The first weekend of January, as tradition dictates, is spent vacuuming up pine needles and poring over calendars at the kitchen table for the annual family holiday planning session - which this year has an additional fizz of excitement about it. On Wednesday, the UK government made the rather timely announcement that pre-departure tests for arrival are to be scrapped (again), making overseas travel easily accessible once more. What with this, the renewed demise of the red list, and borders near and far reopening – well, the very realistic prospect of a truly thrilling family holiday abroad this summer, whether on your own or as part of a group, is almost too exciting to contemplate. The big question is: where?
The possibilities are limitless. Once again, all that colour and vitality, all those unfamiliar flavours and mind-expanding cultures. Empty red deserts and the deep blue sea; the fragrance of the far-flung; the untethered remoteness of islands. The heat and dust and remarkable wildlife encounters of Africa. North America, that drama queen of a continent, beckons with its supersized and diverse landscapes; Italy, our eternal amore, proves that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
Perhaps the destination does not matter so much as how we travel, and what we do when we’re there. Nothing feels more precious right now than finding those unique experiences with which travel can present us, which our children can gather and treasure – experiences to make them think, give them stories to tell, teach them new tricks, deepen their understanding of our planet, and broaden their horizons, so severely restricted of late.
Two years is a very long time to a child. After playing it safe the past two summers with holidays close to home, it feels as though in 2022 the kids, particularly, deserve something a bit more enriching and extraordinary than a run-of-the-mill beach break now that the world lies open before us once more.
We’ll always have the Shires – but the time has come to strike out for distant lands, push for adventures in the great beyond. Our return to travel should be triumphant, ambitious, as well as responsible. A glorious reunion with this big, wide, endlessly extraordinary world.
1. Make history in Egypt
Egyptomania is back, with Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Death in the Nile out in February; and in November, precisely a century after Egyptologist Howard Carter chiselled his way into Tutankhamen’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, the Grand Egyptian Museum set to finally open in Giza. Black Tomato’s new “Unearth the Secrets of Saqqara” Field Trip digs deeper: teenagers (16+) join a real archaeological excavation in the tombs of pharaohs at the Unesco-listed necropolis.
How to do it: Black Tomato (020 7426 9888; blacktomato.com) offers a six-night Ultimate Egypt trip from £4,315pp, including Saqqara Field Trip
2. Canadian cool
For: everyone from tweens to gramps
This is surely one of the world’s most awe-inspiring landscapes: gargantuan forests harbouring wolves and bears, rugged peaks reflected in waters alive with humpbacks, orca and dolphins, wilderness mostly untouched, save a few rustic-lux lodges. Klahoose Wilderness Resort is the latest: owned by Klahoose First Nation, its guides share both wildlife and cultural secrets, telling stories passed down through generations. Take a cabin or commandeer the place.
How to do it: Klahoose Wilderness Resort (00 1 250-935-8539; klahooseresort.com) offers two-bedroom cabins from £1,370pp all-inclusive for three nights; or book a package with Discover the World (01737 214251; discover-the-world.com)
3. Neapolitan mini grand tour
For: all ages and groups
Sleepy Procida, barely two square miles, has been named Italy’s Capital of Culture in 2022, when its pastel-painted streets – backdrop for Il Postino – will awaken with cultural events. Make it part of a Bay of Naples jaunt that includes catching supper with fishermen (foraday.it), Ischia’s beaches and thermal pools, underground skulls in Naples, and lava tales at Pompeii and Vesuvius.
How to do it: Yescapa (yescapa.co.uk) offers campervans from £448 a week in Naples. Spectacular new Villa Ischia has six bedrooms and gardens down to the sea, from £12,800 a week (020 7586 5342; theluxurytravelbook.com).
4. Sri Lanka made even easier
For: tweens and up
Sri Lanka’s blend of easygoing culture and natural beauty appeals for an accessible taste of the faraway. It’s great for kids – less hectic than India but still colourful, with friendly people and delicious food; it has leopards and elephants in its national parks, langurs and loris in its rainforests, sandy beaches and breakers to surf, heritage fort towns and peaceful temples. Wild Frontiers’ new 11-day Sri Lanka Family Adventure reveals the island by catamaran, canoe and on foot, from tea plantations to coast.
How to do it: Wild Frontiers (020 8741 7390; wildfrontierstravel.com) offers 11 nights from £1,240pp
5. Portugal's untamed coast
For: tots, tweens and groups
A rustic alternative to the Algarve is Comporta, which the Portuguese would rather keep secret. With its long beaches and paddy fields it feels remote, though Lisbon’s only an hour away. Days are spent horse riding, birdwatching, sailing and surfing among bottlenose dolphins. There’s little development, no nightlife and few hotels – the thing to do here is rent a house, which is why it’s ideal for families.
