Whether it's a road trip or a jet-setting tour, the memories we make with our kids when we travel stay with them for a lifetime, and really do shape their perspectives. We can also broaden our own horizons when we travel without the offspring; after all, when we become parents, we just add another facet to our personalities. When we do travel with the kids, we often get to see a more playful and fun side of the place we're visiting, and even let our own inner child out. Traveling with children does take careful planning, however, as well as an expanded budget and often, a large amount of patience. It can be worth it–children who travel gain a better understanding of the world around them.
Sometimes a vacation is needed away from the kids. Taking time alone or as a couple without the kids coming along can do wonders towards rejuvenating a relationship, or finding the calm center that a parent needs. There are also some aspects of vacationing that are just harder to explore with children along for the ride. Going solo can open vacationers up to so much more freedom of choice and movement. Here are 15 Places Parents Should Go If They Want To Take The Kids, and 9 To Go Solo.
24 Kids: Orlando, Florida
Some reasons that make Orlando a family vacation destination are obvious, and some not so much. DisneyWorld–including Epcot–is there of course, but also there's Universal Studios, LEGOLAND and SeaWorld, as per Traveling Moms.
If everyone's not too over-stimulated by the theme parks, there's a Medieval Times in Orlando, as well as the weirdness kids will love at Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Museum.
From Orlando, it's easy to access the Kennedy Space Center. Beat the blistering heat and (some of) the crowds by going in the spring or fall.
23 Leave kids at home: Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica
Peninsula Papagayo is a short drive from the airport and definitely a luxury stay, but also surprisingly eco-friendly.
The Peninsula is privately owned and full of high-dollar developments, so this is more of a splurge for couples, with high romance potential.
The perennially warm, sunny weather means plans are easy to make and keep, and sustainable agricultural practices mean that the cuisine focuses on the fresh and the local, according to Forbes. Ecotourism is Papagayo's draw, and resorts are designed to blend into the surrounding jungle.
22 Kids: San Diego, California
The San Diego Zoo is world-renowned and well worth the trip all on its own. For families that want more, there are also some incredible beaches nearby, and theme parks like SeaWorld and LEGOLAND, according to San Diego.
Disneyland isn't 'far as the crow flies', but freeway traffic can turn it into a slog, so timing is everything. For the real deal in Mexican food, ask the locals for their favorite taqueria, and for family cuisine, head to Old Town to explore and dine.
21 Leave kids at home: Big Sur, California
Adults love coming to Big Sur without the little ones in tow because of the isolation and wild beauty–there are no theme parks nearby. Drive Pacific Coast Highway for breathtaking views, and there are other beaches and spots to pull off besides Pfeiffer Beach, according to Travel + Leisure.
Big Sur can be adapted to nearly any budget, and travelers who stay towards Monterey can also take in the sights there, including the aquarium or a whale-watching tour. At the right time of year, visitors can spot gray whales.
20 Kids: Let's Do London, UK
The Griswolds showed us how not to tour London as a family back in 1985, as per IMDb, but London really is a city that the whole family can get into and enjoy.
Grab London passes for the whole family and explore all the tourist spots, including the Tower of London and Kensington Palace, according to Visit London.
Bus tours allow families to get on and off when they want, and for kids who aren't interested in a historic building, there's a fantastic aquarium and the Coca-Cola London Eye.
19 Leave kids at home: New Orleans, Louisiana
The secret to having a blast in New Orleans is to pack the most comfortable walking shoes and avoid all the ATMs in the French Quarter–they charge a bundle.
The French Quarter and Jackson Square can offer a complete experience whether the visitor is a drink connoisseur or a total abstainer.
Can't-miss attractions include the Café Du Monde, the New Orleans Aquarium, or a riverboat cruise, according to New Orleans. Mardi Gras is wild and fun–but plan carefully to stay safe.
18 Kids: Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, California
The giant sequoia trees have to be seen in person to appreciate how absolutely massive these living things are. Families can book nearby hotels, or do the truly adventurous thing and reserve a campsite (watch out for bears!) and explore.
