June is around the corner—and school’s almost out for summer
For many families that presents a prime time to engage in a different type of education: the lessons learned on the road.
We know (from extensive personal experience) that travel is one of the best ways to foster curiosity, inspire awe, and encourage a better understanding of other cultures, languages, food, nature, and the environment. The world is a living, breathing classroom we missed during the pandemic; we are excited to re-enroll in 2022.
With many of us at AFAR doubling as parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and caregivers, we’re also keenly aware of the reality of traveling with kids at different ages and stages of life. Between our own time spent circling the globe with babies, preschoolers, preteens, and teenagers, as well as feedback we collected from readers and family travel experts, we’ve compiled the top destinations for family travel in 2022 to set families up for straight-A success. The best way to truly instill a love of travel is to make sure that every member of the family, regardless of their age, has a fun and memorable getaway.
Let our list inspire you and your extended family to get out there and create some meaningful adventures of your own this year and beyond. —Michelle Baran, senior travel news editor
Babies under 2
Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
We traveled to Vancouver and Whistler with our son when he was just under two and it was an ideal getaway at that age for several reasons. To start, our son wasn’t the best sleeper so western Canada provided us the option of international travel (from California) minus the jet lag. Secondly, British Columbia is all about gorgeous natural landscapes. In the summer, the temperatures are perfect—hovering in the 60s and 70s from June through August—for outdoor activities. We headed out on walking and hiking trips almost daily (our favorite one in Whistler was the Train Wreck hike, a forested walk with a hanging bridge to see the site of an abandoned train crash with train cars splattered about the forest floor). And we placed him in the carrier backpack as needed (like this Deuter one, which is our favorite—we’re also big Ergo 360 fans for toting babies). Summer is the off-season in Whistler, a popular ski destination, so it made for a much more mellow time to visit. On the road between Whistler and Vancouver, head to wildlife sanctuary Grouse Mountain, where a gondola ride will bring you to natural enclosures housing orphaned bears and owls.
In Vancouver, the combination of the city and the sea is perfect for littles. We took numerous boat and ferry rides (which our son went nuts over), like the water taxis that criss-cross False Creek and will get you to Granville Island for a buzzing food market and shops, and Science World, a kid-focused learning center. Stanley Park and its Vancouver Aquarium and totem poles are also must-sees. Vancouver is a very bike-friendly town, which makes for another fun way to see the sights. Head to the Shipyards on Vancouver’s North Shore for endless food trucks, music, art, and entertainment (plus another fun ferry ride).
Where to stay: For family-friendly lodging in Whistler, try Nita Lake Lodge, where you can borrow kayaks and canoes for paddling on the lake, rent bikes, take a dip in the pool and hot tub, and hike the nearby trails. In the heart of Whistler is the extremely kid-friendly and classic Fairmont Chateau Whistler with its indoor/outdoor pool and miniature bathrobes for little guests. In Vancouver, the Douglas, Autograph Collection offers prime access to the False Creek waterfront, while the Fairmont Pacific Rim places you right on Vancouver Harbor with views of sea planes taking off and landing. —M.B.
Provence and the French Riviera, France
Rent a car and explore southern France’s endlessly charming Provence and French Riviera regions with a (still rather portable) baby in tow. Getting there is made easier by direct flights from New York—United launched daily service from Newark to Nice on April 29. Make the antique streets of UNESCO World Heritage site Avignon your home base while exploring Provence’s lavender fields, wineries, art history (numerous impressionists lived here in the 19th century, including Van Gogh), and impressive churches and palaces, such as the gothic masterpiece Palais des Papes in Avignon. Then, head towards the Côte d’Azur for some relaxing beach time with le bébé.
