TO INSPIRE A SENSE OF joy and wonder for the new year, I’ve asked 12 family travel bloggers to tell us about their most memorable family travel experience.
Their adventures take us from Iceland to Hawaii, from Africa to Asia, winter through summer. And they’re sure to spark your family’s wanderlust!
Our all-time favorites? I couldn’t pick one so I asked Sofia (6) and Julia (4). They voted on making pasta in Umbria, Italy and sleeping on a boat, swimming in the river and seeing the animals in the Amazon.
Hope you enjoy this inspiring list. And don’t forget to tell us your most unforgettable family experience in the comments.
Tamara – We3Travel.com
Dog Sledding in Iceland
“My daughter has been obsessed with dog sledding since she was in first grade, so when I learned that you could go dog sledding in Iceland, I knew we had to add this to our itinerary. The day started off with a drive out to the Langjökull glacier, where we had a chance to meet our mushers and the sled dogs. The grin on her face when she got to pet each dog and help harness them up was as bright as the sun beating down on the ice. As we settled in for our ride out onto the glacier, we had a chance to sit back and soak in the unbelievable scenery. There was no one else around and we were surrounded by pristine snow, with black volcanic, snow-topped mountains in the distance. I can’t imagine anywhere else in the world where we could dog sled in summer, surrounded by such gorgeous scenery. Having an opportunity to mush, play with the dogs, and get to see a part of Iceland that was otherwise unaccessible made this truly an unforgettable family experience.”
Sara – Mom Endeavors
Snorkeling with Sea Turtles in Hawaii
“Our family’s most unforgettable travel experience this past year was snorkeling with sea turtles in Kauai, Hawaii! On a tip from some locals, we headed down to Anini Beach first thing in the morning (around 7am). Not only is the beach gorgeous, but it’s perfect for young kids and we had it almost entirely to ourselves. Just a few yards out from the beach we were able to snorkel with multiple sea turtles – something we’ll never forget!”
Renee – Travel Moments with Kids
Safari at Kruger National Park, South Africa
“From the exciting (yes, it’s true!) wake up call at 5:15am that welcomes you with a steaming pot of coffee or hot chocolate, to the first call of the day announcing that one of the Big 5 has been spotted, to a lantern-lit dinner in the bush, there is truly no better experience for parents or kids.
We stayed at a placed called Tanda Tula Lodge and in between the magical rides, the chef cooked with the kids, the ground keepers taught them how to play the infamous beating drums, and even the bar attendant offered to teach them a game of chess. All of this in-between afternoon swims and reading time in our incredibly cozy safari tent. What kid wouldn’t love this?!“
Erin – Travel with Bender
Magical Christmas in Rovaniemi, Finland
“The ultimate family destination. An unforgettable adventure that will make Christmas more magical than ever before. You can meet the real Santa and post mail from his official postbox, you can dog sled through captivating white forests, ride a reindeer sleigh, take a snowmobile to see the northern lights, visit elves in their natural habitat. If the kids have stopped believing, this place will have them believing again.”
Lisa G. – Hilton Mom Voyage and We Said Go Travel
Exploring the Enchanted City of Sintra, Portugal.
“Hop a short train ride away from the busy capital of Lisbon to be transported to a magical world — the enchanted city of Sintra! Here are our top three family stops in Sintra: (1) NATIONAL PALACE OF SINTRA: Breathtaking! Stroll the magnificent walkway to the Palace, be dazzled by the combination of Gothic, Moorish and Manueline architectural features and gawk at the uniquely themed rooms. (2) THE CASTLE OF THE MOORS: What an adventure! Scale the walls of this medieval fort located high among the mountains affording spectacular panoramic views of the lush countryside, stunning architecture and the vast ocean. (3). PENA PALACE: Truly a fairy tale! Explore and play in a real castle nestled in Sintra’s verdant hills…every child’s dream! Your children will love to cross the dramatic drawbridge, climb the ramparts, and “stand guard” in the watchtowers. While in Sintra, be sure to sample Sintra’s sweet delights, queijadas de Sintra (custard-like cheesecakes) and travesseiros (“pillows” of almond pastry).”
