Family holiday ideas
By Mark Frary, Editor of 101 Family Holidays
Looking for family holiday ideas? Here, I select the best holidays for your family in 2016. You’ll find dozens of summer holidays with kids on this page. All the holiday companies featured here are personally recommended.
UK family holidays
1. Take a cottage holiday in Devon and explore one of the UK’s most beautiful coastlines. The beaches are great too.
2. Young kids will really enjoy these holidays on working farms. They can bottle-feed the lambs, collect the eggs and help milk the cows, and there’s a choice of locations in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset and The Cotswolds. See the latest special offers.
3. The Isle of Wight is enjoying a revival, with parents taking their children to rediscover its simple retro charm and fabulous scenery. It remains one of the best value family holidays in the UK.
4. Rent a cottage in Cornwall and you can explore surf beaches, rock pools and family-friendly attractions, with a choice of stylish seafront apartments and fishermen’s cottages. There are some great special offers. If you don’t want to leave behind your pet, search for a dog-friendly cottage.
5. Children between 7 and 17 can head off to summer camp with Kingswood Camps which has locations in the UK and France and more than 80 activities including quad-biking, caving, kayaking, zipwiring and archery. There are dedicated camps for teenagers too.
6. I’ve discovered some wonderful family-friendly hotels around the UK. I love Gwel an Mor in Cornwall which has its own wildlife centre and luxury wooden lodges. Also in Cornwall, the Sands Resort Hotel is perfect for kids of all ages (see their latest offers). If your kids enjoy activities and watersports, head for the Cotswold Water Park Four Pillars Hotel.
7. What child would not enjoy the Merton Hotel in Jersey? It’s among the UK’s most family-friendly hotels with a weather-proof Aquadome complete with swimming pools, slides and fountains, plus a large outdoor pool complex, a learn-to-surf Flowrider and child-friendly evening entertainment. Stay in a spacious family suite or serviced apartment.
8. If you want to go on holiday with friends, you could get together to rent a large property. You can find some superb large houses in the UK and abroad at The Big Domain. Some very grand houses in private grounds are very reasonable when you divide the cost between a few families.
9. Renting a boat or barge to explore some of the UK’s most beautiful rivers and canals is a fun family holiday and great value. Waterways Holidays provide full tuition so you don’t need any experience at the helm, and you can choose from 1,600 boats across the country.
10. If you’ve never tried a family holiday in the Lake District you’ll be knocked out by the region’s natural beauty. It’s ideal for children of all ages, whether you have teenagers keen to conquer peaks and explore slate mines, or toddlers who want to paddle in lakes and ride steam trains. Find self-catering accommodation at Sykes Cottages.
11. Sheepskin has some quirky family cottages, mostly in Wales and the Welsh borders. My favourites include Lletty which is set in a forest clearing with views of the Black Mountains, and has a zip wire, trampoline and woodlands to explore.
12. Another superb camping option: head to Trevella Park in Cornwall, which has lovely tepees and bell tents with beds, duvets and decking, and facilities including a heated outdoor pool, adventure playground and nature trails.
* If you’re by yourself, try this inspiring selection of single parent activity holidays from Single With Kids.
* If your child is under 18 months old, see My baby holiday ideas.
Also, see my full guide to the best family holidays in England.
Best family beach holidays in Europe
1. For a cheap family holiday in Europe with sun, sea and lots of activities for kids, stay at a holiday parc in France. I recommend Siblu which has everything on site to entertain children of all ages and some great special offers. See more of our favourite family holidays in France.
2. Most people associate Spain with the Costas, but Northern Spain has beautiful unspoilt beaches, rolling countryside, mountains and historic villages. You can fly there or take an overnight ferry, and stay in one of these self-catering cottages or traditional small hotels. The specialist tour operator, Casas, has also introduced a great collection of villas, some with private pool.
