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10 Places You Absolutely Need to Visit While the Kids are Young


With just eighteen summer holidays to look forward to as parents, it’s important to think very carefully about where you’re going to spend each one. It may be easy to spend your family vacation in your beach home or at the local amusement park, but it pays to think outside your comfort zone and think about places you absolutely need to visit while the kids are still young.

If you’re looking for that big “Aha!” moment with your kids and want to leave permanent travel marks on their memory, there are vacation spots that are worth considering, both here and abroad. Here are our ten family-friendly vacation ideas you absolutely must consider before your kids grow up.

The Hawaiian Islands

Everyone dreams about a trip to Hawaii. The Hawaiian Islands offer kids of all ages the trip of a lifetime – beautiful beaches with snorkeling off the coast, surfing and boogie boarding, lovely ocean breezes, local culture, sublime sunsets, mountain hikes, horseback riding, luaus and perfect weather. Family excursions include trips to historical and natural sites like Pearl Harbor, hiking Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, swimming in lagoons or embarking on a trip down Maui’s celebrated Road to Hana. Whether you choose Oahu, Maui, Kauai or the Big Island, this is a vacation not soon to be forgotten.

Galapagos Islands


A trip to the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site 600 miles off the Ecuadorean coast, is ideal for wildlife-loving families. The active volcanoes have a diversity of wildlife that can’t be matched – from sea lions to marine iguanas to penguins. It’s also known as the place that helped to spawn Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, giving its islands mythical status. Kids can swim with sea lions, snorkel with turtles and meet friendly iguanas, providing one memorable experience after another.


Rome is a great place to visit with kids, as is all of Italy. Italians love children and they will often stop to ogle at babies and young children. Rome is also a great starting point if you’re planning to tour Italy. If you’re planning to visit the Vatican, make a reservation or hire a walking tour guide. Also be mindful of the time of year, as the crowds can get very heavy, and climb the Cupola. When you’re done, tour the Colosseum and Forum, the Pantheon, Santa Maria del Popolo, Campo di Fiori, Piazza Navona, and take your kids to see Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s and the Trevi Fountain. Let kids run around the city’s open piazzas or in Villa Borghese, and indulge in several scoops of gelato every chance you get.

Walt Disney World

No list of this nature is legitimate without Walt Disney World on it. It’s got the excitement of the rides, characters, fireworks, and magic. Kids truly want nothing else than to visit Orlando’s Disney parks. It’s not the cheapest trip in the world, but there are times of the year to visit that are less crowded and expensive, like between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Spread out the sights over the course of your vacation, setting aside time for the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as a few character meet & greets and the water parks. You’ll love the look on your little girl’s face when she meets Elsa from Frozen in person.

San Diego


San Diego offers a lush, scenic coastline with sandstone cliffs, pristine beaches and sea caves, as well as perfect weather and a plethora of memorable attractions. Families can spend a full day at the San Diego Zoo, one of the best and biggest zoos in the world, observing pandas, polar bears, elephants, and other amazing animals. Lego fans will love a visit to LEGOLAND® California’s 50+ rides, shows and attractions. SeaWorld San Diego remains one of San Diego’s biggest tourist draws and is known all over the world over as the home of Shamu, a famous killer whale. At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, kids can get up close and personal to live animals in habitats that mimic their natural ones, from Africa to Asia. When you have time to spare, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim is not too far of a drive.

New York City

New York City has been called the greatest city on earth, and some would agree. A trip to the top of the Empire State Building will solidify that point of view, as kids will balk at the impressive views from 102 floors above. Afterwards, head west to TKTS and book half-price tickets to a popular Broadway show. The combination is definitely one for the memory books. Another day, take a stroll around NYC’s natural gem, Central Park. Add a trip to the Natural History Museum, the largest natural museum in the world that houses more than 30 million artifacts including dinosaur skeletons and the Rose Center for Earth & Space, and a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see their incredible Egyptian collection. After a day of culture, history and sightseeing, indulge in a delicious pizza pie, the ultimate, classic NY cuisine.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park, is on a lot of family’s bucket lists. It’s easy to see why with its breathtaking 2.2 million acres, most of it wilderness, with an abundance of mammals including bison, wolves and bears, a geyser called Old Faithful, hot springs, canyons and waterfalls. Whether you go camping or stay in a lodge, the experience of seeing one of the greatest wonders of the world is bonding and unforgettable for the entire family.



