6 Great Destinations for Families with Small Children


This week I bring to you my favourite guest post from my maternity-cover series, written by Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels. There is so much to worry about when choosing a destination to travel to with children (believe me, she’s only a few weeks old and I’ve already done my fair share!). Are there diseases? Babysitters? Hospitals? Child-friendly accommodation? Entertainment? etc etc. This list has me some fantastic inspiration for my future trips, thanks Melissa! 

6 Great Destinations for Families with Small Children

Below are 6 great destinations ideal for families with small children.  Under each destination you will find why the destination is perfect for families, recommended activities for the destination as well as ideas as where to stay.

  1. Bali – Indonesia

Why its great for families

Bali is one of those great South East Asian beach destinations that has it all.  Relatively cheap accommodation in resorts with fantastic facilities, awesome beaches, opportunities to see wildlife, shopping and great dining options.

What to do and see

There is plenty to see and do in Bali depending upon the age of your children and what you like to do – following are some of the more popular tourist attractions:

  • Bali Safari and Marine Park;
  • Visit beaches – Dreamland, Nusa Dua and Uluwatu;
  • Day trip to nearby island – Nusa Lembongan;
  • Day trip to volcano – Mount Batur;
  • Visit Tea Houses;
  • Monkey Forest – Ubud;
  • Tegalalang Rice Terrace; and
  • Island temple of Tanah Lot.

Some of these places are best seen by hiring a driver and car.  Just walk outside your hotel and you will find numerous drivers waiting for your business.  Maybe ask a few for their price to get a feel for the going rate rather than go with the first one you come across.  Other options are to get a recommendation for a driver online. 

Other than that spend your days lazing by your resort’s pool, browsing through the markets, having cheap massages and eating at some great restaurants.

Where to stay

There are numerous fantastic locations for families to stay in Bali, it really just depends on your families preferences.  Most families stay at either Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Sanur or Nusa Dua.  Other locations worth considering are Ubud, Caggui or Uluwatu.

Accommodation options include hotel style rooms or private villas.  Both options have their advantages.  Of course with the hotels you get the fantastic resort style pools and facilities or you can save a ton of money and rent a budget hotel for next to nothing.  Villas are great as they are self contained and give families much more space and usually come with a private swimming pool at around the same price as a resort style hotel.

For the older children (generally 4 and above) Bali has some great kids clubs within some of the bigger resorts. This gives parents a great opportunity to have some alone time and relax feeling at ease that the little ones are being entertained. 

For families with babies you can hire a nanny for a few hours at night to have a date night or some families even hire a nanny for the whole time their away to have an extra pair of hands in looking after the children.  Nanny’s cost approximately $5 AUD per hour and can be arranged via the hotel or various nanny agencies within Bali.

  1. Gold Coast – Australia

Why its great for families

The Gold Coast is situated in tropical Queensland – as the saying goes, “sunny one day, perfect the next”.  With warm weather, fantastic beaches, playgrounds, plenty of accommodation and great food options, the Gold Coast is a perfect family destination for families with children of all ages.

What to do and see

The Gold Coast is home to two of Australian’s favourite things, beaches and theme parks.

Whilst theme parks might be more suitable for the older kids, there is still plenty for the smaller toddlers to experience at the parks top.  The Gold Coast’s theme parks are:

  • SeaWorld;
  • Movie World;
  • Wet and Wild;
  • Dreamworld; and
  • White Water World

The Gold Coast also as parks specifically designed for seeing wild life like Currumbin Bird Sanctuary and Paradise Country.  SeaWorld and Dreamworld also have plenty of animals to see too.

Once you are done with the theme parks you can visit one of the Gold Coast’s fantastic beaches.  There are many beaches which are perfect for small children with their calm water and sand perfect for building sand castles.  Try the Broadwater, Talledbudgera, Currumbin or Palm Beach.

Australia is well known for its amazing free playgrounds and the Gold Coast is no exception.  The best kids playground is located at the Broadwater Parklands which includes the fantastic Rock Pool Water Playground.  Other great kids parks are located at Palm Beach, Burleigh Heads and Broadbeach.

