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As the world reopens after the pandemic shutdown, families are dreaming of international travel again! This list of the best countries to visit with kids includes 2021 news about reopening requirements and warnings as well as the intriguing reasons to take the kids to experience other cultures.
My husband and I started traveling with our son when he was 6 months old and my sister when she was a teenager. After getting the hang of family travel, we invited our nieces and nephew to join us. Now the boys are 6 years old and the girls are 5, and we have traveled to about 29 countries so far.
When choosing a country to visit with kids, we consider many things. One of the most important: age appropriate activities for the kids. Be sure those are enjoyable for the whole family.
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Here, we suggest some international family vacation destinations beyond those more familiar places. We’ve been there and really love each one.
And of course, everyone will need a passport. Here’s what to do if your expedited passport doesn’t arrive in time. And here’s a list of mistakes not to make when applying for your child’s first passport.
Read More: What power adapter will you need when you get there?
Is International Travel Back?
Not all of these countries are ready for tourism because of the pandemic. The information below was accurate as of late July. Follow the links below to get the latest news on whether US tourists are welcome to visit each country and, if so, what requirements they must meet.
The European Union said on July 15 that its 27 member countries should “gradually lift the travel restrictions at the external borders.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps a map of coronavirus infections around the world with recommendations and warnings about travel destinations.
The CDC also says: “Getting vaccinated prevents severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. Unvaccinated people should get vaccinated and continue masking until they are fully vaccinated. With the Delta variant, this is more urgent than ever. CDC has updated guidance for fully vaccinated people based on new evidence on the Delta variant.
TravelingMom Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we're traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.
Finally, remember that you’ll have to wear a face mask in the airport and on the plane. And every traveler ages 2 and up will have to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before boarding a plane to fly home to the United States. See the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions for more information.
Read More: If you plan to drive, will you need an international driving permit?
Vietnam is such a great country to visit with kids who love beaches, history and nature. If your children are as adventurous and love history as much as mine do, then they’ll enjoy visiting the Mekong Delta where they can take a canoe ride in a small Vietnamese village, learn about the Vietnam war and, most of all, play at the beach.
In Vietnam, we visited Ho Chi Minh and made a stop at Cu Chi Tunnels. My 6-year-old was excited to crawl in the tunnels like soldiers did in the Vietnam war. He went through once and asked to go again; I almost got stuck and was scared to go a second time.
TravelingMom Tip: Vietnam is not stroller friendly. If you plan to travel with very young kids, consider bringing for a baby or toddler carrier instead.
Is Vietnam Open to US Tourists?
Covid cases are surging in Vietnam. Visitors must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. According to the US State Department website:
The Vietnamese government continues to allow pre-approved foreigners and their families in exempted categories, including diplomats, officials, experts, business managers, foreign investors, high-tech workers, and other business travelers to enter Vietnam. Please note that these individuals will be subject to mandatory COVID-19 testing and quarantine upon arrival.
The country’s Medical Declaration Form can be found here.
France is well known for cultural attractions and museums. While there are certainly more attractions that appeal to adults, France is also well known for the Eiffel Tower – a huge hit for my kids, especially when it lights up at night
We took the kids to Paris on a surprise trip, and seeing the Eiffel Tower light up at night was magical for them.
We also stopped at Disneyland Paris, which we all enjoyed. Disneyland Paris is smaller than the Disneyland theme park in California and Walt Disney World in Florida, but we still experienced the magic.
The teenager with us this trip loved the Louvre Museum. She said it felt like she was in history class, but actually seeing it all in person. Her favorite piece of art was the Mona Lisa. She couldn’t wait to get back and share her experience with her entire class.
One of the kids’ favorite museums is Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. It is geared for young children and offers plenty of interactive activities to keep them busy.
If your kids love art, history and science, then they’ll love visiting the museums in France as much as ours did.
Is France Open to US Tourists?
According to the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in France:
- As of June 17, fully vaccinated travelers coming from the United States (as well as minor children under 17 accompanied by a fully vaccinated parent or guardian) can enter France with proof of vaccination and a sworn statement they do not have symptoms of COVID-19 nor contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Currently only the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are accepted. Full vaccination occurs two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine, and four weeks after the single dose of Johnson & Johnson. No pre-departure COVID test or quarantine is required. NOTE: At this time, we do not have official information from the French government, but the French Consulate General in Washington, D.C. said in a tweet that the CDC card is acceptable evidence of vaccination for entry into France.
