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15 Best Family Vacation Ideas, Suggested by Travel Agents

15 Best Family Vacation Ideas, Suggested by Travel Agents

We asked 3 seasoned travel agents to share their insights on the best family vacation destinations. Whether you’re looking for a tropical adventure or an affordable road trip, we hope you’ll find your next family vacation among these diverse ideas.

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Shera Westin

Woodbury, MN
Shera Westin
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Recommended for: Families craving a tropical vacation, groups that enjoy water activities, history lovers, budget-conscious travelers

Travel agent perspective: I am a huge proponent of Mexico in general. As a location for families, it’s phenomenal. I think you are not going to get better service or better food, especially at an all-inclusive resort, than you will find in Mexico. —Shera Westin

What to do on a family vacation to the Riviera Maya?

  • Go on a day trip to the ancient Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, including the awe-inspiring temple pyramid, El Castillo.
  • Visit Xel-Há eco-park and float down the lazy river on an innertube.
  • Take the ferry over to Cozumel, where you can go snorkeling and swim with dolphins.
  • Go on a dinner cruise to bask in the vibrant colors of the sunset over the sea.

How can a travel agent help?

  • Providing first-hand experience and advice about which resorts are age appropriate. For example, some resorts cater more to toddlers than teens.
  • Booking excursions and handling the logistics of traveling off the resort.
  • Getting you the best deals on flights and an all-inclusive resort package.

Real traveler experience:

Our first family vacation to Mexico. AMAZING! Shera [Westin] gave me great information and was open and honest. She listened to my needs and found an amazing resort that was within our budget and met my family's needs.

—AHMexico from Woodbury, MN

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Oahu and Maui, Hawaii

Recommended for: Beach-loviniig families, history lovers, families in the Midwest or on the West Coast who want a tropical vacation

Travel agent perspective: Lots of people like to fly in to Honolulu [on Oahu] spend a couple days and then bounce to a different Island…. Maui is a good option for families: between Kaui, which is very laid-back, and Oahu, which is very busy. —Mandy Kusilek

Why to do on a family vacation to Hawaii?

  • Visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor on Oahu.
  • Go shopping and partake of a luau feast in the Lahaina area on Maui.
  • Stretch out on Maui’s expansive, tranquil beaches with plenty of room to play and explore. “All the beaches are public, so you can just drive along and find a nice quiet little spot. You can just have a picnic and enjoy that family time away from the hotel,” Kuselik explains.

How can a travel agent help?

  • Booking tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
  • Matching your family with the right hotel or resort among the abundant choices.
  • Keeping flight costs and other travel expenses to a minimum.

Real traveler experience:

“We recently booked a family vacation to Hawaii with Mandy to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary…. We wanted everything to go smoothly and being novice travelers, we looked for some expert assistance and advice. Mandy [Kusilek] delivered on both!... The hotel that she recommended was great and the transportation that she booked for us to and from the airport went without a problem.”

—Fabulous 50's from Ellsworth, WI

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Mandy Kusilek

River Falls, WI
Mandy Kusilek
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Costa Rica “Split Stay”

Shera Westin

Woodbury, MN
Shera Westin
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Recommended for: Adventurous families, or families that can happily break into more and less active groups

Travel agent perspective: I recently sent a multi-generational family down to Costa Rica. It was Grandma all the way down to a four-year-old. We did a split stay. We planned the active adventure piece in the volcano area for the beginning of the trip, then everybody traveled down to the beach. They stayed in a beach hotel, and everybody had that chill family time together. —Shera Westin

What to do on a family vacation to Costa Rica?

  • Go ziplining, climb hanging bridges, and hike in Arenal Volcano National Park.
  • See monkeys and other wildlife up closeat the Sibu Sanctuary.
  • Unwind on some of Costa Rica’s beautiful white-sand beaches.

How can a travel agent help?

  • Putting together an itinerary that satisfies family members with different activity levels.
  • Making sure that you book your adventure experiences with the safest, most trustworthy vendors.
  • Arranging transportation from one region to another if you choose to do a split stay.

