Make 2019 the year to take the family on a truly unique vacation! From living out your Frozen dreams in an ice hotel to a vacation where you can play Swiss Family Robinson on your own private island, this list of totally unusual travel experiences will give the kids memories to last a lifetime. Read on and book your next adventure!
Catch the Northern Lights in Your Hotel on Skis
Make your way to Kilpisjärvi, Finland where a truly unique adventure awaits. The Wilderness Camp is made up of three mobile sleeping huts which are placed each winter season in the best possible locations to view the Northern Lights. Each hut has a gas stove, super-wide bed, table, heater, dry toilet and includes the use of snowshoes and kicksleds which add to this wilderness experience. Their most amazing feature is their glass roof allowing guests to lie back and gaze out at the stars and hopefully the aurora, making for a truly unforgettable experience. You will be transported by snowmobile to your hut in the evening and left to enjoy the wilderness and the aurora alone. Local snacks and hot drinks are included as well as an Arctic grill for dinner and breakfast the following morning. Children are welcome to join this adventure and share the extra-large bed with their parents (each hut only has one bed).
Play Pioneer in Your Own Covered Wagon
Experience the epic beauty of Yosemite and spend your nights glamping under the stars in your very own Conestoga wagon. Yosemite Pines RV Park offers these fully-heated and air-conditioned wagons that sleep up to six people. Available year round, your wagon comes equipped with modern comforts like a mini fridge, microwave and coffee pot. Bring marshmallows for roasting around your fire ring and burgers for grilling. In the warmer months, you can swim in the resort's pool, enjoy activities planned by the staff and take the YARTS shuttle right into Yosemite.
Live Like Royalty
If your crew has always wanted to live like kings and queens, book your vacation in this 12th Century majestic Irish castle. Only an hour's drive from Dublin, the castle sits on 180 acres of lush green land that includes its own golf course and gardens. Reserve all 11 bedrooms in the castle for your epic family reunion and you can go back in time with daily activities like archery and falconry. View the property from the back of a horse or travel down the River Barrow on a boat. Want to try a different castle? We've got more to choose from here.
Castaway on Your Own Private Island
Sheltered behind the world-famous Belize Barrier Reef, Coral Caye is a completely private island that can be yours alone for a once-in-a-lifetime family getaway. Once used as a commercial fishing camp, Coral Caye has been enhanced to offer sleeping quarters for up to 10 travelers, full bathrooms and cooking facilities. Your caretakers will prepare all your meals for you including Creole-style BBQ with fresh-caught seafood. Swing in a hammock in the shade of a mangrove tree or swim among seahorses.
Give Back on a Family Volunteer Vacation
Looking to expose your kids to new cultures and give back to communities in need? A volunteer vacation is right up your alley. Discover Corps offers small group trips where you can choose a Nature & Wildlife Adventure where you join conservationists to protect endangered species or a Cultural Exploration where you can teach English to local children among other activities. Trips like these really open children's eyes to the world outside their own home and teach them an appreciation for the greater planet.
Swing from the Trees in Your Very Own Treehouse
If you've ever wanted to spend your night suspended in the trees, look no further than Vertical Horizons in Southern Oregon. Here you can rent out one of four treehouse cottages and truly immerse yourself in nature. Wake up to the sound of birds and an awesome breakfast provided on site, and then spend your days climbing trees, fishing or playing disc golf. Kids are welcome, and the cottages can sleep your whole crew. All of the treehouses come with a half bath—showers and BBQs are located near the main house.
Explore a Culture Unlike Your Own
Istanbul, which straddles both Europe and Asia, will awaken a whole new world of wonder for your family. From the first the call to prayer echoed from the minarets around the city to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, it'll be an eye-opening experience. Spend your day shopping, and then view the city from a boat on a Bosphorus tour. Check out all our recs of what to do and where to eat when you are in Istanbul (bonus: you may even be able to snag a free hotel room if you take advantage of the Turkish Airlines stopover service). The kids will come home with a new appreciation for the world outside the U.S.
Get Up Close and Personal with a Polar Bear
If your dream is to get close to the majestic polar bear, this tour is for you. Families can traverse the frozen tundra via Polar Rover in search of northern wildlife such as Arctic fox, Arctic hare, snowy owl and ptarmigan. Take a dog's-eye tour while gliding through the boreal forest on a traditional dog sled driven by an expert team of sled dogs. Then, soar over the tundra on a helicopter flight that offers a chance to spot polar bears heading out toward the pack ice forming on Hudson Bay. All of these activities are offered by Natural Habitat Adventures who partners with the WWF to ensure environmentally-friendly travel.
Learn to Live Like a Native American
Lodgepole Gallery, tucked in the breathtaking foothills of the Rocky Mountains bordering Glacier National Park, is a place of gathering for those from all over the world for an authentic venture into the life of the Blackfeet Indian. The traditional Blackfoot tipi retains airflow and lets in outdoor acoustics of the natural environment so you will be able to hear crickets (and maybe even howling wolves!) at night, under star-lit Montana skies. Warm up with a fire in the center of your tipi and socialize with other guests at the communal fire for a trip like no other.
