What do summer holidays mean to you? For me, they have always been about the beach – whether that is the wild Cornish coast or a sleepy Mediterranean island.
But after the seismic events of the past few years, what many of us want from a family holiday is changing. Summer 2023 marks a full return to restriction-free long-haul travel, and with wings clipped these past few summers, some families are looking to splurge on epic adventures.
Meanwhile, for most of us 2023 is a year when value matters more than ever as the cost of living continues to rise. Research by Booking.com reveals that we are finding clever ways to get more mileage for our money, rather than forgoing holidays altogether. Almost half those surveyed said they are planning to opt for one or two longer trips rather than several short breaks this year, and to seek out under-the-radar destinations where prices are lower – the beaches of Galicia over Ibiza, say, or Turkey’s Riviera instead of Italy’s.
Whatever our budget, there is a palpable sense of wanting to make the most of our precious holidays together, learning new skills and seeking out engaging experiences. As the mother of an eight-year-old, I have learned that these strange small humans can get trainspotter-obsessive about almost anything: football, llamas, cheese, Detroit techno, buses, lava, dinosaurs, pirates, Pokémon, sports cars, ninjas … The new breed of adventure tour brings all these interests to life, and gives them an education that they cannot get in the classroom – broadening horizons and blowing their minds with innovative, immersive experiences.
Then there is our collective craving for rural and wilderness escapes. In a recent survey, Skyscanner identified that wildlife spotting and hiking are two of the top three travel activities planned for holidays. And more of us than ever want to see the world in more considered ways. That might be travelling on two wheels, staying at grass-roots agriturismi, assisting with conservation efforts or exploring little-visited niches of the world.
The possibilities are infinite. If that feels a bit overwhelming, here are 50 ideas to inspire, for all budgets – whether you are after intrepid adventures in destinations you can’t pronounce, or simply a dreamy Mediterranean island where you have yet to run barefoot.
For babies and toddlers
For primary schoolers
For all ages
Babies and toddlers
Babes in the wood
Perhaps it is our fault for singing them so many songs about buses, but toddlers are weirdly obsessive about public transport. Imagine their delight, then, when they arrive at Blackberry Wood to find they are actually sleeping in one.
In the East Sussex countryside outside Brighton, this is a fairy-tale reimagining of a campsite with glamping options on the side: not just a double-decker bus, but a fire engine, 1960s helicopter, gypsy caravan and two turreted tree houses as enchanting as those in the Night Garden (thankfully, no Tombliboos in sight). New for 2023 is the Snugglebug, which sleeps up to four in proper beds and has a kitchen and firepit.
Book it: Camping pitches from £47 per night for three people; glamping from £100 per night for four with a two-night minimum stay (01273 890035; blackberrywood.com)
Where do you go for an easy Mediterranean holiday with a baby? Family-travel specialist Liddy Pleasants, founder of Stubborn Mule, says Crete is perfect even with very young children.
“For a one-year-old, I’d recommend Greece – particularly Crete. Amazing, varied accommodation, lovely local people who are hugely accommodating of children, lots of activities parents can do with a baby strapped to the back, such as village strolls, beach visits, shorter boat trips, gorgeous walks, horse-and-carriage rides around Chania, farm stays and so on.”
Book it: Stubborn Mule offers a 10-day Crete Adventure from £3,500 for two parents and a baby in summer, including flights, hotel B&B, car hire, transfers and activities (01728 752751; stubbornmuletravel.com)
Hole up at Toad Hall
Few hotels manage to nail it when it comes to pleasing both young children and discerning adults. Fowey Hall, which relaunches this spring after a major renovation, is one of them. Sitting high above Fowey estuary, the Grade II-listed house (the inspiration for Toad Hall; Kenneth Grahame was a frequent visitor) retains its grandeur, with rooms gently updated in grown-up, contemporary-classic style.
But the real delight is that they have thought of everything when it comes to babies and toddlers (and older kids), so you don’t have to cart it all with you, from bottle warmers and beach toys to baby monitors that work anywhere in the hotel. There is an all-day menu, and the chefs who cook such accomplished food for adults will also purée everything for babies. Plus childcare in the Ofsted-registered Den, a children’s library, games room, adventure play area, indoor pool and – new for 2023 – an outdoor pool too.
Book it: Doubles from £149 per night B&B (020 8076 5555; foweyhallhotel.co.uk)
In the Bavarian Alps, Rosso is a folksy farm stay that’s all about slowing down and reconnecting with nature and one another. It works for families who don’t like “family hotels”: there’s no kids’ club, no pool, and few other people – instead you’ll find chickens and cows, rivers to canoe down, forests and mountains for hearty walks and bike rides. Self-catering accommodation is in three lofty wooden lodgings, one of which has children’s bunks carved out of the timber wall by a local carpenter.
