Toddler friendly holidays
* We reveal the best travel deals for pre-school children
* How to organise your holiday and when to go
By Mark Frary
Looking for toddler-friendly holidays? Here’s some great advice on when and where to go, and how to organise your trip. Plus, I recommend the best companies that will ensure you have a fun and stress-free break.
Is it a good idea to go on holiday with a toddler?
Toddlers love their new-found mobility and freedom. They are, quite simply, unstoppable. Why venture outside your safety zone, to a world without stair gates and window catches?
There are actually plenty of reasons why this is a great time to travel. For starters, you can go outside the busy, more expensive school holidays – and still enjoy great beach weather in short-haul destinations. In fact, the Mediterranean in high summer can be a bit too hot for toddlers – you’re better off travelling in the “shoulder season” months of May, June, September or October.
Another good reason to holiday with a toddler is that children under two receive heavy discounts on airfares. Typically, children up to the age of two pay 10% of the full fare, but have to sit on an adult’s lap. Above two, and they’ll need their own seat and be entitled to a child fare – usually nearer 75% of the adult fare.
What type of holiday should you take?
With their newly discovered capacity to get-up-and-go, toddlers are usually game for an adventurous holiday. You could, for example, take them on a mule-supported trek in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Specialist operators such as Families Wordwide offer trips for children as young as two, including this 10-day trip to Morocco, and provide the necessary infrastructure and planning to make the holiday stress-free. Also take a look at these charming walking holidays in Austria and Spain.
If your priority is to keep things simple, maintain meal routines and venture only as far as the pool or beach, then self-catering may be the way to go. Holiday parks provide flexibility and independence with the added bonus of supervised clubs for kids, giving you some well-deserved time off. We recommend Siblu and Pierre & Vacances, both of which have a wide choice of locations throughout France.
A villa holiday can be equally relaxing – just be sure to pick a property with a fenced-off pool and lockable doors leading to balconies. Check out our recommendations in Crete, Catalunya, Northern Spain and the Greek islands of Kefalonia and Corfu. These villas in Menorca are particularly suited to young children, and all are a short drive from the airport.
Italy has some wonderful family villas and cottages, whether you opt for the handsome rolling countryside of Tuscany or Umbria, or the stunning southern beaches of Campania and Puglia in the south. If you prefer a hotel, try this selection in Puglia, including the award-winning Borgo Egnazia. Children are worshipped in Italy, of course, and the food goes down pretty well too!
Or take to the ocean waves. On all its family ships, P&O Cruises offer an in-cabin baby listening service plus a night nursery for children aged six months to five years, open every day from 6pm – 2am. Best ships for families include Aurora and Ventura.
Also check out Tots Too, a travel companies that specialises in holidays for toddlers.
Holidays for toddlers in the UK
A farm holiday is a perfect choice for toddlers. Try this holiday on a working farm where youngsters can bottle-feed lambs and help collect the eggs. You’ll find locations in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset. A great upmarket option is Feather Down Farms which has luxurious fixed tents at more than 30 locations across Britain. Small children love their wood-built “cabin” beds.
A cottage holiday is a great option for children under two. It’s great value and you can relax in glorious countryside, or close to a beach. I recommend these operators in Devon, Cornwall and the Lake District. If you want to bring the family pet, see this selection of dog-friendly cottages.
Camping works well with young children, whether you are sleeping in a tent or renting somewhere more substantial. See our selection of the best family camping holidays.
If you want some creature comforts you could opt for a hotel that caters specifically to young children. In this category we particularly like Gwel an Mor in Cornwall which has its own wildlife centre and the Sands Resort Hotel on the north coast of Cornwall. Find more holidays in Cornwall.
What toddler could fail to love the Merton Hotel in Jersey? One of the UK’s most family-friendly hotels, it boasts a weather-proof Aquadome complete with pools, slides and fountains, plus child-friendly evening entertainment, spacious family suites, serviced apartments and four restaurants.
Short-haul holidays for toddlers
If you’re venturing across the Channel you need to decide whether to fly or drive. This is very much a personal decision and depends on where you live, how far you have to travel and how your child copes with long car journeys.
Again, with toddlers, self-catering is a great option. Once you cross the Channel, it’s not “cottages” but villas, gites, holiday villages and apartments. Whichever you choose, you are getting good value, freedom and total control over mealtimes and bedtimes.
For a wonderful short break, how about exploring Paris on a choice of delightful private trips, including a tour in a chauffeur-driven Citroen 2CV, a visit to the Eiffel Tower and a lesson in making baguettes. Details from Family Twist. The company also offers tailor-made family trips to Rome and Florence.
