Hottest travel destinations for families in 2024
Written by lifestyle and travel writer Angela Saurine.
Published 19 Jan, 2024
If you’re looking for a fun and fulfilling family holiday this year, you’re in luck. We’ve scoured the globe to find the best places to visit in 2024, from old favourites with exciting new developments to fast-emerging destinations that need to be on your radar.
Best for: Tranquil beaches, beautiful vistas and historical attractions.
This small country in the Balkans is making big waves when it comes to tourism. According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, it’s the fastest-growing destination in Europe, with the number of tourist arrivals up by 56 per cent compared to pre-pandemic 2019. With a rich history and culture, stunning scenery and beautiful beaches offering a similar experience to western Europe, at a fraction of the price, it was only a matter of time before Albania was discovered. On the south-west coast, the Albania Riviera boasts beautiful turquoise coves, with ancient villages, castles, churches and monasteries crying out to be explored. Near the city of Sarandë, discover the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Roman/Greek ruins in Butrint National Park, which is the most visited archaeological site in the country. The Albanian Alps are also worth including in your itinerary, with hiking trails leading through valleys and alongside canyons to gorgeous rivers, lakes and waterfalls. Kids will also love checking out the many bunkers built across the country during the Cold War.
Where to stay: With three pools, a kids’ club and an inviting beach bar, Sandy Beach Resort is ideal for families. Around 40 minutes’ drive from the capital, Tirana, it has a range of rooms and suites to choose from, with connecting rooms available.
Best for: Wildlife tours and stunning sunsets.
Little animal lovers will be in their element with a trip to this island in South-East Asia, which offers some of the most intriguing wildlife experiences on the planet. The Malaysian state of Sabah, in the island’s north, is the place to go to learn about conservation, with visits to facilities such as Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, where orphaned and injured primates are cared for, and the Sun Bear Conservation Centre. You can also see turtle hatchlings making their way to the ocean at Turtle Islands Marine Park, and spot pygmy elephants on a cruise down the Kinabatangan River. Families with a thirst for adventure can tackle the climb up Mt Kinabalu to watch the sun rise, or if you prefer something a little more laidback, book an island-hop from the capital, Kota Kinabalu.
Where to stay: Club Med is opening a sustainably-built beachfront resort near Kota Kinabalu in Sabah in 2024. The 400-room resort will blend into the jungle, with a kids’ club, water sports and cultural activities. See: clubmed.com.au
Best for: Hidden coves and island hopping.
This group of Greek Islands encompasses well-known favourites such as Mykonos, Ios and Santorini, as well as lesser-known gems including Amoros, Folegandros and Sifnos. Named Cyclades after the circular shape the islands form, the much-loved Aegean Sea archipelago is now easier to explore than ever, with Rail Europe introducing a Eurail Greek Islands Pass for ferries in 2023. This is the kind of holiday dreams are made of, with calm coves offering peace of mind for families with younger children and oceanfront tavernas where you can dine on grilled octopus and saganaki with your feet in the sand while the kids play on the beach nearby. Don’t miss the sunset from Oia in Santorini – the island famous for its clifftop whitewashed buildings and blue domes. But be warned, it can get pretty busy in the Greek Islands in July and August, so consider planning a vacation in June or September, when the weather is still warm but there are less crowds.
Where to stay: Children will love careening down the waterslide into the pool at Dolphin Bay Resort, which is located on Galissas Beach in Syros. Free ice-cream and popcorn are offered poolside daily, and there’s an outdoor play area, movie program and family rooms with bunk beds.
Best for: Culture, theme parks and delicious food.
From seeing snow monkeys soaking in hot springs in Nagano, to geishas and temples in Kyoto and skiing in some of the driest snow in the world in Hokkaido, Japan offers a diverse range of experiences for families – with excellent food. Start your trip in the capital, Tokyo, where you can visit Tokyo Disneyland, Ghibli Museum and the colourful Akihabara neighbourhood, before hopping aboard a bullet train to explore its prefectures. Head to Hiroshima on Honshu Island to give the kids a history lesson about the city, which was largely destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II. Visit the reconstructed Hiroshima Castle, before filling their buckets with a trip to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, which features Super Nintendo World and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as well as LEGOLAND Japan Resort. They’ll also get a buzz out of seeing sumo wrestling tournaments and visiting the Samurai and Ninja Museum in Kyoto.
Where to stay: Staying in a traditional inn, known as a ryokan, is a fantastic cultural experience for families. Kyoto Ryokan Shoei is a good option. It features Japanese-style rooms with futon beds sleeping up to six people and indoor and outdoor baths.
Best for: Snorkelling, waterfalls and rainforest hikes.
Soak up the Caribbean vibes in this West Indies nation, which has earned the nickname ‘the Spice Isle’ thanks to its production of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and other seasonings. The former French and British colony is celebrating 50 years of independence in 2024, making it an exciting time to visit. While away your days on the idyllic Grand Anse Beach, a few kilometres south of the capital city St George’s on the island’s south-west coast, where soft white sand meets an azure bay. Book a snorkelling or glass-bottom boat tour to see the Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park, which has 75 works spread across 800 square metres, swim in rainforest waterfalls and hike around the Grand Etang Lake – a crater lake in an extinct volcano that is sure to impress budding geologists. Sweet tooths should also incorporate a visit to The Grenada Chocolate Company to taste treats made from high-quality, locally-grown organic cocoa beans.