Book it: From £266 per night in summer (dasrosso.com)
Festival vibes in Shakespeare country
Between the Cotswolds and Stratford-upon-Avon is a quiet pocket of bucolic bliss. No celebrities, no tourists, no traffic – nothing at all, really, other than the green and pretty countryside that surrounds Talton Lodge Kitchen Garden, a walled Victorian garden on a Warwickshire estate containing various groovy digs: yurts, teepee, wagon and stilted “boathouse” hand-built by owner Barney, plus an outdoor bar and marquee for lounging and dancing. It’s like having your own boutique festival site. Chickens, pigs and children run free; there are rope swings in the woods, a bio pool and tennis court.
Book it: From £3,500 per week for 14 (07962 273417; taltonlodge.com)
Far out in Wales
The Llyn Peninsula AONB is one of the most remote, little-visited and beautiful parts of Wales, with a coastline that is wild and unspoilt, its beaches great stretches of sand with few people on them even in summer. On its north coast you will find Bert’s Kitchen Garden, a boutique site for campers and glampers with old-fashioned appeal – a rope swing over a stream, meadows to run wild in, and a stretch of private beach.
As well as pitches and huts there is the former piggery (sleeping two plus a baby) and a stylish new four-bed family hut. The heart of Bert’s is a driftwood-and-vintage-vibe restaurant that celebrates local ingredients. Plus yoga for all ages, kayaks and SUPs.
Book it: Family hut from £175 per night (01286 660823; bertskg.com)
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Primary schoolers (4-10)
Spain’s secret costas
The best beaches in mainland Spain aren’t on the Mediterranean, but up in the north-west corner. Those in the know are raving about Galicia’s wild, white-sand stretches, unspoiled and uninhabited islands, green forested hills and fabulous food and wine, yet it remains relatively undiscovered among British travellers, and a brilliant alternative for summer thanks to lower prices and no crowds.
Book it: Vintage Travel (01954 261431; vintagetravel.co.uk) has villas with pools in Galicia, from Eido Vello (sleeping four, from £780 per week in summer) to eight-bedroom Casa Do Conde (sleeping 16, from £1,586 per week). Bigger still is charming 19th-century farmhouse Portada do Cuco (sleeping 20, from £420 per night; airbnb.co.uk)
Latest to join Greece’s burgeoning collection of brilliant family-friendly resorts is the Ikos Odisia, which opens this May on a green peninsula in Corfu. There’s a spa, five restaurants helmed by Michelin star-winning chefs, kids’ clubs, heaps of activities and watersports, a beach, and 10 pools spread around the 60-acre estate – enough to escape your family for an hour or two with a book, or for your kids to go off and make some new friends.
Book it: Inspiring Travel offers a week in a junior suite with private garden and pool view for £10,725 in summer for a family of four, on an Ultra All Inclusive rate, including flights from Gatwick and transfers (01244 729741; inspiringtravel.co.uk)
Tucked into a pocket of Norfolk between the Broads and the sea is a gorgeous back-to-nature hideaway called Fritton Lake. Let’s not call it a holiday village – but rather a gathering of Scandi-chic lodges, cottages and a manor house with more bedrooms and a restaurant. The interiors are beautiful, but this is at heart a family-run, family-friendly place that is not above putting burgers on the kids’ menu.
It’s all about the great outdoors: wild swimming, SUPing, a floating sauna on the lake, adventure playgrounds and ziplines, archery, den building, cricket, tennis, outdoor fitness classes, and nature walks around the woodlands, which the owners are rewilding.
Book it: Family suites sleeping four from £180 per night in summer (01493 484008; frittonlake.co.uk)
Is there a more idyllic Mediterranean island for family holidays than Mallorca? The north-west coast is stunning, and families of all ages love it. There is plenty to keep everyome happy: pretty Deia, with its artsy vibe, the mountain town of Sóller for food lovers, hiking and biking in the hillsides, and hidden coves to discover.
Book it: Sawday’s suggests several fabulos stone houses with pools to rent in the area, from five-bedroom Ca’n Winando with its ocean-view pool terrace (sleeping 10, from £575 per night) to newly acquired Ca’n Dofi, a stroll from Deia and the sea, sleeping six, from £309 per night (sawdays.co.uk).
Indian Ocean castaways
The spice islands of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, have always held a certain mystical allure, and their white-sand shores and limpid warm waters are out of this world. In the past decade it has also become a destination of luxury resorts and chic eco-camps, making it an easy yet still exotic place to live out castaway fantasies as a family – and as its dry season runs from July to September, it’s ideal for a tropical summer holiday.
