If you’re looking for inspiration for your next family holiday and Butlins, Pontins or a caravan next to the sea aren’t quite your thing, we’ve got a bucket load of ideas for family holidays that keep the kids active. In this post, we’re looking at planning a cycling, diving or multi activity holiday with your kids.
Family Cycling Holidays
Cycling is a great option for a family holiday. Kids of all ages love travelling by bike and it is a relaxed way to visit a region. You can travel at your own pace, stop and look at points of interest along the way and still cover a fair distance in a one-week holiday. And of course, it is a great way to keep fit!
Types of Cycling Holiday
There are 3 main types of cycling holiday:
- Touring holidays where you ride from place to place every day or every other day along a pre-determined route. Biking equipment, route maps and luggage transfer are usually organised by the holiday company.
- Single centre holidays where you are based at one location but ride out on different routes each day. All biking equipment is usually provided for you by the holiday company and they may provide you with suggested daily routes.
- Do-it-yourself cycling holidays – arrange your holiday accommodation and take along your own bikes. You can then bike as little or often as you like.
Most children aged 8 years and over should be able to cope with short daily bike rides on their own bike. Energetic teenagers should be able to cope with longer daily distances.
With very young children, it is probably best to be based at a single location. That way, everything will be ready for you on your return at the end of the day. You are also able to tailor the length of your bike rides to suit your children more easily.
The most difficult age to take children cycling is from 4 to 8 years as they are too old to sit in a child seat or trailer and too young to pedal independently. Bike trailers are an option for this age group but they may not manage long distances. Another option is tag along bike attachments.
Family Cycling Equipment
Child Trailers: birth – 5 years
Child trailers are special mini-trailers that are towed along behind the bike. They have space for up to 2 children. Baby car seats can be fixed into position making them suitable for newborn babies. Your children will be all snug in a trailer protected from the sun, rain and wind.
Baby and Child Seats: 6 months – 5 years
Child seats can be fitted to the back or front of an adult bike and allow you to carry them easily over quite long distances. A child is old enough for a child seat when able to sit up unsupported, usually around 6 – 9 months. Some seats have a reclining backrest which support their head when they nod off.
A note from (painful) experience – if the seat is on the front of the bike, make sure you can comfortably pedal without your knees going out sideways on an angle. Otherwise, you will do a lot of damage to your knees.
Tag-a-longs and Trailer Bikes: 4 – 9 years
Tag-a-long bikes are ‘half bikes’ which attach to the back of an adult bike allowing the child to be towed. Your child can pedal or just freewheel and let you do all the work! Some models even have brakes and gears. They are a great way to teach your child how to ride as well as the rules of the road. Plus, your child is really helping with the pedalling.
There are also towbars for hitching on an actual kid’s bike lifting the front wheel from the ground, enabling it to be towed trailer-style.
Tandem Bikes: 6 years plus
Tandem bikes are basically long 2 – wheeled bikes with 2 seats. There are child-back tandems, some of which are small enough at the back for a 6 year old. Otherwise there are adapted adult tandems (with kiddycranks). Of course, there is no age limit for adult tandems.
Small Mountain Bikes: 7 – 12 years
Once your child reaches 7 years or so, they will be able to ride a fair distance on their own bike. There are small mountain bikes available for children with all the features of adult bikes such as gears and fancy brakes.
- Firstly, make sure that you have planned where you are going, work out the distances and how long you expect it to take. Most of the family cycling holiday companies will provide you with a detailed route map and transfer your luggage for you.
- Try to ride together as a close group. Don’t let teenagers race off in to the distance when Mum at the back is the one with the route map. It is easy to take a wrong turn in unfamiliar surroundings.
- Always ride at the pace of the slowest rider – remember that adult bikes go much faster then junior bikes.
- With younger children in child seats, stick to smooth roads to avoid jolting. Make sure that they are kept warm. The wind can chill them very quickly even on a warm day. Use layers of clothing with a wind resistant top layer.
- Plan to make regular stops – look at the scenery, paddle in the river or have lunch.
Family Diving Holidays
With a range of specialist dive courses for children aged 10 years plus (8 years in a swimming pool), the thrill of diving can now be experienced by the whole family. Exploring the underwater world will open up a whole new dimension to your travels and children love to see all the sea creatures that they have learned about at school.
If you’re diving in the UK, you’ll want to head south towards warmer waters – Cornwall for example.
If you’re willing to head abroad, with locations such as The Red Sea, Gozo in Malta and Turkey reachable within 5 hour flight times, a diving holiday is feasible for those travelling with children.
Types of Diving Holiday
There are 2 main types of diving holiday:
- Land based holidays where you stay in a hotel, apartment or villa and travel out by boat each day to dive sites. This option allows you to combine diving with other activities and also to visit land-based attractions. Many of the holiday companies or hotels provide crèche facilities and childrens’ clubs, so this is the best option if you have children too young to dive.