3. If you want a classy Mediterranean hotel that takes great care of children, I recommend this this selection in Puglia, southern Italy. It includes the award-winning Borgo Egnazia Hotel Ville Golf Spa and the four-star Gattarella Resort which has kids clubs for all ages including older teenagers.
4. On Portugal’s Western Algarve, the Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel is a gorgeous place to stay – stylish and family friendly – and it’s set in a national park. The beach is superb and there are lots of activities and clubs for children aged 6 months to 8 years.
5. I rate Corsica as one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean, yet few Brits know it well. The beaches are superb, and ideal for young children. I’ve found a great selection of villas with pools on the west coast, around St Florent in the North East and Porto Vecchio in the south. There are also child discounts.
6. Sardinia is one of Europe’s great family holiday destinations. The island boasts some of the finest, unspoilt beaches in Europe, plus it has low-cost flights and some outstanding child-friendly hotels including Forte Village and Chia Laguna Resort.
7. Rent a family villa in Italy. Not just because Italians love children, and children love Italian food, but because it’s one of Europe’s most beautiful countries with a great choice of well-priced rental properties. Go for the rolling hills of Tuscany and Umbria, or the pretty beaches of Campania and Puglia in the south.
8. Mark Warner operates Mediterranean beach clubs which work well for both very young children and active teens. There are kids clubs for ages 2 to 17 and free watersports. I like the San Lucianu Beach Resort – see the latest special offers.
9. The upmarket tour operator, Scott Dunn, has opened its own Explorers kids clubs at selected luxury hotels in Europe, including Pine Cliffs in the Algarve and Daios Cove in Crete. Aimed at kids aged 4 months to 13 years, the clubs offer a packed programme of activities, adventures and sports.
10. For great value family holidays in France or Spain, rent a comfortable self-catering apartment in a car-free holiday village where you’ll find aqua parks and slides, golf courses, farms and tennis courts.
* See more ideas for toddler friendly holidays along with expert advice on travelling with children of this age.
Best family activity holidays
1. Iceland is arguably the world’s most exciting geography lesson. In winter you can view the Northern Lights while in summer you can swim in geothermal lagoons, join whale watching boat trips and experience the Midnight Sun. Take an off-road trip in a 4WD Superjeep to discover bubbling mud pools and erupting geysers.
2. There is plenty to keep children of all ages busy on a P&O Cruise ship. The Aurora, which recently had a £26 million makeover, has a cinema, theatre and outdoor pool with retractable skydome roof. The Ventura has one of the best kids clubs at sea and a play area for under-twos.
3. A walking holiday can be a great family bonding experience, particularly if you are strolling through lovely unspoilt countryside. I think the Austrian Tyrol is a perfect location with lush pastures and snow-capped Alpine peaks, well-marked paths and friendly family-run hotels with swimming pools. There is a family option in the Swiss Alps too. Explore more family walking holidays.
4. Take the kids on a cruise on a traditional Turkish gulet to explore the beautiful coastline of Turkey, Greece, Croatia or Italy. It’s both adventurous and lazy, and private guides will show you around local sites of interest, so there is culture thrown in too.
5. Learn a new sport … how about polo? Yes you can take the kids aged eight or older to Polo Valley Ranch in Sotogrande, Spain, to experience the sport of kings. No riding experience necessary!
6. You can introduce your children to skiing – and the beauty of the mountains in winter – from about the age of four. You’ll get a good deal if you choose the right resort, avoid the school holidays and find a special discount.
7. Enjoy summer in the lakes and mountains of Europe with Esprit Sun. Activities include summer glacier skiing, mountain biking, white-water rafting and hiking. Esprit Sun offers free child care for children aged 3-10 and also has a lovely property in Lake Garda in Italy.
8. If your family enjoys bike rides, how about taking an independent family cycling holiday. There are itineraries for families in some of the most beautiful corners of Europe – most popular destinations are Mallorca and Catalonia in Spain. Your luggage is transported for you, and there’s a comfortable family-friendly hotel at the end of each day.
