This family travel bucket list is filled with over 100 family adventures around the world. We love to travel as a family! There are so many places to explore together, the options sometimes seem endless.
Organized by region, this family bucket list will inspire you to plan your next family vacation, long-term travel, outdoor family vacation, or once-in-a-lifetime family adventure! We’ve also indicated age ranges when applicable, though, of course, this may vary by family.
This article may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our recommendations are independent and are in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative.
Talking with your family about bucket list ideas? At the bottom of this post Download a free family-friendly game of Would you Rather: World Edition!
Know where you want to head? Use the Table of Contents to skip around!
Family Travel Bucket List Europe:
Watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
All the pomp and circumstance of the Changing of the Guard symbolizes London for me. Ideally, pop into Buckingham Palace for a tour after the ceremony. Buckingham Palace has been the official London home of the Royal Family since 1837.
Changing of the Guard usually occurs at 11 am, except for Saturday and Tuesday. Make sure to check the official schedule before you go.
Visit Stonehenge at Sunset
Stonehenge is closed to the public by sunset, but you can book a special access ticket to watch the sun dip behind the stones.
The Stone Circle Experience gives you access to inside the stone circle either before or after general admission hours. These are timed tickets that allow you to wander among the stones up until 9:00 in the evening. Children are welcome (under 5 are free), but please don’t touch the stones.
If you are concerned with visiting at sunset, you can combine Stonehenge with a trip to Windsor Castle, and the famous town of Bath, all in a one-day trip from London. What a great way to see three bucket-list-worthy sites all at once (and it’s affordable!)
Road Trip around Scotland
Explore Edinburgh, search for the mythical Nessie in Loch Ness, see the reindeer in Cairngorms National Park, and visit the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides Islands. We’re hoping to do this soon, hopefully in the warmer summer months!
Stay in a Castle in Ireland
The beds are quite short, but you’ll never forget a night in a real Irish Castle. We stayed at Cabra Castle, in county Kingscourt and I’d go back in a heartbeat!
We arrived after dark on a rainy night, so we didn’t get to explore the grounds as much as I’d like. It feels very grand to pass a suit of armor on your way down to dinner!
Swim with Wild Dolphins in the Azores
Put on your mask and snorkel and go see the dolphins where they live and play! Best for ages 8 and up.
The Azores are nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic with a population of just under 250,000 people. They are an autonomous region of Portugal, with a subtropical climate. The Azores are a 2 1/2 hour flight from Lisbon.
The beaches are rocky and the terrain is wild- you’ll find geothermal hot springs, active volcanos, and natural lava swimming holes. These islands are a great place for whale watching and dolphin experiences.
Sing Do-Re-Mi in Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg is known as the birthplace of Mozart, has dramatic views of the Alps, and you can visit some areas where the Sound of Music was filmed.
To really get into the spirit, take Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour of the areas shown in the film. They have bikes for adults and kids, as well as tandem bikes.
You can also take a Sound of Music tour by bus that includes stops in the town of St Gilgen Mozartplatz, and the town of Mondsee, where you’ll see the Basilika St. Michael where the wedding of Maria and Baron von Trapp was filmed.
Book Now: The Original Sound of Music Tour
Salzburg is a wonderful place to visit for Christmas- explore the festive markets and take a carriage ride through town.
Tour the Colosseum in Rome
There is so much history in Rome (and also a lot of cats). Eat gelato and take in centuries of ruins. I loved Rome and could have stayed for weeks.
I went to the Colosseum on my own, and think I would have learned a lot more, with a tour guide. When we visit as a family I’m definitely going to book a tour of this incredible place to help it come alive for all of us.
Book Now: Guided Tour of the Colosseum
Picnic Under the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is the first landmark that my kids recognized from outside our country. Visiting it will turn what they have seen in books or on maps into a real place that exists outside their imaginations.
Choose a treat or two from one of the gorgeous patisserie windows and picnic under the famous monument.
Visit the Guernsey Islands
A little off the beaten path, but easy to get to, these Channel Islands get the most sunshine in the UK!
Enjoy afternoon tea, look for puffins, learn to surf, kayak, or relax on a sandy beach. Older kids will want to tour the tunnels built by the Germans during their occupation during World War II.
As a bonus, these islands don’t count toward your Schengen Area days!
See the Little Mermaid in Coppenhagen
This small bronze statue welcomes visitors to Copenhagen harbor. Denmark is consistently rated as one of the happiest countries in the world.
Take a picture next to the mermaid, stroll through the old city, then hop on a canal tour to see the city from the water. Head over to Natures Playground in Valbyparken to climb and explore.
Marvel at the Alhambra in Spain
The Alhambra in Granada is a large palace complex with elaborate gardens, and water features. You can easily wander all day here if you love staring at intricate tile patterns like I do!
The Alhambra was the royal residence and court in the mid-13th Century, it then became a Christian court in 1492. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a top example of Moorish architecture, and a fascinating mix of the East and the West.
I traveled to Granada pre-kids just to see this astounding site, and I can’t wait to explore this bucket list palace with the kids!
Explore the Canals of Amsterdam
Amsterdam was one of Waker’s favorite stops in Europe, and we’re excited to share it with the kids!
Visit the Anne Frank House to explore the secret annex where she and her family hid for years. This can be an emotional visit, use your judgment for age appropriateness.
See Tulips in Bloom in the Netherlands
From mid-April to early May, the tulips bloom in breathtaking fields of color. You can see the tulips about 40 km from Amsterdam in an area called Bollenstreek.
This area is also famous for stunning views of traditional Holland. The Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse are a popular place to view the fields. You can rent a bike to explore the area, or even take a helicopter over the fields.
Visit Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall
Checkpoint Charlie is a famous access point between East and West Berlin during the cold war. There is a museum there, and they’ve left the checkpoint booth, sandbags, and flags so that you can imagine what it might have been like during the cold war. You’ll find it at Friedrichstraße 43-45.
To view what’s left of the Berlin Wall, head to the East Side Gallery to see the longest stretch of surviving wall. More than 100 artists have decorated this area of the wall. Start at the Warschauer Straße or Ostbahnhof railway stations.
Visit the Acropolis in Athens
Seeing the Acropolis tower over the city of Athens is an awe-inspiring sight. Climb the hill and explore this archeological wonder.
The amount of history surrounding you can be overwhelming- try this Mythology Tour to put it into perspective and keep the kids entertained.
Book Now: Acropolis Mythology Tour
Make sure to stop by Syntagma Square to watch the changing of the guard. Consider adding a day trip to your family holiday to see the Temple of Poseidon as well.
Explore the Greek Islands
The blue and white color palette of the Greek Islands just oozes relaxation. Take a morning ferry from Athens and enjoy the ride over.
The Cyclades Islands are the closest to Athens and offer plenty of great options. I’ve spent time on Santorini and Naxos and loved them both for different reasons.