Book it: The five-star Residence Zanzibar has 66 pool villas and activities, including dolphin-spotting on a dhow (from £330 per night in summer; cenizaro.com). Emerald Zanzibar Resort & Spa is a new five-star all-inclusive with a kids’ club set between forest and pristine beach. Tropical Sky offers a week’s holiday with flights from £1,539pp, all-inclusive (tropicalsky.co.uk)
Canada’s epic landscapes will blow their tiny minds – and yours – and summer is the best time to go. Discover the World’s new self-drive family adventure in Alberta packs a punch with glacier hiking, rafting and cable-car rides in the Rockies, dinosaur fossil-hunting and horse riding in the Badlands.
Book it: Nine-night Canadian Family Adventure: Glaciers and Dinosaurs, from £1,464pp for adults, free for two children under 10, excluding flights (01737 214250; discover-the-world.com)
After the pandemic forced us to travel within our own shores, many have come to appreciate anew Britain’s wide-open spaces. Wilderness Scotland has designed a self-drive break that takes families to the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides – a mix of experiences with guides, who can reveal secret beauty spots, great walks, and enable encounters with wildlife such as red deer and golden eagles, as well as time to yourselves to go walking, cycling and playing on the island’s stunning beaches.
Book it: From £685pp, including a week’s self-catered accommodation and some guiding (01479 420020; wildernessscotland.com)
Top of the tree
Treehouses are brilliant, aren’t they? Not only can you sleep in them, but they also provide instant fun for kids without you having to do anything – plus simply looking at trees can boost endorphins, apparently.
New ones are cropping up all over the country: in Gloucestershire, country house Elmore Court opens six cedar treehouses beside the River Severn this spring, complete with outdoor kitchens and indoor bathrooms, and decks overlooking rewilded wetlands. And in Stirlingshire, not far from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, a clutch of two-bedroom treehouses at Leckie open in February, with outdoor copper bathtubs and stirring mountain walks straight from the door.
Châteaux dans les Arbres
The treehouse craze is sweeping the continent, too. Go-to glamping specialist Canopy & Stars has dozens of arboreal digs in France, including the chic Cabanes de Salagnac in 100 acres of woodlands in Corrèze (from £168 per night for four), and in the Dordogne, the fantastical castle-in-the-trees Hautefort Treehouse (from £291 for six).
Book it: Book through Canopy & Stars (0117 204 7830; canopyandstars.co.uk)
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Relax in the laid-back, bohemian Algarve
While the resorts of the central Algarve are packed to the brim during school holidays, the easterly fishing town of Olhao remains a quieter, laid-back and more authentic hangout. It has a bohemian air (artists have always been drawn by the light), with restaurants and bars housed in its little 17th-century whitewashed buildings and tables set out on cobbled streets. It is buzzy with Portuguese families (but pleasingly few Britons) and more than enough to keep tweens entertained. A short ferry ride offshore lie wild islands with fabulous beaches and nature reserves to explore. You can get to Olhao by train, two stops from the city of Faro.
Book it: Recently launched six-bedroom villa Number 42 sleeps 12 and offers a rooftop terrace, pool and fabulous interiors just five minutes’ walk from the ferry port. From £640 per night via Welcome Beyond (welcomebeyond.com)
Scale volcanoes in the Azores
Flung a thousand miles offshore from Lisbon, Portugal’s Azores is a nine- island volcanic archipelago that has been dubbed the Hawaii of Europe – and with temperatures hitting around 26C, summer is a clement season to go. Walking through rainforests, scaling volcanoes, dipping in thermal springs, canyoning and coasteering, surfing and diving, sailing and whale watching… the dramatic landscape is an all-action playground that will appeal to youngsters.
Book it: Regent offers an eight-day Family Adventures in the Azores trip with the chance to take part in all these activities and more; from £1,495 per adult, £1,650 per child in school holidays (01174 536980; regent-holidays.co.uk)
Dip into island life in Croatia
Kalamota Beach House is a family-run boutique aparthotel at the water’s edge of the snoozy Elaphiti island of Kolocep. With 10 apartments (each with one, two or three bedrooms), it was designed for guests who wanted self-catering digs for a slice of simple island life.
It has become more than that, however, now featuring an à la carte restaurant helmed by a local chef, a rooftop pool and a beach deck. There are also kayaks to take out and treks in the island’s wooded interior to join. Kolocep is an easy ferry ride from Dubrovnik; easier still, the hotel can pick you up in its private speedboat.
Book it: Sunvil offers a week’s holiday at Kalamota Beach House from £1,140pp B&B, including flights and transfers (020 8758 4758; sunvil.co.uk)
Go Greek island-hopping (for less)
Any Greek will tell you that hopping around the country’s isles is perfectly possible by public ferry – as long as you can decipher the (infamously convoluted) timetables. Olympic Holidays’ new Circle of Athens itinerary removes these complexities. Starting in Athens, you will travel to three of the lesser known Cycladic islands: Syros has beaches and buzzy tavernas, while Tinos and car-free Andros are tranquil and renowned for their food.
