Affordable family holidays need not mean having to sleep under canvas in a field bare of everything but grass. Many continental sites and ‘parcs’ not only provide a choice of mobile homes, lodges and apartments but have a broad range of on-site activities to keep all ages fully occupied and entertained throughout their stay.
Argentina is one of the world’s great destinations, from the vast fertile plains of the pampas to the magical glaciers, lakes and ice fields of Patagonia. The capital, Buenos Aires, delivers style and pizazz while the countryside provides opportunities to stay at historic estancias, ride horses and drink fine wines at sensible prices.
It’s arguably the most gorgeous island in the Mediterranean, with perfect beaches and an interior dotted with medieval hilltowns, forests and the famous scented maquis. Yet compared to islands such as Mallorca, Corfu and Ibiza, it is curiously overlooked by British visitors. Corsica, in our book, is the Med to perfection, with a thick layer of French polish.
The world’s most romantic and evocative train journey begins when your British Pullman glides out of Victoria Station in London. Once across the Channel, you take your private compartment on the sumptuous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, reaching Paris by 9pm, waking in the Swiss Alps then rolling into Venice at around 6pm.
Vietnam is a hot winter sun destination, but to get the most out of this fascinating and beautiful country, take a tour, with interludes on the beaches as opposed to full-time loafing. Temples, sampans, hill tribe villages, historic ports and breathtaking mountain scenery contrast with chic boutiques, fancy restaurants and stylish beach hotels.
As well as those familiar Greek island assets of blue seas, delicious swimming, jaunts by boat and long, lazy lunches in waterfront tavernas, Paxos is an island of silvery-leafed olive groves, a legacy of the 14th century Venetian occupation. With no airport – and not even a single traffic light – it’s a perfect place to escape the crowds.
The ski chalet is a wonderful British invention. With breakfast, dinner and afternoon tea provided, you get to enjoy your day on the slopes – and pay a lot less than you would staying at a hotel and eating out. Making new friends and dining together is a key part of the chalet experience.
Just four hours from the UK, Lanzarote ranks among the prettiest of the Canary Islands, with low-key resorts, sandy beaches, dramatic volcanic landscapes and a wonderful year-round climate. It’s easy and fun to explore and offers a wide selection of villas with private pools, making it an ideal choice for families, couples and groups of friends.
With its diverse mix of habitats, from the doily of waterways and lagoons of the Okavango Delta to the salt pans of Nxai and the sands of the Kalahari, Botswana is a supreme safari destination. Explore it in an amazing variety of transport: elephant and horseback, mountain and quad bike, dug-out canoe and camel, as well as the more familiar 4WD vehicles.
One of the best ways to experience a destination is on foot. A guided cultural walking tour gets you up close and personal – whether you’re exploring the backstreets of Venice, the monasteries of Armenia or the mountain trails of Bhutan. The trick is finding a tour operator that combines imaginative itineraries with expert guides and organises small groups of like-minded travellers.
If you believe much of the Med has been ruined by high-rise hotels, head to North Cyprus. Although the main tourist hub of Kyrenia – with its perfect Venetian harbour – fairly bustles, surrounding villages appear stuck in a time warp. Explore hilltop castles, ruined abbeys and the remote beaches of the Karpas Peninsula, amongst the wildest and most beautiful in Europe.
Puglia is the heel of Italy’s boot. With 500 miles of beaches, the magnificent baroque city of Lecce and distinctive whitewashed trullo houses, it is one of Europe’s most appealing holiday regions. The food and wine are terrific and nowhere is more than 15 miles from the coast.
Cuba is the ideal combination of city and beach, culture and indolence. Spend a few days strolling the streets of Old Havana, visiting cigar factories, drinking mojitos and dancing in salsa bars. Explore the colonial city of Trinidad then kick back on one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches.
Some destinations punch well above their weight. Montenegro is a perfect example, a tiny country with not only 180 miles of Adriatic coast but also a striking interior of mountains, lakes and rivers. There’s plenty for the outdoorsy types, including hiking and mountain biking, plus historic gems from walled towns to Roman villas.
One in every ten Brits bound for the promise of sun each winter will be in Tenerife, just a four hour flight away and with many more stylish properties than its reputation might suggest. Aside from beaches, don’t miss a trip to the end of the world landscapes of the Las Canadas Teide national park, bang in the middle and dominated by the two mile high, Fuji-like volcano.
Summer in Sweden, with its long hours of daylight, is a magical time. The Swedes themselves blossom like meadow flowers, taking time off to enjoy gorgeous beaches, sail away to islands, forage for berries and escape to log cabins in the woods or besides tranquil lakes. Be warned, this fairy tale atmosphere is very infectious. You’ll love it.
Koh Samui has moved upmarket from its backpacking heyday but lost little of its natural charm. Amid the coconut groves and palm trees you’ll find gorgeous luxury hotels and spas, plus countless beaches where you can swim, chill, party and dine under the moonlight with your toes in the sand.
Are you ready for a personal challenge, perhaps a career break? Join an overland truck tour of Africa, Asia or South America and you’ll experience a true adventure, visiting remarkable places and bonding with your fellow passengers. Everyone passionate about travel should try this at least once.
Anguilla is a tiny low-lying Caribbean island that offers a real sense of escape. It’s a coral island, so the beaches are powdery and white, and you can only get there by ferry or a short flight from one of the bigger islands. The hotels and villas are outstanding, and the food is out of this world.
Forget all you’ve heard about the Costa Brava. The northern, knobbly, genuinely ‘Brava’ – or wild – stretch of coast is as scenic as anywhere on the Med but without coachloads of Brits. The resorts are tiny, the food superb, the walking and cycling trails well defined and, when you fancy a change, the foothills of the Pyrenees beckon.
It’s rare to find a single reliable source of great places to stay in the UK – with options to suit all pockets, from a stylish budget weekend to a celebratory splurge. i-escape has the pick of cheap and chic, trendy boutique and downright luxurious boltholes in cities, countryside and on the coast.
You might think of The Gambia as a cheap winter sun destination on the west coast of Africa. And you’d be at least half right. In fact it’s so much more than that, with superb beaches, charming hotels, friendly people and stunning wildlife – and only six hours flying time from the UK. Best time to visit is November to June.
The dramatic scenery of the Amalfi coast, with its lemon groves, almond trees and bougainvillea, is stunning. You’ll find resorts for all tastes, from popular Sorrento – an ideal hub for boat trips to Capri and Ischia, and outings to Pompeii and Vesuvius – to super-chic Positano and the exquisite hilltop retreat of Ravello.