Mykonos is also on our list of possible islands. From beautiful beaches to a calm atmosphere, wonderful fresh food, ruins, volcanos, and stunning sunsets, Greece has it all. It’s best to visit from late May to September.
Eat Chocolate and Waffles in Brussels
Who doesn’t love, chocolate, waffles, french fries, and beer for the grown-ups? Brussels offers specialties in all these areas! See the famous Mannekin Pis, then visit the Royal Palace and the Musee de Magritte.
Explore Medieval Castles in Romania
Bran Castle is the most famous of Romania’s Medieval castles, but its connection with Dracula is tenuous, and it can get crowded.
Corvin Castle and Peles Castle are beautiful and less visited castles. While you are there, sunbathe on the edge of the Black Sea, visit the Berca Mud volcanoes, and stroll the old town of Sighisoara.
Take a Boat into the Blue Cave in Croatia
Similar to the Blue Grotto near Capri, the light inside this cave is supposed to be incredible. The Blue Cave is on Bisevo Island, you can take a speedboat here from Split or Dubrovnik. You’ll enter the cave in a wooden boat- it’s best to visit on a bright sunny day, ideally between 11 am and noon.
Book Now: Blue Cave Small Group Tour
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride over Cappadocia
Cappadocia in central Turkey is known for its tall rock formations called “fairy chimneys”. This otherworldly landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
One of the best ways to see this area is by hot air balloon- most balloons go up in the early morning for sunrise. To visit the area, take a flight into Kayseri or Nevsehir.
Base yourself in Goreme and stay in a cave hotel. Make sure to visit Uchisar Castle and the underground city of Kaymakli.
Taking a hot air balloon ride has long been on my travel adventure bucket list! I had planned to take one over the deserts of Jordan but windy conditions canceled the flight.
You can also take a balloon ride over coffee farms in Columbia, the temples of Bagan, Myanmar, or Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The most inexpensive place to fulfill this travel dream is the town of Vang Vieng, Laos.
Hot Air Balloon rides are generally for ages 6+, though some companies go by height (minimum 4′ 6″). Keep in mind that the balloons are loud, so bring ear protection for sensitive ears.
Visit the Palaces of St Petersburg
St. Petersburg is called the “Venice of the North”, and Russia’s “Cultural Capital”. Ever since I read War and Peace I’ve been dreaming of seeing the grand palaces where extravagant balls were held followed by a horse and sleigh ride home.
Visit the grand palace of Peterhof– often compared to Versailles. It has 147 fountains for the kids to run around outside, including some “trick” fountains.
Head 30 km South to see Catherine’s Palace, the summer palace of the tzars.
See the Bolshoi Ballet
Go Dog Sledding
Head up to the Northern reaches of Europe to try dog sledding. A form of transportation that has been used for over 2000 years, dog sledding is an ideal way to experience nature in near silence.
Svalbard, Norway is famous for its dog sledding. There are also opportunities in Finland, Andorra, Greenland, and Iceland!
See the Northern Lights
Seeing the swirls of the northern lights is definitely a family travel bucket list item! We hoped to see them during our time in Iceland, but no luck. Northern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard in Norway, and Abisko, Sweden are locations with a high chance of seeing this phenomenon.
Explore the Fjords of Norway
Take the Flam Railway from Myrdal to Flåm, with riveting scenery along the way. Pass endless waterfalls, then take a boat ride through the fjords.
Don’t miss Balestrand, the village that inspired Disney’s Arendelle in the Frozen movies. The best time to visit is June through August. Expect to see snow, even in the height of summer.
Watch Whales and Puffins in Iceland
Visiting Iceland in the summer means you can see puffins and whales! Puffin tours run from May to August. Look for smaller boats that can get you close to the birds.
This whale watch out of Husavik is on a wooden sailing boat the kids can help sail. Ages 7+ for this tour, others are for all ages.
Book Now: Whale Watch on a Wooden Boat
Headed to Iceland? Check out 10 Amazing Things to do in Iceland with Kids
Visit Santa’s Village
Just a few kilometers from Rovaniemi, Finland on the Arctic Circle, is Santa’s Village. Open every day of the year, come meet the reindeer and Santa himself at his main office!
There is no charge for the village or meeting Santa. The arctic circle is denoted by a beam of light, and you can get a certificate for crossing the circle. You can get your passport stamped and send postcards from Santa’s Post Office.
You can also visit huskies, go sledding or ice tubing, visit a snow castle, and more!
Family Travel Bucket List Asia:
Stroll through Lhasa, visit the Potala Palace and learn about Tibetian Buddhist culture. See the emerald-colored, freshwater Yamdrok Lake, visit monasteries, and explore the Himalayas.
Yowangdu Experience Tibet has a great article on Lhasa– covering everything from safety to traveling around.
Tibet is at a high altitude, and the sun can be harsh- make sure to bring sunscreen, and plan to take time to acclimatize to the altitude.
Travel to Tibet is best for kids 5+ based on the risk of altitude sickness. The best times to visit are April-June and September-October.
I’m intrigued by this small, landlocked, Himalayan nation where archery is the national sport. Hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, the holiest site in Bhutan, which is built into the side of a cliff.
The government requires all tourists to have a preplanned itinerary with a Bhutanese guide. To visit you must pay a daily tourist fee, per person. Adults pay approx. $250 USD per day, children ages 5-12 pay approx. half and children under 5 are free.
While this makes Bhutan very expensive to visit, it also ensures that the tourist attractions are never crowded, or disrespected.
The best times to visit are from October-December and March-April. Due to altitude and the difficulty of the trek to Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan is best for ages 7+.
Trek to Annapurna Base Camp
the ABC trek in Nepal is very popular- it will generally take you about 14 days starting and ending in Kathmandu. The scenery along the route is breathtaking, and you’ll stay in traditional tea houses along the route.
You’ll need a guided trip for this outdoor family adventure- I trust G Adventures, I used them in Jordan, and have spoken with other travelers who have used them all over the world.
The minimum age is 12 for the Annapurna tour. You can also trek to Everest Base Camp, also ages 12+.
Families with younger kids may want to consider a five-day Poon Hill trek. While in Nepal, don’t miss Chitwan National Park- you may see a One-horned Rhino!
Find Tigers in the Wild
See tigers, leopards and sloth bears in Royal Bardia National Park or Chitwan National Park in Nepal. Explore the parks through guided tiger walks, jeep tours, and canoe rides.
Nepal takes animal conservation very seriously, so the animals here are well protected, You can also travel to Ilam in Eastern Nepal to try to spot the endangered red panda.
I’d never heard of this place until a friend mentioned it, and now it’s definitely on our family travel bucket list!
Mustang is a region of Nepal, close to the Tibet border. It is considered the “lost kingdom”, and was its own kingdom until being incorporated into Nepal in 2008.
Tourists first entered this area in 1992. The Nepalese government now offers a 10-day permit to enter the area with a guide. This International Traveller article has more information. Ages 12+.