Julie – Road Trips for Families
Caring for Rescued Elephants in Chiang Mai
“Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern, Thailand. A mix of history, culture, and adventure, Chiang Mai is an excellent family-friendly destination. We visited in late-October, between the hot season and the rainy season, and allowed a full week to explore both the city and the mountainous countryside. Highlights of the visit included a trip to the Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary for distressed and injured Asian elephants. Kids will enjoy feeding the gentle giants bananas and melons and bathing them in a shallow stream. Chiang Mai comes alive at night, with markets for shopping, dining, and people watching. We loved the Chiang Mai flower market, a distribution point for fragrant and exotic flowers on their way to Bangkok and Thailand’s coastal cities. On our last day, we arranged for a trip to the Sa Paper and Umbrella Handicraft Center, a collection of buildings where local artisans make handcrafted paper umbrellas and parasols using paper produced from the bark of the mulberry tree. For a small fee, an artist painted an elephant on the back of my iPad case; a perfect way to remember our first adventure in an Asian country.”
Rachael – Nothing if Not Intentional
Cruising the Canal and Meeting the Locals in Panama
“While it’s impossible to choose just one experience to deem my “favorite,” I will never forget our cruise to the Panama Canal, the canoe ride that took us into the jungle of Panama, or our visit to the Embera Indian Village. I loved watching my toddler (age 2) and preschooler (age 4) play and bond with the little ones from the Embera tribe! They didn’t need to share a language to chase each other, climb trees, and giggle uncontrollably. While the meeting was artificial (a Panama tour for tourists), the brief but sweet friendship that formed between the young ones from the very different cultures was natural and precious.”
Bethaney – Flashpacker Family
A Helicopter Tour of Kauai
“The best thing we’ve ever spent money on during our travels was a helicopter tour of Kauai. Kauai is the most magical island in Hawaii and only 10% of the island is accessible by road so getting airborne is a must. The helicopter ride of the jungle, cliffs and coastline was spectacular. Even the youngest member of our family, at 5 months, could join in!”
Mary – The World Is a Book
Snorkeling with Stingrays and Sharks in Tahiti
“Our top unforgettable family experience was snorkeling and swimming with stingrays and black tip sharks in the French Polynesian islands of Bora Bora and Moorea. We loved the experience so much we did it twice. It sounds scary but turned out to be a major highlight of our trip and was a lot of fun. The sharks left us alone and the stingrays were harmless as they brushed up against us. The waters were many shades of blue, warm and clear. They were ideal conditions especially for kids with an abundance of colorful, tropical fish. These experiences came with a bonus of lunches on private islands with postcard picture backdrops.”
Keryn – Walking On Travels
Fat Tire Versailles Bike Tour
“Wandering through Versailles is all well and good, but if you can bike the property before you head into this historic palace just outside of Paris, France, you and your children will appreciate the history and opulence so much more. Fat Tire Tours in Paris was the perfect way for our family to get out of the city, get a little exercise and absorb the history our guide was giving us without our boys getting bored since they had tons of space to play whenever we stopped. A highlight of the tour was a picnic along the Grand Canal where the kids hid in the tall grass while we chatted with our fellow travelers on the tour, sipped local wine, and indulged in cheese, cured meats and a fresh baguette. After our bike ride around the grounds we were free to explore the palace and gardens at our leisure in the afternoon, which was the perfect time to show up since most of the tour buses were already gone. If we ever go back, you can bet I will be taking a tour with Fat Tire again.”
Tina – Los Gringos Locos
Six Weeks of Life Experiences in Belize
Our family went on a six week trip to Belize in spring of 2014. It was amazing. We experienced so many new things we never thought would be possible in this life. The trip was a series of up and downs due to sickness and car trouble but looking back… I don’t regret it and I feel blessed that our family had this experience. I love traveling!
Gaia – How to Travel Light
A Cruise in the Brazilian Amazon
“Travelling by boat with my son into the Brazilian Amazon was the shiniest highlight of my travelling year. It was an excursion by boat up the Negro River into Roraima state, with daily stops to swim, see animals and meet the different riverside communities. I do believe it’s important to allow children to discover and explore their country. But there’s more to it: the Amazon is not only a place for knowledge and discovery, but it’s also a lot of fun! In two weeks days my son swam in the deep, sweet waters of the Negro River every day, saw and learned a lot about wildlife and, most important, got to meet several children with different backgrounds and life stories. It was a vacation never to forget.”
This article originally appeared on Our Whole Village and is republished here with permission.