6 Family-Friendly Destinations
Six superwomen share their plans for the perfect family getaway
Why: The culture, food, people, energy, and landscape are extraordinary.
Favorite cities: Jodhpur and Rishikesh
Best time to visit: Late October to end February when the weather is at its best.
Kid-friendly to-dos: Find a patch of greenery and let your kids play. The forts and palaces are great places to roam around because of the landscaping and open spaces. The museums are always crowded but manageable for moms with babies or toddlers. Just use a baby sling to keep your baby close.
Where to stay: In Mumbai, we stayed at a hotel near the airport called Leela. It’s a great hotel and the service is topnotch. Every time we wanted something (usually a food request) for our daughter Anjali, they would go out of their way to make it and not even bill us even if we asked them to charge it.
In Jodhpur, we stayed at Juna Mahal Boutique Homestay in the middle of the old city. This place is not kid-friendly, but it is certainly the most magical place I’ve visited in India. It has the best view of the blue city. The place is difficult to get to, but its charm is worth it. Highly recommended for people who are more on the adventurous side.
In New Delhi, we booked with AirBnb. Qasr E Feroze Hauz Khas Village is a wonderful place—the apartment is clean, stylish and kid-friendly. It has two bedrooms, a kitchen, a washer and a dryer.
And, finally, in Reshikish, we stayed in an ashram. It is modest—only for brave souls and not for the faint-hearted.
- Indian food is spicy. Tell the wait staff “NO spice” instead of “little spice” because little spice to them still means medium-spicy.
- Always bring rubber slippers for your baby to use especially for when you’re not staying in a five-star hotel.
- Get your child’s constitution ready for the trip by making him drink probiotics a week before the trip starts. The brand I use is Culturelle. Drink Yakult and have yogurt everyday. It helps keep your gut flora in check.
- Bring hand sanitizers for you and your baby.
Angela Lichauco is the founder of Rawlicious Green Smoothies. When not selling in the Sunday Legaspi Market, she travels with her partner, Lawrence, and toddler, Anjali.
Samantha Garcia Gagnon
Why: Canada is famous for its natural beauty and national parks. If the outdoors aren’t your thing, it also has big cities that offer lots of cultural attractions, art and shopping.
Favorite cities: Traveling across a vast country like Canada is not cheap. In the province of British Columbia, our favorite spot is Osoyoos, which is in a desert (yes, Canada has a desert!) and has the warmest lake in the country, plus so many vineyards with delicious wine. We also love going to Whistler in the winter for a fun, snowy experience, and it is just two hours away from Vancouver.
Best time to go: My favorite time is towards the end of spring and the beginning of summer (month of May), when it isn’t too hot nor too cold, and there are lots of sunshine and beautiful flowers.
Kid-friendly to-dos: We love to hike and visit the lakes and beaches. Stanley Park, a 1,000-acre public park right in the middle of downtown Vancouver, is wonderful with a walking trail, known as the sea wall, that goes all the way around the park for an amazing walk. Vancouver also has an amazing aquarium and Science World, which are perfect to visit on rainy days.
Where to stay: I like encouraging people to rent a house through Airbnb or VRBO, and stay in an area in Vancouver called Kitsilano. It is walking distance (or a short bus ride) to the beach and high streets for shopping, with easy access to downtown and all the sight-seeing opportunities.
- Make sure you have a good stroller or baby carrier so you can travel around easily.
- Don't be afraid to let your kids get dirty and experience nature. Canada does have strict car-seat rules so if you are renting a car, be sure you understand the laws.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Canadians are always happy to help out!
Originally from Cebu, Samantha Garcia Gagnon now lives in Vancouver, Canada with her high school sweetheart, Michael, and their two kids, Joseph and Estelle. Samantha is a birth doula and birth and newborn photographer, and feels eternally grateful for being able to live her passion and to support women in their journey from being a maiden to a mother.
Why: Three generations—my parents, myself and my husband, and our daughters Olivia, 4, and Amelia, 2—had the wonderful opportunity to go on a Disney Cruise to the Carribean.