9. Indonesia is one of the most exciting destinations for adventure and active family holidays. You could go sailing, fishing, kite surfing, water-skiing, snorkelling and scuba-diving. Check out this idea to Java and Bali which includes an elephant-back adventure, horse-riding, white-water rafting and a volcano trek.
10. Want something different? How about a family volunteering holiday where you combine activities and sunshine with useful work such as feeding and building shelters for animals before they are returned to the wild. Popular family destinations include Costa Rica.
11. Explore Paris with young children on a choice of private tours including a chauffeur-driven Citroen 2CV, a visit to the Eiffel Tower and a lesson in making baguettes. Find out more from Family Twist. The company also offers tailor-made family trips to Rome and Florence (think pasta making and gladiator school).
12. If you have active teenagers, check out Powder Byrne’s PB Sports Academies in Sardinia, Elba, Sintra and Crete – they feature luxury accommodation, great facilities and professional training in tennis, football, surfing, sailing, scuba diving, water skiing and wake boarding. They also run an elite Ski Academy in winter.
14. PGL is best known for its summer camps in England, Scotland and Wales for ages 7 to 17 (hence the nickname “Parents Get Lost”). But it also has a great-value range of activity holidays for all the family in the UK and France. You can stay in a hotel-style room or a chalet. See the latest special offers.
15. How about a theme park? Disney is the obvious destination, but I like Efteling in Holland which is set in unspoilt countryside and has fairytale attractions for younger kids, along with some thrilling rides.
16. Give the kids something to look forward to when winter comes by booking a trip to visit the “real” Father Christmas with Santa’s Lapland. It’s not just for tiny tots – there are loads of outdoor activities like snowmobiling and reindeer sleigh rides to keep older children and teenagers happy, too.
See our full recommendations of family activity holidays.
Best family villa holidays
1. Rent a family villa and you get privacy, space and freedom – and usually your own private swimming pool. Head to the “posh” parts of Mallorca and you’ll find some superb villas to rent. If you have young children take a look at this range of villas in Menorca.
3. Corfu is a very attractive island once you escape the package resorts. The prime area is the north-east coastline where CV Villas built its reputation with some wonderful houses with private pools, such as Villa Aktea which has breathtaking views, and even a separate swimming pool for toddlers.
5. Crete is one of the most interesting of the Greek islands with lots to do, charming villages and countryside and a long season. I love the Pendamodi villas – a small collection of detached houses with private pools. They are great value for families.
5. GIC The Villa Collection has more than 40 years experience arranging family holidays in the Greek Islands. It recommends Kefalonia where many of its properties are within walking distance of beach, shops and tavernas. There are direct flights from across the UK. See its latest special offers.
6. The tiny Greek island of Paxos, too small for an airport, is a lovely place to laze around your private pool and rent a boat to explore the coastline. It’s one of my favourite family summer holidays. Find more holiday ideas in Greece.
8. Florida also has some great homes with pools you can rent. Most of them are in and around Orlando, making an ideal base for visiting theme parks and discovering more of the Sunshine State. You can stay close to Walt Disney Resort or Universal Orlando or opt for the popular, good-value International Drive.
9. Further still … you could go as far as New Zealand where I recommend you embark on a two-week self-drive tour in either North Island or South Island (but not both – unless you have more time). To keep down costs you could opt for a motorhome holiday in New Zealand.
10. If you want to push the boat out, check out Scott Dunn‘s luxury staffed villas. The properties are gorgeous, plus you get the services of a chef, host and fully-qualified nanny.
11. Another upmarket option is this selection of luxury villas in the Algarve, all of which have private pools. Some even have a private cinema or tennis court.
12. If you’re travelling in a big party and a villa might be too small, why not rent a chateau in France with Oliver’s Travels. It has some outstanding properties including Chateau de Tille in the Loire Valley, which sleeps 16 and has a swimming pool and tennis court.
Best family hotels in the Med
1. If your kids love water parks, book a stay at a First Choice SplashWorld hotel. There’s a choice of 24 locations, but all are all-inclusive and great value.
