Walt Disney died from circulatory collapse caused by lung cancer on December 15, 1966, before his vision was realized. His brother and business partner, Roy O. Disney, postponed his retirement to oversee construction of the resort’s first phase.
We’ve rounded up destinations where you can have a great vacation at a great price, whether you want a relaxing beach vacation, a bustling city excursion, or a trip that combines both. There are domestic and international options, so you’re sure to find something right for your family whether you want a long weekend away or an all-out adventure. As for what makes these family vacation spots so great, the key is having great free and cheap attractions, while also having properties that welcome kids with complimentary amenities, from unlimited water park access to mermaid lessons right on the beach.
It’s a universal truth of parenting: You can’t really, truly relax until you know your children (and everyone else under your care) are safe, happy, and occupied. These 25 hotels and resorts totally get it, and that’s how they earned top scores with travelers in our 2015 World’s Best Awards.
In June 2005, Disney Magic made the first cruise outside of the Caribbean, by moving its port for the summer to Los Angeles with a Mexican Riviera schedule. Disney Cruise Line ordered a new 2 ships class from Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany by February 22, 2007.[CDC 18] The Magic in May 2007 transferred its home port to Barcelona, Spain, for the lines’ first summer Mediterranean itinerary then returned to its permanent port in September.
The Shake Shack at Madison Square Park is my favorite and not too far from where you’re staying. There are seats and tables spread around an area of the park and it’s a great setting for a outdoor lunch or dinner. Lots of fun. There are lines, of course, this is Shake Shack but at least you’re waiting in a park and not on a busy sidewalk. And FYI, all Shake Shacks have a C-Line where you can get drinks, shakes, beer, and other non-food items. There’s typically no or a very short line, so I like to grab a beer/drink to start off then get in the big line for food. Even if the line is 20+ minutes long if you’re sipping a beer or milkshake it’s not so bad – sort of fun actually. Once you order, the food arrives quickly. And yes, it’s worth the wait. The Theater District Shake Shack on 8th between 43rd and 44th and near Times Square is my second favorite. This one has much more of a big-city vibe. If you can get the seats that face 44th it’s fun to sit, eat, and watch the crowds pass.
For proof of Abu Dhabi’s burgeoning status as the cultural capital of the Middle East, look no further than Saadiyat Cultural District, which is quickly becoming a treasure trove of world-class art and groundbreaking architecture. The multibillion-dollar initiative has already resulted in one major project, the Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened in November. Though its construction was controversial, the museum has quickly become the premier creative beacon in the Emirates. Work is under way nearby on the Zayed National Museum, by Norman Foster; the Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre, by Zaha Hadid Architects; and the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which when completed will be the largest Guggenheim museum in the world. The city’s hotel-building campaign is also in full swing: this year Marriott debuted a 400-room hotel in the Al Forsan sports center, and next year will see the opening of the Abu Dhabi Edition and Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas. —Dylan Essertier
As for terra firma, beautiful Atlantic beaches await, along with wildlife at the Canaveral National Seashore, a beautiful barrier island National Park. And even if you’re not shipping out for a cruise, you and your family can marvel at large luxurious ships from Grills Seafood Deck, a family-friendly and casual venue.
Inside a turn-of-the-century brick warehouse, the Museum of Commerce is a reconstructed streetscape of businesses that operated in Pensacola between 1880 and 1910. Exhibits include historical stores for toys, hardware, music and leather goods, as well as gas station and a print shop, which contains one of the most extensive collections of antique printing presses and type in the Southeast. Horse drawn buggies and an antique local trolley car add to the nostalgia of this quaint recreation of Pensacola’s yesteryear.
The family-friendly Williamsburg area is also home to Busch Gardens (an action-packed adventure park), Water Country USA (Virginia’s largest water park), and the York and James Rivers, where you can enjoy beautiful scenery and outdoor activities such as fishing, boating and swimming.