Active families can find numerous moderate to strenuous-level hikes, but everyone can explore the most famous sequoias on well-maintained paved paths, as per National Park Service. Don't leave out Crystal Cave from summertime visits–the kids will love the guided tour.
17 Kids: Pensacola Beach, Florida
Pensacola Beach offers the classic white sand and warm, clear ocean water of Florida but at a far cheaper price tag than further south.
First-timers and young kids may do best at Quietwater Beach.
Skip the main beach by hanging a left towards the Gulf Island National Seashore, where the locals go for a more private beach experience. In the other direction is Fort Pickens, and visitors can't leave out the Naval Aviation Museum for interactive fun that everyone will love, as per Visit Pensacola Beach.
16 Leave kids at home: Joshua Tree National Park, California
A car will help visitors get from one section of Joshua Tree National Park to the other, but the best way to experience it is to camp at one of the many campgrounds, and be ready to hike a lot!
Joshua Tree offers otherworldly vistas of the unique namesake Joshua Tree, interspersed with huge piles of boulders all set against a vivid blue sky, according to National Park Service. Hikers in good condition can access abandoned gold mines, Keyes Ranch, and explore the meeting of the Mojave and Colorado deserts.
15 Kids: Chattanooga, Tennessee
This generation might not remember, but not so long ago, road trippers were exhorted to go “See Rock City” by brightly painted barns along the highway, as per See Rock City. While Rock City and Ruby Falls aren't actually located in Chattanooga, they're easily accessed from there and offer a whole new perspective on the Great Smoky Mountains and their incredible beauty.
Lookout Mountain offers something for kids and families from Mother Goose Village to Fairyland Caverns tours, and the Enchanted Trail offers breath-taking surprises around every turn.
14 Kids: Seville, Spain
The little munchkins will love the many city parks, and older kids might be inspired in spite of themselves to grab the audio tour through some of Seville's beautiful architecture, including the Cathedral and the Plaza de España, which was featured in a Star Wars set, according to Trekaroo.
While in the Plaza, families can rent a boat and explore the canals.
Kids might just love the hedge maze at the back of Real Alcázar, and trips timed for holidays like Easter might add some additional fun.
13 Leave kids at home: Likuliku Lagoon, Fiji
This is an adults-only resort–nobody's kids will be there! It is a luxury resort, but couples who want to reconnect without distractions might find what they need while snorkeling, jet skiing, or getting the full spa treatment, as per Likuliku Lagoon.
The rest of Fiji awaits once kid-less adults have been pampered enough, and visitors can see the Sacred Sites or learn more about Fijian culture, or transfer to another island to explore further.
The marine life is also spectacular and shouldn't be missed.
12 Kids: Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is often described as a beautiful, fairytale city and the whole family will be entranced. Prague's family appeal is apparent in the fun diversions it offers, from a cafe that lets kids paint ceramic mugs to keep, to baking bread, to participating in art pieces in the Gud Gallery, according to Minitime.
A lot of the museums might just capture kids' imaginations after all, since many are interactive and allow touching and playing that other museums frown upon.
11 Kids: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam has earned a reputation with many as a city that caters to adult themes, but actually, Amsterdam is a fantastic family-friendly city that–with planning–will prove to be very fun and entertaining, according to Parents.
Cruise the canal with the whole family while gorging on pancakes, or take the kids to a cafe that lets the kids do all the cooking and menu-planning.
Kids might also enjoy touring the palace, or a day trip to the zoo if they're tired of museums.
10 Kids: Los Angeles, California
The question isn't where to take the kids in LA; it's what will there be time for. A short drive from LA gets families to Knott's Berry Farm, Disneyland, Six Flags, Universal Studios–and that's just the theme parks, as per Traveling Mom.
Families definitely have to put the La Brea Tarpits on their list, as well as one of the Getty museums.
Tourists flock to Venice Beach or head south to Huntington Beach to watch the surfers, and trails surround the Griffith Observatory and iconic Hollywood sign.
