The Ten Best Family Vacation Destinations Around the World
Luxist readers have selected their favorite luxury vacation spots for families around the world. From Scotland, France, New Zealand, and South Africa to Hawaii, Colorado and the Galápagos Islands, these destinations offer wonderful programs tailored specifically for children, in addition to luxurious accommodations and other incredible amenities.
The top ten vacation destinations for families, according to our readers, include:
Abercrombie & Kent's River Barge Cruise Through the Burgundian Countryside (France)
Abercrombie & Kent offers many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for family vacations, but one of the most special trips has got to be its river barge cruise through the Burgundian countryside. A chartered seven day cruise aboard La Belle Epoque, A&K's 126-foot-long, 16.5 feet wide barge, is a luxurious and relaxing way to travel and taste award-winning Burgandy wines.
The barge, which is equipped with six cabins, all outside facing and each equipped with en-suite bathrooms. There's one deluxe double cabin; one deluxe twin/double; two twin/double cabins and two cabins each with twin beds. There's also a small swimming pool, a sauna and several sun decks. Bicycles are also available for anyone in the family wanting to cycle in the towns the barge visits. A gourmet chef is on board to prepare all of the meals, which are included in the cost of the excursion.
Seven day charters are available for $49,500 for a week (from March 28 through May 15, from July 25 to September 4 and from October 17 to November 13) for a maximum group size of 12, or a shared trip can be had at $4,350 per person, based on double occupancy. There are some discounts available for individuals or couples booking through August 31st. Children under the age of 12 can only be accommodated if the entire boat is chartered. From May 16 to July 24 and from September 5 to October 16, the seven day charter for a maximum group size of 12 is $57,50, or individuals can book for $4,990, based on double occupancy. Children under 18 are given a $300 price reduction.
Abercrombie & Kent Family Safari in Kenya (Kenya)
For families with a thirst for adventure, a safari trip to Africa may be the ideal cure to the winter blues. Leave the planning to Abercrombie & Kent, a luxury travel company that's been at it for half a century.
Founded in 1962 by a British family living in East Africa, Abercrombie & Kent offers an unparalleled family safari in Kenya. The 11-day itinerary starts with a flight to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya and cultural, economic and political hub of East Africa. Once there, you'll start your journey with a visit to Daphne Sheldrick's Baby Elephant Orphanage, where keepers sometimes sleep with lonely animals at night. Proceed to the Giraffe Center, where you'll feed long-necked beauties from the palm of your hand.
Next, you'll head out into the wilds with a drive to the Sweetwaters Reserve, one of the best places to spot a rare chimpanzee or black rhino. Then delve deep into bush country with a trip to the Samburu game reserve, rife with buffalo, lion, leopard among others; meet with members of the nomadic Samburu tribe and track game, catch butterflies, or even ride a camel.The next day, you'll spend the first of three days on the Masai Mara Game reserve, sleeping in tents near the Talek River and witnessing the vast expanse of the African savannah. Travel to a nearby village to learn about tribal culture and discover the proper way to throw a spear or light a fire with sticks. For amateur aviators, consider the optional hot air balloon safari before heading home.
Beaver Creek and Vail (Colorado)
If escaping to warmer weather isn't your optimal idea of a vacation, head west to the Rockies for a family ski trip. There, the air is clear, the powder is fresh, and the amenities are plenty. For the best of all three, try Beaver Creek and Vail.
Perhaps the most famous of America's ski resort towns, Vail has its reputation for good reason. Vail Mountain, at 5,289 skiable acres, is the largest single mountain ski resort in the U.S.; the town of Vail is a luxury ski bum's dream. The area, which is reminiscent of renowned resorts such as Switzerland's St. Moritz, Italy's Cortina and Spain's Val d'Aran, it is a year-round destination for families with plenty of activities geared for all ages. Its legendary ski slopes make Vail the ultimate place to enjoy world-class skiing and snowboarding in addition to Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating. Kids ages four and under ski free; children's lift tickets start at age five and go to age 12. Nightlife includes world-class theater productions and some of the best dining in Colorado.
A few miles away, tucked away in the mountains, is neighbor Beaver Creek Village. This tony enclave offers a village-to-village ski experience with Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead and turns into a miniature cosmopolitan center every night, playing host to live jazz concerts, Broadway-level theater, visiting symphonies, films and other attractions. Bars and taverns line the warmly lit streets. For kids, there's a four-lane tubing hill and an ice skating rink, in addition to one of the best ski schools in the country, if not the world.
Four Seasons Hotel in Hualalai (Hawaii)
Perhaps the most kid-friendly of Luxist's best winter family vacation nominees is the Four Seasons Hotel in Hualalai, Hawaii (see photo above). The island resort, which sits on a picture-perfect stretch of beach on the Big Island's Kona Coast, and its surrounding areas, offer a range of experience that will suit everyone from baby to grandma.