Real traveler experience:

Shera did a great job with me in planning a family trip to Costa Rica this year. She listened to my wishes and went out of her way to help plan the trip which involved 8 family members ages 5-70. Everything went smoothly and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I would recommend Shera to anyone wanting a worry-free vacation.

—Happy Grandmother from Hudson, WI

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Alaskan Cruise

Recommended for: Large and/or multi-generational groups; families who enjoy the great outdoors (but perhaps in limited doses)

Travel agent perspective: An Alaska cruise is about getting out in nature and exploring and seeing part of your country that you might not realize is still there, mostly untouched and natural. And a cruise strikes the right balance between having your own style of vacation and coming together as a family—having that shared time each and every day. —Shera Westin

Why to do on family cruise to Alaska?

  • Watch the breathtaking, frosty coasts and forests of Alaska pass by while you sip cocoa on the deck of your ship.
  • Choose from a variety of colorful shore excursions: take a helicopter to a remote glacier, go kayaking, ride in a dog sled, pan for gold like an old-time prospector, and much more. As Westin notes, “everyone gets to do what interests them every afternoon. At every port, people can choose what they want to do.”
  • Spend your evenings in comfort on board. “When everybody gets back on, you have your dinner and share stories of what you did that day.”

How can a travel agent help?

  • Customizing a cruise package for your family group and getting you the best possible deal.
  • Breaking down the many options available as part of a cruise, from staterooms to excursions.
  • Saving money on flights to your port, which can make a huge difference to your budget.

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Shera Westin

Woodbury, MN
Shera Westin
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Montana Dude Ranch

Shera Westin

Woodbury, MN
Shera Westin
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Recommended for: Families looking for an unplugged vacation in the great outdoors

Travel agent perspective: It’s a unique style of travel that not everyone is aware they can do, especially for people that have never been in a country environment or didn’t grow up there. You’re connected and working together, doing a more family-focused, exploratory kind of travel with one another. You're active and probably talking more. —Shera Westin

What to do on a dude ranch family vacation?

  • Ride horses and join cowboys on a cattle drive.
  • Go fly fishing, rove the countryside on an ATV, and more.
  • Trip the light fantastic at an old-fashioned square dance.
  • Relax by the campfire at the end of each exhilarating day, then return to cozy accommodations with all the modern conveniences. No worries about “roughing it”!

How can a travel agent help?

  • Planning a gratifying dude ranch adventure that stays within your budget. As Westin says, “It does tend to fall more in the luxury travel category.”
  • Picking the right dude ranch property and package for your family, based on cost and overall ambiance.
  • Managing your travel to the ranch and then back home.

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Iceland Road Trip

Recommended for: Families that want to see a lot in a short time, people looking for something different from the usual, adventurous souls

Travel agent perspective: When you're initially starting a family, you have all these visions in your mind, and a lot of people dream of going on road trips. And it’s very fulfilling to have not just a road trip with their family, but one that's really unique. You can go on a guided tour around Iceland, or, if you have a family that's a little more whimsical, you can rent a vehicle and drive around at leisure. —Shera Westin

What to do on a family vacation to Iceland?

  • Visit the natural wonders of Iceland’s striking, almost otherworldly landscape, including waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, and steam vents.
  • Float in stress-relieving geothermal pools, some of which are open to kids of all ages.
  • Go snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure, a massive, water-filled rift between two continents (for ages 12+).

How can a travel agent help?

  • Planning a road trip route. “You could essentially drive around the entire country in a week, but if that's all you have then let's pick the section of Iceland that excites you the most,” Westin notes.
  • Booking accommodations for each night of your road trip so you have an endpoint to guide your daily travels.
  • Offering advice on the best times to go to experience Iceland’s landmarks—and also save money on flights and lodging.

