Who is ready for summer? I know I am! That’s why I’ve reached out to some of my favorite family travel bloggers and have asked them to share their Ideal Summer Family Vacation Destinations. It’s a varied list, spanning Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States. So let’s take some inspiration from these resourceful travel writers to help us escape the final doldrums of winter and into the sunny days of summer. And perhaps for some of you to finally book that family vacation!
FAMILY TRAVEL BLOGGERS REVEAL THEIR IDEAL SUMMER FAMILY VACATION DESTINATIONS
Melissa from PARENTHOOD AND PASSPORTS
Canada’s Banff National Park is the perfect summer travel destination because it’s beautiful, it’s fun, and it’s family friendly. Banff is practically a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
The mountains have a rugged, majestic appeal. Nestled between them are glacial lakes that shimmer a vibrant shade of blue. The towns of Banff and Lake Louise are located inside the national park, about a two-hour drive from Calgary, Alberta. Both towns are quaint and charming and make for a great starting place for any family adventure.
During the morning hours, spend some time exploring the town of Banff, or check out Johnston Canyon trail. The leisurely hike is one of the most beautiful, and easiest for those traveling with children. It can get fairly crowded, so you will want to visit early in the day. Morraine Lake is also a popular spot for tourists and photographers during the summer due to the strikingly turquoise water and the variety of hiking trails. The lake is most picturesque when the sun rays are hitting the water, so this is a great place to spend an afternoon.
Within Banff National Park, you’ll find everything from easy hikes to backcountry camping, kayaking, fishing, and natural hot springs. We love exploring the outdoors and hope to instill that same passion in our daughter. It’s hard not to fall in love with nature while you’re in Banff!
Alex from MY LIFE LONG HOLIDAY
My parents live in Portugal and every year we visit them with the kids. It continues to be the best place on all of our lists for a holiday because it’s just perfect for families! They live in central Portugal and the scenery is just beautiful; Eucalyptus and Pine trees carpet the valleys and give off this amazing scent that reminds you of a Spa! The little towns are manicured and quite ornate; homes decorated with hand-painted tiles and terracotta roofs.
Tourism hasn’t really hit central Portugal yet so you’ll be mixing with the locals, and they’re definitely happy to have you. Children aren’t an annoyance to anyone and eating out with them is never a problem.
Apart from exploring the quiet towns and beautiful beaches, we have a couple of things we like to indulge ourselves in when we visit and they usually turn out to be the highlights: You have to try traditional piri-piri chicken at a market; it’s original Nando’s but a darn sight better. The chickens are roasted on spits before you and you just tell them how many people are eating and they stack your table with enough chicken, salad, homemade chips and wine to fill double how many you asked for!
Another highlight would definitely be kayaking down the Mondego river – most of it is pretty easy going but there’s also enough ‘mild peril’ to make it an exciting trip too. There are a couple of stops when you get to swim in the river and cool off and you’ll pass pretty little hillside villages on the slopes and birds of prey soaring overhead, hoping to pick off the slow ones!
Central Portugal is a must if you like a slower pace and off the beaten track destinations. I have many posts about Portugal but here’s one to get you started…Five Things You Must Try in Portugal.
Katy from UNTOLD MORSELS
Our villa was in the Tuscan hills near the small hamlet of Bagni di Lucca. The villa was perfect for lazy summer days in Italy. We took short walks in the countryside, dips in the villa’s pool and those all important trips to the gelato shop. In the evenings, as we sipped our wine in the garden, the warm air sparkled with the glow of fireflies.
When we needed a culture fix, the villa was a short drive to the pretty medieval city of Lucca and onwards a little further to Pisa and the Tuscan coast.
We fell in love with Lucca where we hired bikes and rode around the city walls that are converted into an elevated public park. On another day we strolled around the city’s piazzas, threw coins into fountains and marveled at the medieval towers and churches.
Of course a highlight of any trip to Italy is the food. We enjoyed the local pasta dishes and even a truffle pizza. But our food highlight was a special family lunch in the small town of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. Here we sampled the local cheese, mortadella, and wine and our children developed a taste for olives.
A villa holiday in Tuscany is the perfect mix of relaxation, outdoor fun and culture and a great option for a multi-generational family holiday. We returned from our vacation tanned and relaxed, full of wonderful shared memories of our time in Italy.
Janice from TOTS2TRAVEL
One of my favorite holiday destinations, with children or without, is always going to be Italy. The weather, the food, the culture and the people seem to embody a celebration of life itself. A recent highlight was touring Piedmont in the north of the country. As the slow food capital it’s known for its cuisine and its approach to dining at leisure. I visited with my husband, our two year-old and one year-old sons, combining a city break with an escape to the country.