Where to stay: In Avignon, babies are welcome at Le Prieuré, a small and luxurious property built inside a 14th-century monastery, surrounded by gardens and complete with a pool. For a beautiful guest house with a pool and some family-friendly suites, check out Les Jardins de Baracane. On the coast, book one of the Cap D’Antibes apartments at the Royal Antibes, outfitted with a kitchen, separate sitting room, and bathtub for rinsing off after beach playtime. —recommended by AFAR reader Shira Berger
Porto and Lisbon, Portugal
When my daughter Hailey was 18 months old, we packed her Baby Bjorn, Doona stroller, and about a million toys and set off for Portugal. We had heard about how family friendly Portugal is and every stop proved so: There were parking spots just for pregnant women and airport security lanes just for families. Toddlers were welcome at wine bars in Porto and trendy restaurants like Prado in Lisbon (though I’d also recommend prowling around Time Out Market Lisboa, a 50-stall food hall in the old fish-and-meat market, Mercado da Ribeira, to soothe the pickiest eaters.) And can we talk about the Portuguese playgrounds? Next level. But rather than simply seek out baby activities, we had the most fun letting Hailey loose in the centuries-old castles of Sintra and Óbidos and the open square of the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, where history provided more than enough entertainment.
Pro tip: Rent an automatic car and bring a baby carrier, because the hilly cobblestone city streets are not friendly to manual transmission or strollers.
Where to stay: Martinhal apartments are famed for their kids club and baby concierge. We also loved The Lisboans: stylish one- and two-bedroom apartments with full kitchens, along with hotel-style services like check-in, room cleanings, and breakfast delivery. —Laura Dannen Redman, digital content director
La Digue, Seychelles
Rent a bicycle with a baby seat on the back, stick a diaper bag and snorkel gear in the front basket, and enjoy a blissful vacation exploring this tiny island in the Indian Ocean. You’ll spend your time visiting some of the most exquisite beaches in the world (turquoise water, pink granite rocks, white sand), hiking through jungles (with baby in an Ergo), and stuffing your face with bold curries and fresh seafood. Read more about our island-hopping trip to the Seychelles with our 18-month-old daughter.
Where to stay: We love having a kitchen when traveling with kids, and holiday home Domaine Les Rochers ticked all the boxes. —Sarika Bansal, editorial director
Toddlers and preschoolers (2–5)
Our best family vacation was a trip to Japan when my son was two and a half. We visited my husband’s family in the Fuji City/Shizuoka area, then spent a week in Tokyo doing it all. We went to a monster-themed restaurant (sadly now closed) in Harajuku. Just walking around the streets here was fun, though, with all kinds of stores and fun snacks. We went to a robot show at (the aptly named) Robot Restaurant, owl and hedgehog cafés, Sakurazaka Park in Roppongi (also known as “robot park”), Ueno Zoo, and Tokyo DisneySea, a park at the Tokyo Disney Resort (it’s very easy to get here using the Tokyo subway system). We also went to the Tokyo Skytree, where you can go to the top terrace (1,500 feet up!) and walk around, and below is a mall with lots of restaurants. There is also the ramen museum in Yokohama with a nearby giant Ferris wheel called the Cosmo Clock.
Where to stay: Splurge on a room at the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi, with a pool, playroom, and discounted breakfasts for younger guests. Another luxury option is the iconic Grand Hyatt Tokyo in the lively Roppongi nabe. Or book a kid-friendly vacation rental through family-focused site Kid&Coe, like this sleek apartment in Ebisu, a quieter, residential area of Tokyo. —recommended by AFAR reader Lauren Ide
North Shore, Oʻahu
Let’s be real for a minute, shall we? Toddlers can be challenging. We recently brought our headstrong 3-year-old daughter and much more cheerful 5-year-old son to Oʻahu and can attest that despite our daughter’s best efforts, we all had an amazing break. No amount of beach and pool time is too much for kids this age, so that alone sets families up for endless fun. (Despite its reputation for gnarly waves, the North Shore also has plenty of alcove beaches with calmer waters and soft sand like Kawela Bay.) Visit Gunstock Ranch for horseback riding or a rewarding tree-planting experience. We also loved visiting the cultural and historic sites and waterfall in Waimea Valley. Get coffee (for the parents) at The Country Eatery and massive burgers at Seven Brothers—or try any of the food trucks and stands around the historic Kahuku Sugar Mill, where kids also have fun climbing the mill’s old gears.
