When it comes to family vacation ideas, expand your horizons, and look beyond the U.S. These epic international destinations and tour operators offer kid-friendly vacation experiences and a whole new world to explore. From bicycle tours through the Moroccan desert to a private waterslide in the Maldives, and of course, gorgeous beaches in the Caribbean, these vacations are the ones you and the kids won’t soon forget! Keep reading to see them all.

photo: Amber Guetebier

Take a Castle Vacation in Ireland

Built in 1180 by the first-ever Knights Templar, Kilkea Castle is only 30 minutes from the Dublin airport, but is a world (and era) away. Although many people visiting Ireland are tempted to try to hit all the hotspots, the Irish know the secret to a true vacation: several days spent together at a gorgeous castle.

We recommend requesting a stay in the castle itself, which has 11 guest rooms, or stay in one of the 30 historic carriage rooms. You'll also find on the 180-acre estate more modern cottages, many of which are self-catering. World-class food and a state-of-the-art spa are on site along with a renowned golf course. True to Irish custom, no matter how posh you'll still feel like you belong. Your kids will love roaming the gardens, playing tennis in the shadow of the castle or exploring nearby adventures like falconry or archery, or head to nearby Glenveagh National Park & Castle (more castle!) in the Wicklow Mountains. 

Online: kilkeacastle.ie

—Amber Guetebier 

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photo: Thomson Family Adventures

Take a Vespa Street Food Tour through Vietnam

It is well known that Vietnam is a major destination on the food scene in Asia, and Thomson Family Adventures knows how to show it off. Family adventurers will tour Ho Chi Minh City on the back of Vespas to see, smell and taste all the food that Vietnam has to offer. The Vietnam Culinary Family Adventure also includes a firsthand look of the way of life in the Mekong Delta by visiting organic farms, meeting the locals and biking through the countryside.

This 10-day adventure also includes Vietnamese cooking lessons; everyone can take knowledge of the cuisine home with them. Thomson Family Adventures offers small group family travel, which allows for more individual attention from the guides and leaves room for more spontaneity from the group. 

Read more: familyadventures.com

photo: Austin Adventures

Paddle Down the Sierpe River in Costa Rica

"It’s well known that positive memories far outlast material goods. This is especially relevant with family travel, as those memories will absolutely last a lifetime." - Dan Austin, founder and president of Austin Adventures

It is this idea that is behind all of the Austin Adventures excursions, including the 7-day family trek through Costa Rica. From Arenal to Marino Ballena, swim in crystalline bays, hike in cloud forests, rappel down refreshing waterfalls and surf in the Caribbean. Explore national parks in search of curious spider monkeys, drowsy sloths, screeching toucans, poison dart frogs and creepy-crawly bugs. The perfect balance of adventure and luxury awaits you, whether you’re in a dripping jungle or walking along a white sand beach.

Read more: austinadventures.com

photo: Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort

Pick Portugal for Your Next Family Beach Vacation

For total relaxation away from the crowds, plan your Portuguese beach vacation at Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort. With over 300 days of sunshine and warm temperatures year-round, The Algarve is already a favorite winter destination for Europeans. Located in Europe’s most south-westerly point, Sagres has some of the most dramatic coastal scenery. 

This resort really knows how to make family travel easy, with on-site programs and five kids clubs for little ones from 6 months to 16 years old. You can book the Baby's First Beach Holiday package that comes with babysitting time and massages for two, among other thoughtful amenities.

Read more: martinhal.com/sagres

Live Out Your Lion King Dreams in Africa (on a Budget!)

If the latest Lion King release has you itching to take a family safari, pitchup.com has great options to keep the cost under control.

Situated on a 3,000-acre game park, guests of Antelope Park in Zimbabwe can book a primitive tent site for $20 or splurge on a furnished safari tent for $166/night and wake up to the roar of lions.

Guests have a Hakuna Matata mentality 24/7 while staying at Hawk’s Eye Lodge Bunyonyi in Uganda, thanks to the hammocks that overlook Lake Bunyonyi and the inexpensive accommodations starting at $40/night.

The circle of life is alive and well at Highover Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa, as over 240 bird species plus impala, ostrich and other wildlife roam the grounds. For even more animal sightings, Highover can coordinate game drives by mountain bike or four-wheeler. Tent sites start at the bargain price of $11/night.