- Travelers coming from the United States who are not fully vaccinated may also enter France and will need to present a negative COVID-19 test, either the PCR test or the antigen (rapid) test conducted within the 72 hours prior to departure, and a sworn statement they do not have symptoms of COVID-19 nor contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
- Children under 11 are exempt from testing.
Covid cases are rising in France.
3. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the most visited countries in Central America. Its national parks, beaches and adventurous activities are the reason why I chose to visit Costa Rica with my son when he was 3 years old.
We explored our itinerary ahead of travel, and he was excited about horseback riding, hiking and ziplining. Yes, ziplining. At 3! Young kids are paired with a ziplining guide for safety. My son, at age 3, begged to do a few lines on his own. He was very brave, and I owe that to travel,which has exposed him to so many things.
We also rode horses in Costa Rica, which was a beautiful experience, spent time at the beach, and fed monkeys.
Is Costa Rica Open to US Tourists?
According to the US Embassy for Costa Rica:
Effective August 1, Costa Rica will allow entry without travel insurance to minors under 18 years of age and adult tourists fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. In the case of visitors from the United States, the “COVID-19 vaccination record card” will be accepted.
Facial coverings are required in all public spaces and in all indoor settings except when eating, while alone, or in a private home. The use of facial coverings is also mandatory at bus stops and on all forms of public transportation.
4. United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is home to the Beatles, Harry Potter, and theatrical history. We found pop culture attractions and royal landmarks all over the country, not just at Buckingham Palace.
Stonehenge, an easy day trip from London, is also a popular historical landmark that attracts families to the United Kingdom.
We visit the United Kingdom at least once a year and still have a long list of things we want to see and do.
If your kids grew up singing “London Bridge is falling down …” like mine did, then make sure to take them to see it in person. This was one of the fun things that we did in London that my kids really enjoyed.
London also has lots of great food and the best Saturday market that we’ve ever been to in Europe, with foods from all parts of the world.
Is the UK Open to US Tourists?
Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States and the European Union will be allowed to enter England without quarantining upon arrival starting Aug. 2, 2021. Travelers will still need a negative coronavirus test before a trip, and will have to take a PCR test after reaching England, according to the New York Times.
The US State Department lists the UK as a Level 4 Travel Advisory: Do Not Travel because of the virus. And travel by Brits and other European Union residents to the United States is restricted in an effort to keep the Delta variant of the virus at bay.
Canada is best known for its hockey teams, natural landscapes and cold weather activities. Each province in Canada has its own unique sightseeing experience to offer, making a vacation to one of the Canadian provinces perfect for a family holiday.
Our favorite place to visit in Canada is Toronto, and every time we visit we head to Niagara Falls as well. My son loved riding the Maid of the Mist under the gigantic waterfalls during the day. We booked a hotel with a view of the falls so he could watch the falls light up in different colors after dark.
We also chose to visit two of Canada’s most popular ski resorts, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Sunshine Village at Banff National Park. The landscapes at Banff National Park are absolutely breathtaking.
Is Canada Open to Tourists?
Beginning August 9, 2021, American citizens and permanent residents of the United States who are fully vaccinated may enter Canada with no need to quarantine. On September 7, the country will open to all other foreign nationals who are are fully vaccinated, “provided that the domestic epidemiologic situation remains favourable,” Canada announced in a news release.
All travelers must use the ArriveCAN app or web portal to submit their travel and vaccination information. After completing the form, travelers get a code to present when entering the country.
Mexico is top tourist destination with cultural festivals and beautiful beaches. While some travelers worry the country is unsafe, we feel the absolute opposite. Our travels to Mexico several times a year convince us it’s a top country to visit with kids. My kids love Mexico so much that they’ve even attended school there for a week.
Mexico has plenty of all-inclusive resorts which we like with younger and older kids alike. If your kids are a mix of ages, make sure to find all-inclusive resorts with organized activities for teenagers and a kids’ club for younger kids. I always book a resort with a kids’ club so I can get some alone time and rest while the kids have fun.
Is Mexico Open to US Tourists?
Mexico is open to tourists with no quarantine requirements. The State Department, however, wans against visiting Mexico because of the high rates of Covid-19 with “widespread community transmission.”