Where to stay: The recently overhauled Turtle Bay Resort is the sole resort property at the northernmost tip of Oʻahu and it does not disappoint. In addition to pools with waterslides and calm, sandy beaches (with complimentary sand toys for guests), there’s a seemingly endless menu of family-friendly activities, including kayaking in search of sea turtles, stargazing, and ukulele lessons. The Stables at Turtle Bay are a great place for horseback riding for the entire family; they even have a pony experience for children six and under. —M.B.
Spetses is close enough to the mainland to make for an easy ferry ride, yet offers the relaxed vibes of a typical Greek island. Get your culture fix at the Bouboulina Museum and eat fresh seafood at countless waterfront restaurants. Beaches are located right in town, or you can venture a kilometer or two away for something quieter. Let your kids play in the rocky sand for hours while the local beach club brings lunch and a cocktail straight to your lounge chair. The island is mainly car-free, but horse and carriage rides make for a great way to transport the kids to dinner. Should you find yourself with an hour or two sans kids, rent an e-bike and cruise the scenic road that goes around the entire island. Make sure to stop at one of the hidden beaches you’ll encounter along the way.
Pro tip: Greek sidewalks are not terribly welcoming for double strollers. If you have two kids in tow that need one, it’s better to pack an umbrella stroller for each of them.
Where to stay: The Poseidonion Grand Hotel is just steps from the ferry terminal, offering stunning waterfront views and kid-friendly amenities, including two outdoor pools. Just a short distance up the road you’ll find Nissia Traditional Residences with suites and residences that can accommodate a large group and serves one of the best Greek salads I’ve ever eaten. —Anni Cuccinello, director of audience development
Elementary school kids (5–9)
The month I turned 7 years old, my family went on our first big Europe trip, which started with a week in Paris. I was old enough to climb the stairs of Notre-Dame’s bell tower, appreciate the magnitude of seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, and wasn’t scared of heights at the top of the Eiffel Tower (or the “Efelel Tower,” as I wrote in my travel diary). But I was also still young enough to be delighted by the carousel and the toy sailboats at Luxembourg Gardens—not to mention all of Paris’s other fantastic playgrounds and parks. The other plus? My 10-year-old sister had taken enough French lessons to be able to get us through ordering food with English-only speaking parents.
Where to stay: When traveling to Paris with kids, a little extra space and access to parks are key. This effortlessly stylish two-bedroom Airbnb right by Luxembourg Gardens offers both. You can also opt for Residence Nell’s full-service apartments in the Ninth arrondissement or go all-out at the eternally elegant Le Bristol Paris, which is as kid-friendly (with its pool and kids club) as it is classy. —Lyndsey Matthews, senior commerce editor
Sonoma County, California
Wine country with kids? Yes, it’s absolutely doable—and actually really fun. I just returned from a multi-gen trip to Healdsburg, a little more than an hour north of San Francisco, with parents and a 6-year-old in tow. We all spent a day cycling up and down rolling hills among vineyards with Randy Johnson of Getaway Adventures. He’s been guiding cyclists around these parts for years and knows a fair bit about biking, wine, and biking to drink wine. The company offers guided tours or rentals and is well stocked with bikes and equipment for any age or weather condition. The rest of our trip included a meander among enormous redwoods at Armstrong Redwoods Natural Reserve, an obligatory visit to the Toy Chest, and even some wine-tasting. Well-behaved kids are welcome at many wineries; at Truett Hurst, a rare organic and biodynamic operation just outside town, my boy explored the gardens and creek while we sipped zinfandel. Evenings involved kid-friendly but elevated food: big pizzas at Pizzando; pasta and meatballs in the atmospheric outdoor dining space at Campo Fina.