Read more: pitchup.com

photo: Saddle Skeedaddle

Cycle Through the Moroccan Desert

Break out of the humdrum of daily life with Saddle Skedaddle's 8-day Desert, Mountains and Coast guided family tour, a customizable cycling adventure through Morocco, designed for children of all ages. Arriving in Marrakech, immerse yourself in the local culture in the sprawling Djemaa el Fna before continuing on to the Sahara Desert for a camel trek and a night of camping at the base of the Atlas Mountains.

Learn about traditional Moroccan culture by way of tajine picnics and mint tea on the trail, stopping to brave the longest zip line in Africa before trying your hand at surf lessons in the coastal towns of Sidi Kaouki and Essaouira. Finally, bike back to Marrakech, and celebrate your cycling successes with a treasure hunt in one of the world’s largest souks.

Read more: skedaddle.com

photo: Dennis Minty

Take an Expedition Cruise around Iceland

A cruise unlike all others, an Adventure Canada expedition cruise takes you to far-away places of which you've only dreamed. Kids of every age are welcome to hop aboard zodiac boats to head ashore and explore Viking ruins, hike to waterfalls and learn all about villages buried under ancient volcanic eruptions. The expedition cruise life means you'll get cultural immersion in the towns that you visit and learn from local experts and naturalists. These excursions are perfect for multi-generational travel, as small ships are easy for the mobility-restricted to manage but not so big that you'll worry about losing the kids on board.

Read moreredtri.com

photo: Kate Loweth

Snorkel Off Your Own Private Island in Tahiti

For the ultimate private island experience, head to Le Taha'a Resort and Spa. In addition to traditional overwater suites (which can sleep a couple plus one child), Le Taha'a offers massive beach villas to accommodate families. These villas are right on the beach and have a private plunge pool, air conditioning, outdoor shower and tub, free WiFi and a huge bathroom. The Royal Beach Villa has even more space with a second separate bedroom and bathroom that would be great for grandparents.

Resort features include the best breakfast buffet you'll ever have (no joking), a swimming pool, tennis court and spa. Just down the beach from the pool you can access the coral garden, where you can snorkel using equipment provided by the resort. Because the resort, like most of French Polynesia, is surrounded by coral reefs, you'll have very minimal waves and shallow water that's perfect for kids.

Read more: redtri.com

photo: Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

Relax and Unwind in Bali

Located in Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali, Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve offers many programs for the entire family to immerse themselves into the natural wonders and the rich cultural traditions the resort embodies. Families can start their morning off in a healthy way while exploring Balinese healing traditions—from morning yoga to discovering native plants and learning how to create your own Balinese herbal drink—Mandapa allows for the whole family to experience a taste of culture.

The resort also offers an unforgettable Signature Vintage Tour, where guests enjoy an unwinding journey in a classic VW 181 convertible while taking in the incredibly beautiful countryside, passing the rice field of Ceking village and visiting the Sebatu water temple and Gunung Kawi historical ruins. Completing the experience, guests are treated to a lunch picnic as they marvel over the captivating landscape of Bali. 

Read more: ritzcarlton.com

photo: Kristina Moy

Experience the World’s Premier Playground—Dubai

Looking for a vacation that combines glamour and culture with a side of adventure? Head to Dubai—the largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Known around the world for its jaw-dropping architecture, epic shopping malls, extravagant theme parks and resorts and pristine beaches, this city and emirate on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf is like no other. Where else can you spend the morning at the beach, the afternoon skiing and the evening riding a camel in the desert? 

Read more: redtri.com

photo: Exodus Travels

Watch the Sunrise at the Taj Mahal

India is like no other, and Exodus Travels knows how to show families the best it has to offer: from the hustle and bustle of Delhi to the ancient ruined city of Fatehpur Sikri. You'll ride tuk tuks and cycle rickshaws to busy markets to purchase trinkets and taste the flavors of the country. Best of all, whether you're getting a henna tattoo, seeing a Bollywood movie or learning how to make a chapatti, the excursion guides will provide local experiences that are both educational (don't tell the kids!) and entertaining.

