If you are a family who loves to travel and explore, you may be wondering where to adventure with kids at every age. When is the best time to visit Costa Rica with kids? When should you plan a trip to Africa with kids? Where should I take my 9-year-old?
After traveling for years with our kids, I’ve put together this post to help you decide where to travel with kids at every age. You can either use this post to decide where to take your kids this year or use this post to create a timeline of all the places you want to travel with your kids in the future. I will also link out to some other articles to help you plan the best travel and adventure experience with your kids.
If you are interested in planning ahead for the next few years of adventure, you may want to check out our free planning guide: FIND YOUR ADVENTURE. This is free when you sign up for the Chasing ADVNTR monthly newsletter and is a 7-step plan to looking ahead and planning for a lifetime of adventure. You can learn more about the guide on the newsletter sign-up page. For more travel ideas, check out: 100 Incredible Adventures with Kids: Have Amazing Family Travel Experiences
General Guidelines for Planning the Best Adventure with Kids at Every Age
Ultimately, the best age to travel with your kids to a certain destination depends on you and your family. This likely seems like an obvious and unhelpful statement, but there are so many things to consider, and many of the suggestions below may not apply to your specific situation. In general, your next adventure needs to work for everyone in your family. Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your next adventure with kids:
- What are the interests of the people going? (if you hate hiking, don’t plan a hiking trip just because your kid is 10 and hiking is awesome for 10-year-olds)
- What is something that has an appeal for everyone going? Many people are juggling multiple kids at different ages or other family members
- What hassle is involved? And is the adventure worth it to you and your kids? (long flights, exotic food, each persons tolerance for traveling hassle is different)
- Your kid’s age is just one thing to consider – does your family have health concerns? An allergy? Dietary restrictions? A fear of flying? Responsibilities at home?
- Is this your first time traveling with kids? How confident do you feel? Do you speak another language?
What to Consider When Planning Adventure for Kids
Before we jump into our suggestions of exactly where to take your kids at every age, it’s helpful to think of some of the things you will want to consider when planning your trip. In no way should these suggestions keep you from traveling, but you may want to decide if these items are something your family needs to take into account.
Logistics of Traveling With Kids
Logistics kept us from extensive travel for several years when our kids were young. With 3 kids under 4, we felt like we were outnumbered for long-distance travel. It didn’t mean we didn’t travel at all, but we were much more selective and careful about where we went.
Today, our oldest 2 kids are teens and our youngest is 11 and we can pretty much go anywhere we want. They are excellent on flights, interested in cultural activities, and happy to head out on larger adventures. Below you can find some things to consider about traveling logistics with kids as well as some tips.
Long flights are the hardest with young kids who are active and unable to focus on anything. I would say the 9-month to 3-year period was the absolute hardest. After 3 years, kids have more patience for watching a TV show, reading a book or playing with a toy. It doesn’t mean a long flight with a 4 year old will be easy – just a bit easier than with a 2 year old!
Plenty of people fly really long flights with young kids, and lots of people avoid flying altogether when their kids are young. We first took our twins to Europe when they were 2 and with some creative timing both kids slept most of the flights. Decide what works for you and consider some of the tips below.
Tips for Long Flights with Kids:
- Consider booking flights at unusual times when your kids might sleep – a red eye might be a perfect solution
- Instead of long flights, embrace layovers and let your kids walk around and explore the airport even if this makes the travel day longer
- Bring new and novel toys or games on the flight to distract your kids
- Let go of your normal rules. When our kids were young we didn’t allow much screen time, unless they were on an airplane!
- Give your kids something to chew or drink on takeoff and landing to help with ear pressure
Jet lag is a pain when you are traveling alone and can be a true problem when you travel as a family, especially when not everyone is on the same schedule. When we took our twins to Europe when they were two, they slept the entire time, but we didn’t and when we arrived, we were exhausted but they were ready to go. As much as possible, come up with sleeping plan for when you travel and then be flexible when it doesn’t quite work.
Tips for Handling Jet Lag with Kids
- Try to keep everyone on the same schedule
- As soon as you leave for the airport, start acting like the time at your destination
- Create ‘mandatory’ sleep times on the flights – that means turning off electronics, putting on ear plugs, covering your eyes, and resting/sleeping – my teens hate this but it is very effective
- Accept that you will need to adjust your schedule for the first few days, but try to keep to the destination schedule as much as possible right from the start
Getting around your destination can also be challenging for kids. Will you drive or take a train? How will you handle taxis and car seats? We often choose to rent a car as it gives us flexibility and with 5 people it can be cheaper. If you are planning to walk, how far will you be able to go? Is your destination stroller friendly?
Tips for Getting Around with Kids
- Unless you know your destination well, consider ditching the stroller and using a carrier or using just a small lightweight umbrella stroller.
