A city break offers a great selection of activities for the whole family. So many cities, so little time. But here are a couple of suggestions for very different budgets:
Paris is a truly scenic city with awe-inspiring architecture everywhere you turn. Aside from its wondrous restaurants and obvious tourist hotspots, like the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysées, the city is full of things to do with the kids. Head to the Jardin du Luxembourg, a 25 hectare garden with fountains, statues, puppet shows and children’s rides or the Musée de la Poupée, a private museum and doll hospital. Or for something a little different, head to the Egouts de Paris – the city’s sewers! Learn the history of Paris’ underground sewers over a 500m journey through, quite possibly, the smelliest museum in the world. For something a little more pleasing to the nostrils, head to Stohrer, the oldest pastry shop in Paris or wander down the Marché Bastille's food market. The Crowne Plaza Paris Republique has rooms for four people from $278 per night. Price: $$$$
For somewhere a little closer to home, consider Auckland. The city is only three hours away by air, perfect for those with younger children, or kids (and adults!) who hate to travel. And there really is something for everyone here.
Butterfly Creek allows you to get up close to many different species of butterfly and it is also home to Dinosaur Kingdom, an interactive themed attraction with more than 30 dinosaur models. Or if your kids prefer their animals more cuddly, take them to Sheepworld where they can feed calves, pigs, lambs, goats and more and watch the sheep dog shows. Auckland has many cycling trails, from scenic boardwalks to mountain bike tracks, and 26 regional parks to explore. Add some great restaurants, like Pirates Kitchen, the Rainbow’s End theme park and some great shopping, and you have the makings of a truly enjoyable family holiday. The Waldorf Tetra Apartments has serviced apartments that sleep four from $166 per night. Price: $$
Nature enthusiasts in the family will love a safari, and there are safari camps out there that make such a holiday a breeze for those travelling with children.
If your kids love camping and wildlife this could be the holiday they’ll compare all future holidays to. Leopard Safaris have made safari adventures easy for families. They have big family tents that sleep up to two adults and three children, offer discounted rates to younger children and, in between safari outings, offer kids’ activities back at base camp. Parents can relax while the kids enjoy amateur photography walks, animal identification checklists and wildlife footprint games. The animals you can expect to see include elephants, monkeys and, of course, leopards. Children must be three years or over to join this safari. The cost for two adults and two children per night in a family tent, inclusive of all meals and drinks, starts at $1,697. For more details see www.leopardsafaris.com. Price: $$$$$
For the family that likes to consider itself adventurous, there are plenty of options out there. Think trekking in Everest or Nepal, a tour of Patagonia, or a journey to a glacier. Head to www.worldexpeditions.com for some more inspiration or read on for a couple of suggestions – one from each end of the temperature scale!
Ditch the bonbons and Pavlovas this Christmas, rug up and head to Santa’s home country. With a 17-day Lapland Fantasy tour you will explore Sweden, Finland and Lapland and get to meet the big bearded man himself. Tour highlights include snowmobile rides, husky and reindeer safaris, a visit to an amethyst mine, snowshoe walking and, of course, a visit to Santa’s secret cottage. A magical holiday that you and the children will never forget, you’ll be as excited as the kids on Christmas morning! The tour costs $6,595 per person based on a twin share and includes all flights, accommodation, an overnight cruise from Sweden to Finland, nine dinners, including Christmas and New Year, plus lots more. See www.thetravelagent.net.au/guided-touring/lapland-tours for more details. Price: $$$$$
This American camping adventure holiday takes in the best of the West, travelling from Las Vegas to San Francisco. Enjoy a sunrise or sunset at the Grand Canyon, swim in Lake Powell, explore the trails of the Zion National Park, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and take in the wondrous neon sights of the Las Vegas strip. You will camp out for nine nights, while other accommodation includes an alien themed hotel in Nevada and a traditional mud Hogan in Monument Valley. Children must be eight years or over to join this tour. Tour prices start from $2,384, departing Las Vegas, and includes all accommodation, meals and transport in a private vehicle. See www.grandamericanadventures.com for more information. Price: $$$$
Like floating playgrounds, cruise ships have lots to entertain the whole family. And if you thought the chances of having a bit of alone time on a cruise were slim, think again. With kids’ activities to keep the little ones entertained and sundecks, pools and spa treatments galore, you should be able to find your own private slice of paradise.
