Choosing a holiday destination that will cater to different generations can be a tricky feat. Whether your children are fresh out of nappies or in the peaks of puberty, these best family holiday destinations are tailored to match everybody’s desires.
Need some encouragement? Check out our 25 essential tips for travelling with kids
Families with infants and small children
Taking a holiday can be child’s play if you’ve got the right destination to keep the younger ones busy. The more fun they’re having, the more you may let your inner-child run free.
Imagine dashing over endless white hills, past pine branches heavy with snow, only a few kilometres shy of the Arctic Circle. Perhaps aboard a snowmobile or a husky-drawn sledge – that’s what your family should expect in Rovaniemi.
With record lows of -35°C, this capital city of Finnish Lapland embraces winter, with cosy fur-filled restaurants like Nili serving dishes as rugged as the northern landscape. Sautéed reindeer and fresh lingonberries or a bear stew will warm you to the core before heading back out into the winter wonderland.
But what about the jolly bearded man dressed all in red that the kids (and childish grown-ups) love? This is considered his homeland after all. At the Santa Claus Village, you may find him sorting mail at the Santa Claus Main Post Office (officially operated by Finland’s national postal service and receiving over half a million letters a year) or tending to his reindeer in the stables. Kids can learn all the tricks of Santa’s helpers, from gingerbread baking to toy making, at the Elf workshop. Even the biggest of kids would admit that Santa Claus truly exists.
And the best part is, that Santa welcomes visitors in his village all year round – Lapland is a great destination also on summer time, when you can experience the nightless nights, amazing silence, the rugged beauty and incredibly pure nature of this northern part of Finland.
Pack a bottle, nappies, and baby’s four wheel drive: the family is going on holiday. While the French-speaking and Dutch-speaking clans in Belgium are busy disputing Brussels, head to the full-fledged Flemish city of Ghent. You’ll be enchanted by its car-free city centre, the largest in Belgium, ideal for visiting either on foot or by bike.
Although not stroller friendly, the Gravensteen Castle is a must-see. Just park the stroller at the entrance, and let the friendly knight direct you towards the castle stairs. The challenge is well worth the satisfaction on the kids’ faces as they sit on the king’s throne. To see the rest of the city without fussing over stroller traffic, sit your bootie on a bootje (boat) and admire the architecture while floating along the canal.
Families with teenagers
The kids are all grown up, that’s why this last trip before they go off to college will be the trip to always remember.
Florida Keys, FL, US
An hour from Miami, Key Largo, the diving capital of the world, greets you with open arms much like its underwater Christ statue.
Along the way, take breaks on golden sandy beaches for a quick swim, or to taste local specialties like crocodile (tastes like chicken). For bigger thrills, go for a dip with dolphins or ride a glass-bottomed boat to get up close and personal with sea creatures. Locals will likely start a friendly chat with you and offer their opinion on where to find the best Key Lime Pie in Key West. Before leaving the Keys, link hands together and hug the anchored buoy situated at what is (approximately) the southernmost point in the United States.
Snowdonia National Park, Wales
Climbing Mount Snowdon is a task would-be hikers can manage, but it still requires endurance and patience.
Taking the gradual Llanberis Path means five or so hours of family solidarity which are rewarded by breathtaking views of the Lyn Padarn lake, a meet-and-greet with grazing sheep, and the compass structure at the summit. If you’re lucky to hike on a rare sunny Welsh day, you could catch a glimpse of Ireland and even the Isle of Man.
Need a second adrenaline rush? The old mine slates of Blaenau Ffestiniog seem to have been converted just for you into a giant underground trampoline. Everyone will be coming home with souvenirs saying “I survived Wales and all I got was this stupid t-shirt”.
An island off the coast of Turkey, warm Mediterranean winds, clean beaches, and historic ruin sites sprinkled far and wide – the menu of activities in Cyprus is nothing close to boring. Cyprus is not only known as the birthplace of Aphrodite but is also very proud of its cheese, Halloumi, and dessert wine, Commandaria.
Taverns serving this local cheese and what is said to be the world’s oldest named wine abound in Old Town Paphos.
Squeeze in a history lesson while getting an eyeful of the landscape all around Paphos, recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Perhaps start at the Paphos Archaeological Park admiring ruins of Roman villas or head just outside of town to the Tomb of the Kings. The 4th-century ruins of what was once a large necropolis are full of tombs cut into the rock, often featuring frescoes and architecture similar to aristocratic Cypriot homes.
Although recommended as a great solo traveller’s destination, a city that is sure not to disappoint family members of any age is Toronto, Canada. Impossible to miss, and certainly on the top of your list, go to the CN Tower and take in the view from the LookOut level at 346 meters.
From there, you might have spotted your next visit: the Royal Ontario Museum and its very architectural Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.
After feeding your mind in the Natural History and the World Culture galleries, it’s time to hit the streets and feed on good Ontarian soul food. Toronto is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, making it a gastronomical melting-pot.
