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Where would you go with a family of 5, with free airfare anywhere in the world?

Hello everyone,
I’m in a particularly, lucky situation. My husband travels a crazy amount for work, ( I mean a lot!). We therefore, can usually all fly to Europe, for between 3-4 weeks, each year, for free, on points.
By using short term rentals ( VRBO, HomeAway), we have usually found cheap ways to stay. And this usually means we can eat at least half our meals in the rental. I’m trying to stress, that just because we can fly for free, we can’t afford to live lavishly while away, nor would we like to (anyone read “Europe through the backdoor” by the awesomest Rick Steves?)
My children therefore, have been to most European countries. All Mediterranean, and Baltic countries.
This year, my husband traveled even more, and we basically have enough to travel anywhere. That’s right, anywhere in the world. We are trying to plan a summer vacation for approx 4 weeks ( I know that summer is peak season, most everywhere, but summer is when my husband can take his vacation, plus the kids are out of school)
My kids are 11, 9, and 4. They have been to most of Europe, and a lot of North America. Where do you think we should go, this summer, given our limitations... we can fly free anywhere in the world, with youngish kids, but can’t afford to live lavishly once there. I would love any advice!
And Go....

Posted by
21309 posts

Maybe New Zealand? (I don't have kids, so what do I know?)

Come to think of it, that would be a dreadfully long flight, so maybe not such a wonderful idea.

Posted by
13213 posts

Summer here is winter in New Zealand. Not a good destination unless you want to ski.

So you say you have been to all Mediterranean and Baltic countries. What about Scotland, or Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Slovenia?

Posted by
4370 posts

Mountains or lake region of Austria? Azores? Basque area of Spain/France? Scotland?

Posted by
2359 posts

How about somewhere in southern or eastern Africa for a family safari, like Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana or South Africa, or thereabouts?

Australia/New Zealand?

Or go to a part of Europe you enjoyed & explore more thoroughly? Central Europe maybe? Or an in-depth look at France & Germany? So much to discover and can be done relatively cheaply (even camping).

I though somewhere in Africa to start with but think safari tends to be expensive

Posted by
15051 posts

Australia and New Zealand. Right now the exchange rates are favorable for US$ - I recently talked with an Aussie friend who was bemoaning the state of her finances. Also, it's winter there. While most of Australia is very hot in summer, winters are pleasant. New Zealand is cooler, but no frigid temps or snow and lots to see (Maori culture, hot springs, glow worm caves, beautiful seashores and mountains too) with small distances to cover. You will want to fly between Sydney and Melbourne and Auckland.

I have no experience with South America, but it's winter there too, but not far enough south for cold weather..

Posted by
5709 posts

Australian food prices are very high. My brother lives there and has just been back to the UK for Christmas and he was surprised how cheap the supermarkets were. A bowl of soup or a cappuccino in a cafe is at least 50% more expensive in OZ. Car fuel is cheaper.

Safaris are not cheap anywhere and are best saved for when your youngest can appreciate them more.

I would head to Asia, as with 4 weeks, you could live cheaply in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia etc and the culture would be different to what you have experienced plus your children would benefit from seeing a new part of the world. Research would be needed weather wise as to which parts to visit in the summer.

South America would be another option. I enjoyed Peru. You don’t want to be too far south in the summer, as it’s their winter.

If you want to be in Europe - have you been to Croatia? You could have a few days in Dubrovnik, a week on Korcula, a week on Hvar, a few days in Split then a week in Istria.

You may have “been to most of Europe”, but there must be much that you haven’t seen. I live in England and can’t profess to have seen all of the UK, much less other countries. Have you visited the New Forest, Northumberland, the north Norfolk coast, Rutland, the Llangollen area, the Cairngorms or Dumfries and Galloway in the UK? All places worthy of a visit.

Posted by
8293 posts

The OP asked a similar question in November 2014 at which time the children were said to be 5, 7 and 10. Now, four years later they are 4, 9 and 11.

Posted by
8293 posts

You are absolutely right, Carol. I missed the word "months". My apologies to all.

Posted by
1524 posts

Where would you go with a family of 5, with free airfare anywhere in the world?

I would either go to Thaiti, Bora Bora, Maldives . or France.

Posted by
6879 posts

South America or Asia, both chockfull of interesting places to see (I would pick South America due to cooler weather). I don't think it matters too much whether the airfare is free or not - the point is picking a place that really sparks your interest. If it's a place that's hard or unusually expensive to get to, that's a bonus. I would also think that exposing your kids to a very different culture (not overly Westernized or similar to Europe and North America) would be a plus too.

Posted by
2275 posts

New Zealand, which should be on everyone's bucket list.
The North Island is the more tropical so winter temps there will be quite moderate, ie daily highs in the low 60's. South Island will be colder the further south you go but the Canterbury Plain (Christchurch area) still sees winter temps in the 50's. Point being that you don't need to be a skiier to enjoy the outdoors in what's probably the most beautiful country on earth, and their national parks are world class.
All of the Lord of the Rings lore and film locations will be a treat for the kids. The total flight time to get there from the west coast is about the same as a one stopper to Europe, and for an extra treat you could break up the trip with a stopover in Hawaii for several days.

