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Family vacations are often a child’s first glimpse into the world of travel. This makes where you choose to jet off to not only important, but crucial for fostering a love of seeing the world. The A-List, Travel + Leisure’s group of the world’s top travel advisors, understand that lifelong memories are a joy to be made, and have plenty of suggestions for unexpected destinations to explore.
From marveling at the lunar-like landscapes of Chile’s Atacama desert to embarking on an Arctic cruise to Greenland, we sourced more than a dozen places to travel with the whole family in tow. Ahead, 13 A-List members share under-the-radar vacations you should plan this year.
“While everyone is standing in line at Disney in the heat, why not be riding horses or rafting through trout-filled rivers in the great expanse of Montana? After spending just 24 hours there, I knew Montana was a special place and was already planning a return with my family. The kids can learn how to rope cattle, wrangle horses, ride ATVs, and zip line through the forest. The possibilities are endless. Your kids will put down their phones because they will be too busy having fun in the wilds of 'Big Sky Country.' The Resort at Paws Up has luxe log log cabins, plus the option for families to glamp in luxury tents. It’s a way for the whole family to get back to basics but not give up creature comforts.” — Jim Augerinos, Perfect Honeymoons
“The colonial town of Barichara, on the edge of the Chicamocha canyon, is my favorite place in Colombia that most people have never heard of. It's a good option for families looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure. Just outside of town you can hike, go whitewater rafting, paraglide over the canyon, and visit coffee plantations. In town, wander the cobblestone streets, visit the shops of local artisans, and recharge your batteries with the town's slow pace.” — Joe Sandilo, Almaz Journeys
Arctic Cruise in Greenland or Canada
“I’ve taken my kids on adventures around the world, starting when they were very young. One of our most surprising family highlights was an Arctic cruise in Greenland and Canada that I’ve since sent many of my family clients on. It’s an incredible place for families to experience a bit of everything — stunning scenery and wildlife, authentic culture, and room to run around! Many expedition shore excursions involve setting across the tundra in exploration mode, splashing in a mountain pool, or kayaking along a fjord — adventures my daughter still raves about.” — Mary Curry, Adventure Life
Safari in Kenya
“Kenya, hands down. An animal-viewing safari is probably the best family bonding experience in the world. Both children and their parents are equally excited about what they've seen and experienced, and as a result, conversation flows easily — not to mention the fact that they get to spend time together over meals with no electronic distractions. Fun things arranged for kids include camel trekking, fishing, hiking with local guides to collect wild honey, visiting a local village to milk goats, and interacting with other children.” — Julian Harrison, Premier Tours
“When families come to India, my rule of thumb is the more hands-on, the better. Washing an elephant together (seriously) is one of the most joyous things you can imagine, and after that, you can delicately paint your new friend and stroll with him. My families love learning Indian dancing and sitar playing during private lessons. Indian bread-baking classes at the Oberoi in Mumbai have also been a huge hit. Our Micato India guides have really made astronomy come alive for kids during visits to the Jantar Mantar observatory. And saree shopping, well, that brings out some spirited mother-daughter bonding.” — Marion Miller, Micato Safaris
Atacama Desert, Chile
“I recently spent an unforgettable week with my family in Chile’s Atacama Desert, a region of lunar-like landscapes that delighted all four of my children as much as it did my wife and I. Our vacation was filled with family-friendly adventures: we biked and rode horses across valleys and ran barefoot down giant sand dunes. It was educational, too — my children became fascinated by astronomy (the Atacama is the best place in the world to observe the stars, and has a host of amazing observatories) and learned valuable geology lessons by visiting geysers, salt flats, and ancient rock formations. Plus, the Atacama is home to beautiful luxury accommodations that serve up delicious meals, which my wife and I paired with fine Carmenère wine. It was perfect.” — Emmanuel Burgio, Blue Parallel
Cruise the Brazilian Amazon
“Undoubtedly a private cruise in the Brazilian Amazon. Most people don’t know that there are still undiscovered areas of the Amazon that are mosquito-free. There are waters that are safe to swim in and amazing river beaches perfect for barbecues. Combining the adventure of exploring the forest with a relaxing and fun learning opportunity makes this the ultimate family holiday in Brazil.” — Martin Frankenberg, Matueté
“Go climb Kilimanjaro! Book a private climb so everyone can share this experience, bringing you closer as a family. The great thing about it is that you can start the bonding way before you get to Africa. You can train and prepare your gear together and really use this as an opportunity to bond around an activity. You can also use this as an opportunity to give back as a family by taking some time while you are in Africa to identify a need in advance, then volunteering during your trip. This can lead to lifelong friendships, and the strengthened relationships can make a trip like this truly life-changing. — Chris Liebenberg, Piper & Heath Travel
Jungle Safari in India
“Safaris used to be considered the least family-friendly vacation, leaving many adventurous parents unsatisfied with their family beach trips. Today, that’s changed. Our Jungle Safaris are extremely family-focused and we encourage families traveling to India to explore some of the country’s incredible national parks. With our kid-friendly itineraries, you can choose to add a few days to your itinerary to spend two weeks exploring the jungles of India in search of the elusive Bengal tiger.” — Carole A Cambata, Greaves Tours
“I love New Orleans, Louisiana, and it’s a great family destination. Fun family activities include visiting the zoo, stopping by the aquarium, touring French Quarter, taking a cooking class, listening to jazz on the street and in Preservation Hall, and venturing outside the city proper for swamp tours and plantation tours. Enjoy some of the best food in the world at hole-in-the-wall spots, buzzy new restaurants, or at fine dining spots” — David Rubin, David Travel
The Peloponnese, Greece
“The Peloponnese may not yet be a well-known Greek destination, but for those in the know, it offers excellent options for family holidays. Nafplio will dazzle you with its spectacular waterfront, its charming old town lined with historic buildings, and its castles (which your kids will love). The beautiful coastal village of Pilos will keep you entertained with a state-of-the-art resort that’s just around the corner from downtown. It offers a vast variety of activities for the whole family. I take my kids there twice a year and we can’t get enough of it!” — Christos Stergiou, TrueTrips
“Two New Zealand trips consistently receive stellar feedback from our clients. One involves a spirited and spiritual Maori welcome on a holy mountain. Some travelers have called this day ‘transformational.’ And it works with kids, too! It makes them contemplative for a little while. The other is helicoptering over the Southern Alps with a legendary pilot and stopping to gather seafood at a quiet, unknown spot. Then you barbecue, usually on a clifftop if the weather behaves. — Jean-Michel Jefferson, Ahipara
“Dubai is an incredible city that has activities for all ages. It’s a hotspot for shopping, world-class hotels, adventure, beaches, and it’s rich in culture. Begin your journey with a flight aboard Emirates Airlines for the impeccable Al Majlis VIP meet-and-greet service. For lodging, One&Only The Palm has a great boutique hotel vibe, or check out Jumeirah Al Naseem, which is perfect for water park fun. During your trip, you might spend a day in the desert at Fossil Rock in a custom Bedouin desert camp, zip line through the Dubai Marina, or spend the day aboard a yacht. You can find all sorts of cuisine in this food-centric town guaranteed to have you eating like royalty.“ — Susan Sparks, Points of Interest Travel