ROAM’s Best Family Travel Photos of 2021

Captured on location in destinations from the Badlands to Antarctica and Scotland to Vietnam, the prize-winning shots celebrate the joy of exploring the world together—even during a pandemic.

By Liliia DeCos

Traveling in 2020 was challenging, to say the least. Quarantines, travel bans, closed borders, disrupted infrastructure—oh, and the fear of catching or spreading a killer virus—all had a chilling effect on family explorations. 

ROAM’s editors wondered if we should run our annual photo contest at all. Did people even travel? Would they be willing to share their travel photos with others? Is it even a good idea to talk about traveling right now? 

After much consideration, we agreed to move ahead, not to negate the tragedies of 2020 but to celebrate the resilience and spirit of traveling. Indeed, over the past year, we have heard from countless parents who said that explorations near and far were proving to be a salvation for many cooped-up broods. 

ROAM’s followers agreed! Nearly 500 amazing photos entered our third annual contest as a testament that traveling—even in your own backyard—is something that makes families happy and united, perhaps now more than ever before. 

We want to sincerely thank the hundreds of entrants who inspired our editors and readers with their images, stories, smiles and memories. We would also like to thank our other 2021 judges Didrik Johnck, Crystal Engstrom, Maryann Jones Thompson, Maria de la O and Willow Taylor Chiang Yang—who spent hours reviewing the photos and selecting the winners. (Read more about our judging process.)

And be sure to check out the winning images from 2019 and 2020, and see even more amazing travel photography on ROAM’s photo page.

Grand Prize – Best Photo of 2021 

Drumroll please… Without further ado, we are proud to introduce Florian Decaux as the Grand Prize Winner of ROAM’s 2021 Family Travel Photo Contest.

“Through ‘The Door’ in the Badlands” by @goflo_travel

ROAM’s Best Family Travel Photo of 2021

As a judge in the contest, Florian’s photo stood out for me. I believe it portrays the way most people around the world experienced traveling in 2020—exploring the outdoors, seeing natural wonders, staying far from crowds, and just contemplating and enjoying the beauty of the world around us. 

That’s not to mention the technical perfection and jaw-dropping scenery, of course.

“One of my criteria for judging travel photo contests is always, ‘Do I look at the pic and does it make me want to go there?’ This shot absolutely fills that bucket,” says Didrik Johnck, ROAM’s photographer at large and contest judge. “I also love how there is one kid that is connecting with the place and the rest look uninterested. Isn’t that so typical of family travel? It’s tough to have everyone on the same page at the same time.”

Originally from France, Florian and his family of six are based in Chicago. Since he won ROAM’s prize for Best Family Travel Portrait in 2020, we have loved following his family’s adventures around the world because they travel often and always deliver inspiring photos and videos. Florian’s winning picture was taken in the Badlands National Park of South Dakota during their summer 2020 vacation:

“Because of the Covid pandemic, we were not really expecting a lot from our 2020 trip but we were impressed—the Badlands are amazing! Our days were spent hiking and playing with prairie dogs and at night, we watched the stars and ate s’mores. 

The ‘Door Trail’ was the first one we hiked when we arrived. It leads through a break in the Badlands wall known as ‘the Door’ and to a beautiful view of the Badlands. And that’s exactly where this winning shot was taken.”

Click here to find out more about Florian and see more works from his impressive portfolio. And don’t miss his YouTube channel for some seriously gorgeous family travel inspiration!

Runner-up Winners – Best Family Travel Photos of 2021

The judges also chose 4 runner-up prize winners for their fabulous shots.

“Reindeer in Rovaniemi” by @frugalforluxury

Backstory: “In thinking about the last year of sadness and isolation, I found the “feel good” and “happy” pics to be my favorites this year,” says Crystal Engstrom, photo editor of ROAM and contest judge. “This photo is simply gorgeous: The color of the dress, the cabin, the woods, the reindeer—they’re all incredibly appealing. The image could easily be a painting or a postcard.”

Photographer Laura Georgieff and her family from Orlando, Florida, were in the middle of a trip around the world when the pandemic hit. Traveling Europe in summer 2020 was quite a challenge but she says it was absolutely worth it:

“This photo was taken in August 2020 in Rovaniemi, Finland, while visiting a local reindeer farm. After missing meeting a moose in Utah during 2019, the chance to meet a reindeer moved up really high on our bucket list! We made it happen in Rovaniemi, a family travel paradise. We crossed the Arctic Circle to meet these beautiful creatures, after meeting Santa Claus in his office the day before.