Posted by
3789 posts

Ecuador is affordable and close enough to the Equator to not be so cold. If you don't have Spanish, consider family Spanish lessons. However, flights are quite affordable from US, so consider New Zealand (best seen by motor home or similar), Australia or SEAsia. Africa would be another on my list. South Africa, though cool, is pretty much malaria free and you can self drive Kruger Nat Park for a safari experience making it more affordable than a private bespoke safari.

Posted by
2743 posts

Go somewhere with expensive flights to make the most of your free tickets!
If it were me I’d look into weather in Argentina (Buenos Aires and Iguazu falls) or South Africa
(Cape Town, wine, and safari animals) But it’s winter in thr Southern Hemisphere so maybe not. Some climate research is in order.


Posted by
800 posts

When we were younger my father used to take us on long vacations every other year. We camped a lot. I think your kids would have a great time if you flew to Vancouver, BC, and rented an RV and drove down the West Coast to Los Angeles or San Diego. Another option would be Hawaii, spending a week on each of the main islands. The thing is, in summer that's not exactly cheap.

Have you considered driving across the south of Canada and flying home? There's lots to do in Canada in the summer. And every kid should see as much of their country as possible.

Posted by
11292 posts

Consider Switzerland. Although some things there are famously expensive (particularly restaurants and museums), apartment rentals and supermarkets are very reasonable. And children travel free if adults get rail passes. So, if you only go to restaurants occasionally, and focus on the outdoors (easy in summer), Switzerland need not be expensive for a family.

Scandinavia is also expensive, but summer is a great time to go. I don't know the particulars, but I assume it's similar to Switzerland - there are probably ways to economize if you rent apartments and utilize supermarkets as much as possible.

Scotland is not expensive compared to those two, and again, summer is a good time to go. Edinburgh and Glasgow alone will keep you busy for a while, and then there are all those castles, hikes, lakes, islands, etc.

Posted by
6472 posts

Cuba. India. China. Africa.

See some poverty and be grateful you can fly anywhere in the world for free.

Posted by
99 posts

I vote for Japan! The Japanese love children! There are so many activities geared toward children you will have more than enough to do and sightseeing to occupy your time there. Get the Japanese Rail Pass and you can go almost anywhere. From origami, to paper making, to manga, to no melt ice cream, to the Nara deer petting park (polite deer), to Hiroshima and Nagasaki (in the south), to geishas, arcades buildings, I could go on. Do not take my word for it, just Google Japan and children activities. You will love it as much as your children. The Japanese are polite, quiet, respectful and for the most part very honest. They are a very giving society so make room for lots of unplanned/unpurchased souvenirs. Having said all that, have you asked your children where they would like to go?

Best of travels where ever you choose to land!

Posted by
541 posts

We are in the same boat. My husband is Diamond on Delta every year. We have a 3 and 4, almost 5 year old. Right now we base everything on what the youngest can handle. He’s a super active boy, NOT fit for more than 2 hours on a plane. My eldest daughter I’m taking to Paris in April for her 5th birthday. She’s content watching movies and coloring the whole way. I’m sure you know this but I’d base it on that. Hopefully you are one of the few without that restriction. I’ve seen them and they do exist :) We are beach and Disneyworld people until my boy can handle a flight longer than 2 hours. We are going to test it early summer with a two flight 5 hour trip to the Caribbean. Thankfully those miles don’t expire and we can save them for when the time is right. That said, we are saving our miles for Nairobi, Kenya and the Masai hopefully in a few years and breaking up the flight with a few days each way in Europe.

Posted by
31522 posts


With free airfare anywhere, that leaves lots of possibilities. A few thoughts......

  • What do the children like to do - beach time, amusement parks or other? Ideally it should be a location that will have something for all of you.
  • Are there any countries in Europe that you haven't been to?
  • Are there any countries that you feel that you didn't see enough of, and would like to return to?
  • Iceland, Greenland and the Scandinavian countries are probably not a good choice as they tend to be expensive.
  • If you decide to try a country a bit off the beaten path, I would highly recommend checking the Government of Canada website to determine if there are any risks in travelling to that country (as you might have heard on the news recently, Burkina Faso and Syria should definitely NOT be on the list).
  • Be sure to check both the "safety aspect" as well as possible medical issues in less developed countries. This sort of thing can be a problem especially in tropical countries.
  • Some countries may not be a good choice in summer. Cuba is one example, but this could apply to other countries in the Caribbean....

"Hurricane season officially runs from 1 June to 30 November, but the chances of a tropical storm impacting on your holiday are highly unlikely in June or July."

One option to consider would be to find one or two small towns in countries you've enjoyed in the past (France, Italy, Switzerland?) and use those as "home bases" and live like locals. If you can find an apartment or small house at a reasonable rate, costs for food should be quite reasonable. If your children are in French Immersion at home, France would be a good place to get some practice.