With family entertainment such as surf simulators, rock climbing, ice skating and a fantastic choice of shows, you’ll be spoilt for choice on board a Royal Caribbean International cruise. Kids can also get up close and personal with their favourite Dreamworks characters from Madagascar, Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and more. Family friendly is a buzzword. The Adventure Ocean Youth Program keeps kids aged three to 11 entertained with age-appropriate activities. The staff will even pick the kids up after they’ve had dinner so parents can enjoy a night out on deck—explore the nightclubs and lounges, or enjoy a comedy show. An 11-night Brisbane to Singapore cruise, via Cairns and Darwin, costs from $872 per person. Visit www.royalcaribbean.com.au for details. Price: $$$
Whether you are an advanced skier or have never hit the slopes before, the kids are bound to enjoy messing around in the snow. Most ski resorts offer lessons for children, and who doesn’t love a nice hot chocolate in the resort village after the end of a great day’s skiing!
Thredbo has a range of runs for beginners to advanced and lessons to suit everyone. It is great for children who have never skied before—it has a beginner’s area for kids and an award-winning ski program that will teach them everything they need to know. There is also a free snow play area and a child care centre for children aged six months to six years so the adults and older children can spend more time on the trickier slopes. Kids also ski free in June and September and child’s prices apply to everyone under 18, leaving plenty of spending money for the fantastic range of shops, restaurants and bars. Lodge or hotel accommodation is available from $551 per family, per night, for seven nights including lift passes. See www.thredbo.com.au. Price: $$
Set in the scenic foothills of Mount Yotei, Niseko offers all the facilities of a first-class ski resort. With luxurious apartments and chalets and Michelin Star restaurants, the resort offers some of the most extensive and fun runs in Japan. And with lessons for children and adults at all levels, there is no excuse to get out in the powder. When the kids tire of lessons, take them on a snow mobile or strap on some snowshoes and explore Mount Yotei. And after a day on the slopes, immerse yourself in a glorious hot spring. Lodge accommodation costs around $2,900 for four people for seven nights. For more information see www.japanskiexperience.com. Price: $$$
Australia has some of the best campsites in the world and glorious weather to boot. If you are on a budget, camping is often the smart choice and the kids will probably think it beats any other type of holiday hands down!
Hervey Bay is only a couple of hours drive north from the coast or Brisbane. It is a great spot for whale watching and has easy access to Fraser Island, with its dingoes, turtles and sharks, so the wildlife lovers in the family will be happy. Hervey Bay has lots of great family-friendly restaurants, some awesome ice cream parlours, and plenty of parks, including a huge waterpark right on the bay. The Happy Wanderer Holiday Park is set on eight acres of sub-tropical gardens and caters for tents and caravans, and also has a range of lodges. It also has playgrounds, giant chess and a swimming pool to keep the kids entertained and a family bathroom to make cleaning up after a day on the beach easier. A pitch for a four-man tent costs around $60 a night. See www.happywanderer.com.au. Price: $
Get away from it all and submerge yourselves in the serenity of Ayers Rock. Ayers Rock Campground is located 15km from Uluru and is in the Ayers Rock Resort so all facilities and supplies are on hand. The campsite has pitches for tents and motorhomes and there are also cabins available. There is a swimming pool, playground and BBQ facilities on site and a supermarket, restaurants and bars in the Ayers Rock Resort, a short complimentary shuttle bus ride away. Guests can take part in free daily activities such as guided walks and Indigenous bush yarning. Children five years and under stay for free. A family of four can camp from as little as $96 for three nights. Visit www.ayersrockresort.com.au/accommodation/ayers-rock-campground for more details. Price: $
If all you really want to do on holiday is relax, consider a resort with a top-notch kids’ club. Knowing that they are having fun will give you peace of mind while you have some downtime.
