Whatever the age of your child, there is a world of opportunity in 2017 to challenge your family to try something new.
Perhaps you’ve always dreamt of seeing the Northern Lights in Scandinavia; maybe you seek a spell of island escapism in the Indian Ocean; or it may be that you wish to bring your child’s curriculum alive through a trip to a place he or she is studying.
1. Northern Lights and a snow safari
Where: Finnish Lapland
Ideal age: 4-14
Why now: The Northern Lights are one of nature’s great displays, a free, multicoloured light show that is most commonly sighted in the Arctic regions. To see the celestial disco in its full glory, you will have to head north, above 60 degrees latitude at least. Finnish Lapland is especially appealing for families, as you can combine your search for the Northern Lights with snowshoeing, snowmobile safaris, and a visit to a reindeer farm.
Moshing with huskies in Luosto, on Canterbury Travel’s Father Christmas trip to Finnish Lapland; Responsible Travel leads its group to the same tiny snow-covered village
Moshing with huskies in Luosto, on Canterbury Travel’s Father Christmas trip to Finnish Lapland; Responsible Travel leads its group to the same tiny snow-covered village CREDIT: NICK MORRISH/BRITISH AIRWAYS
How to go: A four-day trip to the frozen town of Luosto – in the heart of Finland’s national forest, includes flights, transfers, three nights’ half-board log cabin accommodation, cold weather clothing, and guides, and costs from £595 per person (for children aged 4-14). Departure dates until April 11 2017. For more information, see responsibletravel.co.uk.
2. Sun, sea and sand
Where: Greek Islands
Ideal age: 0-18
Why now: If you’re stuck in a rut of going to holiday destinations in the UK, Italy, France or Spain for the summer, try Greece instead. Its beautiful beaches, sleepy villages, glorious relics and hearty food offer a simplicity and richness that are universally appealing.
Greek tourism has battled through a tough few years. First, there was financial instability. Then the country’s eastern islands, the first port of call for thousands of migrants fleeing conflict in Syria and Libya, experienced an 11 per cent fall in visitors. The result for tourists is that there are plenty of good deals to be had.
How to go: This is the ideal summer to rent a villa – read our guide to the best Greek islands for families and to finding a villa in Greece.
3. Ancient history – live
Where: Rome, Naples, Sicily
Ideal age: 7-12
Why now: if your child is a reluctant classicist, nothing will change his or her mind more quickly than a trip to the source. Follow in the footsteps of ancient Romans, from private, child-focused itineraries in Rome and Pompeii (think archaeologist-led tours that highlight the sights – and smells – of the Great Sewer by the Forum, or the poor dead Pompeians and their animals, forever cowering from a lethal rain of ash). Round out all this culture with a relaxing few days in Sicily, where a kids’ club entertains the smalls, and golf lessons and the spa keep parents enthusiastic.
How to go: Scott Dunn offers a range of bespoke packages for families keen to learn more about ancient Romans, with prices starting from £2,625 per person for a 10-day trip, and can include private tours by experts in Rome and Pompeii, a cooking lesson in Sicily, plus luxury accommodation in Naples and Sicily and return flights (scottdunn.com).
4. Wildlife bonanza
Ideal age: 12-18
Why now: The Galápagos is probably the most famous wildlife-watching destination in the world – and if this is your child’s last year at home, this may be the time to embark on this trip of a lifetime. This remote archipelago is a land of stark lava formations, cactus forests, lush green highlands, turquoise bays and tropical beaches. But, best of all, it is overflowing with wildlife at every turn. Within minutes – sometimes seconds – of landing on this dot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you can be face-to-face with more strangely fearless and curious animals than anywhere else on Earth.
You’ll hike a volcano, kayak around beaches, and swim with sea lions. July is high season, with drier weather and a good chance of seeing penguins, humpback whales and blue-footed booby birds.
How to go: Journey Latin America (journeylatinamerica.co.uk) offers a 12-day active Ecuador trip, which includes hiking, cycling, horse riding, and visits to three of the most interesting of the Galápagos Islands from £6,000 per person.
5. Total relaxation
Ideal age: 0-8
Why now: For families, there has never been a better time for families to visit the Maldives. With islands vying to entertain children with investigations of the incredible wildlife around them, parents can truly relax while their kids are engaged in exploration of an entirely new environment. And imagine their surprise, when they see you reading a book, or glowing after an over-the-water yoga session. This may sound like the least exotic option on this bucket list, but it may do much to change your family dynamics.
How to go: Turquoise Holidays offers a range of packages to the Maldives, to hotels with some of the best kids’ clubs. See this list to pick the best kids’ club for your family, but prices start from £5,930 for a family of four (two adults and two children under 12) with breakfasts and including return boat transfers, at Anantara Dhigu Resort & Spa (dhigu-maldives.anantara.com).
6. Self-drive safari
Ideal age: 13-18
Why now: 2017 marks Canada’s 150th birthday. Celebrate by taking in the highlights of some of North America’s most spectacular landscapes in a self-drive road trip that winds through the snow-covered Rockies and by glittering lakes. After a bit of cosmopolitan Vancouver, you’ll set off to Whistler, Wells Gray Provincial Park, Jasper National Park, and Lake Louise in search of grizzly bears, moose and bald eagles, with plenty of breaks for mountain biking, horse riding, white water rafting and kayaking.
How to go: The 16-day Jewels of Western Canada trip costs from £2,040 per person, including international flights and accommodation (audleytravel.com).
7. Summer of Love
Ideal age: 4-18
Why now: San Francisco marks the 50th anniversary of the original Summer of Love with an array of events in 2017: special exhibitions and concerts will add to the already fantastic family offerings in what may be America’s most family-friendly state (yes, it beats Florida by a mile). From hiking by towering redwoods to exploring wine country on bicycle and exploring the West Coast’s answer to Brooklyn, there’s plenty for families to do in California.
How to go: Virgin Atlantic flies non-stop to San Francisco from London from £664 return; San Fran is the HQ of Airbnb, and this is a great option for families.