And when your family has finished pigging out on Canadian specialty Poutine (gravy-covered cheese fries), one of the great things to do in Toronto with kids is laugh the calories away at an improvisation class hosted by the Bad Dog Theatre Company.
Large families or family reunions
Planning a large family reunion or travelling with more than a couple siblings? Staying in camping resorts with theme nights or satisfying all those mouths to feed with stalls upon stalls of local goodies are probably the way to go.
Large families, rejoice! Everything is bigger and better in Nuremberg, the second-largest city in Bavaria after Munich. Did you know that in most of Germany a typical serving of bratwurst comes with three sausages, while in Nuremberg, you get double that?
When you’ve explored the beer gardens and had your fair share of sauerkraut, haul the Brady Bunch over to the CineCittà Nuremberg, Europe’s largest IMAX cinema.
Getting around is made simple. Large groups can benefit from the TagesTicketPlus scheme – two adults and up to four children can travel on the same public transport pass.
Visit the old buildings that survived the devastation of war like the 13th-century city walls and it’s five gates, or the Fuell merchant street with typical timber-frame houses. Stage to the WWII war crimes tribunal known as the Nuremberg Trials, you can visit the still-functioning courthouse and the courtroom 600 where it all happened.
“Are we there yet?” isn’t your family’s go-to phrase as much as “what’s for lunch?” is. Tummies will be rumbling as you shimmy through the deliciously scented streets of Valencia, Spain. Those who come for the Tomatina fight in Bunol stay for the paella (saffron rice dish).
For a digestive activity, the city offers free walking tours which are a great way to keep everyone occupied and informed for free. Chomping down on snacks at the Mercado Central will leave you with a few extra bucks to splurge on a nice seafood meal by the beach.
And if your family’s definition of fun is setting things on fire, then plan to come to Las Fallas in March. Each neighbourhood builds giant papier-mache sculptures and burns them in a dramatic all-night street party. And if you need even more warming up, indulge in churros and hot chocolate for a handful of euros.
The north-western tip of France known as Brittany is a territory set apart from the rest of the country, rich in Celtic heritage from Britons who fled across the Channel from Great Britain in the Dark Ages. So if French isn’t your forte, here you can wrestle your tongue around local Breton language, often written on street signs and storefronts. Families fond of camping come to the region for huge campsites complete with waterparks and nightclubs. From Perros-Guirec to Ploumanac’h, the coast carries its nickname as the Pink Granite coast well, lined with pastel, lunar boulders. Hike the GR34 (long-distance footpath), passing the time along the seven kilometres seeing which member of the family can guess the shapes of each rock, sometimes taking the form of a hat, a rabbit, or even a witch. Let the Ploumanac’h lighthouse, a tower of red granite, guide you to the red-stained shores.
Families with a tighter budget
Every family deserves a break and it shouldn’t have to be a sacrifice. Find a destination where you’ll get the most for your buck, so you and your family can focus on the more important stuff: enjoying quality family holiday time.
Zakynthos, or Zante as the locals call it, is the Greek destination on everyone’s lips, popular for its resorts, sea turtles, and turquoise waters. Benefitting from a long warm season from May to October, tourism is booming. To get the best of the beaches without crowds and at the best price, go with your family at the beginning or the end of the season. The island is small enough to do a full lap in a day. From commercial Zakynthos town, take the scenic mountainous route leading to the quiet village of Limnionas. Here you’ll have the local taverna (restaurant) and beach view basically all to yourself. Stop along the way at Navagio – a highly photographed shipwreck that attracts boatfuls of tourist in high-season. Skip the tour and head for the viewing platform at the Agios Gergio Kremnao monastery to snap the perfect picture from above. Head west towards the island’s unspoilt coast until you reach the village of Keri. Here you can relax on the pebble beach or stroll the quaint streets. At sunset, take a seat by the lighthouse, settled on a natural terrace over the cliffs, for a colourful spectacle setting across the ocean and the two cliff formations, known as Mizitres, below.
What kind of holiday do you organise for teenagers with a low boredom threshold? Our remedy for teen-itis: a Gozo getaway. A quick flight to Malta, followed by a 25 minute ferry ride, and you’ve arrived on the gorgeous Gozo island.
On this small, rustic island all roads lead to Victoria, also known as Rabat, the fortified citadel that overlooks the city. Recently renovated, it hosts a multitude of small silver shops and other local treasures.
Keep the kids busy with horseback riding in the outskirts of Qala, shallow-diving over the Karwela shipwreck looming 39 metres beneath, or sinus-cleansing as you breathe the salted air by the saltpans in Marsalforn. And if all else fails, go climbing around the areas featured in series like Game of Thrones, or lounging on the beach where “Brangelina” filmed their movie By the Sea.
Sheltered by forestland, a gingerbread cut-out cabin looks out across Bear Lake, dotted with visitors floating in the heliothermic (gaining heat from the sun), salty waters. Supervised swimming areas, aquatic activities, and thermal spa facilities make for a winning family holiday recipe. World-famous spa treatments and mud baths are what attract most visitors, so don’t be shy and slather on as much of the natural Romanian goodness all over your body – you won’t be the only one!