Family Vacation Ideas with Toddlers: When planning a trip with toddlers, remember a few key points: they have short attention spans, get tired quickly and need simple engaging activities such as pouring water or transferring beans. It will take a lot of effort to keep them happy on a long airplane trip, although with careful planning it can be done. They will probably want to sleep with you in an unfamiliar hotel room and may not like resort food all that much. On the other hand, having many new things to see and do will be exciting, as long as they are not tired or hungry. If you only have time for a long weekend getaway, pick a quick getaway that won’t require a lot of time to get to or having to deal with jet lag. If you have time for a longer vacation, consider destinations with nice beaches where your toddler will be able to run around, splash water and have a lot of fun.
Disney Cruises for Families: Disney Cruises are such a favorite with kids that they deserve their own mention. Disney has four ships designed with kids in mind, complete with a theater and a cinema playing all of the kids’ favorite Disney movies. There are several pools to choose from, with water slides and other water fun. Dream and Fantasy ships feature the AquaDuck with a transparent, acrylic tube that spans four decks of the ship and over the side of the ship over the ocean. The spa is meant for adults only, so you can enjoy a peaceful time to yourself while kids participate in the children’s program. Kids are divided into several age groups: infant – 3, 3 – 4, 5 – 7, 8 – 9, and 10 – 12. Teens have access to a private club, featuring plush couches, games and a bar serving soft drinks. Keep reading for more best family vacations.
Whether you are planning a quick weekend getaway, family vacation, honeymoon or a road trip, there are many amazing choices in the United States and abroad. If you only have a few days, browse our weekend getaways page for choices near you so that you can take a short drive rather than spend precious vacation time on travel. If you have a long weekend or a full week, consider a trip to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Europe, California and other fun places around the world.
Fort Walton Beach Heritage Park & Cultural Center Fort Walton Beach Okaloosa Northwest Multiple Includes the Indian Temple Mound Museum with exhibits depicting 12,000 years of Native American occupation and the Fort Walton Temple Mound, the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum with early education displays, the Garnier Post Office Museum with postal history items from 1918 to 1956, and the Civil War Exhibits building
Another Place is aimed primarily at families and younger adults. The showpiece 20-metre glass-fronted indoor pool has children’s swimming times, while parents will enjoy the Canadian outdoor hot tub, sauna and spa treatment rooms. Older children can enjoy watersports on the lake including stand-up paddle-boarding, kayaking and wild swimming. There’s a fully equipped Kids’ Zone for all ages, from babies to teenagers, with an indoor playroom/nursery, outdoor play area and safari tent for older children. Children’s meals are available, as well as family rooms and suites. Read expert review
A great budget hotel for families in Midtown Manhattan with $10/day parking (very cheap for NY). Kids will love the heated indoor pool. Rooms are basic but recently renovated and a good size in this price range. Fridges in every room. Phone: 212-586-3400
Children’s Museums: Children’s museums, science museums and planetariums offer a great way for younger kids to have fun, meet new friends and learn with hands-on activities. Many cities and towns offer a kid-friendly museum. Find more family vacations.
I would go with the Doubletree owing to it’s location near Times Square – which we always tend to spend a lot of time at for a variety of reasons (e.g. buying theater tickets or getting on the Hop On/Hop Off buses). Both are good hotels though.
Romantic Parks & Gardens: Stroll through romantic parks and gardens on your couples’ getaway, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Sarasota Jungle Gardens and other romantic places. Find more romantic getaways.
Family ski trips can be great fun and there are many unique destinations to choose from. In Canada, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort offers skiing on Blackcomb Mountain. Beginners and seasoned skiers alike can enroll in the Ski & Snowboard School which offers programs for kids. In British Columbia, Canada, The Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside provides all-suite accommodations which have plenty of space. Colorado ski destinations include Aspen, Vail, Telluride and Beaver Creek, all offering exceptional skiing.
Located just a four-minute walk from Epcot, this Cape Cod-in-Orlando resort has so many activities, one T+L voter admitted to skipping a day at the parks to hang out at the hotel. Like its slightly more buttoned-up sister, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, the Beach Club offers full access to Stormalong Bay and its sandy-bottomed swim zone, water slides (bigger kids love the one that starts from the top of a ship’s mast), and lazy circular river. Add an old-fashioned soda shop and a mini golf course, and it’s little surprise that families can have a hard time tearing themselves away.
The extra cost on top of a Park Hopper ticket is a flat rate of $26.63, no matter how long the ticket. If you want to add this option to a Base Ticket, you need to also add Park Hopper, so the total cost to upgrade from a Base Ticket ranges from $85.20 to $106.50, depending on length.
