Bored of Butlins? Fed up of endless queues for the chip shop and crowds at the seaside arcades? Check out our ideas for a more exciting family holiday to keep your kids active. In this post we look at watersports, touring and trekking.
Family Watersports Holidays
Family watersports holidays are very popular and there are holidays available to meet all standards. Staying at or near a beach resort means that active family members can be kept busy with various watersports but the beach is there for the not so active.
Types of Watersports Holiday
With some companies, all watersports and tuition are included in the price of the holiday. Others provide the more popular watersports such as dinghy sailing, windsurfing and canoeing free of charge, whilst more specialist watersports such as kitesurfing, scuba diving and certification courses are chargeable. In other cases, watersports are paid for separately so that you only pay for the activities that you wish to participate in.
Beach Club holidays are one option where watersports facilities are onsite and there are often additional facilities such as tennis courts and swimming pools. The other option is to stay at a hotel, apartment, villa or campsite near to the watersports or sailing centre.
Watersports holidays are suitable for any age. Most of the companies provide crèches and kids clubs to look after children from 4 months plus. The Kids Clubs generally include fun on the water for those over 4 years old and watersports tuition for older children. More adventurous activities such as kitesurfing usually have a minimum age of 12 years.
For those less obvious activities, here is an explanation of what is involved:
- Kitebuggying – A beach sport where participants use a power kite to pull them across the beach on a 3-wheeled cart.
- Kitesurfing – Participants use a power kite to pull them through the water on a small surfboard.
- Powerboating – Learning to drive a powerboat.
- Wakeboarding –This is like snowboarding on water whilst being pulled along by a boat.
Some watersports centres offer RYA (Royal Yachting Association) certification courses in dinghy sailing, powerboating, windsurfing and PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) dive certification courses. Visit the RYA and PADI websites for further details of what is covered in these courses.
Most companies will hire out any gear you need.
Try out one of the newly popular watersports such as wakeboarding or kitesurfing.
Family Touring Holidays
A touring holiday is where you move on from place to place during your holiday, moving every night or every few nights. Your mode of transport could be by car, motorhome, bike or foot. You may take your accommodation with you in the form of a tent, caravan or motorhome or you may pre-book accommodation along the route. Either way, a touring holiday is a great adventure with children – moving on most days to a new location with exciting places to visit on the way and once you get there.
Types of Touring Holiday
These are the main modes of transport that you could use for a family touring holiday:
- Car Touring – Car touring is very easy with a family and extremely economical if you take your own tent, trailer tent or caravan.
- Motorhome Touring – Motorhomes or Recreational Vehicles allow you to move from campsite to campsite without having to pitch your tent at every location.
- Cycle Touring – where you ride from place to place every day or every other day. Cycle touring is covered in the About Cycling Holidays section.
- Touring by Foot – where you walk from place to place every day or every other day. Walking tours and treks are covered on the About Walking Holidays section. This Touring Holiday Guide concentrates on touring by car and motorhome.
You can plan a touring holiday around virtually any type of accommodation that you like.
The most flexible and also most economical option is to take your accommodation with you in the form of a tent, trailer tent, caravan or motorhome. You can then pre-book campsites along your chosen route. See our Touring Holiday Companies section for details of pitch reservation services for independent campers.
If you prefer not to take your own accommodation with you but would still like to stay at campsites, then another option is ready-erected tents or mobile homes. These can be pre-booked for the number of nights required at each location along your chosen route. There are a number of holiday companies providing this sort of self-drive holiday at sites across Europe – see our Holiday Park Companies pages.
A further option is to stay at Youth Hostels. The YHA has family rooms available at many hostels and the same is true of hostels across the world. Visit the hostels.com website to make online reservations at hostels worldwide.
A touring holiday by car or motorhome is suitable for children of any age. With babies, you will need to avoid the camping in cold weather so stick to the main summer months. Walking and cycling touring holidays are best for children over 8 years of age as younger children may struggle to cover the distances required.
Planning Your Route
Firstly, make sure that you have planned where you are going, work out the distances and how long you expect it to take. If you have booked your touring accommodation through a holiday company then they will usually provide you with relevant road maps and a suggested route. Otherwise make sure that you buy a detailed road map covering your intended route.
There are some excellent websites available to help you plan your journey. Have a look at mappy and viamichelin. Both of these websites provide you with a detailed itinerary of your journey from A to B with distances, driving times and toll costs. They can even help you to plan a route avoiding motorway tolls.
Plan your route to avoid travelling near to large towns and cities at rush hour. Also, identify places of interest along the route for sightseeing stops.
- Camping Gear – Make sure that you take camping stoves, pots and pans, water carriers and something to sit on. Field & Trek have most of what you will need.
- Family Tents – For car camping, you will need a large family tent. These usually have a living area and separate sleeping areas. Field & Trek stock a number of family tents by the major brands.
- Sleeping Bags – 3-season sleeping bags are fine if you are not planning to camp during colder weather. Cotswold Outdoor have a good range to choose from including kids sleeping bags.
