It can be a little overwhelming to decide what place will meet your expectations, as well as being manageable and enjoyable with your kids. You may have travelled a lot pre-kids but are now unsure what will still be fun and adventurous, especially when they are little. Or perhaps you didn't get the travel bug until now but you really want to get out there and start exploring.
Coming up with family vacation ideas can be a little daunting when travelling with babies and toddlers but the good news is that anything and everything is still possible. Approach it with a decent dose of common sense, mix it with a sense of humour, and throw in equal portions of patience and excitement and you have the perfect starting point.
From here put some time and thought into what type of holiday you are after. You may be needing a really relaxing indulgent beach holiday, or maybe you are craving a more intrepid adventure or an entertaining city break. Maybe a combination of all these things would be ideal so you can start to think about what destination can deliver on your wish list. If you can't fit everything into the end stop, don't forget the power of a good stopover location which can add contrast to your overall holiday (and be a welcome break in travel for the kids).
So how can you cleverly plan your trips so that you feel relaxed and safe but also experience the challenge and excitement of seeing and doing things outside of the ordinary? Here are some exciting ideas to consider for your next trip....
Completely Fuss Free
Want an overseas holiday with minimal stress and worry but plenty to keep you enthralled? These are the destinations for you...
Whether you head to NZ for adventure, the grandiose scenery or perhaps to indulge in some trans-tasman sporting eventsk it will be sure to impress. New Zealand has everything you will find in Australia, to the point sometimes that you can be forgiven for thinking you are still at home. It's the perfect place for a self drive holiday making travelling with babies and toddlers super easy.
Accommodation is spacious, with family apartments in abundance, easy to find and well priced. The South Island is my pick for a New Zealand adventure.... soak in stunning vistas, visit tranquil Milford Sound and enjoy the cool active atmosphere of Queenstown and Wanaka.
Show the kids the queen's castle, run their legs ragged in lush green parks and visit historic landmarks. Boundless kids activities and places to visit and the option for a fun scenic ride on the iconic double-decker buses. London has it all for a family break. For an extra layer of excitement you should check out what West End productions are showing that are kid friendly.
If retail therapy is on your to do list then make sure dad gets time with the kids as the streets and shops can be absurdly busy and keeping track of little ones is a nightmare.
Navigate past very expensive hotel prices by checking out self contained, spacious apartment options on Airbnb. Alternately we have always found the Travelodge hotels in London (there are numerous all through the city) very clean and comfortable and for half the price of other hotels. Best to book these directly on the travelodge website for regular direct specials.
Super clean, efficient and with loads of entertaining things for kids and families to immerse themselves. Singapore is top of the list for a culturally interesting holiday that can be reached with a child friendly, less than eight hour direct flight. With loads of airlines to choose from it is also an easy one to lay in wait for some super cheap deals. Need some more inspiration...... check out the full Singapore article.
An amazingly clean and efficient rail system will see you getting everywhere with complete ease. Team this with the supreme beauty of Switzerland, magical outdoor adventures and a decent (meaning large!) dose of swiss chocolate and you have a holiday winner for the whole family. Your biggest concern will be dealing with the Aussie dollar to Swiss Franc conversion! There are so many highlights for mountain lovers but highly recommended would be Zermatt and the Matterhorn, the beautiful village of Lucerne and my absolute favourite place in the world, Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald.
Fiji is a great choice being a short plane ride from Australia and full of friendly locals who recognise the value of children. Fiji is generally very safe although there have been some political tensions in the past. DFAT is your best bet to check the current situation before making travel arrangements.
Fiji is extremely geared for Australian tourists and with that comes all the trappings or benefits of 'packaged' travel. This is perfect for those who haven't travelled far before or if you just want a short break close to home where you can chill out as a family. Make sure you head out onto the water for an island excursion and to do some snorkelling or diving to experience the true beauty of Fiji.
Pre-book airport transfers if you would like a baby restraint - http://www.touristtransportfiji.com.
