40th birthday holiday ideas

By Annabelle Thorpe

A lot of us celebrate the big 4-0 with a holiday. That could mean a house party with friends and family, a weekend break with your partner, or a truly memorable once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here’s my pick of how to celebrate your 40th birthday in style, either in the UK or abroad.

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Friends and familyParty weekendsOnce in a lifetimeIdeas for couples

Birthday trips with friends and family

Hiring a country house or villa for an extended family gathering or group of friends is a great way to celebrate your 40th. Since the pandemic, there’s been a high demand for UK rental properties in high season, so it’s a good idea to book well ahead. Take a look at these luxury cottages in the Lake District, ideal if you want wonderful walking routes, cycling trails and rock climbing on your doorstep. Also see our tips for the best cottage rentals in the Peak District, Devon and Cornwall.

For a unique celebration, you could book a historic house – perhaps an Elizabethan banqueting tower or a medieval thatched cottage. The Cotswolds is a beautiful destination – and easy to reach from many parts of the UK. Check out these luxury rental properties.

It’s worth noting that house parties no longer mean having to do your own cooking and cleaning; many companies can arrange a private chef, food deliveries and a full concierge service. Check out Oliver’s Travels.

For budget and mid-price UK rentals, try  Classic CottagesRural Retreats and Sykes Cottages. See more UK holiday ideas.

If you want more certainty around sunny weather, book a villa holiday abroad and enjoy your own private pool. Try destinations such as PaxosCorfu, Tuscany and the Canary Islands.

Looking for a romantic break? See our pick of the best villas for two. Many of these also have private pools.

And there’s no reason why the house party idea only works in summer; book a catered ski chalet and you can be whizzing down the pistes by day and sitting down to gourmet, champagne-fuelled suppers in the evening – all prepared by the chalet staff. Check out these catered chalets in Austria and the latest offers across the Alps.

Or you could celebrate your 40th by renting one of these canal boats or sailing boats (sleeping up to 12 people) and explore some of the UK’s loveliest rivers and canals. Check out the latest offers.

40th birthday in Berlin

Party weekends

Whether you want roof-terrace cocktails, shopping sprees or late-night clubbing, a city break is a great option for a memorable get-together with friends. Few cities offer a more eclectic, eccentric nightlife than Berlin – from the sleek cocktail bars in West Berlin to the hip clubs in the former communist East.

Art-lovers could head to Madrid, where the golden triangle of world-class galleries – the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza – make a peaceful counterpart to evening tapas-crawls and late-night cocktails. The intimate Hotel Orfila is a former 14th-century palace.

For a city with character, charm, great food and nightlife, take the short flight to Lisbon. It’s great value and there are many gorgeous places to stay including this stylish adults-only hotel with rooftop pool, and these vintage-inspired apartments for up to seven people.

If you want to mix city and beach, Palma is a great choice, while Budapest offers the chance to recover from the over-indulgence of the night before in one of the city’s historic mineral baths.

You could treat yourself – or your partner – to one of these exciting sporting breaks. How about a Formula One break with grandstand tickets and pit lane walkabout, or a Six Nations rugby tour.

New York is the perfect choice – mix strolls in Central Park with bar hops around the East Village, cocktails on the Upper West Side and dinner in one of Soho’s hip eateries. Or dress up for a night at The Met on one of these opera holidays in New York.

If you prefer to stay in the UK, this Georgian hotel in Bristol is a great base for a party weekend.

Once in a lifetime experiences

If you want your 40th birthday marked by a moment you’ll never forget, there are few more spectacular sights on the planet than the ethereal Northern Lights. You can take a spectacular winter break in Iceland. Alternatively, stay in one of these Glass Igloos in Finnish Lapland.

If you want to be somewhere truly unique, head to Jordan, and visit the spellbinding ancient site of Petra for your very own Lawrence of Arabia experience. And if there was ever a reason to climb on board the iconic Orient-Express to Venice, a 40th birthday is the perfect time to do it.

For something more exotic, you could take its sister train, the Eastern & Oriental Express as it travels between Bangkok and Singapore. Combine it with a stay in a private pool villa on Koh Yao Yai in this Thai Island Getaway.

If you’ve been thinking about a road trip across the USA, now’s the time. This collection of self-drive adventures from Tropical Sky includes New England, Route 66, the coastline of California and a dazzling journey taking in five National Parks.

Alternatively, base yourself at gorgeous Scottsdale, Arizona set in the vast Sonora desert. You’ll find year-round sunshine, hiking, biking, golfing and hot-air ballooning, along with upscale resorts, bars and restaurants. Fly direct to Phoenix, just 15 minutes from downtown Scottsdale.

40th birthday holiday ideas for couples

If you’re up for being pampered, rather than partying, then escaping to a luxury retreat or country house hotel can be a lovely way to celebrate in a more relaxed style.

In the UK, you could head to Gilpin Lodge in the Lake District for indulgently lazy spa days and wonderful seafood dinners.

This selection of hip hotels in the UK includes some beauties including a chic countryside retreat near Hay-on-Wye and an arty B&B overlooking the Yorkshire Dales.

Also check out this guide to the best UK hotels for foodies and restaurants with rooms which includes some modern classics such as The Gurnard’s Head in Zennor, Cornwall, and Monachyle Mhor in Perthshire.

If you’d like to stay away from young families, you’ll love this collection of all-suite adult-only hotels in Greece and Turkey exclusive to Simpson Travel.

The island of Menorca has some special places to stay including this stylish townhouse hotel in Mahón and a converted farmhouse with infinity pool.

For a touch of the exotic, head to Morocco and stay at a stylish riad in Marrakech or the lesser-visited ancient city of Fes. You could also take in hip Essaouira on the coast.

How about a short break to Paris? Let the experts at Kirker Travel select the perfect hotel for you, whether it’s the Pavillon de la Reine, a boutique address in the Marais, or the grandeur of the George V.

If you’re after guaranteed sunshine, Sorrento – the gateway to the Amalfi Coast – makes a great base for a few days. Or indulge in some luxury at one of Italy’s finest resort hotels – both Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in Sicily and Forte Village Resort in Sardinia offer beach, activities and spa treats.

If you fancy heading further afield, Barbados offers white-sand beaches, luxurious hotels and a chilled-out vibe. The all-inclusive SoCo is a great choice for couples.

See more holiday ideas for young couples. If you’re travelling solo, see our tips for the best singles holidays for over 40s.

Last updated: 7 June 2022

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Travel restrictions have been lifted by the UK, but some other countries still have measures in place. Check the latest government travel advice.