2. Lanzarote is a year-round destination just four hours flying time from the UK. For the ultimate family treat, check into the Princesa Yaiza Suite Hotel Resort. The children’s clubs offer everything from treasure hunts and five-a-side football to theatrical performances and mini discos. Another great luxury hotel in the Canaries is Abama Golf & Spa Resort in Tenerife.
3. It’s not easy to find a small, classy, family-friendly hotel on the Cote d’Azur, but the three-star Deluxe Hotel l’Arena midway between Cannes and St Tropez fits the bill perfectly. One child under 12 stays free when sharing a room with two adults.
4. On the Greek mainland, Sani Resort is one of Europe’s finest family resorts. It has three superb hotels stretched out along a protected beach, plus a charming harbour with shops and restaurants, lots of sports activities and open spaces where children can run around safely. Families particularly enjoy the Porto Sani Resort.
5. Club Med is renowned for its all-inclusive holidays that appeal to children of all ages. More than 40 of its beach and ski resorts worldwide are specifically tailored for families. It offers excellent child care from 4 months and lots of activities. See the latest special offers.
6. The Algarve has a long season, making it a solid choice for Easter, May half term or October half term. You’ll find some great hotels here.
7. I love Daios Cove on the island of Crete. It’s a luxury contemporary-style resort in Crete where Scott Dunn has set up its own exclusive summer children’s club. Each family gets its own private pool, plus there are tennis courts, a fitness centre, spa and three restaurants, watersports and a dive centre.
8. In Cyprus, the Almyra is a stylish contemporary beachfront hotel that excels at catering for families, especially younger children.
9. The Westin Resort Costa Navarino on the Algarve has kids clubs for ages 4-12 and a creche for under-3s. It also boasts water slides, a bowling alley, adventure playground and pool tables. There are two golf courses, a racket ball centre, mountain biking and plenty of water sports from paddle boarding to scuba-diving.
Adventure holidays with kids
Check out this detailed and comprehensive guide to family adventure holidays for kids of all ages. Here is a selection of the best…
1. South Africa is one of the must-see destinations of 2016. It’s great value right now, because the currency has slumped. A 13-night self-drive holiday can take in Cape Town, the Garden Route, Grootbos Nature Reserve, and four nights at Amakhala Game Reserve for a “Big Five” game reserve. You can also enjoy a fabulous safari at a malaria-free game reserve such as Madikwe or Pilanesberg.
2. If you fancy beach and safari, I recommend this 12-day wildlife and beach family safari in Kenya. Other options include a horseback riding safari in Kenya or Botswana. One of Africa’s best destinations for families is Madagascar where you can track lemurs at night and explore the world’s only pirate cemetery. See this lemur tracking safari.
3. You can’t beat India for excitement, sensory overload and cultural shock – all things that make a family holiday unforgettable. It’s not just visiting the Taj Mahal and seeing tigers in the wild, but all the smaller differences that will amaze and delight your kids. Find out more.
4. Children love the USA, and there are some great family-friendly ways to see this amazing country. Enjoy the freedom of the open road by renting a motor home, or head to California where you can combine great cities with national parks, beaches, epic car journeys and theme parks. Try this 10-night California Dreaming trip for starters.
5. Take a self-drive adventure through the magnificent National Parks of Utah and Arizona and go white water rafting on the Colorado River, all with hotels, lodges and activities chosen with children in mind.
6. Asia is packed with eye-opening, exciting destinations for children. Try one of these family holidays in Vietnam, which include the ancient town of Hoi An, the villages of the Mekong Delta and a junk cruise in Halong Bay.
7. Sri Lanka is a wonderful destination for families: full of excitement, friendly and good value. For inspiration, see this two-week tour which includes elephant riding, whale watching, mountain hikes, tea plantations, historic Galle and the beach resort of Bentota.
8. See all the best bits of Australia in a fortnight. Try this two-week winter sun holiday which is perfectly timed for the Christmas holidays. Northern Australia works well in our summer holidays.
