35 Warm and Sunny Family Vacation Spots: Winter Vacation Ideas in the US and Abroad
From perpetually wet feet to relentlessly bundling (and unbundling) your kids with layer upon layer, the need to escape grows for many parents as the winter season drags on. Even those families who don't live with the finicky four-season cycle might prefer their family vacation with a side of palm trees, rather than fur-trimmed snow boots. So whether you're seeking to escape the cold or just don't want to vacation in it, we've rounded up 35 of the best winter vacation ideas in the US and abroad filled with sun, fun, and warmth.
Read on to find great all-inclusive resorts, beaches, and charming cities teeming with culture that will give you a family vacation that’s sunny, not snowy! For even more winter vacation ideas, be sure to check out our Family Travel Guide.
Strolling through the incredible aquarium is just one of the many activities a family can enjoy at Atlantis Resort.
Warm and Sunny Winter Vacation Ideas That Take You Abroad
1. Atlantis, Paradise Island
This Bahamas resort and island are a fantasy destination for many, not just the kids. The Atlantis Resort offers an out-of-this-world water park with nearly a dozen pools, all manner of activities, a kids club, beach and boating, and countless room options on this tropical isle. Also consider the nearby, budget-minded Comfort Suites, which provides free admission to Atlantis, so you can slip and slide the day away but return to your clean and simple room in the evening for a fraction of the price.
2. Grand Lucayan, Bahamas
This beachfront family resort is everything you've dreamed of from your frost-bitten state. The Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort is one of the largest hotels on the island and considered by many to be the finest. The hotel offers the sandy beaches, warm sun, and ocean breezes for which the Bahamas are known. Expect lots of amenities, dining options, and planned activities. It's in the island's touristy Lucaya district, making it easy enough to take in some of the local sights if you want.
3. Baha Mar Resort, Bahamas
Baha Bay, the $200-million water park that opened this year at the fabulous Baha Mar Bahamas resort, just might be the most beautiful water park in the world, and we don’t say this lightly. Sitting on 15 acres, with 24 slides, a 500,000-gallon wave pool, and a 1,400-foot "action" river, this is a truly amazing water park and family-friendly Bahamas resort that will keep the whole family active from the minute the sun rises. When not at the water park or floating in the resort’s six pools, your family might even find the time to make it to the beach.
4. Great Exuma, Bahamas
The Exumas are a string of islands and cays in the Bahamas with white-sand beaches and turquoise-blue waters. This area of the Bahamas is much less developed than Nassau and Paradise Island; here you'll find fewer crowds and more natural shorelines. You’ll also find the Grand Isle Resort and Spa, which, as any local will tell you, is the best resort in Exuma for families. The all-villa resort offers large accommodations that are perfect for multigenerational travel or groups. The property is upscale but unpretentious, and the vibe is friendly and casual while offering top-notch amenities, like supervised activities for little ones and a children’s spa menu for kids to indulge in while parents play the 18-hole golf course or get massages of their own.
Stunningly blue water surrounds you at Beaches Turks and Caicos.
5. Turks and Caicos
It’s hard to beat Beaches Resorts for a family vacation. These all-inclusive resorts are designed from top to bottom to ensure that every member of the family has a spectacular time. Turks and Caicos is a jewel in the Beaches family crown with stunningly blue waters and a long coral reef with amazing aquatic life, so you can take advantage of the only resorts where scuba diving is included. Or try Ocean Club Resort Turks and Caicos, where our editor and her family enjoyed the pristine beach and pools, the resort's scavenger hunt, and a variety of other family activities.
6. Cayman Islands
This chain of three islands features glorious shallow water and calm sea, so all ages may enjoy a dip in the Caribbean. Diving and snorkeling are popular activities. Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort has recently completed an extensive transformation, making it one of the best winter vacation ideas for families staying on Grand Cayman.
With its famous pink-sand beaches, unrivaled natural beauty, and unhurried atmosphere, the island of Bermuda is perfect for family getaways. But even with its slower pace, there are still so many things to do in Bermuda, including sailing and boating, exploring the beaches and nature reserves, visiting cultural sites, shopping, and more. Plus, Bermuda is small and easy to navigate, and its pink buses and gorgeous ferry rides make getting around lots of fun.
RELATED: Your Essential Beach List
Soak up the sun, pools, and family fun in Cabo at the Grand Solmar Land's End Resort.
8. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
There's so much for families to do in Cabo San Lucas on Mexico's Baja California peninsula. During the winter season, get up close and personal with whales migrating from the Arctic to the warm, calm waters surrounding the peninsula. You can go zip lining, rock climbing, swimming with dolphins, and even camel riding in the desert! We were thoroughly spoiled at the all-inclusive Grand Velas Los Cabos with its spa, pools, and attention to detail. A stay at Grand Solmar Land's End Resort will also leave you sun-kissed, relaxed, and well-fed.
9. Cancun, Mexico
You could grab a lounge chair and never leave the silky sand and the Caribbean Sea at one of the dozens of hotels in Cancun, like Azul Beach Resort Riviera Cancun, which makes travel with kids as seamless as possible. But, it would be a shame to miss out on excursions to places like the Mayan ruins in Tulum and many other unforgettable destinations nearby.
10. Mexico's Riviera Maya
Along Mexico's Caribbean coast lies the Riviera Maya region with stunning beachside towns, such as Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Myriad outdoor family-friendly activities abound, including underwater tours, snorkeling, animal interactions, a natural outdoor water park, zip lines, and Mayan ruins. You'll quickly forget all about mittens and hats.
Get slimed at the Nickelodeon Resort Punta Cana. Photo by Jaime Sumersille
11. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is easy to reach, thanks to numerous nonstop flights from many East Coast cities, and we've enjoyed several of the island's top beachfront resorts that cater to families. Club Med Punta Cana features cool activities from Creactive by Cirque du Soleil, boutique-hotel styling, and a full kids program. The Nickelodeon Resort is another great option for families, with a fabulous water park, character visits, a kids club, and stunning beachside pools.
Treat the kids to a Caribbean getaway to the friendly and gorgeous island of Aruba. Relax at the pool or on one of the many stunning beaches on Aruba, but if you have older kids, don't miss exploring the rugged eastern shore of the island with its national parks and sea caves. We also indulged at the many beach shacks and enjoyed befriending the donkeys and other creatures at several animal sanctuaries. A stay at the Aruba Marriott Resort is just right for all ages with its pool, spacious rooms, and even the island's largest casino.
Surround yourself with the tropics during a stay at a beachside tree house at the Tree House Lodge in Costa Rica.
13. Tree House Lodge, Costa Rica
Costa Rica offers so many unique and wonderful experiences. We’ve raved about the new Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort in Costa Rica before, but how about taking an Into the Woods adventure, sleeping in a beachside tree house in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Refuge, and making a visit to the nearby Jaguar Rescue Park? The Tree House Lodge is a fairy tale getaway, to be sure.
14. Disney Cruise
If running around a theme park isn’t your idea of fun, taking a Disney Cruise can be a great way to get your Disney on. The magic makers pull out all the stops, including impressive theme restaurants, magical entertainment, and one-on-one time with your favorite characters. There are also lots of adults-only areas to enjoy while your kids are busy at the incredible kids' clubs. We've tried several different cruises and loved them all, including a tour of Europe with an incredible kids' club and a cruise to Alaska. Current cruises depart from several Florida ports; Galveston, Texas; Honolulu, Hawaii; New Orleans; New York City; and San Diego; and travel to the Caribbean, the South Pacific, the Panama Canal, and more. There are options to stay within the US, too.
RELATED: 30 Things To Do in Oahu with Kids
Hang out in the water park at Disney's Aulani Resort.
Warm and Sunny Winter Vacation Ideas in the Western US
15. Aulani, Hawaii
The Hawaiian Islands are on many families' bucket lists of winter vacation ideas. Whether you want to learn to surf at popular Waikiki Beach on Oahu or visit the volcanic wonders on the Big Island, this chain of islands is paradise. Families are flocking to Aulani, a Disney resort that has garnered numerous accolades, including from our own reviewer who called it "an absolutely luxurious resort vacation with enough family fun that parents can enjoy without feeling like they are vacationing in Romper Room."
16. Las Vegas, Nevada
Love it or hate it, this Nevada oasis has succeeded in becoming a family town with pools aplenty, a children's museum, an aquarium, and even babysitting options for parents looking for a night out. Stay on the Las Vegas Strip where there are dozens of hotels and you'll be right in the thick of the action. Circus Circus isn't our favorite place to spend the night, but be sure to visit during the day for the indoor theme park, live circus acts, and cheap buffets. Our top three hotels for kids are Mandalay Bay, with its water park and real sand beach; The Excalibur, with its treasure hunts, live events, knight-themed dinners, on-site arcade, and a plethora of pools; and the MGM Grand, which not only has some of the best pools on the Strip, but also has a ton of events and shows that are perfect for the whole family.