Spain’s year-round mild climate makes it a fine beach destination. A winter visit isn’t as cold as the rest of Europe.
There are plenty of science museums for kids to play in and beautiful sand beaches as well.
Spain is also one of my kids’ favorite European countries to visit because they love the weather and the food, and everyone is so nice to them.
Spain is well known for its European football teams, like Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Soccer-loving kids will want to catch a game live. We didn’t have enough time to secure tickets for a game, but we did tour Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona. The tour was just as fun because we walked the hallway the players use to enter the stadium and even got to stand where they stand for media interviews.
Gaudi’s art is displayed all over, and one of the best places to see it all is Gaudi Park in Barcelona. We spent a whole day there exploring and enjoying the landscape and artwork at the park.
Spain is a chocolate lover’s delight. You’ll want to eat chocolate at all of the chocolate museums throughout Spain. We did.
Is Spain Open to US Tourists?
According to the US Embassy and Consulate in Spain and Andorra:
Effective June 24, 2021, U.S. citizens can travel from the United States to Spain if they present upon arrival in Spain a QR code generated through the Spain Travel Health portal, obtained through the website or by downloading the “SpTH app” in Google Play Store or iTunes App Store for each traveler, regardless of their age.
The State Department also warns travelers to have a plan in case they have to extend their stay due to a positive Covid test right before leaving Spain. If that happens, Spanish health authorities will require you to quarantine fin a local hotel at your own expense.
Families frequently travel to Italy to see art, and landmarks such as the Colosseum in Rome, magnificent mountains, beach attractions and even hot springs.
On our last trip to Italy we stayed in a farmhouse in Tuscany and enjoyed a slower placed family vacation. The kids rode horses, took cooking classes, swam and relaxed in the countryside.
Arte al Sole offers kid-friendly workshops throughout Italy. A few examples of the workshops are art, cooking and chocolate making activities. I let the kids get involved with planning by choosing the workshop they wanted.
Is Italy Open to US Tourists?
Yes, US citizens can head to Italy for any reason, provided they fill out and present this self-declaration form. However, the US State Department’s Level 3 Travel Advisory recommends that travelers reconsider travel to Italy due to Covid-19.
This Caribbean country was once off-limits to American tourists, but isn’t any more, although a lot of Americans don’t know that.
You can fly to Cuba; however, you can’t cruise to Cuba, which is OK because you need several days to really experience Cuba.
We planned a trip to Cuba with our kids in less than four days with no issues at all. Beautiful beaches, amazing food and friendly people make Cuba a very family friendly country to visit.
We went ziplining, horseback riding, honey tasting and visited the caves while on a day trip to Viñales. Each of these activities was very kid friendly.
One of our favorite things about visiting Cuba was going to the beach. The beach was absolutely beautiful and the water was warm and perfect for swimming.
Is Cuba Open to US Tourists?
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that unvaccinated travelers avoid travel to Cuba.
Ghana is a beautiful country with waterfalls, castles and beaches to explore. If you’re looking for an African country to visit for the first time, Ghana should be at the top of your list.
While some people visit this child-friendly West African country to get in touch with nature, others visit to get in touch with their culture.
Our family chose both to get in touch with nature and our African culture.
At the Centre For National Culture, my son really enjoyed shopping in Accra and picking out his own authentic Ghanaian souvenirs.
We also made sure to visit Kakum National Park and walk across the suspension bridge. My 4-year-old was braver than I was and wanted to walk all the way through. I was ready to stop halfway.
A visit to Ghana isn’t complete without visiting Elmina Castle, where slaves were kept before they were shipped off to the Americas. It is important to teach my kids about the history of slavery and how it all began. They are not too young to learn the truth. My son was 4 when we visited and I explained everything to him.
Is Ghana Open to US Tourists?
The US Embassy in Ghana says:
Accra Kotoka International Airport is open for regular international passenger travel, but Ghana’s land and sea borders remain closed until further notice.
Travelers are required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test using the Global Haven partnership tool for COVID-19 PCR test results certificate verification.
You will be required to wear face masks in public. The police are enforcing this directive.
The site of the 2021 Summer Olympics Games, Japan is at the top of our list when talking of favorite countries in the world. From the culture to the food, we found something for every family member to enjoy.
