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Family travel

Family travel guide

Childhood is where wanderlust begins. Whether your first forays are to Margate or Mongolia, the discovery of life beyond your home town can fire a lifetime of adventures

On the other hand, travel with kids can be undeniably hard work, pricey and tantrum-inducing – and ultimately every family has to find what works for them.

For new parents, the first shock is that holidays en famille bear no resemblance to those taken before. Your late, romantic dinner is now a hastily gobbled round of tapas at 5pm; your luggage has ballooned with baby paraphernalia; your moments of genuine leisure reduced to nap-times.

So unless you’re the Swiss Family Robinson survivalist type, go easy on yourself in these baby and toddler years. Take short flights or train rides into Europe. Hire a villa or a cottage with friends and family. Try out child-friendly hotels, farmstays or B&Bs in the UK. Go camping. Rock-pooling in Devon will give you all at least as much pleasure (and a lot less jetlag) than sweating it out determinedly in some tropical idyll.

When the kids get to school age, though, more exotic options arise. Many adventure tour operators now offer activity tours designed for this age range: Morocco and Egypt are popular options from the UK, combining child-friendly sights (camels! pyramids!) with easy access.

Further afield, countries with good infrastructure, competitive prices and few health issues are obvious targets. In Asia, Thailand is a first choice for many families – what child could resist an elephant ride? In Africa, malaria-free areas of South Africa and Namibia are great options for low-fuss family safaris – Kruger National Park is a classic. In Latin America, Costa Rica offers forests brimming with birds and butterflies accessible on well-tended walkways from smart eco-lodges. And don’t forget the USA and Canada – rent a campervan for the ultimate family road trip.

Once you reach the teenage years, the world’s your oyster. Long-haul holds few terrors – Australia and New Zealand are only a few inflight movies from the UK. Proper treks are finally back on the menu (and you’ll probably find yourself outpaced), and other outdoor activities help stave off boredom: take them surfing, rafting, horse-riding, mountain biking, snowshoeing.

More immersive (and educational) trips are feasible too: there are volunteer projects for families worldwide. Indeed, more and more families seize the opportunity to take an extended break together at this point: the ‘family gap year’ is coming of age.

Perhaps more than any other kind of travel, family trips thrive on word of mouth. A huge amount hinges on your precious holiday, so other people’s recommendations count. Use our forums and articles to research your trip – and then do post your experiences, photos and videos for others to see. Happy travels!

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