Opinion: Family breaks can be more than theme parks and burgers

Opinion: Family breaks can be more than theme parks and burgers

Safaris, treks and gastro tours offer longer-lasting shared memories, says Giles Hawke, chief executive of Cosmos Tours & Cruises and Avalon Waterways

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and anticipation is high among the nation’s romantics. Will they get a card or two, maybe a bunch of flowers from the Texaco garage and a romantic dinner? Or something even more exciting, such as a holiday with their loved one – or loved ones?

But for many people, time alone with their other half isn’t the main preoccupation; time with the family is of greater importance – and one in which a holiday plays a vital role.

In the day-to-day hustle and bustle of work, school, appointments, bills, shopping, cooking, cleaning, taxiing and even arguments, quality family time is often overlooked, or just not achievable, due to all the other pressures and demands at play.

The annual family holiday, or even a weekend away as a family, provides much-needed time to remember why mum and dad are together in the first place, and to enjoy shared experiences.

Box clever

When a customer comes in looking for a family holiday, agents should think outside the box and consider less obvious choices offering longer-lasting memories and authentic experiences. Family holidays don’t have to be ‘all‑singing, all-dancing’ affairs with kids’ clubs and constant activities.

How about a summer trip to an Alpine resort, offering incredible experiences against a backdrop of spectacular scenery? Trekking in the mountains, visiting an ice cave, walking on glaciers, swimming in a lake filled by melted snow or playing tennis under the shadow of jaw-dropping mountain peaks. The list is endless.

A river cruise may not be perceived as family-orientated, but when the scenery and places of interest are continually changing, there is always something new to see and do. Options off the boat could range from exploring cities such as Paris or Amsterdam to seeing iconic sights and cycling along the Danube’s towpath through the beautiful Wachau Valley.

Food for thought

Or how about a gastronomic tour, either as part of an organised coach trip or a self-drive holiday, exploring Italy or France? Everyone can enjoy trying local delicacies and even have some lessons, so they can cook together as a family. Contrary to what many think, children love new eating experiences and trying new things, particularly as they get older, and being involved in creating something opens their minds to trying it.

For those with bigger budgets, consider selling something a little more exotic. The money spent on a trip to Florida’s theme parks or a Caribbean cruise could pay for an African safari or a trip around Indonesia or Vietnam. These wonders of the real world would more than equal anything man-made to satisfy the urge for entertainment.

So the next time you get a request for a family holiday, it may be worth thinking beyond the obvious options of theme parks, kids’ clubs and burgers. Suggest a few other ideas, so that a family’s precious time together is more than just a predictable popular experience, but a meaningful trip providing lasting shared memories.

If only a bunch of flowers from the local garage could deliver that sort of loving sentiment next week.

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