bears and, lucky for us, were the only people on the boat. We also saw bears!

Caribbean & Central America

Puerto Rico — Recommended by Lisa Grabelle from Hilton Mom Voyage

We LOVED our spring break journey to the enchanted island of Puerto Rico – it is a a fabulous destination for a family vacation. Puerto Rico offers so many kid-friendly activities including relaxing on spectacular sun-drenched beaches, exploring historic forts, snorkeling in glistening waters, zip-lining through verdant forests and tasting delicious culinary offerings! One family highlight that stands out among the rest was exploring the other somewhat strange and thrilling worlds on one adventurous action-packed day trip. Our family ventured deep down into majestic caves, climbed way up high to hunt for aliens, and even peered into a HUGE sinkhole…obviously we weren’t in Jersey anymore! Puerto Rico has something for every member of your family…we can’t wait to go back!
Puerto Rico cave

Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy of Lisa Grabelle

Grutas Tolantongo in Hidalgo, Mexico — Recommended by Tina Marie Ernspiker of Gringos Locos 6

Grutas Tolantongo, Mexico is one of those remote places you feel incredibly blessed to find and experience. It is literally out-of-this-world. Grutas is complete with mountains, valleys, hot springs, waterfalls, a warm river, caves, and a natural steam sauna tunnel! If you ever make it south to Hidalgo, Mexico visit Grutas Tolantongo! Our family loved this adventure!

Grutas Tolantongo

Grutas Tolantongo, photo courtesy of Tina Marie Ernspiker of Gringos Locos 6

South America

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador — Recommended by Jennifer Miner of the Vacation Gals

I travel quite a bit with my family, meaning, not just my spouse and kids, but one or another set of grandparents as well. The most special destination we’ve all been to together in recent history is the Galápagos Islands. On this trip, my teenager daughters, my husband, parents, and my mother-in-law all discovered our nascent love of bird watching (believe it or not). The birds endemic to the Galápagos Islands are in turn graceful, cute, and absolutely goofy. Who knew that my two daughters, typical teens with smartphone addictions, would be utterly excited and happy to spend 9 days tromping around with their grandparents and parents, appreciating the glamour of flamingos, giggling at the hilarious blue-footed boobies, and spending extra hours on the hunt for elusive Galápagos penguins? It was a trip of a lifetime, and one that I know my extended family will hold in our hearts forever.

Galapagos

Galapagos. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Miner of the Vacation Gals

Machu Picchu, Peru — Recommended by Victoria Westmacott of Globetotting

I have always wanted to go to Machu Picchu. Much like the Taj Mahal in India or the Great Wall of China, it’s one of the world’s wonders that is on everyone’s Bucket LIst. I assumed, however, that the only way to access this 15th century Inca citadel was on foot, via the well-trodden Inca trail. This gruelling 4-day camping trip was an adventure I had mentally shelved for when my children were older. It was therefore something of a revelation when I discovered you could get transport right up to the entrance gate!

What I hadn’t appreciated until we arrived in Peru, however, was just how much else there is to see and do besides visiting the magical lost city. Nor had I expected the actual journey to Machu Picchu to be so interesting, so spellbinding or quite so beautiful.

Machu-Picchu-with-kids

Machu Picchu, Peru: Photo courtesy of Victoria Westmacott of Globetotting

Europe

Scotland — Recommended by Keryn Means from Walking on Travels

Traveling to Scotland wasn’t my idea; it was actually my mother’s. I’d always wanted to see it, but it wasn’t top on my list even though I have relatives who came to the U.S. from Scotland long ago. Apparently mother does know best though. Scotland quickly became one of my favorite places in Europe, right up there next to Italy I’d say. Edinburgh captured me with its energy and counterculture vibe that mixed a whole lot of the old with a bit of the new. Hiking through the hills of Glencoe calmed my mind in a way I don’t often feel, and the Isle of Mull encapsulated the highland culture on a tiny island filled with warm and inviting people who are happy to have you there and share a pint at the local pub. This is a country where I didn’t have to worry about entertaining my kids. At every turn my boys could be outside exploring and just be the little boys that they are. They hiked, threw rocks in creeks and explored castles and palaces with just as much enthusiasm as I did. If you want to bring your kids to Europe, and you want to feel welcome but not deal with a language barrier, Scotland is definitely the place for you.
Scotland--credit-Keryn-Means-Walking-On-Travels

Hiking in Scotland. Photo courtesy of Keryn Means from Walking on Travels

Lincoln, England — Recommended by Sarah Ebner from Family Travel Times

We absolutely loved Lincoln, an unsung gem in the middle of England, which has a fantastic mixture of history, culture, beauty and good food (and by good food, we mean restaurants, tea rooms, fudge and ice-cream – all very English!). It has a wonderful castle, which has a vault containing one of the original versions of the Magna Carta as well as an old Victorian prison with a completely unique prison chapel (you need to see it to believe it). Plus, you can walk all the way round the ramparts, where you can see stunning views of Lincoln Cathedral and the surrounding area. Lincoln is easy to walk around, and a great mixture of old and new, thanks to it also being home to Lincoln university. It’s the perfect place for a long weekend.

Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Castle, Photo courtesy of Sarah Exner

Norway — Recommended by Katie Baird from Tips for Family Trips

We fell in love with the majestic fjords, glacier-formed moutains, and red farmhouses of Norway. We loved everything about our week in Norway, but the highlight was a day spent cruising on Naeroyfjord and seeing hundreds of waterfalls cascading into the fjord. Renting a cottage on the banks of Sognefjord let us blend into the community and feel a bit Norweigan while we were there.

Norway

Norway, Photo courtesy of Katie Baird of Tips for Family Trips

Spanish Pyrenees — Recommended by Patricia Monahan from Our Whole Village

The family yoga retreat in the Spanish Pyrenees we went to this past summer was unlike anything we’d ever experienced before. It was the perfect opportunity for us to “unplug” and connect with nature and as a family. We all enjoyed the magnificent scenery, the fun hikes and acro-yoga sessions, and the overall feeling of genuine contentment with simple living. I hope to do something similar every year!
spanish pyrenees yoga retreat

Spanish Pyrenees. Photo courtesy of Patty Monahan from Our Whole Village

Naxos, Greece — Recommended by Eric Stoen from Travel Babbo
We loved Naxos, Greece this summer. Our goal was to spend several weeks on a less-touristed Greek island and Naxos worked out perfectly. We stayed on St. George Beach, spent every day at the beach or pool or exploring the island, and feel in love with Greek cuisine and the laid back lifestyle. Add in trips to the nearby islands of Santorini and Mykonos and it was a great summer.
Naxos Greece by Eric Stoen

Naxos, Greece. Photo courtesy of Eric Stoen from Travel Babbo

Africa

MarrakechMorocco — Recommended by Elena Sonnino from Live.Do.Grow.

A family trip to Marrakech is more than just a chance to explore the maze-like souks with your jaw constantly dropping at the sights and sounds. Although life inside the old-city walls can be overwhelming, if not chaotic at first – walking through the narrow streets gives you a front row seat at daily life where the culture, people and traditions of Marrakech play out in front of you. Traveling there as a family meant that each of us saw and felt the experiences from our own perspective but gave us the chance to talk and learn from each other.

Marrakech Morocco

Marrakech Morocco Market, photo courtesy of Elena Sonnino from Live. Do. Grow.

Asia

Borneo, Malaysia — Recommended by Nichola from GlobalMouse Travels

We had an amazing time when we travelled to Malaysia in 2015. We visited temples and waterparks, ate noodles and mooncakes and saw some wonderful sights. Probably our favourite part was when we travelled to Kuching in Borneo where we saw my all time dream – orangutans in the wild. We also saw snakes, skink, crabs, wild boar and so much more. It was the most fantastic trip but probably the greatest part was how friendly and welcoming everyone was to us. We loved it and can’t wait to return.

South China Sea, Borneo, Malaysia

Playing in the South China Sea in Borneo. Photo courtesy of Nichola of Global Mouse Travels

Oceana

Bora Bora — Recommended by Mary Solio from The World is a Book

Our favorite family destination this past year was the island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia. It may be synonymous with honeymooners but we found it to be family-friendly too. The whole area looked like a postcard with its crystal turquoise waters and verdant mountain backdrops. We stayed in one of those overwater bungalows the islands were famous for. My kids couldn’t get enough of jumping in the water from outside our room and feeding fish from their bedside table. One unforgettable adventure was snorkeling and swimming with stingrays and black tip sharks. It sounds nerve wracking but was actually a lot of fun. The sharks left us alone and the stingrays were harmless. Bora Bora’s warm, clear waters were ideal conditions for this activity with so many colorful and tropical fish. Bora Bora was the perfect place to escape from reality and was truly an island paradise. We can’t wait to return!

Bora Bora

Bora Bora from above. Photo courtesy of Mary Solio of The World is a Book

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Best Family Travel Destinations -- we asked the top family travel bloggers what was their destination in 2015 and here is their list of top family travel destinations to fuel your wanderlust and inspire your 2016 family vacation planning!

13 Comments on “Favorite Destinations from Family Travel Bloggers

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  1. Thank you everyone for your input in creating such a great list!

    So many great destinations – and what a thorough resource to start brainstorming family travel for the new year!

      Thank you for adding Morocco to the list!

    Thanks for adding Oregon to the mix!

      Thanks for contributing! We loved Central Oregon but I can’t wait to explore the coast.

    Love this list. Now my bucket list is just growing longer. Thank you for putting it together!

      It is dangerous in that way! Thanks for contributing…Norway looks idyllic.

    Wow, so many great choices. I hope to take my kids to Oregon and Scotland next year.

    Great list ! I would add Mexico (Yucatan), awesome with kids, and Amsterdam in Europe … We’ve been there several times as a family and really loved this city 🙂

      We are heading to the Yucatan in March so I’m glad to hear that you’d put it at the top of your list!

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