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
Why you should go: Not only is it arguably the greatest swinging-around-a-stage-in-purple-sequined-zebra-print-pants anthem of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen, it’s a slinky, skinny swatch of land with the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Pacific on the other. Smaller than South Carolina, it boasts 1,800 miles of ocean coastline and 5 million acres of national parks on the inside. For those who enjoy stylishly restored ruins, Panama City’s old quarter, Casco Viejo, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 1600s and is now filled with hipstery shit, because of course it is. This cobblestoned city center is surrounded by the ultra-sleek, modern, quasi-futuristic skyscrapers of Panama City, which kind of looks like Rio without the smog and soon-to-be decaying Olympic infrastructure. - Nicole Rupersburg, Thrillist contributor
Why: Manaus in the north of Brazil is a short flight from Miami and provides multiple economical options in one. It is a top destination for adventure travel or a sedate wildlife and photography sojourn or a serious eco-tour. Although it's a city of 1 million inhabitants, Manaus is mainly famous as the gateway to the Amazon rain forest. Comfortable, modern hotels like the Caesar Business Hotel start at $63 year round. Aside from visits upriver in the rainforest, Manaus offers sites ranging from the local Amazon tributary, the Rio Negro and the fabled Renaissance-style Manaus Opera House/Amazon Theatre. For an up-close look at wildlife, including endangered species, there is a free, small zoo at the Hotel Tropical. A biologist heads up this state-certified rescue center that has elusive deep-rainforest species, from jaguars to the lovable 120-pound capybaras. The Bosque da Ciencia (Science Center) is a popular open-air wildlife park just outside the city of Manaus. Local species roam freely in front of strolling tourists. Day-trip options include short visits to the rain forest as well as the Presidente Figueiredo Waterfalls and Gruta do Refugio do Maroaga, a cave filled with marine life and bats. Traveling in the rainy season provides an even better value, and the weather is no hindrance to boating and spotting a wide array of tropical birds, pink dolphins and a feisty piranha or two.
San Jose del Cabo, Mexico: You’ll find savings and a favorable exchange rate in Mexico this summer. Skip out on party-centric Cabo San Lucas and head to “the other Cabo,” San Jose del Cabo, instead. Low airfare to Cabo stands out this season; the average cost of a round-trip flight to/from Los Angeles is around $300 and $500 to/from New York City. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Why you’ll love it: As the hot air balloon capital of the world, the skies of Albuquerque are always filled with colorful inspiration for kids with a love for things that fly. Kids will really enjoy a ride on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway—North America’s longest double-reversible aerial tramway—that travels to the top of the 10,378-foot Sandia Peak. (Kids under 5 are free; be sure to print out the $5 coupon from the website for you.) And exploring the ABQ BioPark, a unique environmental museum comprised of an aquarium, botanic garden, and zoo is always a hit too, as is the free fishing lakes at Tingley Beach.
What to do: Start at the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum — on Tuesday nights, starting at 5 p.m., admission is free. The museum’s exhibits are broken into three parts: before 9/11, during 9/11 and after 9/11. Because of the sensitive subject matter, the museum has a free downloadable guide for tips on visiting with children. Since the memorial is so close to Battery Park, ask the kids if they’d like to catch a ferry to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. It’s a good way to see New York City from the water while learning about how most of us got here.
Since no one has time to check flight prices constantly throughout the day, it’s a good thing that you can ask someone else to do the searching for you. Sign up for a fare alert, which is a subscription notification (usually via email) that provides a selection of flights and prices to a chosen destination. For example, I receive a daily email that tells me the cheapest flights over the next six months to London, Paris, and Bora Bora.
What to do: Miami Beach has the most tropical beaches in the continental United States. Its warm waters are calmer than North Atlantic counterparts and less salty than the Pacific. As you drive to Miami Beach from Miami, you hit your first two must-see attractions. Indoors, there’s the internationally recognized Children’s Museum that shares an island with Jungle Island — an interactive zoological theme park. Beloved by celebrities just as much as kids, The Sugar Factory on Ocean Drive is also a mustl. It's the most Instagram-worthy restaurant in the world!

If you’re located on the West Coast, this year is one of the most affordable times to head to Tahiti. Why? This May, French budget airline Frenchbee launched non-stop service from San Francisco (SFO) to Tahiti (PPT). Searches for summer airfare yield results well under $1,000 round-trip, which is unheard of for this exotic destination. Travel in August to take advantage of fares under $750 round-trip. United will also fly directly to the South Pacific islands starting in October of this year, meaning prices will continue to be competitive through the fall.
What are the best luxury vacation ideas for families? If you are looking to spend $5,000 or $10,000 on a family vacation, you can be as picky as you like (although that will not buy you a first class airline ticket). Luxury resort rooms and suites start at $350 per night, and can go as high as $900 per night for a villa in an exotic destination like Fiji. Some of the best luxury beach destinations for families include plush resorts in Barbados, Paradise Island in the Bahamas and beach resorts in Maui. Look for all inclusive rates at Sandals resorts in Jamaica and Turks and Caicos where you will have access to many fun activities for kids of all ages. Families have access to a wide selection of room and suite layouts, letting you balance cost and just the right layout. On your luxury family vacation, look for activities that will be fun for adults as well as kids, such as golf, spas and fun dining options. If you have a baby, Club Med’s Ixtapa resort in Mexico offers the Baby Med program which includes a crib, bottle warmers and diapers in your room.
