Stuck for inspiration for this year's family holiday? We scour the planet for some fresh ideas - whatever the age range of your clan.
Gone are the days when family travel involved no more than packing an extra tube of mints, triple-digit SPF cream and jotting down the phone number of a friend-of-the-receptionist’s babysitter on arrival. A whole sub-industry has grown out of catering for the needs of kindred spirits. Whether travelling with the barely-born, angst-ridden teenagers, or grandparents-on-tour, somebody somewhere has tailored a package specifically for them.
The dummy run (ages 0-1)
In some respects, travelling with a baby is like taking an extra rucksack – albeit a rucksack that needs feeding, and leaks a lot. They’re highly portable, relatively undemanding of both itinerary and ice-cream and immobile enough not to regularly vanish on spontaneous excursions of their own.
In fact, as long as you don’t opt for extreme adventure, temperature or isolation (pushing a stroller through the jungles of Borneo might be a tad optimistic), the world is your oyster. For those with simpler intentions, Scott Dunn (website: www.scottdunn.com) provide carefree self-catering with an international selection of villas kitted out for the babbling set and where nannies are available on request.
Toddler trips (ages 1-5)
Toddlers in particular are deceptively adept at going AWOL and thus any on-location provisions supporting a holiday battle plan of ‘contain and entertain’ are always a plus.
Child Friendly Cottages (website: www.childfriendlycottages.co.uk) provide this, doing precisely what it says on the tin. Their cottages and farmhouses in England come packed with all junior’s hygiene and playtime essentials. The majority are also within easy reach of a beach and other distractions.
Further afield, The Adventure Company (website: www.adventurecompany.co.uk) offer a small selection of overseas tours for the over-1s, including a search for Mummy, one of the highlights of an adventure in Egypt.
Primary care (ages 6-12)
In theory, reaching the age of reason means that rules are more readily absorbed (to a fashion), such as being quiet on wildlife encounters and showing rural respect on hikes. Test out the theory with a walking holiday exploring the beauty of Portugal with On Foot Holidays (website: www.onfootholidays.co.uk).
A far cry from when the world’s liners represented one of the last refuges for the child-weary holidaymaker, most cruise operators now actively encourage children, hosting kids clubs and family entertainment, even featuring favourite life-size cartoon characters on Disney Cruise Lines (website: www.disney.co.uk).
Teens on tour
Get it right and taking a teenager on holiday can be a hugely rewarding exercise in family bonding. Get it wrong and it’ll be like two weeks of trying to push a lame luggage trolley across a soggy demolition site. So forget the packaged fortnight to Costa del Anonymity; provide an eye-opener (always a challenge for parents of teenagers) with plenty of interaction, like an exotic adventure safari in Zanzibar with Abercrombie & Kent (website: www.abercrombiekent.com).
Or saddle up in cowboy country during a stay on a working ranch in the US of A (website: www.americanroundup.com). Horror of horrors, you might even get them working – and enjoying it!
Going with Gran
Not to be left out, the third generation can now find getaways tailored to travelling with grandchildren. One new company, Grand Breaks (website: www.grandbreaks.com), is devoted to providing such packages for memorable breaks in England.
Similarly, Billy Butlin et al continue to lure visitors at both ends of the age scale, proving their mastery of providing just what families want when holidaying together (website: www.butlins.com).
Naturally you don’t always need a specifically tailored trip. Many regular holiday packages can be enjoyed by all generations. Some, like Keycamp (website: www.keycamp.co.uk), simply offer generous discounts for gran and granddad travelling with grandchildren.
Leaving home alone
Single-parent holidays don’t only draw single-parent families. Sometimes work commitments prohibit one parent from travelling, sometimes it’s through choice that the mother or father stays at home. Either way, in this day and age single-parent holidays are a booming sector with holiday companies providing hundreds of options from beach resorts to jungle lodges; skiing holidays to world cruises.
Small Families (website: www.smallfamilies.co.uk) are one such company linking up lone parents from Torquay to Tunisia. Their adventure holiday in Norway continues to be one of their most popular choices with activities including rafting, horse riding, rock climbing and that famous Scandinavian pastime – moose tracking.
Worlds can collide when family get-togethers aren’t planned properly. Lack of space and privacy is usually the main culprit so what better way to keep the peace by booking a whole village for your next family bash. CV Travel (website: www.cvtravel.co.uk) offer the entire medieval hamlet of Borgo San Biagio high in the hills of Italy’s Umbrian countryside for family groups not exceeding 20 people.
Alternatively, if you fear family battles may surface, there’s no better place to host large gatherings than at an historic castle. Throughout the British Isles and France, Celtic Castles (website: www.celticcastles.com) have a selection of cosy fortresses on offer – battle armour is an optional extra.