Last minute family vacations


We all know them. The families who have booked their summer vacations a year in advance, or their half term breaks before most of us even remember that there is a half term in February. In the real world, getting kids to school, a day’s work done and dinner on the table is enough. Booking a family vacation with the efficiency of an executive PA is about as realistic as getting our kids to go on one of those ‘sugar is the devil’s work’ regimes. If you can plan in advance, fantastic. You will have many more exciting vacation options to play with. But if you can’t, you aren’t alone and here are some places or activities to consider during the forthcoming school breaks that you might not always think of for last minute family vacations.

May half term

Europe’s adventure hubs are all very much open for business in May. But, for a very different last minute family vacation, Vietnam is a good option as you are avoiding the tourist crowds who start to arrive in their droves later in the summer. In the south of Vietnam, it is the beginning of the monsoon season, however it is usually only brief cooling showers, nothing worse, which is a relief during a humid day anyway. It is also a good time to explore Morocco’s Sahara before the extreme heat starts to kick in, and you could combine it with a trip to a Kasbah in the Atlas Mountains, as the snows will have melted by then. And sea kayaking in Croatia or Turkey at this time of year is paddling paradise.

Summer vacations

Europe is always a top choice during the summer vacations, but if you are thinking of a climbing, hiking, biking sort of a vacation, it can be too hot in many places to really make the most of it. So, if you are going for late availability on this one, consider the age ranges and whether they can be active in the heat. A lot of family activity vacations, such as in Lake Skadar, Montenegro, or on the island of Vis, in Croatia, take that into consideration, and start your day a bit earlier to avoid the hottest part of the day. Inland Croatia, such as Velebit National Park, doesn’t get as much attention as the coast, but family vacations there are superb. Other last minute vacation places to consider during the long break include Finland, where it is a bit cooler, but with long days to really squeeze every moment of fun out of the vacation. And if you head to Canada, Colorado or some of the northern national parks of the USA, you can still find snow in July sometimes, but glistening lakes and rivers to kayak down too. It is also still warm and lovely in Vietnam at this time of year, albeit with a few monsoon showers to cool you down, but on a family adventure kayaking along Halong Bay or swimming in Hoi An, you won’t worry too much about the odd splash.

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Marijana Filipovic from our supplier Cycling Croatia: "If you can visit outside July and August, the prices of everything are less inflated, including restaurants. And you can get around more easily as a family, because the streets here are narrow, so try and avoid the busy times. The last week of August is not so bad as a lot of local schools have started their new year."
Aki Käräjäoja from our supplier, Routa Travel: "The dog sledding season starts in December and ends in early April, but for this and other winter activities, February and March are the best times as there’s more daylight. If you come at the end of December it has its own mystical feel as it’s dark all the time, which can be really great – but I prefer the sunshine."
Rachel Blech is co-founder of our supplier, SheherazadVentures, which runs tailor made family adventure vacations in Morocco: “If you go in low season (early Dec to mid-Feb & July/Aug) you avoid the crowds and high prices, but risk unpredictable weather (Dec/Jan) when it can rain. In my view the best times to visit Morocco are late Feb/March/April – when the almond blossom is filling the valleys on the road to Mt. Toubkal National Park and Atlas Mountains. And also the Ounila Valley from Telouet to Ait Benhaddou which is totally unspoiled as yet – the valleys are an unreal emerald green and the road has little traffic.”
Vivian Campbell, from our supplier Cycle Catalan: “Personally speaking, the best time to visit Catalonia is late spring. May and June are absolutely fantastic. July and August can be very hot and August is very busy. To really enjoy a cycling and walking vacation, I would say that May in particular is lovely as we have so many wild flowers. That’s a really nice time for walking. We give people a flower factsheet and a wild flower book so that they can identify all the wildlife and flowers when they’re on their walks. We don’t actually offer walking vacations in July and August because it is so hot. But we do offer cycling from April to early November; most of the time it’s fine, but I would avoid an activity vacation in August if you can.”
Photo credits: [Top box: vastateparksstaff] [Summer vacations - Yosemite: stephendotexe] [Routa Travel tip: Romain Cloff]
Written by Catherine Mack
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