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Mark Frary


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    Best family holidays at Christmas

    * We pick the best family holidays for you

    * How to save money and avoid the pitfalls

    By Mark Frary, Editor of 101 Family Holidays

    “Dear Santa, for Christmas this year I’d like a holiday…” If you’re thinking of taking the kids away for the festive period, on this page you’ll find a stocking-full of family holiday goodies, plus top tips on where to go and how to plan your trip – whether you’re looking for a yuletide bolthole in a cosy cottage or a Christmas cracker in the Caribbean.

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    How to planUK holidaysEuropeCaribbean and Indian OceanAdventures

    Planning a Christmas family holiday

    Going on holiday at Christmas is the perfect way to spend quality time with family or friends. You get a break from stuffing the turkey and the dishwasher, while the children get a present they’ll never forget – an exciting holiday somewhere amazing!

    A Christmas family holiday needn’t cost a fortune. There are some great-value breaks in the UK. And don’t forget that if you are flying abroad, you can save money by travelling on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.

    With everyone on the move over Christmas, roads will be busy, so allow extra time for getting to the airport. Check that public transport, airport parking and other services that you take for granted the rest of the year are actually operating.

    It’s a good idea to leave presents unwrapped, just in case security decide to hand-check your luggage at the airport. Take gift-wrap, tape and ribbons with you, but remember that scissors must not be packed in your hand luggage. Gift cards are a lot less fuss and take up minimal space.

    If you do take expensive gifts away with you, carry them in your hand luggage, keep receipts and make sure your travel insurance is adequate.

    Christmas family holidays in the UK

    At Gwel an Mor, Scandinavian-style lodges bring a little bit of Lapland to the Cornish coast. Santa and his reindeer are in residence over Christmas, while the five-star resort hosts a Family Festive Fun Weekend in early December.

    Renting a cottage over Christmas and the New Year is not only great fun, but you can also save money by splitting the costs of a larger property with family or friends. Classic Cottages have more than 100 properties in the West Country that are suitable for large groups.

    If you’re renting a cottage over Christmas you’ll need somewhere to roast chestnuts – Sykes Cottages have a search facility for cottages with open fires, while Rural Retreats have a great range of dog-friendly cottages – so even the furry members of the family needn’t miss out on the festivities.

    Christmas family holidays in Europe

    The Big Domain has large holiday homes for rent in destinations ranging from England to Vanuatu, but it’s their selection of large ski chalets in Europe that particularly appeals at Christmas.

    Oliver’s Travels also has properties that are great for a big family get-together at Christmas. The 17th-century Chateau Castelsagrat near Moissac in Southern Quercy has accommodation for 19 guests and comes with a Christmas tree, decorations and welcome basket of festive goodies. See the latest special offers.

    If you’re looking to whisk the kids away on a Christmas treat, few things will get a more resounding cheer than a holiday in the Alps. Esprit Ski have been refining the art of family skiing for 30 years and offer a superb selection of child-friendly resorts in Switzerland, Austria, Italy and France – all with Esprit’s legendary childcare and excellent value ski packages. See the latest deals.

    Several European cities, from Berlin and Krakow to Tallinn and Vienna, host Christmas markets where streets and squares are transformed into a glittering homage to yuletide traditions. Nothing will get you in the Christmas mood better than a short break steeped in hot gluhwein – while the kids will love the carols, food, festive atmosphere and quirky stalls.

    Winter sun is bound to be on many people’s Christmas lists. In the Canaries, Tots Too has a feast of fine family hotels.

    If Christmas is all about making dreams come true, you can’t go wrong with a journey to Lapland to visit Santa, view the Northern Lights or try your hand at activities like husky sledding and reindeer sleigh rides. I recommend Best Served which has trips running up until 20 December and includes a thrilling snowmobile safari.

    Activities Abroad also has a smorgasbord of winter holiday options for families in Lapland in Norway, Finland or Sweden.

    A family Christmas in the Caribbean or Indian Ocean

    Feel like venturing further afield at Christmas? A white-sand Christmas is guaranteed in the Caribbean or Indian Ocean.

    The hurricane season in the Caribbean is over by the Christmas holidays and although this is peak period, you can often get good deals if you book online well in advance.

