Travelling with children is generally a breeze: the food’s varied and tasty, the distances are short, there are child-friendly activities at every turn and the locals absolutely love children. For general tips, see Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
Pitch up on the beach – perhaps beneath a shaded gazebo – and enjoy the sun, sea and surf.
Bob around in the salty waters of the lowest sea on earth.
Ramble through the Baha’i Gardens and then check out Bengal tigers at Haifa Zoo.
Get out and about in the forests and parks of the Galilee.
Take a break from the beach at the amazing underwater marine park.
Pick your own fruit at one of the Golan's many farms.
Check out the five epic water slides at Tiberius's Gai Beach water park.
Israeli society is very family-oriented, so children are welcome pretty much everywhere. At every turn, your children will encounter local children out and about with their parents, especially on Saturday and Jewish holidays and in July and August.
Israel's beaches are usually clean and well equipped with cafes and even playgrounds. Make sure you slather on the sunblock, especially in summer, and stay out of the midday sun. (The Dead Sea, because it's so far below sea level, poses less risk of sunburn, but kids have to be extra careful to keep the water out of their eyes.)
Most nature reserves are fantastic for kids, and older children will enjoy the hikes – some gentle, some more challenging – on offer throughout the country. As park wheelchair access has improved in recent years, so has the ease of getting around with a stroller.
Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Mitzpeh Ramon and Eilat offer a wide variety of things kids will love, though the alleys of Jerusalem's Old City are tough for strollers.
Underwater Observatory Marine Park Take in scuba-quality reef views without getting wet; there's also a petting pool.
Rosh HaNikra Kids will love the cliffside cable car and the deep blues of the sea-battered grottoes.
Water Hikes A hike along – and through – a spring-fed stream is especially glorious during the hot, dry days of summer (try the Ein Gedi, Banias, Yehudiya and Majrase Nature Reserves).
Desert Cycling Tweens and teens will enjoy mountain biking through the desert along a dry wadi bed. There are many routes in the Judean Desert, but it is best to go on an organised tour.
Ya’ar HaAyalim This animal park is in Odem, on the Golan.
Gangaroo Pet kangaroos and feed lorikeets in the Jezreel Valley.
Mini Israel Midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, this park shrinks 350 of Israel’s best-known attractions to scale-model size.
Play Areas in Malls Most shopping malls have a meeschakiya (play area) for babies and toddlers – a great place to meet local kids (and on occasion their colds), especially on rainy days.
Disposable nappies (diapers; chitulim), wet wipes (magavonim), baby formula (formoola), baby bottles (bakbukim l'tinok) and pacifiers (dummies; motzetzim) are available in supermarkets and pharmacies, but prices are higher than in most Western countries. If your baby is picky, it pays to bring familiar powdered milk from home. Jars of baby food are also available, though in fewer flavours than in the UK or USA; organic baby food is available in some places. Medicines for children are easily obtained; almost all pharmacists speak English and are happy to assist.
A lightweight, collapsible (ie umbrella-style) stroller is convenient for travelling, but for the narrow cobblestone alleys and staircases in places such as Jerusalem’s Old City, Akko and Tsfat it’s a good idea to bring a wearable kid-carrier.
With the exception of a few B&Bs (tzimmerim) that cater exclusively to couples (eg in Rosh Pina), children are welcome to stay almost everywhere. In the vast majority of hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs, babies and toddlers can sleep in their parents’ room for free (let management know if you'll need a cot); older children sometimes incur an extra charge. Most rooms in HI hostels and SPNI field schools have at least four beds, making them ideal for families.
Virtually all restaurants welcome children, with both the servers and other diners taking the disruptions of kiddie mealtime in their stride. Almost all have high chairs, and some also offer special kids’ portions for child-sized prices. Most eateries, except the most upscale, are open all day long, so mealtimes can be flexible. Israeli breakfasts are famously copious and usually include at least a couple of breakfast cereals.
Many children take an instant liking to falafel, hummus, sabich (aubergine, boiled egg and potato, and salads in a pita) and shawarma, but as these fast foods (including their sauces and salads) are more likely than most meals to play host to microbes unknown back home, you might want to go easy, at least at first.
At nature reserves, archaeological sites and museums, children generally get in free up to the age of four, and receive significant discounts from age five to 17 or 18. Young children qualify for moderate discounts on buses and trains. Places where the main clients are children, such as amusement parks, tend to charge full price from age three.