‘Unusual family travel destinations’ is my go-to Pinterest scroll right now. Well, after subway tile bathrooms, easy beach waves and baby fashion inspo, because I clearly have too much time on my hands… When it comes to family travel, it’s so easy to choose the destinations we all know and love. Think the Spain’s, the Portugal’s – those typical ‘brits abroad’ destinations. I’m guilty of it, and don’t get me wrong, I bloody well love a good trip to Spain as much as the next person, but after coming across a somewhat perspective-changing article I’ve realised it’s probably time I make the most of the limited time we have to see the world while are children are young. For me, part of that means embracing a little more culture and a little less Irish Bar’s owned by Mick from Essex dotted around Ibiza.
FYI: Last year, we stayed very close to home, venturing only as far down the UK as Blackpool and as far up as Loch Lomond. Some may say we were finding our feet as parents, others may say we were just being downright wimps, but regardless, we didn’t travel too far. This year, we ventured further afield, tackling Gran Canaria and Cyprus over summer, and have made plans to tick off a few more of our bucket list destinations later in the year. With that being said though, we are still very much staying within Europe and very much within our comfort zones – which I plan to shake up next year. Here’s the destinations that have made it on to the new and improved family travel list.
When I think of Samui, I find it extremely difficult not to associate it with the 20-odd folks I went to university with who flooded my Facebook with pictures of themselves at a full-moon parties or riding elephants while intoxicated. Thailand is party central, right? Yes, and no. Although parts of the island are still a backpacker haven, a rise in tourism is recent years means it’s much more family-friendly and has plenty to offer for young children. Little ones are not simply tolerated in Samui, they are welcomed and are fussed over. You won’t necessarily find a Thomsons’ Kids Club waiting for you, but you will find plenty of culture and a completely different way of life to what you are used to. There are some beautiful hotels’ that cater to all ages, but the way forward for us is a tailored villa that provides the perfect place for exploration. I for one found the prospect of booking accommodation in Asia slightly daunting, only because it feels so far removed from our home comforts – but using a company like Villa Finder to choose a villa in Samui provides that little bit of piece of mind that is oh so important. Before you travel, a consultant will get in touch to understand exactly what you are looking for, and what you need, whether that be airport transfers, a pool fence or even just a warm welcome, which really will make all the difference.
Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, may not be as exotic as the likes of Asia, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have plenty to offer in our quest to embrace more culture. It goes without saying that the scenery is absolutely stunning (think peaceful harbour bordering volcanic fields) and it has all of the benefits of a tourist destination while very much feeling like a quaint village. The locals are known for quick wit and a dry sense of humour (something I’ll always appreciate!) It’s probably not the best choice for a week long adventure, but it’s perfect for a weekend break that the whole family can get on board with. There are a handful of family friendly museums, and of course no trip would be complete without a visit to the iconic Blue Lagoon – the outdoor baths, hallelujah – although it is worth remembering that they are a no-go for little ones’ under two.
Dubrovnik is already firmly part of our travel plans for next year – it’s still close to home, but with the benefit of a beautiful weather and an enviable coast line. It also deosn’t feel ‘too british’ which is my one problem with our normal haunts. We make a point of travelling abroad, only to spend our time with other Brits, eating British food and trying to find British TV channels. I travelled to Split in Croatia a few years ago and it still surprises me just how far away from home I felt. It’s a short flight, but a wonderful place and I’d love the chance to explore the capital. Dubrovnik would be more difficult with a little one in tow, I do know that much, but it would also be so much more rewarding. You can catch a boat from Dubrovnik Harbour and discover the island of Lokrum just opposite the Old Town. Only a 20-minute trip away, it provided the backdrop for ‘Game of Thrones’ and the island is a haven for peacocks, bunnies and tortoises. When the heat gets too much, I’ll gladly explore the Dubrovnik Aquarium, or take a cable car to the city’s peak – it’s safe to say there will be plenty to keep us entertained.
11 hour flight sound like a no-go? I thought so too, so South Africa was completely off of the cards for a long time. Having looked in to it, there is only one hours time difference between the UK and South Africa, so if you manage to time the flight overnight and with some luck (some babies sleep on planes, right?) it really could be completely fine. So no jet lag; wildlife at every turn; no language barriers and great value for money? Cape Town is definitely one for the family travel list. My main worry with South Africa was safety. I won’t lie. It’s no secret that Cape Town has a whole heap of social problems, and crime is unfortunately a consequence of that – but then again, it’s the same in many other places you wouldn’t think twice about visiting . Everyone I have asked has said that Cape Town is no more unsafe than the UK, provided you stick to the tourist areas. It’s a city centred around animals, so it’s suffice to say that 95% of children would adore it. One of the main reasons I was drawn to South Africa in the first instance was for the safari experiences, so I would probably say that we may need to wait a few years before our son can truly appreciate the trip.
This one is probably a bit of a stretch. Actually, it’s definitely a big stretch – but Tokyo has been one of the places that I’ve just always been intrigued by. It’s busy, it’s fast paced and from what I’ve read it’s not toddler friendly whatsoever – but sometimes you’ve just got to give it a go. I’m a firm believer that children make travel better, not worse, and nothing says getting out of your comfort zone than Tokyo. It goes without saying most hotel rooms in Japan are on the small side (think box room) so Air BnB is without a doubt the way forward here. This also gives the comfort of a slower pace and the ability to cook some of your own food, which can help to keep the costs down in an otherwise expensive city.