Best Places for Rainbow Family Trips

The Challenges of LGBTQ+ Family Travel
T+L Kids

LAST YEAR, MY WIFE AND I were on holiday in Crete with our young daughter. For most people, there is nothing unusual about two parents spending time with their child, but in this case, we are two women. We’d made friends with another family and our kids were playing together on some swings when one of the girls asked me, “Why doesn’t she have a daddy?” I smiled and replied, “Because she has two mummies!” For a moment, I panicked inside as I wasn’t sure how best to answer it. But the girls seemed perfectly happy with that response and continued playing together for the rest of the afternoon. 

It’s small moments like these that take you out of your comfort zone as an LGBTQ+ person, and remind you that you’re different. The last thing you want is for your child to feel ashamed or embarrassed, so you feel vulnerable. As a millennial queer parent in my early 40s, I have been living with this internal tension for some time. We got married in 2016—two years after the first gay marriages took place legally in the U.K. in 2014. (Today, gay marriage is legal in about 35 countries). We had our daughter via an anonymous donor a few years later. 

LGBTQ+ Travel
Our writer’s wife and daughter on holiday in Crete, Greece, a top destination for LGBTQ+ family travel; photo by Jenny Southan (left), Nepal registered its first gay marriage in 2023, photo by aoldman/iStock/Getty Images Plus (right).

They say that everything changes when you have kids, and this was certainly true for me. As a travel journalist, I am confident to go almost anywhere. I have been to Iran, Russia and many other countries that punish citizens for being homosexual. But traveling with my wife and daughter is far more daunting, as I can’t hide who I am. 

There are far fewer countries I would even consider for LGBTQ+ family travel, as safety is of the utmost importance. In those places where gay marriage is legal, I still do a lot of research into specific hotels and resorts to assess whether or not we will feel relaxed and able to be ourselves. My general assumption is that the more expensive and luxurious they are, the more secure we will be, for example. But of course, there is no accounting for the other guests.

One of our most successful holidays was a road trip around Ibiza, staying in various hotels including the Cas Gasi Agrotourismo (doubles from €495) and the Six Senses (€575), so as to have a range of experiences and not have to commit to one. 

Six Senses is an inclusive stay in Ibiza.
Six Senses is an inclusive stay in Ibiza. Courtesy of Six Senses Ibiza

“My wife and I have often been assumed sisters—‘sisters’ who bear zero physical resemblance—and there have been times when we’ve allowed that assumption for ease or safety,” says U.K.-based comedian and gay mother Suzi Ruffell. “Now I would be enormously uncomfortable pretending we were anything other than us; I would fear what message that would give to our daughter. 

“We had a bad experience on holiday on a Greek island last year,” Ruffell continues. “Staff and fellow holidaymakers were staring at us and discussing what our setup was. My daughter shouted ‘Mama! Mummy!’ and it immediately caused more looks and discussion. It was so bad in fact that one night I Googled flights home. And I’m sorry to say it’s made me a little nervous about booking a holiday for this year”.

“My wife and I have often been assumed sisters… and there are times when we’ve allowed that assumption for ease or safety”

Suzi Ruffell

THE FIRST COUNTRY in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage was Taiwan, in 2019, and in 2023 gay adoption became legal there. Nepal celebrated its first gay wedding at the end of last year. Leading the way for queer family travel in Southeast Asia is Thailand, although gay marriage and same-sex adoption is not yet legal there. That said, the Thai government has recently endorsed a bill that would update the country’s Civil and Commercial Code to define marriage as between any two “individuals.” Amnesty International’s Thailand researcher Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong says, “By becoming the third place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage, Thailand has the opportunity to set a bold example for LGBTQI people’s rights in this region.” 

