Britain is ideal for travelling with children because of its compact size, packing a lot of attractions into a small area. So when the kids in the back of the car say, 'Are we there yet?' your answer can often be 'Yes, we are'.

Best Regions for Kids

  • London

Children's attractions galore – some put a strain on parental purse strings, but many others are free.

  • Southwest England

Some of the best beaches in England, and fairly reliable holiday weather – though crowded in summer.

  • Peak District

Former railways that are now traffic-free cycle routes make the Peak District perfect for family outings by bike.

  • Oxford & the Cotswolds

Oxford has kid-friendly museums plus Harry Potter connections; the Cotswold countryside is ideal for little-leg strolls.

  • Shropshire

The historic England–Wales borderland has many castles to explore, plus excellent museums for inquisitive minds.

  • Lake District & Cumbria

This is Outdoor Activity Central: zip wires and mountain bikes for teen­agers; boat rides and Beatrix Potter for the youngsters.

England for Kids

Many places of interest cater for kids as much as adults. At the country's historic castles, for example, mum and dad can admire the medieval architecture, while the kids will have great fun striding around the battlements or watching falconry demonstrations. In the same way, many national parks and holiday resorts organise specific activities and events for children. Everything ramps up in the school holidays.

Bargain Hunting

Most visitor attractions offer family tickets − usually two adults plus two children − for less than the sum of the individual entrance charges. Most offer cheaper rates for solo parents and kids too. Be sure to ask, as these are not always clearly displayed.

On the Road

If you're going by public transport, trains are great for families: intercity services have plenty of room for luggage and extra stuff like ‘buggies’ (prams), and the kids can move about a bit if they get bored. Most regions offer family tickets and/or travel passes that provide savings on train and bus travel.

If you're hiring a car, most (but not all) rental firms can provide child seats − you'll need to check this in advance. Most will not actually fit the child seats; you must do that yourself, for insurance reasons.

Dining, not Whining

When it comes to refuelling, most cafes and teashops are child-friendly. Restaurants are mixed: some offer highchairs and kiddy portions; others firmly say, 'No children after 6pm'.

In some pubs, those aged under 18 are not allowed, but most pubs in tourist areas serve food, making them 'family-friendly'. If in doubt, simply ask the bar staff.

And finally, a word on another kind of refuelling: England is still slightly buttoned up about breastfeeding. Older folks may tut-tut a bit if you give junior a top-up in public, but if done modestly it’s usually considered OK.

Children's Highlights

Best Hands-on Action

'Please Do Not Touch'? No chance! Here are some places where grubby fingers and enquiring minds are positively welcomed.

Best Fresh-Air Fun

If the kids tire of England's castles and museums, you're never far from a place for outdoor activities to blow away the cobwebs.

Best Rainy-Day Distractions

On those inevitable gloomy days, head for the indoor attractions, including the nation's great collection of museums. Alternatively, try outdoor stuff like coasteering in Cornwall or canyoning (check conditions) in the Lake District − always fun, wet or dry.

Best Stealth Learning

Secretly exercise their minds while the little darlings think they are 'just' having fun.

Best Animal Experiences

England has some superb zoos (London, Bristol and Chester are the standouts) but there are more unusual wildlife experiences on offer, too.

Best All-Round Family Fun

Sometimes a good dose of old-fashioned family fun is in order – so here are a few of our favourite days out that everyone will enjoy.

Planning

Useful Websites

  • Baby Goes 2 (www.babygoes2.com) Advice, tips and encouragement – and a stack of adverts – for families on holiday.
  • Visit England (www.visitengland.com) Official tourism website for England, with lots of useful info for families.
  • Mumsnet (www.mumsnet.com) No-nonsense advice on travel and more from a gang of UK mothers.
  • Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/family-travel) Inspirational articles about travelling as a family.

When to Go

The best time for families to visit England is pretty much the best time for everyone else − any time from April/May till the end of September. It's worth avoiding August − the heart of school summer holidays − when prices go up and the roads are busy, especially near the coast.

Places to Stay

Some hotels welcome kids (with their parents!) and provide cots, toys and babysitting services, while others maintain an adult atmosphere. Many B&Bs offer 'family suites' − two adjoining bedrooms with one bathroom − and an increasing number of hostels (YHA and independent) have family rooms with four or six beds, some even with private bathroom attached. If you want to stay in one place for a while, renting a holiday cottage is ideal. Camping is very popular with English families, and there are lots of fantastic campsites, but you'll usually need all your own equipment.

Nappy Changing

On the sticky topic of dealing with nappies (diapers), most museums and other attractions in England have good baby-changing facil­ities. Elsewhere, some city-centre public toilets have baby-changing areas, although these can be a bit grimy; your best bet for clean facilities is an upmarket department store. On the road, baby-changing facilities are usually OK at motorway service stations or out-of-town supermarkets.