No. 3. Ka'anapali Beach – Lahaina, Hawaii. Among the most visited beach in West Maui, this area is a popular spot for quiet relaxation or water sports. It’s also famous for the daily cliff diving ceremony off of the beach’s northernmost cliffs known as “Puu Kekaa” or Black Rock. According to a TripAdvisor reviewer, “Amazing this time of year. Right from the beach we saw amazing whale breaches. The sand is amazing and the beach is well kept up!” • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Lahaina Shores Beach Resort, from $289 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $382 round-trip from SFO (San Francisco) to OGG (Kahului) TripAdvisor
What to do: Book Trafalgar Tours' Contrasts of Canada trip. It's a two-week itinerary stretching across the Canadian Rockies from coast to coast. Begin in Vancouver where the kids will be wowed on a drive along the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Then, travel by rail across the country, watching the glaciers turn into cowboy country, wheat fields and finally, the cosmopolitan city of Toronto. Here, the older kids will demand extra time to see the Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame and get their hearts rate up at Sharks After Dark at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada.
No. 5. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve – Honolulu, Hawaii. Located on the southeast coast of Oahu, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of Hawaii’s most popular natural attractions. Travelers note that the beach is good for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing and picnicking. According to a TripAdvisor user, “One of my favorite places to visit in Hawaii. I sincerely appreciate the staff’s every effort to preserve and respect marine/aquatic life. I would have given it a 5 star except for the very limited parking.” • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Park Shore Waikiki, from $186 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $416 round-trip from LAX (Los Angeles) to HNL (Honolulu) TripAdvisor
Where to stay: If your pup is coming along on this iconic road trip, consider a pet-friendly boutique property like The Laurel Inn in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood. Breakfast is free, and so is afternoon lemonade and cookies! In Southern California, opt to stay within walking distance of Disneyland. The Four Points by Sheraton Anaheim is pet-friendly and has a pool.
Why you’ll love it: Want to feel like you’ve jetted across the Atlantic for the weekend and still make it back home for work on Monday? Then add Francophile Montreal to your getaway plans. The city is steeped in French language, cuisine, and culture. Kids will love strolling the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal and munching on classic croissants and crepes, not to mention visiting more modern sights such as the Biodome to see penguins and learn about natural science.
What to do: Crystal Cruises, the first cruise company to complete the entire Northwest Passage, has several options for experiencing Alaska’s glaciers. For example, its Glacier & Gold Cruise visits the Inside Passage where it parallels the tallest coastal mountains in the world. On port days, kids can learn about the historic Gold Rush in the once-booming frontier town of Skagway or do optional excursions like dogsledding or taking a floatplane to go fishing in a remote inlet. Of course, it’s also nice to just relax on the Crystal Symphony or Crystal Serenity and use their spotting scopes to look for humpback whales, get crafty in the Fantasia children’ playrooms or hit up the all-you-can-eat Scoops Ice Cream Bars.
Although this Playa del Carmen hotel includes “liquor drips” with free tequila right in your hotel room, it’s not a destination for spring breakers as no parties are allowed in rooms, and no wild partying can happen on the property either. It does, however, offer a good time at a budget price, surrounded by tropical palms on a beautiful powdery white sand beach. The buffet restaurant serves up a wide variety of dishes, and there are also themed international restaurants and live cooking shows, included in the all-inclusive packages. Guests can also enjoy swimming in the freshwater pool set right next to the sea, and indulging in a variety of treatments and massage at the Renova Spa. Entertainment is offered daily and includes dancing, live music and shows.
Budget tip: Reno Tahoe is an awesome place to be outside, so take advantage of free entry to the area’s great hiking and biking trails. Rent bikes for only $45/person/day, and ride along the Truckee River, starting in Reno and ending up at North Lake Tahoe. Stop for a picnic brought from town and enjoy it over great views of the Sierra Nevadas and the Lake.
Huatulco: A beach town located in Oaxaca to the southwest of Puerto Escondido, Huatalco offers tons of water activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving, some nearby surf spots, and tours of coffee farms to boot. While Huatulco itself is considered one of the safest places in Mexico, the State Department is restricting travel along Highway 200 in the area (except to and from the airport), so you may not want to wander too far. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Why you’ll love it: If you have baseball fans in the family, you’ll want to focus on Cooperstown, home to The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, where they honor some of America’s athletic heroes. You can also visit The Fenimore Art Museum, which boasts an extraordinary collection of American Indian and folk art, or step back in time at The Farmers’ Museum where American history comes to life with real-life experience on a working Farmstead. Then taste your way through over 40 specialty food products at the Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard, including cider that’s been made for over 150 years in a water-powered mill.
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