As we're experiencing an unprecedented time of not-travelling, thinking about travel has changed. At least it has for me. Now, I find myself daydreaming more about what really would be my holiday of a lifetime, rather than almost literally writing a long list of family travel experiences I want to do with my partner and two kids (aged one and four) and then making the first steps to book them in my diary or grab some cheap flights.
Now I find myself questioning what I really, really want to do on my first family travel vacation instead of ticking off as many different holiday wishes as possible. To say that this whole experience has changed how we will travel as a family (and as individuals) is an understatement. So yes, I started to think about the most amazing family vacations of a lifetime, and I wanted to share these ideas with you, as well as the once in a lifetime family holidays that other family travel bloggers would recommend.
Best Family Vacations of a Lifetime
So, sit back, relax and let my own dream family holidays and other travel writers' bucketlist vacations inspire you to daydream about the first trip your family will take once travel is a safe option for us all. I honestly do think the more we indulge our wanderlust, daydream and think about these travel experiences, the more wonderful they will be.
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Family Trip to the Maldives by Me
I made it something of a truly privileged and amazing mission of mine to encourage more famillies to travel to the Maldives because I really do believe that it's an amazing place to go to as a family. Yes, even travelling to the Maldives with a toddler is well worth doing.
Of course, the Maldives is an incredible place to go on honeymoon, as a couple, with friends or even as a solo traveller, but times are changing and in recent years more and more resorts are opening up to families and in true Maldives style they have some of the best facilities and services for children of all ages.
The resort we stayed at with our son when he was two-years-old, Kandima Maldives, was developed with families in mind and they have the biggest kids club for kids of all ages (from babies to teens) in the Maldives, as well as several other swimming pools, a water playground and other activities throughout the resort and other excursions too. Restaurants had separate sections and menus for kids to choose fun foods they'd enjoy, and you could easily get equipment you needed in your room or villa organised before your arrival. The staff at Kandima were very friendly and helpful with our son, and the kids club staff were among the best we've met in many other luxury family resorts. And Kandima is not alone; here's a list of the best Maldives resorts and islands for families.
Getting to the Maldives is not easy. It's at least two or three flights for most people, and I fully understand why that would put anyone off, and I'm certainly not about to encourage anyone to go on long-haul journeys they're not sure they want to do. But the journey was so worth the overall experience of being in a truly outstanding location and in all honesty, it wasn't as bad as we expected.
Many people recommend not getting a sea plane but getting a transfer to a resort close to Mahe, which is very doable and a bit easier and a lot cheaper for families, however, the sea plane was a very unique experience that I will never forget and was weirdly an important part of our trip. I wish I could say the same about the sea plane flight for our son, but he fell asleep within minutes of departure on both legs! I think he was maybe too young to fully appreciate what was happening and how special it was. I definitely think older kids would really appreciate and enjoy it more... so yeah, maybe we can make a family trip to the Maldives to be a twice in a lifetime experience?
Round the World Trip to Australia by Me
It's quite a brave thing to go on a round-the-world trip to Australia with a young child or young children, but I do think it's something that is an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience if you are feeling up for it and the opportunity to go arises.
As a family, we are a bit biased about how amazing Australia is with kids (my partner is Australian), but honestly, everytime I think of a place I'd like to return to with my family, especially now we have a second son, I always think about Australia and especially Sydney. Australians' value their outdoor space and activities so much and of course the country's climate is ideal for being outside and exploring.
As well as beaches, there are mountains, jungles, rainforests, and desert bush landscapes out in Australia's countryside, and the cities are brilliantly set up for kids with museums, zoos, playgrounds, activities and more. Yes, our main reason to travel to Australia was to see family, but the time we spent at the beach, swimming in creeks, finding fun playgrounds and enjoying a day at Taronga Zoo was just as much fun.