Slide Down the Great Wall of China
Visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China, located about a two-hour drive from Beijing. Take the gondola to the top of the wall, then walk down the sloping wall until you reach the metal alpine slide.
The ride down takes about five minutes. You are in your own bobsled with a brake, so you control your speed. You’re not actually sliding on the Great Wall, but down the mountain to the base of the wall.
See the Terracotta Warriors
The Terracotta Warriors are a series of 2,000-year-old clay statues that guarded the tomb of China’s first Emperor. They were discovered by farmers digging a well in 1974.
You can visit three pits in the Terracotta Museum to see over 8,000 clay warriors, jade weapons, and bronze chariots. Each warrior is life-sized and unique- with different expressions, faces, and clothing.
Originally each warrior was painted and carried a real weapon. The Terracotta Museum is located about an hour East of Xi’an.
Ride the Trans Siberian Railway
The Trans Siberian Railway is world-famous. Spend a few days onboard watching the scenery, then step off and enjoy a few days in a town along the way.
There is no set route, but rather a network of rail lines across Russia. The three main routes are Moscow to Vladivostok (the original route), Moscow to Beijing (via Mongolia), which takes about 5 days non-stop including two border crossings; and Moscow to Beijing (via Manchuria) which does not include stops in Mongolia. Here’s a handy map.
Consider starting in Moscow, stopping in Ekaterinburg, Irkutsk (visit Lake Baikal), Ulaanbaatar, and finally Beijing. Adventure Family Life wrote a great post on taking the train with kids which has a lot of useful information.
Children under 5 are free, but they have to share a bed with a traveling adult. Children 5-10 are half price.
Sleep in a Yurt in Mongolia
Spend a few days in Ulaanbaatar, visit Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and see the giant equestrian statue of Ghengis Khan. Head to the Gobi desert to stay with a family in their ger (yurt), and climb the dunes at Khongoryn Els.
See the Flaming Cliffs, then head to Karakorum, the old capital of Mongolia. Finish with a trip to the Mongolian grasslands and Khustai National Park to see wild horses.
See Cherry Blossoms in Japan
The cherry blossoms bloom across Japan in the Spring, starting in late January in the South, and blooming in Tokyo around late March, or early April. You can check forecasts to see predictions for the year.
Called sakura, this is a time of celebration and for gatherings of friends and family. Many Japanese celebrate hanami, where they picnic and quietly contemplate life.
Mount Yoshino is a popular spot for hanami, as there are over 30,000 cherry trees. Look for sakura flavored treats available only during this time.
Stay at a Traditional Ryokan in Japan
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn. They can be found all over Japan, but are especially prevalent in areas around hot springs, and the Kyoto area.
You stay in a room with a tatami floor and a futon, which often converts into your dining space. An elaborate traditional dinner is served, as well as breakfast. A bit more expensive than other housing options, they offer a window into Japanese culture and traditions.
We are hoping to stay in a ryokan at Shibu Onsen when we visit the snow monkeys!
Visit the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is such an iconic building, of course, it had to make our family travel bucket list! Fly into New Delhi, spend a few days there, then head to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.
Arrive for sunrise, then enter via the East gate. After you are done exploring, head to Agra Fort to see where Shah Jahan, who commissioned the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned after his son seized power.
The Taj Mahal is India’s biggest tourist attraction, it was built using the labor of 1,000 elephants!
From Agra take the train to Jaipur to see “the pink city”, then see wild tigers in Ranthambore National park. Head back to New Dehli, or continue on to Udaipur, the “city of lakes”, then Jodhpur, “the blue city”.
Sleep in a Monastery in Myanmar
Myanmar (Burma) is off-limits in 2021, but we’ll leave this intriguing country on our travel bucket list for down the line.
Travelers have written of the beauty and isolation of this country which had just opened up to tourism before the current political climate closed it again.
Hopefully sleeping on a thin pad on the floor of a monastery will be one of our family adventures when the situation calms down.
Stay in a Stilt House in Myanmar
Visit the floating gardens of Lake Inle and stay in a bamboo house built on stilts. The woven bamboo allows for air circulation to keep the house cool. Apparently, tomatoes grow year-round in the gardens here!
Explore Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a laid-back attitude and miles of sandy shoreline, it’s also one of the best places in the world to spot a blue whale.
Climb Lion’s Rock, visit a turtle hatchery on the Southern coast, and try your hand at stilt fishing!
Visit Wilpattu National Park to try to spot a leopard, and see elephants and water buffalo in the wild.
You can also visit a tea plantation and take a train ride through the beautiful countryside. Don’t miss the town of Kandy- which was the royal capital prior to British colonialization.
Cruise Halong Bay
Board a traditional junk boat and cruise Halong Bay in Northern Vietnam. A few hours from Hanoi, the bay is known for its towering limestone rock formations. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s one of the most popular spots in Vietnam.
Choose a two-night cruise if you can- you’ll escape the crowds on the second day. There are so many tour operators, the hardest part is choosing which boat to take!
Most boats stop at Surprise Cave and Ti Top Island, and some offer cooking classes or other activities onboard. An alternative is Bai Tu Long Bay or Lan Ha Bay which are less crowded. October to March is the best time to visit.
Check Prices: Halong Bay Tour
Visit the Temples of Angkor Watt
Waker and I visited Angkor Watt as part of our honeymoon, and I’d love to take the kids there to explore. Ta Prohm is also very cool, and I’d love to explore Siem Reap more than we did last time and spend more time in Cambodia.
Visit an Elephant Sanctuary
When we visited Thailand in 2013, we visited an elephant center where we fed, rode on, and bathed the elephants. We discussed it at the time and felt that our dollars were supporting the care of the animals (who are notoriously expensive to feed).
Animal tourism has evolved since then, and we are now more careful to only support places where the animal’s natural behaviors are encouraged.
We’d love to expose our kids to the wonder of elephants, but in a place where there is no riding or unnatural training. As such, we are hoping to visit an elephant sanctuary to interact with rescued elephants.
Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is one option that is on the well-worn tourist route.
We are hoping to travel farther afield and visit the Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri, Cambodia. You can spend a half-day walking through the jungle with the elephants, and the other half of the day volunteering around the facility.
Responsible Travel has a great list of Elephant Sanctuaries around the world that you can feel good about supporting.
Lounge on a Thai Island
The island beaches of Thailand are well known for a reason! So many options for relaxing in a tropical paradise. We spent part of our honeymoon in Koh Samui and would love to go back, but there are endless options for islands to explore.
Relax on the Gili Islands, Indonesia
The Gili Islands are Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. There are no cars on the islands, you either walk, bike or take a horse-drawn cart to get around.
Gili Trawangan is the largest of the islands with the most nightlife, and a night market. Gili Meno is the smallest, least populated island and is known for its turtle sanctuary.
