Ultimate Guide to Plan Your Family Trip To Israel

Israel has so much to offer, from ancient history, rich culture, nature reserves, and stunning desert landscapes to vibrant restaurants and cafes. Israel is a wonderful country to visit with kids as it is extremely child-friendly, with many places like restaurants and museums offering fun and interactive activities for little ones.

Plan a family trip to Israel over a picture of Haifa Israel

Many visitors think of Israel as a place just for religious tourism, but there’s so much more beyond that to appeal to families with children of every age.

You can take your kids to the beach, hike lush nature reserves, explore ancient grottoes, jump into inviting cave pools, taste and smell the food at open-air markets, ride on camels in the desert, and much more.

You’ll find so much to do in Israel to keep the kids happy. In this guide to visiting Israel with kids, we’re going to break down all the important things you’ll want to know about Israel when planning your trip.

When To Visit Israel with Kids

Israel has different microclimates, and you can visit year-round. However, generally, the best time of the year to visit for optimal weather is April & May and September & October.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t visit outside those months – you absolutely can! While summer may not be an ideal time for a whole country tour (the south has extremely high summer temperatures), the weather in Tel Aviv is perfect for those who love hot sunny summer days on the beach. You can even visit the Dead Sea in the prime of summer – while it will be hot, it won’t be unbearably so.

The winter months of November to March are the coldest, with snow even reaching Golan Heights and occasional snowfall in Jerusalem. You will get rainfall along the coast in winter, though it will still be pleasant in areas such as Eilat on the Red Sea.

Places to Visit in Israel - Mount Hermon covered in snow
Mount Hermon (Lebanese border) covered in snow

When visiting Israel, be aware of the Sabbath (the Jewish day of rest) from Friday 3:00 PM to Saturday 9:00 PM. And also, research your dates before you book your trip to check for Jewish holidays. Shops, restaurants and public transport will close down early on the Sabbath and on the eve of the holiday and re-open the next evening or the day after.

When you plan your trip to Israel, it’s important to know when the major holidays are – whether you want to celebrate them on your trip or avoid them!

You can see our complete guide to all the best times to visit Israel and religious occasions to be aware of here

What Are the Major Highlights of Israel?

Israel is more than just its major cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and more than just religious sites. You can plan a family tour of Israel that includes hiking in nature reserves, wildlife watching, archaeological tours, wine tasting at vineyards, exploring the desert, and relaxing on beaches.

If you are doing a full country tour of Israel with kids, you’ll probably start with the major cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and then head to northern Israel or southern Israel, depending on your chosen itinerary.

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv has the country’s only international airport, and many travellers to Israel start their country tour here. Tel Aviv is a lively and youthful city with an incredible restaurant scene, wonderful shopping, pumping nightlife, fascinating history, and beautiful golden beaches.

Popular attractions are Carmel Market, the old city at Jaffa, Bauhaus architecture, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Many families use Tel Aviv (or Jerusalem) as a base for day trips around the country.

Jerusalem

Just under an hour’s drive away from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating destinations in the country. It is the cultural capital of Israel and the official one.

Popular sights include the Old City with its four distinct sectors, the famous Machane Yehuda Market, the City of David, the Israel Museum with its Dead Sea scrolls, and the Ein Yael Museum.

Places to Visit in Israel - Jerusalem at sunrise from Mount Olive

Northern Israel (north of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem):

Haifa

Haifa is Israel’s third-largest city and is best known for the Bahá’í Gardens. Located along the Mediterranean Sea, Haifa has gorgeous sandy beaches and a happening nightlife. Located an hour’s drive north of Tel Aviv you can easily reach Haifa by car, bus or train.

Places to Visit in Israel - View of Haifa from Mt Carmel

Also in Haifa is the Cave of Elijah, a Jewish pilgrimage site where the prophet Elijah was said to have taken shelter; Mount Carmel National Park, which is the largest national park in Israel and a protected UNESCO biosphere reserve; and the Stella Maris Monastery, one of the oldest abbeys in the world, dating back to 1291 A.D.

Caesarea

Caesarea was a port city erected by Herod the Great in 21 B.C. and is one of Israel’s most impressive archaeological sites. It is located halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa and has one of the largest Roman amphitheatres ever built, Roman baths, a hippodrome, and an aqueduct.

Akko

Akko (also known as Acre) is a 4000-year-old city located on the coast of the Mediterranean north of Haifa. It has pretty cobbled-stone streets, colourful open-air markets, and a fishing port. The hummus served here is supposedly one of the best in the country!

Places to Visit in Israel - old City Akko at Sunset

Here you can see the remains of an ancient Crusader town. As well as walls, mosques, and baths from the Ottoman period, explore an underground Templar tunnel built in 1187.

Rosh HaNikra

North of Akko are the breathtaking grottos of Rosh HaNikra. One of the most famous sites in Israel for its absolutely stunning naturally formed sandstone gorges, cave pools, and picture-perfect waterfalls. You can ride a cable car to the top and take in the gorgeous views of the sparkling Mediterranean waters below.

