2 March 2017
Watching children excitedly discover your favourite journeys for the first time is why parents put up with the Herculean task of planning family holidays. Rediscover the magic of these perennial holiday favourites by making the trip with your kids.
Whether you're visiting for the first time or the tenth, each promises a new experience with a wealth of activities you can enjoy together.
Somewhere between the beautiful beaches, lush volcanic mountains and engaging culture, Hawaii has managed to strike the perfect balance between holidays for kids and holidays for adults. From Oahu and Maui to Kauai and the Big Island, this tropical paradise is all about experiences to suit every member of the family.
Honolulu is a great option for younger children with a sweep of resorts that take family-friendly to the next level. You could easily spend your entire holiday exploring the amenities on offer, from kids clubs to golf courses, but rest assured a little island exploration will be even more rewarding. The Polynesian Cultural Centre and Iolani Palace are top cultural highlights, or snorkel the sheltered waters of Hanauma Bay.
Older children will appreciate the pursuits found on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island as all provide a healthy dose of adventure. Get below the water's surface with a trip to the Maui Ocean Centre or the Atlantis Submarine, or simply stake out a spot on one of the many white, black and even green sand beaches. Away from the water's edge, hiking trails for all levels will reveal stunning waterfalls and pools, or explore steaming fields and lava tubes at Volcanoes National Park.
• The Old Lahaina Luau
• A family surfing lesson
• A scenic tour of the Na Pali Coast
Sydney serves up the big city glam yet maintains a certain accessibility that makes it a top choice for families seeking a little cosmopolitan flair in their holidays. You can get into the thick of it with a spot in Darling Harbour, or you can bunk up along the fringes to venture into the city when the mood strikes.
The city itself is ripe with opportunity for families to get exploring. Many of the best museums and attractions are positioned close together, ensuring easy navigation as you start out. A trip to the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are great family photo opps. Older children may even want to brave the climb to the top of the bridge. The Sydney Aquarium is close by as is Madam Tussauds. Alternatively, ride the roller coasters of Luna Park or catch the ferry out to Taronga Zoo.
The fun isn't restricted to the city centre, though, with a couple of coastal getaways within a 30-minute drive. Stretch out in the sands of famous Bondi Beach, or head to Manly to test the waters at Manly Cove Beach.
• Cuddle a koala at Taronga Zoo
• Soak up the sun at Bondi
• A picnic at the Royal Botanic Gardens
England may be small, but it packs a punch. There are few places on earth that can rival the sheer variety on offer here. There are fewer still that can charm visitors of all ages with the perfect balance of rich heritage and modern innovation. It doesn't matter if your family is looking for pastoral beauty, cultural enlightenment or a beach getaway, you'll find it in England.
Naturally, the best place to start your English exploration is London. It's one of the most visited city in the world and welcomes families with an endless list of highlights. What's better is that it's all easily navigated with abundant public transport available. From the London Eye to the Tate Museum; Tower of London to Buckingham Palace; St Pauls Cathedral to Piccadilly Circus; a month in London would only scratch the surface.
Of course, the charms of England go beyond its most famous city. For seaside fun, get to Brighton or Kent. Walk over ancient stones as you follow in the footsteps of the Romans in Bath. Cheer on the home team at a football match in Manchester, or cycle the picturesque streets of the Cotswolds' limestone villages. There is no shortage of family fun right throughout England!
• A round on the London Eye
• The Roman Baths family audio trail
• A Manchester United match
Beaches and mountains, world class theme parks and museums, decadent spas and shopping – California calls to families across the globe with fun that spans the entire spectrum of age and interests. What's better is that the Golden State lays claim to more than 200 days of sunshine every year and plays host to a spread of scenic cities capable of providing once-in-a-lifetime family holiday memories.
Anaheim is a popular choice for first-time family visits to California, thanks in large part to Disneyland. The 'Happiest Place on Earth' is certainly the king (or evil Queen) of the state's theme park precinct, but don't forget that Universal Studios, Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags, Raging Waters and Legoland are all approximately an hour's drive away!
Beyond the thrills and spills of roller coasters and cartoon characters, California stuns with its natural beauty, from Yosemite's scenic mountainscapes to the incredible glory of the tallest trees in the world at Redwoods National Park. Enjoy the laid-back beach culture of Santa Monica and its famous pier; marvel at the majesty of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge; spot the stars along Hollywood Boulevard or hop in a car for the road trip of a lifetime along California's coast on Highway One.
• A day or two at Disneyland
• Animal spotting at San Diego Zoo
• Standing at the foot of a Redwood tree
Families with older children are sure to savour the sights, sounds and flavours of Paris, but the City of Lights and Love may surprise with its varied selection of fun suitable for families with younger children. History, food, culture and some of the world's most famous landmarks are all par for the course, but delve a little deeper to uncovered Paris’ less travelled attractions that can be just as rewarding.
It’s easy to discover (or rediscover) the magic of Paris with your kids. Climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for sensational views over the city to the Eiffel Tower. Children will love watching the hustle of the traffic down the Champs Elysees. Walk the great halls of the Louvre, while the entire family marvels at the world’s greatest collection of artworks. Or simply grab a treat to suit all taste buds by ordering a crepe from a street vendor.
Escape the crowds and please younger minds with a trip to La Cite Des Enfants. Designed specifically for children, this unique museum teaches little ones about science through interactive, multi-lingual exhibits. Alternatively, check out some of the city’s green spaces to relax while the kids run wild. Parc de la Villette, Jardin d’Acclimation and Jardin des Tuileries are all popular choices with playgrounds and rides to explore.
• The toy sail boats in Luxembourg Gardens
• A private tour of the Louvre
• A sweet treat from the local bakery
Appealing to families that appreciate holidays well off the beaten path, Iceland is a fantastic choice. It's all about new adventures, but that doesn't mean it's strictly for older kids. Quite the opposite in fact. This other-worldly island enchants young and old with its surreal landscapes and incredible hospitality.
While it's certainly not fair to say that Iceland is all about the landscapes, it's true that nature's bounty plays a large part! From Reykjavik to the Westman Islands, the scenery inspires open-mouthed amazement no matter how young or old. Summer offers up blue skies, verdant cliffs and cascading waterfalls. Winter transforms the landscape into a snow-covered wonderland worthy of your children's favourite Disney movies, while geysers gush, hot springs steam and mud pots bubble throughout the year.
You may be transfixed by the natural surrounds, but don't overlook the cultural side of this destination. Reykjavik is a compact centre easily traversed on foot that captivates imaginations with a rich history and varied list of activities. Learn about the Vikings at one of the many museums, relax in the thermal pools or feed the ducks at Tjornin Lake.
Don't Miss ...
• A dip in Grindavik's Blue Lagoon
• The Aurora Borealis
• The Great Geysir
By Carlie Tucker