We opted for the middle-sized island of Gili Air, and spent part of our “babymoon” there- it was a bumpy boat ride from Lombok to get there, but the island itself is absolutely lovely.
Family Travel Bucket List Middle East:
Visit the Ruins of Petra in Jordan
I grew up with the Indiana Jones movies, and ever since I realized Petra was a real place I’ve wanted to visit!
I explored Petra and other places in Jordan on a G Adventures tour in 2013 and it was just as magical as I’d hoped. Waker didn’t have time off from work, and I knew (hoped) we’d be starting a family soon, so I joined the tour solo, and loved it!
I met lots of friendly people and saw a lot more through the tour than I could have managed in the same amount of time on my own.
Petra is absolutely a bucket list family adventure! I’d love to return to explore with my family.
Petra at night is spectacular. There is a musical concert in front of the Treasury (the most well-known facade), and the walkways and treasury area are lit by candlelight.
Sleep Under the Stars in Wadi Rum
The Wadi Rum desert is stunning- ride a camel, climb rock arches, and sleep under the stars. I visited on my tour of Jordan but didn’t get a chance to sleep overnight in this beautiful desert.
Float in the Dead Sea
Floating in the Dead Sea is a strange experience- the sea is over 30% salt, so you are extremely buoyant. The mud is supposed to be wonderful for your skin, so you slather it all over yourself, and then float in the sunshine.
You can enter the Dead Sea from the Jordanian or the Israeli side, as the middle of the sea forms part of the border between the two countries. I visited on the Jordanian side, we could see drones patrolling the Israeli border.
The Holy City for Jews, Muslims, and Christians, there is a ton of history packed into Jerusalem. Visit the old city, the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Al Aqsa mosque.
Consider a day trip to Bethelem to see the Church of the Nativity (it is easiest to take a tour), or a day trip to the Dead Sea.
It’s worth noting that everything in Israel (restaurants, public transportation) shuts down for the Sabbath from Friday late afternoon to Saturday night. Holy sites generally require that shoulders and knees are covered.
Visit the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque
This mosque in Abu Dhabi is one of the grandest in the world. It is massive- the equivalent of four football fields. Construction began in 1996 and took 12 years to complete.
An international collaboration, the mosque combines Persian, Mughal, and Moorish architecture. The Grand Mosque includes 82 domes and has the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet.
There is no charge to visit the mosque, but you will need to reserve a time. Visit early to beat the heat. There are free guided tours available.
Women will need to cover up- bring a headscarf, the mosque provides black abayas in a couple of sizes to borrow. Men are also requested to dress conservatively.
Iran is a tricky place for Americans to visit politically, and the State Department currently warns strongly against it. I’ve heard amazing stories from other travelers who found the local people warm and inviting. My Pinterest is filled with images of mosques and tile work in Iran, I’d absolutely love to visit!
Unsure about visiting? Check out this article from Intrepid Travel (from 2018). Even when the situation is a bit more stable, Americans, Brits, and Canadians can only visit on a tour.
Plan to book a tour at least three months ahead as the visa process can be quite long. Note that debit cards and credit cards will not work in Iran.
There are some tours for younger travelers like this tour for ages 5+ from Shiraz to Tehran. I would probably wait until the kids are older and opt for a longer tour like this one from Intrepid Travel for ages 15+.
Family Travel Bucket List Oceania:
Road Trip around New Zealand
We are really hoping to road trip around New Zealand in late 2021, early 2022 depending on when the borders open. We are all really excited for the dramatic landscape of New Zealand, and it’s soo far from us in the US that this will be a real treat!
Ideally, we’ll use a relocation service to rent a vehicle, then drive from Auckland stopping at Hobbiton, Rotorua for Geysers, the Redwoods, on to Wellington, then across to the South Island.
We will pan for gold, see a glow worm cave, then head to Queenstown, Milford Sound, and the penguins in Dunedin. We’ll pause at Lake Tekapo to try to see the Southern Lights, then head to Christchurch, and possibly out to Kaikoura to see the whales.
Explore a Glow Worm Cave
Taking a boat ride through a glowworm grotto sounds so magical! Arachnocampa Luminosa are unique to New Zealand, you can see them by exploring caves, or going for a guided kayak trip or night hike.
The most famous caves are the Waitomo Caves on the North Island where you go 150 feet underground to see the glowworms in large limestone caves.
On the South lsland, you can visit the Te Anau caves. Cruise across Te Anua lake before entering the glowworm grotto. All ages.
Check Prices: Te Anau Caves Glow Worm Tour
See the Southern Lights
I didn’t know the Southern Lights existed until I started researching New Zealand. Now the Aurora Australis is definitely on our family outdoor adventure bucket list!
We are hoping to see them at Lake Tekapo, which is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. Other good places to see them in New Zealand are Stewart Island and Invercargill.
You can also see the Southern Lights from Tasmania, Australia; Antarctica, and the South Georgia Islands. Some stargazing tours do have an age limit of 6+.
Swim with Wild Dolphins
Swim with wild Dusky Dolphins, Hectors Dolphins, and Common Dolphins with Dolphin Encounter in Kaikoura, New Zealand.
You can’t touch the dolphins, but you’ll swim in their natural environment with a snorkel and fins and let them engage you as much as they desire. You can also watch from the boat if you prefer. Ages 8+ to swim with the dolphins.
While in Kaikoura, you can also swim in shallow waters with fur seals! Age 5+.
Fly to the Top of a Glacier
When exploring New Zealand, don’t forget the glaciers! This helicopter tour will take you around both the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers before landing in the snow for you to experience them firsthand. These glaciers are the largest in New Zealand and the most visited. They flow almost down to sea level.
Explore the Australian Outback
The Australian Outback has such a mystery to it- wild camels, lizards, crocodiles, and poisonous trees!
I did a 7-day tour from Adelaide to Alice Springs and had a fantastic time. We took the dirt roads, stopped for hikes, and camped at night. We visited the opal mines in Cooper Pedy, toured Uluru, and ended in Alice Springs. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and made the whole trip fascinating.
I’d love to take my kids when they are a bit older and do something similar. A lot of tours have you flying into Alice Spring to visit Uluru, I would avoid these, half the fun is getting there!
Cuddle a Baby Kangaroo
I got to cuddle a joey on my tour of the Australian outback, and you should too! We visited Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage in Cooper Pedy- they take in baby kangaroos from all over Southern Australia and raise them until they can be re-homed.
Most of these babies come to them when the mothers are killed on the roads, but the joeys survive in the pouch. They use cloth pouches to simulate the mother and bottle feed them. It’s such a treat to hold them and see what affectionate animals they are.
Uluru is a sacred sandstone formation in the middle of Australia. Aboriginals believe it was formed by ancestors in the Dreaming. Once called Ayer’s Rock, it was returned to its aboriginal name.
The Anangu people still hold ceremonies in caves at the base of Uluru, and only certain tribe members can climb the rock.