Tainan in Taiwan, where same-sex marriages and adoption by gays are legal
Tainan in Taiwan, where same-sex marriages and adoption by gays are legal. Photo by Bernie_Photo/Getty Images

Given the unique challenge of organising a successful and happy queer family holiday, many parents are seeking expert help. Elle Pinkard is founder of LGBTQ+ family travel agency Destination Rainbow, which became the first of its kind when it opened in 2022. 

A queer mother herself, she had first-hand experience of traveling as a same-sex couple with little ones and wanted to make it easier for others. She also acknowledges that while Singapore and the Philippines both continue to take positive steps towards legal protection and acceptance for queer people, “they lack the formalised support and well-published advocacy of LGBTQIA+ people that Thailand offers.” In Southeast Asia, she names Napasai in Samui (villas from Bt12,108) as “truly welcoming and inclusive” of LGBTQ+ families. 

LGBTQ+ Travel
Courtesy of Napasai, A Belmond Hotel

A married gay man with one son, Clayton Mercieca is head of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Unit (SOGIGESC) for Malta’s Human Rights Directorate. “Traveling as a rainbow family requires careful planning and research before choosing a destination,” he says. “There’s a persistent fear that, outside of our home country, where we are recognised as the rightful parents of our son, we might face questioning and unnecessary interrogation in countries where stigma and homophobia are prevalent. 

“To mitigate these concerns, we started participating in group tours last year. This approach makes us less conspicuous as a rainbow family and ensures that, with the logistics handled by someone else, our worries are significantly reduced.” One outfit he recommends for LGBTQ+ family travel: Brittania Tours in Malta. 

Even those who work in travel find it tricky to confidently book queer family vacations. London hotelier Charlotte Weatherall has also experienced uncomfortable moments. “As a lesbian couple with two young daughters, we do think carefully about where we travel,” she says. “Recently, we visited a hotel in Mexico which promoted itself as ‘Queer Destinations Committed’. This was positive and reassuring, so it was disappointing at check-in to be asked, ‘You have booked a king bed for the stay, is that OK?’ and then have friendly team members ask us on numerous occasions ‘Who is the mum?’ of our children when in the restaurants. All very well-meaning but if you put an accreditation on the website, I believe it is something you need to do better at.” 

Clayton Mercieca prefers to book his family trips through tour agents. Courtesy of Clayton Mercieca
Clayton Mercieca prefers to book his family trips through tour agents. Courtesy of Clayton Mercieca

Personally, I have never paid attention to accreditations because there aren’t very many, so that would significantly narrow my travel choices while not even necessarily ensuring my family is getting what we need. The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association launched its IGLTA Accredited designation last year to confer on “travel brands… committed to promoting equality and safety,” but one of the few hotels approved is the W Costa Navarino—where children have to be older than 12 to stay. Not so useful for us.

WHAT ARE THE MOST popular destinations for queer families globally? Pinkard says “Undoubtedly Greece,” Pinkard says. “Our No. 1 destination for rainbow families over the last 12 months, a firm favourite year after year.” Personally, my family had great experiences in Crete, at Cretan Malia Park (doubles from €158) and Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel (doubles from €464)

Waterslides at Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel
Waterslides at Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel. Courtesy of Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel

“Lots of families are also keen to explore Malta,” Pinkard says, “following its eighth year in the No. 1 spot on the ILGA Rainbow Europe Map and Index. Spain continues to be popular for LGBTQ+ family travel each summer, with the Canaries a hit during winter. Queer-friendly Iceland is another popular destination.” 

Our next trip will probably be to Thailand—we would love to be able to celebrate the legalisation of gay marriage in the country, which will hopefully happen this year. I’d also love to see my daughter react to spotting exotic wildlife, trying new foods, and growing her confidence in exploring a whole new culture. 

The iconic Elafonisi Beach, Crete.
The iconic Elafonisi Beach, Crete. Photo by DaLiu/Getty Images

Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom,
the United States of America, and Uruguay. 

Source: Human Rights Campaign

Hero and lede image by Jenny Southan.

Written By

Jenny Southan

Jenny Southan


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