All Ages

8 Family Vacation Destinations on the Rise

See recent posts by Cynthia J. Drake

Maybe you’re tired of the same old destinations, or maybe your family just has a yen for adventure. Here’s a hand-picked list of rising hotspots across the globe that are tailor-made for family fun. In these up-and-coming destinations, you’re less likely to see mobs of people and more likely to save money on authentic and memorable vacation experiences. Choose one of these family vacation destinations on the rise for your next adventure.

Cerro Negro in Nicaragua

1. Nicaragua

Editor’s Note: This story was published before the civil unrest began in Nicaragua. As of June, 8, 2018, U.S. citizens are encouraged to reconsider travel to Nicaragua per a Nicaragua Travel Advisory issued by the U.S. Department of State.

For the past few years, families have been flocking to Costa Rica and enjoying the lush rainforests and sparkling beaches there. But more recently, families are discovering that Costa Rica’s neighbor to the north, Nicaragua, offers several of the same sightseeing opportunities. “Families like the easy plane ride here, the safety, and the variety of activities,” says Eva Diaz, public relations manager for Visit Nicaragua. Kids can learn to surf at Rancho Santana, or visit the Corn Islands for other water sports like snorkeling. Visit Ompete Island, off the western shore of Lake Nicaragua to see turtles, caimans, and exotic birds. The country’s Masaya volcano is one of only three in the world where visitors can see an actively bubbling lava lake — one of many fantastic earth science lessons that Nicaragua offers up to families.

Lisbon, Portugal skyline on the Tagus River

2. Portugal

In 2017, a record number of Americans visited Portugal, and that includes a growing number of families. Portugal is an amazing country to visit and a fantastic family destination,” says Antonio de los Santos of Ride 351, which operates surf trips and tours in Portugal. Among the highlights, he lists: “perfect surf spots, more than 300 days of sun, beautiful places to get to know, amazing food and truly friendly people to all people that visit.” Your kids will love going for a ride in a tuk-tuk, the unofficial mode of transportation throughout Lisbon, Porto and Sintra (with a cable car or gondola ride being a close second, according to Full Suitcase). Also be sure to add a visit to the Castle of Silves close to Portimao to your itinerary, or go for a hike along the coast in the Algarve.

Halong Bay in Vietnam

3. Vietnam

Europe, the Caribbean and North America always rank highest among family travelers looking for solid bet destinations. But if you have a family of intrepid travelers, consider adding Vietnam to your list of possibilities. “Vietnamese people are amazing,” travel writer Jason Jenkins writes in his blog post for An Epic Education. Jenkins has visited the country three times. “They adore children, and most people will treat you differently if you’re traveling in Vietnam with a baby or young kids.” Southeast Asia requires a long-haul flight from North America, but once you’ve arrived, food, lodging and activities can be very reasonably priced. Even luxury accommodations like the Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An offer kid-friendly activities such as a Junior Cooking Academy to learn the art of rice paper rolling, or a Heart of the Earth Family Ritual, which includes massage, a bathing ritual and crystal sound immersion for four family members.

Marsaxlokk Village Harbor of Malta

4. Malta

Tourism to the Mediterranean island of Malta from the U.S. was up 30 percent in 2017 over the prior year. It might have received a small boost from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” — scenes from that show and several others were filmed here. In addition to the camera-ready landscape and lovely beaches, it’s a destination that offers prehistoric temples, Roman ruins and medieval castles, which provide a backdrop for historic reenactments that are a hit with families. You might not expect the number of museums and pageantry on such a tiny island — such as the daily Saluting Battery or the monthly Changing of the Guard. There are several festivals that are family-friendly, as well. Each February, Malta Carnival sweeps through with floats, dance competitions and colorful costumes. Take your kids to the Sunday market, explore the island’s caves (the Hypogeum is considered one of the best preserved prehistoric sites in the world), dine on a sidewalk cafe, and take a boat trip out to neighboring islands, Gozo and Comino. “Gawdi l-vaganza tieg?ek f’Malta,” as they say here (enjoy your holidays in Malta)!

South Luangwa National Park in Zambia

5. Zambia

Tourism experts are predicting that the African continent is expected to see an uptick in tourism in 2019. Safaris are an aspirational vacation idea for many families, who dream of seeing the animals roaming wild instead of at a zoo. “Africa caters exceedingly well to the entire family, allowing everyone across all generations to meet their needs while creating memories that last forever,” says Kim VanderVoort, who promotes destinations throughout Africa. “It is a great combination of active and inactive on the same holiday.” Ready for the ultimate adventure? Check out Robin Pope’s Safari Houses of Zambia itinerary, which includes safari houses throughout three destinations in Zambia. Some safari lodges don’t allow kids, but this particular outfit takes to heart its mission of teaching children about the African bush, says VanderVoort. “Game drives promise sightings of all kinds of animals, from lions and elephants to hippos and giraffes. The 10-day family safari also offers kids exciting activities like nature walks to collect pods, seeds and feathers, visits to the camp kitchen and a trip to the Chimpembele Wildlife Education Centre,” she says. Even better: a second child under age 16 is free.

Breckenridge, Colorado

6. Colorado

For the past decade, tourism to Colorado has seen a steady rise, each year breaking records with the number of visitors to the Centennial State. It’s in the top three U.S. states families say they want to take for the first time, according to a 2017 survey by the Family Travel Association, along with Hawaii and Alaska. Yet in many of the more remote mountain towns and smaller resort areas, you are still likely to feel like you’ve stumbled upon a hidden gem destination. The laidback vibe of these areas, such as Breckenridge, Grand County, Fort Collins and Grand Junction, is particularly suited to families — you’ll find kids happily playing while their parents enjoy a craft brew, or join in on a breathtaking hike or bike ride. Rent a cabin at YMCA of the Rockies, or a yurt at Snow Mountain Ranch for a nontraditional adventure.

Grachen, St. Niklaus

7. Switzerland

American tourism to Switzerland is on the rise, as more families want to travel to Europe and enjoy the unique cultural experiences available there. In Switzerland, you can hike with llamas, go for an authentic toboggan run, or teach your kids to ski or climb mountains — and that’s just for starters. Travel to Grachen, where little ones enjoy a forest playground, kid-friendly entertainment, a fairy tale cable car that narrates a children’s story and a children’s restaurant. In Bern, a unique agritourism option allows your family to experience farm life by sleeping on a bed of straw and enjoy a breakfast made from local ingredients in the morning. There are several resorts throughout the country that cater to families, as well.

Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort in Panama

8. Panama

This central American destination and home of the Panama Canal — one of the seven man-made wonders of the world — turns 500 years old in 2019, making it an ideal time to visit for you and your budding explorers. Families can learn about the construction of this famous canal, which bridged the Americas, visit the rainforest, and learn more about the indigenous cultures that live here. A day tour to Monkey Island also rates highly with families — you might encounter four species of monkey, in addition to a variety of other animals. “Having traveled throughout Panama for the last decide, I see it as an educational experience for kids with history, culture, nature and technology are all present,” says Holly Zawyer, who represents the luxury hotel Santa Maria Hotel & Golf Resort Panama City, which opened in February 2018, and the resort’s sister property, Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort.

More From Family Vacation Critic:
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10 Touristy Family Vacations That Live Up to the Hype

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