As a tourist, you can walk around the base of the rock and learn about its history and its place in aboriginal culture. It is a beautiful place, and its dominance over the surrounding flat landscape is awe-inspiring.
Climb the Harbour Bridge
Ready to climb high over Sydney? Climbing the Harbour Bridge gives you incredible views over Sydney harbor, including the iconic Sydney Opera House. You clip onto the side of the bridge (so there’s no chance of falling).
It’s exhilarating and totally safe at the same time. I debated whether to spend the money to do this when I was in Sydney, and I’m so glad I did!
Dive the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on earth. While there have been worries about coral bleaching and many will say there are better, less touristed spots to dive, this is still definitely on our family bucket list for outdoor adventures!
Visit December-February for the warmest waters and best visibility, March-November is colder, but you are more likely to see large whales.
Sail the Witsunday Islands
The Whitsunday Islands are 74 islands close to the Great Barrier Reef in Northeastern Australia. They are known for their tropical climate, white sand beaches, and great diving, kayaking, and snorkeling.
Whitehaven Beach is famous for its white silica sand. You can take a day cruise, charter a yacht, or settle in for a three-day cruise experience.
Relax in Fiji
Fiji has lots of resorts that cater to families- with pools, playgrounds, and kids’ clubs. Explore the boardwalks of Kula Eco Park, visit the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, or take a day trip to visit additional islands (Fiji has 333 of them).
The best time to visit is April through October. Fiji is located to the East of Australia, and North of New Zealand. It is about a four-hour flight from Australia’s East coast.
Family Travel Bucket List Africa:
Visit the Egyptian Pyramids
Egypt is high on our family adventure bucket list! S recently became intrigued by the tombs and history of Ancient Egypt, so we’ve been reading a lot about it.
Start in Cairo, visit the pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx. Don’t miss the Egyptian Museum where King Tut lies. Visit Saqqara and the tombs and pyramids there.
Fly to Aswan and take a cruise down the Nile to Luxor in a traditional dahabiya or felucca. Visit the Kom Ombo temple (which we just read about in our Little Passports book) and the Crocodile Museum.
In Luxor, visit the Valley of the Kings and Karnak Temple. If you have time, head to the Red Sea to relax, or take a train from Luxor back to Cairo.
Scuba Dive in the Red Sea
The Red Sea is one of the best places in the world to scuba dive. The water is warm and clear, and wildlife is abundant.
Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, and Marsa Alam are three of the top spots to dive. There are healthy reefs and world-famous wrecks to dive. During the summer you may spot whale sharks and manta rays.
Find the Big Five on an African Safari
The Big Five you try to spot while on safari are: African leopard, African lion, Cape buffalo, African elephant, and rhinoceros.
Tanzania is known for its game parks- the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are amazing. These more famous parks tend to be more expensive than some others, including Kruger in South Africa. You can also visit the Addo Elephant National Park which is in a malaria-free zone in South Africa.
Some parks allow for self-drive tours. If it is your first time on Safari, I’d advise against this. Our driver was instrumental in ensuring we had a fabulous safari experience. He started us with the smaller animals- on day one we were thrilled to see baboons, by the third day we probably would not have been so enthusiastic.
Our driver was also in contact with other drivers, so he could reroute us when a leopard was spotted in another section of the park.
I summited Kilimanjaro with a close friend in 2007- it was tough and incredibly rewarding. If your family is into long treks, this should definitely be on your family bucket list!
The glaciers at the top of Kili are slowly melting, so go as soon as you can! The official minimum age to climb is 10, but 12+ is probably a safer estimate.
Relax in Zanzibar
Zanzibar is a beach resort destination off the coast of Tanzania with amazing sand beaches. You can also see giant tortoises that are nearly 200 years old on Changuu Island, a protected marine park known for its diving and snorkeling.
Zanzibar is a self-governing state in Tanzania- it consists of two big islands and many small ones. Zanzibar is sometimes called the Spice Islands because cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper grow there.
The old city of Stone Town is a pleasant maze and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The food in Zanzibar is a mix of Indian, Arab, Chinese, Portuguese, and African influences.
Zanzibar is mostly Muslim, so women dress modestly. At one point these islands were the center of the Arab slave trade, so you can visit a former slave market as well as the Mangapwani Caves which were used as holding pens.
To reach Zanzibar take a fast boat from Dar Es Salaam. The best time to visit is June-October.
Explore the Souks of Morocco
Morocco is a deluge of sounds and smells. The souks (markets) are fascinating mazes. I visited in 2002 and loved it. I was a little worried about being there on the first anniversary of September 11th but found the people incredibly warm.
Marrakesh and Fez are both “don’t-miss” cities, I’m hoping to return and explore more of Tangier, Chefchaouen (the blue city), and the beach town of Essaouira.
Sleep in a Bedouin Tent in the Desert
One of my favorite memories of visiting the dunes of Merzouga (the red sand dunes where The Mummy movies were filmed) was sleeping in a Bedouin tent in the desert.
We rode camels out to the dunes and had dinner around a campfire. After dinner our Berber guides tried to teach us some basic drumming skills, then we settled down to enjoy the quiet stillness of the desert.
See Lake Retba in Senegal
Lake Retba is called “Lac Rose” for its unusual pink color. The color is created by specific bacteria that are drawn to the salt in the lake. More than 60,000 metric tons of salt are hand-harvested from the lake each year and exported across Western Africa.
Less than an hour’s drive from Dakar, you can swim in the lake or take a rowboat out onto it. The best time to visit is November to June when the salt content is the highest.
Look for Gorillas in Uganda
Uganda has some of the last Mountain Gorillas on Earth- there are less than 1,000 left in the wild. The classic gorilla tour includes flying into Entebbe, then taking a jeep to visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where you will trek in by foot to see the gorillas.
You have about an hour to observe the gorillas and are required to keep a distance of at least 7 meters from them.
Next, you’ll head to Queen Elizabeth National Park to see the traditional safari Big Five, then to Kibale Forest National Park to see chimpanzees and monkeys of various sorts.
The best times to visit are during the drier months of December to February or June to August. Book early, as permits to see the gorillas are limited. You can also do a Gorilla trek in Rwanda’s Parc National de Volcans. Ages 16+.
Tunisia offers a mix of Mediterranean and Arabic cultures. Explore the historic ruins of Carthage, then head to the enormous colosseum at El Jem.
Venture into the Sahara desert to see where scenes from the planet Tatooine in Stars Wars were filmed. The planet in the movie was named after the nearby town of Tataouine. The underground house where Luke lived with his aunt and uncle is a hotel in Matmata- you can stay there. The best time to visit is October to May.
See Penguins in Capetown
Head to Boulder’s Beach in False Bay to see African penguins. Normally found in Southwestern Africa, a pair appeared here in the 1980s and bred. There are now over 2,000 penguins.