More surprises lie below ground. 120-metres deep, discover the smooth and slick salt mine, Salina Praid, famed for its healing microclimate. Follow the marble walls and shining floors across endless underground corridors and galleries. Some lead to installations like a playground, a 3D cinema, an acrobatic adventure park, or an exhibit of 18th-century mining equipment, but the sight to behold is the mine’s chapel. Services are sometimes held in this chapel, echoing within the giant alcove decorated humbly with wooden benches and giant wooden crosses.
Families that are all grown up
You’re never too old to spend some time away catching up with your loved ones. But if you’ve grown out of theme parks and grown fonder of exploring humbling landscapes, these destinations have got enough of the great outdoors to make sure you all get a slice of the horizon.
St Mawes, UK
Watersports are on the top of the list of must-do activities in St Mawes. The small fishing village in Cornwall benefits from a warm microclimate making it an ideal destination for boating and yachting fanatics all year long. Love boats? Head to the boatyards housing larger-than-life yachts and sailboats.
The small fishing fleet brings in superb fish and shellfish throughout the year, catering to the hotels and restaurants along the harbour. You can explore the estuary by hiring a kayak or taking a water taxi.
If you’d rather keep your feet on solid ground, the area is great for its guided walks. Choose from walks like the one towards the 16th-century St Mawes Castle, or through The Bottoms, St Mawes’ wetland valley, or to St Austell Row, where you’ll stumble upon some of the region’s oldest cottages. Want to treat yourself? Book a table at the Michelin-starred restaurant, The Driftwood.
Your kids have their heads in the clouds, but you want them to stay grounded? That’s the paradox local Ecuadorians have mastered. Quito is the world’s most high-altitude capital city and the country possesses the largest and densest rainforest in the world, the Amazon.
Start your Ecuadorian ascension getting to know the soil and those who tend to it at Hacienda La Alegria, a family horse ranch specialised in eco-tourism in Aloag along the “avenue of volcanoes”. The mountainous area is characterised by some of the tallest peaks in the country.
Here, kids of all ages can get their hands dirty tending to the farm animals and the vegetable garden.
Meet the Chagras (Ecuadorian cowboys), artists of local equestrian technique since generations. They’ll guide you by horseback towards the green, dewy mountain of Corazon to the Bombolí Cloud Forest, a reserve sowed and cared for by Oswaldo and Mariana for over 30 years. Visit their orchid hospital to learn more about the conservation efforts involved in sustaining the local ecosystem, especially the wild orchids.
Kirindy Reserve, Madagascar
Plan a family safari trip through Kirindy Forest Reserve, a dry deciduous forest protected through sustainable logging. You’ll be walking through the habitat to seven species of lemurs, as well as the fossa (a cat-like mammal resembling the mongoose), and the teeny-tiny dwarf Brookesia chameleon. The park can be visited by foot accompanied by a guide, by day and by night to observe the world’s smallest known primate, the giant jumping rat. Proportionately impressive are the giant baobab trees, soaring up to 30-metres tall (the height of a 10-storey building). The best place to see these giants is the Avenue of the Baobabs in Morondava, 60-kilometres north-east. Local legends consider the baobab to be sacred – they’re said to be one of the first trees planted by the gods, who clumsily planted them upside down, so the tops resemble roots growing in the sky.
Families looking to splurge a bit
Treat yourself and your family – you deserve it!
The Saloum Delta, just north of the border between the Gambia and Senegal, is where the Saloum River’s veins throw themselves across the land towards the North Atlantic Ocean. The quantity of slow-flowing salt water is accompanied by a rich biodiversity that is unique to this part of the country, and protected by Unesco. Start the family’s Senegalese introduction in Djiffer, a fishing village situated on the extreme tip of Sangomar, at the entrance of the delta. Locals huddle around the colourful fishing boats coming in with today’s catch of shells and fish. A stroll through the streets gives way for discovering humble homes under the shade of small baobabs and coconut trees swaying to the rhythm of the pirogues. Lodge in Toubacouta, where you can choose from fine hotels like the Keur Saloum or Domaine Les Paletuviers. By the banks of the river, you’ll have no trouble finding excursions aboard pirogues to explore the many nearby mangroves. Float to the rhythm of the delta, to Île des Oiseaux an uninhabited island and seasonal nesting ground to endemic birds. The sun starts to set, and the birds put on their nightly show, filling the orange sky as they return to their nests.
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Cell phones off, school work put away, and briefcase burnt and buried; your family is ready (and in need) of some serious reconnecting. Get your spirit searching on as a family bonding activity in Ubud, Bali. Although tourists flock to Ubud for their own version of Eat, Pray, Love, you can easily tuck into a humble yoga centre or explore authentic Bali by strolling peacefully along the rice fields. Find your centre in the village temple and then wash your worries away at the Tegenungan Waterfall.
And when you are back from nirvana, let the kids have a bit of well-deserved monkey business at the Ubud Monkey Forest where they’ll be able to goof around with about 300 crab-eating macaques.