Once you have kids, the days of stolen mini-breaks with your honey are pretty much gone, unless you have a great nanny or very forbearing parents nearby! Traveling with a family can be tricky and expensive, but it is possible to enjoy a vacation with the kids; in fact, sometimes it’s even more fun than vacationing alone with your partner…although it is a different kind of “fun!” Here are the top 10 travel destinations for kids.

  1. Orlando and Kissimmee, Florida. Come on, did you really think this one would be missing from any family fun vacation list? Orlando is, of course, home to all the Disney parks, Sea World, Universal Studios, and a host of other tourist attractions. Besides the touristy stuff, Orlando and Kissimmee (Orlando’s lower-priced suburb, where the best lodging prices are to be found) is a great place to use as a home base for trips to the beaches, and there are excellent shopping, restaurants and non-mouse-oriented fun stuff. Try Medieval Times for a jousting and feasting good time, adventure golfing, water parks: it’s all there. Contact a travel agent and buy a pass which will give the whole family entry into the parks on an unlimited basis, which often come with freebies thrown in. Off-season (winter and fall) brings lower prices and smaller crowds, so it’s worth braving the occasional rainstorm.
  2. Family Cruises. For the money, a cruise is the best way to go. The new mega-liners offer the complete package of lodging, meals and entertainment for one price; in fact, even the most seasick-prone travelers will find they hardly realize they’re afloat. Destinations are myriad, but Alaska and the Caribbean are the most popular choices. Cruise lines offer special family perks, such as kids’ activities during the day hosted by ship personnel, giving mom and dad their alone time. Rock climbing, surfing lessons, mini-golf, arts and crafts classes, dancing lessons, spa treatments…the list is endless. Ports of call bring nice beaches and photo ops, but many families find they hardly want to leave the boat. And for those who are still mouse-inclined, Disney’s cruises are some of the best out there.
  3. National Parks. For family-oriented, inexpensive vacations, it is hard to beat camping out at a national park. Whether in Canada or in the U.S., the beauty of the great outdoors beckons. Buy a “My Parks Pass” for Canada’s 100-plus parks or choose any of the U.S. parks, which usually offer free entry, pack your RV or car, and head on out. Some parks offer cabin rentals, and many have various levels of services, ranging from completely off-the-grid campsites to those with electric outlets and water hookups. These are wonderful places to spend time with your kids and to tune out the noise of modern life, to teach them the value of a simple appreciation for animals, plants and conservation. Also, any fees paid to the park go to its maintenance. You’ll create wonderful memories for a fraction of what you might pay for another vacation to a more commercial location. This is best for families with kids age 6 and up, because camping with tiny babies or wandering toddlers is not advisable.
  4. Anaheim, California. Of course we had to include this one: DisneyLAND, not DisneyWORLD. Disneyland is actually older than its Florida counterpart, but it has been renovated regularly and has just as much fun stuff to do. Close by are Universal Studios, water parks, SeaWorld and the Aquarium, the Southern California beaches, and, of course, Los Angeles. See the Hollywood sign, take a star homes tour, visit the Chinese Theatre and the Walk of Fame, visit Rodeo Drive, and enjoy world-class dining, shopping and lodging. By staying in Anaheim you will keep the costs down, but are still close to everything fun.
  5. The Bahamas. The Bahamas is a group of islands in the Caribbean and is one of the most popular tropical family destinations. There are several all-inclusive resorts that welcome children with open arms, such as Paradise Island, which has a special Kids Club with all kinds of neat activities to keep the children occupied while mom and dad enjoy the sand and surf. Tide-pools, jet-skiing, snorkeling, swimming, dolphin encounters, and scuba diving are fun for the whole family (although scuba is only for kids 12 and up). All-inclusive resorts help keep costs down, so it’s very possible to take a relatively inexpensive and memorable Caribbean vacation with the whole family.
  6. U.S. Virgin Islands. Although not as cheap as resorts in the Bahamas, a vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands is one not to be missed. The Islands are smaller and less commercial, and several of the smaller ones such as St. John are extremely private, while still offering the best amenities and service. The water is crystal-clear and free of sharks or anything more dangerous than a barracuda (they stay out in the deeper parts), although you can swim with stingrays without fear in certain places! Snorkeling and tide pool exploration brings an education about the ocean, and if you want to venture inland there are colonial sugar plantations and forts to explore, too. Shopping is wonderful on St. Thomas, just a short ferry-ride away, and the all-inclusive resorts such as the Hibiscus Beach Resort welcome children.
  7. Hawaii. Hawaii is, well…Hawaii. Few have not entertained fantasies of hula dances, leis and luaus. Hawaii is pricey, but it is worth the money. Also, fares have been plunging on airline tickets to Hawaii recently, so book now! Few other places have so much in such a small area: all manner of water sports, volcanoes, hiking, fishing, magnificent beaches, great shopping and entertainment, fascinating history and culture, and world-class accommodations. Select a family-friendly resort such as the Waikoloa Beach Resort to base your vacation from and take in all the islands have to offer.
  8. Australia. For those who feel more adventurous and can spend more money, a trip to Australia is the trip of a lifetime. This smallest continent is teeming with culture and natural wonders. From the beaches and the Great Barrier Reef to the Outback and Ayer’s Rock/Uluru, Australia is just simply fascinating. The lodgings are varied in price and luxury, the restaurants are excellent, the shopping is top-notch, and the people are warm and friendly. Take your time in Australia and get the most out of this trip that your kids will never forget!
  9. Barcelona/Catalonia, Spain. Spain is one of the best-kept secrets of Europe: it is inexpensive (in comparison to the rest of Europe) and has so much to see and do. The beaches on both sides of the country are beautiful, but Barcelona is a great place to use as a base for a family vacation. The food and accommodations are excellent, and the city and province are full of unique history and culture. Visit Las Ramblas, which is akin to the American street malls and boardwalks of ages past, or take in history and art at the local museums. Take the kids to see Gaudi’s phenomenal Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Range outward from Barcelona to see the Moorish architecture and beauty of the southern part of Spain, or head north into France and the rest of Europe on the train for even more adventure.
  10. New York City. The City that Never Sleeps is actually a great family vacation spot. Crime is way down in the past decades, and the New Yorkers welcome tourists. New York has zoos, museums, Broadway shows, concerts, plays, ballets, shopping, dining and many other things to do. Christmastime is especially beautiful in New York, where you can watch the lighting of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, the Nutcracker, and the Carnegie Hall concerts. The food is spectacular and the energy is vibrant in New York. The city can also be used as a base to visit nearby states and the local beaches, such as the famous Hamptons.