There are viewing platforms and boardwalks to let you safely watch the penguins in this protected area. You can also take a double kayak out to see the penguins from the water.
Book Now: Simon’s Town Penguin Kayak Paddle Tour
The penguins are most active between February and August. All ages for viewing, ages 5-8+ for kayaking depending on the company.
See the Namaqualand Desert Bloom
For a few weeks every year, the desert blooms- and is covered with flowers of all colors, including some flowers not seen elsewhere in the world. The peak of color is from early to late August depending on the year.
Start in Springbok, South Africa (about 5 1/2 hours north of Capetown), and head south, stopping at the Goegap Nature Reserve and Skilpad Wildflower Reserve.
Stop in Niewoudtville where many local farms will open their gates for tourists. Next is Cedarberg and Clanwilliam. The Namaqualand Flower Route is popular, and the scarce accommodation fills up quickly. You may need to book up to a year ahead.
Visit Victoria Falls
David Livingston was the first Westerner to see this waterfall and named it after the British queen in 1855. Its native name is Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “the smoke that thunders”. It is almost a mile wide, and twice the height of Niagara Falls.
The falls form the border between Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and Livingstone, Zambia. Whichever country you enter, get a UniVisa upon arrival, so that you can visit both sides of the falls in one day.
Relax on Beaches of Mozambique
Mozambique sits between South Africa and Tanzania, with miles of secluded beaches along the Indian Ocean and great dive spots.
We’re hoping to take a few weeks to chill with friends in Vilanculos as part of our Family Year Out. Vilanculos made this list of the best beaches in Mozambique. The best time to visit is from May to November.
The fourth-largest island in the world, Madagascar has so many indigenous species, it’s sometimes called the “eighth continent”.
Madagascar has three UNESCO World Heritage sites and the only native population of lemurs remaining in the world. Stay in a treehouse, explore the rivers, and see the rock formations of the Petit Tsingy.
Learn about native Malagasy culture, see the giant baobab trees and take a night walk through the rainforest. The best time to visit is from May to October. Recommended for ages 8+.
Family Travel Bucket List North America:
Road Trip Across the USA
Whether it’s Route 66 with all its kitsch photo opportunities or circling the National Parks, the American Road Trip is a classic family adventure. Pack the cooler, get ready to sing songs, and eat motel breakfasts!
We are heading out on an Epic 60+ day cross-country family road trip from Connecticut across to Los Angeles, and up to Santa Rosa, CA this summer. We’re planning to see friends, hike in National Parks, and explore big and small towns along the way.
Ride Horses on a Dude Ranch
I’d love to take my girls for a week at a dude ranch! Most of them assign you a horse for the week- you help to take care of it as well as ride it. There are campfires, s’mores and games for the kids, and relaxing time for the adults.
Visit the Famous National Parks of Utah
Utah has some amazing National Parks including Bryce, Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands. On our road trip this summer we’ll be staying in Bryce Canyon, and visiting Arches and Canyonlands from a base in Moab.
If you’ll be visiting three or more National Parks, be sure to get an American the Beautiful National Parks Pass. This annual pass grants you admission to National Parks, Monuments, and Preserves. The pass covers everyone in your car, or up to four adults, and means you can leave and re-enter the park easily.
Buy Now: Annual National Parks Pass
Climb the Statue of Liberty
Lady Liberty is a New York City icon. Take the ferry out to see her and climb all the way to her crown! The same ferry will take you to Ellis Island as well.
The crown of the statue was closed after September 11, 2001, for security purposes. There were plans to reopen it before 2020 closed the interior of the statue completely.
Spend Autumn Leaf Peeping in New England
I grew up in New England, so the seasonal change of colors is easy to take for granted. If you haven’t visited to see the fall colors, you really must!
Peak viewing is usually late September in Northern Maine, and about mid-October in Connecticut. Use this Fall foliage map to see color predictions by state.
Leaf peeping can be combined with other fall activities such as Fall festivals, apple picking (and eating apple cider donuts), corn mazes, and hayrides.
Explore the National Mall, Washington D.C.
The National Mall in Washington D.C. is full of monuments, memorials, and museums, all free to the public. From seeing the original signed Declaration of Independence to Dorthy’s Slippers from The Wizard of Oz, there’s always more to see and do.
Headed to D.C.? Check out our tips for Washington D.C. with Kids: How to Have the Most Fun.
Visit New Orleans and Eat Beignets
New Orleans is known for its Mardi Gras parties (and those are lots of fun!) but there’s plenty for families to do as well. Wander the French Quarter and visit Jackson Square to hear musicians and see fortune-tellers.
Visit the Presbytère Museum to learn about Hurricane Katrina, and then see some Mardi Gras costumes and learn about the history of the celebration.
Make sure to stop for beignets- little square pastries covered in powdered sugar that resemble fried dough- at either Cafe du Monde or Café Beignet.
Listen to some live jazz and try some Creole dishes like po’boys or gumbo. Ride a streetcar, take a steamboat cruise up the Mississippi, or an airboat swamp tour to look for alligators.
Check out the Artmazing Gallery– 13 selfie rooms, including one where money rains down on you!
You may also consider visiting the Whitney Plantation which focuses on the lives of the enslaved people on the plantation, it’s about an hour’s drive from New Orleans.
Watch a Rocket Launch at Kennedy Space Center
Watch a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral! Check the calendar, launches include unmanned rockets and SpaceX capsules headed to the International Space Station. Watch from the visitor center viewing area next to the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
The Kennedy Space Center has so much to offer! Visit their rocket garden to see real rockets, see the astronaut hall of fame, and learn about the Apollo missions.
Step inside an astronaut training simulator to learn to pilot a space shuttle. Kids 10+ can opt for the full Astronaut Training Experience, which is a 4-5 hour program that includes simulated mars terrain.
Swim with Manatees in Florida
Crystal River, Florida, is the only place to legally swim with manatees. The water stays warm here all year round, so in the winter around 400 manatees migrate here, though you can visit them year-round. These endangered mammals each weigh about 1,000 pounds and are slow and gentle.
Book Now: Manatee Tour from Orlando
I’d love to take a family trip to Cuba! It’s so close to the United States, yet we have been restricted from visiting for so long. The rich culture, colorful buildings, and beautiful beaches all sound enchanting.
I’d love to visit during the Havana Jazz Festival in December. Plan to explore Havana, stay in Casa Particulares (local homes), take a salsa class in Vinales, and relax on the beach in Trinidad.
Cuba is currently difficult for Americans to travel to, hopefully, these restrictions will loosen over the next few years. You’ll need a government permit to visit and a travel visa.
The easiest way to do this is through a tour company that can provide a Support the Cuban People travel license, though this can get expensive. Options include private tours with Global Family Travels, and group or private tours through Cuba Explorer.
Once you arrive your debit and credit cards won’t work, and you will probably need a local sim for your cellphone. Internet access may be limited. The best time to visit is December to May.