My youngest daughter loves animals of all shapes and sizes. Traveling the world full time has given her so many amazing opportunities to meet animals she would have never met at home—she has hugged kangaroos, wild puppies, goats, hermit crabs, wild horses, reindeer, and more. Some might question whether she will remember any of our travels, but I can assure you that these encounters have left a mark on who she is!”

“Reflections in Crimea” by  @polashka

Backstory: Vitaly Jazvenko got this stunning shot of his daughter and wife, Paulina, at Turtle Lake in Crimea. This family from the Far East region of Russia develops tourism infrastructure by building luxurious glamping sites in beautiful locales. Last spring when the pandemic hit, they opened their first glamping resort in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. They’ve since moved to open another glamping spot with geodesic dome tents!


“Canoeing in Boodjamulla” by @mccracker_of_a_trip

Shane and Rachael McFadden are currently traveling Australia in their Snowy River Caravan, with their three children. While in the outback of northern Queensland last year, fellow traveler @shutes_and_theopenroad snapped this shot of the family canoeing the Lawn Hill Gorge in the Boodjamulla National Park. 

Backstory:  “Five people—plus a cane toad hitching a ride!— in a sinking canoe designed for three people … equals quite the OAR deal 😀 Halfway down the gorge—which is known to have freshwater crocodiles—our daughter started screaming and nearly flipped the canoe! A giant cane toad that had been hitching a ride hopped on her foot and scared the life out of her! As she screamed and tried to jump out of the canoe, we all tried to steady the boat and get the equally scared cane toad out, without all ending up in the drink!  

Once we made it to the waterfalls at the end of the gorge, we needed to empty all the water out before turning around and heading back. Every photo comes with a story—and we are all laughing about it now, but there were lots of panicked screams and yelling just before this photo, LOL.”


“Low Tide in Mompiche” by @familytravelnomads

Backstory: Stephanie Frias took this picture of her daughter in Mompiche, Ecuador where they have lived since October 2019 following an epic year-long trip through South America:

“This giant washed up after a sea storm swell and stayed resting on the beach for several months. At high tide, it was completely submerged and at low tide, completely exposed. It was covered in long, hair-like green moss and was full of thriving tide pools in the areas between the branches. On the underside, there were lots of snails and barnacles. It was like discovering a natural museum full of tiny ecosystems.”


Honorable Mentions – Best Family Travel Photos of 2021

The judges recognized 12 additional photographers with “Honorable Mentions” for their exciting snaps.


“Morning in Antarctica” by @travelyfamily.official

Backstory: Russia’s Marina Klochkova and her family are not just living on a sailboat in the tropics, they sailed to Antarctica! It is the first family expedition of its kind in the nation’s history.  Check out their movie about sailing in Antarctica on their YouTube Channel.

“This picture was taken in Paradise Bay, Antarctica on March 8, International Women’s Day. The whole previous night we were pushing ice and icebergs away from our boat as a curious sea lion swam nearby. In the morning he got tired and fell asleep on the ice sheet next to our boat. ‘Girls, check out the gift I got for you,’ my husband said, pointing to this sea lion.” 😉



“Sunset on Vieques” by @traveltres

Backstory: Tiffany Rose took this incredible shot on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico. “We were taking an evening walk down the road to see the sunset. We heard that you could see wild horses roaming around the streets in the evenings. As we walked further down the road, we confirmed that rumor to be true.”



“One Shot on Jekyll Island” by @theallensversustheworld

Backstory: After a getaway to Jekyll Island, Georgia, Amy Allen’s family came back with great memories and stunning shots like this one by her husband, Jason—even though it was quite an ordeal to snap this one:

“I wanted to visit Driftwood Beach at sunset for optimal lighting. It felt chilly when we got there but when we got onto the sand, it was absolutely freezing! We were all underdressed, especially my daughter. She basically refused to take any pictures except this one then we hightailed it out of there. We visited again the next night but the lighting wasn’t as good and the beach was more crowded, so I’m happy to have this picture!”