We travelled to Sydney when our eldest son was 18 months and while the 24-hour journey (involving two flights from Amsterdam via Singapore) and yes, the journey was hard, but I would say over and over that it was worth, specifically because our trip to Australia was a long one and we took the first few days very slowly so we could adapt to the jet lag situation. I have shared more tips about doing long-haul round the world flights with a young toddler here, and here are the things we did to help our toddler with jet lag, which really did work well for us.
Beach Fun in the Sun in Greece by Me
If Australia and the Maldives sound like too far and too much money (very understandably!) then set your sights somewhere closer and look at the beautiful country of Greece. We have taken our young family no fewer than three times to Greece in the last two years. We adore Greece for its weather, food, and the way Greek people put family at the heart of everything they do.
The climate in Greece is among the best in Europe with warm weather kicking off in May and going all the way through to October, and there are often some great flight deals to be found. You can therefore travel off-peak and outside of school holidays if you have pre-school aged kids, but with so many different places to explore on the mainland an across over 1000 Greek islands (well, not that many are inhabited but you get the picture) there are a lots of places to research to ensure you get a really special family vacation.
There are countless places you can stay, but in line with our fussy/luxury tastes, and because this is about the best kind of family holiday your money can buy, you should have a look at Sani Resort and also their sister brand, Ikos Resorts. Both are family-focused resorts that promise 5-star luxury with 5-star facilities for kids. You can read my review of Ikos Dassia Resort (they have five resort locations in total, including one in Spain) and here is my review of Sani Resort, which is on the mainland of Greece, near Thessaloniki. And if you're struggling to decide between the two resorts, here is my comparison of both Sani and Ikos, which may help you choose the best resort for your family.
Sailing tour of the British Virgin Islands by Traveling Party of Four
If you wish for a dreamy break from reality, charter a yacht and a crew and spend the week island hopping through the British Virgin Islands. Imagine this: sparkling crystal blue water, white sandy beaches, refreshing ocean breeze, and the only decision you make for your day is what swimsuit you are going to wear.
Chartering a yacht in the British Virgin Island with our family each summer provides us a much-needed rest, recovery, and lots of quality time together. When I say, "chartering" I mean EVERYTHING is done for you. The Captain safely sails, the chef cooks up 5-star meals three times a day, plus a Happy Hour with creative snacks and umbrella drinks (adult and kid-friendly). And James, well, he is tasked with keeping mom's drink full.
Why the British Virgin Islands? Let's begin with a relaxed island vibe, and move on to the tranquil and secluded beaches, endless water sports, sunsets, and winds that are known as a sailor's dream. And you can even swim through caves, searching for buried pirate treasure. Plus, daily fresh seafood, endless conch, tropical fruit, rum drinks, and crisp light island beers. It doesn't have to be a dream family holiday; you can make it a reality.
Hawaii island-hopping family adventure by Sarah from Cosmopoliclan
Our long-time family bucket list trip was island-hopping in Hawaii and we were lucky enough to make this ultimate family holiday reality two years ago. We visited three islands over the course of three weeks: Maui, the Big Island and Oahu, when our kids were 6 and 8 years of age.
Starting our trip on Maui turned out to be an excellent choice because that’s where you’ll find some of Hawaii’s finest family resorts. Once you’ve recovered from your jetlag on one of the island’s golden beaches, it’s time for some soft adventures: chase waterfalls along the Road to Hana, visit mystic ‘Iao Valley, participate in a culture workshop, hike the Kapalua coastal trail, explore the former whalers village of Lahaina or go on a whale-watching tour.
By the time you island hop to the lush Big Island, you’ll be ready for some real adventures: hike a volcanic crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, admire ‘Akaka Falls, swim with turtles, visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, explore Waipi’o Valley, admire the black sand beaches, hike to a unique green sand beach and visit Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park.