9 Leave kids at home: Syvota, Greece
Secret coves and hidden beaches in the Syvota area of Thesprotia is what gives this vacation the romance that couples crave. The gorgeous clear blue ocean lies between Syvota and several small islands worth exploring, so vacationers can rent a boat, as per Visit Greece.
From Syvota, venture out to tour olive orchards, or walk and shop in the little shops.
No kids means couples won't have to think about picky eaters and can enjoy local fare, whether at a little cafe or a more upscale restaurant.
8 Kids: Copenhagen, Denmark
Kids will be surprised by just how cool Copenhagen can be. Fantastic food is something everyone in the family will enjoy, but teens might really like the jazz scene and the canal tours, according to Forbes.
Families can access everything easily by purchasing a Copenhagen card and by hopping on bikes in this extremely bike-friendly city.
There are plenty of historical and modern art museums for those who like the educational stops as well, and the Danish Royal Horticultural Gardens will wow everyone.
7 Kids: Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone was the United States' first national park, and there are tons of reasons: geysers like Old Faithful, calderas and petrified forests, a gorgeous lake and numerous campgrounds, according to Yellowstone National Park.
There is an incredible array of wildlife, including Yellowstone's own herd of bison, and even now the park has seen new thermal activity with some of the geysers. Summertime is definitely the most crowded time and most prone to wildfire danger, so families might want to try spring or fall.
6 Leave kids at home: Roanoke Island, North Carolina
Roanoke Island is part of the Outer Banks Islands off the coast of North Carolina and has a long and mysterious history–the disappearance of the English colonists who landed there has never been solved.
There are a few reasons why the kids might not enjoy this trip, at least until they're older: the history might be boring, and they're not going to enjoy the nightlife scene nearly as much as the adults, as per Travel + Leisure. Vacationers have miles of undeveloped coastal beaches to choose from.
5 Kids: Take On Munich, Germany
Adults who think of Munich as only a drinking town should take a second look and bring their kids along. Tourist families love the Englischer Garten, and if the scenery is too boring, pair off into paddle boats on the lake, as per Travel Mamas.
Teens might love the artificial surf break on the Eisbach River, and the Deutches Museum is interactive enough to inspire the younger tots.
A short drive out of Munich will take Disney fans to Neuschwanstein Castle, which was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle.
4 Kids: Maui, Hawaii
Maui is so kid-friendly that families often only struggle with whittling down the options. Snorkeling ranks high on the list of family fan-favorites, according to Pride of Maui. Or families can really take the plunge and take a submarine for an underwater tour and see dozens of aquatic species and even a 19th-century replica wreck.
The Old Lahaina Luau is a great way to see Hawaiian culture and sample the food, and kids can also go on the Maui
3 Leave kids at home: Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi
The full possibilities of a vacation to the Biloxi area (including Gulfport and D'Iberville) open up when the kids are left at home. The casinos are a huge draw, and are right on the scenic beach, according to US News and World Report.
Some surprisingly luxurious hotels line Highway 98, and visitors will find that the food is often a fantastic combination of Southern and Gulf Coast flavors, with some elements of cajun.
Locals recommend at least one breakfast at Fill-up with Billup's–be prepared for generous servings there.
2 Kids: The Grandest Vistas At The Grand Canyon
A visit to the Grand Canyon is the ultimate family vacation experience–it never fails to take the viewer's breath away. Visitors can head to either the North or South Rim, depending on a number of factors, including time of year and many of the things to do and see have been made accessible for all needs, ages and abilities, according to National Park Service.
There are no pictures or television shows that can truly do the Grand Canyon justice, and the kids will remember this trip forever.
1 Leave kids at home: Gran Canaria, Spain
One huge reason to leave at least the younger kids behind on a trip to Gran Canaria is the scuba diving. Vacationers can learn right at one of the dive shops if they don't already know how, but if they don't want to go underwater, perhaps they'd rather take advantage of the windsurfing lessons, as per Spain.
The conditions are so favorable that Gran Canaria often hosts international competitions. Surfing is also a big sport. The Canary Islands are a part of Spain but really have a different vibe.
References: Minitime, Parents.com, Traveling Mom, Travel + Leisure