As a travel journalist and mum I’ve spent a lot of time travelling with the offspring in tow, and we’ve had the most incredible experiences. Most trips have been a success (although there has been some trial and error, and we’ve learned the hard way how to manage jet lag, tantrums – mine included – and cope with delays). So here, in no particular order, are my Top 10 family-friendly destinations. I’d love to hear yours.
There’s a reason Orlando is so popular with us Brits. Yes it’s eight/nine hours on a plane, but once you arrive, the time difference is just five hours, the weather is (usually) gorgeous, and there’s so much to do and see, from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Tampa, the Space Coast and the glorious beaches. My advice is to go for a fortnight, pace yourselves and really take your time exploring and discovering your favourite parks and places (or even add on the Disney Cruise).
The Swedish capital, which is basically lots of different islands (14 in total), is quite simply one of the most kid-friendly cities we’ve ever visited. Djurgården is a whole island dedicated to families, and includes the brilliant Skansen open-air museum, where you can see Swedish brown bears and a full replica of a 19th-century town, the Vasa viking ship museum and the very charming Junibacken, dedicated to Astrid Lindgren’s characters including Pippi Longstocking and Emil. The medieval Gamla Stan (Old Town) is glorious, too, and it’s simple to travel to the different islands by ferry. Summer is absolutely beautiful because of the Midnight Sun, and winter, when it’s covered in snow, is breathtaking.
Wonderful for walking around and enjoying picnics in the summer. I recommend taking a river trip along the Seine – it’s a brilliant way to get a feel for the city and see some of the landmarks. Kids will also love the Eiffel Tower (even if it makes their mums nervous wrecks). And it’s also really easy to take a daytrip to Marne-la-Valleé by train for a soujourn to Disneyland Paris.
4. The Isle of Wight
Blissfully simple to get to by ferry from Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight is a revelation. It’s incredibly pretty in parts, like stepping back into a nostalgic version of England – quaint, and charming. But it’s also very cool, particularly Ventnor, which is absolutely gorgeous. There’s no shortage of excitement, either, with highlights including Dinosaur Isle and the model village at Godshill. Fabulous.
Some of our most successful trips have been to Italy. Whether you’re exploring Rome or one of the other cities, or staying in Tuscany or on the Adriatic coast, it’s just incredibly easy-going, and if your children are learning about the Romans at school there’s a never-ending treasure trove to discover, including the Colosseum. And of course everywhere you go there’s gelato to try. One of our favourite islands is Sicily, but we also loved Sardinia, and Lake Como is simply stunning.
6. The Caribbean
We’ve had so many fabulous holidays in the Caribbean – the laidback lifestyle is perfect for families (here are my Top 5 Caribbean islands for families.
From Athens to Rhodes, Greece is wonderful for families – great value, and you never run out of things to see and do. From seeing oranges growing in the street and ancient sites including the Parthenon in Athens, where they can learn lots of myths and legends, to snacking on halloumi and olives by the sea, it’s an absoulute joy to holiday with children here.
Easy to get to, easy to get around (no surprise that the trains run like clockwork), Switzerland is a brilliant country for holidaying with kids, chocolate-box pretty and of course incredibly clean. We’ve been to the top of snow-covered mountains in the height of summer, swum in icy lakes and enjoyed cheese and chocolate fondues (not at the same time, obviously). Oh, and the hills really are alive with the sound of music – it’s cowbells.
9. The South of France
One of our favourite areas to holiday – it may be impossibly glamorous (the only place I’ve ever seen mums wearing skyscraper heels, full make-up and diamonds with their bikinis) but it’s also very family-friendly. Provence is absolutely gorgeous of course and we adored Cannes with its safe bathing – slightly less crowded than Nice. We also loved Monte Carlo – no we’re not millionaires, but if you go at the end of season (as late in August as you possibly can, or even the first few days of September) it’s actually surprisingly affordable, and so safe and clean. Lovely.
From Lulworth Cove to Lyme Regis, Dorset is a wonderful place to holiday with children. We’ve loved discovering fossils on the dinosaur trail along the Jurassic coast, and the funfair at Weymouth, as well as the wild beauty of Chesil Beach and exploring Portland Castle. And all the ice-cream and cream teas, of course *cough*.