Family holiday ideas: adventure, alpine and boating

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Longing for a family holiday away from the typical British holiday camp offering? On this page we’ve got three top ideas with tonnes of activities for family holidays to keep your kids active and happy.

Family Adventure Holidays

A few years ago, the prospect of taking your family on an adventure holiday was something that most parents had not even considered. These days, with many of the adventure travel tour operators providing specially designed family tours, family adventure travel is booming. Adventure holidays are a great way to improve your children’s understanding of the world and different cultures. Family adventure tours normally involve 4 to 5 families joining together on a guided tour of an interesting region of the world. The family tours differ from the standard adventure tours in that the pace is slower and there is more free time available in the itinerary.

Types of Adventure Holiday

Some tours are overland camping tours where travel is by specially converted safari truck. On overland tours, accommodation is a mix of camping and simple hotels and you may need to help out with the camp duties. Other tours stay in tourist class hotels often with swimming pools and a variety of transport is used for your tour such as minibuses, jeeps, trains, boats, etc. Several companies also offer tailor-made tours with a specially designed itinerary for your family.

The tour itinerary may include some or all of these types of adventure travel:

  • Activity – Biking, camel riding, elephant riding, swimming, white water rafting.
  • Culture – Interacting with local people, staying overnight in village homes, eating local food, learning the local customs.
  • History – Opportunities to visit places of historical importance such as the Pyramids in Egypt, Petra in Jordan.
  • Trekking – Short low level treks in regions such as the Atlas mountains in Morocco or the Nepalese foothills.
  • Wildlife – Safaris in Africa, whale watching in Iceland or tiger spotting in India.

Age Ranges

The minimum age for adventure holidays varies by operator and by adventure tour. Most companies have a minimum age of between 5 and 8 years. The Adventure Company is the only company to accept very young children – it has a number of Infant Adventures for children aged 1 year plus.

Adventure Gear

Active and Travel Clothing

You will need lightweight breathable clothing during the day. Fleece jackets are useful for when the temperature drops at overnight camping.

Mosquito Nets and Repellent

It is a good idea to take your own travel mosquito nets when travelling to mosquito infected countries. Children are particularly vulnerable to mosquito bites so make sure that they are covered up in the evening and wear a good insect repellent. Gearzone stocks an excellent range of mosquito nets and protection.

Medical Kits

Ensure that you carry a full first aid kit with you – click here.

Tips for adventure holidays

  • Review the detailed tour itineraries carefully before you choose an adventure tour. Make sure that the pace of the tour, the size of the group and the planned activities are right for your family.
  • Educate your children on the culture and customs of the country that you are going to. There are some excellent books available for children to help with this.
  • Have a sense of humour. Travel is unpredictable and never goes exactly according to plan. There will undoubtedly be delays and inconveniences but that is all part of the adventure.

Family Alpine Sports Holidays

If you have never thought of visiting the Alps in summer, then think again. With activities ranging from the obvious such as hiking and mountain biking to the more exhilarating paragliding and white water rafting – the Alps are a paradise for active families in the summer. There are a whole host of activities to be enjoyed together as a family such as hiking, biking, abseiling and swimming in mountain lakes. Many of the Alpine resorts also have adventure parks with activities such as tree top obstacle courses and open-air trampolines to enjoy.

Types of Alpine Sports Holiday

Many of the ski tour operators have now started to provide summer alpine sports holidays using the same chalet and hotel accommodation. Comprehensive childcare and children’s’ clubs are often provided as part of the package. There are also companies offering a more personal service, maybe just operating from one or two chalets in a single resort. Childcare is often available at the accommodation or in the resort.

Age Ranges

Children of any age are able to go on a holiday to the Alps. There are minimum age restrictions for the different activities, but you will be surprised at the number of activities that can be enjoyed together as a family.

Alpine Activities

For those less obvious Alpine activities, here is an explanation of what is involved:

