Family holidays are a big deal. Where do we go? Who wants to do what? What’s the accommodation like? Is it safe? Will we like the food? And so it goes on. You don’t want to go all that way and get it wrong! I mean, I don’t ever think any travelling is wrong as such, but we understand the need to focus on getting it right, for your brood, as much as you can.
So herewith, a snapshot, in our humble opinion, of some of the best long-haul travel destinations for families.
Best for: BIG OUTDOORS
With its spectacular mountains, coastlines and wildlife, Canada is unsurprisingly very attractive to families seeking a diverse and audacious holiday. From Whistler to the Rockies, there are some fabulous opportunities for all ages to indulge in different kinds of adventurous activities, including water and snow sports, hiking, camping, whale watching, bear spotting and cycling. All across the beautiful vastness of rivers, peaks, lakes, beaches and prairies. The cities are also pretty amazing, with great offerings for kids and adults alike. Vancouver is regularly voted as one of the top cities on earth and one of the happiest. With a Canada having a wide range of good quality accommodation, flexible/independent travel, easy driving routes plus no language barrier, it makes it a fabulous choice.
Getting there: Direct flights from the UK (8-10 hours)
Best time to go: Spring through Autumn
Best for: TROPICAL ADVENTURES
This Central American country may be small in size, but it offers a balmy equatorial climate, misty mangroves and simmering volcanos. It is one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet and a world leader in eco-tourism. Costa Rica offers a family holiday you can feel good about. More than a quarter of its land is protected from development and it banned hunting in 2012, creating a haven for some incredible indigenous wildlife like the Ocelot and three-toed sloth. Kids can zipline through the enchanting cloud forests, surf on the stunning beaches, stay in a treehouse, snorkel with turtles or cruise the waterways of the national parks. All of this plus super happy locals and friendly hosts, and the opportunity to pack in a lot in a fairly short space of time means Costa Rica is one of the best long-haul family destinations.
Getting there: Direct flights from the UK (11 hours)
Best time to go: January is perfect but there’s no bad time. July and August are rainier but less busy.
Best for: A BIT OF EVERYTHING!
While most of South East Asia is wonderful for families, Thailand has been refining its offerings for a long time now. As parents, we know that for children, it’s often the different variety of experiences they can enjoy, that ultimately offer a memorable, meaningful, family holiday. Here, they can get that in bucket loads. The mainland and islands combine a gentle, accessible blend of culture, wildlife, activities, food, marine experiences and much more, that will pique the curiosity and satisfy any range of family tribe.
The starting point is nearly always Bangkok, which is worthy of a few days to catch your breath, adjust to timescales and experience its sheer urban uniqueness; skyscrapers, ancient temples, street food and river markets. Then you can choose Chiang Mai or Rai in the north for trekking, hill tribes and elephants. Linger in the middle of the country for some history and national parks, or head south to the islands – there’s almost one for every kind of holiday you might like to try. Ko Phangan, Koh Lanta, Koh Samui, Koh Yai. All enjoy the warm water, sandy shores, boat life, aquatic dalliances, glorious cuisine and amenable hosts. Dabble in cooking classes, lagoon trips, home stays in villages, scuba dive the warm tranquil waters or just chill out in a hammock! With so much to choose from, a knowledgeable destination specialist would be able to design a fabulous family holiday in Thailand with memorable – and ethical – experiences for all.
Getting there: Direct flights from the UK (12 hours)
Best time to go: November – April
Extra Top Tip!
Given the proximity and if you have the time, it’s definitely worth considering a SE Asia combination trip with Vietnam. It offers a fascinating and charming diversity for kids. The range of activities and experiences among its cultural backdrop and flora and fauna, allows everyone to see this country’s fairly harrowing history, through fresh young eyes. Tribes of all ages will appreciate the resilience and optimism of its people. It’s long, slender geography from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh and all in between offers so much for families.
From cyclo rides in the cities, cruising on junk boats around stunning limestone bays, hanging out with locals at homestays, exploring more waterways in basket boats or kayak, chilling on the beach or enjoying the quirky beauty of the ever-popular Hoi An, and other places you may only have heard of in the movies, like the Mekong Delta. The culture, sights, natural environment, curious modes of transport, wonderful food and glorious people, means Vietnam is a feast for the senses. This is a special family destination and probably best suited to slightly older children 8+years.
Best for: ONCE IN A LIFETIME
Peru is an epic family destination that we feel, is best suited to slightly older children of 8 years +. This is mainly due to the more physical nature of some of the most amazing experiences available in this South American gem. Bring your hiking boots to enjoy at the Sacred Valley, which can be a good starting point, to acclimatise at the lower altitude. Maybe enjoy some horse riding while teenagers go white-water rafting or mountain biking. Absorb and admire the genius of the incredible architecture among the ruins of Ollantaytambo and Pisac before the journey to the holy grail of Inca history.
Machu Pichu is an awe-inspiring place to experience as a family and puts the meaning into meaningful travel. Throw in a culinary adventure in Arequipa, colourful Cusco, the scenic train journey to Lake Titicaca, and don’t forget a visit to the Amazon! The blend of wildlife, culture, jaw-dropping nature, scenery and fascinating ancient history, means Peru is something of a magical Narnia. A thoughtfully created itinerary will ensure the most memorable long-haul family holiday that will stay with you all forever.
Getting there: Direct flights from the UK (15 hours)
Best time to go: May – October