How to do it: New pool villa Pego Paradise has five bedrooms with private terraces and sleeps 14, from £8,000 a week (020 7586 5342; theluxurytravelbook.com). Or try the villas at eco-chic Sublime hotel (00 351 269 449 376; sublimecomporta.pt), which can arrange experiences
6. New Orleans and Deep South by Road
Music makes a comeback in New Orleans with a blare of trumpets this year. Rebuilt once again, after Hurricane Ida, the Big Easy will get spangled up with the return of Mardi Gras. Carnival season will run over February half term, and a year packed with festivals will bring musicians to the streets of the French Quarter. Between Creole feasts, join gator-spotting swamp trips, delve into voodoo, and take Black History walking tours to engage and enlighten teens.
How to do it: Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers an Iconic Deep South nine-night self-drive tour, also taking in Nashville and Memphis, from £4,775pp
7. Botswana Bushcraft
For: teen-and-parent eco warriors
This year Africa luxury travel specialist &Beyond launches Wildchild Eco-guide Challenges, conservation-focused trips designed to engage, educate and inspire 14- to 18-year-olds and parents travelling together. The small-group journeys layer hands-on experiences with game drives in some of Africa’s most amazing locations. In Botswana’s Okavango Delta, for example (best visited later in the year), teens might learn Bushman skills, tracking and fishing, and assist in the conservation of rhinos, wild dogs and baobab trees.
How to do it: Four nights at &Beyond Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp, from October 22-26, costs from £2,400 per child/£4,800 per adult (00 27 11 809 4300; andbeyond.com)
8. All-action Azores
For: all ages and groups
The natural adventure playground of the Azores gets closer this summer when British Airways launches additional routes to Sào Miguel and Terceira. The archipelago – the first in the world to be EarthCheck-certified sustainable – does a good line in rustic-chic eco-lodges, such as Benedita Branco’s Lava Homes on Pico island. Recently she opened Adega do Fogo, a luxury six-bedroom house on a vineyard, with a Balinese-style pool deck overlooking the volcano. Aimed at families, stays here are all-action; the host can arrange mountain hikes, bike rides, live music, fishing trips, diving and whale-watching.
How to do it: Adega do Fogo (00 351 960469255; eng.adegadofogo.com) offers three nights from £5,000 for 12 people
9. Indian Ocean Immersion
For: children aged over six
Once a honeymoon fly-and-flop spot, the Maldives has moved on, with many resorts pioneering marine conservation initiatives with which guests of any age can get involved. Six Senses Laamu runs a Junior Marine Biology programme for six- to 16-year-olds, joining marine biologists researching turtles or restoring coral, while families can dive and plant corals together. At Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, an inhouse academy offers courses studying the night sky, marine life, or ocean navigation and tides for children aged over 12.
How to do it: Scott Dunn (020 3553 6900; scottdunn.com) can arrange holidays and programmes at all three resorts
10. Ranch life in Croatia
For: tweens and up
Exhilarating rides, open country, big skies… a ranch holiday is just the ticket for broadening horizons, and Montana is high on the wishlist for 2022. But there’s a working guest ranch closer to home, though just as remote: Linden Tree Retreat & Ranch, in Croatia’s Velebit mountains biosphere reserve. This sustainable wilderness retreat is brilliant for families; as well as riding there’s canoeing and caving, animal tracking and archery, wagon rides and more. At night, storytelling around the campfire, music, dancing, and sleeping in tipis.
How to do it: Earth Changers (0330 2232 784; earth-changers.com) offers three nights from £326 per child/£443 per adult
11. World wonders in Jordan
For: young families and solo children/parents
The Cambridges’ Christmas card this year – picturing the immaculately groomed family against the red rock of Petra – has put Jordan top of mind as a 2022 holiday destination. It’s got lots of appeal even for those with young kids (not least the very doable five-hour flight), combining wonders such as Petra with colourful but safe adventures: camel trekking, Red Sea snorkelling, Dead Sea floating, and sleeping in Bedouin camps.
How to do it: Families Worldwide (01962 302 062; familiesworldwide.co.uk) offers a new seven-night Arabian Adventure (bespoke or small-group tour) from £2,145pp including flights
12. A blue cruise
For: older kids and multigen groups
Exiled poet Cevat Şakir made the Blue Cruise – a gulet voyage along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast – fashionable among the Istanbul cognoscenti in the Sixties. In 2022 it’s particularly fashionable with Brits, too; Turkey is great value, easy to reach, and a sailing charter makes a dream bubble holiday that still allows for exploration – seeking out pine-forested bays, uninhabited islets, shoreside tavernas, and underwater remains of ancient civilisations.
How to do it: Red Savannah (01242 787800; redsavannah.com) has several beautiful gulets for charter, sleeping up to 20; while Blue Cruise (020 8968 7770; bluecruise.co.uk) offers affordable shared cruises.
