No matter how old your kids are – or how many of them you’ve got – planning a fun, interesting holiday that everyone will enjoy is tough. Sure, you could take the easy route and book your standard all-inclusive two-week break to Majorca, or maybe Mexico if you’re feeling flush, but that’s boring and overdone, and it’s definitely not going to get your kids off their phones.
You don’t have to settle for this though. There is, quite literally, a whole world of possibility of unique, once-in-a-lifetime trips and experiences that are family-friendly – including destinations you probably wouldn’t expect, like Zimbabwe.
The opportunities for wholesome family holidays in Austria are never-ending; from hiking up the mountains to soaking up the history in imperial Vienna, Austria is unlike any other country in the way it offers a perfect balance between the urban and the outdoors.
With plenty of parks, playgrounds, and the sheer abundance of the “great outdoors”, Austria has plenty to keep kids amused. Many of the museums are free to those under 18 or 19 years old, and with masterpieces in the Kunsthistorisches Museum and MuseumsQuartier, this is something you’ll definitely want to take advantage of. Or there’s the Spanish Riding School, where you can watch Lipizzaner stallions dancing, as well as classic music festivals such as the Salzburg Festival playing Mozart, Strauss, and Schubert.
The Pyrenees – Andorra
Just a short flight away, Andorra is full of action-packed adventures for all the family to enjoy. Nestled in nicely between Spain and France, the snow-dusted Pyrenees mountains offer up a glimpse into the wilder side of Europe.
Due to its rural and deeply traditional nature, these wild landscapes provide a paradise of hiking, skiing, climbing, and biking opportunities alongside cultural antique sites full of ancient caves and hilltop castles.
Why not try climbing the summing of Pic Maia and spot a myriad of endangered species that find their home in these mountains: the griffon vulture, izard (a type of mountain goat), or even a brown bear. Or mountain bike across the Cortals Valley, before ziplining through the treetops and white-water rafting on the Noguera River – one of the top five rivers for white-water rafting in all of Europe.
2015 was the year of change for Myanmar; having voted in its first democratically elected government in more than 50 years, the country began opening its doors to tourism, business, and modern conveniences – meaning travelling around the country, mobile-phone coverage and internet access are all much more accessible. Rapidly becoming one of the most exciting places to visit in South East Asia, it is a country full of extraordinary and complex cultural elements, from gilded pagodas to picture-perfect beaches.
Take the family on a journey to the Golden Rock at Mount Kyaiktiyo, teetering impossibly at the edge of a chasm, or the “winking wonder” of Shwedagon Paya, and the 4000 sacred stupas along the plains of Bagan – all remnants of the Buddhist traditions where monks were more celebrated than the pop stars of today.
The beauty of Myanmar is that there is an abundance of activities to keep everyone entertained; from looking after elephants in the jungle to spending a night in a rural village with local children to keep your kids amused, or going on a pilgrimage at sunset to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.
Kyoto – Japan
Japan’s spiritual heart is a city of over 2000 atmospheric temples and shrines, with traditional teahouses and incredible gardens creating the perfect Instagram spot. Ideal for those families with older children looking for a splash of culture, there are plenty of uniquely Japanese experiences to keep you entertained for as long as you want.
Climbing Mount Fuji is, of course, the top of everyone’s bucket lists when they visit Kyoto, but the city is so much more than that. It’s a place in Japan where the old ways are still clinging to the buildings and the culture, and there are still places you can find ancient specialists – such as tofu sellers and tea merchants.
Why not stay at the traditional Japanese Machiya, an old townhouse in the heart of the community or visit InsideJapan and have a go at Taiko drumming classes, and Tate-do sword fighting. There’s also the Okazaki-Kōen area that features parks, playing fields, a zoo, a playground, and two museums.
Self-Drive Safari – Canada
Canada is, quite frankly, one of the most spectacular places on the North American continent. From the towering mountains to the glittering lakes, the snow-covered Rockies and the endless rainforests and remote beaches, it truly has everything – and it has it all with snow.
Go on a self-drive safari across the Canadian outback, spotting polar bears, grizzly bears, whales, moose, and bald eagles. Park up for the day and have a go at snowboarding down the Whistler mountains, or surf the Nova Scotia waters, and kayak along the South Nahanni River.
With a self-drive safari, you’re completely in control of where you go, what you eat, and what you do – perfect when planning a trip with a bunch of teenagers that all want different things. This means that you get to soak up the culture in Vancouver, or explore the aboriginal villages on Haida Gwaii, and even try poutine – a true Canadian delicacy consisting of golden fries topped with gravy and cheese curds.
America’s Wild West
The land of cowboys and gunslingers, where Red Dead Redemption is set, Westworld is filmed, and Hollywood romanticises the lives and tribulations of Americans in the 1800s. America’s Wild West is like something straight out of a film – because it literally is.
