101 Family Holidays

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    Best family activity holidays

    Tennis activity holidays for childrenBest family activity holidays

    By Mark Frary, Editor of 101 Family Holidays

    A family activity holiday is the perfect way to keep boredom at bay, encourage your kids to learn a new skill or allow them to develop a childhood hobby, whether it’s horse riding, cycling, surfing, sailing, tennis or something more offbeat like fossil hunting or looking after farm animals.

    There are activities to suit most ages, from toddlers to teens and – best of all – the whole family can usually get involved. Setting off on a cycling trip, or learning how to surf is a great way to bond as a family. You share the experience together; you all get a sense of achievement and – while these may not necessarily be the most relaxing kinds of family holiday – they are invariably great fun.

    Here I’m making the distinction between family holidays where there’s a selection of activities available if you feel like it – and holidays where the whole theme of the trip is centred around a particular activity, or activities. (If you’re looking for something more wild and exotic, see our guide to the best family adventure holidays).

    Activity-based family resorts

    Taking the first option, there are several operators offering activity-based resorts where you can pick-and-choose from numerous land- and watersports – just as you could easily opt out altogether and flop by the pool.

    Club Med has a worldwide selection of all-inclusive beach and winter sports resorts where you can try your hand at activities as diverse as circus skills and alpine skiing. In Turkey, Mark Warner’s Sea Garden Beach Resort should keep watersports fans happy.

    Available at luxury resorts throughout the Med, Powder Byrne Sports Academies will appeal to families with teens, while in Jersey, the child-friendly Merton Hotel has an indoor Aquadome with swimming pools, slides, fountains, sauna and steam room.

    Club Vounaki beach clubScuba Diving AcademyOkavango Horse Safaris, BotswanaPGL-adventure-camps

    Action-packed family holidays

    Raising the tempo (and adrenaline levels), there’s an equally diverse range of family holidays where activities are the heart, soul and highlights of the itinerary.

    Parents and children getting stuck into activities together is the underlying ethos of trips with Activities Abroad where you could find yourself on a white-water family jolly through rapids in the Julian Alps of Slovenia, or tubing through a canyon in Turkey. Some trips are specifically for families with teenagers. Prices start at just £475 pp.

    Inghams on the other hand offers action summer holidays for families in the lakes and mountains of Europe with children as young as three. Its most popular hotels include Hotel le Cret in Morzine, Club Hotel Villa Paradiso in the Italian Lakes and the Garden Hotel Theresia in Austria.

    If your heart is set on a mountain activity holiday, take a peek at Peak Retreats – it specialises in the French Alps and has picked out a great selection of unspoilt resorts – some of which offer a choice of 40+ activities, from rock climbing to summer skiing.

    If you fancy the freedom of the ocean waves, you could join a flotilla sailing holiday in the Mediterranean, where you’ll join a group of other people sailing from port to port. If you’re a nervous beginner you can learn the ropes first on a two-week Stay and Sail Holiday with the first week on land and the second at sea.

    Of course, when it comes to ‘action stations’ few operators raise the bar higher than PGL. Your son or daughter may have already enjoyed a school trip or summer camp at one of their UK activity centres – or perhaps joined a PGL skiing trip. What you may not realise, however, is that PGL also offers family activity holidays in the UK and France. There are lots of options to choose from, including from the classic multi-activity holiday and canoeing on the Ardeche. See more family holidays in France.

    For other summer camp ideas for your children, try Kingswood Camps, which boasts no fewer than 80 different activities at its seven residential camps for 7-17 year-olds. Locations include the Isle of Wight, North Wales and French Alps.

    Ramp up the excitement in Sweden and Norway where 24-hour daylight during mid-summer is a boon for kids who crave outdoors adventures. This family adventure in Norway includes a musk-ox safari, river rafting, canyoning, horse riding and rowing on the fjords. In Sweden, this Campfires & Kayaks trip includes a safari to see beavers, moose and wolves, chopping wood for a campfire, foraging for berries and sailing and sea kayaking around the beautiful island of Bergholmen.

    Further afield, holiday activities get an extra splash of adrenaline and excitement in Costa Rica. I recommend Journey Latin America – the market leader – which includes zip lining, white-water rafting, canoeing, horse riding, surfing and rainforest walks on its family trips. Try the Jungle Walks and Turtle Spotting trip if you have two weeks. Or if you have just one week, go for their Signature Costa Rica holiday.

    Sri Lanka is another thrilling destination for children of all ages with whale watchingwhite water rafting, and cultural encounters such as this village farm experience.

    Another exciting option in Latin America is English-speaking Belize where Explore offers this family group tour in July and August, featuring a jungle lodge, jaguar sanctuary, ancient Mayan temples, snorkelling on a barrier reef and encounters with howler monkeys, spider monkeys, toucans and parrots in tropical forests.

    If it’s the cost of a family holiday to such a far-flung destination that sets your pulse racing, the Family Adventure Company has a calming selection of action-packed family holidays for under £1,000 per person, including flights as well as accommodation, activities and any gear required, all breakfasts, some other meals and, of course, expert guides and instructors.

    Working farm holidays for childrenSpectacular-scenery

    Family walking holidays

    Now we step boldly into the realm of family activity holidays where it is the activity itself that dictates the style of the trip.

