Bucket-List Trips: The Details
Get all the details you'll need to plan a bucket-list trip with your family.
What vacations are on your family's bucket list? According to a Parents survey, most of you want to visit Walt Disney World in Orlando with your kiddos, but a lot of parents also want to experience Europe, Hawaii, and Alaska with their brood. First, head over to our full guide to bucket-list trips for families to decide on your next vacation spot. Then use the details below to help plan your adventure!
Europe: Family-Friendly Hotels
Fall and spring are the best seasons to catch a hotel deal in Europe.
- The no-frills Premier Inn—with several locations throughout the city—often offers rooms for less than $125 per night. Larger apartment-style hotels are also a good choice; even though they’re pricier, they provide kitchens so you can make some of your own meals.
- Lovely apartment-style picks include the relatively new Cheval Three Quays (across from the Tower of London) or the recently renovated Anthenaeum Hotel, which employs children’s concierge to arrange family activities.
- If you prefer to stay in the Covent Garden area near the theater and shopping, consider One Aldwych, which offers welcome gifts for the kids and a swimming pool.
France & Italy
- The Novotel chain—with several locations in Paris—is an affordable, family-friendly pick; its Versailles location even includes a children’s playground.
- In Italy, consider the Rome Cavalieri, which is part of the Hilton family of brands. It offers a summer kids’ club for 4- to 12-year-olds, has a beautiful outdoor swimming pool, and is set on a hillside a short, free shuttle ride from downtown. In Venice, families can beat the location of the recently renovated Hotel Londra Palace.
Free Things to Do in Major European Cities
- In London, many family-friendly museums, such as the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the British Museum, are free.
- In Paris, you can explore the Modern Art Museum and Notre Dame Cathedral at no charge.
- In Rome, climb up the Spanish Steps and meander through the Villa Borghese—a beautiful park where the kids can let out some steam. In fact, parks are a great no-cost way to spend a morning or afternoon in any European city. Chances are, your child will be mingling with kids from all over the world.
Hawaii: Find Your Family's Island
Home in on an affordable base in Hawaii:
NORTH SHORE OF OAHU
Go here if you’re looking for a location that feels authentically Hawaiian and don’t mind the lack of restaurants or shopping nearby. You’ll love its uncrowded beaches and crystal-blue water, shave-ice stands, and the Polynesian Cultural Center, where kids can learn to play the ukulele and soak up Hawaiian culture and history.
Where to stay: One of the few hotels on the North Shore, Turtle Bay Resort is so beautiful that more than a dozen movies—including The Hunger Games—have been filmed on its 850 acres. Your kids can ride a pony on an ocean-view trail, learn stand-up paddleboarding in a calm cove, and take part in a hula performance.
KA’ANAPALI BEACH ON MAUI
Go here if you don’t want to rent a car (there are many restaurants and attractions nearby) and/or you like to snorkel. This 3-mile stretch of sand is home to Black Rock, one of the island’s best snorkeling spots.
Where to stay: The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel offers many free cultural activities. Tropical gardens, a whale-shaped pool, and a free sunset hula also woo families.
KOHALA COAST ON HAWAII (THE BIG ISLAND)
Go here if you want to check out Volcanoes National Park—you might be able to see the lava flow from the park’s Thomas A. Jaggar Museum & Overlook.
Where to stay: The Hilton Waikoloa Village offers pools with slides and a lazy river and a lagoon with snorkeling equipment.
DISNEY'S AULANI ON OAHU
Go here if you’re torn between a trip to Disney World and the beach. It’s also a good pick if you want some kid-free time. Aunty’s Beach House, the massive drop-off club where 3- to 12-year-olds learn the hula and play Hawaiian instruments, operates into the evening.
Hawaii: Hotel Deals
Fall is a great time to catch a deal on a hotel in Hawaii.
- Budget-friendly chains have started making their way into the islands—check out the Hyatt Place hotel on Waikiki Beach in Oahu, the Courtyard Marriott on the Big Island, and the new Residence Inn Maui Wailea.
- Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu, Ka’anapoli Beach Hotel in Maui, and the Sheraton Waikiki in Oahu also have great fall promotions.
- Disney’s Aulani Resort is also offering 30 percent off five-night stays for selected dates this fall and winter if you book by September 26, 2016.
Alaska: Cruise Comparison
- Princess Cruises has the most ships sailing in Alaska of any line, and is one of the few permitted to cruise in the waters surrounding Glacier Bay National Park. You could book a six-night cruise from Seattle or a nine-night cruise from San Francisco. Park rangers come aboard the ship; your child could even earn a ranger badge. Prices start at $4,000 for 6 nights (the costs for all cruise lines are calculated based on two adults and two young children, including a stateroom, all meals, taxes, and port fees).
- Disney’s Wonder sails from Vancouver to Alaska for five, seven, or nine nights; on board-activities include naturalist presentations and a Frozen deck party. Prices start at $5,200 for seven nights.
- Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas sails from Seattle for seven nights, with ice-skating, rock-climbing, and naturalist programs among the activities. Prices start at $4,469.
- Holland America’s Amsterdam is the most budget-friendly option, starting at about $3,000. Kids’ cooking classes, a Junior Ranger program, and BBC Earth Science Projects are among the highlights.
Walt Disney World: Discounts and Nearby Hotels
- Check disneyworld.disney.go.com/special-offers for the latest info for hotel and villa packages.
- If you’d rather stay in a hotel that isn’t Disney-themed, choose one nearby that offers free transportation to the parks. Summer rates at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek start at $119 per night, and rates at its upscale sister property, Waldorf Astoria at Bonnet Creek, begin at $199 per night. The Four Seasons Resort Orlando, is offering a fourth-night-free promotion for stays through September 30. Plus, it has a free supervised club for kids ages 4 to 12 so you can leave for the park at lunchtime one day and have the morning to yourself.