Many people probably have a travel wishlist of places they would love to visit given the chance. The really exciting destinations for me are the long haul, far flung ones – the kind of places that used to be considered ‘once in a lifetime’ trips but are now so much more accessible, even for families with young children.
I’ve no doubt that I could (and probably will!) add more to this list, but here is my first #TravelTop5 featuring fabulous family-friendly long haul destinations which are top of my wishlist.
The Seychelles are a must visit for me. If you said tropical paradise, I always thought of the Seychelles – but it wasn’t until I looked into it a bit further that I realised what a family-friendly destination it is.
The main tourism centres are on the three central islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue, and the big resort hotels provide every facility you might need. Many have kids’ clubs, but there are lots of activities available on the islands for family fun, including snorkelling, boat rides and turtle watching!
The flight time from the UK is around 13 hours via Dubai, but the time difference is only 3 hours ahead of BST which is a bonus for not disrupting routines too much. There are no Visa requirements for entering the islands either, and no travel vaccinations needed, which makes life much easier when travelling as a family.
I also think it might go on the ‘Leave the kids with Grandma and Grandad’ list for Mummy and Daddy to enjoy one day too!
When we first started looking at honeymoon destinations in 2006 (!), we loved the idea of taking an Alaskan cruise. In the end we settled on Sorrento in Italy – bit different I know! – but Alaska is still somewhere I would love to see.
Going on a cruise is a fantastic option for family travel, as the incredible modern ships run by the major cruise lines are like mini destinations in themselves, providing plenty of activities and entertainment. Cruises to Alaska tend to set sail from a hub like Seattle or Vancouver and travel up the stunning coastline to stop off at various points on the way, providing opportunities for amazing shore excursions to national parks, for rail trips inland, or for wildlife spotting.
For those with older children, Alaska presents some unbeatable outdoor activities like rafting, kayaking or camping excursions, in some spectacularly beautiful locations.
You can fly to Seattle or Vancouver, if you wanted to join a cruise, in about 9 and a half hours, with a further three and a half to four hours if you want to fly on to Anchorage or Fairbanks in Alaska itself. Always check what entry and documentation requirements are needed for travel to the US or Canada before you book!
Staying that side of the pond, I’ve always fancied visiting Canada – it’s such a diverse country you could go there every year and experience something different. I would start with a fun-packed holiday to Canada’s largest city, which offers so many attractions there literally isn’t time for little ones to get bored.
My husband is a big ice hockey fan so we couldn’t go to Toronto without a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame for a photo opp with the Stanley Cup (if you know what this is you are probably excited by the prospect!). For those less sportily minded, there are tons of family places to see, including the Toronto Zoo, Ripley’s Aquarium and the iconic CN Tower. A Toronto CityPass will save you up to 45% off admission to 5 of the city’s top attractions and skip the queues so it’s worth doing with impatient children. There are also several museums, a world of restaurants to suit every taste, and the awesome looking Legoland Discovery Centre. I said they wouldn’t get bored!
As if that wasn’t enough, a short ferry ride from downtown Toronto will get you to the Toronto Islands, home to blue-flag lakeside beaches, and the huge Centreville Amusement Park set in over 600 acres of parkland.
Flights from the UK are around 7 hours. There are some entry requirements for travelling to Canada although a Visa isn’t normally necessary for British citizens on short trips.
This is reeeeeally far away, so I’m not sure I would take the boys until they are a bit older, purely because of the travel time but I think this would be the ultimate long haul destination. I’ve always found New Zealand to be more appealing than Australia for some reason, and it is an absolutely stunning country, totally diverse in a similar way to Canada, but much smaller! From beaches to volcanoes, via a bit of Middle Earth (if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan), New Zealand seems to have a bit of everything, and it’s all incredible.
Part of the big attraction for families is the chance to see some amazing wildlife you can only see for yourself in New Zealand. A cruise for some whale and dolphin spotting around the South Island sounds like a must-do. Of course there is no shortage of physical activities, especially outdoorsy ones, so it would be perfect for boisterous kids to wear themselves out.
The Dark Sky Reserve on the South Island offers an unmissable opportunity to see a whole different sky of stars and must be experienced. By contrast, the major cities of Auckland or Christchurch offer plenty of amenities and attractions day or night, but I think you’d be missing out if you didn’t travel around to see all that New Zealand has to offer.
You will need to ensure you have the correct tourist Visa for travel so don’t get caught out. Flights are a full 24 hours, normally via Dubai, so bear this in mind with your little ones!
Turks and Caicos
Ok, so I couldn’t resist another tropical paradise – this time we’re in the Caribbean in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I developed a lust for this place when Katie of Mummy Daddy Me and her family went on a fantastic looking holiday there to the Beaches resort on the islands. Of course it was largely testimony to Katie’s photography that it caught my eye, but in a similar way to the Seychelles, I realised that these kind of ‘luxury’ holidays can be perfect for the whole family.
Hotels in Turks and Caicos are mini villages of resorts, offering every amenity you could ask for, and the more family oriented ones like Beaches provide a huge range of family entertainment for little ones. That’s as if the pristine white sands and clear waters are not enough for you!
There are several ways you can fly to Turks and Caicos, as various airlines use different US hubs, so it is worth researching your flight options. You won’t need a Visa to travel either.