As spring break rolls around, dreams of a vacation start to run through every mom’s head. But if the thought of a sticky, sand-coated children oversaturated with the deadly combination of ice cream and no nap seems too much to bear, opt instead for an elevated and unique family vacation. You don’t have to stick to Disney or an all-inclusive in Mexico (though these can be nice). Whether your prefer exotic, outdoorsy, or rich with culture, these family friendly are the unicorn of vacations.
El Nido, Philippines
Nido means “nest” in Spanish, and you and your flock will find this private, all-inclusive villa to be well-feathered indeed. Grab a specially prepared picnic packed for you by the gracious staff, and island hop via the included kayaks, speedboat, or private charter. Your stay includes an on site staff which will plan custom outings daily based on your family and your likes. Options include exclusive lagoons, scuba-diving destinations, fishing hotspots, small local towns, and more. (Don’t forget to ask about the Secret Lagoon and Hidden Beach!) Tinier tots can safely splash in the gentle surf as your budding engineers create elaborate sandcastles on Snake Island – so named for the serpentine stretch of beach, not the reptile. If you want to venture farther afield, the underground Cabayugan River passes through caves glimmering with stalactites and stalagmites. It’s the best boat ride since It’s a Small World! End your day with an expert massage, or simply watch the sunset as you enjoy a San Miguel beer with your spouse. It’s your own personal paradise. Oh, and we forgot to mention, this beautiful paradise location gives back – run by the Guy Mazzoni Foundation, the profits go to benefit the local community.
Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, Kenya
This community-run elephant sanctuary is no Disney’s Animal Kingdom – you won’t find artificial rocks and engineered encounters here. A gorgeous villa integrates seamlessly into the natural habitat, offering unparalleled views of African wildlife and the fog-wreathed Mount Kilimanjaro. The kids will adore cooling off in the infinity pool, and you’ll relish the array of fine foods, cocktails, and local cuisine prepared precisely to your taste by a world-class chef. You can also pick up fresh produce at the weekly market in Kwale, and get a private cooking lesson from Chef John! Ask your hosts to prepare you all you’ll need for a relaxing day trip to the Shimba Hills Nature Reserve, the Shimoni Caves, or the very strollable beach town of Diani. As monkeys chatter gaily, elephants trumpet to announce the morning sun, and the smells of exotic flowers (and fresh barbecue) enchant you, you’ll wonder why you didn’t visit sooner.
Log fireplace, heated towels, and a view of mountains that just seems to go on forever? This little slice of winter heaven comes courtesy of this cozy but spacious chalet in Gstaad. While the panoramic windows and plush furniture will wow you, our favorite feature are the blackout curtains in every bedroom – perfect for naptime! If you can pry yourself away from the luxurious, amenity-filled cabin, you and your family will make memories tobogganing down the nearby slope, hiking burbling streams, and enjoying the many outdoor activities Glacier 3000 has to offer. There’s a Fun Park with a free snow slide, dog sled rides, and a cozy but cool Snow Bus that will impress any truck fan. Carl, your host, goes above and beyond to make sure you have the ultimate experience and can rattle off local kid-friendly venues for you without blinking an eye. Gsteig is beautiful in spring, summer, and fall as well, when all those ski routes become flower-filled mountain paths; check the schedule before you book, since the town plays host to several sports series and festivals throughout the year.
Orléans is located in the picturesque Loire Valley; if you’re looking for a quintessential French vacation, this is it! This apartment is within walking (or biking!) distance of several hot spots. – start your morning with a café au lait and Nutella croissant at French Coffee Shop before strolling up Rue Eugène Vignat to Parc Pasteur, where you and the little ones can take in a puppet show or go boating on the duck pond. First-floor accommodations let you save your legs for evening strolls – we suggest the Friday evening food market at Place du Martroi. Don’t feel like cooking? Nearby Restaurant La Parenthèse serves up traditional cuisine that’s so delicious, even your pickiest eaters won’t be able to resist.
Meadows of Dan, Virginia
Primland is an idyllic resort in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Choose from a range of accommodations; you can stay at the Lodge, rent a Cottage, or stay in a Mountain Home. (We recommend Quail, which has a king-size master, Jacuzzi tub, pool table, and wet bar.) Rent an RTV and set out along the mountain trails, or take a nature walk with an expert guide. During the day, learn the art of tomahawk throwing, fly fishing, or hunting. At night, enjoy moonshine cocktails at 19th Pub or dinner and live music at Stables Saloon before escaping to the Observatory Dome to stargaze with a high-powered telescope. You’ll be so busy at the resort that you may not want to venture beyond, but if you do, make a stop at Nancy’s Candy Company to watch a master chocolatier at work and sample some tasty treats.
When the daily grind gets to be too much of, well, a grind, consider making your escape to one of these less obvious family destinations across the globe. Elevated, but ripe with all the things you’d need for little ones of all ages, these spots provide an opportunity for a trip everyone will enjoy.