It’s easy to fill up an itinerary for a memorable family vacation in Paris. At the Eiffel Tower, kids will not only love aerial views of the City of Lights but they will also love the journey to the top. Kids will also appreciate Parisian art, best viewed at the Louvre and D’Orsay. Other must-do activities include a trip to the Notre-Dame Cathedral, a walk down Champs-Elysees, a visit to Montmartre, a Seine river cruise, and a visit to royal, stately parks such as Champ de Mars and Jardin de Luxembourg. The magic of Paris is simply roaming the streets, sampling the crepes and chocolate croissants, shopping at flea markets, sitting in cafes, and people-watching.

Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is an American city that demands a visit with the kids. It has a dose of history every which way you look and, even better, most attractions are free. The Smithsonian Museums offer free educational experiences for impressionable minds – from the National Museum of Natural History to the National Air & Space Museum. You can inspire your future news anchor at the Newseum or gaze at pandas at the National Zoo. From the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in the National Mall, both parents and children will have ample opportunities to share their knowledge about past U.S. Presidents and history.



Greece has so much to offer traveling families. It’s the birthplace of Western civilization, hence offering a rich history and plethora of sacred sites. Greek mythology tales will thrill your children along the way, and for older kids studying history, a Greek vacation is ideal for bringing their studies to life. It’s also awe-inspiring in its beauty, with its Mediterranean coastline. Whether you choose to island hop or stay in one place, you’ll have sandy beaches with crystal-clear waters ripe for snorkeling, rocky coves, ruins, olive groves, nature reserves, delicious cuisine, water parks, beaches and swimming pools. Its capital has plenty to keep children busy – from the Acropolis and beyond, where kids can retrace ancient history.


Holly Rosen Fink of The Culture Mom contributed this to MiniTime. She is the founder of Pivoting Media who blogs about her love of culture and travel.


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Comments (38)

  1. Diana 07/22/2016 at 1:35 pm

    This article sounds like it was written by someone who doesn’t actually travel let alone has attempted it with kids. I’m not sure why some of these places are “better” for kids than others that were left off the list (like Iceland, for instance). What is the criteria being used for determining if it’s a good place for traveling with kids – a place that dotes on kids? A place with activities for kids? What about all complexities of traveling- was any of that considered? Kids don’t have a ton of patience to trek all the way to the Galapagos – that journey takes multiple legs as it is!

  2. Elizabeth 07/22/2016 at 12:49 am

    I usually don’t comment on these things; but since we have visited six out of ten of these places, I can’t resist.
    My husband is in the Military and we are stationed in the Middle East. Because of that, it is actually cheaper for us to visit Europe and the surrounding areas. Also, keep in mind that every child is different. I have a two and and a four years old and they have enjoyed our trips. My four year old daughter absolutely loved Paris and Athens. She still talks about “the tower” in France and the gardens in Greece.
    We keep it inexpensive by renting studio apartments if we are staying for more than three days, or affordable hotels if staying longer. Also, we shop at local markets to keep the food cost low and we do kid’s friendly activities (not a lot of museums, if you know what I mean).
    Those are my two cents…
    Btw, we just came back from Istanbul and I have to say is a great destination as well. On top of the beauty and the history, people are super kid friendly.

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  4. Todd 02/18/2016 at 5:14 am

    What the hell. Do you even have kids?

  5. Erin 02/17/2016 at 1:43 pm

    Great article for travelers! I am always hunting for ideas of where to go next. While I am NOT in the 1 percent, I do make sure my son gets at least one passport stamp a year. I also don’t have new furniture and we share one car. Travel is what we spend it all on. My son has Traveled through the US, Caribean, Europe, Central and South America all before age 5. It just depends what you want to spend your money on!

  6. Lizabeth 02/17/2016 at 10:26 am

    How about a list for people that aren’t rich.

  7. Sunshiny77 02/17/2016 at 10:13 am

    Although, I’m all about being a consumer & getting out to travel the world with the 5 people in my family… I’m happy to support local & “settle” on the library or park, the zoo or a museum. Anything really, that doesn’t cost me $200-$550 just for each of my children’s plane ticket ( dinner/ snack/ baggage NOT included). Great ideas though. Perhaps, once #berniesanders is elected… I’ll be able take all that saved up medical cost and put it towards towards a fun filled family vacation.

  8. Heather 02/17/2016 at 8:33 am

    I applaud the idea of consolidating a list of places to go with small children but this list is so ameri-centric not to mention insanely out of budgetary reach for most parents. And what is with Paris/ Rome for small children?? Great cities but not a “go to” holiday destination for those with small children. Perhaps a bit more research and effort with the next list.

  9. Georgia 02/17/2016 at 5:24 am

    Tha Parthenon is in Greece NOT Rome😖

    • Andrea 02/17/2016 at 7:56 am

      It says Pantheon, not Parthenon….different place. And yes, that one is in fact in Rome.

