When Steppenwolf penned the lyrics for ‘Born to be Wild’, they could have been referring to a Stubborn Mule self-drive family road trip.

As a cheaper and more flexible alternative to a fully guide-driven family holiday, and with so many destinations easy to get around independently (thanks, SatNav!), it’s not surprising that more of you ‘Head out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure, and whatever comes your way’.

Here’s a Stubborn Mule rundown of what we know to be the best family road trips in the world. We’ve test-driven all of the following destinations – and checked out what there is to do and where there is to stay en route.

Now it’s your turn to buckle up, step on the gas and, borrowing Steppenwolf’s words once again, ‘Make it happen and take the world in a love embrace!’. Just don’t forget your driving licence.

Quick links

1. Canada

Spot bears in Banff National Park on Canada family holidays

Spot bears in world-famous Banff National Park

With shimmering glaciers on either side, Icefields Parkway in Alberta is drop-dead gorgeous, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to epic road-trip routes in Canada – a country just made for self-drive, with mainly straight, quiet, and extremely well maintained and signposted roads. And the distances don’t need to be huge despite Canada’s vastness – it’s just an hour and a half from Toronto to Niagara Falls, for instance, for those who want to discover Ontario. And self-drive gives you the option to stop at whim to ogle breathtaking landscapes and wildlife.

What you’ll see there
Take a look at our suggested Places to Visit and our Top 10 Activities to Do in Canada with Kids.

Western Canada scenery - road trip

A family road trip is an ideal way to explore Canada’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous lakes and mountains

Tips and Advice
Be prepared to stop for moose or bears to cross the road. Signposts are both in French and English. Snow doesn’t hamper winter driving as roads are frequently snow-ploughed (and car parks even have under-floor heating!).

How to get there
We will create a bespoke itinerary for your family, but sample 15-day itineraries to inspire you are Western Canada and Lakes, Falls & Cities of Ontario.

2. Costa Rica

Charlotte self-driving in Costa Rica

Stubborn Mule’s Charlotte Hamilton on her Costa Rica family road trip

Lush tropical jungle and magical cloud forests, hot volcanic springs, rolling coffee plantations, fast-flowing rivers inviting you to go rafting, and dazzling tropical beaches… These will be your views as you navigate Costa Rica’s quiet, well-maintained and signposted roads. But even with so much to see, the distances involved are small, so you can cover a lot during your time here. One of the world’s most biodiverse countries, Costa Rica offers out-of-this-world wildlife sightings: think sloths, turtles, howler monkeys, hummingbirds, glass frogs, and much, much more.

What you’ll see there
Take a look at our suggested Places to Visit and our Top 10 Costa Rica with Kids feature.

Arenal volcano and rainforest - Family road trip Costa Rica

La Fortuna, with its famous volcano backdrop, is a favourite stopover on a Costa Rica family road trip

Tips and Advice
You’ll have to leave your car for a few days when visiting Tortuguero National Park, swapping it for boat travel instead.

How to get there
We have two sample Costa Rica itineraries (depending on when you want to travel): our Costa Rica Summer Tour or our Costa Rica Easter & Christmas.  Have a read of Stubborn Mule’s Charlotte Hamilton’s self-drive trip with her dad, or see our Costa Rica with Kids Top 10 feature.

3. Croatia

View of Split with blue sky on family road trip in Croatia

Visit Split on your family road trip, one of the most beautiful cities in Croatia, with a perfect combination of sea, mountains, and Roman architecture

Spanking-fresh seafood barbecued at beachside tavernas, sea kayaking, swimming in secluded coves, white-water rafting in canyons, and immersing yourselves in ancient Roman history… These are just some of your options on a self-drive family road trip of Croatia with its 2,000-plus km of coastline with mainly flat, single-carriage roads. And perhaps one of the most thrilling things of all is driving onto car ferries taking you to lovely islands such as Korcula, one of Croatia’s most beautiful.

What you’ll see there
Take a look at our Top 10 Croatia with Kids feature and also Croatia in Photos, which feature images from our travelling families.

Where to stay in Croatia - island beach hotel

Car ferries link up many of the picturesque islands along Croatia’s spectacular 2,000 km coastline

Tips and Advice
Parking in Dubrovnik and Split is notoriously difficult, but we have insider tips for places to park (just don’t tell anyone else!).

How to get there
We have three sample itineraries to inspire your trip: Highlights of Croatia (2 weeks), Croatia Short Break (seven days), and Slovenia and Croatia (15 days).

4. Iceland

Driving in Iceland

A self-drive trip offers you the flexibility to explore the southern coast or take an epic road trip around the entire island

Iceland is arguably the easiest of all of our destinations for a self-drive family road trip. Why? Because unless you are an experienced off-road driver, or driving in the capital, Reykjavik, the only road is effectively a single-carriage ring road around the island. You literally can’t get lost! What’s more, the terrain is mostly flat where the road has been literally carved through solid lava. Drive here in summer and you’ll be greeted by a carpet of lupins!

What you’ll see there
Check out our suggested Places to Visit in Iceland.