    No doubt there are plenty of families who think nothing of stuffing rucksacks with tents, sleeping bags and cooking gear before marching into the hills on a good old family yomp. For the rest of us, though, a family walking holiday is more about easy strolling, exploring a region at a gentle pace and spending quality (blister-free) time together.

    Inntravel understands this perfectly and even goes so far as removing the heavy burden of luggage from you. Bags are transported ahead each day to the next family-friendly hotel on your walking itinerary through some of Europe’s scenic hotspots. You’re equipped with detailed notes, describing everything from restaurants and beaches to wildlife to watch out for, and there’s always a sprinkling of non-walking days in each holiday.

    If you want to get footloose and fancy-free nearer to home, why not book a cottage in the Lake District? Sykes Cottages has nearly 400 properties in and around the national park where you can set out on day walks ranging from buggy-friendly ambles around Tarn Hows and a gentle circuit of Buttermere to more challenging hikes in the fells around Ambleside and Windermere. The Lakes are also awash with other activities, from canoeing on Ullswater to cycling in the Grizedale Forest.

    Family cycling holidays

    Kids love bikes and it’s not surprising that family cycling holidays are so popular. Don’t be put off by logistics. No one is expecting you to laden your bicycle with bulging panniers and attempt any Bradley Wiggins’ style feats of endurance.

    Inntravel takes the puff out of pedalling with its great range of self-guided family cycling holidays in some of the most beautiful regions of Europe. Its most popular routes are the Quiet Lanes of Mallorca where you stay in characterful agriturismos with a pool, and Bikes, Backroads and Beaches which involves exploring the hidden beaches, medieval villages and unspoiled countryside of Catalonia.

    Headwater specialises has a great range of independent family activity holidays featuring cycling, walking and canoeing. It has options in AustriaFrance and Spain and you can choose between staying at a single base, or travelling between hotels with your luggage transported along the way.

    Family horse riding holidays

    A saddle on a horse, rather than a bike? No problem. Audley Travel offers a fabulous ranching holiday at the Echo Valley Ranch and Spa in British Columbia. You can hit the trails on horseback, learn how to lasso, try your hand at gold panning and go “Yee-ha” at a cowboy cook-out in the mighty fine mountains and forests in this beautiful corner of Canada. You’ll also find a great collection of luxury resort ranches and small working ranches in the American West.

    Or how about learning to play polo? If your kids are eight or older you can learn the ropes together at Polo Valley Ranch in Sotogrande in southern Spain. It’s a great bonding experience and no riding experience is necessary.

    Family surfing holidays

    If there’s one activity synonymous with family seaside holidays in the UK, it’s bodyboarding. Taking the next step and learning how to surf with a professional instructor is not only hugely rewarding (for kids and grown-ups), but also helps to teach your children how to stay safe in the waves.

    The supremely family-friendly Sands Resort Hotel and Gwel an Mor Luxury Resort both preside over the North Cornwall Coast, renowned for its superb surf.

    Also consider the luxurious but family-friendly Six Senses Lammu in the Maldives where teenagers can surf the world-class Ying-Yang break and get stuck into wake-boarding, scuba-diving, snorkelling and more. The Four Seasons Kuda Huraa has a kids spa, surf school and marine discovery centre. See more family holidays in the Maldives.

    Family snorkelling and diving holidays

    Snorkelling is another activity that can rapidly become an obsession for children on a seaside holiday. A sailing holiday with Peter Sommer Travels, pottering around the Turkish coast on a traditional gulet, provides endless opportunities for flopping overboard and seeing what lies beneath.

    Taking the plunge into scuba diving is the next natural step. Numerous family resorts offer PADI Bubblemaker courses where children as young as eight can take their first breath underwater in the safe and controlled conditions of a swimming pool. Children aged 10-14 can then progress to the Junior Open Water course.

    Family skiing holidays

    For family skiing holidays, Esprit Ski takes care of everything, from ski classes for 3-12 year-olds, dedicated nurseries, pre-bookable ski packs and catered chalets or chalet hotels in around 15 of the best family-friendly resorts in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland. Click here for some great deals, including free children’s holidays and lift passes, free children’s ski and boot rental and discounted adult ski passes.

    Cross-country skiing is just one of the alternative winter activities to choose from on a three- or four-night break in Finland with Santa’s Lapland – although a pilgrimage to meet Father Christmas is, of course, the main event.

    Family farm stay holidays

    If cycling, surfing, scuba diving and skiing just sound too challenging and complicated, or if you have very young children whose idea of an ‘action holiday’ is to pat a donkey on the head and collect chicken’s eggs, then a farmstay is the ideal choice.

    Holiday Cottages has a selection of properties on working farms throughout the UK, including Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wales and the Cotswolds.

    And finally…

    … something for dinosaur hunters – quite possibly the most addictive holiday activity out there. You could plan an expedition to Mongolia or the Badlands, but why not start by honing your fossil collecting skills on the Isle of Wight where you can track down dinosaur footprints and look for remains of the predatory Neovenator salerii. The Dinosaur Isle museum whisks you back in time to the Cretaceous and also organises fossil walks. Stay at one of these lovely cottages.

    Last updated: 19 January 2017

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