Favorite cities: Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman Island; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, in the Bahamas.
Best time to go: Summer is one of the best times to go, although if you are not used to hot and humid temperatures, you may want to consider fall instead. Some seasons may save you money, but summer remains the most popular.
Kid-friendly to-dos: Hitting the beach is, of course, one of the most family-friendly things you can do in South America. Get off the ship and book a pre-arranged half-day tour of the city to dive into more of the local culture. I love to look into cultural activities such as museums or historic sites to get a feel of the country I’m visiting. If your kids are older and more adventurous, there are always great things to do such as snorkeling and diving, zip-lining, swimming with dolphins, etc.
• Read alerts from the U.S. government travel website and register your trip in advance with credit card companies.
• Always pack essentials like snacks and water bottles for the kids, a travel size sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat for everyone in the family.
• Have a first-aid kit on hand in case of allergy attacks and digestive problems.
• Bring extra chargers for cell phones and camera batteries.
• Always bring baby wipes, which are great multi-taskers as a gentle makeup remover, stain remover, hand sanitizer, etc.
Patricia Klier is an award-winning freelance writer, photographer and work-from-home mom to daughters Olivia and Amelia. She, her husband Alex, and their children currently live in Columbus, Ohio. They love to travel, hike, run and explore their new hometown and the surrounding areas.
Why: We recommend Europe for the culture, food, and history. The ancient ruins of the Western civilization (Roman, Greek, and the Turkish Ottoman Empire) is something you won’t find in many other countries; a feeling of awe hits you when you walk down marble streets that are thousands of years old.
Favorite country: Italy since it is always easy to feed toddlers pepperoni pizza and pasta, It also has a family-centric culture. Make sure you teach your kids how to say “Ciao!” and “Grazie” since all the locals love that.
Best time to go: That would be fall right after the start of school in September, or late spring around May. The best deals are during these two seasons; it also has the best weather for kids. Kid-friendly to-dos: The age of your kids may determine the activities you can do in Europe. Our son Logan just turned two when we did a two-week trip to the Mediterranean (seven-day cruise and six-day land tours). We had to add some time for naps, running around in an open space, and some play time at museums/ruins.
Where to stay: Europe has mostly older and smaller B&Bs/boutique hotels rather than large chain hotels. This means that there are tiny shower/baths, limited room space, and no elevators. So if you are traveling to multiple cities, try to minimize luggage so that you don’t have to haul everything up multiple flights of stairs (and minimize rolling bags in cobblestoned cities).
- Depending on the city, walking is the best form of transportation with young kids unless you are comfortable taking public transportation or have the budget to take a cab/taxi everywhere (or in Venice, getting into a boat or gondola). Take the time to plan your day and buy transportation tickets in advance (many cities have specials for multiple days/rides), and leave enough time to get from place to place.
- Plan for jet lag. The time change in Europe takes some getting used to if you’re coming from the US or Asia, and you don’t want your kids sleep-deprived and cranky on top of everything else.
- Bottled water is more expensive than wine in Europe, so have a stash rather than buy whenever the kids are thirsty to save money.
Kristina and her husband Ramon Tioseco live in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California with their son Logan. Kristina is director of strategy for Hilton Worldwide, and Ramon is a personal shopper/Tom Ford Specialist for Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills.
Amina Evangelista Swanepoel
Why: South Africa has so much natural beauty and so much delicious food and wine. There’s a wide range of things to do and see, from going on a safari, to seeing wild animals in their natural habitat, to exploring historical and cultural sites, beautiful beaches, and stunning wineries and vineyards.
Favorite cities: We’ve traveled to Johannesburg with our kids, but our main destination (and also my favorite city in the whole world) is Cape Town. It is so beautiful—the scenery is breathtaking and dramatic. The people are so friendly and helpful, the food and wine are unrivaled.
Best time to go: The warmest months are the best times to see Cape Town. Anywhere from November to April is fabulous. However, if you’re going primarily for a safari, the best times are from June to September as the lack of foliage makes for better animal-viewing.