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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, home to more than 250 species of animals, gives park guests the opportunity to explore seven distinct park sections: Africa, Asia, Discovery Island, Dinoland U.S.A., the Oasis, Camp Minnie-Mickey and Rafiki’s Planet Watch area. Visit the park’s animals by exploring the walking trails scattered throughout the park, such as the Discovery Island trails and the Maharajah Jungle Trek, or by riding the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Hop on the Expedition Everest or Kali River Rapids journey for an adventure or spend time at the park’s Affection Section petting zoo for a quieter experience.
As the biggest island in Thailand, Phuket offers tons of great beaches. Besides its clear waters and prime snorkeling stops, Phuket is also home to attractions like the Anthem Wakepark, a cable wakeboarding water park. Family-friendly accommodations can be found for under $100 per night.
**Price (USD) before tax (Ages 10+). Price varies by date and theme park. Must be used by December 31, 2019; price paid for unused ticket can be applied to a new ticket, subject to restrictions. Non-refundable.
Hotels in the area are also known to provide activities and amenities specifically for kids. The Hotel Del Coronado has a kids program where children can take part in art and crafts, mermaid lessons, and treasure hunts on the beach.
In early April 2016, this luxury coastal resort is unveiling its new Miraval Life in Balance Spa, which will offer many of the same pampering treatments as the original Arizona location but with a coastal flavor—like massages with sea salt, algae, and marine muds. Younger guests, meanwhile, can Zen out in age-appropriate meditation and yoga classes, or find their bliss in other family-oriented activities. The Ocean Explorers package includes four tickets for a whale watching cruise and a DIY kit for exploring the tide pools at the resort’s private beach. There are also stand up paddleboard lessons, trail hikes, and an outing with a Surf Butler. Families can take a day trip to the 230-year-old San Juan Capistrano mission for a trip back in time, or ex get up close and personal with marine life at the Ocean Institute.
With an exciting influx of new and revamped hotels, an up-and-coming restaurant scene, and a blossoming wine industry, Idaho’s capital city—traditionally known as a convention destination — has started to attract the attention of leisure travelers. Boise’s invigorated downtown is evidence of the trend, with the newly opened Inn at 500, a 110-room boutique property whose perks include balconies overlooking the capitol, and its on-site restaurant, Richard’s, owned by James Beard Award-nominated chef Richard Langston, leading the way. (Meanwhile, Hotel 43 and The Grove both recently unveiled swank renovations.) The city’s craft-beer scene continues to impress; one noteworthy newcomer is White Dog Brewing, whose rustic taproom features a 24-foot “frost rail” that keeps your beer, well, frosty. In other toast-worthy news, Boise has become a hub for Idaho’s growing wine industry. Oenophiles shouldn’t miss a stop at the new downtown tasting room of Coiled Wines. Owner Leslie Preston — a native Idahoan who sharpened her skills at Clos du Bois and Stags’ Leap in California — makes a spectacular dry Riesling. Getting there is easier than ever: to meet rising demand, American Airlines has launched new nonstop service from Chicago O’Hare, while Southwest now runs a nonstop from San Diego. —Blane Bachelor
Disney Transport also operates a fleet of watercraft, ranging in size from water taxis, up to the ferries that connect the Magic Kingdom to the Transportation and Ticket Center. Disney Transport is also responsible for maintaining the fleet of parking lot trams that are used for shuttling visitors between the various theme park parking lots and their respective main entrances.
These hotels make it their business to cater to guests of all ages, from tiny first-time flyers to seasoned travelers. Take the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, which will arrange childproofed rooms, but also has a concierge who specializes in family travel, to help parents choose kid-friendly dining options and plan unforgettable adventures around island.
