Start Planning Your Family Holiday
It’s January, so you know what that means. No, not wondering if there are any leftovers still hanging around from Christmas, or persuading yourself to make room in your schedule for gym visits (although both of these have likely crossed your mind). January means it’s cold, dull, and that you’ve definitely had enough of winter. With the promise of spring still a few months away, January is the time when thousands of people start to plan their family summer holiday, but where will you go this year? We’ve got some great ideas in the UK, Europe, and further afield.
The UK’s Best Family Resorts
The UK isn’t always top of the list when it comes to planning your big summer getaway, which is a shame as there’s so much to do right here under your nose that negates the need for an arduous airport check-in. Take a look at these amazing resorts.
- Isle of Wight
You can’t help but get a holiday feeling when you board the ferry from Portsmouth and head across The Solent, the short stretch of water that links the UK’s mainland to the Isle of Wight. Children love the excitement of it, and adults still get a much-needed sense of escapism – it’s a proper start to a summer holiday.
Once there, the Isle of Wight offers oodles of things to do. The beaches are fantastic and the vast stretches of sandy coastline are perfect for paddling, castle building, rockpooling, and even fossil hunting. If you want to be active, the opportunities for long walks or cycle rides are seemingly endless, and you can stop off at some of the most interesting sights along the way such as Osborne House (Queen Victoria’s summer home), Carisbooke Castle, and the famous and really lovely eponymous donkey sanctuary. Add in a theme park: Blackgang Chine, and a funfair/historic site: The Needles, and you’ve got everything you need to keep everyone occupied.
- The Lake District
The Lake District in Cumbria is not just hiking trails and walking boots, although if that’s what you’re going there for you certainly won’t be disappointed. There is much more to the UK’s largest national park including the stunning Grizedale sculpture trail, a trip to Beatrix Potter’s Ambleside home, plenty of water sports including kayaking and canoeing, and a fun steamer cruise along Ullswater. Of course, this is also the home of the Kendal mint cake, so sampling the various local versions of this homemade treat is a must-do on your to-do list.
Another exciting hop across a small body of water – the English Channel this time – and you can find yourself in Jersey, one of the Channel Islands. The journey can be undertaken via boat or by plane, so how you get there depends upon how much time you’re happy to spend travelling – the ferry takes between four and 10 hours, depending on where you sail from, and the flight is about an hour and a half from London. However you get there, once you do arrive there are some great attractions for the whole family to enjoy…even if the entire island is only nine by five miles in size!
Jersey Heritage is a fascinating attraction that tells the story of Jersey through interactive displays, events, and museum pieces. This is where you can see the world’s largest hoard of gold coins, learn how to float a ship, and where you can visit a working 15th-century farm. Don’t miss Elizabeth Castle, which is a fascinating glimpse into the past – at low tide you can get there on foot, but at high tide you either have to wait or take the tiny ferry, which is an adventure in itself. Why not throw in a visit to Jersey’s newest attraction, Tamba Park, too? Great fun, you can walk the dino trail, or try your hand at sailing on the boating lake there, as well as explore the adventure playground and the birds of prey centre. You can even run around in the indoor playzone, which has been designed to a rainforest theme.
If you want to leave the UK, but don’t fancy too long a trip, Europe has plenty of family friendly summer holiday destinations that are perfect for you.
- Umbria, Italy
Taking the children to Italy is always something that will work out well for you, them, and anyone you happen to meet while you’re out there. The Italians love children, and you won’t have to worry about them running about, making noise, or generally being seen and heard because there will be no tutting, no frowns, and no heavy sighs. In fact, Italy is just the kind of place where kids can be kids, and parents can finally get a little relaxation time.
