Looking for inspiration for trips within those pesky school holiday dates? Joanna Booth runs down a host of ideas across the year.
Do you know the 2012 school holiday dates off the top of your head? You should. As schools clamp down on taking kids out of class, parents are increasingly being restricted to those few weeks in a year when children are free to travel.
We’ve rounded up a whole year of holiday inspiration to suggest to your clients. All sample prices are for school holiday dates.
By the time school breaks up for Easter spring is in the air and kids will be raring to get active, while parents may be ready to relax during what could well be their first real time out of the office since the Christmas break.
Egypt offers Easter travellers a decent blast of warmth, but is still a relatively short flight away. The four-star Coral Sea Splash Resort in Sharm el-Sheikh is one of First Choice’s newest SplashWorld properties, with a water park on site. It’s the only property in the range with a surf simulator, plus a range of slides and a lazy river. The operator has seven nights’ all-inclusive with flights from Gatwick on April 8 start at £975 per adult, first child from £479 and second child from £559.
Caribbean sunshine is guaranteed to put a smile on the whole family’s face, and St Kitts and Nevis’s comprehensive Kids ’r’ VIPs programme is guaranteed to maintain parental grins when the bill comes, too. Running through all the school holidays, it offers discounts and deals on activities on both islands, including learning to sail, snorkel or play the steel pan, cricket coaching, and even going on night patrols with the conservation team to see leatherback sea turtles nesting – which they do on the island’s beaches between April and July.
Hotels also get in on the act, and the St Kitts Marriot Resort allows kids of five years and under to eat for free, while children between six and 12 pay half price when dining with their parents. On Nevis, Montpelier Plantation & Beach is offering a Family Escape package through Carrier, with a week’s stay for a family of three from £4,965, including flights, accommodation with daily breakfast and afternoon tea, a guided rainforest hike and a baking lesson included.
Back in the UK, Harry Potter fans can keep the magic alive by visiting the new Warner Bros Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter, which opens on March 31 in Leavesden, Hertfordshire. Guests will tour original sets including the Great Hall, Dumbledore’s Office and Hagrid’s Hut, and see costumes, animatronics, special effects and props used in all eight films. Superbreak offers a family of four – two adults and two kids – a one-night stay in the Travelodge Watford and tickets to a studio tour from £181.
Demand to go away during this summer’s half-term is likely to be even higher than usual. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations have warranted an extra bank holiday, so parents will need only three days off work to take a week’s holiday – and a week in Europe offers a wide diversity of holiday choices.
Rhodes – often too hot for younger kids during the high summer – is perfect in June, and Olympic Holidays recommends the recently-renovated four-star Anavida Hotel, which offers family rooms and is located on the edge of Kolymbia. Seven nights’ half-board for a family of four starts from £2,215, including return flights and transfers.
For active kids, suggest Forte Village, a huge luxury resort in Sardinia. Families can stay in one of eight hotels across the 55-acre site on the island’s south coast, and parents can kick back and relax knowing their children are being entertained. Alongside the huge Citta dei Bambini kids club, budding sports stars can attend a football academy run by Chelsea FC coaches, and cricket, tennis and rugby academies. Rugby stars Will Greenwood and Austin Healey will be coaching during the summer half-term. Citalia offers a week’s half-board at Forte Village for a family of four from £4,499, including flights, transfers and two free kids places.
Thomas Cook suggests Tenerife for the summer half-term, with its great theme parks and family-friendly accommodation. Green Garden is a Thomas Cook Aquamania property offering free access to Siam Park, and the operator offers a week all-inclusive for a family of four from £2,428, flying from Manchester.
For young families, try Sunwing Fanabe, which has Happy Baby rooms equipped with high chairs, play carpets, changing mats and other baby paraphernalia. The rooms are on the ground floor, with terraces, parasols and direct pool access. A week here with Thomas Cook for two adults, one child and one infant costs from £1,450. Do Something Different offers the Tenerife Twin Ticket from £43 for adults and £29 for kids, giving a day’s entry entry to both Loro Parque and Siam Park.
