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7 All-Time Favorite Family Travel Movies

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These classic flicks will inspire you to corral the whole gang and book your next flight.

The Man Who Knew Too Much

When a family vacation to Morocco turns into an international spy caper, complete with assassins, disguises, and a kidnapping, you’d better hope it stars Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day. This 1956 Hitchcock classic softens dastardly deeds with wholesome family goodness, and the final scene, with Day singing “Que Sera, Sera,” is a timeless treat. In fact, the movie propelled the song to number two on the U.S. pop charts. 

Seven-year-old Olive and her family head to Redondo Beach, CA, in a Volkswagen Type 2.
Seven-year-old Olive and her family head to Redondo Beach, CA, in a Volkswagen Type 2.
Photo by Everett Collection (Little Miss Sunshine)

Little Miss Sunshine

A kid beauty queen, a drug-addicted grandpa, an angsty teen, a depressed uncle, and two frazzled parents pack into a yellow VW bus and road-trip their way to a child beauty pageant. What could go wrong? This beloved movie balances quirky doses of ordinary human hardship atop a solid foundation of sincere family dynamics. 

Dirty Dancing

Let it not be forgotten that, at its core, this essential Jennifer Grey/Patrick Swayze flick is the story of a family on holiday. The 1960s upstate resort setting is a fascinating time capsule, around which the dynamics of the Houseman family play out alongside the drama of Baby and Johnny’s drama. The dance scenes and final performance are fabulous, but the development of Baby’s relationship with her parents, especially her dad, gives the movie its heart.  

National Lampoon’s Vacation

The National Lampoon film franchise was a 1980s staple, with Chevy Chase bungling his way into viewers’ hearts. The original Vacation sees the Griswold family driving to the fictional Walley World theme park in a rented station wagon, encountering numerous obstacles and wacky scenarios along the way. It’s a road-trip adventure that brings the laughs today as much as it did 30 years ago.
 
Left to right: Brothers Jack, Francis, and Peter encounter unexpected pit stops in India. 
Left to right: Brothers Jack, Francis, and Peter encounter unexpected pit stops in India. 
Photo by Everett Collection (The Darjeeling Limited)

The Darjeeling Limited

This Wes Anderson gem follows three adult brothers as they make their way across India by train, bringing with them the monogrammed suitcases of their recently deceased father, as well as plenty of personal baggage. Richly colored scenes of Rajasthan unfold against the competing interests of the brothers, with tragedy and an unexpected reunion factoring into their interpersonal dramas. The slow-motion, running-for-the-train scenes pleasantly romanticize even the most difficult aspects of travel. 

Up

Traveling doesn’t always mean going to places on a map. This beloved Pixar movie — the first animated film to open the Cannes Film Festival in 2009 — follows 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen as he embarks on an uncertain expedition to Paradise Falls. Russell, a lonely but tenacious Boy Scout, tags along, and heartwarming hilarity ensues. 

What About Bob?

It can be tough to leave work behind when taking a vacation, but, typically, work doesn’t physically show up at the family cabin. When an arrogant psychiatrist’s escape to the lake is crashed by his sincerely charming patient, he’s not pleased – even as his family is wholly delighted with the new guest. Bill Murray’s tenacious likeability is a great foe to Richard Dreyfuss’s intense portrayal of the outraged doctor, making a movie that transcends the typical goofy mishap flick. 

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