Visit the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is a must-see. Plan to spend a few days exploring it. We are staying inside the park this summer so we can see the sunrise in the park and take a few hikes. We are also looking forward to a helicopter ride over the canyon!
Update: We didn’t love it. Read our reasons in 6 Reasons to Skip the Grand Canyon on your Next Family Road Trip.
Raft the Colorado River
An adventurous way to see another side of the Grand Canyon is to raft the Colorado River through the canyon. Plan for at least 3-4 days of rafting, and camping on the river’s edge at night. Ages 10+.
Visit Yellowstone Park
Old Faithful should be on every family’s outdoor travel bucket list! The famous geyser inside Yellowstone Park erupts around 20 times per day.
Visit Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the United States. You can view the spring from above from a viewing platform on the Fairy Falls trail.
Explore Yellowstone Canyon- take in the view from Artist’s Point then head out on Uncle Tom’s trail.
Don’t miss the Lamar Valley drive where you may see wild bison, deer, or bears. This drive can be combined with visiting Mammoth Hot Springs.
Explore Native American History
There are lots of places to explore various Native American cultures around the United States. These experiences help balance some of the European biased histories we were taught in school.
On our epic cross-country road trip, we will be visiting several places that largely focus on the colonial and settler experience- from stops at Colonial Williamsburg to the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Kansas. While both include the native experience to some extent, it is not their focus. We are also learning about the Oregon Trail and visiting some of the stops along the trail.
To balance this with some of the native experience, we will be starting the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. We will then visit the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, NC which is focused on the Cherokee people. The Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, OK also has a living history village (focused on 1710) and an exhibit on the Trail of Tears.
A Disney theme park visit should definitely be on every family’s travel bucket list! While I’m not one to visit Disney again and again (and we generally don’t include theme parks in our plans), Disney magic is pretty special. I’m excited to see the kid’s faces light up when we see some of their favorite characters!
We visited Disneyland in December of 2021. We spent one day in Disneyland, and had a Park Hopper starting in California Adventure for the second day. At ages 4 and 7, our kids were the perfect age to soak up the wonder and loved seeing the characters, the parade, and the fireworks show.
Recommended Hotel: Hotel Lulu. This hotel is an easy 10 minute walk from the parks, with a shuttle stop right outside the hotel. The rooms were cute and comfortable.
Kayak or Swim in a Bioluminscent Bay
We kayaked to a bioluminescent lagoon in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, it was amazing! There are beaches around the world that sometimes have bioluminescent plankton, but they can be unpredictable.
A Nomad’s Passport did a great post pulling together options around the world. All of these experiences take place after dark, so ages 8+.
Take an Alaskan Cruise
I’m not a cruise person generally, but an Alaskan cruise would be the exception! I’d love to take a cruise on a smaller boat and be able to kayak out to see the wildlife and spectacular scenery.
Our kids love watching PBS’s Molly of Denali, so we’re all excited to learn more about Alaska and its native traditions.
Swim with Manta Rays
Head to Kona on the Big Island, Hawaii to swim with manta rays. You’ll see the sunset from your boat, then snorkel alongside these magnificent creatures. You can also scuba dive with the rays.
You’ll have a float with a light shining down- the light attracts the plankton, the manta rays then come to eat the plankton. These reef manta rays can grow up to 18 feet, on average the rays in Kona are about 12 feet.
Book Now: Swim with Manta Rays in Kona, Hawaii
Swimming with Manta rays is also available in the Maldives, the Galapagos, and the Great Barrier Reef. Often at those locations, you’ll see manta rays where they go to get their skin cleaned, rather than where they are feeding.
Drive the Road to Hana
The Road to Hana in Maui starts in Kahului and winds along 64 miles to the town on Hana. You’ll explore the rainforest, see waterfalls, roadside stands, and other attractions including the seven sacred pools and a red sand beach.
The drive is stunning. When I drove it we listened to audio commentary via cassette while we drove- now you can download Gypsy Guide to your phone before you leave. Take your time, stop along the way, and don’t rush! The journey is the destination in this case.
Snorkel with Sea Turtles
Watching a large sea turtle gently swim by is an amazing experience! I swam with them in Hanauma Bay, on Oahu. Hanauma Bay is within a volcanic cone and is a marine life conservation area. The Bay now limits visitors and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays to give the wildlife a break.
You are most likely to see the turtles between 11 am and 2 pm. There are many beaches you can visit on Maui where you have a high chance of seeing sea turtles- including Slaughterhouse Beach, Black Rock Beach, and Maluaka Beach (Turtle Town). On Oahu try Laniakea Beach, Kahe Point, and Kaupo Bay.
See Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is often associated with the Great American Road Trip. You can visit either the American or Canadian side. From the American side, don’t miss the Cave of the Winds, and take the Maid of the Mist out to Bridal Falls. Ponchos required of course.
From the Canadian side, take the Hornblower cruise out to the falls, ride the SkyWheel, or take a helicopter ride above the falls.
Practice your French in Montreal
Dust off your French language skills for a visit to charming Montreal! Stroll along the cobblestone streets of Vieux-Montreal while eating poutine.
Visit Mount Royal and take a paddleboat out onto Beaver Lake. Check out the botanical garden, the planetarium, or Voiles en Voiles- a pirate ship that houses ropes courses, rappelling, and aerial activities.
Have Barbie fans in your house? Don’t miss the free 5,000 square foot Barbie Expo exhibit.
Explore Sunny Vancouver
Less than an hour from the US border, Vancouver is known for its sunny days and easy access to snow-capped mountains. Explore Stanley Park where you’ll find playgrounds and totems carved by native peoples.
Take a water taxi over to Granville Island for a great public market and a sprinkler park. Take the gondola up Grouse Mountain, or visit Victoria island to have high tea at the Fairmont Hotel.
See Polar Bears in Churchill
Head to Churchill, Manitoba to see polar bears in the wild. In October and November, the bears gather in groups, waiting for the “big freeze” so they can head out onto the ice for seal hunting.
Take a tour to see the bears in an all-terrain tundra vehicle, watch for arctic fox and see the Northern lights. Ages 8+.
Travel Bucket List Central and South America:
Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
In the 1400s Pachacuti built the citadel of Machu Picchu high in the (now Peruvian) Andes. A four or five-day hike brings you to the ruins of this city.
Plan to acclimatize a few days in Cusco due to the 11,000-foot elevation. This will be the starting point for your hike. On day three you’ll be at over 13,000 feet before descending into Machu Picchu. The trail can be narrow and has steep steps. Best for ages 12+.
Explore the Bolivian Salt Flats
Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flats- covering more than 10 kilometers. These flats create a mirror effect reflecting the sky in the wet season (November to March), and a patterned effect in salt during the dry season (May to October).
The salt flats are at over 12,000 feet. They can be reached from the town of Uyuni, or on a tour from La Paz. Multi-day tours include seeing wild flamingos, hot springs, and colorful lakes.
