30th birthday holiday ideas
By Annabelle Thorpe, Editor of 101 Short Breaks
In the end, it has to be faced. The big Three Oh is looming and there’s nothing to be done other than wave good-bye to your twenties and face up to the onset of middle age. A 30th birthday might be the excuse for the biggest party in living memory, a romantic weekend a deux, or an adrenalin-fuelled weekend that’s so frantic it actually makes your forget you’re in mourning for your lost youth.
Whether you want to celebrate, commiserate or disappear off and hide until the fuss has blown over, here are the best ways to make it a birthday to remember – for all the right reasons.
Host a house party
One of the toughest things about getting older is how little quality time you get to spend with your friends, which is why a 30th birthday is the perfect excuse for rounding up a gang of chums and booking a house for a weekend.
If you’re prepared to splurge, check out some of the spectacular party houses on offer from The Big Domain and Oliver’s Travels; some come with a butler to tend to your every need, while others have indoor swimming pools and cinema rooms. If you’re after something more quirky, how about a lighthouse? Dramatic locations and spectacular views will make it a celebration not easily forgotten.
For a more mellow break, take your pick of cottages in Norfolk or Suffolk, where thick heads from evening celebrations can be soothed with quiet walks through tranquil countryside or along wide, unspoilt beaches. Or head to the West Country: we recommend Classic Cottages, Helpful Holidays and Rural Retreats.
Scotland offers some great properties for self-catering weekends – with plenty of whisky to get the party going. Or for something a touch more exotic, rent a riad in Marrakech – many smaller properties in the medieval medina are available for exclusive use, and a cook can usually be arranged.
Hit the city
Book your budget flight far enough ahead and it will cost you – and those you’re celebrating with – no more to reach a European city by plane, than a British one by train or car. If you’re after a serious, no-holds-barred party, look no further than Berlin; the Eastern half of the city has shrugged off its communist past and is now home to some of the most bohemian nightlife in Europe – definitely not for the fainthearted.
For something a little more genteel, hop the train to Belgium where you’ll find a passion for beer, chocolate and chips (what more do you need for a birthday celebration?) Best cities include Bruges and Antwerp, Belgium’s capital of cool.
If it’s a summer birthday, and you’re looking for a touch of glamour head to the Croatian island of Hvar, where candles can be blown out in one of the many konobas (similar to Italian trattorias) in the beautiful Venetian old town, before cocktails in one of the harbour’s Ibiza-esque bars. Best places to stay include the chic seafront hotel, The Riva.
If it’s a girls-only celebration, then Budapest makes a great choice – home to some of the most beautiful spas in the whole of Europe (and the cafes also do a fine line in cake). Or pile on the fleeces and head north to Reykjavik – renowned as one of the hippest, quirkiest capitals in Europe, with uber-stylish cocktail bars and steaming mineralised pools to jump into the following morning.
Any departing 29-year-old knows that stepping over the threshold into your thirties is inevitably going to involve a few drinks – it’s simply a case of what, where and how much. If carousing in the pub feels too much like any other Saturday night, then notch up the sophistication level with a wine-tasting break. Perhaps a two-night Champagne Weekends in France, or – if you want to get in some exercise – a wine walking Holiday.
Northern Spain is another great option; Bilbao is an easy short-hop flight from the UK and is the place in Spain for tapas. It’s also an ideal base for heading out to Rioja country and visiting some of the vineyards that are close to the city. Alternatively, head to Portugal’s beautiful Douro Valley and nearby Porto for the chance to taste wines and port some of the most famous vineyards in Europe.
If going abroad feels like too much hassle, head to the Three Choirs Vineyards in Gloucestershire, which offers tutored wine tastings, tours and can organise private dining as well as offering accommodation in lodges among the vines. If whisky is the birthday tipple of choice, then a Scottish adventure is the perfect answer; take a road trip through the glens, stopping off at distilleries along the way. Try this three-night Islay Whisky Break, which visits two of the distilleries on Islay, staying in a small luxury hotel on the shore of a loch.
The big outdoors
If you want your birthday to be about experiencing something more than the world’s worst hangover, then adding an activity into the mix is a great idea. A surfing break in Cornwall can be a fantastic way to celebrate your birthday, and there are surf schools all along the coast that cater for everyone from complete beginners upwards. Stay at Gwel an Mor in a stylish seaside lodge or keep it cosy with a cute log cabin.
If it’s an all-boy birthday celebration, then a golfing weekend is an option, although it can be pricey. Keep costs down by staying at a French holiday village; many are located just a stone’s throw from some fantastic courses, and cost far less than a traditional hotel. Or dig out the salopettes and head to the slopes for a ski chalet holiday.
If you want to arrange an exciting outdoor activity – from catamaran sailing to rock climbing and horse riding – check this UK-wide directory of ideas or see this collection of extreme activities. How about aerobatic flying or body zorbing?
If that all sounds a little too much like hard work, then how about cruising gently through your birthday weekend on a long boat? The Norfolk Broads offers enough activity – steering, mooring, avoiding colliding with other boats – to keep things interesting, without detracting from the serious business of celebrating.
If you’re craving a personal challenge, and a big slice of adventure, how about joining an overland adventure by purpose-built truck in Africa, South America or Central Asia. Warning: these are life-changing trips and although you can go for as little as five days, it’s best to commit longer to get the full experience. Perfect if you’re looking for a career break, or rethinking your life goals. We recommend Oasis Overland.
Romantic 30th birthday celebrations for two
Not everyone wants to make a fuss of their birthday, and if you just want to celebrate it quietly with your other half, there are few better options than a night or two in a luxury hotel. Romance comes as standard at the gorgeous Whatley Manor, a luxurious country estate in the heart of the Cotswolds. Book some treatments in the spectacular Aquarius Spa, dine in the two Michelin-starred restaurant or take in a movie in the private cinema.
If you want to feel a real sense of escape from the pressures of a big birthday, disappear off to the Lake District for a couple of nights at lovely the Gilpin Lodge. Guests can choose either to stay in the original hotel or the new Lake House; just six luxurious rooms in a separate building, overlooking a tranquil lake. For something little simpler, but no less charming, The Castle Hotel in Shropshire combines the laid-back atmosphere of a country pub with the scale of a luxury hotel, surrounded by gorgeous gardens.
For a truly special celebration, hop on a plane to Venice – the city that proves clichés exist for a reason. Avoid high season and you’ll find it really is the most romantic city in the world; spend your birthday on a Venetian bar crawl, drinking prosecco and eating cicchetti – the city’s equivalent of tapas. Or if you want real tapas, then head to Seville – one of Europe’s most atmospheric cities, that fuses European architecture and stylish with that of North Africa. Make time in amongst the celebrations for a visit to the Giralda, the city’s landmark, spectacular cathedral.
Last updated: 3 May 2016