With the world slowly reopening after the pandemic, travel is once again possible without many restrictions in most destinations. However, with more choices and rising prices, deciding where to go can be a challenging task. Should you take a road trip to a relaxing beach town, fulfil your kids’ dreams by visiting the theme park they’ve always wanted to go to, or immerse them in a new culture with their first international adventure? These are tough decisions that require careful consideration.
Our list includes great vacation spots that are perfect for multi-generational trips with grandparents and other extended family members. We also included options at different price points, so you can find both budget-friendly and luxurious vacation ideas. Choose a destination you’ve never visited before as a family, and leap to book it. After being cooped up for so long, it will be refreshing and exhilarating to get away and enjoy a much-needed break.
1. Big Island (The Island of Hawai’i), Hawaiʻi
When it comes to visiting the Hawaiian islands, all of them have something special to offer. However, if you’re travelling with school-age children or older and seeking adventure, the Big Island is the perfect destination. The Kohala Coast features a picturesque beach with vast black volcanic rocks contrasting against the tranquil blue waters full of tide pools, making it an ideal spot for active families.
For those seeking a relaxing getaway spent swimming and snorkelling, the Kohala Coast is the perfect destination. Most resorts are located along the coast, making it convenient for travellers. If you’re up for a road trip, driving from the coast to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park will be an unforgettable experience. Along the way, you’ll encounter diverse climates, including lush rainforest, before reaching the park. Inside the park, children can explore caves, embark on short hikes on volcanic terrain, and feel the warmth of a steaming bluff. Other adventure outfitters on the island offer exciting hikes, including some that lead to swimming under waterfalls, creating an unforgettable experience for the whole family.
2. Lucca, Italy
Lucca, surrounded by sturdy medieval walls, is a city full of mystery and grandeur, yet less crowded than nearby Florence. Its Gothic cathedrals, piazzas, cobblestone streets, and a 14th-century tower with a beautiful garden on top will transport your children into a fairytale world.
Lucca’s mostly flat terrain means your kids won’t tire out as quickly, and when they do need a break, there are plenty of gelato shops to satisfy their sweet tooth. With enough activities to fill a weekend, you can spend the rest of your vacation exploring other nearby attractions in the region on day trips.
3. Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City has all the essential ingredients for a perfect beach town, making it an ideal destination for families. With a range of picturesque public beaches, a fantastic food scene, and its proximity to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a winner of the 2023 Good Housekeeping Family Travel Award, Traverse City has something for everyone.
Make sure to visit in July or early August to experience the cherry-picking season at a nearby orchard. Traverse City even hosts the National Cherry Festival from July 1 to 8, offering visitors a chance to celebrate this delicious fruit with a range of fun activities.
4. Hershey, Pennsylvania
Located in central Pennsylvania, the town of Hershey lives up to its reputation as one of the sweetest places on earth, with the tantalizing aroma of chocolate wafting through the air and street lights shaped like Hershey kisses. The main attraction in town is Hersheypark, which has been entertaining visitors since 1906. With a wide range of thrilling coasters and rides for children, it’s no wonder why it’s a top draw for families. This summer, Hersheypark is expected to unveil its newest coaster, the 15th addition to its already impressive lineup.
Adjacent to Hersheypark is the air-conditioned Hershey’s Chocolate World, where visitors can climb aboard a candy-themed vehicle to learn about the chocolate-making process and even receive a complimentary sample at the end. Don’t forget to explore downtown Hershey, where you can find the Hershey Theatre, which hosts touring Broadway shows, and the MeltSpa by Hershey. For a more relaxing experience, visit the nearby Hershey Gardens, which features a butterfly atrium and hands-on nature play activities for children.
5. Montreal, Canada
For those looking for a European experience without leaving North America, Montreal is a fantastic option. “The neighbourhoods are enchanting, and you get the European feel,” says Samantha Brown, a mother of two and host of the TV show Samantha Brown’s Places to Love.
One unique aspect of the city is its lovely “green alleyways,” which are scenic car-free paths that may take you past children’s lemonade stands and artisans selling their wares. Montreal’s historic buildings, museums, parks, churches, and festivals all contribute to its European ambience. Additionally, children may pick up a few French words or phrases while exploring the city.
6. Carlsbad, California
If you can’t decide between a beach vacation and a theme park trip, Carlsbad, located north of San Diego, offers the best of both worlds. It’s home to Legoland California, an imaginative theme park designed specifically for children under the age of 12. The park features mini coasters, a driving school, and fairytale-like boat rides that particularly amaze young visitors.
After visiting a couple of theme parks, Carlsbad State Beach provides your family with an opportunity to cool off by the water. The beach has picnic areas, restrooms, lifeguards, and a walking path along the coast, all of which help make for a fantastic day at the beach.
7. Williamsburg, Virginia
Rich in historical significance, Williamsburg, Virginia, was once the capital of the state and offers a fun-filled learning experience for families. Colonial Williamsburg, an open-air living history museum, won a 2023 Good Housekeeping Family Travel Award, and it takes children back in time to the 18th century, showcasing various aspects of life in that period. The museum offers hands-on activities and live demonstrations by blacksmiths and other tradespeople dressed in traditional 18th-century clothing, which kindles the curiosity of young visitors.
Additionally, the historic Jamestown settlements, run by the National Park Service, are just a short drive away. After an educational day, families can unwind by visiting one of the many ice cream shops or playing a game of mini-golf.
8. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee is a city that celebrates music with its renowned Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival, which takes place over three weekends in 2023 from June 22-24, June 29-July 1, to July 6-8. The Northwestern Mutual Community Park, which features a vibrant playground, family restrooms, and sensory rooms, is home to one of the festival’s 12 stages.
Plan your trip during one of these weekends and spend some extra time exploring the beaches in the area. Bradford Beach, located on Lake Michigan, is a certified environmentally friendly beach by the Clean Beaches Coalition.
9. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is a city that should not be missed, especially for families with kids. With its 12-mile-long shoreline and amazing attractions, Chicago offers a perfect family vacation destination. “Many families don’t realize that the city has 12 miles of beaches in addition to phenomenal attractions,” says Samantha Brown.
Head to the waterfront to check out the world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, all located next to each other. Additionally, in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood, there’s a free zoo that rivals its admission-charging counterparts. To make the most out of your trip, be sure to visit on a Wednesday or Saturday when a farmers’ market pops up in the area.
10. Cavtat, Croatia
Greece is a popular destination this year but has limited availability and high rates. For a more budget-friendly option with fewer crowds, she suggests heading to Croatia.
One of Croatia’s hidden gems is the town of Cavtat, which boasts a stunning waterfront promenade and 5 miles of beaches. What’s more, it’s just a 10-minute drive from Dubrovnik airport, which offers direct flights from cities like New York.