Kid-Friendly Summer Destinations
Family vacations are great! Experiencing a new culture, discovering a new food, being welcomed into someone’s home, can be life-changing. Sharing these experiences with your children is a gift, and as HomeExchange members, we get to do it often.
However, deciding on a location for Summer vacation that is fun for the whole family can be a bit tricky. Finding a destination that you and your kids will like is key!
Here are 8 recommendations from experienced HomeExchange Parents that are bound to delight, entertain, and inspire the young and young-at-heart.
This was our very first home exchange; and we fell in love with both the concept and the country. As they say, “you always return to your first love”! For us Sweden was a delight, we stayed for 3 weeks right next to Stockholm in Rotebro. We were able to enjoy the Swedish sweetness and even experienced a heat wave there with over 30 degrees Celsius for 3 weeks. We even exchanged our cars.
The Swedish model is ideal for families, where everything is thought of even for the youngest: the restaurants have spaces for the children, the public toilets are adapted, the museums are free, parks with play spaces are everywhere and, above all, nature and green spaces. Our apprentice travelers were three, five and six-years-old. Sweden is a country so rich culturally, but also so exotic by the variety of landscapes that offers both kids and parents incredible memories! Even today, and in spite of our current round-the-world trip, it is still one of the countries where we would love to live! So we have only one advice: contact Swedish home exchangers quickly!
VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA
Vancouver Island is one of Canada’s top destinations for families with children. The island offers visitors not only beautiful beaches, but also gorgeous mountains and rainforests without the overbearing heat of more tropical destinations. You will not run out of things to do with kids, regardless of their age. Whale watching, kayaking, beachcombing, paddleboarding, trout fishing, tubing the Cowichan River, and hiking are just a few of the many family friendly activities available.
Parents, be sure to take some time for yourselves as well by scheduling a short detour to a winery, art gallery or quaint little shop with the promise of ice cream to appease the children! Also, because you are HomeExchanging, you can easily take some local seafood from one of the many fish markets and prepare a great dinner! Try doing that at a hotel!
Lastly, as with all HomeExchange adventures, be sure to ask your hosts to point you in the direction of some of their favorite secret spots. For us, that included a short hike to a river’s edge with a rope swing and the clearest water we’ve ever seen.
TODOS SANTOS, BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR, MEXICO
I’m a big fan of Todos Santos on Mexico’s Baja peninsula. This is one of my favorite places to travel with my family and the weather is perfect in June and July. On our last trip we released baby sea turtles at a turtle sanctuary, rode horses on the beach, and hit every taco stand in town. Downtown Todos Santos is small, but vibrant with art, culture, fantastic restaurants, and killer ice cream shops. I highly recommend this “Pueblo Magico.”
Provence was our Summer 2016 holiday destination. It was one of our dreams and we spent more than one month in the area with a home exchange. There are many reasons to go to Provence with kids: first, the lavender blooming. This is a lovely spectacle that you can see in between June and mid-July. If you’re lucky, you might find some lavender fields blooming until mid-August. I can assure you that a run through a lavender field is one of the most beautiful experiences for kids! But a trip in Provence also means the sea, the beach, small villages, good wines and amazing food. It makes this French destination suitable for the whole family! Check out some of the pictures we took in Provence on Instagram (#patafrance).
We went to Hawaii on a “babymoon” and are now itching to go back with our two kids! The islands are a perfect place for families with kids of all ages, and you can fill your days with sights, sounds, and adventures that will make the whole family happy. Oahu is a great island to start with — there’s the more touristy, action-packed Waikiki area, contrasted with the slower, local-run North Shore.
If you’re traveling with little ones, there are definitely a few must-sees. The Dole Pineapple Plantation is a beautiful place to learn about Hawaiian agriculture, let the kids run through the pineapple maze, and sample some Dole Whip. The lagoons at Ko Olina are perfect for wading out into calm water, and introducing little ones to the wonders of snorkeling. Wander Waikiki beach and stop into some shops, take a surfing lesson, or watch a local hula show. At night, grab tickets to a luau and show the kiddos how they actually roast a pig in the ground (if you’re into that sort of thing!). There’s delicious food all over the island, from the legendary malasadas (Portuguese donuts) at Leonard’s bakery to Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck to the noodles at Marakume Udon. And all along, you’re surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes and beaches you can imagine. At the end of your trip I can almost guarantee that you’ll be wishing you had a few more days in paradise.
AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
I already had the chance to do 3 home exchanges in Amsterdam and every time I come back a little more seduced! This town is ideal for families: calm and relatively compact, it is easy to cross on foot, by bike or even to rent an electric boat to pace its canals. From the small cafe that offers high chairs and toy boxes to the most prestigious museums with dedicated sections, everything is designed to welcome children and offer them a varied holiday.
In Amsterdam, you can cycle in the mornings, take the ferry to discover an abandoned submarine at lunchtime, see pictures of Vermeer in the afternoon and finish the day at the beach. Moreover, the Dutch are very open to home exchanges and often offer nicely decorated housing that are perfectly kid-friendly!
One of my favorite cities to take kids in summer is Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Calgary, which lies at the foot of the Canadian Rockies, is the perfect home base for a summer of adventures. Within the city of Calgary, there are plenty of amazing kid-friendly activities like the Telus Spark outdoor adventure space, the Brainasium. Make sure to head to Banff and Canmore, only an hour’s drive from Calgary, for kid-friendly hiking and the most beautiful views you will ever see. For dinosaur loving kids, Calgary is a quick drive from Drumheller, Alberta, known as Dinosaur Valley, and home to the incredible Royal Tyrrell Museum. As an added bonus, admission to all of Canada’s National Parks is free in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. With several large family homes available on HomeExchange, making Calgary your summer destination is not only easy but affordable.
One of the most enjoyable family trips I’ve ever taken was to Scotland. (The grandparents even joined us.) We visited Edinburgh, a beautiful city where I had lived many years ago and still hold a lot of affection for. There are many things to see with children besides their impressive castle, which will be enjoyed by kids and adults. We toured the Highlands, with its beautiful landscapes full of nature, lakes and more castles. Sam was only six-months-old and spent a lot of time sleeping, so he did not mind if we were traveling by car or strolling around town. Indira was three-year-old and spent the entire trip looking for Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster) and wondering what people were saying when they spoke to me in English. One of the funniest visits for the kids was the Almond Valley Farm where we could see the popular Highland longhaired cows, which are even more sought after than Nessie itself!
Mi Pequeño Gulliver
With over 65,000 Home Exchange listings, it’s easy and affordable to plan a family holiday that merits an A+ from the whole family. Here’s a tip: you can narrow your search by using the Family Collections, which features over 35,000 homes that welcome children.
What about you? Do you have a family friendly destination you would recommend too? We want to hear from you!