Taking an international trip is exciting for anyone, especially kids. Visiting another country gives them an opportunity to try new foods, learn a language, experience a culture and partake in activities not happening at home. Picture yourself – and your children – in these 17 countries to visit with kids.
Best Countries to Visit with Kids
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.
Certainly, there are amazing places to visit in America, from the beaches of Hawaii to the urban excitement of New York City, from the Alaska wilderness to the Florida theme parks.
Here, we suggest some international family travel destinations beyond those more familiar places. We’ve been there and really love each one.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I haven’t visited Germany, but TravelingMoms Silvana Clark says it’s her favorite. Here’s what she had to say about it:
“Having seen sights around the world including 49 pf 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!”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
About the author
Karen Akpan is a wife, mom to a 6 year old, and aunt to 6, 5 and 4 year olds with whom she has traveled to 28 countries. She is a writer and content creator at The MOM Trotter, where she shares how parents can travel the world with their children as well as the importance of family travel. She is also the founder of Black Kids Do Travel, an organization created to bring about diversity in travel by sharing black travel stories. On her blog, she writes about her mission to raise global citizens who are open and accepting of other cultures. You can follow along on Instagram and Facebook.