It’s been another record-breaking year here at Stubborn Mule with more of you travelling with us to more destinations (nearly 30 in total, 3 new) than ever before.

In the notoriously fickle adventure travel world, the only constant is change. This year has been no exception. Countries always see-saw in popularity, some going up in favour, some snakes-and-ladders down, in both instances for a whole variety of reasons.

Whether you’re a trendsetter who likes to get ahead of the crowds or a family who steer a mile wide of the latest travel fads, read on to see our predictions for the year ahead. We cover the ‘Top Spots’, the also rans and ones to watch.

Family group with thumbs up in Morocco - Family travel trends 2020

Family travel 2020…where will YOU be going?

SIMPLY SCORCHIO

Costa Rica

Last year, Sri Lanka just pipped this Latin American gem to the top spot. What a difference a year can makes, testament to the fact that there are some things that even the most seasoned travel experts couldn’t predict. It’s been four years since British Airways introduced direct flights linking Gatwick to San Jose. This proved a game-changer, bringing flight times down to just under 11 hours. Since then, Costa Rica has become the shining star of the family travel world and with good reason.

Renowned for its untouched quality, volcanic scenery but most of all for its more-wildlife-than-you-can-shake-a-stick-at appeal, Costa Rica really does have it all. There’s zip-lining, turtles, cloud forests and some really impressive environmental initiatives. These ensure it will remain a tropical paradise for the years to come. If you haven’t got it on your wish-list yet, take a look at our family-friendly itineraries (summer, Easter and Christmas options) and our  Costa Rica with Kids blog.

Last minute family summer holiday in Costa Rica - girl with huge blue butterfly

Wildlife is everywhere in Costa Rica and you’ll be spoilt for choice with so many outdoor activities

Vietnam

Hot on the heels of Costa Rica, Vietnam’s place as a perennial adventure travel family favourite is unchallenged. It even surpasses Thailand as our most popular destination in South East Asia. Direct flights and cheaper fares have helped boost its appeal in recent years. But even more than this, a real clincher is that it has such a varied climate, meaning it’s a great destination whichever school holiday you will be travelling in. We just tailor the itinerary to maximise your chance of good weather and sunshine. For more information on Vietnam’s climate see our weather chart. For inspiration on what you could be doing on your trip to Vietnam, see our Top 10 Vietnam with Kids blog.

Travel trends 2020 - young boy exploring the Chu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam

Exploring the historic Chu Chi tunnels in Vietnam

Japan

It’s featured in the top destination picks for the Lonely Planet, Forbes and CN Traveller for 2020. So it’s no wonder that Japan has made the leap from our ‘hotting up’ category last year to very much a top spot for the year ahead. Following a triumphant Rugby World Cup this summer, when the world spotlight focussed on the country as a tourist (not just sporting) hotspot, Japan’s star will continue to rise in the year ahead. Yes, there are more sporting fixtures planned – the summer Olympics and Paralympics for starters – but as you’ll see from our Top 10 things to do with Kids in Japan and Tokyo Twelve blogs, Japan has more family friendly offerings than seems strictly fair!

Young tourist in busy street at night - Tokyo - Family travel trends 2020

Tokyo is a great city for kids to explore with a cultural mix of quirky, ancient and cutting-edge

Jordan (and Oman)

Depending on the time of year, the winner of Jordan and Oman’s battle for mid-haul supremacy see-saws between the two. And we can’t see this situation changing in 2020, frankly. Tourists continue to flock to both to enjoy the winning combination of World Heritage sites, awe-inspiring desert landscapes and exciting activities. What we CAN see changing is availability. Let us tell you now that thanks to their soaring popularity, direct flights to both Amman and Muscat in the October half term 2020 are selling out fast. Take a look at our Top Ten things to do with kids in Jordan and Oman to help you decide which your family might prefer.

Camel getting up, hind legs first, with boy sitting on saddle - Easter family holidays blog

Camel riding is huge fun for all the family in both Jordan and Oman

Morocco

Oh, how we all adore this north African country and, it seems, we’re not alone. Morocco is most certainly ‘having a moment’. It’s quick to get to (a mere 3 hour flight time from the UK) and the fares from low cost providers RyanAir and Easyjet mean that flights are cheap too. It’s almost as if Morocco has rolled out the welcome mat in anticipation of even more visitors next year and beyond. For 2020, Marrakech will enjoy a particularly high profile as it has been crowned Africa’s first Capital of Culture 2020.

