Here are Kiwi.com’s most promising family holiday ideas
I’m not a father. I’ll admit that right now. So I have never experienced the task of getting recalcitrant toddlers through an airport, have never had to come up with family holiday ideas on how to keep teenagers happy, and have never had to plan for every possible disaster involving clothes, food, rain, illness and so forth.
Hell, at the moment even a goldfish sounds like too much responsibility.
But we’ve all travelled as children. We’ve all experienced the tedium of a long car or bus journey, played in the sea or gone on long cycle rides.
We were dragged around as surly teens by our parents when all we wanted to do was skulk off somewhere, and looked on as adults at those long-suffering parents try to get that pushchair into oversized baggage.
Here are Kiwi.com’s suggestions for, if not a totally trouble-free family holiday, some things that should, at least, be memorable
Cool Britannia, Brighton, England
We’re going to begin on the south coast of England. Brighton has a well-deserved reputation as one of the coolest towns in England, and it’s great for kids of all ages making it one of the best family holiday ideas overall. If you’ve got young ones, there’s the beach, of course, but there are also creative ways to explore the town.
The Brighton Treasure Hunt is a self-guided expedition to explore the town by finding clues as you go. There’s a lot going on for teenagers too; even the grumpiest will find it hard not to enjoy the Sea Life Centre, including a load of interactive exhibits and the centre’s new Jellyfish Discovery section.
If it’s raining, there are places to escape to like the Painting Pottery Cafe, where for five pounds you can select a piece of pottery to decorate and take home as a nicely personal souvenir.
Or, for something really different, what about the Brighton Sewer Tour, which is… well, it’s exactly what it says it is!
Older teenagers will like the fact that they can be let off the leash; the centre of Brighton is compact and friendly, with areas like The Lanes full of art shops, jewellery stores, music and book shops and cool cafes.
Ecologically sound, Skärsjön Lake, Sweden
Eco-travel has become big business over the last few years, so it makes sense that there should be an emerging market for family groups to get in on the action. Now, this is not your hipster-glamping-take-your-hair-straighteners type of holiday, mind you.
At the Kolarbyn Ecolodge there’s no electricity and no showers. There’s a food store filled with basics (pasta, bread, eggs, fresh vegetables and so on) and some outdoor cooking equipment, but you’ll have to cook it all over fires, and heat water if you want to wash. You’ll get a canoe, fishing equipment and there are hiking routes to try.
The evenings are long in the summer, so you’ll have time to spend around the campfire cooking, reading or chatting – or taking one of the evening guided tours to see moose and beaver by the lake – before you head to bed (and I guarantee, you will be tired out!).
So where do you stay? Well, cosy huts made of wood and turf that sleep two, each with warm sleeping bags and a small fireplace and chimney. It’s nature as it should be seen.
City lights and surfing, San Sebastian, Spain
The Basque city of San Sebastian is just right if you’ve got older teenagers but aren’t quite at the stage of letting them holiday on their own yet. They’ll get plenty of freedom to wander the city on their own, as the old town and the sea front are big enough to explore happily, but never big enough to get really lost in.
The beaches are worth days in themselves, and the possibilities for swimming and surfing are many. Surfing lessons are available from a number of companies, most of which speak English which makes it an ideal set of family holiday ideas.
All the way up the coast and across the French border there are more beaches, and you could even make it to Biarritz for a glimpse of turn of the century glamour. The sea front feels like something out of the 1920s, so why not get dressed up and have a bit of a promenade?
In the evening, San Sebastian comes alive. Walk around and join the locals. Feel cultured by stopping off here and there for pintxos, the Basque version of tapas, and don’t worry about getting to bed early – that’s not how it works around here!
Donkey days, Ardèche and the Alps, France
Here’s a walking holiday with a difference. Instead of slumming it completely with your tents and gas bottles, why not let someone – or something – else take the strain? This trip involves a series of walks through the countryside of the Rhône valley with your very own donkey!
Each day you’ll set off on a walk through the fields, hills and vineyards of the region on routes between 7 and 14 km in length, so nothing too taxing – particularly as all your coats, bags and lunch for the day will be carried by your sturdy companion.
Every evening, you stay in a farmhouse or guesthouse at the end of your day’s route, at which you’ll find a delicious local dinner prepared for you. Just think; every day it’s fresh air and rolling fields with incredible views, before arriving, tired but happy, to find a wonderful stew or hot-pot ready and waiting…
Northern wilderness, Canada
This is a real adventure. Canada provides some of North America’s most incredible landscapes as well as some of its friendliest, laid-back cities. Start in Calgary and spend a couple of days getting your bearings before renting a 4×4 and heading out into the boundless wilderness.
The first of two national parks that stretch north-west from Calgary is Banff National Park. Home to forests, mountains and lakes as far as the eye can see, if you plan your route well, there are either railroad and mining towns dating from the 1880s to stop in, or if you’re feeling ready to rough it a bit more, there are camping grounds as well.