We flew into Nagoya and spend a few days there before heading to Tokyo.
In Nagoya, the kids loved visiting LEGOLAND and trying different types of noodles at each restaurant we visited. Their goal is to visit every LEGOLAND in the world and it’s my goal to help them achieve that.
In Tokyo, the kids enjoyed visiting Shinjunku and Shibuya Crossing which is one of the busiest road crossings in the world. We also visited Tokyo Disneyland, which we all loved as a family. Tokyo Disneyland has several snacks, like Mickey burgers, which were really yummy.
Is Japan Open to US Tourists?
As anyone who is watching the Olympic Games knows, foreigners are not allowed to travel to Japan. The government has imposed a state of emergency from July 12 through August 22, 2021. Under these measures, restaurants and bars are not allowed to serve alcohol and citizens are asked to refrain from non-essential outings and travel.
According to the US Embassy in Japan:
Foreign tourists and non-resident foreign business travelers remain prohibited from entering Japan. All travelers entering Japan remain subject to a 14-day self-quarantine upon arrival and are prohibited from using public transportation to include domestic flights, taxis, and rail.
I haven’t visited Germany, but TravelingMom Silvana Clark says it’s her favorite. Here’s what she had to say about it:
“Having seen sights around the world including 49 of the United States of America, Kenya, Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, France, Spain, and many others, my all-time favorite destination is….Germany! Yes, the land of lederhosen and giant dumplings satisfies my desire to experience a different culture with varying experiences. Sobering tours of Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camp (appropriate for older kids who understand the history here) create a life-changing attitude about the dignity of human beliefs, in contrast to major festival events such as Oktoberfest.
“The posters you see of Germany are not PhotoShopped. Chalets with geranium-filled flower boxes are everywhere, along with cafes with gingham tablecloths. I enjoy the orderliness of seeing woodpiles stacked according to the size of the wood, and recycling bins that differentiate between different colors of bottles.
“Large cities such as Munich and Hamburg offer first class museums and restaurants, while areas such as the Baden-Wurttemberg area offer cycling, hiking, castles and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Germans emphasize outdoor activities ranging from skiing to simply walking to school rather than taking a bus. And let’s not forget the apple strudel!”
Is Germany Open to US Tourists?
Yes, effective June 20, 2021. However, a proof of vaccination, proof of recovery from COVID-19, or negative test result is still required for entry via air travel, according to the German government. Travelers who are neither fully vaccinated nor fully recovered must continue to present a negative COVID test prior to departure.
Anuja De Silva visited with her toddler and had this to say:
“With its relatively small size and diverse experiences, Switzerland is one of my top choices for a family vacation. If you’re looking for a city escape, Zurich, Basel, Bern and Geneva are easy to navigate. You can also make trips to the lake (Lucerne, Interlaken) region or explore the Swiss Alps within a few hours from each of the cities.
“Spending time in any region of Switzerland will be a good mix of slowing down and enjoying nature while experiencing luxuries such as chocolates, cheese and high-end designer shopping. Traveling by train is the best way to experience the pristine beauty with sweeping views of pastoral villages.
“Visit the idyllic village of Zermatt at the base of Matterhorn. With its cobbled streets and horse drawn carriages, this mountain resort where no automobiles are allowed, takes you back in time and connects you with locals through your shared appreciation of nature.
“Depending on whether you’re in regions closer to Germany or France, you will experience both languages and cultural similarities to each of those countries. Landlocked and surrounded by five countries, a visit to Switzerland can easily include a day trip to another country.”
Is Switzerland Open to US Tourists?
Yes, US tourists who are fully vaccinated my visit Switzerland. Work through this online questionnaire to determine whether you are welcome to visit.
What’s best, according to TravelingDad Paul Eisenberg:
“From a hotel balcony, as well as from the ground, there’s a strip of Australia’s Gold Coast that looks exactly like coastal Fort Lauderdale at its prettiest. That’s neither a compliment nor a dig, just a fact that made me wonder why I needed to fly from New York to the Southern Hemisphere to see something Florida-like. So I already had it in my head that my experiences snorkeling in Florida would serve as a frame of reference for the Great Barrier Reef.
“When you see the mysterious waters of the Reef from the deck of a boat, such as the Calypso, you begin to suspect something unusual is down there. But it’s not until you smack your mask-clad face in the water that you know for sure that you’ve been blessed with a peek into another world, you’re not in Florida anymore.”