Or head to Efteling, Europe’s third largest theme park, which is firmly aimed at young children. It’s in Holland and easily reached by plane, ferry or train.
If you want childcare – and a well-earned rest for mum and dad – then go for a hotel with a great kids club. We recommend Daios Cove in Crete and Mark Warner’s San Lucianu Beach Resort in Corsica. The Costa Navarino resort on a beautiful stretch of coastline on the Greek mainland has extensive facilities for toddlers, as does the beautiful Sani Resort in Greece which is set on an ecological reserve with a gently shelving EU-flagged sandy beach.
See our pick of the best kids clubs for toddlers at holiday resorts.
In the Algarve – which has a particularly long season – we recommend the Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel which has an outstanding kids club and creche. If you have a generous budget, try these fully-staffed villas in the Med. The Italian island of Sardinia also works well in the spring and autumn months: check out these family-friendly hotels.
The luxury tour operator, Scott Dunn, has opened its own Explorers kids clubs at selected hotels including Pine Cliffs in the Algarve, Daios Cove in Crete and Almyra in Cyprus. They are aimed at children from four months old and are open six days a week, 10am – 6pm, offering everything from cookery to sports and outdoor adventures.
Long haul toddler holidays
The Caribbean is a great long-haul option, particularly in winter when humidity is low and temperatures are steady at around 30ºC. Direct flights from across the UK make the journey surprisingly practical, particularly if your child can sleep through the return (overnight) flight.
Where to go? It’s more about picking the right hotel, and an island with direct flights. We recommend the Verandah Resort & Spa in Antigua and the luxurious Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands. If you want an all-inclusive with lots of facilities and great childcare, try Beaches resorts in Turks & Caicos or Negril and Sandy Bay in Jamaica.
Florida is a great option: there are plenty of direct flights to Orlando from the UK, lots of things for children to see and do – particularly in the theme parks – and great weather. You can rent a private home with a pool in Orlando, or stay close to Walt Disney Resort or Universal Orlando or the less expensive International Drive.
Mauritius is a little further but it’s (more or less) directly south from the UK so jetlag isn’t a problem. If your toddler sleeps on the flight getting there should be a breeze. The island has some outstanding hotels with wonderful childcare. Try The Residence and Beachcomber’s family hotels in Mauritius (see the latest special offers).
For more ideas please visit 101 Family Holidays (you can select “toddlers” on the homepage). See our expert tips on flying with young children. You may also like to see our recommended holiday ideas for baby.
Try our family holiday quiz
If you’re still not sure where to take your toddler on holiday, why not try our family holiday quiz. Answer a few fun questions like the one below and we’ll tell you what kind of family you are, and give you a selection of personalised recommendations. Try the quiz now.
Q. Where can we find a holiday with our toddler next summer that is not a busy packaged resort?
We are trying to organise a summer holiday with our son who will be 15 months old. We are looking at Europe but our idea of hell is a “family resort” as advertised by Thomson, First Choice, etc. We want a nice hotel with a pool that is child friendly without being dominated by children. We want to relax but also explore as we prefer not to eat in the hotel. Our budget will be £3,000-£4,000.
A. Our recommendations for toddler friendly holidays include Corsica, Cyprus, Brittany, South of France and Halkidiki.
Our editors recommend the following holidays with toddlers:
Corsica – under two hours’ flight and a great choice of family-run hotels. Corsican Places has a tremendous choice and really know their stuff. We notice that your company address is in Glasgow; there are no flights from Scotland to Corsica as far as we can see so that may not be so convenient for you.
Halkidiki – Sani Resort. A choice of superb toddler-friendly hotels within the one resort. Very high quality, excellent child facilities, and it’s not dominated by Brits. Contact the family specialist company Western & Oriental.
Cyprus – the Almyra in Paphos is very family-friendly, walking distance of seafront restaurants and offers a BabyGoLightly pre-order service for baby/toddler prerequisites. Try Sovereign.
Portugal – the contemporary Martinhal on the Algarve is specifically recommended by my fellow editor at 101 Holidays, Jane Anderson, as the best choice for families. However, you would need a hire car to get out to restaurants in the evening. Try Tots Too.
Brittany – Try Hotel des deux Mers. Jane wrote the book, Kids in Brittany, and this is her top choice in Brittany.
It goes without saying that you will find the prices significantly lower in the shoulder seasons of May/June and September/October when compared with the summer school holidays. Even travelling in the first week of July, before the school holidays start, will make a difference.
Last updated: 18 November 2016