Elsewhere the ancient medinas in Fez, Essaouira, Meknes and Tetouan have had makeovers. And a generally improved infrastructure means it is easier than ever to get around. Offering the perfect blend of bustling city life with Berber mountain villages, deserted Atlantic beaches and desert camps, we know where we’ll be heading next year! Check out our Top 10 things to do in Morocco with Kids and maybe you will be inspired to travel there too?

Family travel 2020 - family group in Morocco

Enjoy bustling city life, Berber mountain villages, desert camps and Atlantic beaches

Tanzania

Like a favourite toy, we just can’t help admitting that whilst other African destinations are tempting (see Namibia in the ‘hotting up’ section, below) Tanzania is the stand-out winner when it comes to a family-friendly safari destination. It’s undoubtedly one of world’s greatest wildlife destinations but the real reason it gets our vote is because it offers so, so much more than safari. Yes the plains of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater are filled with an astounding variety of wildlife. But you can also learn how to use a bow and arrow with the Hadza bushmen, cycle through a banana plantation, canoe across a lake in search of hippo and to top it off, find a hammock under a palm tree on the legendary, idyllic, tropical island of Zanzibar. Cheap, it is not, far from it! But worth it… absolutely. Need to know more? Check out our Tanzania with Kids blog.

Family travel 2020 - family on safari in Tanzania

A stand out winner for family safaris, check out our Tanzania family holidays section

HOTTING UP

Bali

After the tragic bombings in Sri Lanka at Easter we had to re-book dozens of families on replacement summer holidays. The most popular alternative? Bali. Even the longer flight time failed to put people off. We can see the parallels between the two. Both are idyllic, well-established tropical island destinations that are easy to get around. Both have outstanding beaches and wildlife viewing opportunities, ditto cultural sights. They also have a wide selection of family-friendly accommodation options at either end of the budget scale.

Whilst we’re sure that Sri Lanka will return in the popularity stakes (see below, there are already signs), for now, we’re also delighted that more of you have been able to enjoy Bali. And early signs indicate that 2020 will see many more experiencing the manifold delights of this Indonesian gem (and its neighbours, like Komodo and Lombok). For more ideas of what to do and see in Bali, check out our Bali with kids blog.

Boys going canyoning in Bali - family travel trends 2020

A popular destination for family travel in 2020? Active families will love canyoning

Mexico

Fast becoming our new favourite destination as more and more families discover just how family friendly (and adventurous) this destination can be. Don’t think overcrowded Cancun resorts. Do think amazing food, fascinating archaeological sites, a buzzing, welcoming vibe and stunning beaches. And, as one of the easiest self-drive destinations we offer, Mexico is a place where you can explore at your own pace. As Liddy discovered when she took her seventy-something mum zip-lining (yes, really) in June, it’s also great for multigenerational travel. Please note, zip-lining grandparents are not a pre-requisite. Have a look at our Top 10 things to do in Mexico with kids for further inspiration.

Parents and two children at Tulum, Mexico family holidays - perfect for Christmas breaks abroad

With so many family-friendly activities, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is fast becoming a Stubborn Mule favourite

Brazil

Not since the Rio Olympics back in 2016 has the international spotlight on Brazil been so intense. When wildfires broke out in this vast country’s interior a few months ago, the world stood up and took notice. We were all appalled by the images of vast tracts of forest being destroyed and never has conservation seemed so important. The imperative for those of us in tourism is to support (and therefore fund) environmental initiatives. In turn this will help protect and conserve this precious landscape and the staggering biodiversity that it supports.

With this in mind, one of our favourite additions to our tours for 2020 is a lodge located deep inside the Amazon. It’s on a private reserve encompassing more than a million hectares of pristine flooded forest. There’s one lodge, five bungalows, and that’s it. No other buildings, no other visitors on the entire reserve. And the profits are all plugged straight back into environmental protection and management. Living proof that tourism and sustainability can go hand in hand. For more on Brazil check out our family holidays in Brazil section and read Stubborn Mule consultant, Helene Cooper’s Brazil with children blog.