Where to stay: Splash out for Hotel Healdsburg on the main square or the stunning, recently opened Montage Healdsburg, which has all the luxury amenities you’d expect from the name (plus an included kids club for guests ages 5-12, as well a family pool). Hotel Trio is a great spot to use up some Marriott Bonvoy points, with an outdoor pool, bocce ball court, bike rentals, and a car-free path straight into town. —Tim Chester, deputy editor
Key West, Florida
Key West is amazing destination for young kids that happens to also be an incredibly beautiful place. Head to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon for some humbling time with these shelled beauties. Go swimming at Bahia Honda State Park and in Islamorada. In Islamorada there is also a great little cluster of independent shops and restaurants—look out for Bad Boy Burrito. Make sure to head to the Hemingway Home and Museum and the Key West Lighthouse, both of which are steeped in history. We went out to eat a lot and always looked for places that were off the beaten path. Some places that come to mind are Havana Jacks Oceanside Restaurant in Key Largo (good for live music and cold drinks); Sunset Grille and Raw Bar in Marathon (good for sunsets and playing games outside); and Blue Heaven in Key West (true to its name, it’s heaven). My kids loved Key West because it had the perfect mixture of swimming, eating, playing games, and seeing wildlife. They still say it was their best holiday.
Where to stay: Kimptons are known for their classy updates of classic structures and Kimtpon Key West Winslow’s Bungalows are no exception. Located in the heart of Old Town, this historic property dates back to 1856 and now includes three pools and suites and guest rooms that can accommodate larger groups. The resort fee also includes loaner bikes, snorkel gear and continental breakfast. For the full resort experience, book a stay at Casa Marina Key West, which boasts two pools, bikes for guests, ample water sport activities, and a beachfront location. —recommended by AFAR reader Emma Maksimovic
When I was 8 years old, my family went to India to visit relatives and get more in touch with our heritage. While there, we drove from Delhi to the “Pink City,” famous for its grand palaces and Rajasthani culture. I remember running around with my cousins at Hawa Mahal, which is made of red and pink sandstone; staring in bewilderment at the mustachioed guards at the City Palace (some of the mustaches are giant); getting bored as the adults went shopping for silver jewelry; dressing up and getting our picture taken in traditional Rajasthani outfits; and riding a camel and eating a Rajasthani feast at the Chokhi Dhani cultural village. Palaces seem magical and enormous when you’re 8 years old, and you’re still young enough to not roll your eyes at camel rides and cultural performances.
Where to stay: Book one of the beautiful and spacious suites at the the Johri at Lal Haveli from AFAR's 2021 Stay List or get lost at the Oberoi Rajvilas, a sprawling and palatial resort where rooms range from over-the-top villas with private pools to luxury tents inspired by royal caravans of yore. —S.B
Rincon, Puerto Rico
This is a fascinating age as preteens (in our case a 12-year-old) are starting to feel a real sense of self, and with that (perhaps) an overinflated sense of independence. We’re always looking for a place that offers some great activity to pull our son Dylan away from devices, teach him something new or practice a learned skill, engage in cultures, challenges, and worlds outside of his bubble at home. We want to give him a sense of independence while always being within reach of Mom and Dad should we need to come to the rescue.
We are huge fans of Puerto Rico with so much variety, incredible cuisine and culture, and world-class surfing over in Rincon. Rincon Surf School is the longest-running surf school in Puerto Rico and so much fun to come back, year after year, and see the same instructors who have helped nurture my son’s love of the waves since he was a tiny boy.
Where to stay: In Rincon proper, book an oceanfront suite at Tres Sirenas and your accommodations will come with extras like a full kitchen and oceanview pool. En route to Rincon from San Juan, take a break at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, where active preteens can go kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, biking, and hiking. In San Juan, families will flip for the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, which has four pools and three restaurants. —Bryan Kinkade, vice president and publisher
Chicago has a lot of outdoor spaces and museums that will keep preteens active and engaged while also being home to a plethora of great restaurants for the adults (and their up-and-coming foodie kids). Some wonderful museums for all ages include the Field Museum and the Museum of Science + Industry. An architecture river cruise is ideal for when everyone in your crew is tired—you get to see Chicago’s amazing collection of structures while relaxing on the river. Another solid option for older kids is a kayak tour on the river or Lake Michigan. Millennium Park is a great outdoor space with a climbing wall and concerts in the summer. You can go biking or exploring in the vast Lincoln Park, which has some great beaches for relaxing and a conservatory that houses the tranquil Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. An evening comedy show at the iconic Second City is fun for everyone.
