No. 10. Lanikai Beach – Kailua, Hawaii. Located on the Windward Coast of Oahu, the name Lanikai means “heavenly sea,” and travelers rave about this small half mile strip of beach. Beachgoers often take advantage of the many water activities, such as canoe tours, kayak rentals and snorkeling. “Another beautiful Hawaiian beach with golden sand, gentle breeze and surf, and amazing coral reefs just offshore,” wrote a TripAdvisor reviewer. • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Lotus Honolulu at Diamond Head, from $242 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $356 round-trip from SFO (San Francisco) to HNL (Honolulu) TripAdvisor
The most well-known family attraction in Huntsville is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Here, you’ll find an awe-inspiring collection of rockets (including a rare Saturn V), a space shuttle, and plenty of NASA memorabilia. This is an understandably popular attraction, so it’s a good idea to book your tickets in advance. If your kids are more interested in natural phenomena, they’ll be enchanted by the 1,000s of butterflies, along with turtles and frogs, in the Purdy Butterfly House at Huntsville Botanical Garden.
The best family vacations become the stuff of legend, inspiring the stories you and your relatives repeat and reminisce over for years. That’s not to say mishaps don’t happen: National Lampoon has made five Vacation films based on that very pretense. The stakes can sometimes feel impossibly high to plan the perfect vacation that everyone will love. (And that’s without factoring in a budget.) Travel + Leisure’s writers and editors know how stressful planning family vacations can be, but also how stress-free they should be. With a discerning eye for value, multigenerational fun, and simplicity, they can help reduce the hassle and maximize the memories.
Active Getaways: It’s amazing how many things kids are interested in if you sit down and talk to them about it. A 12-year-old may want to take a cooking class and learn how to prepare meals using farm-fresh ingredients with the hotel chef. A 5-year-old may want to see a polar bear swimming in a pool in a local zoo. A 3-year-old may be extremely interested in building various machines from blocks and legos so his ultimate dream vacation may be a morning spent at Legoland. Getaways with a touch of adventure create fun memories. In California, visit Safari West and watch unique wildlife in a natural setting. Take a cruise aboard Disney Fantasy, a mega ship that offers many things to do and comfortable staterooms with an extra half bath. At Vista Verde Ranch in Colorado, kids can go horseback riding and learn about the inns and outs of a working dude ranch. Lake Villarrica in Chile is a stunning lakeside getaway with a view of a volcano. Explore the natural wonders of the Pikes Peak region of Colorado, go horseback riding and visit a zoo. Other cheap family vacations include Yellowstone and Jackson Hole where you will be surrounded by the spectacular Tetons.
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Why you’ll love it: It’s a city with a sandy beach right downtown! How fun is that? Plus there are scenic riverboat rides, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of science, Lincoln Park and the zoo, the Museum of Science and Industry, and a giant Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. Oh, and pizza, lots and lots of cheesy, stringy, deep-dish pies perfect for family dining.
Washington, DC is a vibrant city with dozens of free attractions and events that make it an ideal destination for a family vacation. Once you’re near the Mall, major landmarks and iconic government buildings are everywhere you look: the Capitol, the White House, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and many more. Have your kids pull out their coins and dollar bills to see replicas of the very buildings they’re standing in front of. Book a line-skipping VIP tour and check them all off your list.
A Family Zion & Bryce Hiking adventure begins in Bryce Canyon National Park, where you’ll hike to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The Staircase is actually a set of plateaus that lead to Lower Calf Creek Falls, where a green oasis has formed around the falling water. This is a great place to see Native American pictographs and granaries and learn about their culture. As you hike on to Zion National Park, you’ll see “hoodoos,” bright red, orange and white spires, some of which are over 200 feet tall. Legend says they were formed when ancient people behaved badly, drawing down a curse that turned them into stones. Take a refreshing dip in the Virgin River, and hike The Narrows, a stretch along the river considered one of the best hikes in the country.
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In La Fortuna, at the foot of the Arenal Volcano, you'll find a variety of lodging options; many boast hot springs and natural pools on the property. Hotel Los Lagos offers villa rentals that can sleep up to nine and feature a full kitchen, dining room and volcano views. Arenal Kioro has spacious family suites with two queen beds and a daybed that can sleep a small child, as well as options for connecting or adjoining rooms and free cribs on request.
Why: You’ve heard of the French Polynesian islands of Bora Bora and Tahiti, but there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Mo’orea. Why? Well, it’s known as “The World’s Most Beautiful Island You’ve Never Heard Of.” And that is great for the wallet! You can find great deals on Airbnb starting at $40 a night and five-star hotels at $200. For example, the InterContinental in Bora Bora averages at $1000 a night, while the Intercontinental Mo’orea is around $250. The water is warm and crystal clear, providing you with a lot of free fun. If you want to do more organized tours, Tahiti Legends and Tahiti.com offer many at $50 per person. Like most French Polynesian islands, food is expensive, but there are many grocery stores on the island that sell sandwiches for as low as $3. If you want to splurge on a romantic dinner, many restaurants offer free shuttle service to and from hotels. The best part? Mo’orea is really easy to get to from the U.S. It’s a quick 30-minute ($15) ferry ride from Papeete, Tahiti, whose airport offers direct flights from many cities in the U.S.
There are many getaways to choose from in Canada, such as the Canadian Rockies, British Columbia, St. Andrews by-the-Sea and Banff. Best getaways provide parents and kids with plenty to do so that they can re-connect while learning new activities and exploring new destinations. A full service resort with a tropical beach where you will be able to swim, kayak, snorkel and relax is ideal if you need a place to recharge.
Package vacations are a great choice for effortless traveling, as they are quick and easy to book and ensure that everything will be taken care of for you. For example, if your flight is canceled, it’s the travel provider’s job to find a new flight for you. You can rest easy knowing that your vacation will be stress-free and you are protected in case of changes to your itinerary.