Renting an AirBnB in Turin, we visited one of the city’s famous historic cafes, sampled its renowned Bicerin (coffee, chocolate and cream!), explored its cinema museum (on a rainy day), bought fresh pasta at the daily markets and ventured to the Slow Food supermarket Eataly.
Next we escaped to the rolling hills of Piedmont, staying in an Agriturismo site. Italy is known for these accommodation offerings which are a mix of farm, hotel, restaurant and self-catering combined. As we experienced wine-tasting and sampled the local hazelnuts and prosciutto I thought I was in heaven. We ate truffles in Alba, drank sparkling wine in Asti, sipped PDO wine in Barolo and Barbaresco, explored the castle in Manta, wandered round the old town of Saluzzo and then returned to our Agriturismo for some leisure time by the pool or entertained the children in the playground.
Piedmont was a special holiday as it was so distinctive, memorable, delicious and breath-taking. But that’s Italy.
ROME and PUGLIA, ITALY
Leona from WANDERMUST FAMILY
Italy to me is the perfect family vacation destination. As a couple we would make sure we have visited Italy at least once a year and have travelled from top to toe!
When we go we normally stay in hotels, most recently we travelled to the Westin Excelsior in Rome, but Italy really does provide a perfect array of family friendly accommodation from villas, airbnbs to caravan sites.
One of my favourite things about visiting Italy with a family is how welcomed you are by the people. I know it sounds like a cliché but Italians love children which makes vacationing there so much easier for a family, especially at mealtimes. Speaking of mealtimes, I think the Italian diet is perfect for even the pickiest family member. I mean who doesn’t love pasta, pizza and gelato! We love Italy because of the almost guaranteed nice weather, the mix of urban living and outdoor activities, alfresco dining and of course the history. You can’t go to Italy without being impressed by the history.
Rome is a brilliant city to take children to but if you are looking for an off the beaten path recommendation then Puglia is the place for you. Quieter and less touristy (for the moment) than other parts of Italy, it offers the perfect blend of beaches, cities and fab food. We usually stay in the beautiful White city of Ostuni but nearby Cisternino is always great for families. The biggest tourist destination in the area is the Truli houses of Alberobello which is definitely worth a visit. Italy for me is a gem of a family summer vacation destination.
Hilary from HILARYSTYLE
With so many amazing places in the world it can be hard to commit precious vacation time to repeat destinations, but sometimes it’s those repeat visits that really show you what a city is all about. Which is why for the second time in 3 years our family spent the summer holiday in Paris. A family of four with two boys, ages 8 and 14 it can be difficult at times to find activities that appeal to everyone, which is what makes a city like Paris such a great place for a family vacation. There is truly something for everyone, from shopping and wine tasting to monuments and history, not to mention the abundance of art museums and beautiful gardens filled with merry-go-rounds, boat ponds and more.
While we visited many wonderful sites during our time in Paris, some of the highlights include Disneyland Paris, climbing the bell towers of Notre Dame and sailing toy boats in the Luxembourg gardens. Other notable moments were a day trip to Versaille, walks along the Seine and seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night.
Finding accommodations in Paris can be challenging especially for families. Our hotel, the Hotel Sainte Beuve was very family friendly. The convenient location in the 6th arrondissement, was walking distance to the Luxembourg Gardens! The adjoining rooms connected via a small private vestibule, which provided plenty of room for our family of four, giving us plenty of room to spread out.
If you’re looking for a family vacation where you can create memories that will last a lifetime, consider Paris.
FINISTÈRE in BRITTANY, FRANCE
Nell from THE PIGEON PAIR AND ME
Our family fell in love with Finistère, in Brittany, France last summer. We spent three weeks in August travelling through the west of the country. As well as Brittany the four of us – me, my partner and our two children, 4 and 6, visited the Vendée and north Dordogne. We’d return to any of these areas in a flash – but it was Finistère that left us dreaming about buying a little cottage by the sea, and spending lazy days on the sandy beaches, dabbling nets into rock pools and watching fishing boats chug their way into the harbour.
We were lucky with the weather. Like all of northern France, Brittany’s climate isn’t that different to the south of England, and rain is always a possibility, even in the summer months. But the region caters for this. There are plenty of indoor attractions, like Océanopolis at Brest, where you can see seals, otters and sharks. Finistère is at the westernmost tip of the country, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, so it’s often hit by storms in the winter. The summer’s a different story, though. That’s when Finistère’s remoteness comes into its own, and you can visit hidden treasures, like the Glénan Archipelago, a set of islands ten miles off the coast, with periwinkle-blue sea to rival the Caribbean.
Most of Brittany’s food is unmistakably French, so if you’re a family that loves to guzzle croissants and frites (French fries), you’ll be in your element. Brittany also has its own specialties: crèpes (pancakes), galettes (sweet biscuits made with butter), delicately flavoured apple juice, and cider as complex as a fine wine. We stayed at Siblu’s Domaine de Kerlann holiday park, which catered well for families, but there’s a wide range of accommodation, from apartments and gites (holiday homes) to campsites.
