I’ve spent the past three years jetting my family — my wife, daughters (12 and 16), and son (11) — around the world pretty much full-time.
We’ve traveled through four continents and 23 countries, and our trips have ranged from luxury tours of Europe to off-grid adventures in Southeast Asia. Our children seem to thrive in almost every environment we’ve explored, but there are a few destinations I think could be better suited to just adults.
Here are some of my kids’ favorites and a few spots adults would probably love for a child-free getaway.
Best destinations for families
There’s a uniquely family-friendly vibe to Tokyo.
We saw plenty of elementary-school students walking throughout the bustling neighborhoods wearing yellow ball caps. These kids are essentially on their own as they travel back and forth to school and other places, but the caps are a signal to adults to keep a watchful eye out for their safety.
My children were fascinated by this level of adolescent independence. They also loved journeying across Japan on a bullet train; sampling non-GMO strawberries that cost $5 each; and exploring the Samurai Museum, Tokyo Disneyland, and Tsukiji Fish Market.
Our family fun in the city-state started the moment our plane landed. The legendary Changi International Airport has world-class shopping, (affordable) Michelin-starred restaurants, and family-friendly activities.
We spotted a butterfly pavilion, suspended trampolines, a canopy park, an experience studio, and a movie theater, so it’s no wonder that many families plan multiday vacations without leaving the airport complex. We spent 24 hours at Changi and barely scratched the surface.
Outside the airport, Singapore is a cutting-edge country that I think provides unparalleled levels of safety, cleanliness, and green spaces. From the Las Vegas-like Marina Bay Sands Hotel to the famous hawker-stall street-food scene to the night-time Formula 1 races, there’s excitement for all ages.
We spent six days exploring the stunning Caribbean island chain on a private, captained catamaran.
In terms of adventure, variety, and fun, the experience was unbeatable. Every day included a few hours of sailing and a unique itinerary of excursions. We swam with pigs, snorkeled with sea turtles, dove into a shiver of nurse sharks, hiked Rachel’s Bubble Bath, and attempted a visit to the Thunderball Grotto featured in “James Bond.”
My kids fell in love with those activities, but they also enjoyed sunbathing on the deck in between islands. My wife and I appreciated the complete lack of internet connectivity throughout our journey, giving us a chance to unplug.
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Beaches are a plug-and-play family setting, but Ubud is slightly off the beaten track. Located along the UNESCO rainforest on the island, Ubud is full of Indonesian charm.
Our kids enjoyed the Instagram-famous rice terrace swings and zip-lining. But the Monkey Forest, numerous waterfalls, and countless temples provide additional opportunities for cultural adventure.
Destinations better suited for adults
Udaipur is easily one of the most romantic places on the planet. The “City of Lakes” is a favorite destination for my wife and me, but it probably ranks toward the bottom of the list for our kids.
Watching a beautiful sunset as it reflects against the outer walls of the ancient palaces while your boat sails leisurely across Lake Pichola is an experience best enjoyed with your arm wrapped around your partner. And resorts like The Oberoi Udaivilas transport couples to a dreamlike setting with sprawling pools, fountains, lawns, vistas, and five-star service.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
San Miguel de Allende has provided plenty of kid-friendly fun throughout our multiple visits, but its downtown architecture and collection of upscale lounges and eateries would be a ton of fun to explore again, sans children.
Highlights for an adults-only trip could include the popular Tacos and Tequilas walking tour, an evening of barhopping along the narrow city streets, or an al-fresco lunch and tour of the Cuna de Tierra winery.
Plus, before a night on the town, adults can appreciate the many museums, art galleries, and cultural events that highlight Mexico’s rich heritage.
Quebec City, Canada
Quebec City is the only destination from our travels where we actually did leave the children back home — and it was almost certainly for the best.
The town itself is an underrated holiday backdrop that delivers 400-year-old architecture and French-speaking charm. Plus, there’s a 32,000-square-foot village just outside the city that only exists for a few months each year.
Every December, 50 workers start building a new iteration of Hôtel de Glace using 500 tons of ice and 30,000 tons of snow. As the only ice hotel in America — with only 45 themed rooms — it’s truly a bucket-list experience.
The chilly temperatures inside the rooms and common areas (an ice restaurant, ice bar/lounge, and a chapel for weddings) require proper winter clothing or lengthy sessions inside the saunas and hot tubs. We had a blast, but my wife and I barely made it through the night despite the heavy sleeping bags.
Guests are required to book a simultaneous stay at a nearby traditional hotel. Besides offering a safe house for those who succumb to the temps, it’s a necessary place to store luggage and take a hot shower.