The St. Regis is a stunning five-star luxury resort in the Indian Ocean. With 172 guest rooms and suites, nine restaurants, fitness club and excellent swimming pools and entertainment facilities, this resort has it all. Oh, and there’s a great kids’ club too so you don’t need to feel guilty about sneaking off to the spa for a spot of relaxation. The Kite Flyers Club arranges a vast array of activities for children aged four to 12. The kids can go on a supervised nature walk, take part in a cooking class or sail on a glass-bottom boat. Indoor activities include arts and crafts, musical games and watching movies. The club is open every day from 9am until 8pm and younger children can also join in, provided they are supervised by an adult. A Deluxe Garden View Room sleeping two adults and one child costs around $480 a night, including buffet breakfast and complimentary butler service. For more details, visit
www.stregismauritius.com. Price: $$$$
Club Med takes kids’ clubs to the next level. Like, Flying Trapeze School level. Yes, along with the usual activities you’d expect at a kids’ club, such as craft, sports and games, your little ones can perfect their aerial circus skills while on holiday. Club Med Phuket is a beautiful resort on over 60 acres next to the beach of Kata Bay. It has 305 rooms and you can unwind with activities such as Yoga, snorkelling and golf, or head to the spa. One of the resort’s two restaurants also has a baby corner where parents can prepare their baby’s meals. Two interconnecting Garden View rooms cost around $3,000 for two adults and two children for seven nights, all-inclusive. To find out more, click here. Price: $$$
Find the right mindset
Decide prior to planning what you want out of your trip. Do you want it to be relaxing, educational, or a family bonding experience?
Plan for everyone
Be sure to plan activities to cater for everyone, including a little relaxation time for yourself.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Planning is essential. Don’t put off the important stuff, such as renewing passports, and don’t leave packing until the night before.
Keep an open mind
A holiday won’t always go as planned, no matter how foolproof you think it is. It’s easy to get caught up in any problems that occur but this will affect the outcome of your holiday. So be open-minded, don’t expect too much and just go with the flow.
Leave time to relax
Understandably you’ll want to get the most out of your family holiday and as a result, there can be a tendency to overbook yourself. Bear in mind that sometimes less is more.
Experience the local culture
Encourage the kids to have an open mind – get out and relish in the diverse environment.
Adapted from Jaymie Bennee for www.kidsonthecoast.com.au
Club Med resorts have great kids’ clubs. Activities include circus schools, sailing, tennis, archery, rock climbing, kayaking… the list goes on and on! The resorts are all-inclusive and are always in stunning locations including Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius and the Maldives. They also offer ski resorts in Japan and France. See www.clubmed.com.au and our write-up on Club Med Phuket.
Carnival Cruise Lines are really popular with families as they have great features such as waterparks and waterslides on board, very family-friendly food options, kids’ clubs and great tropical island destinations like Fiji, Noumea, Isle of Pines and Vanuatu. But there lots of other options for families out there, such as Captain Cook Cruises Fiji. You fly first to Fiji then take the boat from there. They are amazing cruises, visiting some really super islands and remote villages, and the snorkelling is fantastic. For people visiting America, perhaps to do Disneyland, it’s very easy to add on a Caribbean cruise, which offer great island destinations and interesting cultures, history and sites. See www.byokids.com.au/cruise for some inspiration.
Australia’s BIG4 Holiday Parks offer a great choice for families who don’t want to travel overseas. Parks such as the BIG4’s Renmark and Adventure Whitsundays offer amazing facilities and have accommodation ranging from camping through to large family villas. See www.big4.com.au
For more family-friendly holiday inspiration, head to www.byokids.com.au
Need help getting organised? Check out the essential article What to pack for a family island escape.
Looking for a holiday with a difference? How about A scien-terrific holiday in Australia!