Read more: exodustravels.com

photo: Classic Journeys

Ecotourism Adventure in Panama

For ecotourism, Panama travel can’t be beaten. The Panama walking vacations and family adventure travel tours with Classic Journeys take you by dugout canoe to native villages to experience the local life and culture; you'll go into the rainforests with experienced guides to see the unique plants and animals that reside within this ecosystem. The Panama tour also takes you to a coffee plantation, where you can how coffee is made and sample the local roast afterward.

Read more: classicjourneys.com

Cruise the Mediterranean Sea

If you think exploring Europe with kids is impossible, consider taking a cruise around the Mediterranean with Royal Caribbean. You'll board in either Barcelona or Rome, and can enjoy exploring three different countries: Spain, France and Italy. There are plenty of kid-friendly excursions available to families, including pizza making in Italy and beach days in Barcelona. Depending on which cruise you pick, you'll either be aboard the Oasis of the Seas or the Jewel of the Seas. Both ships are full of fun and adventure, including everything from Royal Caribbean's famous kids' clubs, original entertainment, pools, zip lines and more. 

Read more: redtri.com

photo: Kate Loweth

Explore a Culture Unlike Your Own in Istanbul

Istanbul, which straddles both Europe and Asia, will awaken a whole new world of wonder for your family. From the first 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 recommendations 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. 

Read more: redtri.com

photo: Stevie Mann/Soneva Jani

Astronomy and Private Waterslides in the Maldives

For a next-level vacation experience, Soneva Jani in the Maldives is the place to go. The over-water luxury villas offer everything from private pools to personal waterslides to a retractable bedroom roof, so you can truly sleep under the stars. Kids can go on guided snorkeling excursions with Soneva’s resident marine biologist and learn the stars with the in-house astronomer at the Observatory. You might not be able to top this vacation! 

Read more: soneva.com

photo: Austin Adventures

Pedal, Hike, Kayak and Paraglide Your Way through Austria

When you choose the Alps to Salzburg trip with Austin Adventures, you are in for so many different modes of transportation—cycling, hiking, kayaking, riding a chair lift, tobogganing, paragliding from a hilltop and rafting down a river. Amazing! All that adventure is packed into seven days; you'll also see famous Austrian landmarks (think: The Sound of Music) and hidden gems to fully expose your family of travelers to this gorgeous area of the world. This small group trip is limited to 15 people, and expert guides lead the way to some of Austria's most picturesque vistas. 

Read more: austinadventures.com

photo: JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa

Immerse Yourselves in Venetian Culture

Located on its own private island, Isola delle Rose, and a 20-minute complimentary boat ride from Venice, Italy’s St. Mark’s Square, JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa is the perfect island getaway for families after a day of sightseeing. Take advantage of the resort's Family by JW offerings that include a kids club with activities like volleyball and Venetian mask making. Families can spread out in the multi-room suites complete with private plunge pools and then spend some time at the large family pool. Select the Resort Package, and you'll get visits to a Murano glass factory and a Burano lace-maker, among other amenities. 

Read more: jwvenice.com

photo: MIR Corporation

Tour Tibet and China's Silk Road

Explore the Tibetan Plateau with MIR Corp on a splendid circular route that embraces the sacred cities of Tsetang, Lhasa, Gyantse and Shigatse. Ride the high-altitude train from Lhasa down to Lanzhou and onto Western China and the Kashgar Animal Market. Along the way, visit Dunhuang’s Mogao Caves, frescoed and carved with a thousand images of the Buddha, and Turpan’s lush Grape Valley, which is watered by a 2,000-year-old irrigation system. With MIR Corp., you'll receive individualized trip planning from start to finish. 

Read more: mircorp.com

photo: Kristina Moy

Spend a Perfect Day at CocoCay

If you’ve been thinking about an Eastern Caribbean cruise, but don’t know if your kids can handle a whole week at sea, Royal Caribbean just rolled out its short Caribbean escapes to its highly-anticipated private island in The Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay. Begin your three-night weekend adventure aboard the newly-renovated Navigator of the Seas and take advantage of the ship’s first-of-its-kind attractions. While your kids zip down the longest aqua coaster at sea and race down the industry’s first onboard mat racer slide, you can sip on vacation-mode libations at The Lime and Coconut, the Navigator’s new three-level signature bar with rooftop deck.