Nazareth

Nazareth is believed to be the childhood home of Jesus Christ. Most tourists start by visiting the Church of the Annunciation, built upon the site where the Archangel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. It’s also worth meandering around the Old City and the old suk (open-air market).

Places to Visit in Israel - Nazareth

Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee is where Jesus is said to have calmed the sea and walked on the water. Located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee is the resort town of Tiberias, named after the Roman emperor Tiberius and settled more than 2,000 years ago. A mile south of Tiberias is the famous hot springs of Hammat Tiberias.

Zichron Ya’akov

For those interested in touring wine vineyards, Zichron Ya’akov is home to about 12 wineries where you can do winery tours and taste the wines. Located in the picturesque countryside of Mount Carmel, Zichron Ya’akov has a lovely main street lined with cafes, restaurants, and artsy stores.

Southern Israel (south of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem):

Dead Sea

One of the best things to do in Israel with kids is to visit the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea (actually a lake) is the lowest point on Earth, and you can experience the weightlessness of its salty water and coat yourself and the kids in the warm thick mud (make sure to choose a beach that also has sea mud!).

Places to Visit in Israel - Dead Sea resort town

The Dead Sea minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium are renowned for their healing properties. Be careful with younger children as any small cuts will sting badly when swimming in the salty water.

Masada

Masada is a UNESCO world heritage site atop a mountain that overlooks the Dead Sea. You can hike up the mountain (about 40 minutes) via the winding “Snake Path” or take the cable car to the top for incredible views and explore the ruins of King Herod’s Palace.

Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

Ein Gedi is a nature reserve that is a lush oasis with cascading waterfalls and shaded cave pools perfect for cooling off on hot days. It is one of the best spots for hiking in Israel, with plenty of kid-friendly walks.

Places to Visit in Israel Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

Negev Desert

The Negev Desert covers over half of the country’s total land area and is a stunning and starkly beautiful place to visit in Israel. Nomadic Bedouins have lived here for centuries, and there are still flourishing Israeli communities that have found harmony with their desert surroundings.

The Negev Desert is also home to diverse wildlife, including the desert Hyrax and the Nubian Ibex, and is known for a unique geological formation called makhteshim which are crater-sized holes formed by water erosion. There are also hiking trails, bike trails, archaeological treasures, and more. Doing a family tour of the Negev Desert is one of the most unique things to do in Israel with kids.

Places to Visit in Israel - Negev Desert

Eilat and the Red Sea

Eilat is a popular resort town on the Red Sea and the southernmost town in Israel. It is a popular location for scuba diving to see beautiful coral reefs and marine life, including lionfish, clownfish, moray eels, and manta rays. Some species can only be found in the Red Sea. Younger children can see the sea life by snorkelling or riding a glass-bottomed boat.

Eilat has some of the top attractions for kids in Israel, including a dolphin reef, an underwater observatory, and a bird park.

Places to Visit in Israel - Eliat

How to Travel Around Israel with Kids

Travelling around Israel is relatively easy. Larger cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have great public transport systems and plenty of taxis, so renting a car is unnecessary, especially since parking can be expensive.

Outside the major cities, Israel has a great public transport system and wonderful roads with signage in both Hebrew and English. You just have to remember that all public transport shuts down during the Sabbath, so you would have to plan around that.

Israel is a relatively small country; you can drive from north to south in under six hours and east to west in under two hours. This makes travelling around the country rather manageable.

Be aware that family travel costs on buses and trains can add up. Long-distance routes often start at $10 per person each way, and with larger families, it may be more economical to hire a car.

Driving in Israel

If you plan to travel a lot between cities and don’t want to rely on the bus and train schedule, then renting a car is a good option. It will also allow you and your family to visit out-of-the-way-paces.

Israelites drive on the right-hand side of the road, highways are generally good. Most road signs are written in English and Hebrew, and there are major highways that can transport you effortlessly from city to city. Just be aware that sometimes traffic can get congested and some drivers are a bit crazy.

How to get Around in Israel - Roads in Tel Aviv
Traffic on the highways around Tel Aviv

Rental car agencies can be found at the airport, and the major car rental agencies also have rental offices in the cities, so it’s very convenient to pick up a rental car. Be sure to budget for gas, toll roads, and parking if you are in the cities, which can be $15-20 per day.

Compare prices for rental cars in Israel here.

Taxis in Israel

Travelling by taxi in Israel is convenient and can now be ordered via an app where you can even pay a fixed fare in advance. Always confirm prices before entering a taxi if you’d like to negotiate a flat rate; otherwise, be sure to ask the driver to turn on the taxi metre.

Rates are 25% more if you are travelling late at night, during the Sabbath and holidays. Although tipping is not expected, rounding the fare up is common.

Sherut in Israel

Sheruts are shared taxis and are a convenient and often social way to get around Israel for both innercity as well as intercity travel.

They are usually minibusses that carry about 10-15 people, and the prices are about the same as buses. They operate on fixed routes but can stop anywhere along the route. You just let the driver know where you would like to be dropped off.

Sheruts do operate on the Sabbath, but the rates tend to double during this time.