Known as the Tibet of Japan, the remote Iya Valley is tucked away in the mountainous interior of Shikoku, the least visited of the country’s four main islands. Tourism to the region took a leap forward when it hosted the World Rafting Championship in 2017 — putting its turquoise Class Four rapids firmly on the adventure-travel map. New ziplines and hiking trails are sprouting up in the canyons, while upgrades have been made to accommodations in the area’s traditional thatched-roof farmhouses, or minkas. Chiiori House is the most luxurious; the property also maintains an excellent portfolio of more affordable options. —Adam Harney Graham
Washington, DC is a vibrant city with dozens of free attractions and events that make it an ideal destination for a family vacation. Once you’re near the Mall, major landmarks and iconic government buildings are everywhere you look: the Capitol, the White House, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and many more. Have your kids pull out their coins and dollar bills to see replicas of the very buildings they’re standing in front of. Book a line-skipping VIP tour and check them all off your list.
Not sponsored at all. Hotels don’t know who I am or when I stay there. With just a few rare exceptions I have no interaction with the hotels I review (beyond what a normal guest would have – e.g check-in, check-out).
Lang Walker named Kokomo after his childhood dingy, which says something about the family-friendly mindset at this private-island idyll. The Australian billionaire spent years developing his slice of Fijian heaven – but having opened it up to guests, he hasn’t forgotten about the little ones. Hermit-crab hunts, dolphin-spotting safaris, manta-rays swims… if it slipped your mind you brought them, we wouldn’t hold it against you.
Walt Disney World’s corporate culture uses jargon based on theatrical terminology. For example, park visitors are always “guests”, employees are called “cast members”, rides are “attractions” or “adventures”, cast members costumed as famous Disney characters in a way that does not cover their faces are known as “face characters”, jobs are “roles”, and public and nonpublic areas are respectively labeled “onstage” and “backstage”.
In 1993, Premier Cruises discontinued its partnership with Disney for one with Warner Bros. After failing to reach agreements with Carnival or Royal Caribbean, Disney announced in 1994 the formation of its own cruise line. The Disney Cruise Line launched with the Disney Magic ship in 1998 along with its exclusive resort island port of Castaway Cay.
Mom and Dad join in the pranks and games with a nostalgic week at family sleepaway camp. A flat tuition fee for Medomak Camp covers activities and all meals in a gourmet mess hall, including a lobster feast. Morning activities for the kids might include archery or arts and crafts while adults practice yoga, get a massage or even join the kids for some craft time. In the afternoon, everyone heads to the lake for swimming, kayaking, sculling or sailing. Come nightfall, the whole family can set off on a scavenger hunt or play softball or ultimate Frisbee. Bring your own musical instrument for the evening campfire. Just leave your hair dryer at home — the accommodations are comfy, but rustic, and there’s no need for primping anyway.
Looking for the perfect beach vacation? Parents’ exclusive survey reveals the resorts where you can get awesome ocean views, nonstop family activities, and comfy rooms — all at a price that won’t leave you feeling burned. Plus: 10 runners-up we love too.
Active Getaways: It’s amazing how many things kids are interested in if you sit down and talk to them about it. A 12-year-old may want to take a cooking class and learn how to prepare meals using farm-fresh ingredients with the hotel chef. A 5-year-old may want to see a polar bear swimming in a pool in a local zoo. A 3-year-old may be extremely interested in building various machines from blocks and legos so his ultimate dream vacation may be a morning spent at Legoland. Getaways with a touch of adventure create fun memories. In California, visit Safari West and watch unique wildlife in a natural setting. Take a cruise aboard Disney Fantasy, a mega ship that offers many things to do and comfortable staterooms with an extra half bath. At Vista Verde Ranch in Colorado, kids can go horseback riding and learn about the inns and outs of a working dude ranch. Lake Villarrica in Chile is a stunning lakeside getaway with a view of a volcano. Explore the natural wonders of the Pikes Peak region of Colorado, go horseback riding and visit a zoo. Other cheap family vacations include Yellowstone and Jackson Hole where you will be surrounded by the spectacular Tetons.
A grande dame property on Michigan’s Mackinac Island, this resort, dubbed “America’s Summer Place,” dates back to 1887 when wealthy families arrived for vacations by steamer. Families still arrive by boat and are usually met by a horse-drawn carriage, as motorized vehicles remain prohibited. Part of the old-fashioned fun is getting around by bicycles or by foot. Although not a traditional all-inclusive resort, The Grand Hotel’s rates include a full breakfast and dinner daily, plus supervised children’s activities for ages 5 to 14, Memorial Day through Labor Day.