- Liveaboard holidays where you live on the boat and tour between dive sites. This allows you to reach more secluded dive sites not reachable to day-boat divers. Living on a boat is a great experience and older children will love being able to jump off the boat for a swim.
Children can participate in swimming pool based diving programmes from 8 years of age. From 10 years, children can take diving certification courses in open water. If your children are younger than this but you still wish to dive, then you will need to ensure that childcare is available for the hours that you will be diving.
Companies will only accept older children of 12 years plus on liveaboards unless your party is hiring out the whole boat. Please check the policies of the different operators.
PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) is an internationally recognised diving organisation which co-ordinates dive training. Not all PADI dive schools offer the full range of courses, so please check availability with the local dive school for your holiday.
Junior Dive Courses
- Supplied Air Snorkeling For Youths (SASY): 5 year olds plus. Young children use a personal flotation device with a scuba tank and regulator attached. This is a bit like snorkelling as children float on the surface with heads in the water but use the supplied air to breathe.
- Bubblemaker: 8- 11 year olds. A 1 – 2 hour swimming pool based course which introduces children to breathing underwater using special breathing tubes.
- Seal Team: 8- 11 year olds. Young divers take part in a series of aquamissions in a swimming pool
- Discover Scuba Diving: 10 years plus. A one day course with one pool session and one open water dive.
- PADI Junior Open Water: 10 – 15 year olds. A four or five day course with five theory sessions, five pool sessions and four open water dives. Once completed, children aged 10 – 12 years must dive with a certified parent or guardian. PADI specify that 10 – 11 year olds can dive to a maximum of 12m depth and 12 – 15 year olds to a maximum of 18m depth. At 15 years of age, junior divers can upgrade to adult Open Water status.
Adult Dive Courses
- Discover Scuba Diving: A one-day introductory course with one pool session and one open water dive.
- PADI Scuba Diver: A two-day course with three theory sessions, three pool sessions and two open water dives. This allows you to dive to 12m with a Divemaster.
- PADI Open Water: A four or five day course with five theory sessions, five pool sessions and four open water dives. This allows you to dive to 18m with any qualified diver.
For more detail and to check for the latest course information, visit the PADI website.
For a more adventurous diving holiday, older children can try their hand at spearfishing – both an up and coming adventure sport and a sustainable way to catch your dinner! Always book a spearfishing course with an experienced instructor – try spearfishing.co.uk. Equipment is usually provided for your use, as part of the course fee.
Family Diving Gear
Most dive companies will hire out the gear you need.
Family Multi-activity Holidays
A family multi-activity means just that – a holiday with multiple activities available for the whole family to try. This gives you the chance to try or improve on many different activities in a short space of time. The activity programme, tuition and all the equipment that you need are arranged or provided by the holiday company.
Types of Multi-activity Holiday
There are a range of multi-activity holidays on offer. On some holidays, the focus is on the whole family taking part in the activity together and the programme can be tailored to meet your own requirements. Some companies offer separate activity programmes for adults and children, with the children taking part through a Children’s Club. Others are fully flexible allowing each family member to pick and choose their own activities – that way you can do some activities together and some individually if you wish.
The accommodation available ranges from tented camps, youth hostels and activity centres to guesthouses and hotels.
It is possible to take children of any age on most of the holidays, but there are usually minimum age restrictions for the different activities.
For those less obvious 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.
- Caving/Potholing – Walking and climbing in caves and potholes. Participants wear helmets, headtorches and protective oversuits.
- Coasteering – This is the saltwater version of canyoning. Participants follow the point where the sea meets the cliffs – traversing rock ledges, jumping off cliffs and swimming around headlands.
- Coastal Traversing – Participants make their way along the base of the sea cliffs jumping over rock pools, traversing cliff ledges and visiting bays not accessible by other means. This is usually a dry sport (unless you fall in) and you can wear normal clothes and a helmet.
- 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 paddle down a fast flowing river. Helmets, wetsuits and flippers are worn.
- 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.
- Spearfishing – Diving under the water with a speargun, hunting fish and catching your tea! Spearos and spearas alike also forage – searching the shallows for crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters, and other such tasty treats.
- 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 downstream and work hard to navigate the rapids. You will be kitted out in wetsuits, helmets and lifejackets.
Tips for multi activity holidays
Try to have a go at one activity that you have never tried before, even if it means conquering your fears.
More holiday ideas with the kids:
- Adventure, alpine and boating
- Watersports, touring and trekking
- Skiing, boarding and winter activities
- Riding and ranches
Originally written for kidsintow.co.uk.