For something a little more unusual, check out Explore’s Timber Rafting in Sweden family adventure. It’s a great time of year to make the most of those long Scandinavian days, and hands-on families will love the challenge of building their own rafts, learning to navigate them down the Klarälven River, fishing for their dinner and camping on the banks. The minimum age for children on these departures is five, and a week-long trip starts from £1,270 for adults and £1,245 for children, including flights.
With six long weeks off school to fill, most parents will be looking to get away on holiday. Beach babies are overwhelmed with choice in summer, with the short-haul favourites providing reliable bargains. Majorca is always a winner for families, and Thomson can take two adults and two kids away for a week for £2,263, staying on a self-catering basis at the four-star Alcudia Pins with flights from Gatwick on August 13. The hotel is right on the beach, with waterslides around the pool and there’s even a new splash park especially for little ones. With a kids club, sports courts and activities from poolside bingo to beach volleyball, there’s always something to do.
Citalia recommends the Parchi Del Garda, a hotel with a kids club and family rooms on Lake Garda, for its proximity to theme parks Gardaland and Canevaworld Movieland. The Makronissos Village Club in Ayia Napa, Cyprus, is Olympic Holidays’ pick for the well equipped bungalows, good kids club and the Nissi Bay water park nearby.
Farther afield, Pure Luxury recommends the Maldives, where the One&Only Reethi Rah resort has released its Family summer Escape offer, which allows two children up to 11 to stay, travel and eat for free when sharing a Beach Villa or a Beach Villa with Pool with two paying adults. This can be combined with a seven- nights-for-the-price-of-six plus complimentary half-board offer to give clients extraordinary value for money. With all these offers combined, Pure Luxury offers a week for a family of four including flights and transfers from £8,896 during the summer holidays.
Even though it’s hurricane season in the Caribbean, the vast majority of families enjoy happy holidays at low-season prices in the summer months. Beaches Boscobel Resort & Golf Club in Jamaica has had a $14million upgrade, creating new family communal areas and restaurants and equipping the resort’s main stage with the latest technological gizmos – meaning the popular Sesame Street stage shows will make an even bigger splash. Seven nights for a family of four, with flights and transfers, costs from £4,219 during the summer holidays, through Sandals.
In the Dominican Republic, the Fiesta Hotel Group has opened the largest kids club in the Caribbean, at the five-star Grand Palladium Punta Cana Complex, located on the seafront at Playa Bavaro. The 1,600sq metre club has a Pirates of the Caribbean theme and caters for kids aged one to 12. There’s a pool, zipline, games area and playground, plus a computer and video game zone and an arts and crafts centre, both out of the sunshine. There’s another club for 12 to 21-year-olds, and the hotel offers babysitting services. Thomson offers a week all-inclusive at the Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort & Spa for a family of four from £6,024 departing Gatwick on August 7.
Adventurous families will enjoy heading further afield. Mini David Attenboroughs will love The Adventure Company’s new Elephant Paradise Young Photographers tour, a 14-day jaunt in Sri Lanka starting from £1,989 per adult and £1,839 per child, including flights, accommodation, transport and activities, plus camera tuition. They’ll go to an elephant orphanage and a turtle hatchery, help fishermen haul in a catch, canoe and trek through the jungle, and head to the beach.
Trafalgar Tours has a range of family-friendly itineraries that proved so popular in 2011 the operator has added new options for 2012. Dude Ranchin’, Yellowstone & Glacier Roundup is a 10-day adventure-packed experience in the Wild West, with activities including becoming a junior ranger in Yellowstone National Park, taking part in a rodeo at Cody, Wyoming, seeing the world’s largest T-Rex skull at the Museum of the Rockies and taking a horseback ride or rafting trip along the Gallatin River. The trips starts from £1,675, including private UK car transfers, accommodation, some meals, travel and sightseeing.
