For traveling families, 2017 is shaping up as a primo check-it-off-your bucket-list year. Junkets to the beach and amusement parks aren’t going away. But a generational shift is underway as kids are being shown at earlier ages how to dream big when it comes to vacation. “I’m fierce about making sure everyone in my family is an aspirational traveler,” says Jim of New York City. If that means formulating a bucket list for them, he is fine with that. “Actually, nobody objects when I say, ‘Pack your bags. We’re going to Costa Rica.’” It’s easy to see why. A change of venue shakes up family patterns in good ways. When the experiences are new for everybody — a hummingbird lands on your finger or you share an adrenaline rush on a whitewater raft — the fun is mutual
Selfish motives are permissible, too, when you plan a blockbuster family vacation. Plenty of adults have been to Venice, Florence and Rome. And who among us hasn’t wished for a reason to go back? Returning doesn’t have to mean repeating yourself. Planning a family vacation to Italy’s top cities includes gliding with a gondolier into Venice’s hidden canals, seeing David in Florence with an art expert without standing in line, and a gladiator training session in Rome. After this summer, the kids will be hunting for future reasons to return, too. “Frankly, I like to mess with their expectations,” quips Becky of San Diego, California, referring to her love of a multi-generational vacation that veers away from clichés. A multisport trip to the Swiss Alps fits that bill. You go mushing with a dogsledder and his team, walk on a glacier with an expert guide, and get a lesson in cheese making from alpine dairy farmers. “My family really wanted to go to Switzerland. They just didn’t know it in advance!”
In warmer climates, Cuba is at the head of the pack again for summer ’17. Of all of the never-before experiences you’ll have, one of the coolest is to meet a family of classic-car restorers in their workshop. Even better, they hop behind the wheels of their tail-finned treasures and take you for a cruise in the streets of Havana. You just lean back, laugh and return the waves of the super-friendly Cubans. A lot of us know people who remember Cuba before the Revolution. Your Family will come home with its own stories and bragging rights for being there at this turning point in history. Add Morocco to your must-visit list, too. When you greet the Berber nomads known as Blue Men, ride their camels into the Saharan dunes and sleep in their encampment, it’s impossible not to rethink how the world works. In the span of a few days, you can have an incredibly fun trip where you also explore the medina of Fes, go mountain biking in oases and see the snake charmers of Marrakesh. This is the power of travel to open eyes and minds. “We used to default to resort vacations,” Becky remembers, “because it was just easier for me to make it happen.” Therein lies the best rationale for expanding your clan’s vacation wish list this summer.