17. Los Angeles, California
Trade your snowy city for palm trees and SoCal sunshine in Los Angeles, a sprawling family playground filled with museums, top-notch eats, and of course, a few nearby theme parks! Relax after a day of exploring with a stay at one of these kid-friendly LA hotels. Save time for a day trip to another popular locale, such as Santa Barbara, where botanic gardens, sailing, and more family-friendly seaside pursuits will put everyone in that laid-back California state of mind. And no matter the season, check out these kid-friendly LA-area beaches—because in LA you can always hit the beach.
The Saguaro in Palm Springs is known for its hipster-meets-diaper poolside scene.
18. Palm Springs, California
Welcoming Palm Springs is a popular destination for LGBTQ families, design and architecture buffs, or anyone who enjoys stylish mid-century hotels with giant swimming pools shaded by palm trees. Family favorites include The Saguaro and the Ace Hotel, which are both popular for their hipster-meets-diaper poolside scenes, but the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa offers a family-friendly water park that's hard to beat. Beyond the pool, there's hiking galore, dinosaur fun, and museums, too. Leave time for some hiking in Joshua Tree, which offers otherworldly landscapes that delight kids of all ages.
19. San Diego, California
With its near-perfect year-round climate, a world-class zoo, miles of beach, and cute Old Town, San Diego is loaded with personality. Take a scenic cruise around San Diego Bay before enjoying some fresh Pacific seafood for dinner. The Hotel Del Coronado is an iconic resort that caters to kids, but we've also rounded up several other kid-friendly hotels in this coastal California town to give you plenty of winter vacation ideas.
20. Warm-Weather Dude Ranches
Saddle up, pardner. While you can mosey your way across the whole country sampling dude ranch vacations for families in almost every state, in the winter months you may want to confine yourself to the warm ones. Luckily, there are several. Spend your days trekking through the rugged landscape on horseback before indulging in a five-star meal under the stars at the Wildcatter Ranch in Texas, the Tanque Verde Ranch in Arizona, or Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort in California.
Scottsdale is a golf, tennis, and spa mecca, and families are welcomed with open arms. The dry desert air works magic on winter-weary bones of all ages. The Westin Kierland Resort offers tweens and teens nonstop fun with the FlowRider, a machine that lets you pseudo surf in the desert. Giant swimming pools and numerous children’s programs are also on the menu. More kid-friendly attractions are available in nearby Phoenix, including the Phoenix Zoo, the Arizona Science Center, a water park, and the Desert Botanical Garden.
Orlando is a kid's paradise—and not just at the theme parks. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala
Best Warm and Sunny Winter Vacation Ideas in Florida
22. Orlando, Florida
With mild to hot temperatures year-round, plenty of hotel rooms designed for multigenerational families, and yes, a certain mouse-themed series of amusement parks, it's no surprise that Orlando tops any list of family vacations. But step outside of Disney World mania for a moment and you'll discover that Orlando has dozens of family-friendly attractions, from a science center and museums to balloon rides and boating. There are even Orlando activities to tempt your teens into smiles. Warning: If you stay at the Orlando World Center Marriott with its new water park, your kids may not want to leave the hotel!
23. Miami, Florida
It's hard to go wrong with a getaway to Miami. Swim, soak up the sun, enjoy fruity drinks at outdoor restaurants, and you'll forget winter ever existed. Kids might enjoy a visit to Jungle Island, a dip in the stunning public Venetian pool, or just eating their weight in ice cream! There are fabulous children's museums and a science center here, too.
The luxurious Sunset Key cottages reside on a private island in the Florida Keys.
24. The Florida Keys
The laid-back beach vibe and sparkling, turquoise water that surrounds the towns that make up the Florida Keys are sure to charm all ages. Myriad family-friendly outdoor activities abound in this south Florida charmer of a region, from dolphins to boating and snorkeling, but also a stunning marine sanctuary, state parks, a lighthouse, and more. As for where to stay while you're there, we've put together a list of a dozen Florida Keys resorts that we think are just right for families.
