8 Once-in-a-Lifetime Vacations Families Will Love

Lyla

Courtesy of Enchantment Resort Whether your kids are little tots, school-age, or young adults, rounding up the troops for a family vacation is no easy feat. There’s money to save, schedules to coordinate, and so very many opinions about where to go and what to do. When the stars finally […]

Courtesy of Enchantment Resort

Whether your kids are little tots, school-age, or young adults, rounding up the troops for a family vacation is no easy feat. There’s money to save, schedules to coordinate, and so very many opinions about where to go and what to do. When the stars finally align and you’re ready to book that trip, you want to choose a vacation that everyone will remember and treasure forever. Whatever that looks like to your crew—a turquoise dream in the Caribbean, a sun-soaked desert oasis, or a few days in the snow-covered mountains—here are eight trips to add to your bucket list.

1

For Mountain-Seekers: Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana

Located in Big Sky Country, Lone Mountain is a recently renovated, 100-year-old ranch that’s comprised of 27 log cabins, some of which are conjoined, making it perfect for families and large groups. Experienced ranch hands can help you customize your family’s dream itinerary, which—beyond fly-fishing and trips to nearby Yellowstone National Park—varies depending on the time of year. Summer activities include hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, canoeing, paddleboarding, and tubing, and kids ages 3 to 14 will love the outdoor adventure program. During the winter, snow-covered pursuits, including skiing (backcountry, downhill, Nordic), dog-sledding, and snowshoeing take precedence. Although the resort’s farm-to-table restaurant serves up seasonal dishes year-round, winter visitors will want to sign the whole family up for a private dinner at a lantern-lit cabin where live music plays. The best part? You’ll arrive in a horse-drawn sleigh.

Contact this property for rates and availability

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2

For the Christmas-Obsessed: Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland

Kids will never get over going to the real North Pole, and this northern area of Finland is about as close as you can get. Steps away from Santa Claus Village—that’s where Santa lives and works, you know—you’ll find the Nova Skyland Hotel, a minimalist wonderland with a Nordic restaurant that lets kids ages 5 to 9 eat half-price, while younger ones eat free. It’s the perfect home base for visiting Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their elves, seeing thousands of letters arrive at the village post office, and riding in a reindeer-pulled sleigh. While the attractions are open year-round, December is prime time not just for Santa but for the northern lights, which are even more memorable when seen by sled or snowmobile. If you come right around the winter solstice, you can experience a full polar night—candlelight is the best light—and take in the coziest Scandinavian comforts.

Rates from $301 per night

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3

For Health-Conscious Beach-Lovers: Palmaïa House of AïA, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

At first glance, Palmaïa looks like an adults-only wellness retreat, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s one of the few all-inclusive Caribbean resorts that allows parents to zen out while keeping kids engaged with fun, often educational, activities. With the kind of rattan and plant-heavy decor that Instagram rewards, the beachfront property does Riviera Maya right, mixing infinity pools (plus a kids’ pool) and a private beach with less-expected touches. An in-house shaman brings Palmaïa’s mystical inclinations to life with just about every type of yoga as well as sound healing, meditation, and tarot and astrology readings—something that will go over well if you’re traveling with crystal-loving teens. Ninety of the 314 suites are family-friendly, and many feature rooms with kid-focused decor as well as bunks and trundle beds. The menus at its four restaurants and one food truck are heavily plant-based, making it particularly welcoming to vegan and vegetarian travelers.

Rates from $1,219 per night per person

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4

For Skiers: Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada

While this Coast Mountain resort is open year-round, winter offers some of the best skiing in North America. It was, after all, good enough to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. But everyone in your group doesn’t need to be a pro skier—or even a recreational one—to enjoy Whistler. Put on your best sweaters and après the day away at the slope-side shops, spas, and restaurants, or enjoy one of the many alt-ski activities, such as tubing, ice-skating, snowmobiling, dog-sledding, or bobsledding. Kids will love Adventure Park, where they can roam sans skis and visit the tree fort and castle. When it comes to lodging, the Fairmont Chateau is an alpine dream at the foot of the mountain, while the more moderate-priced Nita Lake Lodge brings the woodland wonder.

Rates from $232 per night

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5

For Adventure Buffs: Nekupe Sporting Resort and Retreat in Nandaime, Nicaragua

If there are no little kids in your brood, this secluded, all-inclusive resort with volcano views is an adventurous option. Perched atop the highest point of a nature preserve, Nekupe gives guests free rein of the property, lending each room an all-terrain vehicle to explore its 18,000 acres. Activities range from low-key adventures—birdwatching, visiting the animal sanctuary, or taking painting, cooking, and restorative yoga classes—to higher-energy options like hiking with a guided ranger, mountain biking, horseback riding, and tennis. There are only eight rooms, four of which are standalone villas, making it ideal for multiple families or large groups who want to rent out the entire space. The food is Nicaraguan-inspired, and many of the ingredients come from the on-site garden, which you can learn all about via tour from one of Nekupe’s chefs.

Contact this property for rates and availability

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6

For World Travelers: A Self-Guided Tour of Tokyo, Kyoto, and More

Planning a trip to a country as different as Japan can feel overwhelming, never mind navigating it once there. But Inside Japan’s self-guided trips split the difference between group tour and independent travel. Ideal for families with older kids and teens, the Best of Japan itinerary plans a two-week trip for your family and offers four price tiers (ranging from $2,800 per person to $13,600) to choose from, although all trips start and end in Tokyo and stop at Hakone, Kyoto, Miyajima, Osaka, and Takayama in between. While each tier offers a different itinerary, they are all great entry points to the land of the rising sun, mixing must-sees for first-timers with lesser-known stops along the way. All include hotels, some meals, and Japan Rail passes, but the higher the tier, the more high-end the accommodations and experiences.

Rates from $2,800 per person for two weeks

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7

For Desert-Lovers: Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona

Nestled deep in the famed red rocks, this recently updated resort is half luxury wellness spa and half sleepaway camp for the whole family. Your crew can hike together at Boynton Canyon, go mountain biking, play tennis, or just relax by the pool. But you might want to split up for more individualized activities, such as painting classes, yoga and meditation, stretching by candlelight, labyrinth walks, massages, a visit to the on-site psychic, or getting your aura photo taken. Kids ages 4 to 12 can sign up for a full or half-day at on-site Camp Coyote, which offers a lineup of supervised activities like nature walks, scavenger hunts, and arts and crafts. Whatever you spend your day doing, you’ll want to come together to watch the sun paint the desert sky over a Southwest-inspired dinner followed by some of the best stargazing around.

Rates from $407 per night

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8

For Disney Fans: Wish Cruise, from Port Canaveral, Florida

Set to sail its maiden voyage in June 2022, Wish takes the 360-Disney experience to uncharted territories. No Disney fan (nor Pixar nor Marvel nor Star Wars fan) is left out, with nods to classics along with newer hits like Frozen (“new” in cruise years, given this is the first Disney ship to debut in a decade). Marvel buffs of all ages will revel in the Marvel universe theatrical dinner while younger kids can train at the superhero academy. Water fun prevails at AquaMouse, an immersive ride suspended above the ship’s upper decks, at the Toy Story-themed waterpark, and at the Walt Disney Imagineering Lab. Parents will love the Star Wars lounge along with the many bars and restaurants on the upper decks reserved for those 18 and over.

Rates from $833 per person per night

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