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Shera Westin

Woodbury, MN
Shera Westin
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Montego Bay, Jamaica

Shera Westin

Woodbury, MN
Shera Westin
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Recommended for: Beach and history lovers, budget-conscious families that want a tropical trip

Travel agent perspective: Jamaica has a good mix of moderate and luxury options. Negril is the place to go for relaxation in the sun. For more adventurous activities, you probably want to spend more time around Ocho Rios. Staying in Montego Bay centers you and gives you the ability to go either way. —Shera Westin

What to do on a family vacation to Jamaica?

  • Make a splash in Ochos Rios. Go snorkeling, see the island a catamaran, go rafting, and swim with dolphins.
  • Sunbathe and frolic on Negril’s beaches. “If you're more of a mellow ocean and white-sand beach kind of family, I recommend Jamaica,” says Westin.
  • Alternate between amusement parks and historic buildings in and around Montego Bay. Visit the Rose Hall Great House, then go to a beachfront water park. Take a day trip to Falmouth and visit the Good Hope Estate, which also offers an adventure park on its vast grounds.

How can a travel agent help?

  • Matching your family with the right resort from the island’s many options. According to Westin, Jamaica has “wonderful family properties” to suit a range of budgets.
  • Booking your excursions through a legitimate, vetted company. “You always want to make sure that you’re doing a guided vacation. You can take just a group tour… or we can help you find a private tour guide or hire a private driver.”
  • Maximizing your fun for your budget. A travel agent can offer exclusive deals or simply provide tips on the best times for lower prices.

Real traveler experience:

[For] my recent trip I used Shera and I will never book on my own again. It was so nice to have all the research and information she provided to us that we would have never fell upon on our own. It was so nice to be able to just give her some dates and destinations and she did all the footwork. She continually gave us updates on our flights, the weather and events going on while we were going to be there. It was like having my own assistant and I will continually use Shera for all the trips I plan in the future. I highly recommend her.

—Boss Lady from Mendota, MN

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Ireland Tour

Recommended for: Families that enjoy car, bus, and train rides together, history lovers

Travel agent perspective: I recently sent a family to Ireland. They did a self-drive Ireland vacation, and they absolutely loved it. And you can pull over if it's lunchtime and the kids are getting cranky! —Mandy Kusilek

What to do on a family vacation to Ireland?

  • Drive along rolling emerald hills, stopping to meander around quaint towns and eat hearty lunches at local pubs.
  • Spend a night (or several) at ahistoric haunted castle and take a ghost tour.
  • Try out some traditional hands-on activities one of Ireland’s working farms: milk a cow, cut turf from a bog, and help make cheese or bread. And don’t forget to pet adorable farm animals.

How can a travel agent help?

  • Creating a custom road trip itinerary that includes must-see landmarks and lodging each night. “If there’s a certain town you want to visit, maybe to trace your family heritage, let's find out what that town is close to, which exciting tourist spots,” says Kusilek.
  • Booking a tour that fits your family and your budget if you prefer not to drive yourself.

Real traveler experience:
Great trip to Ireland…. Mandy did a great job for us. Quick, accurate responses to our requests and questions. I highly recommend her as an agent. I'd definitely work with her again.

—Dan from River Falls, WI

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Mandy Kusilek

River Falls, WI
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Disneyland in Anaheim, California

Laurie Zeller

Apple Valley, MN
Laurie Zeller
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Recommended for: Families with smaller children, long-time Disney fans

Travel agent perspective: It's the original Disney park. A Disneyland vacation is perfect for families with young children, because there are only 2 theme parks. It's a smaller bite to chew and a great place to start. Disneyland is also for the enthusiasts who enjoy Disney history, because it's the only Disney destination where Walt Disney himself actually stood. —Laurie Zeller

What to do on a family vacation to Disneyland?

  • Visit Walt Disney’s apartment in the fire station where he lived with his family during the construction of Disneyland.
  • Interact with your favorite Disney figures at a character dining experience. And remember: “it's not just about the kids,” Zeller explains “If an adult grew up absolutely loving Goofy, I want to make sure that they get to see Goofy at a character breakfast!”

