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Cover story: Take the family

Can’t decide where to go in 2014? To help inspire you, we asked our travel writers where they plan to go this year with their family — as well as finding out where they’ve been in the past year and what they did. From Alaska to North Africa, St Lucia to France, Italy to Spain — there are some trusty favourites in the mix, some great recommendations for who to book with and top tips for what to do when you get there. Cycling? Working holiday? Disney madness? It’s all there and a whole lot more besides

Cover story: Take the family
Speedboat tour of St Lucia. Image: Maria Pieri

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Caribbean & Guernsey

Maria, Chad, Rae (7), Luca (5)

Where did you go with your family in 2013?
St Lucia in May for some sun after a very long winter (click here to read) and Guernsey, to hook up with some friends in June. We did have other trips planned but, for one reason or another, it all went a little wrong this year. Nonetheless, both trips were great and I’ve no complaints.

Any family trips planned for 2014?
This year, we’ll be heading to Italy for a postponed trip to Naples and Sorrento, and to see Pompeii and Herculaneum. Last year, we went to see the British Museum exhibition Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum (sponsored by Goldman Sachs), to get the kids excited ahead of a visit. They’re both destinations that have been on my wish list for some time.

We’re also going to look for somewhere hot, sunny and adventurous all in one. My son and daughter loved St Lucia and previous trips to Cyprus but they also loved the staycations we’ve had in the UK, in places such as Guernsey and Cornwall. Ultimately, it’s who you’re with and what you do that make a trip — the friends the kids make, the families we bond with and the activities we do. Sun always helps, of course, and a hot tub or pool! I’m also really keen to go on some kind of working holiday this year — even if it’s just a weekend. Alternatively, an active break would be good. The kids are just about big enough to look at cycling trips or hiking, too.

What’s your favourite tour operator/travel agent and why?
Adventure Company, for me, at the moment. The Italy trip will be the second time we’ve travelled with the company (the previous time was to Morocco in 2011) and the range of getaways and things to do is great. Affordable too. Others I’d recommend are Families Worldwide and Inntravel, although I haven’t personally used them yet — the range of trips both offer is great and its constantly expanding what and where it covers. adventurecompany.co.uk   inntravel.co.uk   familiesworldwide.co.uk

What’s your top family travel tip?
Don’t be afraid to travel with the kids. The car or train are doable if you preplan how to keep them entertained. So far, we’ve found taking the train to be really relaxing and we made it to the Alps from London. But if you’re planning to fly, then pick your airline carefully. On a recent Virgin Atlantic Caribbean flight, for example, the entertainment system was so great the kids barely wanted to talk to us. However you plan to travel, make sure you have your own entertainment too. Simple games (think hangman, noughts and crosses) work as well as iPads and other gadgets.
Words: Maria Pieri

Eurocamp

Ally, Stuart, Libby (6), Isaac (4), Molly (20 months)

Where did you go on holiday with your family in 2013?
Last summer, we had an unexpected invitation from my husband’s aunt to visit her in Leiden, just south of Amsterdam. As she has a very nice child-free house full of beautiful things and we have three noisy and somewhat excitable children, we decided we would attempt to tire them out with a few days at Eurocamp first. We headed to Duinrell, in the picturesque town of Wassenaar, just a 30-minute drive from Schiphol airport.

Our first Eurocamp proved a big success. We enjoyed five days of very active family fun; hiring bicycles for trips to the nearby beach, splashing around in the Tiki pool complex and venturing into the forest to discover the site’s own theme park. All the rides are free to campers and it has an almost magical feel, with a mixture of old-fashioned carnival amusements and more adrenalin-fuelled rides. Suitably exhausted, we finished our trip in Leiden, wreaking havoc in great aunt Maggie’s house for three nights!

Any family trips planned for 2014?
I’ve my sights set on a restored 1970s VW Westfalia campervan. I used to own one in my student days and I think it’s time to introduce the rest of the family to the joys of VW camping. I’m hoping for a summer of fun-filled adventures exploring Ireland and the British Isles.

What’s your favourite tour operator/travel agent?
Myself! We’ve had some wonderful trips with tour operators, including package holidays with Thomas Cook and a family cruise with Royal Caribbean, but, in the main, I know best what we as a family need to get out of a trip. It involves a lot of pre-trip research but I enjoy that and I also get to keep a firm grip on the budget. thomascook.com   royalcaribbean.com

What is your top family travel tip?
Don’t try to make the kids fit in with the type of trip you’d ideally like to take. We’ve made that mistake. If you can plan a trip that’ll keep the children entertained first and foremost, then the result will hopefully be happy kids and, in turn, happier and much more relaxed parents.
Words: Ally Thompson

Austria

Clover, Peter, Jimmy, (13), Dolly, (10), Evangeline, (1)

Where did you go on holiday with your family in 2013 and why?
Looking for a proper adventure and true travel experience, I took my three kids to Austria, where we biked 140 miles along the Austrian Danube, from Linz to Vienna. The baby was on a seat on my bike, and everyone was both entertained and challenged. Best of all, we experienced a really adventurous journey together as Austria unfolded around us.

Where are you planning to go in 2014 with the family?
We’re all now cycling addicts. A cycling trip is a great way to entertain our children’s very broad age range. While the baby is still small enough to use a bike seat, we want to cycle through Holland, hopefully in the spring, when the flowers will be out. Alternatively, we’re looking at cycling through Brittany, to coincide with the Inter-Celtic Festival in August.

What’s your favourite tour operator/travel agent?
All my best travel experiences — both with children and without — have been with Inntravel. It always sends me to quirky properties I’d have struggled to find myself. Its notes are excellent, full of local knowledge and wonderful suggestions for off-the-beaten-track walks, local cuisine and unusual sightseeing. I’m always impressed by its in-depth expertise on a region and the time and attention that’s put into every trip. It’s also good value — I can’t recommend it highly enough. inntravel.co.uk

What is your top family travel tip?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you must book into a ‘family friendly’ hotel with special activities for children. The memorable travel experiences with children happen in unexpected places, when you really immerse yourself in a local culture and let the adventure unfold naturally, rather than trying to entertain kids with expensive, and usually generic, experiences like theme parks, water parks etc.
Words: Clover Stroud 

 

Read more in the Spring 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveller – Family