Where to stay: On the southern end of Grande Anse Beach, the eco-friendly boutique hotel Mount Cinnamon Resort & Beach Club has a pool, seasonal kids’ club, tennis court, beach volleyball court and daily yoga.
Best for: Relaxation, beach clubs and spiritual nourishment.
Known as ‘the island of the Gods’, Bali is well-known as a wellness destination, but it also has plenty to entice families. The vast majority of the population is Hindu, who make daily offerings of fruit and flowers in small palm-leaf baskets at home shrines and stone temples to express gratitude. Spend your days learning to surf on the beaches at Seminyak, Legian or Canggu, chilling out at beach clubs like Ku De Ta and Potato Head, and checking out the waterslides at Waterbom Bali. Be sure to include at least a day trip to Ubud, which is considered the Indonesian island’s artisan and spiritual centre, where you can take a cooking class, cycle among rice paddies, and see the cheeky primates in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. At Jimbaran Bay, south of Kuta, you can also dine on freshly caught barbecued seafood at one of the many restaurants that line the beach of the one-time fishing village.
Where to stay: AYANA Estate, which encompasses four resorts set amidst the jungle on a 90-hectare property in Jimbaran, offers adventure camps for children that explore Bali’s unique culture and nature themes that change with the seasons.
Best for: Outstanding safari adventures and white sandy beaches.
Africa will be firmly back in the spotlight in 2024, with much hype around the release of Mufasa: The Lion King movie, later in the year. Tanzania is the fastest-growing travel destination on the continent, with tourism numbers up 19 per cent since 2019, according to the UNWTO. Home to Africa’s highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro, the country is the perfect place to embark on an unforgettable safari adventure to see the “big five” — lions, leopards, rhinoceros, African buffalo and elephants. The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are among the best locations for wildlife viewing, and you can also visit a Maasai village to learn about traditional culture. There are some lovely beaches along the east coast to relax and unwind afterwards, with many of them to be found on the island of Zanzibar.
Where to stay: Lemala Camps & Lodges has a fantastic Lemala Cubs program for kids under 12, with activities such as learning how to track animals, throw (blunt) spears and use bows and arrows like a Maasai warrior. It has three lodges in Tanzania, including the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Tarangire.
Best for: Adventurous outdoor pursuits.
Fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy now have even more reason to plan a trip to the Land of the Long White Cloud, with the recent opening of two Hobbit holes that you can walk inside at the Hobbiton movie set attraction. Guided tours of the enchanting site at Matamata on the North Island began in 2002, with the new attraction the biggest development since the Green Dragon Inn opened in 2012. While you’re there, you can also discover more behind-the-scenes movie magic with a tour of special effects and prop company Wētā Workshop in Wellington or Auckland, soak in hot springs and mud baths at Rotorua, and visit a Māori cultural village. New Zealand is also an adventure lover’s paradise. Cycling the Central Otago Rail Trail is a wonderful family-bonding experience. You can go hiking or kayaking, or get the adrenaline pumping bungy-jumping or jet boating. There are also several resorts spread across the North and South Islands for skiing and snowboarding.
Where to stay: While not officially affiliated with Hobbiton, Woodlyn Park offers the opportunity to stay in one of two “under hill cave units”, as well as a converted war plane, NAVY patrol boat or steam train. It’s just over an hour’s drive from the film set.
Best for: Waterparks, kids’ clubs and breathtaking beaches.
With the first stage of the new Maya train line opening in late 2023, it’s easier to get around Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, in the country’s south-east, than ever before. Tourists can hop on the train in the holiday hotspot Cancun and visit attractions such as the famous Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá and beach resorts Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. A new airport has also opened at Tulum, around 130 kilometres south of Cancun, which is known for its stunning beaches and well-preserved ruins. Kids will also love swimming in natural sinkholes, known as cenotes, which are dotted throughout the Yucatán Peninsula. Young Nickelodeon fans can meet their favourite characters, such as Spongebob Squarepants and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, at Aqua Nick water park on the Riviera Maya, which has a Paw Patrol Adventure Bay splash park and brightly coloured giant slides. It also offers the opportunity for the whole family to get slimed!
Where to stay: The all-inclusive Grand Palladium Colonial Resort & Spa in Riviera Maya has everything you need for a family holiday, including lagoon-style pools, a kids’ club and an abundance of restaurants, all just half an hour’s drive from the Mayan ruins in Tulum.
Best for: family-friendly hikes and cosy log-cabin accommodation.
When it comes to bucket list family travel experiences, visiting Santa Claus Village in Finland is right up there. While you can meet Santa and his elves year-round, winter is a magical time to visit to enjoy a husky or reindeer sled ride through the snow, try ice fishing and soak in a jacuzzi at the traditional log cabin-style sauna nearby. This year is forecast to be a great one to see the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, with peak solar activity predicted. But Finland, which has been voted the world’s happiest country six years in a row in the World Happiness Report, is also a great summer destination. Lovely beaches can be found along the coast and inland lakes, and wilderness areas such as Hossa National Park are ideal for outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, biking and canoeing. It’s also worth exploring Archipelago National Park in the country’s south-west, which has the largest concentration of islands on the planet.
Where to stay: Santa Claus Village at Rovaniemi has a range of accommodation options, from cosy cabins and glass igloos where you can watch the Northern Lights from your bed to Scandinavian-style hotel rooms, luxury apartments and villas.
Ready for your next vacation?
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