2013 rocked for traveling families, as evident in our recent Looking Back: 2013 Favorite Family Travel Destinations article. The good news is that 2014 promises to be another banner year. January 1st hit and as usual, our traffic spiked overnight — families are off and running planning their trips for the year. What’s hot?
Central and South America
Family Adventure Travel continues to gain momentum and Central/South America offers the ultimate adventure playground. Our friends at Kensington Tours report that families are loving their Private Yacht tours as a way to get close to wildlife, but not sacrifice flexibility. Amazingly, these trips aren’t as expensive as you think; their Belize Private Catamaran Adventure can cost $2,950 per person for a week-long trip that includes everything. Not bad when you consider that the trip is totally private and customized.
The Galapagos in Ecuador continues to attract families in spades. I’m talking to Lindblad Expeditions around one of their trips and space is already sparse for 2014 and it’s only January 7th! The multi-sport specialist Backroads has a fantastic list (and growing) of family trips all over the region including Argentina, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Cuba, and Costa Rica.
Speaking of the ultimate jungle tour, we’re heading down the Amazon River with Aqua Expeditions. Our four-night cruise will take us deep into the forest to see pink dolphins, monkeys, piranhas, and a whole other host of exotic animals. What’s incredible is that we can have this experience over a week-long school vacation break(!), thanks to affordable and efficient flight options from LAN Airlines, i.e. gone are the days when you need to have a two-week window for a trip like this.
Urban destinations in South America are getting more attention now too, no doubt fueled by the forthcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
We need to step up our game and cover more of Asia on Ciao Bambino as I was blown away at the International Luxury Travel Market this year by the number of resorts offering extensive and meaningful amenities to families.
Thailand remains Southeast Asia staple for families given the developed tourist infrastructure, although the ongoing political turmoil may shift that for a bit. Vietnam and Cambodia are growing in popularity; stay tuned for Nancy’s post about her life-changing trip to both countries with her four children last summer.
Bali with kids? I stayed at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan in Ubud in 1999 and there was not a child in sight. Now, they have all kinds of Kids For All Seasons cultural activities in place like learning about the life of a Balinese rice farmer and Balinese dance lessons. Times have changed!
Abercrombie and Kent shared that their 14-day Family Trip to China is a huge success. “China is continually one of our most popular family journeys,” says Jean Fawcett, A&K’s Media Relations Manager. “For 2013, China was our 3rd most popular family destination (behind Galapagos and East Africa).” Clearly, families want to understand all they can about one of the fastest growing countries in the world.
There’s tremendous interest in Africa right now. We loved our family safari in Africa in 2010, although I still felt like we were renegades heading out on this type of adventure with an 8-year-old.
Now, I’m boggled by the tour and lodging operators creating programming for families like Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa, AndBeyond through their creative WildCHILD education program for kids, and Sanctuary Retreats, who has customized family activities at many of their camps. Shooting arrows with the Masai children in the village next door at Sanctuary’s Olonana Tented Camp is one of my son’s coolest travel memories.
Despite the growth of more exotic markets for families, Europe remains a staple for families looking for cultural adventures. Italy is — and will probably always be — our most popular destination on Ciao Bambino. Our Italy clients come back to us again and again for help. Families never seem to tire of Italy with kids.
France has similar appeal, although popular opinion is still that France is overall less welcoming to children than their neighbors Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Properties like Country Kids Resort in the South of France address that head on with over-the-top family-focused amenities. You wouldn’t stay there without kids!
Northern Europe isn’t always the first trip to Europe, but it’s definitely a contender for the second trip with kids. Kristi is heading to Germany this summer — top-of-mind attractions include Bavaria for the alpine beauty and history, King Ludwig’s castles, and sites related to WII history.
Croatia continues to be a value-oriented option for families and offers the best of a beach and sightseeing vacation.
Many — but not all — of our readers live in North America and not everyone can afford or wants to head abroad for a vacation when we have so many incredible places to explore in our backyard. One travel category that continues to have a cult following is Family Ranch Vacations as these trips provide non-stop and logistic-free entertainment for all ages.
We’re going to grow our coverage of this category in 2014. Companies like the Spur Alliance and Ranch Web serve ad directories for many great options. In the meantime, be sure and read How To Choose The Right Ranch Vacation for tips on choosing the right fit for your family.
If you need help planning your 2014 family vacation, we now have a Family Vacation Consulting team who can help! Tell us where you want to go (or let us help you brainstorm) on My Trip Planner.