Where to stay: Your jaded preteens will think you’re the coolest when you book a stay at the cheeky boutique property Virgin Hotels Chicago (which has rooms with two queen beds and suites to accommodate fams). Or book this beautiful Wicker Park home on Airbnb with direct access to one of Chicago's buzzy neighborhoods (and to the L train, aka Chicago’s public transit network for easy access to the downtown Loop). —recommended by AFAR reader Margo James
Bald Head Island, North Carolina
Three hours’ drive south of Raleigh, and just an hour and a half from Wilmington, North Carolina, is a secluded retreat that is paradise for preteens. Here, it’d be hard for under 13s to get into any trouble. Cars aren’t allowed on the island, 80 percent of which is nature preserves—visitors take a ferry and then get around on the island tram. Once settled into their vacation home, families basically ride bikes everywhere. There are also ample hiking trails and marshes for kayaking. More than 260 species of birds, as well as alligators, foxes, and nesting sea turtles call Bald Head home. Kids will feel safe while having the freedom to explore—so parents can enjoy their vacation, too. And with not too much to do it is also a great opportunity for some quality time with the older gens (Scrabble marathons, anyone?). Beach trips are always good for the 10-to-12 set but private islands like Bald Head really kick it up a notch.
Where to stay: In Bald Head, it’s all about nabbing an amazing vacation rental, like this four-bedroom Airbnb home with beach access. The open floorplan makes it perfect for socializing and tired tweens can veg out on the deck after tooling around the island. —recommended by AFAR reader Angela Hall
Amsterdam and Schiermonikoog, the Netherlands
For teenagers, I love anything where I can get them outdoors for hours at a time with limited cell-phone reception. Basically, I’m trying to keep them off screens and engaging with the world. One of our best trips was to Amsterdam and Schiermonikoog (in the Netherlands’ Friesan Islands). Amsterdam for the culture—we did the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum, which offers family tours that engage the kids. We also hit up FEBO, a Dutch chain where food is served out of vending machine–like Automats. We also did a bike ride to see windmills and had various adventures in the sprawling urban park Vondelpark. Schiermonikoog is amazing because it’s a mostly carless self-contained island where the kids are issued a bike and basically have total independence to ride around, go to the beach, grab lunch, play capture the flag in the dunes—a sense of freedom teens and preteens very much want.
Where to stay: Reserve a family suite at the Pulitzer Amsterdam and you’ll have accommodations for up to four guests right on two of the city’s main canals, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. Alternatively, your wanna-be-adult teens will love the sophistication of Conservatorium Hotel in the city’s museum district. On Schiermonikoog, it’s all about scoring a great vacation rental like this stylish two-bedroom house in the heart of the main village. —Laura Simkins, chief operations officer
Nairobi and Masai Mara, Kenya
Start by splurging on a night at Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, because who doesn't love feeding giraffes during breakfast? I would recommend two safari locations—both are fabulous. The first one is Elewana Elsa’s Kopje in Meru. It has a great history and is the site of the original camp of Kenyan wildlife conservationist George Adamson. We also went to Mahali Mzuri in Masai Mara. We booked through Mahlatini, a luxury Africa travel specialist, and the whole trip was seamless—airport transfers, bush flights (including a four-person plane where my husband got to be the copilot), tours and all details were handled expertly. A bucket-list trip for sure and something teens will be excited to do even if they are over being excited to travel with family. —recommended by AFAR reader Jenn Thomas
Traveling during the pandemic
A note about family travel in 2022...
Travelers inspired by our family travel recommendations should be aware that international travel requirements and restrictions continue to evolve. While some destinations such as Hawai‘i, Canada, and countries throughout Europe (France and the U.K. among them) have recently relaxed their entry rules, others such as Japan remain extremely restricted. We have kept destinations on this list regardless of ease of entry in the event that they can inspire future adventures.
For the latest, check the U.S. State Department’s detailed COVID-19 travel information and country-specific advisories, which are updated regularly. We often cross-check these references with entry requirements that are published by each individual country’s foreign or public health affairs office.
Additionally, as of May 3, 2022, all international passengers age two and older flying into the U.S. (including returning U.S. citizens and permanent residents) must still provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test procured within one day before boarding their flight to the United States.
The CDC also has detailed recommendations for travel during the pandemic, both for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.
Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.