Family group in Brazil - family travel trends 2020

The upbeat Latin vibe in Brazil is irresistible…

Namibia

No less than three members of the Stubborn Mule team have travelled to Namibia this year to investigate what this diverse and striking country has to offer. First up, Charlotte and Helene undertook the ultimate ‘Thelma and Louise’ adventure, covering a whopping 3,000 kilometres from north to south, east to west. Later in the year, Africa aficionado Claire, travelled to a place so remote she came across almost no other tourists. As one of Africa’s least expensive safari destinations, yet a place where you really feel you’ve escaped the rat race, it’s no wonder Namibia’s star is in the ascendant. Our top tips? Book early. Always. And if you can, travel during Easter and October, when the weather is perfect, there’s far fewer tourists and it’s cheaper. What’s not to love? Here are our favourite Top 10 things to do in Namibia with Kids.

Family in Namibia dunes - family travel trends 2020

Enjoy the vast open vistas in one of Africa’s rising stars for family travel in 2020 (photo Barney Worfolk-Smith)

Mainland Malaysia and Borneo

Adding Mainland Malaysia (and Singapore) to our existing Borneo portfolio was not, if we are honest, the result of a lightbulb moment on our part but rather was in response to continued customer demand. We can’t quite see why we didn’t add it earlier. There’s the cultural melting pot and foodie hotspot of Penang. The tropical island beaches of Langkawi and the Perhentian Islands. And the pristine rainforests of Taman Negara. An extra bonus is the nearby island nation Singapore, which helps to break up the journey to Borneo. And incidentally, what a triumph Singapore’s Garden by the Bay has been, with its 1,500,000 plants and artificial, illuminated trees. No wonder it’s in the top 20 most researched places on Facebook. If you’d like to enhance your Borneo trip or visit Singapore or Malaysia on their more-than-enough merits (also consider it as an add-on to Thailand), you’re not alone!

Family travel trends 2020 - idyllic beach on the Perhentian Islands

Malaysia is blessed with picture perfect island beaches, a top choice for family travel 2020

DOWN BUT NOT OUT

Sri Lanka

What a difference a year makes. For the last few years, Sri Lanka has been our (and many other tour operator’s) top performing destination, a customer favourite and with good reason. That all changed at Easter 2019 with the tragic bombings in the west of the country. But for a country so reliant on tourism, the entire industry are wholeheartedly behind efforts to encourage visitors to return. We’ve travelled there recently ourselves and we’re glad to report that enquiries are creeping back. Sri Lanka travel may be down, but as consumer confidence returns, it’s too beautiful and family-friendly to be that way for long. Check out our overview of things to do in Sri Lanka with kids.

Young tourist learning how to pick tea in Sri Lanka

Confidence in family-friendly Sri Lanka is on the rise again

Mongolia

As Stubborn Mule destinations go, Mongolia is our ‘wild card’, in every sense. Not only in terms of landscape – vast, unpopulated swathes of it – but also, in that it’s not the most luxurious when it comes to accommodation. Nor, we admit, will Mongolia ever be hugely popular, not like Costa Rica, Vietnam or Morocco. If you’re truly adventurous, though, have children who still want to hang out with ‘the olds’, perhaps a return traveller wanting to experience something entirely different when it comes to a family holiday, we guarantee that Mongolia and its welcoming nomads will far from disappoint. If you’re wanting to get the kids away from their screens for a week or two, this is a sure-fire winner, too.

Mongolia family holiday - family with guide in the Central Highlands

Are you a deeply adventurous family who love the wilderness? If yes, check out Mongolia

Family Travel 2020 – Next steps

Not all our destinations have been included here – we simply ran out of space – but wherever you and your family would like to explore in 2020, just pick up the phone or email us via our contact page, and we will give you the very best advice on family travel for the coming year.

For more inspiration check out our School Holidays destination calendar and our blogs on:

Easter Family Holidays,
Best Beaches for Families Around the World
Family-friendly Christmas destinations
Family Wildlife Holidays

… and our comprehensive Family Adventure holiday destination guide.