Top 10 Destinations Families Will Go in 2017
A surfing family hits the waves on Oahu's North Shore in Hawaii.

After reviewing the latest travel research and trends, Family Travel Forum, the vacation planning resource trusted by families since 1996, is presenting its view on where families will go in 2017 and, more importantly, why. Here are the Top 10 Destinations plus an old trend – staycations — we’ll be seeing more of.

1. Orlando, Florida

Orlando has many new sports venues and theme park attractions, and the biggest news is “Pandora —The World of AVATAR,” opening some time at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando will open its first waterpark, Volcano Bay, and a new ride, “Race through New York starring Jimmy Fallon.” SeaWorld Orlando will transform the Kraken roller coaster into the city’s first VR ride. And families will love the new highspeed commuter train, Brightline, due by midyear in south Florida. It’s enough to make families forget the events of last year.

2. Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Canada was under-appreciated until the elections, and its very favorable exchange rate (CDN$1 = US$.74) coincides with celebrations of 150 years of Canadian unity. Toronto, the largest city, boasts affordability and a coolness factor. Ethnically diverse, inclusive and progressive, Toronto has a big food scene, colorful outdoor markets, a world-renowned film festival, famous museums, aquariums and relatively close access to the natural wonder of Niagara Falls.

3. San Francisco, California

Grandparent boomers will urge the family to turn on, tune in and drop out in San Francisco, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the colorful Summer of Love. Hippies and their descendants support a full year’s worth of counterculture programming at museums, concerts, historical exhibits, and special hotel packages.

4. Montreal, Quebec, Canada

With ‘authentic’ and ‘local’ topping the must-have criteria for destinations, Montreal’s 375th birthday is a big deal. This large, elegant, French-speaking town will feature many free or low-cost celebrations such as Les Hivernales through mid-March, with snowshoeing, curling, ziplining, dog-sledding, and an outdoor hockey tournament. Among the year’s dozens of concerts, arts events and museum exhibits, the completely new Montréal AVUDO multimedia show will perform free in the Old Port nightly from May 17- September 2. Lastly, the food is fabulous.

5. Cruising

With inventory increasing by 26 new ocean, river and specialty ships, first-timers will be taking advantage of very competitive pricing in traditional markets such as the Caribbean and Alaska to try cruising. The amenities, activities, flexibility in planning, ease of travel and value that families love will inspire others to contemplate a cruise to Europe, Asia and the Pacific as well. River cruises will be hot for families with teens who are looking for cultural explorations in Europe and Asia.

6. Islands of Hawai’i

If Disney’s Oscar-winning “Frozen” could spur an increase in tourism to Norway, surely the 2016 animated hit, “Moana” will boost family travel to the Hawaiian Islands. The faraway tropical paradise, long on the bucket list of honeymooners and surfers, is now top of mind for young princesses. Since current surveys show that 87% of parents admit kids have a big say in vacation planning, we forecast big growth in Hawai’i family vacations.

7. Cuba

If 2016 was the year of Cuba desire, 2017 should be the year of satisfaction, before the new administration halts interchange between Cuba and the U.S. Carnival’s Fathom line will sail from Miami to Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos on a week-long, well priced adventure emphasizing cultural exchange through June. Several U.S. airlines are bringing flight costs down, but it will probably be 2018 – if relations are still intact – before any of the contracted hotel chains come online.

8. Portugal

Out of the panic caused by terror attacks in Paris, Brussels, Nice, Berlin and other European cities, sleepy Portugal has emerged as a seemingly safe, new family destination. Popular with budget travelers for its good food, local wines, Fado music and comfortable cheap hotels, we know families have already discovered this coastal destination because the luxury, family-welcoming Martinhal Family Hotels & Resorts have opened two resorts there in past year. 

9. Colombia

Last summer, rebel and government negotiators made a deal (ratified in November) to end more than 50 years of fighting, sparking interest in Colombia, where beautiful rain forests, national parks and coffee plantations dot the Andes highlands, above the altitude that Zika-carrying mosquitoes can flourish. Bogota has museums, good restaurants, bargain accommodations and a rich Spanish Colonial culture; pretty Cartagena boasts beaches, UNESCO designated fortifications, and an international nightlife scene.

10. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen truly models the world’s most environmentally friendly and livable cities. Visitors marvel at the great architecture, historic attractions, and world-class arts events, not to mention Noma, which pioneered Nordic cuisine to become the “best restaurant in the world.” Since there’s no foreign language requirement to study in Copenhagen, the Danish Institute for Study Abroad hosts programs for more than 200 American universities. Visit the kids studying abroad becomes the first item on the vacation ToDo List.

And Another Option: Staycations

As the quality of the travel experience declines due to inconvenience, travel bans, and added expense, however, more families will turn to staycations and explore their own town or region. That’s great news for all the CVBs which have poured millions into developing free festivals, outdoor programing, arts events and more to attract visitors.

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