Summer is a brilliant time to go on safari, but families don’t always want to be moving around. Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp has just opened a new house with five ensuite bedrooms, perfect for large or extended families. It borders the Masai Mara National Reserve and is just 1km from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, so big five-spotting possibilities are endless. This is one for deep pockets though, with prices for a week in the summer holidays through Rainbow Tours for two adults and two children from £19,995, including flights, all meals and drinks and activities.
This time of year is ripe for spook-tastic school holidays and no one embraces Halloween like the Americans. Florida’s theme parks really get into the spirit of things. Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights are unforgettable for teens, with armies of mutants, monsters and maniacs roaming the darkened studio streets creating live shows, haunted houses and scare zones. Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, creates similar Howl-O-Scream nights, with both running on selected dates around the Halloween period. Younger kids may be happier at Disney, where they can trick-or-treat through the Magic Kingdom, and watch parades and fireworks with a lower fear-factor. Water-babies will love SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular, where they can dress up and play with sea fairies and trick-or-treat among mermaids and pumpkin fish. In neighbouring Clearwater, the Marine Aquarium is home to Winter, the star of last year’s family movie favourite Dolphin Tale, and young fans can meet the star of the show.
Back in the UK, Haven is hosting ghostly gatherings during half-term week across all 35 of its parks. After spooky story time with Rory the Tiger or the Halloween Arts and Crafts club they can get their faces painted and dress up for Naughty Ned’s Trick or Treat and Rory’s Halloween Fancy Dress Party.
For those who care more about the night sky than fright nights, Mosaic is offering a week-long Star Gazing in the Desert trip in Egypt. Autumn is one of the best times to visit the destination, and the operator has planned a fun-packed itinerary. In Dahab, they will star gaze using professional telescopes, take camel rides, have a barbecue cooked by a Bedouin tribe and go snorkelling, and in Cairo they’ll visit the Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the Egyptian Museum. Lead-in price is £1,299 per adult and £799 per child, including flights and five-star hotel accommodation.
What could be a better Christmas present for the kids than a trip to see Santa himself? Cosmos offers a range of five-night breaks to Finnish Lapland, where the whole family can get into the festive spirit by visiting Santa’s post office, the elves workshop and even getting to meet the big guy himself and receive a personal present, all deep inside the Arctic Circle. Wintry fun such as tobogganing, and rides on snowmobiles and reindeer and husky-drawn sleigh rides are included in the price, plus a Christmas gala feast. A five-day trip staying from Manchester or Gatwick and leaving on December 23 starts from £999 for adults and £749 for kids.
Those who want to leave the winter cold behind don’t need to forgo their Santa fix. His sleigh is making a stop in Saint Lucia, and Father Christmas will arrive at Smugglers Cove in a horse-drawn carriage with gifts for all the kids. The kids club will organise decoration-making and carol singing as well non-seasonal fun such as limbo dancing, beach cricket and movie-star makeovers. The resort has also just opened a new wilderness kids play area, Maco’s Garden, with treehouses, a climbing frame and rope swings to work off all their Christmas energy.
The winter season is the best time to visit Dubai, a destination that has worked hard to attract the family market. Atlantis The Palm, with its on-site water parks, is an obvious choice for those with kids, and Mina A’Salam at Madinat Jumeirah and Jumeirah Beach Hotel, which is next to the Wild Wadi water park, are also very family friendly. In the Dubai Mall alone there’s the Sega Republic adventure park; KidZania, where kids can play at being grown-ups in a mini-city; an aquarium and underwater zoo; and an ice rink. Families can take desert safaris, and if they’re missing the Christmas chill head to Ski Dubai and play in real snow.
Families who don’t want to fly can find festive fun closer to home. Butlins transforms its resorts into winter wonderlands with fairy lights, Christmas trees and decorations and an array of activities to keep the little elves happy. They’ll get to meet real reindeer – and obviously the real Santa – in an enchanted grotto, and entertainment includes panto, character Christmas storytime and Billy’s Jingle Band. Butlins offers pre and post-Christmas breaks, and the chance to go away over the big day itself.
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