Photo by Lauren Pollard
As we map out what we’d like to see and do in the year ahead, our minds tend to turn to travel, and we start daydreaming about where the next 12 months might take us. At the top of our list is planning a family vacation that will provide one-of-a-kind experiences and memories for years to come, so we asked three travel experts to share recommendations for destinations for the best family getaways for 2019. Whether you’re looking for pulse-pounding adventure, breathtaking scenery, or the relaxing lull of the ocean, we’ve got you covered. Read on to start planning your next getaway.
British Columbia AND ALBERTA, CANADA
Family time on Pacific time. In an age when we are often glued to our screens, heading to an internet-free zone where you can experience million-year-old mountains, zip-lines, glaciers, and breathtaking waterfalls sounds more than enticing. Michele MacDonald at The Core Traveler works with CMH, the inventors of heli-skiing, to plan once-in-a-lifetime adventures in the Columbia Mountains. Your crew will take a helicopter ride to CMH Bugaboos, your base camp, high in the mountains, for all the adventure, scenery, relaxation, and memory-making you can handle. “The great thing about this trip is you can engage in family togetherness, or send kids off with specialized guides for activities while you do something different,” MacDonald says. “There’s a little bit of everything for everyone.” Kristin Diehl, owner and Travel Consultant at Depart & Discover, an affiliate of SmartFlyer, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, seconds Canada as a recommended place to visit, citing the Canadian Rockies, Banff Springs, and Lake Louise in Banff National Park as ideal for families who want a vacation where you can all enjoy the splendor of the outdoors together. “This gorgeous, turquoise, glacier-fed lake is perfect for all ages,” she says. “From doable hikes to easy canoe rides, even the youngest traveler can enjoy this serene setting.” That means true family time, as no one has to stay behind. But don’t worry, there are more heart-racing options, such as whitewater rafting and ATV tours, if that’s your preference. Diehl recommends you hang your hat at Fairmont Banff Springs and/or Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, noting that the Fairmont has great programming for children ages three to twelve should your charges require more diversion or you need a little break for yourself.
Photo courtesy of EXP Journeys
Experience the national parks in style. Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, Monument Valley, and Lake Powell are all renowned national parks and monuments—and ideal destinations for family trips. “Even if you’ve visited before, you’ve never seen them like this,” says Michele MacDonald of The Core Traveler. MacDonald works with EXP Journeys, a travel outfitter that sets up luxury camps in remote locations to ensure a unique and totally private experience. Your family will take in fascinating culture and the history of the Native Americans while engaging in some serious adventure, from hiking and whitewater rafting to canyon rappelling and helicopter excursions. A dedicated camp manager is on hand to ensure that every detail is thought of, from your family’s favorite meals to the comfy beds. “I love that the camps operate on a Leave No Trace Ethic,” MacDonald shares. “Once clients leave, the camps are completely broken down as if no one was ever there.”
Where you’ll want to return again and again. Sometimes you just want to unwind on beautiful white sand beaches by crystal blue waters, and for Caitlin Stolzenthaler, a luxury travel advisor with Rove & Roam Travel, with offices based in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, The Four Seasons Anguilla is the spot for experiencing just that with family. “We’ve vacationed there three times so far, and it’s not enough,” Stolzenthaler shares. “Everyone keeps asking when we are going back.” They love booking the beachfront villas, which have three to five bedrooms, where they can settle in and relax. But what truly keeps them coming back is the people. “Anguilla was affected by Hurricane Irma, which makes now a great time to visit to support this wonderful community,” Stolzenthaler says. Since cruise ships aren’t allowed into this area, it’s a bit of a hidden gem, which lends to an authentic, “island living” feeling. The Four Seasons has a wonderful kids’ club so the grown-ups can escape to the spa or adults-only pool. And a must-do activity is a boat ride to explore the many beaches the island has to offer.
Photo of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia courtesy of of Michele MacDonald/The Core Traveler
The ultimate lake adventure. The beaches of Croatia are renowned, but according to Michele MacDonald, owner and travel advisor at The Core Traveler in Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you overlook Plitvice Lakes National Park. Tucked away in the interior of the country, this park consists of 115 square miles of protected land with a river running through the center. Sixteen blue, green, and emerald lakes on different levels are formed where the river flattens out, all flowing into one another with foaming cascades and pounding waterfalls to create an amazing natural spectacle you’ll never forget. MacDonald recommends you stay at the luxury lodge Fenomen Plitvice, where you’ll be ensconced in the national park and perfectly in harmony with nature.
You don’t have to travel far to feel a million miles away. When you visit Puerto Rico from the United States, you don’t need a passport (no customs lines here), your cell phone works, and once you land, it’s easy to drive to most resorts and activities. And according to Kristin Diehl of Depart & Discover, the island has come a long way since the storms. Her resort recommendation is the Ritz Dorado Beach, which offers activities for kids of all ages, plus an amazing spa for parents. The area offers endless exploration opportunities, from shopping in Old San Juan and hiking (hello ziplining!) in the El Yunque Tropical Rainforest, to endless watersports, fishing, and unforgettable swims in bioluminescent bays. Of course, if you just want to relax on the beach, that’s an option, too.