- For those car touring in Europe, ensure that you have insured your car to drive in Europe and that you have European Breakdown cover – this is obtainable from the RAC. You may also need an International Driving Permit to drive in certain countries. Pack a European Motoring Kit with warning triangles, spare bulbs, fire extinguishers and headbeam reflectors in your car. These are a legal requirement in many countries. The RAC have a travel checklist for motoring in Europe.
- Eurostar is a quick and easy way to cross the channel with your car. Alternatively, cross-channel ferries such as P & O usually have a soft play area for younger children and games rooms to keep older children amused.
- Make sure that you have plenty of stuff for the kids to do in the car to keep them amused on longer stretches of the journey. A good idea for younger children is to pack a travel bag full of surprises for the journey. Fill it with colouring books, pencils, favourite toys and mini scribblers. The Mom’s Minivan website has ideas for lots of games to play in the car. For older children and teenagers, a portable DVD player is a good way to keep them entertained.
- Organise your car. Special seat back holders allow you to stash away all the essentials for the journey. Have plenty of snacks and drinks available too – there is nothing worse than being stuck in a traffic jam at lunchtime.
- Most of all enjoy the journey. Look at the scenery as you drive and make regular stops to sightsee, paddle in the river or have lunch.
Family Trekking & Walking Holidays
Walking and trekking holidays are becoming more popular and accessible options for families. A few holiday companies now cater for families trekking with very young children providing porters and donkeys to help carry them when they tire. On trekking holidays, your family will be able to reach remote villages and see regions that you would not be able to visit by other means. Other options include walking tours or walking holidays based at a single centre.
Types of Trekking & Walking Holiday
There are 4 main types of walking holiday:
- Trekking holidays where you hike along a route in a mountainous region, camping out at night or staying in local villages. Treks are usually guided and luggage is carried by porters or mules.
- Walking tour holidays are similar in that you walk along a route, but usually these are self-guided. Inn-to-inn walks are a popular option where you stay at local guesthouse accommodation each night.
- Single centre holidays where you are based at one location but walk out on different routes each day. The holiday company may provide you with suggested daily routes.
- Do-it-yourself walking holidays – arrange your holiday accommodation and plan your own walks. You can then walk as little or often as you like. This is a great option if you are basing yourself in the countryside or a National Park. See our About Touring Holidays section for more details
It is not a good idea to take very young children on high-altitude treks because they might not acclimatise well. Older children of 8 years or more who are fit and have had chance to acclimatise can make great trekking partners – but don’t get too upset when you realise that they are faster than you.
It is possible to take young children (1 year plus) on a walking or trekking holiday. Some companies will allow children of this age to trek as they will provide some form of transport such as ponies, buggies or porters to carry children if they tire. In this case, young children can come along on low altitude treks. Short walking tours or day walks are also an option with young children in child carriers. Remember that you will need to make regular stops and your progress will be a lot slower than walking without children.
For very young children of 6 – 12 months in child carriers and 0 – 12 months in buggies, 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 can also me more flexible and tailor the length of your walk to suit your child more easily.
The most difficult age to take children walking is probably from 4 to 8 years as they are too old to be carried and too young to walk long distances. A single centre holiday with walking interspersed with other activities is probably the best option at this age.
Family Walking Equipment
Buggies: birth – 4 years
There are some excellent 3-wheel mountain buggies available that will help you to push your child along mountain tracks and generally more difficult terrain than you could venture on to with a standard pushchair. These come with various accessories such as baby sleeping bags, sunshades and raincovers.
Child Carriers: 6 months – 4 years
Babies who can support their own heads (normally around 6 months) can travel in a back carrier, which can usually take a child of up to 4 years. These work rather like a rucksack which your child is safely harnessed into. There are numerous child carriers available with features such as stands to support the rucksack when loading and unloading and accessories such as sunshades and raincovers. Gearzone stock a range of child carriers from Bush Baby and Vaude.
- Firstly, make sure that you have planned where you are going, work out the distances and how long you expect it to take. If you are planning to take your family up a mountain, it is essential that you have good navigation skills. Field & Trek have a good selection of navigation equipment.
- Take plenty of food and water with you. Young children get dehydrated very quickly in warm weather.
- Ensure that the whole family is well equipped. Don’t buy top of the range boots and waterproofs for the adults and expect your children to make do with poor quality gear. If your children end the day soaked in sweat from unbreatheable waterproofs and with blistered feet from poor fitting boots, then they will make sure that this is your last family walking holiday!
- With younger children in child carriers, make sure that they are protected from the sun with a sunhat and lotion. On cooler days, the wind can chill them very quickly so use layers of clothing with a wind resistant top layer. Make sure that you take regular breaks.
- Walk together as a close group – it is easy to take a wrong turn in unfamiliar surroundings. Always walk at the pace of the slowest walker.
- Plan to make regular stops – stop and look at the view, paddle in the river or have lunch.
More holiday ideas with the kids:
- Adventure, alpine and boating
- Cycling, diving and multi-activity
- Skiing, boarding and winter activities
- Riding and ranches
Originally written for kidsintow.co.uk.