Be Environmental Stewards in Fiji
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort gives adventure-seekers young and old the chance to experience scuba diving, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, traditional spear fishing, paddle-boarding, sailing, local pearl farm tours and rainforest and mangrove excursions—to name just a few activities that are offered at this eco-luxury resort in Fiji. The socially-conscious resort offers travelers immersive and authentic cultural experiences including visits to the local village, for which guests are taught about the culture and customs by a village elder before being given permission to enter the village and meet the Chief. Kids can participate in the Ambassadors of the Environment program where they can learn from resident marine biologists on how to preserve and protect our oceans for the future.
Stay in a Hotel Made of Ice
Live out your Frozen dreams when you stay the night at this Canadian hotel made entirely out of ice. From January through March, guests can bundle up in igloo-like suites that can sleep up to six. Warm up in the hot tub or sauna before you settle in for the night in your sleeping bag designed for sub-zero temps. They even have kid-sized sleeping bags so the whole family can get in on the fun.
Experience the Wildlife Wonderland of the Galapagos Islands
For a vacation that combines luxury comforts and amazing wildlife experiences, Royal Palm Hotel Galapagos is the ideal destination. Set on a 480-acre private estate in Ecuador, the Royal Palm offers guided tours to spot local creatures like the Galapagos penguins and Darwin Short Beak Finches and yacht cruises to swim with playful sea lions. Stay in one of the resort's 21 casitas and villas and enjoy luxury services like a chocolate oil massage that the Preferred Hotels & Resorts Lifestyle Collection is well known for.
Visit a Zero Waste Community
Looking to teach the kids a little bit about how we can reduce our carbon footprint? Plan your next spring break adventure to the town of Taos, New Mexico. Here you will find the community of Earthship Biotecture, where the houses are made out of natural and recycled materials (think wine bottles and tires), and are designed to produce electricity, food, and water. You can take a tour of this unique community and some are even available to rent via Airbnb. Extend your Taos trip by taking the kids to see the Taos Pueblo and the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
Find out more: earthshipglobal.com
Vacation by Bike
Tired of spending your vacation packed in the minivan with the kids, the suitcases and the snacks all over the floor? Head out to Mackinac Island in Michigan where cars are totally forbidden. Ditch your vehicle and hop aboard one of the ferries that will take you to the island. There, transportation is limited to bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. Rent one of the 1,500 bikes from single-speed to tandems, fat-tires to kids bikes. Set out to explore Fort Mackinac and Fort Holmes, which were captured by British forces in the War of 1812. Reward all your exercise with a stop at one of the island's many fudge shops.
Find out more: mackinacisland.org
Take a Surprise Vacation
Really let go and allow the professionals at Pack Up and Go do the work for you. Simply give them your budget, travel dates, traveler details and a few travel preferences. A week before your trip you'll get information on weather, what to pack and where to go to begin your journey. A few days before your trip you receive an envelope in the mail (which you do NOT open until the start of your trip) that contains details on your accommodations, your city guide and curated recommendations. On the designated start of your journey, you head to the specified location, open your envelope and you are off!
Find out more: packupgo.com
Go Rock Climbing
Looking to up the adrenaline for your next spring break vacation? Beginners of all ages can book a rock climbing adventure like this one in Zion National Park. With your certified guide to show you the ropes (so to speak), you'll learn the basics of belaying and how the gear works. All the while you will be taking in the gorgeous scenery and making memories to last a lifetime.
Find out more: zionrockguides.com
Reclaim Your Zen
Looking to add some "om" to your spring break? Head to the Florida Keys or Key West where you can enjoy a family-focused wellness retreat. Choose from activities like family AcroYoga, paddleboard yoga or kids meditation. Sprinkle in sightseeing to Dry Tortugas National Park or the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. They even offer "conscious childcare" where the babysitter comes with drums, astrology, and art to entertain the wee ones. End your voyage with a family drumming session to move the spirit and wake the soul.
Find out more: fullcirclewellnessretreats.com
Go on a Wine Tour
A wine tour for Spring Break? With kids? Why not?! Nowadays, there are plenty of wineries that offer major perks for kids so Mom and Dad can relax and enjoy a sample or two. If you don't plan on taking a trip to Napa, Fredericksburg or another well-known wine region, a day or overnight trip will still do the trick. Wondering where to start? We've got the best family-friendly wineries right here.
Explore the Wild West
Kids who love the Wild West will be gunnin' to explore the IRL towns that inspired their imaginary heroes. From Tombstone to Dodge City, there are plenty of places to explore and things to do: you can ride horses, mine for gold, watch an epic (fake) gun fight and explore historical battlegrounds. Discover the best Wild West towns for visiting with kids by clicking here.
Travel by Train
Forget a car or plane. Take a trip down the rails for a vacation your kids won't ever forget. There are plenty of daytime and overnight jaunts to choose from (see our faves here), or you can opt for a 3-7 day adventure across regions of America. Whether it's the Grand Canyon route or a historical journey along the east coast, train travel is one for the memory books. Discover the best cross-country train trips by clicking here.
—Kate Loweth & Gabby Cullen