- Public transportation is great, but if you have a big group, a car may actually be cheaper
- Research your destination and decide whether you need car seats – you can also purchase a travel car seat if you don’t want to travel with your large seat
Safety Concerns for Kid’s Adventures
Another primary concern with traveling with kids is safety. Both in terms of the possible dangers in a destination, as well as what will happen if you or your kids get sick or injured. You should always do your own research about the safety of a destination, but remember that even within a country some areas can be much safer than others. Young kids can be at a higher risk, especially before they are vaccinated. You should always purchase travel insurance to help you navigate changes or issues when traveling.
Check out these two good options for travel insurance: World Nomads and Visitors Coverage.
Adventure Travel with Multiple Kids
If you are traveling with your family, there is also a good chance you have multiple kids to consider. Finding something that works for everyone can be a true challenge, especially if your kids have a big age gap between them. We found that this mattered the most when we were doing adventure tours that wouldn’t accept younger kids, or we were trying to do longer hikes or walks with younger kids. On several occasions, we’ve had to adapt our adventure activities or we (the parents) have divided up so that everyone gets the chance to do a fun activity
We’ve also prioritized taking solo trips with each of our kids. On these trips, we can really focus on doing exactly what each kid wants. These trips have been a huge success and give us the chance to connect with each kid and focus on the activities they love.
Types of Adventure with Kids at Different Ages?
When you start to think about which activities to do with your kids at different ages, one way to think about it is what type of activity works best for different ages. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t value to these experiences at every age, but you may want to prioritize different types of adventures at different ages.
Travel that focuses on seeing animals is a great option when traveling with young kids. Of course, older kids will enjoy animal experiences, but we prioritize trips with animals for when our kids are young (toddlers – tweens). Even a 2-year-old will enjoy looking for animals in the wild and will recognize animals from photos and books.
There are valuable cultural experiences that are worth having at every age with your kids. In many ways, immersive experiences when your kids are young will give them an amazing life experience to help shape their perspective. While we look for these experiences anytime we travel, we have prioritized cultural experiences when our kids are a little older. These types of experiences can vary from visiting a local market, to exploring a museum on maritime culture. With older kids (over 6 years old) these experiences become richer and more nuanced.
Our favorite way to travel is to be active. Activities and adventures that involve lots of strenuous activities or dangerous activities that may have a minimum age requirement and are best for older kids. Long treks and adventure tours and activities are often best for kids over age 8. You may want to save some of the more adventurous activities for when your kids are able to fully participate in these adventures.
That said – there are plenty of adventure travel opportunities for younger kids, these might just look different and include shorter hikes.
While cities can be enjoyed at any age, we’ve gotten more out of the experience when the kids were either really young or in their teens. When kids are older, they can enjoy walking around, visiting museums, and having a better appreciation for the history of the city. We can also give our teens more freedom in a city than with our younger kids. With young kids under 5, you can enjoy cities by visiting playgrounds or watching the busy rush around the city.
Incredible Destinations for Kids At Each Age
Below you can find some general guidelines we’ve used when selecting destinations and planning adventure with kids at each age. Also remember that it is ok to cut back on travel for a year if your kids are at a hard age, or focus your attention on travel closer to home. I truly love traveling with kids at every age!
Where to Travel with a 0-6-months-old
Traveling with a newborn can be fun, but also a bit scary. Before your infant has gotten the proper shots and built up a bit of an immune system, you will need to be extra careful about the safety and health of your baby. ALWAYS speak to your doctor about traveling with your baby.
On the other hand, traveling with a baby before they become mobile can be much more pleasant than trying to wrangle a 2-year-old on a long-distance flight. Consider slightly longer flights when kids are this age. If you prefer to keep your kids on a strict napping schedule, choose an easy destination with plenty to do near where you’re staying so you can get out and explore during the short window between naps. If you are willing to let your baby sleep in a carrier or stroller, you can simply take them out when you go exploring.
For this age, the destination is less important than the type of travel you will be doing. Focus on easy adventures, hiking, exploring cities, etc.
Where to travel with a 6-months-old – 5-year-old
Once your kids start to get mobile, the ‘travel’ part of travel can become much more difficult. In many ways, this is the best and hardest time to travel with your kids. Kids are beginning to take an interest in the world around them, but often your schedule and their schedule (and needs) don’t line up. When our twins were 2, we moved to France for 6 months and traveled every weekend with the kids – we hiked, took them to the Louvre, visited the Mediterranean, and so much more. We also found ourselves eating meals at strange hours or skipping the longer hike when our kids wanted to walk at a snail’s pace. If you give yourself realistic expectations of what travel looks like with young kids – this is an incredible age to adventure.
Some of the best trips to take with younger kids include road trips, visiting Europe, and beach vacations.