Group selfie on family road trip abroad, Iceland self-drive

Road trips in Iceland are all about being active in this spectacular natural environment, summer or winter

Tips and Advice
Winter driving can be a little more challenging, so we recommend shorter journeys to allow for the much shorter days.

How to get there
We have two sample itineraries depending on when you want to travel here. Take a look at our 2-week Iceland in Summer family adventure or our 8-day Iceland in Winter trip.

5. Mexico

Stubborn Mule Travel consultants on a Mexico road trip

Stubborn Mule consultants, Caroline and Lee, take a break at Akumal on their Mexico road trip recce

We’d be bonkers to suggest self-drive family road trips through the whole of Mexico, or, indeed contemplating driving in Mexico City. In the Yucatan Peninsula, however, you’ll enjoy gorgeous scenery and, once you are away from the coast, wonderfully quiet roads.

What you’ll see there
Take a look at our suggested Places to Visit and our Top 10 Mexico with Kids blog.

Three teenagers jumping into a turquoise coloured water in a Mexican cenote on self-drive family road trip

Cool off as you go in one of many picturesque cenotes on a Yucatan family road trip

Tips and Advice
Watch out for ‘topes’, Mexico’s answer to sleeping policemen. These are so vicious they can scrape your car’s undercarriage. Avoid travelling in October due to hurricane season. See our When to travel to Mexico guide for more information.

How to get there
Take a look at our Best of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula sample itinerary.

6. Greece – Peloponnese

Family road trip in the Peloponnese, with saloon car beside the ocean, and driver waving

Our MD, Liddy Pleasants, loved her family road trip with her daughter in the Peloponnese

A remote part of mainland Greece but one that’s incredibly easy to reach and to get around because there’s hardly any traffic, the Peloponnese shines for its secluded beaches that have remained off the radar as there’s often no obvious way to get to them – you’ll glimpse them from your car as you thread along the region’s backroads, which also take you past olive groves and through villages with squares where authentic local tavernas beckon. Our Peloponnese Adventure includes sea kayaking, hiking, exploring sea caves, and visiting the ancient ruins of Mycenae and Epidaurus.

What you’ll see there
Take a look at our Greece family holidays section and our Top 10 Things to Do in Greece round-up for both the Peloponnese and other parts of Greece perfect for exploring by self drive.

Swimming on Peloponnese Adventure

You are never far from the coast on the Peloponesse Peninsula, and the seas are usually warm by Easter

Tips and Advice
En route to the Peloponnese from Athens and then back again, make sure to stop off at the Corinth Canal and at the UNESCO-listed medieval ruins of Mystras.

How to get there
We have three Greece itineraries to inspire your trip. In addition to our Peloponnese Adventure, there’s our Crete Adventure and our Athens & Cyclades Islands holiday.

7. Namibia

Kids sitting on car bonnet - Namibia family road trip

Adventurous families can choose a 4WD vehicle, complete with pop-up tent on top (photo thanks to Barney Worfolk-Smith)

It might not have the best road surfaces, but what it lacks in tarmac it more than makes up for in jaw-dropping scenery and endless desert horizons. Namibia is certainly for the more intrepid traveller; journey times can be long (generally 5+ hours on driving days) but you may only see two cars all day as you head out into the wild. Given the distances, roads, and landscapes, only the toughest 4WD vehicles are used.

Often these come with a roof tent so you can camp under the stars in secluded campsites when you’re not staying in lodges. One of the best things about self-drive family road trips in Namibia is being able to drive through Etosha National Park (pick up a map at the main visitor’s centre).

What you’ll see there
Check out our suggested Places to Visit and take a look at our Top 10 Namibia with Kids blog.

Family portrait at Deadvlei in Namibia, on a self-drive road trip

Stop off at atmospheric Deadvlei where trees have been preserved for over 900 years due to the dry heat

Tips and Advice
Namibia is best visited between March and October. Unlike in other family road trip countries, in Namibia, there’s not a lot to do between A and B except for enjoying the wide-open spaces. Pack a picnic (fridges are in the back of the 4WD), and stock up at local supermarkets. At each lodge, it’s worth talking to the locals about road conditions. They are the ones who will advise on the best way to reach your next destination with up-to-the-minute advice which no map or Sat Nav can provide.

How to get there
We have two sample itineraries to choose from Highlights of Namibia (2 weeks) and Highlights of Namibia (3 weeks).

8. New Zealand

Road trip in New Zealand - South Island view

Take the scenic road along Lake Wakatipu on New Zealand’s South Island… simply gorgeous

Lord-of-the-Rings staggering scenery is New Zealand’s biggest draw, and for good reason. New Zealand is also one of the only places in our self-drive family road trips portfolio where we recommend getting from A to B in a campervan. The roads are USA/Canada-style brilliant, although can be hilly, narrow, and winding in places and, like here in the UK, you drive on the left-hand side. Be prepared for frequent stopping to take photos en route! You can take the ferry to South Island, but most families prefer to fly and pick up a new vehicle on arrival.

What you’ll see there
Take a look at our suggested Places to Visit and our New Zealand Photo Blog

Children on pony trek with Mount Cook, New Zealand, in background

What could beat those views across Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook as your horse does all the work?

