The 4 Best Places for Family Travel in 2021

The Costa Rican coastline at dusk.

Families are traveling differently in 2021. For many, that means going off-the-beaten-path for active travel and picture-perfect memories. Because so many of them are getting ahead of the trend, we’re seeing our international trips for next year starting to fill up and sell out. We want to make sure you don’t miss out!

Here are four of the best places for family travel in 2021, based on what families are interested in and where they’re booked to travel.

Ireland: Kerry, Cork & Kinsale

Mellows Bridge in Dublin, Ireland.

What is it about Ireland’s green hills and medieval castles that make it so magical (and sold out for June 2021)? Southwestern Ireland is a stunner all around, from the scenic coasts of Kinsale to the medieval towers of County Kerry.

Kids – and let’s face it, adults too – love staying overnight at Ballyseede Castle in County Kerry. They also love hiking the Dingle Peninsula and riding horseback through the Slieve Mish Mountain range. These active adventures give families an overview of the ancient ruins and stone beehive huts that span the coasts and hills.

Sheep in County Kerry, Ireland.

It’s well known that the people of Ireland are some of the friendliest in the world. Your family will meet some of them for an Irish step dancing lesson during your Friends Across Borders visit. Together with local kids, you will learn the steps and words to an Irish song. It’s an exciting evening of authentic people and folk culture.

The rugged terrain of the Emerald Isle makes it a fun place for active families, too. Cycle in Killarney National park along winding paths past castles, lakes and ancient forests, and go sea kayaking along the West Cork coastline.

In West Cork stands the incredible Gap of Dunloe, an enchanting mountain pass perfect for a horse-drawn carriage ride. Later, visit a local chocolate workshop. You and your children can crush your own raw cocoa beans and make your very own chocolate. And yes, you’ll get to taste it afterwards!

Biking the Irish coasts.

When you head down to Kinsale, you’ll smell the sea breeze and get active on an epic sailing adventure in one of the most famous harbors in the world. From there, explore the old fishing village on a ghost tour with local actors who will make you jump and giggle along the way.

We highly recommend paying a visit to Dublin as well, home of the Book of Kells, the Guinness Storehouse and the old, old home of Trinity College. The city’s streets invoke the feeling of medieval Europe, and the people are friendly and warm.



Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica.

Located in the center of Central America, Costa Rica’s proximity to the Unites States has made it a top choice for family travelers everywhere. Maybe that has something to do with its laid-back beaches, rainforests and outdoor adventure, too?

Children and grandparents alike love hiking La Paz Waterfall Gardens and unwinding in Arenal’s hot springs, heated by the thermal vents of the imposing Arenal Volcano. This resting volcano’s symmetrical shape and height over the fertile lowlands have made it the picturesque dream of many a sightseer.

Costa Rica’s rainforests are a great place for a sky walk across hanging bridges, where you can enjoy spectacular views of the land from above. Go from the canopy to the canoe on a river float trip through the rainforest, spotting tiny hummingbirds and pink-hued roseate spoonbills along the way, among the other plentiful wildlife.

A Thomson Family Adventures river float excursion in Costa Rica.

Where Costa Rica really shines is on the coasts (it’s in the name, after all!). Hop into a sea kayak and paddle to quiet coves along the waters. Here, families can swim, relax and slow down for a while on the country’s stunning shores. You’ll discover “Pura Vida” is more than a Costa Rican mantra: it’s a way of life.

If you’re looking for paradise with a little more active adventure, the Costa Rica Multi-Sport Adventure has you covered. Canoe and whitewater raft through the rainforests. Zip-line in the jungle canopy. Spot parrots, toucans, monkeys, sloths and more on an ocean expedition at Playa Agujas.

You’ll also have time to meet your Friends Across Borders pen pals on this trip, bonding over games like soccer and hacky sack.

In Costa Rica, there’s so much to do, and plenty of time to do it – or time to do nothing, your choice.



Canadian Rockies

Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada.

Rugged. Enormous. Adventurous. Home to massive glaciers and alpine meadows, the Canadian Rockies are a close-to-home travel choice for families that want a vacation with capital-A Adventure.

Watersports abound in Banff National Park: go whitewater rafting on the Class II-IV rapids of Kicking Horse River. In the gentler areas, families have time to take in the towering canyons and scenic wilderness. At the heart of the park is Lake Louise, the legendary subalpine lake known for its turquoise, glacier-fed waters, shouldered by tall peaks and iconic forests.

Mountain Hiking in Sentinel Pass.

Families have plenty of hiking options in Banff: the Larch Valley Trail winds uphill through a sun-dappled larch forest to a high-alpine sunflower meadow. This six mile trail sees a 1,700 foot elevation gain. Not enough? Optionally, hike on to Sentinel Pass Trail, beginning at the Minnestimma Lakes, gaining 2,375 feet over another seven miles.

In Kananaskis, you can gear up for a 10-mile mountain bike ride on the Bill Milne Pathway, running through open meadows, ethereal woodlands and clear-running creeks. Top off your time here with a hike through the forest to the magical, mossy creek of Troll Falls.

The range of outdoor activity is as diverse as the environment. Ice-walk on the Athabasca Glacier, one of the six principal “toes” of the Columbia Icefield and visit a dog-sledding base camp to learn about – and play with – the huskies.



Baja California

A daughter catches some waves in Baja California.

Hidden away from the Pacific Coast’s crowded beaches is Baja California, a paradise of sunshine, sea and sand. And it’s not too far from the U.S., meaning inexpensive airfare for families that want a getaway without getting too far.

It’s all about the water in Baja California. Families of all skill levels can learn to surf with a professional instructor in Los Cerritos, then kayak the calm waters of Balandra Bay.

Swim with the friendly sea lions in Baja California!

When you snorkel in the Sea of Cortez, you’ll discover playful sea lions swimming around underwater. Many of them will swim by to say hello! That isn’t the end of your underwater friendships: later, spend some time swimming with the largest fish on the planet, the massive whale shark. These gentle creatures feed on plankton and make for an incredible family photo.

The adventure continues on land with a horseback ride on the beach. Keep an eye out for gray whales and sea turtles. Hike the clifftops in Todos Santos for spectacular views of the Pacific Coast.

Meet and have a party with local children through Friends Across Borders at the Palapa Society, a Mexican nonprofit that has been working with the children of Todos Santos for more than a decade.

With so much water time and amazing insight into local culture, Baja California is much more than a beach vacation!