Situated between the roaring Pacific Ocean and a lush jungle with volcanoes beyond, Hualalai makes for quite the dramatic setting. Nearby attractions include an on-site beach, spa, and two restaurants including the elegant beachside Pahu i`a. Guest can work off dinnertime decadence at the Hualalai Sports Club, which boasts cardio equipment, free weights, basketball courts and a 25-meter outdoor lap pool. There's also a private 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed signature golf course that winds over 7,100 yards.Myriad options beckon beyond the bounds of the Four Seasons' grounds. A half hour drive takes you to Kauna`oa Beach and its snorkeling and surfing opportunities. Those willing to endure a 2.5-hour car ride can explore Volcano National Park, home to Mt. Kilauea, the world's most active volcano. The 11-mile Crater Rim Drive is a scenic attraction for all ages; the more adventurous can spring for a helicopter ride over the crater. Local legend says the volcano erupts whenever the goddess Pele is angry, and she must be livid – Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983.
Galápagos Islands Cruise with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic (Ecuador)
Lindblad Expeditions, in partnership with National Geographic, offers a cruise to the Galápagos Islands. The educational 10 day expedition takes passengers to the Galápagos Islands, also known as the "Land of Darwin", which are located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. The islands are a natural habitat for some of the world's most interesting and unusual animals. Only in the Galápagos can you come face to face with wildlife up close that has never developed a fear of people, from the diverse bird life to the giant Galápagos tortoise. The Galápagos are one of the most fascinating travel destinations in the world both from a geographical and a wildlife perspective.
The itinerary includes visits to seven or more islands, including Floreana where guests can snorkel and observe a large colony of sea lions. At Fernandina, guests will see flamingos, visit a tortoise breeding center, caves and beaches. On the excursion to Fernandina Island, the youngest island in Galápagos, guests will observe marine iguanas and see dramatic volcanoes. Activities include Zodiacs and kayaks that take guests to the volcanic shores and pristine beaches. There's also an undersea program that utilizes underwater video, glass-bottom boat and hydrophone that bring seldom seen or heard worlds to life.
Gleneagles Hotel (Scotland)
When the Gleneagles Hotel opened in 1924, it was described as 'a Riviera in the Highlands' and 'the eighth wonder of the world'. Then as now, the Gleneagles Hotel was the glorious playground for people dedicated to leisure and pleasure in the most luxurious surroundings.
Set in 850 acres of Perthshire countryside, Gleneagles is a unique place for families to escape. It is home to three of the top Scottish Championship Golf Courses and also offers a wide range of exhilarating outdoor leisure activities, all of which exemplify the longstanding Scottish sporting heritage.
Gleneagles is like going to camp as a family, albeit a luxurious one, with its world-class sporting schools. Dedicated to the cultivation of classic sportsmanship, the schools offer children and adults rewarding 'hands on' instructional programs, fueling the trend to learn while on vacation and introducing the simple pleasures of country sports to families.
World-class instruction is offered in a variety of outdoor pursuits including Falconry (where kids take part in a falconry lesson and learn how to cast the hawk from their gloved hand and then call it back), Horseback Riding, Fishing, Shooting and Archery. There's a Golf Academy as well as a Gundogs School which offers a unique opportunity to experience gundog training. There's also a Junior Off Road and All-Terrain Off Road Course available for kids aged four to nine. Here, kids learn valuable driving skills at the wheel of mini Land Rover replicas over a purpose built course, designed to mimic the grown ups' off road course. Children ten years or older learn how to operate Argo cats, which are eight-wheel-drive, all-weather, all-terrain, tiller-controlled vehicles that operate on land and in water on a challenging purpose-built course.
During the months of June, July and August, Gleneagles also offers a special summer program for kids that features a variety of programs and classes including clock making, boat building (using recycled materials) cupcake decorating classes, "own-a-pony" course, golf camp, Spy School and introduction to polo classes.
Grand Wailea (Maui, Hawaii)
Grand Wailea is a resort many call "the best in the world". Located on Maui´s most beautiful and serene beach, Grand Wailea offers stunning ocean views and is surround by mesmerizing gardens and lush tropical flowers. This expansive Grand Wailea resort truly reflects the natural beauty of Maui. It also boasts one of the largest and most valuable collections of international art in all the Hawaiian Islands.
The Grand Wailea offers endless possibilities for any age. Lounge by one of the many pools, including the Wailea Canyon Activity Pool, which has nine free-from pools, a 2,000 foot long river pool with waterslides and waterfalls, an adult only pool, and baby sand/beach pool. There are also five championship golf courses in close proximity, as well as an 11-court tennis complex and a 50,000 square foot award-winning spa on the grounds of the resort. Steps away, is Wailea Beach, which is not only the best beach on the island, but it is rated one of the top in the world. There you can snorkel with turtles, boogie board, kayak, make sand castles, or simply relax in a cabana and witness the perfect sunset.
