The best family holiday adventures for 2016
America’s Wild West
Take a Navajo-guided backroads tour of Monument Valley, swim in Lake Powell, explore Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos (skinny spires of rock), watch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon – and celebrate the centennial of the US National Park Service. Grand American Adventures has a Western Family Discovery 13-day tour from 1,459, in June, July and August, taking in California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. The maximum group size is 13 so it’s convivial but still personal, and there’s also the option to hire a campervan and set off on your own adventure – with some expert input on the itinerary. The minimum age is eight.
Details The 13-day tour starts at 1,459pp including transport, accommodation, leaders, guides and meals but not flights (0333 999 7965, grandamericanadventures.com). Non-stop flights to Las Vegas with Virgin Atlantic (virginatlantic.com) start at about 875 at the end of July
Safari in Botswana
Remote Mashatu in Botswana, where the Shashe River and Limpopo River meet, is a brilliant safari destination for families with active teens – and access is now much easier thanks to direct flights from Johannesburg to Mashatu’s airstrip. Mountain biking, bush walks or horseback safaris are all on offer. Parents can also grab a few quiet hours in one of the underground photographic hides.
Details Aardvark Safaris (01980 849160, aardvarksafaris.co.uk) has a seven-night trip starting at 2,653pp, including flights, all meals, game drives and one adventure activity per person
Croatia by canoe
If your brood love an adrenaline rush, exploring Dalmatia by canoe, raft, bike and on foot should keep them buzzing. Expect a canoe safari, river rafting, kayaking through one of the most beautiful canyons in Europe, plus a mountain bike trip to the 600-year-old Grab mills and Rude spring where you can take a dip to cool off. There’s also the chance to visit teenagers training to be Alkars (participants of the Sinjska Alka, a medieval jousting competition) with their horses, and gawp at Diocletian’s Palace in Split.
Details Seven nights’ half-board at the riverside Hotel SV Mihovil starts at 899pp, including flights (01425 480400,prestigeholidays.co.uk). The minimum age is 11
Ryanair has added new flights to Reus in Spain, making it much easier to get to Matarra a – aka Spain’s Tuscany – with its medieval villages and terraced vineyards. Base yourself at the Mas de la Serrahotel and you can hike the Puertos de Beceite park, swim in rock pools, or cycle along an abandoned railway track all the way to the coast. There are also vultures to feed at the Mas de Bu ol sanctuary, fishing lessons and fossil-hunting, but the most memorable sight might be the one from Mas de la Serra’s own patio: watching ibex climb up into almond trees in search of their favourite nosh.
Details Seven nights’ B&B starts at 645pp with flights and car hire for a family of four in two rooms (020 7359 3938, realholidays.co.uk)
The Hidden Paradise in Portugal
Besides all the scenic beauty, this small country has one of the best locations to enjoy one’s adrenaline rush. Yes, we are talking about none other than Viana do Castelo, which is a municipality in the Norte Region of Portugal. As part of the Portuguese Discoveries and later on, cod fishing, it has a traditional connection to the sea so much so that now kitesurfing Viana do castelo seem to have become a popular term searched by many who visit the place.
That said, if you are coming from Spain, you can reach Viana do Castelo easily from Porto. Located beside the sea and at the mouth of the river Lima, the Santa Luzia hill highlights the city’s special geographical position. You could start your tour of the city at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, built in 1898 by Ventura Terra.
The tiny Azores punch above their weight for family holidays with stunning volcanic scenery, amazing wildlife and a long list of action-packed sports. Sunvil has a new eight-night S o Miguel family holiday itinerary that includes canoeing and a bike tour inside a volcano, a whale and dolphin watching trip, a jeep tour, rock climbing and the essential finale: time to chill by the pool.