Hawaii’s nature is truly overwhelming and its culture intriguing. Take the time to connect with locals, take in all of the island’s natural abundance and adopt the aloha spirit. Finally, hop over to the capital Honolulu on Oahu to discover yet a different kind of Hawaii. It’s vibrant city with fancy shops, classy hotels, legendary Waikiki beach and the most wonderful culinary treats. Take a day trip to Pearl Harbour or make a road trip to check out some of the other highlights on Oahu: hike the Diamond Crater, explore Kualoa Ranch, snorkel at Hanauma Bay and watch the surfers at the North Shore.
If you’re looking for the ultimate bucket list trip with kids, then Hawaii offers the perfect blend of adventure, culture and luxury. No wonder that this is family vacation was our most memorable one so far.
The Deserts of Jordan, by Karen from Travel Mad Mum
Visiting Jordan is a once in a lifetime trip, especially visiting the desert in the south. One of the main highlights of the area is Wadi Rum, an incredible nature preserve. Wadi Rum is a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock. It's unique in the sense the sand is almost red in colour and there are some incredible rock formations around the desert.
We were blown away by the stunning landscape. Aside from the stunning views there is a ton to see and do in the national park. Explore caves with petroglyphics etched into the walls, hike through the area, take an exciting jeep tour through the dunes, hang out with camels, discover old temples, and learn about the bedouins who live in the wadi. If you are with older kids you can even go rock climbing.
We visited Jordan with little kids who really enjoyed just playing in the sand. At night, sleep in glamping pods under the stars. There are a few hotels offering these clear pods that you can sleep inside in total comfort, with the most amazing views of the night skies. Because you are in the middle of the desert, you'll be able to see an absolutely breathtaking, star filled sky from the comfort of your bed.
Wadi Rum is located only a couple of hours by car from Petra, so it's in a great place for combining two once in a lifetime destinations!
Machu Picchu: An Unforgettable Family Hike, by Catherine from To & Fro Fam
(Frankie's Note: This is definitely a trip to be done with older kids in their teens!)
Hiking Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most iconic bucket list destinations—and totally worth all the hype. Centuries-old structures rising up out of the Peruvian mountains: Yep, this spot is just as awe-inspiring as you'd imagine it to be.
Tucked into the lush mountains near Cusco, Peru, these Incan ruins still stand strong. Up to 2,500 people visit this site per day (along with the resident llamas, who love to photobomb pictures), and in spite of the crowds, hiking Machu Picchu is entirely worth it.
I recommend taking a guided one-day hike on the Inca Trail to make it more manageable for the whole family. This hike stretches along the sides of mountains, offering spectacular views of the river valley below. You’ll also hike through several ruins besides Machu Picchu.
The chances are, you’ll descend a hill onto Machu Picchu just before sunset—an absolutely magical experience. To make the most of your trip, stay the entire length of time your ticket allows. (When you book your visit, you choose either the morning or the afternoon, so you get a half-day to explore.) Other visitors leave early, leaving the ruins quiet and relatively empty for the final half-hour of each window.
When we visited, we arrived in time to watch the sunrise and soak in the light. (For more about this trip, click over to my post on visiting Machu Picchu on the solstice.) No matter when you go, you and your children won’t regret or forget this dream trip. I know I never will.
Santa Claus, Northern Lights and a Winter Wonderland in the Arctic Circle, Finland, by Diana from Travels in Poland
Called Lapland by some, Sápmi is a region in northern Finland that is home to the Sami people and the official hometown of Santa Claus in Rovaniemi. This region in the Arctic Circle draws in hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, particularly for unique experiences.
These experiences include husky rides, sleeping in igloos, going to underground ice bars and caves, including Santa Park, an underground bunker that is home to Santa and his elves. Northern lights chasing and reindeer rides are among the most popular experiences.
There are several hotels and hideaways that are wonderful options for staying in the area. Santa Claus Holiday Village provides visitors with half of a small cabin, which features an indoor sauna. The Arctic Treehouse Hotel provides visitors with a luxurious stay high among the trees with a wide window looking out over the woods. Santa’s Igloos are another luxurious retreat that features floor to ceiling windows where visitors can enjoy nature through the glass.