The American frontier is full of nostalgic wonder, from the magic of Native American culture to the beauty of the mountain ranges, and the secluded prairie of Nevada. There’s the chance for aspiring cowboys to try their hand at roping lessons and horse riding or experience the way the 19th-century population lived with horse wagon rides among the stunning wilderness.
The legends of cowboys may have descended into just that – legends – but venture west of the Mississippi River and see if you can find the dude ranches that still dot the Wyoming plains, with rodeos as a regular occurrence. Or while you’re out in the outback, try camping under the stars – miles away from any light pollution, the view is incredible.
Made famous by Darwin and his incredible discoveries into natural selection, the Galapagos Islands offer so much for the adventure-loving family. Ideal for those with children over the age of 12, due to the wildlife loving, hiking nature of the islands, the Galapagos is home to some of the rarest species in the world.
The ultimate trip of a lifetime that will make your kids wish they could stay a kid forever, the remote islands are made from stark lava formations, lush green highlands, shimmering blue bays, tropical beaches, and cactus forests. Nowhere else on earth is more diverse than these islands; you can hike volcanoes, kayak around the beaches, swim with sea lions, walk alongside giant tortoises, and snorkel with marine iguanas.
The best time to visit is July – luckily just about out of school term time – where the drier weather increases your chances of spotting penguins, humpback whales, and blue-footed booby birds.
Costa Ricans are known to live longer, healthier lives than people in the rest of the planet, and it’s all down to the purity of their lifestyles. Whether you’re on a surfboard or a yoga mat, or hiking up a volcano, the ethos is all about living your best life – and who better to do that with than the people you love the most?
The small country is absolutely full of wildlife adventures, from cruising along the canals in Tortuguero, or trekking through the rainforest in Corcovado, and surfing along the reefs of Caño Island.
There’s plenty of family activities, from visiting the national parks, which allow travellers an insight into the rainforest and cloud forest, to zip-lining and river-rafting. There are even natural hot springs near the volcanic slopes, perfect for a little relaxation.
Vanua Levu – Fiji
Fiji is a fairy-tale, paradisal island if ever there was one; romantic enough for any couple, with mountains and rainforests for the adventure seekers – and plenty for kids to do, making it perfect for families.
Not only are there numerous caves for snorkelling and exploring, friendly fish, mud pools and mangroves galore, but the Fijians are some of the friendliest people on the planet, and famously adore children.
Vanua Levu is the second largest island in Fiji, famously one of Fiji’s “wild islands” with jungle adventures, waterfall pools, rural villages and water rafting all on offer. Children are absolutely cherished, and most restaurants have kid-friendly options such as burgers and pasta to please any fussy toddler.
Wanaka – New Zealand
Wanaka is Queenstown, only better. It has so long been considered the smaller, and more reserved younger sibling of the capital, it’s done what any younger sibling would do: developed a complex, and worked hard, for a long time, to be considered the best.
Both a lake town and a mountain town, it has all the charm and adventure of Queenstown without being completely in your face about it. The lakefront has a more natural aura to it with decidedly less development, and the town centre is equal measures of cultural and soulful.
It’s quiet and small enough to be the perfect getaway to spend time with the whole family, but there’s still enough going on to keep the kids entertained, with plenty of activities during the day – like hiking and water sports on the lake – and some truly unique bars and restaurants in the evening.
Where better to take your kids than the land of the iconic DreamWorks movie franchise Madagascar. It’s wild and untamed, but it’s worth it to see sights and landscapes that are truly otherworldly. Explore from Antananarivo, the curious capital with a wealth of colonial influences, to the Andasibe National Park where you can spot your very own King Julien.
Madagascar is home to lemurs, baobabs, rainforests, deserts, and so much more. There’s the eerie-looking fossa, rays and turtles in the water, remarkable flora and fauna, and a landscape of immense diversity.
It truly is a one-of-a-kind destination for those who love a challenge and an adventure – so probably best for families with older children. There are plenty of activities to keep you entertained, from hiking to biking, kitesurfing, rock-climbing, as well as natural pools, beaches and hammocks for the relaxation lovers too.
Zimbabwe may not seem like the place you want to take your family on a nice 2-week vacation, but the attractive patchwork of landscapes, wildlife, and World Heritage sites makes it truly magical. Through all the trials Zimbabweans have suffered through over the last few decades, they have still welcomed visitors with the same grace and politeness they’re famous for.
Despite what the news would have you believe, travellers to Zimbabwe consistently insist that the country is one of the safest, friendliest, and most spectacular countries in Africa. This isn’t surprising, seeing as everywhere you look you can spot the Big Five, or the high-veld, balancing boulders, the Victoria Falls, and enough archaeological sites for any budding Indiana Jones wannabe.
As you can see, planning the perfect planning trip doesn’t have to be boring. Sure, it’s going to be a hassle, and you’ll almost definitely get some complaints from a surly teenager about how they just want to hang out with their mates, but trust us, they’re going to have a great holiday. Even if they don’t necessarily want to admit it – because who wants to admit their parents are right, right?