Is Australia Open to US Tourists?
No. The country remains closed to non-essential travel.
TravelingMom Tami Mittan loved her time in Portugal. The country offers relatively low prices, lots of English speakers, friendly people, a mild year-round climate, the freshest seafood and miles of amazing coastline scenery.
Don’t miss a chance to climb the winding path up to see Portugal’s Pena Palace in Sintra. Explore the bright yellow, red, and grayish blue tiled exterior of the palace for free. While the castle’s interior is similar to other castles around Europe, the exterior is unique. And the views from this vantage point on top of the Sintra Mountains is phenomenal.
You’ll also find gorgeous tiled buildings in Lisbon.
Is Portugal Open to US Tourists?
Yes! The country reopened to American tourists on June 15, according to the US Embassy in Portugal. Every traveler over the age of 2 must submit proof of a negative Covid-19 test.
In addition, passengers aged 12 and older arriving to the Azores, even on domestic flights from outside the Azores, must either provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours prior to departure or proof of recovery from the disease or must test upon arrival and remain in isolation until the results are known. Travelers who wish to remain in the Azores for more than seven days, will be required to test again on the 6th day.
To speed the process on arrival, the Regional Government of the Azores suggests travelers complete a health questionnaire at least 72 hours before disembarking.
This is, hands down, TravelingMom Terri Marshall’s favorite country to visit with kids. Here’s what she says about Norway:
“Consistently ranked as one of the happiest places on earth, Norway is my Number 1 destination. Renowned for its majestic mountains, fabulous fjords and rugged beauty, Norway has attracted adventure lovers for years. While the country’s landscape is truly a treasure, the cities of Norway are equally intriguing. It’s hard to pick a favorite place in Norway, but here are a few highlights.
“Trondheim is the cultural center of the Trøndelag region. This picturesque city with its timber built fisherman warehouses of red, gold, brown and green flanking the sides of the Nidelva River is a fascinating contrast of old and new. Here I climbed the medieval steps to the top of the majestic Nidaros Cathedral. I even became a rock star for a day at Rockheim.
“After a devastating fire in 1906, Ålesund was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style that was prevalent at the time. Strolling through the charming yellow, salmon, blue and rose buildings ornamented with a myriad of turrets, spires, medieval ornaments and dragons, it’s easy to see why Ålesund was recently voted the most beautiful town in Norway.
“And then there is Røros where I attended the ancient festival, Rørosmartnan. For over 150 years traders from all over Norway have harnessed their horses to sleighs and traveled across frozen lakes and rivers through snow blanketed forests to arrive for opening day – and I was there for that day. Pure magic.”
Is Norway Open to US Tourists?
Yes, Norway is open to tourists from “green countries” as shown on this map.
What’s best, according to Diana Rowe:
“Thailand has my heart. From beginning to end. My Thai adventure began in the bustling city of Bangkok where I experienced my first intense Thai massage and ended with two massages in the island of Ko Samui with its incredible white sand beaches. In between, I found myself in Chiang Mai, exploring the massive temples and historic places, then venturing to Patera Elephant Farm where an elephant won my heart.
“Onwards to Lisu, where the locals were from ancient tribes, and their friendly smiles and welcoming souls crept into my heart. After that, an 8-mile bicycle ride in the searing heat and humidity passing rice paddies where the farmers stop and wave, smiling their often toothless grins, brought a song to my lips — and I can’t sing!
“When you travel to Thailand, the rich experiences of history, religion, and cultures mingle with the spicy food and busy streets, deserted beaches, and a long list of other experiences. All who travel to Thailand say they come back a different person, more open to experiences and cultures. It’s certainly true for me.”
Is Thailand Open to US Tourists?
As of July 1, fully vaccinated non-Thai nationals arriving in Phuket are able to visit without quarantining upon arrival. Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, the quarantine requirement will be lifted for the entire country.
More Countries to Visit with Kids
Travelling internationally with kids is a truly rewarding experience. My family and I have traveled extensively and enjoyed every bit of it. Travel brings us closer, growing as a family and individually.
There are plenty other kid friendly destinations still on our to-do list, including South Africa, Sweden, New Zealand, Singapore, Denmark, and Iceland. We’re looking forward to exploring these destinations with our kids in the near future.