The point where children are just starting to have their eyes opened to the world and can articulate their questions and thirst for knowledge is such a fantastic age for traveling with them. Hook your trips round what they are learning at school and throw in some new activities and you will have some of the most enthusiastic traveling companions ever, plus you’ll probably learn and try some new things yourself. Here are eight destinations to put on your family’s wishlist.
Whether it’s from the school curriculum or inspired by Rick Riordan’s books on half-boy half-god Percy Jackson, many a child has learned to love the action and intrigue of the stories of Ancient Greece and Greek Mythology.
Bring the stories to life and give them a holiday to remember by flying to Athens - for the Acropolis and the Parthenon, obviously - and then traveling onto the Peloponnese to explore the ancient wonders of Corinth, Olympia and Mycenae.
Finish off back to the mainland with time in Delphi and the Temple of Poseidon. The added bonus is that you get to enjoy great food, lovely beaches and the famous Mediterranean welcome for families.
If your children are fans of the famous little plastic bricks, it’s likely that Billund (with its welcoming moniker ‘Capital of Children) will already be on your radar as the place where the Lego story began.
The Legoland theme park has long been a popular attraction with the under-10s but the recent introduction of the Lego House has cemented Billund as a must-visit for Lego enthusiasts. The fun doesn’t stop there. Nearby is Lalandia waterpark, a Viking town and the huge dinosaur park at Givskud Zoo. Tag on a few days in Copenhagen to visit magical Tivoli Gardens and the brilliant hands-on section of Nationalmuseet.
There’s another opportunity to take learning out of the classroom and into real life with a trip to Mexico. Base yourselves on the Yucatán Peninsula to explore Mayan ruins such as Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum.
As these are popular destinations it’s worth doing your research to make the most of your visit, but one of the great things about this part of Mexico is that there are plenty of opportunities for your little people to cool off and hang out when sensory overload hits. Think beautiful beaches, subterranean cenote pools and waterparks. Kids (and adults) will also love the eco-archaeological park of Xcaret.
Younger children grow up reading and learning about the big beasts of the world so there’s something magical about taking them to see these animals in the wild. If you want to take your kids on safari but worry that their attention span and bladders won’t cope with long days out in the African bush, Namibia is a good option.
In Etosha National Park, you have excellent game-viewing opportunities combined with the ability to self-drive which means you can head back to the camps whenever nature calls, tummies rumble or the tolerance threshold is reached. Famous for its sand, Namibia also offers hours of fun simply running up and down the dunes although you can also tack on a biology lesson by learning all about how desert life survives.
Along with the obvious educational opportunity to extend their learning on the Ancient Egyptians, a trip to Egypt with school-age children is a chance to have a family adventure. There’s camping in the desert, snorkelling or starting their PADI qualifications (check age limits with specific outfits as some start at 12) in the Red Sea and relaxing on a felucca as you float down the Nile.
You could even take the sleeper train from Cairo to Luxor or Aswan. Back to the history lesson and we promise that the Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings and Karnak will leave your little people (and probably you too) wide-eyed.
Florida, United States
While some independent travelers might shudder at the idea of a trip to Florida with their kids, there’s no denying that it’s a pretty incredible experience for children under 10. Not only does Disney really come alive for younger children, there’s also cosmic fun at the Kennedy Space Center, the magic of Harry Potter World (with working wands no less, how do they do that?) and Legoland.
And then when you’ve all hit theme park overload, you can head off for a much-needed injection of family-friendly nature, with some easy hikes in the Everglades National Park or the gentle surf at the beaches of the Gulf Coast.
As children become more physically confident and their stamina grows, you can take a different approach with holidays and start introducing activities, laying the groundwork for future trips when you can go further and for longer.
Tasmania, with its well-deserved reputation for outdoor fun, is a good place to start. There are plenty of relatively easy hikes in the hills, paths to bike along or rivers to start kayaking on, as well as opportunities for wildlife viewing, fruit picking or frollicking in water. Cataract Gorge Reserve is a particular favorite with families as you can do some (chilly) swimming, hike alongside the dramatic gorge and take a chair lift.
For younger children with a developing love of science, nature or swimming, Iceland is a surefire winner. It may not be overly endowed with adventure parks or high-profile attractions for children, but the whole country is an adventure with its wide-open spaces to explore, unusual wildlife to see and science projects brought to life.
You are never far away from a geothermal swimming pool and there’s plenty to feast your eyes on, whether it’s feathered (bird colonies), fishy (whale-watching) or from the earth (volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers). While Reykjavik is the obvious place to start and has developed a child-friendly reputation in recent years, distances can be long and some areas are really popular now so do your homework to avoid too much driving and crowds.