“Stream Hiking on Lantau” by @forsomethingmore

Backstory: Julia Rucinski, who lives with her family in Hong Kong, snapped this shot of her husband and son during an unexpectedly challenging outing on nearby Lantau Island:

“We embarked on this stream hike thinking it would be very easy for us. It turned out that the hike was much more difficult than we anticipated. I was 7 months pregnant, and my husband was carrying our 16-month-old in a backpack. In spots, the rocks were so slippery and the side trail so covered in water that we needed to crawl and slide on our bellies through jungle vines to get to the next section of the trail. The mosquitos were swarming! Unfortunately, it was too slippery to turn back so we needed to push on. It was so treacherous that it took us three hours to go one kilometer! When we finally reached the top where the stream trail met the land trail, we both started to cry with happiness that we were okay.”



“Smiles on the Blue Ridge Parkway” by @alittlesliceofadventure

Backstory: Mel and her son spread smiles while traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway during the pandemic: “As it did for everyone, 2020 changed a lot for us, including our travel mindset. We usually do big trips that involve planes and passports, but starting last year we got back to our roots a bit. We learned how to camp as a family—including with my great grandmother once—and we have made the drive from Florida to the Smokies four times since Covid began. I couldn’t think of better memories than the ones we have made over the past year.”


“Baby Sharks in the Exumas” by @cruisinggaia

Backstory: Samantha and her family are currently sailing in the Caribbean and got this amazing shot in the Bahamas! “This is a photo of our son his friend. We are a cruising family and live full time on our sailboat. This was taken in the Exuma Islands of the Bahamas this year. We love being able to give our children once in a lifetime experiences, like this and hope to open their eyes to many different experiences along our journey.”


Shade on Phu Quoc” by @worldtravelambitions



“Running in Hyde Park” by @adventuresofabbygirl

Backstory: Erica Higgs snapped this photo at the Roosevelt Farm Trail in New York. This photo was everyone during the pandemic winter, just wanting to be outside, running in the sunshine and feeling the joy of the woods. It’s also a great reminder that you don’t need much to make a child happy 😉



“Seagulls in South Africa” by @wetravelin

Backstory: Inna Novatorova and her family are currently traveling in Africa where she got this shot of in a tiny fishing village in South Africa. Together with her husband and son, the family has been traveling for more than 10 years now and have visited around 60 countries! “Don’t be afraid to travel with children. They adapt to the road much faster than adults.” 😉



“Puddles in Findhorn Bay” by @wee.wild.wanderings


“Sisters at the Colosseum” by @mostsincerelyanna

Backstory: Anna Bradley got this shot of her daughters at the Colosseum in March 2020. “We have been taking our children to Rome since they were toddlers. We had just arrived when this picture was taken. Little did we realize that we would not be able to roam the streets anymore, but would spend 8 weeks in quarantine because of the Italian lockdown.”



“Unplugged in Oregon” by @tournesoladventures

Backstory: Pacific Northwest native Camille took this photo during one of their family trips. “The Oregon Coast is an incredibly therapeutic place for all of us, especially for my teenaged daughter who struggles to unplug from her devices. At the ocean, masks come off, and disappointment and anxiety are washed away.”


“Precious Cargo on on the Khor” by @izotova

Pennsylvania’s Elena Izotova made us smile with this snap. She grew up in a hard-core traveling family and her childhood memories are mostly of mountains, hiking, camping, rafting… So it’s no surprise that when she flew to Russia to visit her parents, the whole family embarked on a week-long rafting expedition on the Khor River. Her five-month old son was definitely the youngest member of the crew—and maybe the youngest rafter ever?!



“Quarantining in 2020” by @richard.jacobsen

Backstory: Photographer Richard Jacobsen explains his compelling shot: “This is a composition showing my daughter and her family. I wanted to capture the feeling of being trapped in QUARANTINE and the impact on the family dynamic. It’s a photograph that the whole world can relate to – and hopefully, it’s history that won’t be repeated.”




Liliia deCos  – April 2021

ROAM Contributor   


Originally from Ukraine and now based in Spain, Liliia has traveled literally across the world with her husband Jose and their two young daughters. Follow their intrepid walkabouts on ROAM and on bring_baby_abroad, and see Liliia’s amazing photos on Instagram at bring_baby_abroad or on ROAM where she won Best Family Photo of 2019 

© ROAM Family Travel 2021 – All rights reserved


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