Ten Amazing Things to Do with Kids Around the World
My oldest daughter just turned ten. In those ten years we’ve taken her and our other two kids (5 and 8) to 32 countries on six continents and have done a lot of amazing things. So I asked the kids to vote for their favorite activities, from zoos to natural wonders to historic sites to theme parks to island adventures to cooking classes, that they would recommend to other families. Here are their top ten, in no particular order.
Take your kids to amazing places! It’s never too early to encourage wonder.
Explore Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia
One of the most beautiful places on the planet, Plitvice Lakes Park is a series of 16 crystal-clear cascading lakes with waterfalls between and surrounding the lakes. We traveled to the park from Zagreb in late spring and explored for hours, walking and running along the major pathways and taking two boat rides across the larger lakes. I wouldn’t recommend taking a stroller! A lot of the paths are like you see below.
Go on the LEGO Inside Tour in Billund, Denmark
LEGO allows 140 people every year to go behind the scenes at its headquarters, factory and Legoland park in Denmark. If you have kids, or if you feel like a kid when playing with LEGO bricks, try to be one of those 140! Highlights of the three-day event included watching the colored bricks being formed and transported around the factory by robots, and seeing every single LEGO set ever created. Plus we got to go on a discounted shopping spree in the LEGO Employee Store. It’s the best trip ever for anyone who’s put together a LEGO set. My tour review is here, including a link on how to apply next year.
Feed Monkeys in the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali
My 9-year-old daughter fell in love with Bali. Whether we were flying kites on the beach, doing yoga, watching Balinese dance or hiking through the rice terraces, she was in her element. Her favorite activity, though, was the most childlike – letting monkeys climb all over her for bananas in the Monkey Forest. When we go back, it will be our first stop.
Stay at the Rosewood Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
When I asked the kids to vote for their ten favorite things they had done around the world, I didn’t expect a hotel to make the list. But all three kids mentioned the Rosewood Mayakoba. Specific things the kids loved about our stay: the private plunge pool; the other pools; feeding the fish from our private dock; the kid’s club; the food; riding around the resort in golf carts; the beach; seeing coatis running around everywhere; the huge bathtub that became a play fort; and watching the stars from the roof of our villa. Our goal is to choose different destinations every year for winter break and spring break, but the Rosewood could easily become an annual trip.
Picnic at the Eiffel Tower
I love that this is the kids’ favorite thing in Paris, because it’s mine too. Whenever we’re in Paris, we have dinner at the Eiffel Tower more often than in restaurants. We pick up breads, cheeses, meats and fruits from vendors in the 7th arr., grab some chocolate mousse and a rosé from a supermarché and head over to Champ de Mars park with a blanket. The kids run and play while we relax – always a perfect end to the day.
Kayak in Belize
We’re always up for jumping into boats with our kids, from whitewater rafting in Colorado to kayaking in Bora Bora, Antarctica and Hawaii to rowing around Lake Bled in Slovenia. The only specific water activity that made this top ten list, though, was kayaking in Belize. I was actually disappointed in Belize’s overall kid-friendliness, but my four-year-old loved the trip, and she especially loved the kayaking at the Turtle Inn. Something about being in the front of the kayak on the non-smooth seas made my daughter feel really alive, or maybe it was that she was hanging out with her dad in a really cool place far from her siblings. In either case, she’d recommend kayaking in Belize to everyone!
Explore Easter Island
My son loves remote islands, history and mystery, so Easter Island was an appropriate choice for his six-year-old trip. It was a great trip – fun to get to (via layovers in Panama City and Santiago) and very interesting to explore for a few days. In addition to the iconic Moai (statues), it’s a Polynesian island with warm weather, great food and a fun vibe. We’re off to Palawan shortly for his eight-year-old trip, and will likely add on other remote islands the next few years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he chooses a return to Easter Island too. It’s pretty magical being alone among the ancient stone statues.
Become a Wizard at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando
We’ve taken the kids to amusement parks on four continents, from Luna Park in Sydney to Hong Kong Disneyland to Jardin d’Acclimatation, Efteling, Legoland and Tivoli Gardens in Europe to many Lego, Disney and Universal parks in California and Florida. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando is by far the kids’ favorite. Both Harry Potter areas, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, are extremely well done. They feel…real. And when the kids get home, they’re still in that world for weeks, magic wands standing by. I can’t want for the Harry Potter section of Universal Hollywood to open in April 2016 – although for Diagon Alley you’ll still need to travel to Orlando.
Belly Slide like a Penguin in Antarctica
Antarctica really was one of the kid-friendliest places we’ve been. We walked with penguins. We kayaked. We made snow angels and had snowball fights. We celebrated New Years Eve. My 8-year-old daughter and I loved everything about the trip. But the absolutely highlight for her was when she got to slide down hills on her belly like a penguin. Of course you can belly slide anywhere there’s snow, but to do it on the bottom of the world looking out at penguins and icebergs? Priceless. My post on Antarctica with kids is here.
Take a Disney Cruise
We’ve loved the Disney Mediterranean cruises we’ve taken. It’s not about the characters – Disney does just about everything right, from food to cabin quality to activities and shows, and we feel completely comfortable with our kids roaming around the ships by themselves. The port stops in Europe are excellent. We’ve embarked/disembarked in Venice and Barcelona, two great cities anyway, and have traveled through Italy, France, Malta, Greece and Turkey. In 2016 we’ll be seeing northern Europe with Disney. We typically like slower travel, but every other year or so it’s fun to unpack once, see a lot of great places and let the kids be kids. My Disney cruise review is here.
After this post appeared on my website and on Yahoo Travel, I received a lot of questions about the affordability of these trips. My response is here: How to Make Family Travel Affordable, detailing everything I do to bring travel costs down. Not every trip is affordable by everyone, but most are if you’re smart about how you play the mileage game and how you book travel.