Sometimes Canada can be overlooked as a family travel destination due to the lengthy flight from Australia just to get there. But gee is it worth the trip. Canada consistently ranks highly in lists of the most beautiful places in the world and for good reason with some simply majestic places to visit. Like New Zealand and the US you have the ease and luxury of opting for a self guided drive holiday through Canada which means you can really experience the whole country at your own pace and to the liking of your kids!
Highlights you should really consider spending some time in include all of the Rocky Mountains area but in particular the turquoise blue waters of the glacial lakes in the Banff and Jasper regions. I also loved our stay at Whistler resort. Packed full of fun summer activities and simply stunning, if you can find some decent priced accommodation this place is a great family destination.
For cities, why not take in the sights of Toronto where you can also take a day trip to Niagara Falls or Vancouver has to be one of the most gorgeous cities with loads of cool sports events to take the family to.
Canada is high on my list to go back to in the next couple of years as I would love to take the kids over to Victoria
Cost to travel in Canada can be high so it helps to pre-plan early and book any deals you can find for accommodation and car rental.
Depending on where you head in the US you can generally expect high standards of living which means uncomplicated family travel. I highly recommend a road trip through the major US National Parks where you can camp or rent a campervan to stay in the heart of the scenery. Start in Seattle, head inland towards Yosemite before tracking southward to my favourite, the Grand Tetons. Move onto Arches National Park, The Grand Canyon, and finally Bryce Canyon before wrapping the trip up in Los Angeles. This type of trip will showcase the complete diversity and intrigue of an American holiday that extends beyond the normal itinerary.
Another fabulous US holiday option is of course Hawaii. Get your fill of exotic marine wildlife and beautiful beaches while relaxing with the family and taking in the cool vibe of Hawaii. Check out my article on a family trip to Kauai, Hawaii.
A little more intrepid
A holiday that blends friendly locals and easy, relaxing days with just enough culture shock to make you uber excited about leaving home...
Thailand is a special one for us having been there a number of times and even getting married in Phuket back in 2007. We love it as a family destination for many reasons but predominantly for the hugely friendly locals. The people are really delightful and nowhere else in the world do you feel as welcome with your kids as in Thailand.
Thailand fuses beautiful beaches, intriguing day trip options, super yummy food and is also an extremely budget friendly destination. Five star resorts at great prices means your family can have an amazingly indulgent trip away for a fraction of the cost of domestic travel. Thailand is also perfect for those families who like the idea of all inclusive family resorts where there is nothing to worry about.
The roads and traffic are very different to Australian standards so don't waste your time trying to self-drive or catch (what can be) lunatic taxis. If you are heading to Phuket I highly recommend Kam from www.kidsonboard-phuket.com. who has driven our family all around Phuket and Khao Lak on several trips. He is super lovely, has a family himself and drives very safely. You can arrange for him to take you anywhere for a good price so no more cocooning your kids inside a thai resort feeling as though you cant take the kids anywhere.
You will need to buy bottled water and for those with babies on formula you will need to bring your own sterilising gear. This is as simple as bringing the sachets of steriliser with a tupperware container so that you can sterilise bottles from your room.
Food wise there is plenty to keep kids happy - fresh fruit aplenty, tasty baked goods for breakfasts, rice, spring rolls and noodles which keeps most kids content. You need to be a little wary of food hygiene to keep the kids from getting sick. Having said this the only time I got food poisoning in Thailand was during my honeymoon when we ate at one of the five star resort restaurants - never once sick from local restaurants :-)
Click here for ideas for your next trip to Thailand.
France, Spain, Italy, Germany
So it goes without saying that anywhere in western Europe will provide for fascinating and stimulating travel experiences. With a guaranteed fusion of culture, languages, cuisines and landmarks it is an exciting prospect travelling to any of these countries.
What you will find challenging travelling as a family?
It can be quite difficult finding family friendly hotels that will sleep four or more people mainly due to small room sizes, particularly in city areas. Where possible you can now counter this with private holiday rentals on sites like Booking.com and Airbnb, but occasionally you will need to fork out for two rooms.