9. Japan is a thrill a minute for kids of all ages, from the futuristic neon-lit cities crammed with technology to the mystical temples and ancient traditions of the countryside. Explore manga and anime, eat strange food from conveyor belts, ride on bullet trains and visit a Samurai castle. See a selection of family holidays in Japan.
10. The Family Adventure Company has a great selection of trip ideas for kids of all ages, from ages 2 right up to high-adrenalin trips for teenagers. Check out their educational tours and adventures for families on a budget.
11. If your kids love nature, there are few more exciting destinations than the Galapagos Islands. Follow in Darwin’s footsteps to enjoy close up encounters with seals, turtles, iguanas and giant tortoises. I particularly recommend this Galapagos land-sea combo.
12. I also recommend Families Worldwide which has an inspiring collection of active family holidays, including a Rainforest & Volcanoes trip to Costa Rica. It offers both escorted small-group trips and tailor-made private tours all designed with kids in mind. Its most popular destinations include Egypt and Thailand. See its special offers.
13. If you want to visit Africa as a family, Tanzania is a great option. Take a safari and beach holiday with Exsus and you’ll get your fill of wildlife at the tented Selous Impala Camp before heading to the coast and relaxing at The Tides, a charming hotel with cottages on a pristine beach.
14. Zambia is a great safari destination for over-12s who can experience the thrill of walking safaris in South Luangwa National Park and white water rafting near Victoria Falls. Details from Abercrombie & Kent.
15. Even if your children are tiny, you can still take them away with Families Wordwide. Its group adventure trips start from just 2 years old in Morocco while 5-year-olds can explore Vesuvius and Pompeii.
16. Morocco also works really well for older kids. It’s only a short flight from the UK and great value. This family favourite combines the Essaouira coast, the Atlas Mountains and Marrakech. On the coast, Rebali Riads is a popular place to stay for families.
17. Borneo offers an exciting mix of wildlife, white sand beaches, rainforest, hiking and tribal culture. Spend the night in an Iban tribal longhouse, explore the subterranean caves of Mulu National Park and visit an orang-utan sanctuary. Best time to visit is May to September. I recommend this selection of family itineraries.
18. South America is a fantastic destination with plenty of wildlife, beaches and natural wonders. For Brazil, Peru and Argentina, I recommend Dehouche, a British-run company based in Latin America.
19. Egypt is packed with cultural treasures, amazing sights and child-friendly adventures. It may also be appearing on your children’s school curriculum. Check out these family tours in Egypt with Families Worldwide.
* See more family adventure holidays.
Long haul family beach holiday holidays
1. Antigua is a great island for families, with tot-friendly beaches and great all-inclusive hotels including the Verandah Resort & Spa, which is set in 30 acres of beaches and gardens and offers free watersports, children’s playgrounds and a great gym and spa for mum and dad.
2. The Maldives are not just for honeymooners. Kids are well catered for at One&Only Reethi Rah which has its own KidsOnly club.
3. The Caribbean has several great family hotels including Round Hill Hotel & Villas in Jamaica. Beaches Resorts are action-packed all-inclusives with endless things to do. Barbados has a great collection of all-inclusives.
4. Mauritius is a great beach destination with superb luxury hotels and no jet lag, which makes it ideal for young children. The Residence Mauritius has an amazing kids club and special offers including free children’s rooms and upgrades. For all-inclusive Mauritius, I recommend Beachcomber Hotels which have free kids clubs. Check out Le Victoria which has two-bedroom family apartments.
5. Oman is great for winter sun, with guaranteed warm temperatures and a touch of Arabian mystique. Check out the extraordinary Six Senses Zighy Bay where you can stay in a spacious villa with a private pool beside a superb beach ringed by mountains. Even the airport transfer is exciting – the last part of the journey is by speedboat.
Also see these money saving tips for family holidays.
Last updated: 14 July 2016
Try our family holiday quiz
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