Book it: The 11-night Circle of Athens holiday costs from £1,299pp in summer and includes flights from various UK airports, all ferries, private car transfers and accommodation (020 8492 6868; olympicholidays.com)
Mess about in Finland’s Lake District
A log cabin at the water’s edge, sailing little boats on the lakes, e-biking through pine forests, and long, light evenings in a hot tub or beside the campfire… summers in the Finnish Lake District are both wholesome and energising. Regent’s summer Finnish Lakelands holiday also includes a visit to a farm to meet huskies.
Book it: Eight-day Finnish Lakeland Family Summer Break from £1,845 per adult, £1,570 per child, including flights, car hire, cabin B&B and some trips (01174 537223; regent-holidays.co.uk)
Take an affordable safari
Safaris can result in incredible bonding experiences for families, creating memories you will never forget – as well as bringing much-needed funding to local people and conservation efforts to help threatened species.
They don’t have to be prohibitively high-end, either: Responsible Travel has put together an affordable version that gives visitors the opportunity to stay in safari tents in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve.
June and July are a great time to see incredible wildlife – think lions, cheetahs, elephants, and leopards – and walk, explore and learn about conservation and culture with indigenous Maasai guides.
Book it: Six-day Family Safari in Kenya with the Maasai from £2,380 per adult, £1,440 per child, full board, including transfers and activities, excluding international flights (01273 823700; responsibletravel.com)
Move into the ultimate Mallorca party pad
Spirit of Son Fuster is a 14th-century manor house near Soller, which has just been restored and reborn as a 10-bedroom all-bells-and-whistles Balearic bolthole. A stay at this private villa is like taking over a boutique hotel; it is fully serviced and staffed 24/7 (the owner is Mats Wahlstrom, the Swedish hotelier behind hospitality group Puro), with a chef preparing three meals a day using ingredients from the 40-hectare estate’s organic gardens and orchards.
There is a bar, outdoor gym and spa area; padel, badminton and volleyball courts; a cinema; Bose/Sonance soundsystem indoors and out; a saltwater pool with Berber-style tents for poolside lounging, overlooking the Tramuntana mountains… an unparalleled multi-family get-together.
Book it: From £7,916 per night, sleeping 20, via The Luxury Travel Book (020 7586 5342; theluxurytravelbook.com)
Meet a Ferme favourite
Due south of Cornwall, Brittany has all the beauty of the English South West, but with slightly better weather. Feather Down Farms, a glamping pioneer that launched in Hampshire 20 years ago before expanding across the UK, has now branched out to France, pitching up its safari lodges in Brittany’s pretty Finistère region.
La Ferme de Penquelen is an organic dairy farm, with pigs, sheep, goats, chickens and rabbits – and the widescreen sandy beaches of Brittany are just half an hour’s drive away.
Book it: Feather Down Farms offers lodges at Penquelen, sleeping up to six, from £410 for three nights in summer (01420 80804; featherdown.co.uk)
Hit Japan with the clan
Japan is a once-in-a-lifetime destination – a wonder-filled land that surprises and delights all ages. If it seems a bit daunting, especially for parents travelling solo, consider joining a small-group tour with insider guides to take you to the best places, and like-minded travellers for company.
National Geographic and G Adventures have collaborated to create an 11-day adventure intended to inspire children aged over seven, who can try their hands at everything from sumo wrestling to samurai swordplay, drumming, cooking, and dipping in thermal pools with snow monkeys. It also involves travelling around the country from Tokyo to Kyoto, by high-speed bullet train.
Book it: Japan Family Journey from £3,899pp in July, including 10 nights’ B&B, all transport and activities (020 7313 6953; gadventures.com)
Enjoy Fforest ffrolics in west Wales
Set up by a creative husband-and-wife team who left the London rat-race to live on a farm in west Wales with their growing family, the outdoor lifestyle and staycation group Fforest offers rural utopias across three sites in the Cardigan area (including a newly opened hotel in the town itself) for anyone who similarly wants to escape daily stress and embrace more nature. One, Fforest Farm, is a collection of artistically designed shacks, onsen domes and restored buildings that is brilliant for children year round.
But the hot ticket for families is its Gather festival: two six-night family friendly gatherings in July and August offering creative play, wilderness skills and character-building workshops – including cooking over fire, tree climbing, wood carving, drumming, den building, pottery, painting, yoga, and chocolate-making. Evenings, meanwhile, are all about pizza, barbecues, films, tastings, storytelling and live DJs.
Book it: Gather festival tickets plus six nights in a Kata Cabin cost from £1,530 for one adult and one child; under-fours go free (01239 623633; coldatnight.co.uk; fforestgather.co.uk)
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The perfect teen-pleasing villa in Corfu
What do most teenagers want from a summer holiday? Sunshine, a beach, other teenagers, and space away from you. So find a villa by the sea that is walking distance from a buzzy (but safe) hangout where they can have some independence. Travel experts at Red Savannah recommend Kassiopi in Corfu, a smart fishing village on the affluent north-east coast, with enough bars and tavernas to keep everyone happy, a nearby beach with a beach club and water sports, and a harbour where you can rent boats.