Getting from point A to B in Europe can often mean lots of walking and potentially lots of stairs. Be prepared to feel fit and strong carrying little ones about when needed. The payoff? You will return home feeling fantastic after all the incidental exercise. If travelling with a pram still it is worthwhile having a light-weight all terrain version such as the mountain buggy swift (our choice for all our travel with young ones) to ensure a smooth ride over cobblestones and an easy lift up stairs and onto public transport.
What you will love?
The food - kids absolutely love pizza, pasta, baguettes, bread and gelati so Europe is amazingly easy for parents to keep little tummies full.
Croatia is a mix of gorgeous beaches, pristine National parks and compelling historic cities. It is easy to see why Croatia is fast becoming one of the busiest tourist destinations in Europe. With an eclectic mix of accommodation options from interesting private rentals to indulgent resorts and all inclusive camping and cabin holiday resorts. What is great about the tourist culture in Croatia is the large emphasis on physical activity with a huge array of activities and equipment always on hand to keep you active.
For amazing holiday advice on travelling to Croatia (particularly for families) I can't go past www.chasingthedonkey.com which is incredibly helpful in planning family travel in Croatia.
With an ever-evolving tourist scene I wanted to include the island of Borneo, Sabah to the list of recommended family destinations. A little more untouched is how I would describe Sabah compared to your usual Asian holiday. The food here was delicious, there was a good selection of nice resorts to stay and there are some really pretty island excursions off shore. Of course a drive and perhaps a walk at one of South East Asia's highest mountains, Mount Kinabalu is a highlight of the region. Additionally there is the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation centre which is a must visit if you make it to Borneo.
Go a little crazy
Like living life outside the comfort zone and want to build your kids' resilience and cultural exposure....
Not featuring highly on family hot lists I think Vietnam will continue to be a growing destination as exclusive resort developments continue to sprout up in holiday hot spots. Hoi Ann is a gem of a place to visit with tasty local restaurants, quaint traditional markets and delightfully friendly locals.
Of course many travellers head to Vietnam to take in Halong Bay. It is worth the trip however definitely do not attempt to do it in a day trip from Hanoi if you have kids with you. Organise an overnight visit and attempt to head out early in the morning to somewhat avoid the masses of tourists.
A word of warning - traffic and driving standards are a white knuckle experience in Vietnam and finding english speaking taxi drivers in some places can prove difficult. It is well worth the piece of mind to pre-book a reputable transfer service.
If time allows, a wonderful side trip from Vietnam is Vientiane in bordering Laos. Kinda like Vietnam but with a far more chilled and un-touristy vibe.
Want some interesting accommodation options in Vietnam - check out this article from Wanderlust Storytellers on Vietnam; Recommended Places to Stay.
Africa - Botswana and South Africa
Not a place I would take our young kids just yet but I strongly believe that a trip to Africa is a life changing experience. Botswana is a crown jewel in the southern African landscape with amazingly good wildlife parks such as Chobe. Here you can take in the grandeur of the African wildlife from a boat or by landrover. For ease and convenience to experience all that the African jungle has to offer then Kruger National Park in South Africa is phenomenal.
There will be massive take home lessons for any kids who are lucky enough to experience a trip to Africa. It is a front of the line exposure on how few material posessions are actually need to put a smile on a kids face.
So why would I not take my kids til they are older? Purely for health and safety reasons in many of the more remote parts (which is where you want to go!) Reality is that travel through Africa can mean minimal health services, limitations on fresh drinkable water and often questionable transport services, not to mention that public toilets do not exist in Africa. Wait til your kids are old enough to be responsible for their own safety and are aware of their surroundings and then Africa is a gold class ticket to an amazing family holiday. Check out my in-depth article on Africa here!
Sri Lanka has always been intriguing to me but not somewhere that had sprung to mind to take the kids. Great to see that other families are having wonderful trips there - click here for more.
Don't forget to ALWAYS get some good quality travel insurance before heading overseas with your family.
So what are you waiting for? There has never been a better time to start planning an adventure!
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