THE GREEK ISLANDS
Clare from SUITCASES AND SANDCASTLES
Greece is the place I dream of escaping to every summer. It has everything I’m looking for in a family holiday: it’s beautiful, it’s sublimely relaxing and it’s great value for money.
So much of Greece still feels unspoilt. I love the laid-back vibe you get on the quieter Greek islands. There’s a timelessness to Greece that you find so rarely in other parts of the Mediterranean where it’s so much busier in summer.
It’s not hard to find that picture-perfect little harbour with colourful wooden boats and a couple of simple tavernas. It’s the perfect place for a family. Children are adored and the atmosphere is so chilled that the whole family relaxes.
When we’re in Greece we take pleasure in the little things: building sandcastles, swimming, reading, taking boats out to deserted islands and sharing big plates of mezze at the end of the day.
It’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in Europe. You can find crystal clear waters, stunning sunsets, mountains and some of the world’s most extraordinary historical sites. The wonderful stories of Ancient Greece bring history alive and there are temples and statues on almost every island.
There are so many islands to choose from that we try to visit a new one on each trip. Our favourites have included Crete, Kefalonia, Syros and Folegandros. We usually stay in small, boutique hotels with pools – www.i-escape.com has an excellent selection for all budgets.
Erin from OREGON GIRL AROUND THE WORLD
I love summer in Denmark. It’s the best day of the year. Or so the saying goes here. But Danes do know how to make the most of the unpredictable weather and when the sun is out – they soak it up. Anywhere near the water. And the loveliest place to be near the water is at a Danish sommerhus, a summer house. Many Danes escape the hustle and bustle of the city to a charming little second home by the sea. A perfect launching pad for laid back simple summer fun. Plan for swimming in the mild Baltic and basking on swaths of golden sand beaches. Kids of all ages enjoy ice creams by the ocean and fishing for crabs from the piers.
Don’t think of Denmark for a sunny beach vacation? The Danes do. NordSjælland, the area north of Copenhagen is known as the Danish Riviera. We spent a wonderful weekend in a summer house outside the charming village of Hornbæk, less than an hour outside the Danish capital. It was the perfect place to slow down and relax and take long walks on the beach or through the woods.
The serene Hornbæk Plantage – a wooded park full of paths to poke about – sits nearby for days when you need something more than swimming and sand. Start your day at Albi’s Kaffebar, cozy and full of charm with darn good coffee and house baked goods. Fill up on local seafood – or take home the latest catch to cook – at Fiskehuset Hornbæk situated right on the harbor in town. Want to find your own Danish summer house hideaway? Try Airbnb or SommerhusDanmark.dk. Read more on how cozy a summer house can be and learn a little about the very Danish concept of hygge here: Summer House Hygge.
Keri from OUR GLOBETROTTERS
When most people think of summer destinations Australia can be quickly dismissed as people think it is winter down under and it will be cold. Australia is in fact an enormous country with many different micro climates, and July/August is the perfect time to visit the tropical ‘Top End’ when it’s dry season. Darwin in the Northern Territory is our favourite place to escape the desert heat and get in touch with nature again.
With a fascinating past, there’s also loads on offer for families who love the outdoorsy life. Although it’s a long drive to places like Kakadu National Park, nearby is Litchfield National Park, full of wildlife and amazing waterholes (don’t worry in the dry season there are no crocs to worry about!). If you want some croc encounters though, visit Crocodylus, or boat tours operate from Adelaide River to see them in their natural habitat. Activities like fishing are also popular or history buffs might like the Defence of Darwin Experience chronicling the events of World War II. And what kid doesn’t love things that go? Check out the Aviation Heritage Center.
The best places to stay when visiting Outback Australia with a family are in holiday parks – sort of a cross between a traditional RV park and a resort! Loads for kids to do, swimming pools, jumping pillows, kids clubs and activities while parents can sit back with a drink. Darwin city is quite small compared to other Australian capitals, but your best bet for getting around is to hire a car.
The perfect way to end the day if you’re not at the popular Deck Chair Cinema is down at the Mindil beach markets – and check out this sunset!! If you want to get your Crocodile Dundee on this summer, it’s definitely the place I would go for a real taste of Australia and family relaxation.
PHILLIP ISLAND, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA
Ali from WHAT ALI SEES
How would you like to stay on an island and get up close with some Australian wildlife? Close encounters with furry and feathery Aussie icons in their natural surroundings is exactly what you can expect on a visit to Phillip Island in Victoria, Australia. Located only 1.5 hours drive from Melbourne, this ecotourism destination has become the perfect place for families to escape city life and enjoy the outdoors.