13. Become a jedi master in Florida
For: children aged over seven
An out-of-this-world experiential adventure launches this March in Florida: a two-night “voyage” aboard the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. Launch Pods transport kids and parents from Disney World through hyperspace to the Starcruiser, an immersive space where they will meet and work with Star Wars characters, take the ship’s controls, learn to use lightsabers, join missions and sleep in a cabin looking out at galaxies far, far away.
How to do it: Disney World (disneyworld.co.uk/destinations/star-wars-galactic-starcruiser) offers two-night trips from around £3,900 per family
14. Anchors aweigh in Anchorage
For: solo parents and children aged over seven
National Geographic has teamed up with G Adventures to create a series of Family Journeys. The small-group trips are designed to give young travellers meaningful encounters, and learn something while they’re at it – with like-minded company for parents/kids travelling solo. Destinations for 2022 include Alaska, where children can earn junior ranger badges while making unforgettable memories: dogsledding across a glacier, watching whales breach, and going on a bear hunt.
How to do it: G Adventures (0344 272 2080; gadventures.com) offers a nine-day Alaska Family Journey from £3,599pp
15. France on two wheels
Amateur cyclists can conquer Normandy this year on the new Seine-side cycle route: La Seine à Vélo, winding 270 painterly miles from Paris to the sea. Starting from Notre-Dame, the route takes you along the city’s hip Canal Saint-Martin quarter and the Seine’s old towpaths, via Renoir’s immortalised terrace on the Ile des Impressionnistes. On, past barges, timber-frame houses, orchards. This is impressionism country: at Giverny you’ll see Monet’s house; later medieval Rouen and, at the coast, picturesque Honfleur.
How to do it: Plan your journey at laseineavelo.com
16. Glamp America
For: tots to teens
As with so many things, Americans go large on glamping. AutoCamp – whose lux-kitted Airstreams are 31 feet long and sleep four – opened new sites recently in two beloved US locations, beach-classic Cape Cod in 2021, and otherworldly-desert Joshua Tree just last week. These camps are about all-American outdoorsiness: smores and folk tales around the campfire, barbecue cook-outs, movie nights and creative workshops, and inventive activities from leaf peeping paddleboard tours to fat biking through cranberry bogs.
How to do it: AutoCamp (autocamp.com) offers Airstreams from £95 per night
17. So Dam cool
For: all ages
The Unbound is the hip weekender for young Amsterdam families: a scattering of black-timber cabins in a green suburb 30 minutes’ cycle from Centraal station. While not billed as ‘family-friendly’ (which for many adds to the appeal), this being Holland it’s entirely inclusive, with menus for kids and dogs. Families can put up at the five-berth Lighthouse or the two-storey Barn, both with hot tubs; or at nearby Freelodge Village in seven stilted two-bed cabins. Parents appreciate the barrel sauna and restaurant helmed by acclaimed chefs; children love the outdoor theatre, playground, pond and canoes.
How to do it: Freelodge cabins from €155, unbound-amsterdam.com
18. Costa Rica surf
For: tots to teens
Costa Rica is an ecotourism champion. It’s also safe, easy and just the ticket for families seeking wildlife and jungle adventures, with a slew of new tours. Alternatively, you could take two weeks to get to know one place well, surfing the beach towns of its breathtaking Pacific Coast, such as Santa Teresa and Nosara, and the less-visited Osa Peninsula. In Nosara, Olas Verdes is a chic eco-lodge where guests can surf, ride, take nature tours and help with rewilding efforts.
How to do it: Family Surf Co (familysurfco.com) can arrange surf breaks for all ages and budgets, including Olas Verdes.
19. Delicious Mauritius
For: all ages
Mauritius has reopened to Britons in time for Lux* Grand Baie, which has thrown open its doors on a lagoon at the island’s north tip. For all its smart Kelly Hoppen interiors, it’s well set up for families – various pool villas and residences have multiple bedrooms. The kids’ club has imaginative experiences and activities (ice cream-making, junior yoga, gardening), while teens get DJ decks and vintage arcade games; plus windsurfing and paddle board lessons.
How to do it: Lux* Grand Bai (00 230 209 2200; luxresorts.com) offers Pool Residences sleeping four from £324
20. Secret Cyclades
For: multigen groups
The little-known Cycladic island of Antiparos is a Hydra for our times. Arty bohemians drink ouzo alongside local fishermen and the very famous (Bruce Springsteen, Matthew McConaughey, Madonna), unfettered by crowds. Tom Hanks has a house – but if you aren’t friends you can rent your own. The Greek Villas’ new honey-stoned eight-bedroom Hampton is built into the hillside, with a stage-set of a terrace and infinity pool overlooking the Chora and the sea below. A concierge can work all kinds of magic: horse riding in the sea, Greek cookery lessons, cruises around the Aegean, kite-surfing and SUP yoga.
How to do it: Hampton sleeps 16 from €25,000 a week (00 30 21 0641 0280; thegreekvillas.com)
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