Best family vacation destinations

Best family vacation destinations


Choosing the best family vacation destination is such a personal thing, so we simply seek to share a few of our most popular family vacations, in the hope that they might take you in a different direction from your normal wanderings. Trekking with a donkey in France instead of the usual campsite, for example. Or a family tour of Sri Lanka instead of an all-inclusive resort for that big family trip of the year. And how about heading to Lapland for Christmas magic instead of plumping for the proverbial Pyrenean pistes again? For more details on these or other best family vacation destinations, just pick up the phone and talk to Rosy or Saul on our Vacation Helpdesk
Croatia China Sri Lanka Algarve Finland Spain Thailand Cuba Devon Greece Turkey Mercantour National Park, France Montenegro


For resort-free beach bliss, go west toward Lagos and beyond, watching it get wilder and prettier by the kilometre. The deserted strands are either surfing paradise or tranquil bays, with cycling and hiking trails all along this littoral loveliness too. Portugal's laidback rural life reveals another way of being – although quintas also offer swimming pools and mod cons. And unlike Spain, Portugal does dinner at sane times and sane prices.


One for the more adventurous family but, in a country where the only constant is change, it’s likely that kids, with their sponge-like brains and boundless energy, will cope better as the country flips between modernity and tradition than their parents. Older children will be blown away by the Great Wall, the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Centre, mud baths at Yangshuo Caves or even try their hand at Kung Fu school.


The Croatian islands are all about going with the flow. Literally, on a sea kayaking or adventure vacation, or metaphorically, as you and your children zone into island time, and have the freedom to roam and explore. Especially on the car free ones. The mainland has lots of adventure opportunities too. White water rafting on the Una River, for example, beats any theme park trip you have ever had.


Cuba welcomes children with open arms. There are plenty of outdoor activities to excite both young and older. And of course the tropical beaches are just idyllic, as are the inland rivers and waterfalls, such as the natural pools at Las Terrazas. But Cuba's real attraction is its culture. Children can join dance classes, enjoy the cool coco taxis, or just sit back and absorb Cuban life (and omnipresent music) at night time in the plazas.


One of England’s most eclectic counties in terms of landscape, with beaches, wild horses, rivers and a staunch ethos of local food. Devon feels like you stepped into an Enid Blyton book really, with a plethora of family friendly self-catering options too, such as beautiful eco-lodges, farmstays, charmingly chintzy cottages and barn conversions. World capital for cream, when you visit with your kids, you do feel a little bit like the cats that got a lot of it.


The Finns are extremely welcoming to children and, provided you keep them warm and well fed they should be happy to hang out with huskies and reindeers, go snowshoeing or cross country skiing and toboggan down fells until you are too exhausted to haul them back up again. But when you are, you can all hit the sauna. Finnish Lapland is a cultural cornucopia too, with Sami traditional lifestyles a growing aspect of family vacations.


Take a mountain train into the other worldly wonders of the Alpes Maritimes and Alpes de Haute Provence, all part of the relatively unknown Mercantour National Park. A popular area for walking with donkeys to carry your bags, you follow in the steps of shepherds who still do the same, along waymarked ways through ancient forest, up rocky inclines, and along icy river valleys.


Family-oriented Greeks make children feel welcome and safe everywhere: exploring islands on land or sea, playing on fab beaches or rustic estates, tracking bears, or just enjoying delicious but oh-so-cheap taverna meals. Combine beach bliss with burning off youthful energy: hiking/biking mountain trails on the Ionian island of Ithaca for example, rafting rivers, sea kayaking or wind surfing. And we haven’t even started on history yet…


Take a mountain train into the other worldly wonders of the Alpes Maritimes and Alpes de Haute Provence, all part of the relatively unknown Mercantour National Park. A popular area for walking with donkeys to carry your bags, you follow in the steps of shepherds who still do the same, along waymarked ways through ancient forest, up rocky inclines, and along icy river valleys.


With one of the best climates in Europe, some of the widest open spaces and terrain ranging from cliffs to caves, mountains to plains, Spain is the place for an outdoor vacation – regardless of age and ability. Hiking and cycling are wonderful year-round if you choose the right region, plus there’s whitewater rafting, sea kayaking and canyoning. The Spanish love to chill too, so don’t panic, that’s always a big part of any activity timetable.

Sri Lanka

From wild elephant safaris to whale watching, rainforest to rafting, paddy fields to pristine beaches, Sri Lanka brings children not only close to nature but also to local young people. Bring a cricket ball and cricket shirt with you and you’ll make best friends for life. The beaches are superb but don’t just hide in a multinational resort. Sri Lanka has a culture that celebrates life and family. So get out and join the party.


Staying in a bland all inclusive resort is like having a Thai curry without the spices. Real life in Thailand will inspire and delight families, with gorgeous beaches, elephant sanctuaries, tuk tuks trips, trips to meet the hill tribes, bustling night markets, ziplining through jungle canopy, and cycle trips out through paddy fields. Base yourself around either the southern islands or northern highlands helps you avoid long, hot journeys.


For variety and adventure, traveling in Turkey with kids is an idea that definitely isn't a turkey! Active families can burn off energy with activities as diverse as coastal hikes, sea kayaking, canyoning and river rafting. Or slow the pace down to see the variety of wildlife, with a chance to swim with giant turtles across azure bays, before watching dolphins arcing their way across another. Meze food is made for sharing en famille too.

Where to go on a family vacation


Lesley Schofield, from our supplier All Points East, shares her tips on traveling in Thailand with kids: “Thailand is the most fantastic destination for children. It’s comparatively safe, there are good standards of food hygiene, people absolutely love kids and will interact with them. The standard of English is reasonable – but it’s also good for our kids to discover that everyone doesn’t speak English particularly well. In some villages they have a much more rural existence. They’ have satellite dishes – but on their huts. They drive round in pickup trucks – but that’s because they haven’t got roads. So they’re not backward by any means, but they are living a much more simple life than we are. And while that still exists in the world, and it exists somewhere that’s safe and pleasant, I think it’s brilliant to get kids out there to discover it.”
Julie Vural from our supplier Alternatif Outdoor explains how tailor made trips are great for enjoying Turkey with kids: “We arrange trips on demand for families of four or more - just provide dates, ages of children, plus preferred activities and style (hotel? camping? rest days?). We tailor activities to abilities, and customise the vacation to suit each family's preference, so everybody enjoys themselves. Multi-activity trips are ideal for children over 10, and there can be several families on a trip so children can make friends. But private trips are available for those who prefer not to be with other families! Our 3-day sea kayaking/camping expeditions are ideal for those after more adventure - the paddling is not too strenuous, and we spend two nights camping 'wild' on beaches. On summer nights we encourage people to sleep in our 'one thousand star hotel' – i.e. the open air, without a tent!”
Christine Kieffer, from our supplier Itinerance Trekking in the Mercantour National Park, France, is the perfect person to give self guided walking vacation advice to families: “Go with a donkey. These affectionate animals have been part of our family for as long as we can remember. Each one of them has their own individual personality, their own life, their own specific tastes. They love the company of humans, especially that of children, who they will encourage to keep on walking without sulking”.
Photo credits: [Sri Lanka: ShashiBellamkonda] [Devon: Chris_Parfitt] [Turkey: Lisa Joanes] [Mercantour, France: ADT 04] [Lesley Schofield: laurence king] [Christine Kieffer: Jerome Bon]
Written by Catherine Mack
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