If there’s anything the past two years have taught us, it’s to live each moment fully. But how to do that when family-friendly travel is limited to the school holidays? The answer: go big. Get ready to take that kid-friendly dream trip the whole family will talk about for years to come. To help you start planning, we’ve rounded up 11 of the best...
Image credit: Sara Orme
Visit Middle Earth on New Zealand’s North Island1/12
Make like Frodo and his friends and embark on an epic journey to Middle-earth with Abercrombie & Kent’s Family Adventure to Middle Earth. This six-day tour takes in the mythical Shire’s must-visit sights, from Bag End to the Green Dragon Inn, on a guided tour of the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata, around two hours drive south of Auckland.
But the excitement doesn’t start or end there; before visiting Hobbiton, this tour of New Zealand’s North Island begins with a dolphin-watching cruise in Auckland. A helicopter tour over hidden crater lakes awaits in Rotorua, along with zip-lining, erupting geysers and boiling mud pools, and an up-close encounter with endangered kiwis. At night, you’ll stay in a luxury boutique hotel.
Experience five-star luxury in Fiji2/12
On Fiji’s remote northern island of Vanua Levu, Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort may ruin all other family holidays for you. Aside from water slides, a trampoline, zip-line and an all-inclusive kids’ club (which offers a junior chef program), every child under the age of six has their own personal nanny during their stay and older kids are led by a ‘buddy’, in groups of five.
All of this leaves parents free to sip cocktails by the adults-only infinity pool, dive the soft coral capital of the world or partake in complimentary off-site excursions, like a mangrove or pearl farm tour, a visit to Savusavu’s farmers’ markets or kayaking a coral-strewn bay.
Head north for winter in Hawaii3/12
When the winter chill sets in, set out for sunnier climes where white-sand beaches, black-lava landscapes and fully outfitted kids’ clubs are the name of the game. Hawaii’s favourite family-friendly escape, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, offers everything from a game and activity centre designed for hard-to-impress teens, to babysitters for the littlest family members.
There are also myriad ways to create special memories together. Learn how to make a floral lei, take the kids on a treasure hunt or join a snorkel lesson with a marine biologist in the resort’s 1.8-million-gallon, lava-rock aquarium, teeming with more than 4000 tropical fish.
Meet The Avengers at Disneyland, California4/12
Whether your favourite superhero is Thor, Black Widow or Spider-Man, they’re all hanging out in one place: California’s Disneyland Resort. The smaller and more manageable of Disney’s USA theme parks recently unveiled the new Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park. Among the must-do attractions is the simulated thrill ride, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!
Meanwhile, Disneyland Park next door plays host to everything from Pirates of the Caribbean and Matterhorn Bobsleds, to the five-hectare Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Avoid the long entry lines and stay onsite at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, which has its own entrance to the park.
Supercharge the Aussie beach holiday on the NSW Central Coast5/12
Recreate the nostalgic summer holidays of your childhood on the New South Wales Central Coast; just don’t expect the once-sleepy towns to be exactly as you remember them. The region has grown up as you have, and while there’s still a rockpool for kids on every other beach, they’re now crammed with family-friendly activities too.
Set up a base in a dreamy coastal Airbnb, like the two-bedroom Beachouse six in Terrigal, then hit the road to explore. Big kids can try jetpacking and flyboarding with Jetpack Adventures in Kariong, while little ones will love Wyong’s Amazement Farm & Fun Park, where there are hedge mazes, farm animals and a brand new Ferris wheel. Or go check out the crocs, turtles, snakes and more at the Australian Reptile Park in Somersby.
Step inside a video game in Japan6/12
Are you Team Mario or Luigi? Throw on an oversized red or green plumber’s hat and head to Universal Studio Japan’s newly opened Super Nintendo World in Osaka. Grab an electronic wristband to ride Mario Karts, dodge piranha plants and ‘catch’ gold coins.
Stay at the luxe Courtyard by Marriott Shin-Osaka Station, a 35-minute drive from the park. The modern rooms are spacious by Japanese standards, and extra beds for the kids are available on request. Want to take a day trip to Kyoto or Hiroshima? The shinkansen is a four-minute walk from the hotel.
Image credit: James Vodicka
Sleep with the fishes on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland7/12
Imagine waking up five metres under the sea and being greeted by a curious turtle, Maori wrasse or a school of striped angelfish. It’s just another day in paradise at the underwater Reefsuites at Reefworld, 40 nautical miles off Airlie Beach.
Getting there is every bit as magical as the wake-up call. It begins with a cruise through the Whitsundays, followed by lunch on arrival, after which guests can swim, snorkel or dive the reef. Kids aged six and above can stay overnight, when the underwater show continues through your room’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
Escape to Singapore’s island playground, Sentosa8/12
Expect gleeful screams of “best holiday ever” from the whole family at Capella Singapore, a 112-room resort where peacocks roam on 12 landscaped hectares of Sentosa island. Kids can join in the hotel’s scavenger hunt or try their hand at cake-pop-making and cupcake-decorating, while parents relax in the resort’s award-winning Auriga spa, where treatments are based on the cycles of the moon.
Beyond the grounds is a veritable family-friendly wonderland, where S.E.A Aquarium, Universal Studios and Tanjong Beach Club await. There’s also indoor skydiving at iFly, and don’t miss the inflatable obstacle course at Hydrodash, Singapore’s first floating water theme park, at Palawan Beach.
Image credit: South Australian Tourism Commission
Explore Australia’s mini Galapagos on Kangaroo Island9/12
Seven times the size of Singapore, there’s more to South Australia’s Kangaroo Island than you might expect. One of Australia’s last true wilderness sanctuaries, there are fewer crowds post bushfires, even as native flora and fauna burst forth with new life.
Spot echidnas, wallabies and koalas in their natural habitat, swim with wild dolphins or watch sea lions and migrating southern right whales. Don’t miss the Remarkable Rocks, formed around 500 million years ago, and sandboard the epic dunes of Little Sahara. There are excellent family-friendly hotels and holiday homes to rent, plus a plethora of local producers offering everything from honey and olives to oysters.
See the Big Five on safari in Italy10/12
We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to see a big one… Trek through old forests, where beech trees abound and critically endangered Marsican brown bears roam, on European Safari Company’s sustainable, five-day adventure through Italy’s spectacular Central Apennines, Italy: The Big Five.
Led by a nature guide, you’ll follow animal tracks through the mountains as you seek out Italy’s Big Five, from bears and wolves to deer, wild boar and the endemic Apennine chamois. At the end of each day, an authentic Italian meal awaits in a cosy family-run hotel. Best of all, five per cent from each booking goes towards rewilding the region.
Image credit: Grant Gunderson/Destination Canada
Hit the powder in the ski slopes of Canada11/12
Two hours outside of Vancouver lies Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in the world, with more than 3000 hectares of skiable terrain. Skier, snowboarder, snowman creator – there’s plenty of space for the whole family to carve up the snow. Stay at the Four Seasons Resort Whistler for the cosy aprés ski vibes and make use of the ski concierge to help plan your stay.
When you’re not busy hitting the slopes, take a stroll through Whistler Village. Stop in for a special farm-to-table dining experience at Araxi, where oysters and locally sourced produce are the heroes. Grown-ups will also want to squeeze in a visit to the regal Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s Vida Spa, where eucalyptus steam rooms and massages soothe tired muscles.