Ultimate Family Vacation Ideas

It’s no secret that traveling with children has some limitations. (Who’s signing up for zip lining or a wine tour with young kids in tow?) But that doesn’t mean you have to feel constrained to focusing on mouse ears and a top 10 amusement parks list.

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

This set of 3 western Caribbean islands has a ton of things to offer families who can afford to visit. Take the family swimming at Stingray City, where the kids can get up close and personal with stingrays in their natural habitat. And while you’re in a touchy-feely mood, visit Cayman Turtle Farm where the kids will love petting the marine park’s 362 turtles. The park also has breeding ponds and a hatchery where kids can interact with turtles of all sizes while learning through interactive displays about the incubation process. There’s also a tidal lagoon for snorkeling with tropical fish.

If your kids prefer to stay dry, Atlantis Submarines, a fleet of submarine and semi-submarine vessels, will take them underwater to see shipwrecks, reefs and coral canyons. As long as your little one is at least 3 feet tall, they can enjoy this undersea adventure. However, if they’re not, or you want to just frolic in the ocean, Cayman has no shortage of picturesque Caribbean beaches, such as the powdery sands of 7 Mile Beach, the most popular beach on the island.

Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania

The Poconos may be well-known for its heart-shaped tubs and romantic suites, but this 2,400-square-mile stretch of Pennsylvania is more than just champagne and bubble baths. If your family loves the outdoors, there’s no shortage of things to enjoy either, like hanging out at Camelback Mountain’s waterpark or hiking near waterfalls such as Bushkill Falls.

With 150 lakes in the area families can take a boat tour on Lake Wallenpaupack, go fishing at Skytop Lodge, white-water rafting along the Delaware River, tubing and canoeing in Milford, PA, water skiing in Beltzville State Park, and kayaking in Jim Thorpe, PA.

San Jose, Costa Rica

There’s more to Costa Rica’s capital than rainforests and jungles, although your kids will love those, too. Families can learn about Costa Rican culture at small community museums in towns like San Vicente, Nicoya; at the National Museum (Museo Nacional de Costa Rica) in San Jose; and the Children’s Museum (Museo de los Niños), home to interactive exhibits on science, history, technology and art.

Enjoy a hike in protected national parks such as Tortuguero National Park, or walk across a suspension bridge in Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, or fish or windsurf on Arenal Lake. Families can skin dive, snorkel, rent jet skis or simply relax at any one of the beaches, such as Playa Cocles in the South Caribbean region or Playas del Coco in the Guanacaste region.

More active families can enjoy mountain biking and horseback riding on Playa Negra in Cahuita, rafting and kayaking on the Pacuare River, zip lining in a Costa Rican forest, or canopy tours in the Monteverde cloud forest. Summer hotel and airline prices are affordable and comparable for a family traveling from Washington, DC, to San Diego.