How can a travel agent help?

  • Navigating the often overwhelming amount of Disney options, from hotels to dining plans to magic bands. “A Disney vacation requires a huge amount of detail planning these days,” notes Zeller.
  • Booking fast passes that let you avoid long lines for popular attractions. Why get up early in the morning to reserve your passes over a month in advance of your vacation when your travel agent can do it for you?
  • Suggesting ways to stay on budget without sacrificing fun. A travel agent might recommend an alternate travel date or hotel that could make a big difference.

Real traveler experience: 

This was the best Disney trip we have had. I would definitely recommend Laurie Zeller…. Laurie handled every aspect of our Disney vacation for 11 people without a problem. Laurie is an excellent travel agent.

—Bob and Judy from Apple Valley, MN

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Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida

Recommended for: Families with kids, groups planning to stay for a week or more

Travel agent perspective: Disney World is for families who might want a longer vacation to enjoy all 4 theme parks at Disney, the water parks, and maybe some other Orlando attractions such as Universal Studios and SeaWorld. I work with several families who go to Walt Disney World every few years. We keep the experience interesting with each and every trip. —Laurie Zeller

What to do at Walt Disney World?

  • Go backstage at Disney's Animal Kingdom and meet the elephants.
  • Take the Keys to the Kingdom Tour to discover how all the theme park magic happens. Visit the building that houses all parade floats and explore the network of tunnels underneath the park.
  • Reserve a fireworks dessert party and indulge yourself with a buffet of sweets as the skies light up above Cinderella Castle.

How can a travel agent help?

  • Demystifying the complex array of Disney-related choices: where you’ll eat, where you’ll stay, which rides you should prioritize, and much more. A travel agent will listen to your family’s preferences and guide your towards the best options.
  • Making all the reservations you need, since many of the most popular activities and meal spots fill up far in advance.
  • Budgeting for a longer trip without breaking the bank. As Zeller notes, “Disney designs their tickets so that the longer you stay, the less you pay. The difference in cost between 5 days of tickets versus 6 days of tickets is laughably little.”

Real traveler experience:
She took all of our vacation planning worries away! Laurie made the experience easy and fun…. If we had a question, she had the answer. She walked us through every step of the process. She had awesome suggestions for things to do on our trip. Laurie made all of our reservations for dinner and attractions. Laurie was a joy to work with! She does an amazing job of tailoring the vacation experience to the client.

—ShellB from Blaine, MN

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Laurie Zeller

Apple Valley, MN
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National Parks Road Trip

Shera Westin

Woodbury, MN
Shera Westin
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Recommended for: Budget-conscious families, nature lovers, groups who like moving at their own pace

Travel agent perspective: Maybe you’ve taken the children on multiple beach vacations and you’ve done all the Disney; have you ever thought of doing more of a road trip with National parks in the United States? People say, ‘I never even considered doing that!’ The real experience is about the car ride together and exploring the parks. You're not staying in five-star resorts. Your hotel is just your home base. —Shera Westin

What to do on a family National Parks road trip?

Here are a few of Westin’s favorite routes:

  • Go through South Dakota. Start with Mount Rushmore National Memorial, then drive through the Black Hills into Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park.
  • Fly into Vegas, go through the Grand Canyon, then drive down into Utah and go see Zion National Park.
  • Travel from Redwoods National Park to Yosemite National Park in California.

How can a travel agent help?

  • Working out the best scenic route between National Parks.
  • Planning for meals and detours you might want to take to nearby landmarks.
  • Booking accommodations for each night so you have the reassurance of a stopping point each day.

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Tampa, Florida

Recommended for: Families looking for a classic fun-in-the-sun vacation, kids and parents interested in animals and sea life

Travel agent perspective: It's a nice little beach town with a breezy vibe to it. I suggest Tampa to families who are looking for a domestic beach destination. Being on the Gulf side, the waters are calmer. —Mandy Kusilek

What to do on a family vacation to Tampa?