    • M 02/18/2016 at 5:06 am

      Though the Parthenon is in Greece, the Pantheon, which is what the article mentions, is in Rome.

    • Laura 04/25/2016 at 6:34 pm

      Pantheon is in Rome as indicated
      Parthenon is in Greece as you indicated

  10. Kathryn 02/17/2016 at 12:26 am

    Don’t forget London, an amazing city for kids.

  11. Mike 09/02/2015 at 6:51 am

    For east coasters on a budget check out Michigan. Its driveable from most of the coast and very reasonably priced. Its got all the culture of a big city in SE michigan and all the nature up north. 11,000 freshwater lakes. Rent a cabin for a week and cook your own food. Quite reasonable.

  12. Jaime 06/18/2015 at 7:04 am

    Hahahahaha I’ll be lucky if I see half these places AT ALL let alone “while my kids are young.” Thanks for the laugh 1%er

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  14. Alexis 06/17/2015 at 11:44 am

    We’ve been to many of these places with our 3 kids (age 3, 6, and 8). I think traveling with kids and making it a priority is one of the best gifts you can give them. I don’t understand the negativity in these comments! Even little kids can benefit from traveling to new and exotic locations (just an example… )

    • Amanda 09/20/2016 at 4:38 am

      The negativity is coming from people who would love to be able to do this, but simply cannot afford to. It’s not even about making it a priority, it’s simple a non-starter for many families. We have three young kids, and we live on just under $3000 a month. By the time we get done with bills (and no, there’s no room for cut back on them), we’re left with about $900 for gas, household items, and food. There’s simply no money left over to put aside for going on trips like this.

  15. Erika 06/17/2015 at 11:36 am

    Every single parent reading this is like “Are you effing kidding me!?” Every parent with a special needs child probably left before even getting to #3. And every single parent of a special needs child just had a brain aneurysm.

    If you want to travel, instill wonder, bond and have teachable moments take then to national (and state) parks, museums, zoos etc. And don’t wait until they’re 8 to do it! My boy has LOVED that stuff since he could walk–it was cheaper AND BETTER than Paris or Rome for crying out loud. I’m truly stunned this made it on the site. Disappointing and disheartening.

    • Cherrimae 06/17/2015 at 5:57 pm

      Paris is pretty good. Otherwise, I tend to agree with you.

  16. Andrea 06/17/2015 at 10:51 am

    I had such high hopes for this article based on the title. I have a 2 and 4 year old and travel is so hard. We recently went to Honolulu and were displeased to realize how much of the vacation we wasted in traffic. We learned a lot of what NOT to do from that vacation and had a great time in Destin last year. I am on the lookout for other child-friendly vacation destinations for “young children” which is so different than the 8-15 year old age-bracket. I don’t think this author understands that “young children” for most people means children under 8 years old. If they are older, then most of the problems of traveling with young children are moot.

    Has this author actually ever taken a child under 10 to these locations? New York City? Paris? Washington DC? I’ve been to those cities as an adult and there is no way I would take a child under 10 there. I doubt the author has done so either.

    My suggestions for an easy vacation for YOUNG children would be:
    – Destin, Florida
    – Cannon Beach, Oregon
    – Sun Valley, Idaho
    – Coronado Island (which is a whole lot different than greater San Diego), California

    Please add more in the comments if you have had success somewhere! Clearly this author was no help.

    • PDXMom 06/21/2015 at 2:14 am

      Seabrook, Washington – Seabrook Cottage Rentals

  17. Randi 06/17/2015 at 9:41 am

    Oh, I so needed the laugh today. This author is out of touch with reality for sure.

    • cherrimae 06/17/2015 at 6:08 pm

      You’re right, she has a huge career, and a working spouse as well. It isn’t really fair to suggest that anyone but the top 1 percent could afford to do all of this in a lifetime, never mind in time to make any kind of a deadline. And most people will have to pick one. The way WE’ve been able to do some – and I know we’re lucky – and we’re NOT young – put every single expense on a credit card for points for years – forget miles for airfare, use them all for hotel points – then just cover the airfare, get the hotels (pretty nice ones, too) for free, each some nights well, other nights cheap – never those expensive breakfasts except once a trip – coffee and yogurt and fruit, please. Maui is gorgeous. I don’t see the appeal of Greece with kids per se. Where your ancestors are from always seems like a drawer. Oh – and here’s the writer’s status — she’s not pulling in minimum wage. She is currently the founder and CEO of Pivoting Media, a marketing consultancy that focuses on mindful social media.

