Located on marvelous Maui’s west coast, Kaanapali has it all: Fabulous beaches, exceptional snorkeling, gorgeous scenery, and plenty of kid-friendly places to eat and play (plus flights to Hawaii are cheaper than ever). It’s also where you’ll find a number of full-service vacation rental condominiums, right on the beach that allows you to spread out with the family and make some meals in your own kitchen—a money-and-time saver. For full-service accommodations with a friendly price, the Kaanapali Hotel should be your number one choice. The longest standing hotel in Kaanapali, it has a prime location on the golden Pacific sands and offers complimentary Hawaiian activities for the whole family, including pineapple cutting, print making, and ukulele lessons; plus kids get points and prizes for joining in the fun diversions.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Valentin Valkov/Shutterstock The beaches here—among the best surf for families anywhere—will fulfill all your warm weather dreams with warm turquoise waters, pillowy sand, and miles of uninterrupted coastline. Flanking the beach like a row of starfish are a multitude of family-friendly all-inclusive resorts; the good news about the number of properties is that they provide competition both in amenities and pricing. The bad news is you’ll need to choose one from a large number of options. With young kids, consider the Grand Palladium Bavaro—it has the largest kids club space in the entire Caribbean with programs ranging from tots to teens.
Located in the south-east Caribbean, safely out of the hurricane path that severely damaged nearby destinations, this island offers a mix of great beaches and family adventures, such as exploring caves, pirate ship cruises, and swimming with turtles. And don’t forget it’s one of the places you have to go in 2018, according to travel experts. Take advantage of great rates for air and hotel packages from Jet Blue, which offers nonstop flights from multiple East Coast cities. One property to consider that caters to families is Mango Bay Hotel which has one-bedroom apartments and activities including water-skiing, paddle boarding, kayaking, Hobiecat sailing, pedal-boating, and snorkeling for ages 4 and up. If you have teens, check out the Tamarind resort, which offers stand-up paddleboard lessons, teens-only shopping excursions, an island-inspired teen spa day, and even an aerial cinematography class!
South Walton, Florida
digidreamgrafix/ShutterstockThe sugar white sand beaches of South Walton, Florida offer plenty of kid-friendly activities, plus a healthy dose of adventure, culture, and beach relaxation that adults will love too. South Walton’s 16 beach neighborhoods are so picture perfect that they served as the backdrop for The Truman Show. The whole 26-mile stretch of beaches are magnificent, but Seaside and it’s surrounding beaches of Seagrove, Watercolor, and Grayton Beach are especially family friendly. Families looking for space to spread out can take advantage of more than 300 rentals available throughout the beach towns, including a number of large, multi-bedroom rentals that feature amenities ranging from pools to game rooms to outdoor kitchens.
As an extra draw, South Walton is in the process of developing an artificial reef, with four snorkeling reefs just off the coast of Grayton Beach, and nine scuba reefs further out to sea. The town is opening The Underwater Museum of Art, North America’s first underwater permanent sculpture park in 2018.
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Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
With a pedestrian-friendly downtown with plenty of inexpensive spots to eat, drink, and shop, this tourist-friendly town about an hour south of Cancun is a great fit for families who like to explore outside a resort, but still want to have hotel amenities nearby. For a local day trip, the ruins of Tulum are just 30 minutes away, where you can cool off with a free dip in the warm Caribbean sea below the ancient citadel (always a kid pleaser), and don’t miss the frozen paletas (ice pops) from vendors in flavors from avocado to watermelon, for about a buck.
James Kirkikis/Shutterstock M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E! Yes, Anaheim is where you’ll find America’s favorite mouse, but the sunny SoCal destination also offers warm weather and a great base to explore the rest of the southern West Coast’s family-friendly activities. And here are 14 ways to save serious money on your trip to the magical kingdom.
US News & World Report just ranked Anaheim #2 in Best Winter Family Vacation Destinations for its access to theme parks and attractions, including Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm in nearby Buena Park, Legoland in Carlsbad and the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, and Universal Studios and much more in Los Angeles.
Hotels here offer affordable hotel packages to get travelers to stay in Anaheim as their Southern California base; for example, the Anaheim Marriott offers a Winter Savings Package that includes a deluxe guest room, Anaheim Resort Transit Day Passes, Kids Eat Free, and complimentary in-room Internet access and self-parking all for starting at $139 per room, per night.
One of the most affordable islands in the Caribbean, Dutch Curaçao is a favorite respite from the damp and cold of Holland. And since visitors from Europe usually stay for one or two weeks, you’ll find lots of affordable family apartment and condo rentals on the island. The island is a secret favorite veteran travelers. Flights from most major North American hubs (including Miami, New York, and Toronto) are under $500, another selling point. Sunscape Curaçao is an all-inclusive resort with affordable prices for families. If you’re staying in a condo or apartment, the island recently launched an all-inclusive dine-around plan, where travelers have the opportunity to taste signature Curaçaoan dishes and try multiple restaurants for a fixed rate anywhere on the island, making it easy for families working with a budget to plan ahead for meal costs.
With a new aquarium (the largest in the Southwest), spring-training baseball, a zoo, and hotels with pools everywhere you look, “America’s Sunniest Metropolis” is a great family destination. Phoenix offers desert temperatures, rugged mountain scenery, and plenty to keep the whole family busy. It also happens to be one of the 15 healthiest cities in the country. Since it’s America’s sixth largest city, you’ll find plenty of direct flights here from around the country plus a full offering of inexpensive chain properties to stay at (the kind that kids—and parents, too—love for their free breakfasts, playgrounds, and pools). Outdoor adventures include hiking and biking, exploring the desert with Red Jeep Tours, and golf and tennis—just to name a few of the many warm-weather diversions on offer.
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Martina Genis/shutterstock This Central American nation on the blue Caribbean Sea offers incredible adventures (whale shark swimming anyone?), no jet lag, and numerous direct flights. From Belize City, you can be on your way to the deep blue waters off Ambergris Caye or Placencia or a luxury eco-lodge deep in Maya Mountains in under an hour. In fact, with seven or eight nights, you can easily combine the beach and the rainforest jungle in one trip!
Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida
For free activities that kids love, this Florida destination can’t be beat: Dubbed the “shelling capitals of the world,” Sanibel and Captiva Islands have long been known as meccas for shell collectors. Thanks to the destination’s geography and the east-west orientation of the water, the waves catch incoming shells of all shapes, varieties, and colors. They arrive daily by the hundreds of thousands, many of them fully intact. For kids, it’s like trick-or-treat on the beach; for parents, it’s a free and safe activity that comes with built-in complimentary souvenirs. And of course, there’s the warm surf and sea location, and easy to reach location.