At the right time of year, visitors can even spot the northern lights right from the comfort of their beds. Rovaniemi is perfect for families, as it’s one of the top destinations for families in the winter. Reindeer and husky rides are family friendly, with many companies providing pickup at hotels and resorts all across Rovaniemi. This makes for an easier transfer with children.
Husky farms are a great family friendly activity where children can see new husky puppies as well as how the dogs are raised and trained for their natural roles. Activities such as ice fishing are also family friendly as companies have the proper winter gear for both children (ages approximately four and older) and adults.
Experience The Magic Of A Disney Cruise, by Stephanie from Consistently Curious
Experience the magic of escaping aboard a luxury Disney Cruise Liner. This holiday is one that is bound to leave lasting-memories and extraordinary experiences. From the moment you step foot on this world-class cruise ship, Disney is creating moments to make your stay at sea genuinely unforgettable. Captain Mickey is greeting guests; the unlimited ice cream is flowing, and the staff is truly remarkable.
A Disney Cruise is the ideal family getaway, especially for families with littles ones. Family comfort is a priority on a Disney Cruise, non-potty trained children can enjoy splashing in Nemo's Reef, complimentary pack-n-plays and diaper genies delivered to your stateroom and an onboard nursery services are available.
There is something for everyone on a Disney Cruise. Hop on the thrilling AquaDuck water coaster, catch a Broadway-quality show, or enjoy a princess teatime. Complimentary Youth Clubs are overflowing with Disney Magic, with characters making visits several times throughout the day. The kid's clubs allow adults to enjoy a little time to themselves. Enjoy a luxurious treatment at the Senses Spa or treat yourselves to dinner at an adult-exclusive restaurant.
With a wide variety of dining options, families can enjoy themed restaurants such as the imaginative Animator's Palate to poolside bistros. Themed evenings are always popular such as Pirate Night, which replaces a traditional formal night. The perfect way to cap off your Disney Cruise holiday with a toddler or even older kids is by sitting back to enjoy the spectacular Fireworks At Sea which truly distinguishes Disney Cruise Line from the rest.
Disney Cruise Lines offers sailings all over the globe, find the best fit for your family, and let the adventure begin.
Family Safari in Maasai Mara and Serengeti, by Priya from Outside Surburbia
One of our favorite trips ever has been our safari trip to Kenya and Tanzania. It was one of those bucketlist trips we had been dreaming about and so glad we got to experience it. Our daughter was doing a 5-week internship in Cape Town, South Africa so we decided to plan our Africa trip around the same time.
We landed in Nairobi, spent two days there and then took a small 13 seater aircraft to our lodge in Maasai Mara. We were welcomed with champagne flutes and roses when we landed on the dusty airstrip in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. But little did we know this middle of nowhere is where the wildlife thrives.
The next morning on our first ever safari game drive we saw four out of the so-called Big Five; except for the elusive leopards, we saw lions, elephants, wild buffalo and a black rhino. We saw quite a few other animals and colorful birds as well during our safari.
Our safari camps at Bateleur were exquisite each filled with beautiful antiques, wonderful linens and lush carpets. We then spent a couple of days at a Lodge above the Rift Valley where some scene from the movie Out of Africa was shot. From here we took another small aircraft to Serengeti and stayed at the Four Seasons Serengeti Lodge. We went on a hot air balloon ride and a few more amazing safari drives.
We were able to capture some amazing wildlife images during our trip. By no means a professional photographer, this trip made Mr. Suburbia fall in love with wildlife photography and we can’t wait to go back to Africa again.
What other luxury family vacations would you consider to be a holiday of a lifetime for you and your family? Please do let me know in the comments, and if you'd like to save or share this post, here are some images you can pin:
Frances M. Thompson
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