      She is a frequent contributor to The Broad Side, BlogHer, Indiewire’s Women and Hollywood, Family Vacation Critic, Ciao Bambino and This Girl Travels. Two years ago she edited Come Closer: How Tourism is Shaping the Future of Nations.

      Advocacy is an important part of her work. She has contributed to the ABC Million Mom Campaign, ONE Moms mission. Last year she was featured on ABC Nightline and Good Morning, America talking about hunger in the U.S. She has also spearheaded two very successful fundraising campaigns for St. Jude Hospital and Room to Grow.

      She was recently an Associate Producer on The Best of Everything at the Here Theater and Producer of the last three productions of the NYC production of Listen to Your Mother. She lives in Larchmont, NY with her husband and two children.

      • Cherrimae 06/17/2015 at 6:11 pm

        There are some super weird typos in there. Sorry about that.

        • Wendy 02/21/2016 at 8:00 am

          Yes! And bad grammar/sentence structure. It was hard to read and take seriously.

          • Wendy 02/21/2016 at 8:01 am

            I really thought you were talking about the article! Sorry! I wasn’t judging your comments.

  18. Natalie 06/17/2015 at 9:09 am

    da fuq?!? For a family of 5 from the east coast, Hawaii alone would cost $10,000 including food and attraction. I was born there and I can’t afford to take my family. Most of these “must do” trips would cost the same. Most families with children cannot afford $10,000 a summer to go on vacation.

  19. Amy Leising 06/17/2015 at 8:32 am

    Travel is our favorite family activity – we really bond by having new experiences together. We’ve done most of these, five of them with all 3 of our kids. We didn’t start international travel until our youngest was 8, when she could manage her own luggage. The more places we see and the more people we meet, the bigger our travel bucket list becomes!

  20. Candace 06/17/2015 at 7:56 am

    Is the author assuming you start at age 8 and take one vacation a year to these extravagant (and extremely expensive) locations until the child is 18? Any younger and the kid won’t be able to stand the long flights, or remember the trip! Put that money towards college instead, then when your kid becomes a doctor, they can afford to take YOU to these places! HA!

  21. Meghan 06/17/2015 at 7:01 am

    We travel internationally with our 4 children fairly often and I think there are much better places for the kiddos than these. Disney World is a joke, the kids are much better off at Disneyland (park is smaller, not nearly as much waisted space and it even has better rides) or Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, if your stay is in Florida. I have to say above and beyond any Disney Park is a Disney Cruise. Disney owns Castaway Cay in the Bahamas and when we went 3 years ago, it was a beautiful location, with all of the Disney Characters.
    Greece I would agree with as well as New York and San Diego (just make sure to stop in LaJolla). My kids loved Barbados, it has gorgeous beaches and is rich in history. But really, its just about making memories and im sure many kids would be just as happy pitching a tent in the backyard and having a “sleepover” with mom and dad.

  22. lora 06/17/2015 at 6:49 am

    Absolute insanity. The total cost for these ten “must-do” trips for a family of 4 traveling from the East Coast in the fall would be around $50,000 — yes, I did the math — and that doesn’t include food or attractions. This is definitely the wrong site for me.

    • Sara 06/17/2015 at 8:01 am

      Yep! I was directed here from a link on Scary Mommy… can’t believe they posted this, its not their demographic at all. Talk about trying to make moms feel inadequate. Super proud that my kids are excited to go to a new campground or beach.

  23. janice geddes 06/17/2015 at 2:08 am

    This is a list most adults aspire to but can’t afford. How about something realistic and leaving some dream trips for the children to take when they can afford to travel on their own, take a honeymoon, or have a Junior year abroad. Even those are out of reach for most people. We took our kids to Washington DC, Gettysburg, to Williamsburg, and to visit family and some of those were a stretch.

    • Sara 06/17/2015 at 7:59 am

      I agree… most of the more affordable (travel by car) options are meant for older children. Sure there is some neat stuff in DC, but a 5 year old is not going to grasp the concept of all the memorials. The overseas options listed are more like dream getaways like you said… someday my husband I hope to make it overseas.. once. 🙂

  24. Rachel 06/17/2015 at 12:26 am

    So nowhere affordable for normal folk who pay mortgage and childcare costs etc

  25. Alex 06/11/2015 at 2:34 pm

    Paris? I don’t recall Paris is stroller friendly. So I wouldn’t recommend Paris. I know because I lived there until I was 28. And I go there every months and struggle in the metro or in the street with young kids, strollers, suitcases etc… Since I have kids I don’t go downtown anymore.

  26. Mihaela 06/11/2015 at 9:12 am

    Also Bulgaria! It is a very beautiful country with a rich history and wonderful people, beautiful mountains and sunny beaches.