Book it: Red Savannah has several beautiful pool villas in and near Kassiopi, including five-bedroom Villa Ioulia, which has its own jetty and is walking distance to the harbour, from £5,024 per week, sleeping 10 (01242 787800; redsavannah.com)
Zip, jump and ride around Snowdonia
Want your teenagers to sleep well at night? Burn off some energy and give them achievements to take home in Snowdonia National Park. As well as conquering peaks on foot or bike, there is wild swimming, rafting down rivers, paddleboarding on the lakes, coasteering, and the natural adventure playground of the mountains – all in spectacular scenery. More thrills are to be found at the Zip World sites, such as high-up wobbly treetop walkways, ziplines, a forest roller coaster, and an underground trampoline park in a mine.
For large groups, Sawday’s has introduced Bryn Adda, a big, beautifully refurbished country house in Snowdonia, offering a dash of luxury in the wilds. Alternatively, the Rocks at Plas Curig, in the heart of the national park, will challenge your preconceptions of a youth hostel, with tasteful, convivial communal spaces and private rooms sleeping two to six (or there is a four-bed cottage nearby). Owners Christian and Annie are happy to help arrange activities too.
Adventures can be found closer to home, too. Intrepid Travel’s week-long Summer Pyrenees Family Holiday with Teenagers chases adrenalin highs in the mountains of Andorra: horse riding, white water rafting, walking and cycling. The small group is divvied up by fitness level, and it is great for both solo parents and solo children so that everyone can meet like-minded travellers and bond over the course of the trip.
Book it: From £668 per adult, £585 per child in July and August, including seven nights’ half-board in simple chalet-hotels, transfers and activities (0808 275 5111; intrepidtravel.com)
The Great American Road Trip
Hitting the open road in an RV represents total liberty – and a road trip can be the most amazing bonding experience for families. The United States is a big place, so choose a route and take time to enjoy each location along the way. Classics are the cross-country Route 66 and California’s Pacific Coast Highway, but for something different, the east coast is packed with a variety of family-friendly highlights, from city to beach via forests and mountains.
Red Savannah’s 13-day North Eastern USA Family RV Road Trip takes you from NYC to the beaches of Maine via the national parks of New England, with some brilliant private experiences, such as white water rafting on the Hudson River, stargazing with an astronomer, fishing and tubing in the Adirondacks.
Book it: From £4,300pp, including RV, transfers, all camp-ground fees, hotels and activities but excluding flights (01242 787800; redsavannah.com)
Catalonia on two wheels
You might dismiss the idea of a cycling holiday as too much like hard work, but those who have done it – ideally with older children – often rave about it being the best family holiday ever. Perhaps it is the combination of a shared focus, travelling together through beautiful scenery, being forced to slow down and notice the detail, while simultaneously having your own head space, then coming together in the evening with a shared sense of achievement.
Inntravel’s week-long, flight-free Catalonia Coast & Villages is an easy-level self-guided cycling holiday that hits up crowd-pleasing beaches, sunflower fields, vineyards and the Dalí Museum at Pubol. It is classed as “easy” level (especially as they transfer your luggage from stop to stop), and you can switch to an electric bike (for a supplement) if you prefer.
Book it: From £1,985pp in summer, including rail travel from London, taxi transfers, six nights’ half-board, luggage transfers, route maps, and bikes (01653 617000; inntravel.co.uk)
Surf’s up in Tarifa…
At Spain’s southernmost tip, the Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light) is Andalucia’s wildest stretch. Beaches of fine pale sand are backed with dunes and lashed by Atlantic waves and wind. This is not the spot for a gentle beach holiday with young children – but it is brilliant for keen surfing families (plus windsurfing and kitesurfing). Its hub, the boho town of Tarifa, with cute shops, bars and restaurants in its whitewashed backstreets, has a boho hippie-surfer appeal. It is on the edge of the El Estrecho Natural Reserve for horse riding and rock climbing, too.
Suerte Tierra is a sustainable, off-grid set-up in a lush enclave outside Tarifa, with yurts sleeping up to four, shared kitchen, gardens and plunge pond. At the other extreme, the Marbella Club opens Villa Punta Paloma this year, a low-lying stone beauty with five bedrooms, ocean views and infinity pool.
… and in Cornwall
You never grow out of Watergate Bay – it is a family classic for kids of all ages, and teenagers still love it. The hotel sits in a plum position on the brilliant surfing beach it is named after, and while surfing is the main draw (with lessons on hand), there is plenty for teenagers who don’t want to ride the waves – not least the beach itself, one of the most beautiful in Britain. There is a glass-walled indoor pool with ocean views, a spa, clifftop hot tub and sauna, yoga and HIIT classes, plus three restaurants, and suites sleep up to six. In summer, the clifftop Skybar hosts “après-sea” club nights and look out for the Boardmasters Music Festival.
