Are we there yet?
While travelling is both a hobby and profession for me, unforgettable journeys are always embedded with family. Blissing out at a beach resort with hubby, the (now fully grown) kids and a cocktail, away from WiFi and emails, or enjoying a family week in the snow may well be heaven, yet the moments etched in our children’s memories in adulthood are those epic family getaways where culture and adventure play a part. And of course, mums are usually the masterminds and dream creators who never let on that travelling could be educational, enlightening or nourishing!
With family-friendly walking holidays, experiential travel and cultural tourism increasing, I am not alone in spruiking the benefits of enriching travel experiences that go beyond poolside or theme park fun. So many destinations draw you in with hands-on and how-to demonstrations, where your kids can learn the art of noodle or chopstick making, or visit a cultural village, orphanage or farm, or shape their very own surfboard in Hawaii.
Physically challenging holidays are now popular family pursuits and include overland adventure walks in Tasmania, New Zealand, South America or Europe, or cycle sections of the Tour de France route, or even pilgrimage along world war tracks and remembrance trails in Asia and Europe.
Achieving the perfect balance of affordability, relaxation and excitement for both Mum and Dad, and stimulating activity for the kids can be tricky. Bali, Thailand, Fiji, New Zealand, Hawaii, cruise holidays and Disneyland top the list of family hotspots for those reasons. On a similar budget, and with only a little more effort and research, a whole new world of creative voyages materialise.
In northern Borneo, a place whose geographical reference alone screams exotic adventure, lies oceanfront resorts on the edge of protected orangutan and nature sanctuaries. Beach resorts, water sports, temples, extensive cave networks, cooking classes, walking and wildlife encounters at the famed Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre are all here.
For an animal-packed safari, South Africa has family-friendly wildlife spotting adventures bumping through the savannah and scrub of Kruger National Park and adjacent private game reserves on the hunt for The Big Five. The kids will love the mix of glamping and lodges and spotting wildlife on thrilling night safaris, and grown-ups can sip local vintage wines just outside Cape Town’s famed wine regions. African family safaris are more affordable than ever and school holidays in September/October is a great time to visit.
Rail holidays, cruise ships, self-drive and ferry hopping are great family options, yet touring Europe and the UK with little ones or teens in tow doesn’t have to be churches, museums and historic sites. The waterways of France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, England, Scotland and Ireland also offer the chance to hire a canal boat and self-skipper your way along rivers and locks (or even Venice’s Grand Canal) for seven to 14 days. Canal boating places you in the heart of authentic food and historical centres, with bicycles, fishing rods and outdoor pursuits for the kids, and plenty of castles, markets and wine for the bigger kids.
For the dads who love to get behind the wheel, road tripping America or Canada in a fully-equipped motorhome or rental car is the ultimate affordable family romp. Drive sections of iconic Route 66, The Big Sur or Cherohala Skyway, stop in at theme parks, and tick off those big National Parks – Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion and Bryce – and their big doses of wildlife, scenery and Wild West tumbleweed moments.
In every corner of the globe, affordable, stimulating holidays and imaginative family itineraries are in reach, with wide appeal to keep Mum, the instigator of grand family outings, gratified and the fussiest pint-sized traveller amused.