Over the years I have been travel writer I have seen family holidays evolve from beach, camping and Disneyland to holidays that are more adventurous, more educational and more experiential. A hunger for experience, a desire to educate, and the determination to share our passion for travel with our children is driving the trend away from entertainment and towards more experiences and learning.
At the recent Family Travel Show at Olympia, London there were a surprising number of holidays that families may not have even considered were possible with children in tow. I have highlight some of these below.
Several safari operators now feature activities aimed at children. Children are often as interested in the smaller creatures of the bush as they are about the Big Five. A guided walk looking at ant lions, rhinoceros beetles and the like is just as exciting as seeing their larger counterparts on the plains from a Land Cruiser. Alongside safari trips there are often cultural opportunities for children to visit and interact with locals.
Variety and new experiences are the key to keeping children happy and the 13 day Namibia Cheetah Safari adventure from Explore Worldwide is perfect for families who want to discover an African country off the beaten track. As a family you will track some of the Big Five in Etosha National Park, visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s conservancy explore the world’s oldest desert and it’s wildlife and check out rock paintings at Omaruru. Kayaking in Walvis Bay and climbing to the top of the world’s highest sand dune in Sossusvlei are also on the itinerary.
A volunteering holiday is more often associated with young adults pre-, post-, or during their studies or older people whose family have flown the nest. Taking the family on a volunteering holiday is not something you hear a great deal about but it is a wonderful way of children experiencing another culture, caring for the environment or taking part in a conservation project. It teaches them care for people or habitats that are not their own, unselfishness and gives them a great sense of well being and achievement. Take for example this opportunity in Thailand with Go Differently.
Working with elephants
At the project that Go Differently supports in southern Thailand, each volunteer (including kids if they’re up to it – and most of them are!) is allocated to work with their “own” elephant and mahout for the duration of their stay so they can get to know them and even build up a rapport. During their stay, they’ll learn how to wash and generally care for their elephant, as well as riding bareback and giving simple voice commands. When it gets too hot in the afternoon, head to the beach or explore the local area. And of course, there’s also plenty of cultural interaction with both the mahouts and their families, and lovely local co-ordinators who host the volunteers in their comfortable, air-conditioned homes.
Space dedicated to children is rare on luxury cruise ships. Now new ships are being designed for multiple generations. Crystal Cruising’s ship Crystal Symphony offers child-friendly cuisine, and a highly acclaimed children’s programme on select sailings with activities for children aged 3-17. Also designed in are dedicated “play” rooms for kids and another for teens. Parents are not forgotten either. All vessels offer in-stateroom babysitting to allow parents some time alone if they wish. Cruise all-inclusive from London Tilbury to Lisbon on Crystal Symphony and visit Honfleur, Guernsey, St-Malo, Bordeaux, Le Verdon, St-Jean-de-Luz and Bilbao.
Cruising along the Norwegian Coast with Hurtigruten children aged 7-13 can partake in the complimentary Young Explorers Programme from 1 April 2017. This programme is designed for children with where the focus is on fun, participation and education in the magnificent surroundings of the fjords. The Young Explorers Programme is free of charge and will be available on Hurtigruten’s Norwegian coastal sailings with MS Finnmarken, MS Midnatsol and MS Trollfjord. At the end of these cruises children will have gained a deeper understanding of nature, climate and culture, and have been introduced to topics related to wildlife, local food, environmental protection and famous explorers.
Families can learn about and experience different cultures together. Choosing a trip with plenty of variety will make it interesting for children and a better learning experience. Take this example from KE Adventures
Tigers and Temples of Rajasthan
Experience a real adventure discovering the princely northern India state of Rajasthan. Travel is mostly by train which in itself is an exciting experience for the whole family. Highlights of the trip include a tiger spotting safari a visit to the Taj Mahal, sightseeing in the pink city of Jaipur and rides in a rickshaw and on a camel. Other activities include learning to cook a curry, watching a Bollywood movie and a chance to play cricket with the locals. This trip is a great introduction to the sights, sounds and tastes of India
These are just a few of the travel experiences that a family can have together. You may have had an experience of one of these before or perhaps you have tried something not mentioned here. We would love to hear about you experiences in the comments section below.