Located an hour’s drive from the coast you can also visit the Gold Coast Hinterland with its beautiful waterfalls, swimming holes, bush walks and look outs.  There are plenty of walks suitable for all fitness levels.

Of course the Gold Coast also has some great shopping for Mums and Dads and fantastic family friendly restaurants.

Where to stay

The Gold Coast has some fantastic family friendly resorts complete with great kids pools and play areas.  Some of the more popular resorts for families are Paradise Resort, Royal Palm, Turtle Beach and Crown Towers.

The Gold Coast is not a cheap destination and it may be a good idea for families to stay in self contained apartments and head to the local supermarket for food supplies.  This way you can save a bit of money by having most of your meals in the apartment.  Many of the resorts also offer self contained apartments – so be sure to check this out when you are doing your research.

  1. Phu Quoc Island – Vietnam

Why its great for families

This sleepy island destination is perfect for families.  The beaches here are spectacular, the water is calm, shallow and warm absolutely ideal for small children.  You can rent a bungalow metres away from the waters edge making it great for families who often spend the day back and forth between the beach and room for forgotten items.

What is so great about Phu Quoc is that its quiet, there is not much to do here except laze on the beach, have a massage and dine out.  It is absolute pure bliss and a fantastic place to go to completely unwind.

What to do and see

The best beach to stay at is Long Beach – here you will spend most of your days swimming and lazing on the beach.  At night head to one of the nearby beach bars or restaurants and watch fantastic sunsets whilst the kids are entertained playing in the sand at your feet.

For the seafood lovers you can head into the Dinh Cau night markets for fresh seafood at bargain prices.  For the kids (ok and parents) there are some great desserts here like ice cream rolls and Nutella crepes.

If you want a change from Long Beach then jump in a taxi and head to a neighbouring beach like Sao Beach or Ong Lang Beach.  Both beaches have only a few resorts and are relatively isolated.  Sao beach does have a few waves, but still great for families. 

There is even an amusement park here – Vin Pearl – complete with rides, water park and animals.

Where to stay

Most of the accommodation on Phu Quoc is on Long Beach.  With the calm water here, Long Beach is the ideal family destination.  Great resorts to stay at include Viet Thanh, Orange Resort or Kim Hoa Resort – you can rent a bungalow right on the beach. 

If you want something even quieter but still a great beach for kids then try one of the resorts at Ong Lang Beach.

  1. Koh Samui – Thailand

Why its great for families

Another fantastic South East Asia beach destination is Koh Samui. Koh Samui has all the key ingredients for a perfect family holiday – gorgeous beaches, great range of family accommodation, plenty of dining options and lots of markets for shopping.

What to do and see

The majority of your days here will most likely be spent enjoying your resorts pool or lazing on the beach.

For other activities consider the following:

  • Visit to Angthong Marine Park for diving, snorkelling or kayaking.
  • Hire a local long boat and visit a deserted beach like Koh Taen; and
  • Hire a driver and car and visit Big Buddha Temple, Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks, Namuang Waterfall and the Mummy Monk.

Babysitters can easily be hired here either via your hotel or via one of the local agencies.  If you can get away from the kids for one evening you must check out the famous ladyboy show at Starz Cabaret.  These guys are extremely talented and are absolutely stunning!

Also you must grab a meal at the Jungle Club, a restaurant high in the hills in Chaweng with a spectacular view looking out over Koh Samui.

Where to stay

Like most South East Asian beach destinations it has a variety of accommodation options from 5 star resorts, basic guesthouses or private villas.

The main tourist beach here is Chaweng.  Here you will find fantastic accommodation options along the beach, tourist souvenir type shops, massage parlours and restaurants.  South Chaweng is a little bit quieter than the central part of Chaweng and the beach here is also much prettier.  This is probably a more ideal location for families.  Check out the Centara Grand Beach Resort.

Other great accommodation exists at Lamai beach, this beach is similar to Chaweng but a little bit quieter.  Either location are fantastic for families and a cheap cab ride can get you between the two.