Book it: Family suites from £405 per night in summer (01637 860543; watergatebay.co.uk)
Go slow in Abruzzo
Lying east of Rome, the mountainous interior of Abruzzo is one little explored – particularly on two wheels. The Slow Cyclist has devised a new cycling trip around the region, providing electric bikes to make the trip inclusive for all abilities, and put the focus on views, food and scenery rather than the pain of steep inclines.
Routes take travellers through valleys and plateaus, wildflower meadows and forests that are home to bears and wolves, calling in at castles and local food producers, sleeping in restored medieval stone houses, and enjoying the best food and drink the region has to offer. There is a five-night small-group journey you can join, or families who want to travel at their own speed can tailor a private trip.
Book it: Five-night Abruzzo journey from £2,995pp, including guides, accommodation, food and drink, activities, e-bikes, and transfers; excluding flights (020 7060 4487; theslowcyclist.co.uk)
All at sea in turkey
Near the fishing town of Foca, Mark Warner’s Phokaia Beach Resort makes a very affordable base for exploring Turkey’s stunning Aegean coast. As well as the beach, it has various pools (indoor and out), tennis courts, bikes to borrow for cycling tours, restaurants and a Turkish spa, but the real attraction with Mark Warner holidays are the kids’ clubs for all ages and watersports, which are all included (as is childcare) – even tuition. Coaches are on hand to teach children to sail, windsurf, waterski and wakeboard, and a Padi team can take them diving, too – all in the serene waters along this beautiful stretch of coast.
Book it: Summer holidays from £3,097 for two adults and one child, full-board, including flights, transfers and all activities (03333 057384; markwarner.co.uk)
Pining for Portugal
Pine Cliffs Hotel & Resort is a greatest-hits-for-all-ages luxury family hotel in the Algarve. Teenagers into tennis? There is an academy, plus golf, spa, football academy, 12 bars and restaurants, and six pools – though the sandy beach, right at the foot of the cliff itself, is absolutely lovely. Plus Albufeira is nearby, if your teenagers are keen on loud, inappropriate nightlife.
Book it: Tui offers a week’s holiday at Pine Cliffs from £763pp in summer, self-catering in a two-bedroom apartment, including flights and transfers (020 3451 2688; tui.co.uk)
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Tuk-Tuk racing in Sri Lanka and Italy
What a brilliantly exhilarating way to discover a destination: competing in a tuk-tuk race. Adventure company Large Minority started these epic trips in Sri Lanka and this year is launching the Piaggio Ape adventure in Italy, from Milan to Lake Como. They provide everything you need – a tuk-tuk, map and a list of challenges to complete en route – and tell you where you need to be by sundown.
Book it: Italy Tuk-Tuk Adventure from £545 for two nights; Sri Lanka Tuk-Tuk Adventure from £1,550 for nine nights, both in July, including half-board in hotels and insurance, excluding flights (07739 826279; largeminority.travel)
Learn to sail on a Blue Cruise
The classic Blue Cruise along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast is always a dreamy way to spend summer. And this one, launching in May, has a twist: the handsome wooden gulet Salamander comes equipped with RS Zest sailing dinghies, and Captain Zeki can teach voyagers of all ages to sail during their cruise around the Bodrum peninsula.
Book it: Seven nights’ private charter from £1,412pp based on 10 guests, full-board, including drinks, crew, sailing lessons, water toys and transfers (07887 874886; salamandervoyages.com)
Serenissima for smalls
“Venice is often overlooked as a child-friendly destination, but there is so much on offer if you know where to look,” says Italy expert Merrion Charles. She recommends renting an apartment somewhere central – her top choice being Borsato in Ca’nova palazzo, at the mouth of the Grand Canal – and has insider tips for brilliant family activities: “The Marco Polo boat tour, following in the adventurer’s wake around Murano and Burano; foodie and artisan experiences such as mask making; and one of my favourites, the Venice Treasure Hunt, led by a children’s animator.”
Book it: Four nights at Borsato at Ca’nova, sleeps four, from £3,992 in summer (00 39 05859 20098; merrioncharles.com)
Greece leads the way when it comes to all-singing, all-sporting family hotels. The five-hotel Sani Resort in Halkidiki has, among many other activities, the Chelsea FC Football Academy and Nadal Tennis Center. Similarly, Costa Navarino in the Peloponnese has the Mouratoglou Tennis Center (coaching for over-nines) and the FC Bayern Football Camp throughout July and August for ages six-14. Over on Zakynthos, the Peligoni Club puts on camps during school holidays, along with watersports including sailing – or charter the Odyssey yacht for a half or full day.