Trek through Las Glaciares National Park, stare in awe at the Perito Moreno Glacier or even take a kayak up close to it (ages 14+).
See the emperor penguins in Tierra del Fuego National Park- the only place they live in the wild outside of Antarctica. This area on the very tip of Argentina is known as the “End of the World”.
Patagonia can be explored from Chile or from Argentina. Flying is often the easiest way to get around as there are large distances between cities.
Ride Horses in Mendoza
Mendoza is one of Argentina’s most famous wine regions, but it’s also home to grasslands, mountains, and the gaucho culture (cowboy culture). Take a horse ride across the hills and enjoy Asado (traditional barbeque) for lunch. Ages 6+.
Explore the Amazon Rainforest
Most of the amazonian rainforest is within Brazil. After exploring Rio de Janeiro, head to Manaus, then take a boat to where the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes meet.
Dine at a floating restaurant, see lily pads a big as kids, then head out on a boat to cruise through the amazon. You’ll see macaws, monkeys, piranha, and more.
You can also explore the Amazon from Peru- either the Iquitos or Tambopata region. The high season is December through March. Ages 8+.
Visit the Galapagos Islands
A visit to the giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies of the Galapagos Islands is definitely high on our family adventure travel bucket list!
The Galapagos Islands are about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. You can choose to do a boat-based or land-based exploration of the islands.
The Galapagos can be expensive to get to, you can also visit Isla de la Plata “the poor man’s Galapagos” to see blue-footed boobies. Visit the Galapagos any time of year, ages 8+.
Watch Boats go Through the Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is a 50-mile feat of engineering that opened in 1914. You can visit easily from Panama City and watch a boat slowly move through the locks.
The Miraflores Locks is the best place to watch- there is a detailed explanation of the canal in the visitors center, then head to the viewing platform to watch the boats. Best for ages 12+.
See the Caño Cristales River in Columbia
The Caño Cristales river has been described as a “liquid rainbow”. During July, August, and September, a water plant blooms turning the river red, white, black, and yellow. Located in the Sierra de la Macarena National Park, accessible from the town of La Macarena.
Swim with Stingrays in Belize
Head to Shark and Ray Alley to swim with nurse sharks and large stingrays. The animals are used to the idea that the boats bring food and will come quite close to snorkelers. Most tours leave from Caye Caulker in Belize.
You can also swim with stingrays in Grand Cayman- you’ll find large South Atlantic rays in an area dubbed Stingray City. Antigua also has opportunities to swim with Southern Rays. Ages 6+.
Visit the ATM Cave in Belize
The Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave is the most popular cave in Belize. This cave was a spiritual site for the Mayan people and was discovered by them around 300 AD. The cave was opened to the public in 1998.
Archeologists believe that human sacrifice took place in this cave, including the sacrifice of small children. Pottery, human remains, and other artifacts are still in the cave for viewing. No cameras are allowed in.
The journey to the cave involves a trek through the jungle, swimming, darkness, and scrambling over rocks. The cave is located about an hour’s drive from San Ignacio. At least ages 8+.
Experience Tango in Buenos Aries
Buenos Aires is the “Paris of South America”. Visit the colorful La Boca neighborhood to enjoy the street art and watch impromptu performances of the tango. Stop at a cafe to try some delicious alfajores.
While you are in La Boca, take a walking tour of the Boca Junior soccer stadium. Many restaurants offer a dinner and dance show where you can watch more tango.
Spy on Sloths in the Wild
Sloths generally hang out in lush tropical jungles, often sleeping high up in trees. Make sure not to touch them as this is very stressful for the animals!
Sloths can be found around Costa Rica- in the Arenal area try taking a guided walk of the private Bogarin Trail. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve also has sloths, though mostly nocturnal, so you’ll need to take a night walk. The Rincon de la Vieja National Park has sloths, though you may need a guided tour to spot them.
In Peru, visit Tambopata National Reserve and take a night walk through the jungle to spot sloths. Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve near Iquitos has brown-throated sloths, and you may also see pink river dolphins or jaguars!
Climb Temples in Tikal
Tikal absolutely took my breath away. Incredible temples are spread over acres of thick Guatemalan jungle. Monkeys scream from the trees and lemurs dance around your feet. Of all the ruins that I’ve visited across Central America, this is the one I’d most like to return to.
Tikal was a Mayan city that at one point housed up to 100,000 people. Only a fraction of the city has been excavated. You can climb the main temples, for a wonderful view across the jungle canopy. Most temples have narrow steps and no railing, so I’d advise at least age 8+ to get the most out of the site.
See Solstice at Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is a Mayan ruin on the plains of the Yucatan. Just a few hours drive from Cancun, It’s most famous for its main temple which acts as a calendar. On the yearly equinoxes, as the light hits the temple it looks like a serpent slowly descending the stairs of the temple. There is a light show each evening that recreates this phenomenon, but I’d love to see it in actuality!
Go early in the day, as the heat can get intense, and shade is limited. The best time to visit is November to April.
Get Wet at Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina is one of the new “Seven Natural Wonders” of the world. It is actually made up of 275 separate waterfalls.
To visit from Brazil, fly from Rio de Janeiro to Foz do Iguacu. From there, you can visit the falls by either taking the Cataratas Hiking Trail to a boardwalk with views of the falls, or you can take a boat closer to the falls. You can opt for a “wet” or “dry” boat, depending on how close to the falls you’d like to get.
In Argentina, fly to Puerto Iguazu. On this side of the falls, there are more hiking trails with views of the falls. Take the green trail to the lower circuit trail- it has eight viewpoints and some places to stop and rest. Boat rides on the Argentine side are for 12+ only. A lot of visitors opt to visit both sides of the falls, crossing the border is pretty easy.
Family Travel Bucket List Antarctica:
Head over the rough seas of Drake’s Passage to get to Antarctica! See waddling penguins, sunning seals, calving glaciers, and enormous icebergs.
The elusive Southern Lights can be seen year-round, though your best chance during touring season is in March. Tours range from 10-20+ days in length. The summer months of December to March are the best time to visit. Best for ages 8+.
Step onto South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
There are no residents of these islands, and they are claimed by both Britain and Argentina. The famous explorer Ernest Shackleton is buried here. These islands along with the Falkland islands are sometimes combined with Antarctica on longer cruises.
The South Georgia Islands have kelp forests and the largest colony of emperor penguins on earth. You’ll also see albatross penguins, king penguins, fur seals, and elephant seals. Ages 10+.
There You Have It
I had so much fun putting together this ultimate family travel bucket list- the more research I do, the more places I want to add to our family travel bucket list! Did we miss any travel adventures that are on your family bucket list? We’re always willing to add new ideas or destinations!
Need advice about traveling with kids? Check out 22 Family Travel Tips for 2021: Best Tips for Travel with Kids.