Setting this resort apart from the rest of the pack are the day and night programs offered by Camp Grande, a 20,000 square-foot-facility which is a mini-resort for kids 5 to 12 years old. Activities may include sand sculpting contests, guided tide pooling and reef exploration, swimming, relay races, games, arts & crafts (such as making an authentic Hawaiian lei or a Puka shell necklace), and scavenger hunts. The evening camp features walkie-talkie tag, hotel scavenger hunts, crab hunting and theater games. There's also a movie theater with wide selection of movies, Nintendo game room, Foosball and ping pong tables, an indoor play area with Lego blocks and board games and a large crafts room. Facilities are open to all Grand Wailea guests who do not participate in Camp Grande programs, although children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult.
Gallery: Grand Wailea Resort Hotel, Maui
Kona Village Resort (Big Island of Hawaii)
Kona Village Resort, on the Big Island of Hawaii features serene lagoons surrounded by lush, tropical landscaping as well as dramatic, surreal, black lava cliffs that plunge to meet the ocean. Guests stay in thatched roof hales (Polynesian-inspired bungalows) on 82 oceanfront acres. No televisions, telephones, radios, air conditioners are there to distract. Coconuts supplant traditional "no disturb" signs,
Included in the guest rate are all daily meals, an award-winning, traditional Hawaiian luau and activities from snorkeling and tennis, to lei-making, stargazing and fishing the traditional way with bamboo poles.
Water-based activities include an Outrigger Canoe Program in which guests learn to paddle a canoe, Hawaiian-style. A Wiwo'ole Ribcraft Adventure is available for seasonal whale watching as well as cruises to hidden snorkeling sites with Scooters (dive propulsion vehicles). There's also stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, and SCUBA diving (scuba dive instruction and certification programs are available as Kona Village is a PADI certified resort).
Kona Village offers a variety of kids programs. A program for kids ages 5 to 12 (except May and September) features fishing contests, Hawaiian net throwing, ama ama (crab) catching, coconut painting, net throwing, and Hawaiian crafts, mixed with pool visits and ball games.
A Junior Alaka'i nalu program is available and is exclusively tailored for ages 13 to 17. This three day program includes such daily activities as stand-up paddle boarding, windsurfing, free diving, zodiac boat captain, outrigger canoe paddling, sailing, scooter snorkeling, scuba diving and shoreline fishing. The program includes three, four-hour sessions and is available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Gallery: Kona Village Resort, Hawaii
Ebony Lodge at Singita Game Reserve (Sabi Sand, South Africa)
Notching up virtually every hotel and travel award since its inception in the mid-1990's, the Ebony Lodge at Singita Game Reserve at Sabi Sand, South Africa, masterfully balances hospitality, conservation and community, setting it apart from other safari experiences. Singita believes in "fewer beds in larger areas", the idea that a minimal amount of guests would have little impact on the land, and its fauna and flora. This benefits the environment, but also provides up-close, intimate experiences for the guest, with numerous opportunities where they can interact with the surroundings and learn more about conservation principles.
Singita Ebony Lodge offers twelve suites located in charming, elegant and secluded thatched cottages. Each suite is equipped with its own en-suite bathroom and shower, outdoor shower, heated private swimming pool, double-sided fireplace, air-conditioning, private lounge, direct-dial telephones, internet access, and game-viewing deck. Rooms are decorated in Colonial-style with a mix of antiques and modern luxuries, providing a homey, lived-in feel. While relaxing or sipping a cocktail on the private deck, it's not uncommon to see elephant, buffalo and antelope grazing only meters away at any time of day.
Singita welcomes families and offers a reduced rate for children. Kids over the age of 10, sharing with two full-paying adults in a family suite, are accommodated at 50% of the daily rate. Children under the age of 10 can be accommodated if the two family suites or the lodge are booked on an exclusive use basis.
The daily rate is approximately $1,500 per person, based on a double occupancy. The rate includes twice-daily open Range Rover game drives with with professional guides and trackers, as well as all meals and all beverages, including spirits, liquers and premium wines (excluding champagne). Laundry and valet service is also included.
Treetops Lodge & Estate (New Zealand)
Some families prefer the beach, some the ski slopes. But for those who find solace in the forest, it's hard to beat Treetops Lodge & Estate in New Zealand.
Nestled in a rugged 2,500 acres of native forest on the edge of the Mamaku Plateau, Treetops boasts a game reserve, seven trout streams, four lakes, over 70 kilometers of hiking trails, plus mountain biking and horse riding opportunities. Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest, is less than an hour away by car; Cape Kidnappers, with its dramatic seaside golf course, is a three hour drive. Located 140 miles southeast of Auckland, Treetops is the gem of greater Rotorua. The area is a trout-fishing mecca and is also home to some of the most colorful geothermal features in the world – bubbling mud pools, volcanic craters and geysers. Some of New Zealand's best vineyards – Craggy Range, Te Mata, Sileni – are a stone's throw from the lodge. The area is also a major hub of the Maori, New Zealand's aboriginal inhabitants, whose carefully carved meeting houses dot the landscape.
Gallery: More from Treetops