    Some of my favourite destinations include Round Hill Hotel & Villas which offers an equally relaxed and low-key experience, plantation-style, on Jamaica. Choose from hotel rooms or villas with a private pool. There’s an excellent children’s club and wonderful nanny service for tiny tots.

    Antigua is very popular with families at Christmas – direct flights and short transfers help. I recommend Blue Waters (there’s a choice of B&B or all-inclusive) and Carlisle Bay for a five-star splurge.

    Another warm-water wonderland awaits in the Indian Ocean where Mauritius, Seychelles and the Maldives have a glittering array of family resorts and hotels. Try Beachcomber Tours for family hotels in Mauritius and Turquoise for the Maldives. Best hotels in the Maldives include NIYAMA Private Island for younger kids and Six Senses Lammu for teens.

    For fun in the sun, it’s hard to beat Dubai with its water parks, glitzy hotels, desert adventures and indoor skiing. In December you can expect temperatures of 26ºC and 8 hours of daily sunshine. See a full range of family holidays in Dubai.

    Alternatively, go over the border into Oman for spectacular deserts, mountains, historic forts and 4X4 adventures. Best hotels for families include the Al Waha and the Six Senses Zighy Bay.

    A family adventure at Christmas

    Why not leave behind the tired old Christmas tree and head for Asia? Vietnam is a huge hit with kids, with its vibrant cities, great street food, endless white-sand beaches and colourful temples. Explore the Viet Cong tunnels at Cu Chi and the turtle and primate conservation centres at Cuc Phuong. The weather in December is excellent.

    Thailand is another destination that works with kids of all ages, particularly because Thai people adore children. This Southern Beach and Jungle Adventure features elephant encounters, jungle treks and canoeing – along with some luxury island resorts – and works well at Christmas. See more family holidays in Thailand.

    Sri Lanka is great value, and December is just about the prefect time to visit. The combination of beaches, wildlife, and exciting activities such as whale watching and white water rafting, plus cultural adventures such as this village farm experience make this a thrilling destination for children of all ages.

    India will blow your socks off. Try this two-week Taj, Tigers and Beaches private tour or the slightly more laid-back Kerala Family Adventure.

    Secondary school kids that like outdoor activities will adore Costa Rica, and it’s an easy direct BA flight from the UK. This 10-day Costa Rica for Families itinerary includes a stay in a rainforest lodge, river-rafting, wildlife-spotting and an exploration of the Arenal volcano.

    To make Christmas more meaningful, how about taking a family volunteering holiday that combines adventures, luxury hotels and a few days spent helping local villagers or working on wildlife conservation projects. Download a free guide to making your holiday more meaningful.

    Iceland is a thrilling winter destination only three hours flying time from the UK. There are few more magical ways to spend Christmas than viewing the Northern Lights but you can also get the adrenaline running with an off-road trip in a 4WD Superjeep to explore Iceland’s natural wonders – see this idea on the South Coast.

    You can also see the Northern Lights on a range of family adventure trips to SwedenNorway and Lapland. This weekend in Lapland includes snowmobile and dog-sled rides, a campfire evening and lunch at an ice restaurant.

    In South America, Dehouche offers some exciting family adventures in Peru and Brazil.

    Christmas on the wild side is also a guaranteed hit in Africa. It’s usually dry with excellent game viewing in East Africa – and as an extra Christmas treat, the wildebeest migration is in full force in the southern Serengeti during December and January. Try this 12-day wildlife and beach family safari.

    Another sensational destination in Africa is Madagascar which is teeming with unique wildlife experiences from whale watching to a lemur tracking safari – plus the white-sand beaches are world class. This 9-day Lemurs, Boababs and Tsingy Safari is great for families.

    More safari options from South Africa to Zambia are available with Mahlatini, Natural World Safaris and Rainbow Tours. This 11-night Kwa-Zulu Natal family holiday includes Big Five game drives and a chance to learn about conservation efforts and anti-poaching methods.

    In Morocco, try this tour for families which takes in Marrakech, the Atlantic coast and the Atlas Mountains. If you prefer to stay in one place, Rebali Riads near Essaouira combines relaxation, beach activities and Moroccan culture, with the options of a quad-bike tour, a Moroccan cooking course and a camel trek with a picnic on the beach.

    Last updated: 12 August 2019

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