Book it: Sani Beach from £301 per night half-board in summer (sani-resort.com); Costa Navarino family suites from £760 in July (costanavarino.com); Peligoni Club villas sleeping four from £3,090 per week (peligoni.com)
White nights in the Arctic Circle
Summers are otherworldly in the far north. Norway’s remote Lofoten Islands, within the Arctic Circle, make for an extraordinary summer holiday, particularly for kids who don’t like the intense heat of the Mediterranean. The landscapes are starkly spectacular and the sun never sets, meaning that in June and July you can kayak through fjords, go sailing and sea fishing – and barbecue your catch at midnight in daylight.
Book it: Black Tomato offers a superlative trip that features rowing a Viking longship, orca-spotting and staying in edge-of-the-world cabins. From £9,990pp for 10 nights, including breakfast, private transfers and a curated itinerary; excluding flights (020 7426 9888; blacktomato.com)
Chasing dragons in Indonesia
European summer is the best time of year to head to Bali and Komodo, when it is (relatively) dry and cooler. SeaTrek has launched a new sailing adventure in Indonesia’s Ring of Fire, exclusively for families, aboard a phinisi (a traditional wooden sailing boat so beautifully crafted it is Unesco protected). It is led by British conservationist couple Ray and Angela Hale, who will share their knowledge and help voyagers get close to komodo dragons, unearth bugs in the jungle, and swim with whale sharks, manta rays and turtles, as they sail around dozens of islands, dropping anchor at glorious beaches along the way.
Book it: Eight-day family cruise from £3,860pp full-board, including transfers, hotels in Bali and domestic flights; excluding international flights. Departures July 26 and August 8 (00 62 36147 43902; seatrekbali.com)
Creative play in Tuscany
An art collector is behind Tuscan agriturismo Villa Lena, so stays celebrate both creativity and sustainability. What looks like a considered, grown-up retreat (contemporary art, elegant interiors, fine food and wine) is also hugely welcoming to families, and has loads to offer children, from art, cookery and creative workshops to innovative Oppidan Camps (education through play), along with a family pool, games room and playground.
Book it: Family suites, sleeping four, from £395 per night half-board in summer (villa-lena.it)
Canada’s wild west
For outdoor adventures on a grand scale, it is hard to beat Canada’s west coast. The landscapes, wildlife and activities are blow-you-away awesome, from zip-wiring and biking around Whistler’s mountainscapes, to bear tracking on Vancouver Island and sea kayaking around the dramatic coast of Desolation Sound, where whales breach in the waters. The Ultimate Travel Company’s 17-day Family Adventure in Western Canada packs in all of this plus loads more, including staying on a cowboy ranch.
Book it: From £5,800pp B&B including flights, transport, car hire and activities (020 4525 2788; theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk)
Mad for culture
A cutting-edge new cultural venue opens in Manchester in June, adding to its appeal for a vibrant city break. Designed by Rem Koolhaas, the vast Factory International launches with a large-scale immersive performance based on the Matrix films and directed by Manc-born Danny Boyle; while from June 30 until August 28, Yayoi Kusama’s inflatable artworks are brought together for the first time in Me, You and the Balloons, her biggest ever exhibition. Factor in the music and football that are the lifeblood of the city, and it’s a winning staycation for all ages.
Book it: Whitworth Locke, set in a 19th-century cotton factory off Canal Street, has two-bedroom suites, sleeping four, from £269 per night (lockeliving.com)
Space-age shindigs in Somerset
In the parkland of a Jacobean stately home in Somerset is woodland hideaway Marston Park. The action is set around the shores of the lake – marquees hung with disco balls for dancing, drinking and eating, the spa with a wood-fired hot tub and wild pool for cold dips – and, opening in May, a new restaurant. Then there is yoga, meditation, crafts and forest workshops; plus easels and paints in every tented suite. Besides the bell tents, the star stay is the recently restored 1960s Futuro House – a futuristic, UFO-like pod.
Book it: Futuro House from £300 per night, sleeping five; bell tents, sleeping three to four, from £100 (01373 489000; marstonpark.co.uk)
A chic new villa hotel arrives on Kefalonia’s south-west coast this May. Eliámos has 12 villas, each with one, two or three bedrooms and its own pool, garden and outdoor dining terrace, designed in harmony with the surroundings using natural tones and local stone. There’s a restaurant serving Mediterranean food made from local produce, which also holds cookery classes and food workshops; plus a spa, outdoor gym and activities such as cycling, canoeing, paddle boarding and yoga. The beach is a stroll down the lane, and Kefalonia’s buzzy capital, Argostoli, a 20-minute drive away.