Tips and Advice: Traffic jams come in the ‘herds of sheep’ variety.

How to get there
We have two sample itineraries to help inspire you: 15 days Highlights of New Zealand and 22 days New Zealand Grand Tour

9. Oman

Oman with kids - four-wheel driving in Oman desert

Have fun driving through the dunes at Wahiba Sands

For those who enjoy large landscapes, windswept deserts, and the freedom of the open road, Oman is the dream family road trip destination. Omanis love their high-end, spacious 4 X 4 air-conditioned vehicles for exploring the mountains and deserts and there’s nothing more exhilarating than letting down the tyre pressure and hitting the dunes! Roads here are quiet, highways well sign-posted and even the capital of Muscat is easy to navigate on our self-drive family road trip. Car parking spaces are very generous, too.

What you’ll see there
Check out our suggested Places to Visit and our Top 10 Oman with Kids blog.

Oman with kids holiday - teenager on the Balcony Walk

Stop off in the Hajar Mountains for some sensational views on an Omani family road trip

Tips and Advice
Avoid the wadis (dried-up riverbeds) after heavy rain – they fill up fast!

How to get there
We have two sample itineraries that can be self-drive. Take a look at our 12-day Highlights of Oman or our 7-day Oman Short Break.

10. Slovenia

Road in the Julian Alps leading to the Vršič pass

Roads are well maintained in Slovenia but at 1,611 metres the Vršič Pass in the Julien Alps is not for the faint-hearted!

Slovenia is a real surprise for most families who travel here on a self-drive family road trip. Its road system is ultra–modern (more so than the UK), with large motorways, and flashy service stations, but oh! The scenery! Known for its sublime alpine mountain landscape, crystal clear lakes and rivers, and an abundance of trees, it’s probably not surprising that the terrain (and the roads you travel on) can be twisty, and winding, and at a considerable height. Don’t miss the Vršič mountain pass which is the highest in Slovenia and offers jaw-dropping scenic views.

What you’ll see there
Take a look at our Slovenia Family Holidays page for suggestions!

Family at a Slovenian lake, kids on a paddle board and dad diving in, a stop on a family road trip abroad.

Slovenia’s crystal clear lakes are set in spectacular Alpine landscapes, perfect for a refreshing dip

Tips and Advice
Everyone speaks English here. If crossing over into Croatia don’t make the mistake of trying to find a remote mountain crossing; now that the UK is no longer part of the EU, Brits have to cross at the main border. We’ll let you know where.

How to get there: Take a look at our 11-day Highlights of Slovenia or 15-day Slovenia and Croatia sample itineraries for inspiration.

11. South Africa

Coastal road near Cape Town - False Bay - road trip with Stubborn Mule Travel

Exploring the Cape Peninsula and the Garden Route by car means you can go at your own pace

Given its size, there are a lot of choices for a family road trip to South Africa. No matter which route you choose, it’s easy to navigate and there’s rarely a dingy service station. Instead, think farm shops, amazing restaurants with views, organic produce, and world-class beer and wine. You can also self-drive through Kruger National Park (which is great for the wallet compared to guided safaris if you are keeping an eye on budget).

What you’ll see there
Take a look at our suggested Places to Visit and our Top 10 activities in South Africa with Kids blog.

family Christmas holiday in South Africa - teenagers on safari

Drive to your chosen wildlife reserve and then sit back and let the rangers take you on a family safari 

Tips and Advice
The Garden Route is the easiest family road trip we offer but pretty much all of South Africa offers fabulous scenery and the lure of the open road. A safari in Kruger National Park is absolutely superb and you can self-drive.

How to get there
Take a look at our sample itineraries for inspiration. Our 15-day Classic Cape & Garden Route , our 15-day Kruger & Beach Family Safari, or our 15-day KwaZulu Natal & Swaziland (Luxury).

12. USA

Road to Monument Valley - best family road trips in the USA

On the road to Monument Valley, located on the Arizona/Utah border and within the territory of the Navajo Nation Reservation

The USA is a quintessential family road trip destination. Fuel is far less expensive than the UK and there’s a plethora of great boutique hotels and glamping options rather than dodgy motels (no orange curtains and carpets here!). Roads are well maintained, and although distances can be large, it’s very easy to navigate. Speed limits are set by each state – and can be as low as 55 mph.

What you’ll see there
Take a look at our suggested Places to Visit.

Family in USA landscape

Drive to Grand Canyon National Park for some of the world’s most spectacular views

Tips & Advice
Don’t get over-ambitious with your itinerary or you’ll be ‘driving’ more than ‘experiencing’. Focus on a smaller area instead. Book well in advance as the summer holidays in particular can get very busy. See when to go to the USA for more information.

How to get there
We have two sample itineraries, our 15-day Classic California Family Holiday and our 17-day Western National Parks USA but can organise any bespoke itinerary.

Family road trips start here

If you’d like to know more about our suggested family road trips, we’d love to hear from you. Even if this is a dream for the future, we’d be delighted to help you to start planning.  Simply call us on 01728 752751 or use our contact form to get in touch.

Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel

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