Family Holidays: Children in charge

Family Holidays: Children in charge

Mum and dad may hold the purse strings but it's the kids who call the shots. Katie McGonagle looks at how to keep them happy on holiday

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I’m boooored. They’re the words no parent wants to hear as they enjoy their own well-deserved break. But anyone who’s ever tried to keep little ones amused on holiday knows it’s easier said than done.

Luckily, operators and hoteliers are starting to realise if they keep kids content, mum and dad are sure to follow – and pester power might even mean they come back next year.

Tap into this lucrative market by finding a holiday for every kind of kid, from future sports stars and adventurers to budding performers and little princesses.

LITTLE EXPLORERS


Kids are fascinated by the world around them, so consider family-friendly adventure holidays that also let mum and dad explore somewhere new.

Little adventurers will think they’re discovering a new world as they trek through the Transylvanian Alps on snowshoes or toboggans during Explore’s Romania Ice Hotel Adventure. They can then head back for a rest at a hotel built of ice – including the bed! For would-be mountain climbers, the operator also has a 14-day Everest Base Camp itinerary (minimum age 11).

Youngsters who dream of following in Bear Grylls’ footsteps will get their chance on Grand American Adventures’ Canadian Discovery tour, which includes rafting, canoeing, hiking and biking around the rugged Rockies. For first-time adventurers, suggest the pick-and-mix approach from Activities Abroad, which offers hiking in the Alps, mountain biking, glacier walks and white water rafting in Austria’s Oetz Valley.

Activities are based on a points system, so kids of different ages can choose what they feel comfortable with.

WILDLIFE WATCHERS


Animal lovers will jump at the chance to see the real-life stars of films such as The Lion King and Madagascar in their natural habitats.

Malaria-free safari options include Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, known for its leopards and elephants, which has nature treks and night safaris designed for families.

Or for high-end safari-goers, Africa Odyssey suggests Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve in South Africa. Its Junior Ranger programme teaches kids about local plants and cooking a bush dinner, plus game drives, walking and horseback safaris for the whole family.

For kids who can’t get enough of soon-to-be-released Madagascar 3, suggest The Adventure Company’s 14-day Land of Lemurs tour of the island, new this year (from £2,399 per adult/£1,859 per child, adventurecompany.co.uk).

Don’t overlook the UK, though. Haven parks run weekly wildlife detective sessions where kids go on a bug hunt and nature walk.

WATER BABIES


There’s no end of options for little ones who are as at home in water as on dry land.

For those who want the classic water park experience, suggest Wild Wadi and Aquaventure in Dubai, or Wet ’n Wild Orlando plus Legoland Florida.

Sunvil Discovery recommends Sao Miguel in the Azores to try scuba diving, whale watching, swimming with dolphins or canoeing. Families can get interconnecting cottages at Quinta dos Curabas from £885 per person during the summer holidays, including flights and car hire (sunvil.co.uk, 020 8758 4722).

The Adventure Company has also added a week-long surf school in the Algarve’s Vale de Telha, including three days’ tuition.

Youngsters aged 10 and above can get their Padi junior diver certificate at Tobago’s Magdalena Grand, which has a dive centre in the hotel grounds.

Even the youngest water babies can get a taste of life underwater without having to master diving techniques – Hartley’s Undersea Walk in Bermuda offers helmet diving, where kids can see sea life close up while wearing a helmet connected to an oxygen supply.

BUDDING SPORTS STARS


Whether it’s tennis, football or Formula 1, there are sporting academies to suit every cheeky little champion-to-be.

Footie fanatics can get coaching from their Premier League idols at Disney Soccer Academy in Orlando, which is hosting Craig Bellamy, Aaron Hughes and Paul Robinson from June 18-21 and June 25-28 (£99 per child with Virgin Holidays, vhols4agents.co.uk).

Former Liverpool stars Phil Babb, Jan Molby and Don Hutchinson, plus ex-Portsmouth defender Linvoy Primus, will also be passing on fancy footwork skills at Buccament Bay Resort in St Vincent this summer.

Closer to home, La Manga Club near Murcia in Spain – known for its excellent sports facilities – is hosting an AC Milan Junior Camp from July 8-14 (€500 per child).