Where to Travel with a 5-year-old – 12-year-old
With kids over 5, you can start to include adventure activities that take more endurance. You can do longer hikes, go snorkeling, or ride bikes. Kids this age are also taking a wider interest in the world around them. They may love animals, castles, battles, or soccer. Consider building off your kid’s interests when planning adventure for kids ages 5-12.
When kids reach 5, they are also able to travel longer distances. When our youngest daughter was 7 years old, we took our kids to Thailand – this was an incredible trip and since we mixed up the trip with a variety of activities (historical buildings, animals, swimming, trying new food, etc) she loved every minute.
Where to Travel with Teens and Tweens 12-18 years
I love traveling with tweens and teens. They can be adventurous, curious, and willing to try new things. They can also be grumpy, bored, and moody. Whenever possible, include your teen in your travel planning process. You can truly take your teens anywhere in the world, but we’ve found the best adventures with tweens and teens include opportunities for some independence – going to a cafe on their own or taking a walk on the beach.
See our best suggestions on 10 Amazing Teenager Adventure Holidays to Plan for Next Year.
Teens are often interested in pushing the boundaries – this means trying a new type of food, or challenging themselves with rock climbing, or a long-distance hike. Just like in the younger years, teens are like sponges and their perspective on the world is constantly building and changing throughout these years.
Consider cultural experiences or travel that includes longer flights. Adventure travel is amazing with teens. Look into visiting South America, New Zealand, Africa, or Iceland.
Looking for more information to plan amazing trips with teens? Check out: - 10 Ways to Plan the Best Adventure for Teens - Why Travelling with Your Teen is One of the Best Things You’ll Ever Do - Is Adventure Travel a Secret Strategy When Positive Parenting Teens?
Amazing Destinations and When to Take Your Kids
Europe – Any Age
Europe is comfortable and relatively easy, especially for people traveling from the United State will feel easy. We have traveled to Europe with kids at almost every age and wouldn’t hesitate to take young kids. In addition, our older kids appreciate the culture and food. You can easily find food options, medical care, tourist resources and playgrounds almost everywhere you go.
The biggest challenges of traveling with younger kids in Europe are the lack of public bathrooms in some places, the late meal times, and the cobblestone streets if you are traveling with a stroller.
National Parks Road Trip
North America is another place I wouldn’t hesitate to explore at any age with my kids. We love exploring US National Parks and since most parks offer shorter and longer hike and adventure options, you can enjoy your visit with kids no matter how old they are. Driving also gives you the opportunity to be flexible and you can bring your own food, camp, stay in resorts or travel in whatever way fits your family.
Central America and the Caribbean – ages 5 and up (or all ages depending on the location)
Visiting the Caribbean and Central America is relatively easy from North America and Europe. If you are planning a visit to a resort, you can visit with kids of any age If you are considering traveling and putting together your own trip, you may want to wait until your kids are 5 and up. On our first trip around the Yucatan Penninsula, our youngest daughter had just turned 5 and she was the perfect age to enjoy swimming, try snorkeling, and visit Mayan ruins but also old enough to be flexible when traveling around.
Asia – Ages 5 and up
We first took our kids to Thailand when they were 7 and 11. It was an amazing trip, but we wished we had gone a few years earlier. If you are traveling from North America, the biggest challenge is the long flight and jet lag. Once we got to Thailand, we found the people incredibly friendly, the food amazing, and the sites easy to visit. I can’t wait to plan our next trip to Asia!
Africa – ages 8 and up
The continent is still on our list of places to go. We were originally planning to visit when our youngest turned 9 but the pandemic had other plans. Based on our comfort with safety and the kid’s ability to sit and enjoy longer safaris, we felt like older kids would better appreciate this amazing part of the world.
South America – ages 8 and up
Much like Central America, South America is generally easy to travel around but also more complicated than visiting Europe. Older kids will be more flexible and willing to go with the flow. In addition, travel times around South America are often equal to travel times to get to Asia from parts of the US. We suggest waiting until your kids can enjoy long hikes and different foods to visit South America.
Summary of Where to Have the Best Adventure with Kids at Every Age
After years of traveling with our own kids at every age, our biggest advice is to take the trip. Don’t hesitate because of all the what-ifs. Will there be hard moments? Yes. Will your kids get tired and cranky? Yes. Will you create incredible memories? Yes.
Build off your kid’s interests, look carefully at the challenges you might face, come up with a plan and take the trip. Also, remember that taking one trip will make the next trip easier for everyone. Your kids will know what to expect and you can adjust your itinerary based on what you learn. If you adventure with kids when they are young, traveling with your kids when they get older will be easy and fun. We are now getting the benefit of traveling when our kids were younger.
I would love to hear what adventure with kids you’ve taken and at what age – what worked? what failed? Drop a comment below and let me know!