10 Best Family Holidays
It’s not easy finding the ideal family holiday destination at the busiest and most expensive time of the year: half-term and summer holidays. But it can be done, says Joanna Symons, and here are some great choices.
Costa Rica is an ecotourist’s paradise – and a great way to bring biology and geography lessons alive. Spot toucans, parrots, hummingbirds and even the rare quetzal in the pristine cloud forest – and wander among the treetops on a high skywalk. Listen to howler monkeys in the jungle, watch the lava flow of Volcán Arenal (from a safe distance), and then relax on the unspoilt Pacific and Caribbean beaches. Costa Rica’s people are very welcoming and the tourism infrastructure is well developed by Latin American standards. Reef and Rainforest Tours (Tel: 01803 866965; www.reefandrainforest.co.uk) organises 14-day family friendly trips there from about £2,087 adult, £902 child, including flights, transfers and accommodation with breakfast.
Wigwams in Cornwall
Camping is much more fun when you bed down in a traditional wigwam. At Tregildrans Quarry, near Wadebridge, children can run free in the surrounding woodlands by day, and tuck themselves up in a teepee at night. Choose between staying in the wigwam village (a circle of 10 tents in close proximity for those of a nervous disposition), or in semi-isolation in the forest. You chop your own wood and cook on your own campfire, and although each teepee has its own little gas stove, water comes from an outside tap. It’s short on luxury (bring an inflatable mattress and be prepared for chemical loos) but big on adventure. Cornish Tipi Holidays, Tregildrans Quarry, nr St Kew, Cornwall (Tel: 01208 880781; www.cornish-tipi-holidays.co.uk). Prices from around £400 per week, plus £25 per person for fuel and water. Small teepees sleep up to three, larger models up to six people.
If you’ve got children of varying ages and tastes, head for Florida. Younger kids will love the vast array of theme parks in the Tampa and Orlando areas, while parents and teenagers will find plenty to occupy them in Miami’s South Beach – now one of the coolest places in the US. South Beach’s impressive art deco district has seen dilapidated buildings restored and turned into stylish bars and restaurants. The nightlife is sizzling and throughout the year the city hosts a never-ending series of exhibitions and festivals, from hip hop to modern art. If you can afford it, stay at the ultra-chic Ritz-Carlton South Beach – which also has an excellent children’s programme. Tel: 001 786 276 4000; www.ritzcarlton.com, family rooms, sleeping two adults and two children, from £161 a night, room only. For more information – and less expensive places to stay, contact the Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (Tel: 01444 443 355; www.miamiandbeaches.com).
The Algarve, Portugal
Pine Cliffs Resort is a new development of 78 smartly furnished apartments in the clifftop grounds of the Sheraton in Portugal’s Algarve. Guests can either self-cater or eat in any of the hotel’s multiple restaurants and children from six months to 12 years are entertained at Porto Pirata children’s club, run by English-speaking nannies, with two climb-aboard pirate ships, remote control boats, and for older children, a games room with pool and video games. The beach is 10 minutes away by foot and cliffside lift – and there are indoor and outdoor pools plus golf and tennis. Scott Dunn (Tel: 020 8682 5040; www.scottdunn.com) offers a July week at Pine Cliffs starting from £4,500 for two adults and two children in a two-bedroom apartment, including flights and car hire.
Get on the Water
Up on the Midlands canals you can take your narrowboat down to Stratford on Avon and moor close to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to catch a performance. Or cruise down the Worcester and Birmingham Canal to Cadbury World, Drayton Manor theme park and Dudley Castle and Zoo. Teenagers will enjoy mooring up near Birmingham city centre and taking a berth just minutes away from a string of clubs and restaurants. Alvechurch Boat Centre (0121 445 2909; www.alvechurch.com) is conveniently placed; and a six berth barge costs from £1,250 a week in June. Three-night weekends and four-night midweek breaks also available.
Despite its blue-rinse image, the island of Madeira is a great place for family holidays. It’s a manageable 3½ hour flight from London and has weather in the 70s for most of the year – warm for May and October half- terms and not too blisteringly hot in June and July. The capital, Funchal, has a raft of chic new hotels, including Jardins do Lago, the newest hotel in the Luxury Family Hotels group (which also includes Woolley Grange and The Ickworth). It has six acres of subtropical gardens, a pool and children’s pool, and a crèche and games room staffed by qualified British nannies who look after guests’ children from three months to 12 years. Four Winds Holidays (Tel: 01285 648510; www.fourwindsresorts.com) have one week at the Quinta Jardins do Lago from £955 per adult; children sharing parents’ room are charged from £415, under-twos free. This includes flights, transfers and breakfast, but not childcare.
P&O’s Ocean Village sets out to attract a younger sort of cruiser, and its latest scheme is aimed at children who have reached the stage where they want to be able to escape from parents and spend some time socialising with their own age group on holiday. Parents, of course, may well feel the same way. Ocean Village’s Great Escapes programme is available to children between nine and 17 on its Caribbean sailings during school holidays and offers activities away from the ship such as banana boating, river rafting, scuba-diving, rock climbing and abseiling. Tours are accompanied by members of the ship’s youth team and cost from about £12 per person. There are plenty of facilities on board for younger siblings. Look out for special offers when booking: prices currently from £1,259 per person in an outside cabin for a seven-night Caribbean cruise. Book on 0845 358 5000; www.oceanvillageholidays.co.ukTurkey
Children can help to feed the chickens, ducks and peacocks in the gardens of the Bordubet Golden Key hotel in Turkey. Set in a peaceful and remote spot, about 45 minutes from Marmaris, its rooms and restaurant overlook a pretty river packed with trout and turtles. A five-minute boat journey downstream brings you to the sea and the hotel’s beach club, with dinghy, windsurfers and sea kayaks, as well as a bar and restaurant, set in an unspoilt Mediterranean bay. Its relaxed atmosphere makes it a popular spot for families. Book through Exclusive Escapes (020 8605 3500; www.hiddenturkey.co.uk). One week costs from £600 adult, £400 child sharing, including flights.
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is like Britain in miniature, with high cliffs and downland, creeks and salt marshes, chocolate-box villages and superb beaches. Families can hunt for fossils and dinosaur remains, learn to surf or sail, cycle along forest tracks, play golf and ride on a steam railway. Other attractions include the impressive Carisbrooke Castle, Blackgang Chine theme park and Queen Victoria’s home of Osborne House. Ferry operator Red Funnel will book a wide range of holiday accommodation, from campsites and farm holidays to luxury hotels. For details ring 0870 444 8890, or look at www.redfunnel.co.uk.
Base yourself at one of Shoreline Cottages’ stylishly renovated properties in Whitby, Yorkshire and make the most of the beaches, fish restaurants, cobbled streets, fossils, snug inns and arty crafts shops. Cottages sleep from two to eight and combine character features with mod cons like central heating and a microwave. A cottage sleeping four costs from £415 for three nights, £690 for a week. Book on 0113 289 3539 or visit www.shoreline-cottages.com.