Good luck with your choice!

Posted by
1854 posts

We were in Cambodia and Vietnam in April 2018. It was extremely hot and humid. I can’t imagine what it would be like in the summer.

Posted by
5757 posts

We were in Cambodia and Vietnam in April 2018. It was extremely hot and humid. I can’t imagine what it would be like in the summer.

No need to imagine anything. You experienced it. April IS the height of 'summer' there (the hottest month) close to the equator, the "seasons" that those of us who live in more temperate climates think of don't really correspond to anything there.

There's a reason that Thailand's traditional "New Year" -- Songkran holiday -- (mid-April) is celebrated by throwing water on everybody you encounter on the street. It's bloody hot then! Of course, by most of our standards, it's pretty intensely hot and humid there year 'round....but the heat/humidity peaks in April.

Posted by
996 posts

I'd vote for Costa Rica. It's very eco-conscious. There is so much biodiversity to see and experience. You have wildlife, hanging bridges, volcanoes, beaches & really good, inexpensive food. Plus, the US $ is accepted almost everywhere.

Posted by
1117 posts

South-east Asia.

I can only vouch for Thailand out of personal experience, but Vietnam should be on it's way up.

Make the most of your free airfare and stay in cheap Thailand - or half as expensive Vietnam.

Posted by
759 posts

I'm with Harold on Switzerland, the Jungfrau region in particular. There enough to do there for 2 weeks easily, assuming you all like hiking easy trails with fantastic scenery and cows and goats and sheep along the way. If you rent an apt. with kitchen, or a bungalow at the food is not expensive. I've done it with my own kids when they were teens. You can see what we saw by clicking on my name and then the link to see our dozen favorite trails with pics and maps.

Posted by
4 posts

Hello everyone!
Thank you so much for your input! We have decided on Japan! We plan on spending 3 weeks visiting Tokyo, Hakone, Osaka and Kyoto. We also plan on spending 4 nights at Tokyo Disneyland, which sounds like an ideal break for the kids. I know it will be hot, but we will have to manage, as we can only ever go away in the summer. Kinda nervous about traveling without a Rick Steves tour book, but I guess we will have to wing it!
Thank you everyone!

Posted by
3789 posts

Sounds wonderful. There are plenty of non Japan travel guides. May I make a soft recommendation of a company to assist? They do logistical planning and let you head off on your own, so maybe they can be of assistance. Company is Inside Japan.
Also, a coworker has a son working in Japan and just came back from their second trip. I'll ask him what resources worked for him.

Posted by
5630 posts

I have visited 77 different countries on all continents except Antartica.

Also, I lived overseas for several years and traveled with children from ages 5- teens.

Kids have a limit on how much time in a museum. I remember going in the Lourve and my Son asked when we were going to leave after 20 minutes.

Kids do tend to like scenic places as well as places with animals. I can imagine they would love an African Safari.

We have visited South America three times and love three countries in particular, Peru, Chile and Argentina. We did a cruise around the Horn that was fantastic. Also, recently did Peru, Cuzco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu which was fantastic. Also, not expensive. We had a great tour for four days that included all those places for $799 pp, airfare not included.

Company was PeruAgency Tours.

Did a wonderful cruise through the Panama Canal, but you probably want to go farther.

China was fantastic with all its history. We did a great three week tour there. Japan was wonderful. We loved the Japanese people. Don't miss Nikko north of Tokyo and Kyoto and Nara farther south of Tokyo.

Australia and New Zealand are wonderful and the US dollar goes far there.

Sydney, Melbourne and the Great Barrier Reef are wonderful. You need 3 weeks to really do the country and that wouldn't include Perth on the West coast. New Zealand you need two weeks.

The only issue with doing Australia, New Zealand and South American is that it would be in the Winter. Not bad for Australia so much but for New Zealand, cold.

Peru would be fine in June, July and August, since that is the dry season.

Alaska is great for scenery and wildlife, but you may have already do that.

Posted by
99 posts

I found the Disney Tourist Blog very helpful when planning our family’s visit to Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea. Maybe it can be helpful to you too.

Tokyo Disneyland was very crowded when we went. I think we were only able to ride 4-5 rides in an 8 hour period because the lines were so long. But we still enjoyed our day there. There were so many interesting things to see, and the food was cute and good. Tokyo DisneySea was unique and incredible. Loved it!

Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
3789 posts

They have decided Japan. Update provided4 posts up.

Posted by
158 posts

Japan. We love to visit Europe with the three kids but it seems you've visited many countries. We love Switzerland and have spent a total of 8 weeks there (and its not Mediterranean or Baltic), we also loved Budapest and Czech Republic last summer. Spain was amazing and I have loved to have 4 weeks there but we only had a little over two. But if you're looking for outside Europe, I'd say Japan. My husband travels there often for work and we've been wanting to go but the flights for a family of five are massive so we haven't made it there yet. Keep travelling to Europe on points but haven't had enough for Japan yet.

If open to Europe, do Belgium, Paris, Switzerland maybe? Easy and cheap train between each.