Details Seven nights start at 931pp based on two adults and two children (age 6-11) sharing a two-bedroom apartment between April and October. This includes flights from Gatwick, car hire and activities (020 8758 4722, sunvil.co.uk)
Cooking with kids
Get messy in the kitchen with MasterChef 2015 finalist Emma Spitzer. Her day job is MD of tour operator Tots Too and she’s just set up holiday cooking courses for families – Cooks Too. Croatia, Sardinia and Portugal are the first destinations on the menu and the itinerary will include ten hours of cooking classes with Emma, as well as excursions, market visits and trips to ice-cream factories and honey farms as well as local restaurant kitchens. A farewell dinner will round off each trip.
Details Seven nights’ half-board for a family of four costs from 5,000, including flights (020 7284 3344, totstoo.com). The minimum age is eight
Catamaran in Greece
If you fancy lying in the sunshine, cocktail in hand, gazing at beautiful scenery while your kids hurtle past on water skis, a week on a catamaran in the Greek islands should do it. Fleewinter is launching a 52ft twin-hulled catamaran in the spring that will be based in the Ionian islands and, handily, can be booked with crew and chef included, so relaxation is guaranteed. It will have five en-suite cabins (four with king-sized beds), and a sundeck at the front with nets for watching the dolphins play, as well as an “in boat” speedboat capable of 30 knots and ideal for water skiing, wakeboarding and Ringo-tube riding (all the equipment is also on board and included in the cost).
Details A week’s half-board costs from 990pp (based on a group of ten people sharing) or 495pp for a three-night break (also based on ten people). At certain times of the year it will be possible to book individual cabins from 1,080pp (based on two sharing) for a week’s stay (020 7112 0019, Fleewinter.com). Flights are extra; Corfu flights start at about 300 (easyjet.com) at the end of July
Explore Costa Rica
British Airways’ new nonstop flight to San Jos ,starting in May, puts Costa Rica firmly on the family holiday radar. On the agenda are hiking to the active summit of the Arenal volcano, bathing in hot springs, swimming under waterfalls, kayaking through the Ca o Negro wetlands, walking through Monteverde’s cloud forest at night (a chance to see armadillos, bats, frogs, snakes and, whisper it, tarantulas), zip wiring, rounding up cattle on a cowboy ranch, whitewater rafting, paddleboarding, mountain biking, river tubing, wallowing in a mud pool and surfing at Tamarindo.
Details A 14-night family Costa Rica itinerary starts at 2,455pp including flights, all transport, activities and B&B (020 7359 3938,realholidays.co.uk). The minimum age is eight
Glamping in Yorkshire
Get the extended family together and glamp at A Place in the Pines, four canvas lodges in North Yorkshire, each with its own bathroom, kitchen, deck and stove that keeps the place toasty at night (and can slow cook a roast during the day). Collect your breakfast from the hens or get some fresh duck eggs from the honesty box by the pond. Hop over the fence to explore the Yorkshire Moors and if you go in August, watch local farmers battling it out for the title of longest pod of sugar peas or the heaviest courgette at the Osmotherley Show.
Details Lodges start at 120 per night for up to six through Canopy and Stars (0117 2047830, canopyandstars.co.uk/aplaceinthepines)
Budget C te d’Azur
Finding somewhere affordable and family-friendly for a summer holiday on France’s C te d’Azur is a challenge but the Mimozas Resort Cannes, a four-star complex with 280 apartments around a lake and a ten-minute stroll from the port of Mandelieu-La Napoule, ticks all the boxes. Under new (Irish) management and sparkling after a makeover, it has a kids’ club in school holidays, electric bikes for hire and poolside massages. It’s a great base from which to go shopping in Cannes (a ten-minute drive), sightseeing in Nice, and cycling or hiking along the coastal routes, plus you can head up to Grasse to create your own perfume at Galimard (galimard.com).