With Wimbledon just around the corner, Neilson Beachclubs’ specialist tennis holidays are bound to be popular, offering group coaching, kids’ sessions and private lessons (£30 an hour), while a number of Haven parks also offer tennis coaching to kids of five and above.

Or, if it’s Olympic fever that’s getting kids going, suggest Keycamp’s mini-Olympian sessions to introduce them to traditional events like javelin and long jump at Saint Avit Loisirs park in the Dordogne (keycamp4agents.co.uk).

Or head to the Daley Thompson Athletics Academy at La Manga Club, where kids aged seven to 11 can learn running techniques, sprinting, endurance and hurdles from a host of Olympic champions between July 23 and August 19.

Budding golfers will want to tee off at La Manga’s Lee Westwood Golf Academy from August 6-10 and 13-17 (€250 for five days) or the father-and-son golf tournament in June half-term (from €330 with discounted hotel stays).

Or they could opt for the new Wentworth Golf Academy at Forte Village Resort in Sardinia, from May until September.

Rising rugby stars can take part in one of Forte Village’s three rugby academies (June 2-9, July 14-28 and August 18-September 1), with expert coaching from Martin Johnson, Austin Healey, Jason Robinson and Jason Leonard (£460 for a week).

Meanwhile, boy racers can compete for pole position on the track at Rome Cavalieri, the Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts property, with mini-Ferrari racing for kids under seven (parents needn’t worry though, the electric cars don’t go above 5mph).

Learn to play golf like Lee Westwood

SHINING STARLETS


Budding performers can tread the boards or sing their hearts out with activities to bring out their creative sides.

Buccament Bay’s performing arts academy is led by coaches from West End and Broadway shows like Wicked, Hairspray and Les Misérables. Youngsters can hone their singing, dancing and acting skills then display their talents in a performance.

Kids prefer to clown around? Suggest the Clown Lab at Il Torrino di Montaione in Tuscany (bookable with Essential Italy) or the circus courses at Pierre & Vacances’ apartments, where youngsters learn how to use the flying trapeze and walk the tightrope.

Butlins also hosts a circus school where kids learn to juggle, spin plates and walk on stilts. There are also street dance and break dancing sessions in the summer.

For music-obsessed teens, suggest DJ lessons at Hotel de Rome in Berlin, where they learn how to spin the decks then go on an accompanied swing round some of the city’s trendiest clubs.

COWBOYS AND PIRATES


Piggyback on the success of the latest films by letting kids act like their movie idols, whether they want to yeehaw like the cast of Cowboys & Aliens or try out life on the ocean waves like The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

The kids’ club at Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands has its own shipwreck and organises treasure hunts and a children’s pirate party once a week (available through Caribtours).

Kuramathi Island Resort in the Maldives also exploits its seafaring location with a pirate-themed kids’ club where a crew of youngsters hunt treasure buried on the island.

For little ’uns who want a Wild West experience, suggest horse riding, hiking, mountain biking, lassoing and rafting at Drowsy Water Ranch (see sample package).

Or add a cowboy excursion to a Las Vegas holiday with an overnight stay at a working ranch on the edge of the Grand Canyon, (£319 per person, attractionworld.com).

BEST OF THE REST


Little princesses can be pampered in style at Cape Town’s Mount Nelson Hotel. It offers special teen facials, mini-manicures and pedicures for youngsters, and child-friendly yoga classes (orient-express.com, 0845 077 2222).

Le Prince Maurice in Mauritius also has a Little Mermaid spa package with playful treatments including a rose milk foot bath and massage, kids’ yoga and flower hair garland (available through Africa Odyssey).

Star-gazers can try family-friendly tours such as The Adventure Company’s new eight-day Active Cappadocia – Astronomy Kids in Turkey option, where families camp under the stars, with an astronomer on hand. Alternatively, check out Explore’s seven-day Russian Adventure at Moscow’s Star City astronaut training centre.

Budding archaeologists can be inspired by some of the most exciting ancient sites with a gulet cruise along Turkey’s Carian coast, taking in the marbled city of Knidos and the fortress at Loryma, with an archaeologist on hand to explain it all (petersommer.com).

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