Be advised though, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to just turn up at a lot of the campsites; if you find a vacant spot after 4pm, you’re lucky.
Both Banff and its neighbour Jasper National Park provide many opportunities to stop and explore caves, rivers and natural rock formations, while many drivers have seen deer, wolves, caribou, elk, and even grizzly bears!
If this sounds like the kind of once-in-a-lifetime trip you’d love to do as a family, then National Geographic has plenty of route planners and itineraries to take a look at. It will take a lot of planning, there’s no doubt about that, but it truly would be an unforgettable experience.
Yee-haw! Texas, USA
Channel your inner John Wayne (although in this case it may very well be your inner Billy Crystal) at one of America’s famous ranches. There are loads that now provide an outdoorsy cowboy or cowgirl experience for the whole family. They’re not cheap, I’ll say that right now, but they are very much the whole package.
Loads of places, as well as offering morning and afternoon rides, have a lot more going on besides. The best examples of family holiday ideas consist of fishing, hiking, or campfire cooking in the evening with good ol’ cowboy singalongs that are all present and correct, as well as a selection of far less Wild West elements: swimming pool, basketball, volleyball and even massage treatments at some places!
Kids of all ages are welcome on the horseback treks, but if your teenagers get good, there are generally more advanced lessons as well as animal care clinics and workshops on cowboy arts (lassoing and the like).
Some locations offer overnight treks, camping out in the Texan wilderness under the stars (or in a tent, as you prefer!) for the ultimate cowboy experience. So pull on your boots, set your gait to ‘mosey’ and git wranglin’!
Catering to everyone, Barcelona, Spain
This is one for the more independent family, probably with older kids. Barcelona is a fabulous city in its own right, but has a surprising amount to keep younger people entertained. Of course, there’s the beach, which is enough for at least a day’s distraction, but there’s a lot more going on as well.
Choose to stay in the El Born district; there are a lot of self-catering flats available, many suitable for families. I’ve chosen this area because it’s central enough for parents to have a great selection of cafes and restaurants, but it’s also close to the beach and to Parc de la Ciutadella, home to the Barcelona zoo.
Got football-mad kids? The Camp Nou, Barcelona’s legendary stadium runs tours and, of course, there are games themselves to go and see (match tickets from around €40, but if you want them at that price you have to book months – and I mean months – in advance). Or you could go and see RCD Espanyol. Not as glamorous, but you’ll probably get in at least!
Another way to explore the city is by bicycle. There are a number of companies that will rent you bikes and maps to make sure you choose a nice route to hit all the major sights. If parents want a bit of a break, there are also companies that run special kids-only scooter tours along the seafront.
Freedom for teens, space for adults, Halkidiki, Greece
Greek tourism does a roaring trade in holidays that specialise in keeping teens and their parents apart. Not in a bad way, just, you know… it’s not cool to be seen with your folks at a certain age, so there are loads of resorts that will come up with perfect family holiday ideas to give your kids a bit of autonomy while you relax.
While you relax in the sea or sunbathe on the white painted wooden platforms leading down from the rocks, your kids can play tennis, take windsurfing lessons, learn to make their own pizza in real, wood-fired pizza ovens, or take trips out to the surrounding islands.
All the longer trips are part of the package, perfect example of wholesome family holiday ideas, and are supervised by university students who are all well-trained and are generally doing it as part of their own holiday.
When you all reconvene in the evening, there’s piles of food, a twice-weekly hog-roast, and because it’s all in what’s basically a private, sheltered bay, your kids can turn up, say a cursory hello, grab food from the barbecue and rejoin their friends without there being any danger of wandering too far. Oh, and there are bars for the adults. Obviously.
Bambini love, Sardinia, Italy
Among Mediterranean islands, this always seems like one of the less obvious destinations; overlooked for islands of Greece or the more obviously beach-filled Balearics.
But Sardinia is a surprisingly good destination for families with kids. Italy is a very child-friendly country, so no-one will be surprised to see a family coming out to a decent restaurant for dinner.
The real one-of-a-kind attraction that Sardinia can offer though, is the flamingo colonies of the San Teodoro lagoon. Even older kids will enjoy seeing these animals – at once graceful, then comically ridiculous – in their natural environment.
They also seem so oddly un-European as well, so it’ll certainly be something to post on social media!
Multi-cultured and modern, Malaysia
Our last tip is rather a costly one, but it’s one full of the sights, sounds and smells of one of the world’s most dynamic cities as well as seeming like you’ve seen more than one country.
Kuala Lumpur combines colonial buildings and markets with the iconic Petronas Towers reaching to selfie heaven. There are amazing temples, incredible street food and modern shopping malls as well as a heady mix of languages and cultures.
Alternatively, you could explore the jungles of Malaysian Borneo in search of orangutans and monkeys, or head out onto the rivers to look for dolphins. Some tribal villages now work with the local government to explain their rituals (including grim spectacles of the past, such as head-hunting!) All in all, you’ll have a pretty wild time whatever you decide to do.