My husband, myself and our 3 year old son stayed in a super family friendly Airbnb house (with toys and bikes) close to a secluded beach. The world famous Penguin Parade is the main attraction, where you can watch thousands of little penguins waddle onto the beach towards their burrows to feed their young. If you’re in the mood to meet more wildlife, you should take a stroll through the treetop boardwalk at the Koala Conservation Centre where you are guaranteed to spot lots of cute koalas.
For a relaxing afternoon I highly recommend checking out the Churchill Island Farm to soak up some history of this farming region, or even the Purple Hen Winery for bay views and Pinots. You could also take the kids to The Antarctic Journey, a new WWF attraction that provides an interactive learning experience about the wildlife and environment of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Speaking of icebergs… I feel like I’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg of activities to experience in Phillip Island. This relaxed destination with beautiful beaches and unforgettable animal encounters will forever stand out as a favourite family holiday destination.
Cindy from PICCOLO EXPLORER
My husband and I visited Oahu with our 22 month-old toddler and stayed in Waikiki at the Moana Surfrider hotel. Some highlights from our vacation were spending time at Waikiki Beach, seeing local marine life up close at the Waikiki Aquarium, bringing our son to the Turtle Bay Resort for his first pony experience, seeing sea turtles at Laniakea Beach, visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center and having a picnic at beautiful Kailua Beach.
There is so much to explore on Oahu that I’d recommend renting a car during your stay. Other activities around the island we’ve enjoyed include surfing, windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding and scuba diving, hiking the Diamond Head trail, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, experiencing a traditional luau at Paradise Cove and visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
Hawaii is a beautiful, special place to visit, and you can make your holiday on Oahu as relaxed or adventurous as you like. What makes Oahu an ideal destination are the wide range of activities for the whole family to enjoy, the unique cultural experiences and the many adventure trails and stunning coastline to explore around the island.
I have many fond memories visiting Oahu during my childhood and it continues to be one of my favorite places that I love returning to, now with my own family.
NEW YORK CITY
Isabelle from LEAP AND HOP
Our three boys were born in New York but we moved to Hong Kong over 8 years ago. We go back every summer to see family and friends and for the kids to keep up their New York roots. What’s great about the city is that there is something for everyone and we make sure to explore different neighborhoods every time we visit.
It’s a place best explored by foot and it’s OK to get lost. With a map in hand, the kids take the lead and we follow. It’s not a difficult city to navigate and my kids love to be in charge. To keep things interesting and make sure we continue the exploration year after year without sticking to what’s familiar, I wrote the New York edition of my Leap & Hop series last year. 2016 was our first summer with the book and we barely scratched the surface.
Top places to stay: The Greenwich and The Strand – I have a soft spot for Downtown Manhattan and the High Line.
Top activities: Quiz Walk in Central Park (in the Leap & Hop book), the Museum of Mathematics – just for the fun of it, the Cloisters – for a time travel experience and I-spy game, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum to catch a glimpse of the life of immigrants at the end of the 19th century, and the street art in the Lower East Side. I have a street art scavenger hunt in the book, which the kids really enjoyed but I’m planning on taking the kids on a street art walking tour in Brooklyn next summer.
BAR HARBOR and ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE
Corey from FIFI + HOP
My family and I spent a week in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park in Maine last summer and it proved to be one of our all-time favorite family vacations. We wanted to go to a national park, being the centennial, and had heard such great things about Acadia. It has the mountains, the sea, and Maine’s famous, rugged coastline, all beautifully set in and around the adorable town of Bar Harbor.
The state of Maine has long been a New England summer retreat. For one, it has a cooler climate, but most notably, it has stunning land and seascapes and is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Picturesque fishing villages and lighthouses dot the coastline, no-frills “lobstah” shacks can be found almost everywhere, and forested country land makes you feel like you’ve truly escaped city and suburban life.
Acadia National Park is known as being family-friendly, and it is. There are ponds and lakes to be explored, kid-friendly hiking, and Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the east coast, can be accessed by car.
My favorite thing about this vacation was just how adventurous it was – every day we had a new plan, and a new area to explore. And each day we would come back in the late afternoon and relax by the pool and hot tub at the Holiday Inn, where we stayed, overlooking the sea and with a boat drink in hand from the hotel’s poolside tiki bar. I swear at times it felt like the Caribbean!
As for the town of Bar Harbor, there are plenty of good restaurants, shopping and outdoor activity. Often times before dinner we would catch the sunset in the town park or walk along Shore Path, before diving into a good meal and an ice cream stop after.
And that’s a wrap! Many thanks to the wonderful family travel writers for contributing such inspiring and insightful pieces, and I hope everyone’s come away from this with longer, ever-growing summer family vacation wish lists.
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