Details A week at the end of July starts at 871.92 for a family of four in a large studio room (mimozascannes.com). Fly to Nice with British Airways (ba.com) from about 135 at the end of July
Winter fun in Slovakia
For a February half-term break, Explore’s new Slovakia Winter Adventure in the High Tatras mountains should suit thrill-seeking teens. Hurtle down the slopes on a snow tube, try night sledging, spend the afternoon snowshoeing and ice-skating or glide on cross-country skis along the banks of the Dunajec river. On this eight-day trip there’s also the chance to ride a snow cat up to the mountain for dinner, have a cooking lesson and visit Krakow in neighbouring Poland.
Details The tour departs in February, March and December and costs from 1,199 per adult and 1,090 per child (minimum age seven) including flights, seven nights with most meals, activities and transport (01252 884 723, explore.co.uk)
Tiger safari in India
Disney’s remake of The Jungle Book (released on April 15) is the inspiration behind Wildlife Worldwide’s new Jungles, Tigers & Taj tour. It takes in the best of the Indian jungle in the national parks of Kanha, Pench and Satpura and includes a jeep safari in the search for tigers, taking Tara, a 60-year-old elephant, for a walk and bathe, and trying to spot a leopard on a night drive. Satpura is the only national park in India that can be explored on foot or by boat and there’s a range of activities from jeep, canoe or boat safaris to nature walks. The trip ends with a visit to the Taj Mahal and an optional guided tuk-tuk tour of the food markets of Agra, followed by a cookery class in a local home-stay.
Details Prices start at 3,695 per adult and 1,895 per child, including 13 nights’ accommodation, most meals, flights, guiding and activities in the parks (01962 302086, wildlifeworldwide.com). The minimum age is six
Beach resort near Lisbon
Lisbon and its coastline – a superb year-round surf zone – is a fantastically easy summer escape but gets overlooked in favour of the Algarve. That could change this summer with the opening of the 84-room Martinhal Lisbon Cascais Family Resort Hotel. It will have kids’ club facilities for all age groups, two restaurants, three pools and a spa, with golf courses, horse riding, tennis and surfing on the doorstep – the hotel is only a two-minute drive from the beaches of Guincho. Stay in a hotel room or a two-bedroom town house. Martinhal is also opening a family-friendly hotel in the trendy downtown area of Chiado in Lisbon, with 37 family apartments and facilities including kids’ club with extended evening hours, plus a family caf .
Details Standard rooms start at 170 per night and can sleep two adults, two children in bunk beds and a baby (up to two years old). Studio apartments at Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites will start at 106 (martinhal.com)
Burma with teens
Off the tourist map for many years, Burma has huge Instagram appeal thanks to its ancient treasures, golden temples, bustling markets, and friendly locals. It is no wonder that Instagram is filled with pictures of this place, people probably checked out the best site to buy Instagram likes so they could get it seen more by the digital world. On Family Worldwide’s new Burma Discovery trip, aimed at teens, highlights include exploring Bagan temples by bike, a sunset cruise on the Irrawaddy River, learning to cook Burmese food, crafting your own clay souvenir, and spending time at the tranquil Inle Lake.
Details The 11-day trip starts at 1,849 per child and 2,149 per adult at Easter, including flights, all transport, eight nights’ B&B (plus six lunches and one evening meal) and activities (01962 737560, familiesworldwide.co.uk). It can be extended with four days at Ngapali beach. The minimum age is 11
Seaside chic in Turkey
A long-time favourite of Turkish holidaymakers, Ayvalik on the north Aegean will be more accessible when the Izmit Bay Bridge from Istanbul (which will be the fourth largest suspension bridge in the world) is completed in the spring, making the resort a 90-minute drive from Istanbul airport. Stay at Murat Reis Ayvalik, a new family-friendly hotel right on the sea. It’s seaside chic: think grey stone tiled floors, whitewashed wood, dove grey armchairs with crisp navy and whites, and the beach-front suites are the rooms to book. The beach is long and flat and shallowso ideal for little swimmers, there’s a kids’ club and water sports including waterskiing, wakeboarding, monoskiing, Ringo, canoeing, and stand up paddle boarding. Adults can look forward to snoozing in the spa, sunset wine tastings and seafood feasts in the two restaurants – be brave and order the skullcap, a fish unique to AyvalÄ k.