Umbria is particularly perfect because it has plenty to do for people of all ages. Explore some of the quaint Umbrian villages and meet the locals who will be only too happy to give you a tour or a brief history of the place, or head off to the beach for some traditional bucket-and-spade fun. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and the children are old enough, why not indulge in some adrenalin-pumping water sports such as jet skiing? The town of Orvieto – perched on top of a sheer cliff – must be seen to be believed; there is a cathedral there and a weird and wonderful alternative underground city. For nature lovers, you can enjoy the natural park just outside Perugia, La Città della Domenica, where you’ll find not only forest walks, but a miniature train and adventure playground too. If you go in July, don’t miss the hot air balloon festival that takes place in the town of Todi each year.
- Alicante, Spain
Located in Spain’s southeast, the province of Alicante is where the Costa Blanca (White Coast) is situated. Here you will find perfect beaches with soft sands and seas that are great for swimming and snorkelling, or generally splashing about in. Historical cities and towns abound in Alicante too and there are a number of tourist hotspots here including Benidorm for some lively entertainment…if that’s your cup of tea.
If not, The Museum of Alicante can be found within the walls of Santa Barbara Castle at the top of Mount Benacantil, and what makes this special place even more family friendly is that it’s all free to enter. Within the museum you’ll find 10 different exhibition halls that tell the story of the castle and the city it overlooks. You can walk to it, or drive, but the best way up is in the lift. Something else that the whole family will enjoy are the Canelobre Caves in Buscot. You can book into a guided tour and discover stalactites and stalagmites lit up by coloured lights. Alicante is also home to a theme park: Terra Mitica, and a huge water park: Aqualandia, as well as plenty of gorgeous villages such as the stunning Guadalest.
- Dubrovnik, Croatia
Croatia is a truly diverse holiday destination thanks to its historical, architectural and cultural influences from the Turks, Romans, Franks, and the Napoleonic French. It has an unparalleled history and stunning coastlines that hug the Adriatic. Here you’ll find towering mountains, pretty little villages, unspoiled spots and mesmerising azure seas.
Dubrovnik is a particularly beautiful and fascinating spot for a family holiday. Walk the medieval walls and do your best to touch the gargoyle at the main gate to the city, which is said to bring you luck if you can stand on it. Croatia is now a rising star in wine making circles too, so you might want to try some of the many wine tasting tours that are on offer in the area. The kids won’t miss out as there are lots of things to learn as you go. You can always take them to visit the Franciscan monastery in the Old Town, with its Old Pharmacy Museum. The Old Pharmacy has been operating for over 700 years and is one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe, so you can chart the interesting changes in medicine from 1317 to the modern day. And as for beaches, take your pick – some are mainly the preserve of tourists – the ones with the fun inflatables, deck chairs, games and the cafes, but explore a little further and you’ll discover much quieter places if that’s your preference.
The world is a big old place and if you want to take a jaunt further out than Europe, there are some spectacularly beautiful and exciting places to take the family.
- The Galápagos Islands
When it comes to wildlife watching, there is probably nowhere as famous in the world as The Galápagos Islands, a remote archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, which is technically part of Ecuador and it is as stark and as beautiful as it gets. There is wildlife everywhere, and it’s not just the famous Galápagos tortoises either (although these magnificent creatures will be there for you to see); there the wonderfully named blue-footed booby birds, penguins, sea lions and humpback whales as well to name just a few. The lava formations and cactus forests are awe inspiring, and for older children especially, this is the holiday of a lifetime.
- The Maldives
Family friendly may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you imagine South Asia’s Maldives islands. Surely it’s all about couples and honeymoons? But no – actually, the Maldives is ideal for a family holiday and there’s lots for children to do while their parents relax on the most gorgeous of white sandy beaches, or take a dip in the cobalt blue seas. Most of the resorts in the Maldives have kids’ clubs, so the little ones can be engaged in exploring wildlife, creating shell sculptures, or snorkelling while you kick back and take it all in while getting some restful peace and quiet. When you all meet up again, everyone will feel calm and composed and ready to do it all again the very next day – perhaps all together this time. One thing about the Maldives is that doing the same thing over and over is never boring; it’s far too beautiful a place for that.