One of the best gifts to give kids and grandkids is the gift of travel. Experiencing the world first-hand — with its diverse languages, foods, and customs — boosts awareness and encourages empathy.
It also provides memories that last a lifetime.
So we reached out to local-to-us travel expert, Darcy Allen of Travel by Darcy, for insight on 2018’s top kid-friendly destinations. Inspired by Darcy’s tempting choices, we matched each spot with a vacation wardrobe essential for your tiny travelers.
1. Costa Rica
This small Central American country is tucked between Panama and Nicaragua, with the Caribbean on one side and the Pacific on the other. “Costa Rica is a destination with something for everyone, no matter their age, from snorkeling and zip-lining to beachcombing and bird watching,” says Darcy. “Its diverse landscape includes rain forests, mountains, plains, and beaches, and its accommodation options vary, from casual condo rentals to world-class resorts.”
Where to stay: Dreams Las Mareas (all-inclusive family-friendly resort)
What to pack: Let her dive right into all the fun in our Wave Rider Scrunch-Back One-Piece Swimsuit, a sporty, sun-safe suit with a sliding-scrunch detail around back for drama and perfect-fit adjustability.
This tropical U.S. state delights travelers of all ages, all months of the year. A remote string of isles in the Pacific, each of Hawaii’s eight major islands has its own, distinct vibe. “Maui is my favorite for families,” says Darcy. “It’s a great blend of beautiful beaches, quaint towns with shops and restaurants, and outdoor adventures like snorkeling, kayaking, and biking. And one of the best parts? It feels a world away, but U.S. residents don’t need a passport to visit.”
Where to stay: Aston Kaanapali Shores (budget-friendly resort) or Fairmont Kea Lani (luxe resort)
What to pack: Keep him protected from all those righteous rays in our Boys’ Short-Sleeve Rashguard and our quick-dry and breathable Boys’ Swim Board Shorts, for adventures in and out of the water.
Rugged and raw with breathtaking beauty, this Nordic island nation seems made for families looking for adventure, from exploring a lava field to taking a whale watch tour. “A year-round destination, you can marvel at the Northern Lights in winter or the midnight sun in summer,” says Darcy. “If you’re staying seven nights or more, a self-drive itinerary is a great way to explore the countryside at your own pace; for shorter stays, use Reykjavik as your home base and take day trips outside the city.”
Where to stay: Reykjavik Residence (apartment-style city accommodations) or Hotel Ranga (luxe hotel)
What to pack: Keep your little wanderer ready for anything in our super-soft, super-cute Short-Sleeve Pima Cotton Embroidered Tee and our Explorer Shorts, with plenty of pockets for storing treasures.
4. Alaska Cruise
The northernmost, westernmost U.S. state, Alaska offers unrivaled scenery (massive glaciers to majestic lakes) and abundant wildlife (bald eagles to orca whales) — and the best way to experience it all is with the comfort and convenience of a cruise. “The Alaska cruise season is fairly short, only May to early September, but it does make for a uniquely memorable summer vacation,” says Darcy. “Plus, a cruise ensures lots of family time, from dining together to sharing diverse adventures on and off the ship.”
Which line to cruise: Norwegian BLISS (family-friendly line, debuting its Alaska itinerary this year, and offering family-friendly conveniences like connecting cabins and 1- or 2-bedroom suites)
What to pack: Playful yet party-ready, our Jolie Embroidered Cotton Dress is her best choice for at-sea days, whether she’s making new friends at the onboard academy or having dinner at Ocean Blue.
5. Turks & Caicos
This cluster of tropical islands is a siren for families looking for R&R and not much else. “Turks & Caicos boasts clear, calm water and one of the world’s best beaches — and because there isn’t a lot of sightseeing to do, it’s perfect for a no-guilt, beach-only vacation,” says Darcy. “TCI tends to be more expensive than surrounding Caribbean neighbors, but there’s still a range of accommodation options.”
Where to stay: Sands at Grace Bay (family-friendly condos at budget-friendly resort) or Beaches Turks & Caicos (the ultimate all-inclusive family resort with everything from a 45,000 square-foot water park to 19 restaurants, 15 bars, and six pools; Beaches also accommodates families with special needs, from its accessible rooms to its Kids Camp that caters to all children, including those with autism)
What to pack: Our Racerback Cover-Up Dress features sun-safe, fast-drying swim fabric and a sweet, swingy shape, which means she’ll be perfectly dressed for every occasion — even a dip in the pool.
Find the still-wild west in Wyoming, the 10th largest and least populous state in the U.S. “This is the summer vacation destination for outdoor- and adventure-loving families, with unforgettable days spent hiking, horseback riding, or white water rafting; of course, it’s also paradise in winter for those who love snow, with everything from skiing to dog sledding,” says Darcy. “Whatever time of year, use Jackson Hole as base camp; this fun town has everything from budget-friendly inns to full-service resorts.”
Where to stay: Snake River Lodge & Spa (luxe lodge with family-friendly condo-style accommodations)
What to pack: In summer, he’ll stand out in the cool comfort of our Boys’ Short-Sleeve Graphic Tee (a wearable work of art!) paired with Appaman Sweatshorts, in the running for best shorts of the season.
“Each of the international destinations are relatively easy to get to from the U.S.,” says Darcy. “If you’re game for a long flight with kids, I recommend traveling this year to Australia, Thailand, or Kenya.”
Darcy Allen is an expert travel agent and owner of Travel by Darcy, based in Epping, NH; Darcy can be reached at 603-418-8698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kristyn Lak Miller is a freelance Garnet Hill writer based in Portsmouth, NH.