Read more: redtri.com

photo: Maria Chambers

Explore a Country of Juxtapositions—Israel

For a trip that is definitely going to open your kids' eyes to a new world, try Israel. It’s overflowing with historical sites of important religious significance, yet it plays host to one of the most well-known gay pride celebrations in the world. The Red Sea, the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea all touch its land, but deserts blanket well over half its surface. Contemporary and ancient exist cohesively, each respecting the other. It is small, roughly the size of the United States’ fifth smallest state, New Jersey, but within its borders, you can sunbathe, take a salty float, ski, hike and immerse yourself in history.

Read more: redtri.com

photo: Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel

Visit This UNESCO World Heritage Site

There's nothing that teaches kids more about history than a visit to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Machu Picchu is at the top of the list. When you stay at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, you'll have a selection of excursions and nature walks to choose from, including guided tours through the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu, orchid walks on the property and visits to the spectacled bear project. The hotel is an intimate Andean village with terraced hills, waterfalls, stone pathways and 83 whitewashed adobe casitas tucked away in the cloud forest—perfect for getting away from it all.

Read more: inkaterra.com

photo: Outer Shores Expeditions

Visit the Galapagos of the North on This 1970s Classic Wooden Schooner

Just off of Canada's Pacific Coast, you'll find Haida Gwaii, an area that is internationally-recognized for its rich cultural heritage, endemic wildlife, colorful biodiversity and protected landscape. Sailing on the expedition vessel Passing Cloud, Outer Shores Expeditions offers unmatched opportunities to learn from local indigenous communities, archaeologists, conservation scientists and more on their 9-day cruise that allows for a maximum of six guests. Kids will especially love that the expedition begins and ends with a floatplane flight!

Read more: outershores.ca

photo: Mimi O'Connor

Practice Your French in Quebec City

When you pick Quebec City, Canada for your next family adventure, you'll get to experience a taste of European culture without the long flight. The historic city is big enough to offer lots to explore and experience, but it's also a manageable size. A lot is happening here: from festivals and free art shows to impressive museums for kids and adults. Great food is everywhere, as are ways to work off those hearty meals—parks, trails, etc. 

Read more: redtri.com

photo: Maria Chambers

Ditch the Phones for a Digital Detox in Aruba

Gorgeous calm waters, predictable rain-free weather, constant refreshing breeze, and welcoming locals . . . it’s no wonder travelers tend to put Aruba on repeat once they visit this One Happy Island. Aruba Marriott Resort invites you to immerse yourself in all the island has to offer, and even rewards guests who are up for the challenge of unplugging. You'll have a hard time choosing between on-site adventures like the mini-Carnival that's offered every Thursday night and off-site excursions like a visit to the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. 

Read more: redtri.com

photo: Off the Map Travel

Spend 7 Nights in 7 Treehouses in Sweden

This treetop adventure is definitely one that the whole family will remember for a long time. Off the Map Travel has recently launched a 7 Nights, 7 Rooms itinerary at Sweden's Treehotel and it's just what you've dreamed of since you were a child. You and your family will live among the pine forest of Northern Sweden, gaze out at the spectacular nature and have the chance to experience a unique room every night. The Treehotel welcomes families to see what upscale luxury in the trees looks like.

Read more: offthemap.travel

photo: CIE Tours

Live Like the Knights Did

The whole family will love CIE Tours' English Knights and Wizards Tour where you'll get to see the London highlights and go behind the scenes at Warner Brothers Studio to see where the Harry Potter film series began. Other trip highlights include Stonehenge and a visit to the Roman baths. You'll want to wear your Sunday best for the Cardiff Castle Welsh banquet. 

Read more: cietours.com

Explore Untouched Colombia

While the big cities in Colombia have been on the tourist radar for a while, the country is just now opening up previously-untouched areas to tourism and True Colombia Travel is there to guide the way. Explore hidden caves by lamplight, cruise down the Amazon River in search of wildlife and explore regional cuisine. Also something we love: In an effort to ensure Colombia grows sustainably as an emerging destination, TCT partners with local communities in every region they operate within to build thoughtful travel experiences that showcase Colombia’s biodiversity, heritage and culture in a respectful and responsible way.

Read more: truecolombiatravel.com

—Kate Loweth

 

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