  • Make some exhilarating memories at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay theme park.
  • Touch and interact with penguins at the Florida Aquarium, and take the daily cruise to observe wild dolphins from a catamaran.
  • Feed an Indian rhino and get close with elephants and koalas at ZooTampa.

How can a travel agent help?

  • Booking flights, transportation, and accommodations, potentially with special deals that help you save money.
  • Sharing recommendations and tips based on personal experience, such as the best times to visit attractions to beat the crowds.

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Mandy Kusilek

River Falls, WI
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European River Cruise

Laurie Zeller

Apple Valley, MN
Laurie Zeller
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Recommended for: History and museum enthusiasts, foodie families, groups that might get restless in a single city

Travel agent perspective: Disney took the river cruise experience, which is traditionally thought of as something more for an older generation, and made it specific to families. They've made changes to the ships. There are multiple adventure guides on their ships, so there are always kids activities going on and kids and family-focused itineraries in the different little ports. —Laurie Zeller

What to do on a family river cruise?

  • See multiple European cities without the hassle of ground and air transportation.
  • Visit museums, castles, and delicious restaurants in a new port each day. Enjoy stimulating, kid-friendly excursions, like treasure hunts or hands-on workshops. Or simply wander where you’d like.
  • Return to the ship for entertainment in the evenings and kick back in the same elegant stateroom.

How can a travel agent help?

  • Finding a cruise package that fits your family.
  • Offering the best deal for you. Travel agents often have access to specials not open to the general public.
  • Arranging flights and transportation that will take to your port comfortably without going over budget.

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San Diego, California

Recommended for: Museum and zoo fans, families dreaming of a beach vacation

Travel agent perspective: San Diego is one of my favorite family destinations. The zoo is a great kid activity. You can go hang out on the beach. And you can drive up to Disneyland for the day if you want to, since Los Angeles is just a couple of hours away. —Mandy Kusilek

What to do on a family vacation to San Diego?

  • Plan a day at the San Diego Zoo, with its safari-like discovery cart tour and interactive programs that allow kids to see animals up close and even feed them.
  • Explore a WWII aircraft carrier, climb into restored historic planes, and be thrilled by the flight simulator at the USS Midway Museum.
  • Spend plenty of time on San Diego’s beautiful beaches. Bask in some of the most consistently gorgeous weather in the United States.

How can a travel agent help?

  • Getting you the bestdeals on flights and accommodations.
  • Offering tailored recommendations on where to eat and which sites to visit.
  • Sharing tips based on first-hand experience. When are attractions most crowded? Which beaches have the right ambiance for your family group? What’s the least hectic day of your trip to drive to Disneyland?

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Mandy Kusilek

River Falls, WI
Mandy Kusilek
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Washington, DC

Mandy Kusilek

River Falls, WI
Mandy Kusilek
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Recommended for: Kids who appreciate museums, adventurous eaters

Travel agent perspective: It’s a place where parents might want to go once their kids are starting to get a little older once their attention spans are little longer. You think, “They're finally teenagers, so I can take them here now, whereas I never could when they were really tiny.” —Mandy Kusilek

What to do on a family vacation to Washington, DC?

  • Foster curiosity at DC’s many free, world-class museums, from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to the National Museum of African Art to the National Air and Space Museum.
  • Take your budding world leaders (or maybe just class presidents) to tour the major political landmarks in the U.S. capital and learn about the branches of government.
  • Taste the flavors of the world at DC’s astonishing selection of international restaurants.

How can a travel agent help?

  • Putting together an itinerary that suits your family’s interests and travel style.
  • Recommending tours, museums, and eateries you might not find on your own.
  • Working to keep your trip on budget with the right combination of transportation and lodging.

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Select A Travel Expert To Help You Book Your Trip

Katelyn Hirmer

All-Inclusive Resort & River Cruise Specialist

4 Reviews / 100% Recommended
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