It seems like everytime you scroll through your Facebook feed you see epic family vacations and adventures carefully curated and detailed on your friends’ pages. It feels like pressure to know where to start or how to fulfill all of your travel dreams for your kids. But it’s okay. You can relax. Not only are your friends battling with the same issues you are, like screaming toddlers on planes and whining teenagers who scoff at every vacation idea just because it was yours, they’re also trying to figure out the best destinations.
Or maybe they wised up and drafted up a family bucket list on where to go next. This essential list narrows down your travel priorities and interests without losing focus and wondering why you ended up at the same beach three years in a row that your kids don’t seem to particularly like in the first place. But if you’re not sure where to get started, here are six bucket list trips for families to see before your kids are grown.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a bucket list trip for families that does not include a visit to see Mickey. Today there are plenty of locations to choose from, including Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney and beyond. I’m partial to Disney World, where more than 50 million guests visit annually. Just hopefully not on the same day.
It’s hard to narrow down which national park to choose, so add several to your bucket list. A few places to start are iconic favorites like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks. Check the individual parks you’re visiting in advance to ensure inclement weather hasn’t disrupted plans, look for family deals and check on lodging options like camping.
There’s so much to see and do in Alaska, you’ll want to go back more than once. Go bear spotting at Katmai National Park and Brooks Falls. You can also get up close to glaciers at the nation’s largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias, when you stay at Kennicott Glacier Lodge. Along with glaciers and the chance to hike on the Root Glacier, you’ll also see 14 of the highest mountain peaks on the continent.
Rome dramatically blends old-world civilization with new as modern buildings surround iconic ruins like the Colosseum. It’s an amazing chance to teach your kids about art, culture and history up close where they can reach out and touch it, like a trip to the Vatican City and the Pantheon. Ask your hotel or travel agent in advance about Culture Week, or Settimana della Cultura, where national museums and archaeological sites have free admissions and can save your family a bundle.
You don’t need to fly to the Caribbean to take in the beauty of the islands when Hawai’i boasts some of our nation’s most spectacular islands. Stay in Waikiki and take the trolley to see the major sites around the city. For something more adventurous, head to the home of the Diamond Head Crater, where an extinct volcano welcomes guests with a 360-degree view over Oahu. If you head to Kaua’i, take the kids to Poipu Beach for a swim with Hawaiian Monk Seals and Green Sea Turtles before building sandcastles and snapping a few selfies.
Give your kids an up-close look at the history of our nation in Washington, D.C. Tangled politics aside, the city boasts dozens of options for families like wandering through the National Mall to see the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool. Although accommodations in the D.C. area can get expensive, families on a budget will love the free admission the 16 Smithsonian Museums offer, which are also easily accessible by public transportation. Although stops like the Natural History Museum and Air and Space Museum are a must, the National Zoo is also on every kid’s wish list.
The best part about bucket list vacations is they can evolve and grow over time as your family’s interests change. Make it a new tradition to take one bucket list trip a year and watch as your kids’ idea of “must-sees” evolves. Their insistence Disney should be on every year’s bucket list may shift and make way for new adventures faster than you think (or are ready for).