Trains in Israel

Intercity travel in Israel by train is a good option. A train links the airport in Tel Aviv with Jerusalem’s Yitzhak Navon station; travel takes just under 30 minutes.

Israel has a convenient train network linking major cities. Tel Aviv has train routes to Akko, Haifa, and other northern cities.

Buses in Israel

Within the big cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, buses are a convenient way to travel. To travel on inner-city buses, be sure to buy a reloadable RAV card which can be purchased at the airport as well as most convenience stores.

As for intercity travel, buses in Israel are sometimes the fastest and cheapest way to travel between the major cities. Buses between Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv depart very frequently.

For less frequent buses, such as Eilat or the Dead Sea, booking your ticket in advance is best. Several private bus companies operate throughout Israel.

Tel Aviv Bus Station - Transport in Israel

How Long Do You Need in Israel with Kids?

We recommend at least 7 to 10 days to see and experience the highlights on a family trip to Israel.

There is so much to see and experience that your family could spend a month in Israel and still not see everything the country offers!

A typical country-wide itinerary would include:

  • Two days in Jerusalem
  • Two days in Tel Aviv
  • One day at the Dead Sea (combined with Masada and Ein Gedi)
  • One or two days in Haifa (combined with some of the northern sites)
  • One or two days in and around the Sea of Galilee.

Factor in more days if you’d like to include a visit to the Red Sea. If you prefer to see more of the country and get away from the major cities, you can even reduce the time spent in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to one day each.

Some families choose to do a theme-based tour around Israel, such as a religious pilgrimage tour, a beach-only tour, or perhaps a nature and hiking tour. There’s so much to choose from!

Tel Aviv Beach front
Many come to Tel Aviv simply for the beautiful beach weather and nightlife

Package Holiday to Israel vs Self-Guided

If you are looking for a hassle-free way to travel and see the sights of Israel, a pre-booked and packaged tour will take care of everything for you. No need to worry about driving or be at the mercy of bus and train schedules. Just relax and be guided from one attraction to the next.

However, if you would like to do a self-guided tour, Israel has a great intercity bus, train bus, train network, and good roads for self-drive. Again, just be aware that public transport does not operate during the Sabbath.

Know Before You Go to Israel

Visa and entry information for Israel

Note that your passport won’t be stamped when you arrive at Ben Gurion Airport. For several years now, Israel has not been stamping passports and instead, they stamp a slip of paper that you must carry until you depart from Israel. This is because a few countries will not permit entry if you have an Israeli visit visa stamped in your passport.

Click here to find out more about Israeli Visas

Safety in Israel

Travelling around Israel is generally safe. Most of the incidences of terrorism in the country occur in the West Bank and Gaza. There is a large security presence in the major cities to keep tourists and locals as safe as possible.

But you should always keep your wits about you wherever you travel. Keep up to date on any political changes and always read up on any Government warnings before travel (UK Foreign Office Travel Advice | US State Department Advice).

Travel Insurance for Israel

Despite being a relatively safe country to visit, do check that any world travel insurance policies will cover a stop in Israel. We recommend using a trusted travel specialist like World Nomads who understand the region and its nuances.

Currency in Israel

The currency in Israel is called the new shekel (NIS or ILS) but is simply referred to as the shekel. It is divided into 100 agorot.

Israeli currency skehel and agorot coins

Credit cards are accepted just about everywhere in Israel. However, not every place accepts American Express and Diners, although you should have no problems at major hotels and car rentals.

We recommend having some cash on hand for smaller places and for some taxis that do not take credit cards, as well as for tipping. The standard restaurant tip in Israel is 10%.

There are ATM machines in the airport and all over the cities.

Language in Israel

Hebrew is Israel’s official language, and Arabic is also used by about one-fifth of the population. English is widely spoken and understood, although sometimes only at the basic level.

Here are some great phrases to learn in Hebrew while visiting Israel:

  • Hello – “Shalom” ( also saying “Hi” is understood)
  • Thank you – “To-dah”
  • Thank you very much – “To-dah Rabah”
  • Yes – “Ken”
  • No – “Loh”
  • Please – “Ba-vaka-shah”
  • Goodbye – “Shalom” (also saying “Bye” is understood)
  • Cheers – “Le-Chaim”

What to Pack For Israel

When packing for Israel, first take note of what time of year you’ll be travelling and the weather in your destinations.

During the summer, Israel is hot everywhere during the day but can be cooler in the desert and up north. During the winter, the whole country can be chilly.

Be mindful of what you will wear and pack accordingly. In Tel Aviv, you can wear anything you want, but in Jerusalem and Nazareth, modesty is expected. Always have a scarf or shawl ready if you visit holy sites requiring your hair, shoulder, and knees to be covered.

Israel power points are quite unique “Type H” round 3-pin sockets. Coming from Europe or with a multi-adaptor, your round 2-pin plugs should work with their standard 230V sockets. Visitors from other countries, you may need to track down a Type H or buy one when you arrive in Israel, then run your appliances on a multi-board.

You can read our complete guide on what to wear in Israel, plus we share a downloadable packing list to help you prepare for your family holiday in Israel.

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