Kid-friendly to-dos: See the penguins at Boulders Beach. Check out the V&A Waterfront, and if your kids are old enough, take the ferry to Robben Island to see Nelson Mandela’s former prison. Younger kids will probably just enjoy the ferry ride and not the prison tour. Check out the baboons on the way to Cape Point. Go wine-tasting at one of the many vineyards in Constantia, Stellenbosch, Franschoek or Paarl. All of these vineyards are beautiful and most of them have gorgeous gardens where kids can play and explore.
Where to stay: There are tons of hotels and bed and breakfasts all over SA and many of them are self-catering, meaning, you’ll have access to a kitchen and cook your own food, which makes traveling with kids a lot easier!
• In an effort to fight trafficking, South Africa has very strict laws about traveling with minors. If you’re going to South Africa with children under 18, you must travel with your kids’ original birth certificates that clearly indicate you are their parents. If you turn up at the airport with only passports and without the birth certificates, you will be denied entry into the country.
• If your kids are over 8 years old, consider going to Johannesburg and taking the family on a safari in Kruger National Park. There are a range of accommodation options.
• Spend at least a week in Cape Town to take in all the sites and, if possible, a couple days in the wine lands of Stellenbosch or Franschoek. Look for vineyards with activities or playgrounds for kids.
Amina Evangelista Swanepoel is the founding executive director of Roots of Health and the local administrative arm of the organization Ugat ng Kalusugan based in Palawan, Philippines.
Ella de Jesus
Why: Australia has a great mix of urban and rural attractions, and there are activities for everyone. If you like art, visit the city laneways, which showcase tons of street art; if you want something indoors, visit the city galleries. If you like nature, visit the numerous parks, beaches, and botanical gardens, go apple- or berry-picking, or use your bike and take a tour of the town using the great bike lanes. You can also go bushwalking and see native animals like the kangaroo, wallaby and kookaburra. If you go to the right place, they even feed off your hand. If you’re a foodie, go to the City Markets and sample the freshest cheese, sausages, fruits and vegetables. If you want them fresh off the farm, go to rural towns and bike, drive or walk to get the best cheese, sausages and wine.
Favorite cities: I’ve been to Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Canberra. My favorite is Hobart, an island city with spectacular views of nature. It also has the best modern art gallery in Australia. It’s also one of the first towns to be colonized so it’s rich in history.
Best time to go: Go in the spring when nature is at its best, or in summer so you can visit the beach.
Kid-friendly to-dos: All museums have separate kid-friendly exhibitions linked to their main exhibitions. Sometimes they even have audio tours designed for kids. While the parents enjoy the exhibition, the kids can tag along listening to an iPod that will keep them entertained, educated and occupied. There are tons of parks around with change rooms, toilets and showers. Most parks have barbecue grills that you can use for free, children’s playground, car parks, and huge open spaces, where children can just run around and play. Libraries are also free to visit and often have reading hours and kids activities scheduled.
Where to stay: If you’re going to rural towns, Big4 holidays parks are great since they have swimming pools, playgrounds, activity rooms, and bikes/peddle carts for hire. In the city, there are tons of kid-friendly hotels. In Melbourne, there’s the Mantra, Best Western and Melbourne Family Apartments. For more affordable options, there’s YHA, which is a backpackers hotel, and Airbnb, which I enjoy because you can cook your own meals.
- Book things in advance to get good prices. You can take the Ferry to Hobart and bring your car so you can drive around Hobart instead of flying in and hiring a car. Travel on the ferry is around $600 versus plane fare and car hire ($2,500+). But you have to book the ferry a few months before your trip because slots get taken up fast during peak season.
- The Australian sun is pretty strong, so be sure to bring sunblock, hats and sunglasses.
- Bring or buy plug adaptors as Australia’s sockets are unique.
- Information centers can provide details on booking tours, local attractions and events.
Ella and her husband Ian are Filipino math teachers based in Melbourne, Australia. Their only son Ryan is 11 years old. They are all vegans, love art and the great outdoors.