  1. Port Vila – Vanuatu

Why its great for families

Port Vila is well known for being a great family destination.  It has fantastic resorts with great facilities for kids like gorgeous lagoon style pools.  For older children the resorts offer kids club, where the kids can be entertained for hours on end with various activities.

Unlike other Pacific destinations where it takes a flight or long ferry ride to reach the islands, there are numerous islands right in Port Vila which you can even see from the main land.  This makes it easy for families to spend both time on the mainland and either visiting or staying on one of the gorgeous islands.

What to see and do

You will most likely spend the majority of your time enjoy the amazing facilities at your resort, but make sure you do get outside your resort and do the following:

  • Take a walk around Port Vila, visit the local markets and dine at some of the fantastic restaurants on the water front;
  • Take a swim in the beautiful blue lagoon;
  • Hike up and swim in the Mele Cascades;
  • Visit the Ekasup Cultural Village for an insight into traditional village life;
  • Visit one of the close by islands like Hideaway Island or Iririki Island and use the resorts facilities for the day, there is also great snorkelling right off the various islands; and
  • If you are a fan of the American TV series Survivor take a day trip to Lelepa Island and see where the actual show was filmed and constants stayed as well as visit the local village on the island.

Where to stay

Consider spending your time half on the mainland and half on one of the beautiful islands.  It is recommended to stay at a mainland resort whilst exploring the island  and then move onto an island.  The beaches and water surrounding the islands is so much more beautiful than the mainland and the island resorts usually offer great water activities like kayaking, glass bottom boat rides and stand up paddle boarding.

For the mainland check out the Holiday Inn or Warwick Le Lagon.  Fantastic island resorts include Erakor Island and Hideaway Island.

  1. Honolulu – Hawaii

Why its great for families

Honolulu is not just a great beach destination for families, it is also offers great day trips, water activities, wild life experiences, outdoor adventures, as well as great shopping and dining options.

What to do and see

Of course one of the main attractions in Honolulu is the gorgeous beaches.  Waikiki is famously cool, but perhaps a quieter option for families is the area around the Hilton Lagoon.  The lagoon is only a few minutes walk away from Waikiki and both the lagoon and beach by the lagoon have calm water making it a better option for small children.

When you can get the kids off the beach make sure you hire a car and get out of Honololu. The following are great trips/activities for families:

  • Day trip to Kualoa Ranch – see where movies like Jurassic Park were filmed and take a boat ride out to Chinaman Island;
  • Visit the North Shore, stop at Turtle Island and hopefully spot some turtles swimming close to the shore;
  • Visit the Dole Plantation – famous for its delicious pineapple ice cream;
  • Visit Hanauma Bay for snorkelling right off the beach;
  • Watch the sunset on Waikiki beach;
  • See a luau;
  • Visit the Polynesian Cultural Centre;
  • Visit Sea Life Park;
  • Take a boat and swim with dolphins and turtles in the ocean; and
  • Go shopping at Waikiki, the Waikele Premium Outlets or the Ala Moana Centre

Where to stay

Whilst Honolulu has array of accommodation options, for families the best option is to rent out a self-contained condo.  Check out VBRO and rent a condo privately, you well save yourself heaps this way by renting directly from the owner or small agency and by being able to cook some of your own meals.

As to location, if you want to save more money you are going to have to stay a few blocks back from Waikiki beach.  A great option for families is to stay at the Illikai Hotel and Luxury Suites which looks right out to the Hilton Lagoon.  You can rent great condos here on VBRO and have a great view of the lagoon.  Some nights the Hilton (which is located right next door) even puts on great fireworks display which you can view right from your balcony.

Author Bio

Melissa is mother to 5 year old Myla and travel blogger from Thrifty Family Travels.  Prior to having Myla at the age of 34 years of age, Melissa backpacked the world, mostly solo.  Melissa did not let having a child stop her travels, in fact she has taken her daughter overseas 7 times, visiting 6 different countries.  Myla appears to have caught her mother’s travel bug and already has her own bucket list with Rio De Janeiro at the top of the list thanks to the children’s movie “Rio”.

Thrifty Family Travels’ focus is on affordable travel for families.  You can find out more about family travel to the above destinations by heading over to their website at www.thriftyfamilytravels.com.