The perfect places to take kids on holiday, whether they’re newborns or nearly adults
Discovering the world with your children is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a parent. But, with little ones in tow, you’ll probably have to update your old travel habits
On family holidays, the long afternoons spent in art galleries or gnarly overnight bus trips that you did before kids, might not come as easily as they used to. So you need to think carefully about where to go and the activities on offer, so that everyone (you included) has a good time.
When children are small, it’s all about home comforts and staying somewhere that has everything you need on site. But as kids get older, you can advance to more active holidays on less-familiar territory. If you’re finding planning a family holiday a little overwhelming, we’re here with the perfect destinations for each stage of childhood, plus some suggestions on what to do when you get there.
Easy holidays for ages 0-3
When you have babies and very young children, you don’t want to travel far. Choose short-haul destinations that are around a two-hour flight away. Even if your previous, child-free holidays involved being off-the-beaten track, when you have a newborn you definitely won’t regret booking an all-inclusive resort where everything is laid on. Let someone else do the cleaning, cooking and making the beds for a change, while you relax and enjoy making early memories as a family instead.
Spain’s Costa del Sol is a great option if you’re travelling with very young children. The region boasts sunshine 300 days of the year and you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to top-rated, all-inclusive hotels with outdoor pools, child-friendly menus, climbing frames and soft play facilities. When they’ve exhausted everything there is to do at the resort, there are miles of Blue Flag beaches and Malaga’s beachfront promenade, which is made for pushing a pram along on a warm evening. Alternatively, many Spanish all-inclusive resorts, such as Benalma Hotel Costa del Sol, Malaga, come with a crèche, kids’ clubs and babysitting services, so you might actually get to have a grown-up dinner, catch up on some sleep or read a book without sticky-fingered interruptions.
Beach breaks for ages 4-6
When children reach the age of four, the inquisitive stage really sets in – and so do the endless questions. Indulge their desire to learn by taking them on a safe beach break, where they can have fun splashing about in the sea, building sandcastles and digging holes ‘to Australia’, all while you soak up the gorgeous weather. Portugal’s Algarve region is especially family friendly with 220km of picturesque, sandy coastline and a cool sea which moderates the climate – so it’s warm but doesn’t get too hot for young children. As well as pristine beaches, there are boat trips and waterparks aplenty so they can see dolphins diving or try out diving themselves. Stay at Pine Cliffs, Praia da Falesia, Algarve, which has seven outdoor pools and one indoor heated pool.
Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline offers a fantastic alternative beach holiday. Less developed than many of its Western European counterparts, this area boasts golden beaches, turquoise waters and picturesque forests, all ripe for little feet and fingers to explore. The warm, tranquil waters make it the perfect place for young swimmers to perfect their technique, while there are secluded coves and numerous islands for them to discover too.
Explorer trips for ages 7-10
As children grow up, they expect a little more entertainment. Take Horrible Histories fans to Rome, where the sheer scale of the Colosseum will blow their minds – and even open them up to exploring other ancient sites such as the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. Italy is generally very welcoming to children, so encourage them to engage with the culture via some newly learned words and an authentic spaghetti carbonara from a corner-side trattoria. When it’s bedtime, stay at the great-value Hotel Regno.
For a very different kind of culture, this is the perfect age for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disney. Florida’s Orlando resort offers a whooping four Disney theme parks and two water parks, including the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot and the Animal Kingdom. There are hundreds of rollercoasters, shows, parades and characters to meet and this age group has the necessary stamina to keep the fun going all day. If you want the Disney magic to continue into the night, too, book one of the themed resort hotels – there’s everything from The Animal Kingdom Lodge to the Polynesian Village Resort.
Adventure holidays for ages 11-14
When your children become tweens, you can get a bit more adventurous with your destinations and what you do. A safari in South Africa is bound to be a hit with the entire family but, while your kids are older, you still want them to be safe. Pilanesberg National Park treads the perfect path between roughing it and relaxing. The park has hotels, such as Bakubung Bush Lodge, self-catering chalets big enough for a family of five, and even the cheaper lodges and campsites have swimming pools and are fenced in to prevent unwanted visitors. What’s more, the ‘Big 5’ are here in abundance so there won’t be hours of hanging around waiting to see something.
If your kids have short attention spans, a Greek island-hopping holiday should stop anyone from getting bored. Whether it’s Mykonos’ sugar-cube houses or the myths and legends of Crete, every member of the family will find something enchanting about Greece. Starting from Athens, you can easily hop between islands via an impressive network of ferries. You can even get the kids involved ahead of time, planning a route and coming up with an itinerary.
Hands-on experiences for ages 15-18
As your kids come into their late teens, holidays are less about relaxing and more about pushing boundaries and plunging themselves into a completely new experience. Paphos in Cyprus is a fantastic destination for this age group, thanks to its mix of active and cultural activities. There are classic watersports, such as scuba diving, jet-skiing and paragliding, along with more original activities such as undersea walking, where you stroll along the seabed in 10ft of clear, turquoise waters and watch the marine life swimming around you. Stay at the Elysium Hotel, Paphos and the nearby on-land sights won’t disappoint either, with The Tomb of the Kings and Kato Paphos Archaeological Park just two of the attractions for history buffs.
For a very different vibe, head to Costa Rica’s Arenal region. Daredevils can zipline over the jungle, a unique way to experience the stunning scenery and natural wildlife, which includes sloths, iguanas, caimans and monkeys. Or there’s white water rafting, waterfall hunting, volcano trekking and quadbike roaming, if these are more their thing. This is the ultimate in eco-tourism and will give you and your kids a new perspective on nature and the environment that will last long after you’ve all headed home.