Details A week in a beachfront suite for three starts at 1,086 B&B. Book through muratreisayvalik.com. Flights to Istanbul start at 156 with Turkish Airlines (turkishairlines.com) in May half-term
Cruise the Med
Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, taking more than 5,400 passengers, will set sail this summer with some cracking family-friendly features. Expect nonstop entertainment: kids’ clubs split into six age groups, a zip line, three multi-level waterslides including Ultimate Abyss, the first ten-storey slide at sea, two surf simulators, a carousel, ice skating and games of Blongo ball.
Details A seven-night Western Mediterranean cruise starts at 616pp based on two adults and two children sharing an interior stateroom. It’s a round trip from Barcelona and visits Palma in Majorca, Provence, Florence/Pisa (La Spezia) Rome (Civitavecchia) and Naples. Flights cost extra (royalcaribbean.co.uk)
Beach house in the Maldives
The Maldives isn’t known for its affordability but choose carefully and you can bag luxe for less. In March, Kuramathi Island Resort will open new two-bedroom beach houses, ideal for families, that can sleep four adults and two children. The resort has seven restaurants, six bars and three freshwater pools, while the Bageecha Kids Club, for ages three to 12 years, offers nature walks, treasure hunts and beach activities as well as marine life education. There’s fantastic snorkelling off the beach and a natural sand bar that reveals itself at low tide.
Details Kuoni (01306 747008, kuoni.co.uk) has seven nights’ full-board in a two-bedroom beach house, including flights with SriLankan Airlines from Heathrow, from 6,605 per family of four. Quote MV266 when booking.
Sleep on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
For a holiday of a lifetime before the kids fly the nest it would be hard to beat Black Tomato’s new Great Barrier Reef trip: the highlight is sleeping on a floating pontoon in the middle of the Coral Sea. The pontoon is moored just off Moore Reef, an area teaming with corals and more than 10,000 fish and marine species and after a surf and turf barbecue you can lay back and stargaze. The Desert Island in Queensland itinerary also includes Wilson Island, the Scenic Rim Spicers Peak Lodge, a luxury cruise around the reef and finishes on Hamilton Island.
Details Prices start at 4,599pp including flights, transfers, 12 nights’ accommodation and experiences through Black Tomato (020 7426 9888, blacktomato.com)
Pizza and gelato in Italy
A holiday with pizza, pasta and gelato on the menu every night sounds like kid heaven. The Family Adventure Company’s new seven-day Italian Lakes Family Holiday is based on Lake Garda and also includes a visit to the pretty town of Malcesine, a funicular ride to the top of Monte Baldo and learning to make pizza in a local restaurant. The Grotta di Catullo in Sirmione and the ruins of a Roman villa are also on the itinerary, as is exploring Verona by bike; two essential stops are Romeo and Juliet’s balcony and the town’s amphitheatre.
Details Six nights costs from 1,256 per child, 1,396 per adult including flights, some meals, activities and transport (0808 2507442, familyadventurecompany.co.uk). The minimum age is five
Harry Potter in Hollywood
Pack your wands for a later Easter break in Los Angeles: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens at Universal Studios Hollywood on April 7 featuring Hogsmeade, with its keynote ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, that spirals and pivots 360 degrees on an elevated track. Diagon Alley, which features at Universal’s Orlando park, isn’t as yet part of the Hollywood offering. Stay at The Garland in North Hollywood, all retro Mad Men styling, with a pool, hot tub and a free hourly shuttle to Universal.
Details A week at The Garland from April 2 starts at 3,811 for a family of four with flights with United through My America Holiday (020 8003 6081, myamericaholiday.co.uk)