Toddler friendly holidays
By William and Sally Gray, Editors of 101 Family Holidays
Looking for toddler-friendly holidays? We’ve got some great advice on when and where to go, and how to organise your trip. Plus, we 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. When our twins were four, we took them on a mule-supported trek in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Specialist operators such as The Adventure Company offer trips like these for children as young as two and provide the necessary infrastructure and planning to make the holiday stress-free. Take a look at this – walking with donkeys in Spain – or this charming walking holiday in Austria.
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, Menorca and Corfu.
Italy has some wonderful family villas and cottages, whether you opt for the handsome rolling countryside of Tuscany or Umbria, or the southern charm and beaches of Campania or Puglia. Children are worshipped in Italy, and the food goes down pretty well too!
Campervan holidays, meanwhile, are a guaranteed hit with toddlers. We took ours around New Zealand and they loved the idea of having a bedroom, playroom, kitchen and bathroom rolled into one. We could stop where and when we liked, and never had to worry where to find a toilet or child-friendly restaurant.
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 20 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. We recommend these operators in Devon, Cornwall and the Lake District. If you want to bring a 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. Also try the Cotswold Water Park Four Pillars Hotel. 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.
You’ll find some great places to stay close to ferry ports, which dramatically reduces journey times. You can rent a tent or mobile home at Camping Duinrell which is only 30 miles from the Hook of Holland and has a wonderful water park, along with a sandy beach. Disneyland Paris is easy to reach by car or train. You can also take a ferry to the beaches of Northern Spain.
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.
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, the Grecotel Cape Sounio near Athens, and Mark Warner’s Sea Garden Beach Resort in Turkey. Also try the Sani Resort in Greece, and these family-friendly hotels in Sardinia.
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.
Croatia has some fine family-friendly hotels including Villas Kolocep on a traffic-free island just 25 minutes by ferry from Dubrovnik. It has a gently shelving sandy beach, a lovely pool and family suites. See more ideas.
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 30C. 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, Cobblers Cove in Barbados and the Caribbean Club in the Cayman 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. We recommend renting a private home with pools in Orlando, but there are also lots of child-friendly hotels. Check out latest special offers.
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).
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.