  • Abseiling – Descending steep and near vertical rock faces using a rope and specialist climbing equipment to control your descent.
  • Canyoning/Gorge Walking – This activity is not for the faint hearted. Canyoning is jumping, sliding, swimming and abseiling your way down a river gorge. Participants get fully kitted out in wetsuits, helmets and lifejackets before they set off.
  • Donkey/Pony Trekking – The donkey or pony can carry your child and luggage whilst adults lead the way.
  • Grass Skiing – Skiing using specially designed skis with caterpillar tracks for skiing on grass.
  • High Ropes – Participants negotiate a treetop adventure course involving zip lines, cable bridges and giant ladders.
  • Hydrospeeding – Participants use a short surfboard to float and swim down a fast flowing river. Helmets, wetsuits and flippers are worn.
  • Mountainboarding – A mountain board is like a snowboard with large sturdy wheels. Participants wear helmets and kneepads and descend a hill in a similar fashion to a snowboarder.
  • Paragliding – This involves running off the top of a mountain pulling a specially constructed piece of lightweight material, rather like a large kite, behind you. As you run, a canopy opens up above your head and you will be flying. It is possible to do a tandem paraglide with an instructor at the controls or to learn the basics for yourself in under a week.
  • Rock Climbing – Climbing steep and near vertical rock faces using specialist climbing equipment and attached to ropes to break your fall if needed.
  • Scrambling – Climbing low level rock climbs using specialist climbing ropes where required.
  • Tubing – Floating lazily down a river in a large inflatable tube or ring.
  • White water rafting – This involves paddling down river in a large inflatable boat taking up to 8 participants. You bump and glide your way along the natural course of the river and then work hard on the rapids. You will be kitted out in wetsuits, helmets and lifejackets.

Alpine Sports Gear

You will need a good pair of walking boots if hiking is your thing. Other specialist equipment such as wetsuits and helmets is provided by the activity companies.


If you are keen walkers or mountain bikers, be sure to invest in a lift pass. Chairlifts and telecabines usually operate in the summer, allowing you access to the higher mountain walks and cycle trails.

Family Boating Holidays

Mum boating

Boating holidays offer you the chance to take life at a slower pace. You can choose to explore beautiful countryside along rural canals or travel through the waterways of towns and cities. There are plenty of activities to keep the whole family busy such as piloting the boat, operating locks, fishing or just relaxing! You can stop where you like and go for a walk, bike ride or visit local attractions.

You do not need any experience or “driving” licence to hire a boat on inland waterways. The holiday company will give you as much tuition as you need when you pick up your boat. This will include casting off and mooring, steering, operating locks, carrying out daily boat checks and general safety.

Types of Boating Holiday

Where you go depends very much on the type of holiday that you are looking for. Active children will enjoy working the locks so you may want to choose a canal with many locks to work such as the Pennine waterways. If you have very young children or babies, you may prefer a route without locks or where the locks are operated for you, such as the River Thames.

Types of Boat

There are 3 main categories of boat:

  • Cruiser – Fibreglass river cruisers.
  • Narrowboats – Available in all sizes of to 70ft length
  • Widebeam/Barges – These are up to 14′ in width and are sometimes referred to as barges.

Within these categories you will find a huge range of boats. The largest boats can accommodate up to 12 people.

Equipment Provided

Boats generally have a fully equipped kitchen with gas cooker, cooking utensils, crockery etc. There is hot and cold water usually with temperature controlled showers. Shaver points and hygienic flush toilets are standard. Heating can be space heating, radiators or a ducted warm air system. Boats have electric lighting and many have a radio/cassette and colour television. Bed linen is usually provided but you may need to bring your own towels.

One set of wet weather overalls are generally provided for the helmsman. Each boat usually carries lifejackets, fire extinguishers and fire blankets. There is also a full range of deck gear including boat hook, deck mop and ropes.

Planning Your Route

You could choose a round trip or a one-way trip. The holiday company will often transfer your car from your departure point to your arrival point.

The holiday company may provide you with some suggested cruising itineraries outlining the distances, estimated cruising times and number of locks for different routes. Normal cruising speeds are around 3 – 4 miles per hour, with an additional 15 – 20 minutes to navigate each lock.

On UK canals, you can stop overnight almost anywhere along the towpath side without charge. On most other waterways, there will be clearly marked places where you can moor for the night or during the day. Some of these may involve a small mooring charge.

Age Ranges

There are no minimum ages for a boating holiday.

Specialist Boating Gear

  • Deck Shoes – Non slip deck shoes
  • Gloves – Protective gloves are useful for working locks.
  • Guidebooks – A waterways guidebook such as Nicholson’s

Other Items To Take With You

  • Torch – For finding your way.
  • Camera – To record your holiday
  • Binoculars – For spotting wildlife
  • Household items – Towels, teatowels, washing up liquid, dishcloths.
  • Food – Enough for a couple of days. You will be able to restock along the way.
  • Sun protection – Sunhat, sunglasses and suncream will help to protect you from the strong sun.
  • Soft bags – To pack your gear in. These are much easier to store on board.

More holiday ideas with the kids:

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