The key to planning a family vacation is to ensure that there are activites for everyone.
Austin-Lehman Adventures: Yellowstone National Park Family
The Details: This hiking, rafting, and horseback-riding trip begins at Old Faithful and continues to Yellowstone Lake and the Absaroka mountains. Accommodations include the historic Old Faithful Inn and Chico Hot Springs Resort. Six days from $2,198.
The Activities: The wildlife-spotting is excellent, and the terrain is gentle enough for all ages and abilities. Among the highlights: hiking the four-mile Wapiti Trail, which leads to a large fissure known as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and strolling the boardwalks near the Upper Geyser Basin.
Related: Best All-Inclusive Family Resorts
Lindblad Expeditions: Galápagos Aboard the Endeavour
The Details: From Guayaquil, Ecuador, hop a 2 1/2-hour flight to get to the 96-passenger National Geographic Endeavour, which visits the Galápagos Islands. Guides lead onshore excursions to spot blue-footed boobies and to hike lava flows. 10 days from $4,990.
The Activities: Learning-based scavenger hunts and Zodiac-driving lessons will please younger travelers; adults can go deep-water snorkeling. Don’t want to get wet? Observe the abundant sea life from a glass-bottomed boat.
GeoEx: Kenya Family Safari
The Details: Spend a day at a giraffe sanctuary in Nairobi before exploring the vast Masai Mara reserve, the semiarid Laikipia Plateau, and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. You’ll sleep in comfortable camps with en suite bathrooms. 10 days from $6,500.
The Activities: Set your own pace each day by choosing between game drives, visits to local communities, lessons in bush living for the kids, walks alongside a Masai warrior, or picnics in the wild. Itineraries avoid complicated transfers, and the local guides have a great rapport with kids.
The Jungle Adventure
The Details: Costa Rica Expeditions has bespoke itineraries that can include kayaking in Tortuguero National Park, ziplining over the rain forest near the Arenal volcano (non-adrenaline junkies can take the suspended walkway), and visiting Manuel Antonio National Park by car. Eight days from $1,800.
The Ski Trip
The Details: The Ski & Snowboard School at Beaver Creek (from $160 per day), in Colorado’s Vail Valley, is one of the country’s best, with programs divided by age and skill level. Just 200 feet away from the school, the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa ($$$) has a youth camp and a 30,000-square-foot spa.
The Dude Ranch
The Details: A collection of rustic cabins set on the border of Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest, the century-old HF Bar Ranch (all-inclusive; $$$$) has hundreds of miles of hiking and riding trails, plus tons of children’s activities, such as hayrides and square dances.
Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000
Costa Rica Expeditions
The oldest and most reputable adventure outfitter in the country (founder Michael Kaye left his native New York to open the biz in 1978), Costa Rica Expeditions runs multiday packages to all the country’s wildest natural places. Specialized trips range from birding and turtle-watching treks in Tortuguero National Park to hairy white-water rafting on the Pacuare River’s Class 4 rapids; multisport packages combine activities like zip-line canopy tours, cloud-forest hikes, mountain biking, and kayaking. Many trips are family-friendly, and all include accommodation in eco-lodges or comfortable tented camps, so you can sleep and eat—as well as play—in nature.
HF Bar Ranch
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa
To be a standout for families and spa-goers may seem an odd combination, but this 190-room, native-stone-and-timber Park Hyatt at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain (just 200 feet from the peak’s ski school) pulls it off with luxury to boot. Wander past the lobby’s elk-horn chandelier to rooms with oversize beds and baths featuring products from the hotel’s Allegria Spa. The spa, with a $12 million overhaul in 2006 that practically doubled its size to 30,000 square feet, is the perfect place to wind down after skiing to the hotel’s doorstep and handing off your gear to the ski valet. But kids are decidedly a focus here, with activities organized by Camp Hyatt (for kids 3–12), the village’s best heated outdoor pool and five hot tubs (two are adult-only), and daily story time in front of the Great Room fireplace, complete with complimentary hot cocoa.
Lindblad is a top adventure company, with an impressive affiliation with the National Geographic Society. Research scientists come on board, and passengers can observe NG field sites and equipment, including undersea cameras and hydrophones and video-microscopes. Meanwhile, excellent naturalist guides lead shore explorations, often involving wet Zodiac landings, getting you close to nature. The line’s five ships range in size from 62 to 148 passengers, though Lindblad also charters additional vessels. Cabins are snug, cuisine is not gourmet, but who cares when you have blue-footed boobies to view?