Book it: Villas from £450 in summer (eliamos.com)
France with a grand entourage
Food, climate and scenery aside, the appeal of hopping in your own car, with all the baggage that children require, can’t be underestimated – plus the French do a strong line in massive manoirs and chateaux that can accommodate big gatherings. Launching this year, Maison Madonna is a showstopper, a newly restored house near medieval Castelnou in the Pyrenees, which sleeps up to 25. Wide-open living spaces are designed for socialising, with hang-outs for grown-ups as well as kids (table tennis, film projector, children’s loft), while outside, a swimming pool and terraces are surrounded by 200 acres of pine forest.
Book it: From £10,477 per week for 25 with Scott Williams (01749 812721; scottwilliams.co.uk)
Maldives for families
It’s not just a honeymoon destination – the Maldives is a dream trip for children, too, if you pick the right resort. One&Only Reethi Rah occupies one of the largest islands, and with pool villas sequestered among tropical greenery and linked by sandy tracks you can cycle around (all villas come with bikes), it has a village feel.
The kids’ club is brilliant, there is an art studio, a pirate-themed “train” that trundles around, a zillion watersports, a turtle rehabilitation centre (marine biologists can take you diving), and discos. For grown-ups there are amazing restaurants, a world-class spa – oh, and the beaches are out of this world. If you have pre-schoolers, it’s your last chance to go outside school holidays and save on flights.
Book it: Turquoise Holidays offers a week at One&Only Reethi Rah from £12,999 for a family of three in June, half-board in a Beach Villa, including flights and luxury yacht transfers (01494 678400; turquoiseholidays.co.uk)
Costa Rica three ways
Costa Rica still reigns as Lat-Am family favourite, with its superlative eco- lodges, amazing wildlife experiences, rainforest, volcanoes, two contrasting coastlines and laid-back way of life. Latin American specialist Pura Adventure has devised a new easygoing trip for families, staying in three fab places: an eco-cabin on a Caribbean beach, with reggae music in the air and coral reefs in the turquoise shallows; a “House in the Sky” in the rainforest, halfway up a volcano (for ziplining, canyoning, rafting and, er, chocolate); and a bamboo beach house in the wildlife-rich Osa Peninsula.
Book it: From £3,580pp, including 17 nights’ accommodation, some meals, a private chef for 10 days, private transfers, internal flight, 4x4 rental and activities (01273 676712; pura-aventura.com)
My old man said borrow the van
Fantasise about #vanlife but don’t have a vehicle? Borrow one: Camplify is a sort of Airbnb for camper vans, whereby owners rent them out. Hottest addition for 2023 is the Ultimate Adventure Van, which comes with binoculars, telescope, kite, frisbees, rope swings, firepit and telescopic marshmallow prongs. Pick it up in Wiltshire, and the world (or at least, part of England) is your oyster.
Book it: From £115 per day sleeping five at a squeeze (camplify.co.uk)
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Five alternative family theme parks
Theme parks exert an enduring allure over children of all ages, allowing them ultimate escapism and free rein of imagination, adventure and excitement. But there’s sometimes only so much Mickey Mouse you can take.
Ghibli Park, Japan
The Studio Ghibli theme park, which opened in November 2022, is located about three hours’ train ride from Tokyo. Be transported into a world created by the makers of Oscar-winning Spirited Away; the five areas of the park (which should all be open by March 2024) are based on the studio’s best-loved films, while being sensitive to the surrounding area. Don’t expect hair-raising rides: the whole concept is designed to immerse you in the Ghibli universe. Book at ghibli-park.jp
Mattel Adventure Park, United States
This Arizona park, due to open later this year, will be based on the characters the toy behemoth has made popular since it was founded in 1945, from Barbie to Thomas the Tank Engine. Unusually, the real thrills will be found in the indoor section – complete with a Barbie Dream House and Thomas & Friends train. Book at matteladventurepark.com
Dollywood, United States
Surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains, this amusement park – a venture in which the inimitable Dolly Parton is, unsurprisingly, involved (her official title is Dreamer-in-Chief) – has been named one of the best in the world. Visitors rave about the variety and quality of food on offer, and it’s home to more than 50 attractions. Daily entertainment is a feature, as is a replica of Dolly’s childhood Tennessee home. Book at dollywood.com
Around 2 million people a year visit Futoroscope, a few miles north of Poitiers. All of its attractions and rides are based on multimedia, science and technology – so every experience is as educational as it is exciting. Book at futuroscope.com
Blackgang Chine, Isle of Wight
As the oldest amusement park in the UK – it opened in 1843 – Blackgang Chine offers visitors an enjoyable mix of nostalgia and modernity. As well as casting spells in your own fairy castle, and playing at being a sheriff or cowboy, there are new rides to enjoy, including the Evolution Ride, a 400ft-high drop tower above the dinosaur enclosure. Themed family-friendly events, such as for Easter and Hallowe’en, take place throughout the year. Book at blackgangchine.com
By Sarah Rodrigues