Three hours away…
With its old walled city, labyrinthine souks and incredible market square of Djemaa el Fna, which comes alive at night with snake charmers and whirling dervishes, Marrakech is a fascinating place to take children. Here, you’re also within easy reach of the lower Atlas Mountains for day excursions.
The Palmerie, Marrakech’s new chi-chi resort outside the city walls, is a great place to stay and Simpson Travel offers a good selection of fully-serviced villas. Villa Vanille sleeps up to 24 in cottages and suites scattered around lush gardens, complete with two pools, a Berber tent, hammock and a little play area for children, and is a great place to go with extended family or friends. It costs from £515 per person for three-night stay, with flights and transfers.
Tunisia is another North African country that boasts plenty of winter sun – and it is also a destination that is very welcoming to children. There are camel treks in the Douz region and underground caves in Matmata, which were used as a set for Star Wars. There’s also an impressive colosseum in El Jem and a wonderfully preserved Roman town to explore at Dougga.
The Residence is a five-star hotel with excellent room combinations for families, a choice of four restaurants, a pool (with separate children’s pool) and private grounds. There are also tennis courts, a brand new golf course
and a private beach. The Powder Byrne Golf Academy is located at the adjacent Robert Trent Jones II Course (for children over 13). Families can explore the nearby hilltop village of Sidi Bou Said or head to the Medina of Tunis where you can wander around the souk. Powder Byrne offers seven nights, return transfers and the service of resort staff at The Residence Hotel from £4,240 for a family of four.
Five hours away…
Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt is all about sun, sea and sand, and it’s an easy destination to get to with small children. While there is less culture here than in the north or on the mainland, visits to the local National Park and Bedouin Camp are easy to arrange locally.
Stay at the Four Seasons Resort Sharm el-Sheikh in a two-bedroom Gezira Suite. These suites share a large pool, so you do not have to use the main pool in the resort; each also has a small kitchen area as well as two bathrooms, a double bedroom, twin bedroom and lounge/diner. The beach here is not large, but a pontoon over the shoreline reef allows for fantastic snorkelling. There is a children’s club for five- to 12-year-olds and babysitting is also available. Quo Vadis offers seven nights with breakfast in a two-bed suite from £3,355 with flights and private transfers based on two adults, a child under five and an infant.
Seven hours away…
With its 2,700km of beautiful beaches and incredible deserts, you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled on the real Arabia when you visit the Sultanate of Oman. The capital, Muscat, is an unexpectedly spotless city, centring on the Grand Mosque, which packs in 20,000 worshippers daily. This is also reputedly the land from whence Sinbad
the sailor came, and children will be fascinated by the region’s ancient stories, as well as the exotic bazaars where they can barter for treasures.
Just south of Muscat, The Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa is divided into three excellent hotels, of which Al Waha (the Oasis) is a great family resort. A Little Turtles’ club caters for four- to 11-year-olds with activities such as handprint painting, mosaic craft, bracelet making, beach games, kite flying and collecting and decorating seashells. There are also swimming lessons available. For children over eight, the Euro-Divers centre offers water rides including banana boats, doughnut rides and wakeboarding. Families can take fantastic
4WD tours of the Wahiba Sands and even stay overnight in the desert to experience a night under the stars.
Dubai also remains a big draw for families in search of a sunny winter break. With its towering skyscrapers, haute-couture shops, Ski Dubai (indoor ski centre), Wild Wadi Water Theme Park, Magic Planet at the Mall
of Emirates and go-kart racing at the Dubai Autodrome, it’s a great place for families.
A stay at the One&Only Arabian Court includes complimentary KidsOnly club for four- to 11-year-olds and includes camel riding, henna painting, belly dancing, sand sculpting, evening Arabian camping and even learning a little Arabic. Over-12s can take their pick from great watersports, such as Hobie Cat lessons, or shoot basketball hoops. Seasons In Style offers seven nights in an Arabian Court Deluxe Room with breakfasts, British Airways flights and transfers from £4,270 for a family of four.
Nine hours away…
There’s nothing quite like the all-American welcome that families get in the Sunshine State of Florida. Aside from the obvious draw of Walt Disney World Resort (for which you’ll need to set aside several days), there’s plenty more to keep you occupied. Head for the pristine beaches or get up close and personal to dolphins at Miami Seaquarium – and not so close to the ’gators at Everglades Alligator Farm Florida.
In Miami, stay at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, where inspired children’s activities include team-building games and drama, art and music sessions (for four- to 12-year-olds). A family room costs from $409. If you’re heading for Orlando, the Peabody Orlando offers a welcoming and stylish retreat close to Seaworld for a wonderful water-world experience and has superior or deluxe guest rooms to suit families from $299 per night.
Eleven hours away…
With its cosmopolitan history, spectacular scenery, and magnificent beaches, Kerala in India is a perfect spot for a family holiday. There are the well-known sights of this region, including the port city of Cochin, the tea plantation area of Munnar, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and the unique experience of spending the night on a riceboat, cruising the idyllic backwaters.
Travel with Trans Indus and their Kerala in Style tour also includes a game viewing boat ride and an evening Kathakali classical Indian dance performance. The hotels are a mix of first-class and character properties, and travel is in the comfort of a chauffeur-driven car. Trans Indus offers nine nights’ accommodation, internal travel, all sightseeing and a local tour escort for £6,126 for a family of four in late November.
Mexico is the ideal place to go for winter sun. There is so much to do in this country, but the Baja peninsula offers the great combination of gorgeous waters and fun family adventures with the Chihuahua-Pacific Railway’s Copper Canyon journey – one of the world’s great train rides. A 12-night Canyons and Kayaks holiday to Mexico with Journey Latin America includes a ride through the Copper Canyon and kayaking in the Sea of Cortez and starts from £4,376 for a family of three, including flights and guide.
For a real family adventure in the sun, head to Chile to explore the Atacama at the foot of the Andes – the driest desert in the world. Explora has designed expeditions exploring the desert and its cultures for all ages. Travel is by bike, on foot, in a van or on horseback. Expeditions can take in the majesty of the Andes with its plateaus and volcanoes or small villages that are steeped in folklore. Hotel de Larache has a brand new observatory that allows children to study the galaxy through crystal-clear skies and take home their own pictures, as captured by one of the most powerful telescopes in the world. Explora offers a three-night programme from US$5,490 for a family of four, including meals and all tours.
The long haul…
Thailand is full of wonders for families, and the north is an adventureland of mountains, rivers and waterfalls, traditional hill tribe villages, elephant safaris and peaceful temples. The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai is both stunning and luxurious with a fabulous spa. It offers the most fantastic educational children’s activities, including traditional Thai arts and crafts, planting rice dressed in traditional Thai farmers’ costumes, learning Tai Chi and riding on the local water buffalo. Elephant rides can also be arranged by the hotel and you can spend an entire day at the elephant farm, riding, feeding and washing them. They have also just introduced a brand new Beetle Garden, where bug fans can discover all they ever wanted to know about the three-horned, fighting and muchi king (Japanese unicorn) beetles, which are all found in Thailand.
Seasons In Style offers seven nights at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi from £7,490 for a family of four in a spa suite (room only), including flights from London via Bangkok with British Airways/Qantas and private transfers.
Check out our Travel section for more fantastic holiday ideas.