25. Palm Coast, Florida
This quiet little northern Florida beach area is the perfect place to let your stress melt away. The beach may be cold during winter, but you can enjoy Hammock Beach Resort’s Fantasy Pool Complex, golf, tennis, huge spa, kids club, and more. There’s lots to do within a few hours' drive including Orlando theme parks, the Kennedy Space Center, and Marineland Dolphin Adventure.
26. Jacksonville and Amelia Island, Florida
Located in the northeastern corner of Florida, Jacksonville doesn't get as hot as other Florida cities in the winter. But, its mild and pleasant winter weather is perfect for exploring the city's historical sites and museums, strolling its pristine beaches, and enjoying some fun animal encounters. You can also spend some time in nearby Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach, where you can explore destination-worthy state parks, play mini golf, bike, and enjoy miles of beautiful beaches.
27. More Florida Beaches
We've already named several of our favorite Florida destinations, but really the Sunshine State offers endless winter vacation ideas to help everyone thaw out. Try one of these top beach towns now or on spring break, when temps really start to soar in the south.
RELATED: Best Family Resorts with Water Parks
Spend a day or a weekend at the Caribbean-themed Ocean Breeze Water Park in Virginia Beach.
Best Winter Vacation Ideas in the Sunny South
Virginia isn't tropical to be sure; it even has mountains and gets some snow. But come winter/early spring, Virginia makes for a lovely warmer-weather vacation destination. Explore the capital city of Richmond, hit the surf and boardwalk of Virginia Beach, or enjoy Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, and more family-friendly attractions in Williamsburg.
29. San Antonio, Texas
This charming Texas town is loaded with appeal. Take a narrated cruise or stroll River Walk, visit the Alamo, and enjoy delicious Mexican food. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, head indoors to the San Antonio children’s museum, The DoSeum. The Witte Museum is a fabulous place to discover Texas heritage with a smattering of science and natural history thrown in for good measure. Embassy Suites Riverwalk and the Mokara Hotel and Spa are fine hotel options on the River Walk.
30. New Orleans, Louisiana
You may not think of New Orleans when brainstorming winter vacation ideas for families, but there are plenty of things for kids to do, including swamp tours and a children's museum. So forget about that image of a 24/7 Mardi Gras drinking fest and make your way to the French Quarter for live jazz and outdoor family brunches.
Take a tour of the Lost River Caves just north of Nashville.
31. Nashville, Tennessee
Tour Music City by trolley, or explore the Tennessee Capitol building by foot in this country music-loving southern city. There are kid-friendly museums, a science center, outdoor adventures, and plenty of local grub to savor. Though winters can be chilly, they're typically more mild than in many other parts of the US, making Nashville one of the perfect winter vacation ideas for families seeking culture and fun over swimming and the beach.
32. Savannah, Georgia
Cobblestone streets, live jazz music, oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, the smells of Southern cuisine floating on the breeze... while this quintessential picture of Savannah, Georgia is accurate, the city is also full of fun activities for kids and families. From museums and historic sites to island excursions and dolphin watching, Savannah offers lots to do while maintaining a small-town, laid-back vibe steeped with Southern hospitality.
33. Charleston, South Carolina
The charm of this low-country hot spot is not to be missed in any season. The newly minted southern foodie city offers a bit of everything, from beaches to a historic French Quarter to an aquarium popular with families. Charleston is also renowned for its hospitality, another sure-fire way to melt away those winter blues.
34. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
Nestled along Alabama's Gulf Coast, this family destination is bursting with a ton of water activities, can't-miss attractions, and an unending amount of tasty treats. The Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offer pristine, soft sand at the beach, plus fishing, kayaking, coastal wildlife, and other outdoor adventures in the back bays. Families who want to get back to nature might consider camping for a few nights in the area, but if you’re not feeling that adventurous, The Lodge at Gulf State Park combines the luxury of hotel amenities with a 360-degree view of the gorgeous Gulf State Park.
35. Sea Island, Georgia
Located between Jacksonville, Florida, and Savannah on the stunning southeast Georgia coast, Sea Island Resort is brimming with southern charm and world-class hospitality. Though winter is typically not swimsuit season, your family can relax and play on Sea Island's five miles of private beach, go biking, and enjoy the resort's plethora of family and children's activities including a free arcade, a bowling alley, arts and crafts, and so much more.
This article was first published in November 2015 but is updated and revised annually. Additional reporting by Rose Gordon Sala and Jennifer Marino Walters
Unless noted, photos are courtesy of the resorts and hotels