Who says that successful travel en famille means a week in the company of a certain famous mouse? In this excerpt from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Experiences, we've got some suggestions for a trip your brood will never forget.
1. Sing a rainbow in the desert, Rajasthan, India
It might be dry but that doesn't mean it's not colourful: Rajasthan wows with the rainbow shades of a hundred thousand sparkling saris. Nowadays firmly on the tourist trail, this most dazzling of Indian states makes an easy introduction to the subcontinent for family travellers, with its high standard of hotel accommodation and easy-to-get-around transport network. Step into a living fairy tale in Jaisalmer's labyrinthine old city; wander the blue-painted city of Jodhpur or the gold-dripping palaces of long-gone rulers. Children can't help but be dazzled by the breadth of transportation options, from elephants and camels to auto rickshaws, and the sights, sounds and smells that greet them on every stop along the Indian way. Examine Rajasthan in detail at its official tourist board site, www.rajasthantourism.gov.in.
2. Santa and 1001 reindeer, Lapland
Christmas isn't Christmas without snow, Santa and a dozen reindeer, and there's no better place to enjoy the whole bauble-filled shebang than Finnish Lapland. Far above the Arctic Circle, it comes complete with sleigh rides, Santa's official home and post office, soaring pine trees, ice hotels and the northern lights. Base yourself in Rovaniemi – when you tire of all things Yule, you can catch a dose of ski-jumping and bed down in a cosy sauna-equipped cabin, then drive snowy roads up to the land of jingle bells. Just don't let your kids catch sight of reindeer on myriad restaurant menus – they'll likely be disturbed to know they're eating Rudolph. Visit Santa's post office online at www.santaclaus.post.fi and his Arctic Circle Village at www.santaclausvillage.info.
3. Go Lego, Copenhagen, Denmark
'Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen', enthused Danny Kaye's Hans Christian Andersen, and he wasn't wrong – Denmark's happy capital makes a grand destination for a short family break. Start with a trip past the statue of Andersen's ubiquitous Little Mermaid, then head on to grand old Tivoli Gardens, whose fairground rides have been delighting children since 1843. Teenagers, and their parents, will likely be intrigued by the alternative vibe of Christiania, while for the budding architects in the family Legoland, with its manifold multicoloured structures, is just a day trip away. Visit Copenhagen without leaving home at www.visitcopenhagen.com, and Legoland at www.legoland.dk.
4. Explore the oases, Oman
A lesser-known neighbour of the United Arab Emirates, Oman is the perfect place for an unusual family getaway, with its clear coastal waters, sprawling child-friendly resorts, enticing desert dunes and subtropical northern climes. Land in Muscat and wander a traditional whitewashed seaside city, then head off into the desert for family camel trekking and camping Bedouin-style. Laze the days away on the beaches of the Sharkiya region, stopping in at Sur to visit the nearby turtle reserve at Ras al-Jinz. As child-friendly as countries come, in Oman your small brood will be fussed over and welcomed with ahlan wa salan (hello and welcome) warmly enough to make it a happy Middle Eastern odyssey for all. Book your Bedouin desert adventure with Nomadic Desert Camp (www.nomadicdesertcamp.com), which caters for families with young children.
5. Bright lights, big city, Tokyo, Japan
Children of all ages will go wild for a long weekend in that playground of all things high tech and high kitsch. Little kids will thrill to the availability of Hello Kitty goods of all descriptions, while others will delight in Dragonball. Older siblings will likely be intrigued by Tokyo's cosplayers, teenagers who go to elaborate lengths to dress as their favourite manga characters. True Kitty enthusiasts shouldn't miss a weird and wonderful visit to her 'home' at Sanrio Puroland. Afterwards, get a view of it all with a trip to the Tokyo Tower's Special Observatory from which, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Mt Fuji. Visit www.tokyowithkids.com for more ideas on how to entertain small people in the big city.
6. The land of the child-friendly, Fiji
Parents seeking rest and rejuvenation could do no better than jetting off to Fiji, that gorgeous green archipelago floating contentedly in the South Pacific. Here, ultraluxe resorts cater to the whole crowd. At Fiji Islands Resort, for example, a dedicated nanny is allotted per child on arrival, and will guarantee your tinies are entertained. You are then left free to recharge your parental batteries with beach lounging and spa treatments galore. Fijians are an incredibly child-friendly people so you can be sure that your little darlings will be pampered throughout their visit every bit as much – if not substantially more – than their hard-working, holidaying parents. Check out the family fun at Jean Michel Cousteau's Fiji Islands Resort at www.fijiresort.com.
7. Camp, camper, campest, coast-to-coast USA
The thrill of the open road awaits family adventurers in the USA. Pick up your rental car in the Big Apple (opt for topless if you're really craving that quintessential roadtripping experience) then wind your way slowly westward, taking the highways and byways of small-town USA on your way to adorable San Francisco. What really makes the trip special is throwing in a tent or two for some overnight camping – America's national parks are its greatest, most glorious asset. There's little better at the end of each day on the open road than everyone pitching in to pitch tents amid the trees, then grilling up a few ears of Indian corn for supper. Plan your cross-country camping trip using the US National Park Service website: www.nps.gov.
8. Take the high road, Scotland
There's far more to Scotland than shaggy cattle, strong whisky and misty highlands, and a summer stay up north offers pleasures for your entire brood. Start in Loch Ness: it may be tacky, but few can truly refuse a quick round of monster-spotting. Then head up to the Hebrides for ferry rides amid seals, puffins and dolphins, and lots of deserted beaches to paddle in. Collect driftwood and holler into Atlantic winds to your hearts' and lungs' content. Wind southward back to Edinburgh to catch its famous summer Fringe festival: here, the theatre caters to all ages, while street performers on the frenetic Royal Mile will juggle, conjure, joke and tap-dance your children into cultural contentment. Check what's on at the Fringe at www.edfringe.com, and learn about Nessie at www.nessie.co.uk.
9. Road-tripping in the land of Oz
Rent a campervan, pack your soundtrack to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and head out into the great blue yonder on an Australian adventure into the back of beyond. Little naturalists will enjoy reading up on all the poisonous species lurking inconspicuously behind rocks, and the good, clean, family fun of fresh air, campfire cooking and the wide open road is sure to please the entire gang. Drive over to Uluru (Ayers Rock) for the quintessential desert experience; take your little ones on a tour of the School of the Air classroom to see how outback kids get an education; and kangaroo-spot the road-tripping days lazily away. Check out a wide range of rentable campervans at www.australiancampervans.com.
10. Climb aboard a camel, Cairo, Egypt
A visit to Cairo, 'the mother of the world', offers a citywide cacophony guaranteed to drown out even the noisiest of toddlers and stun to awed silence the most reticent teenaged travellers. Start with a jaunt around the Egyptian Museum, where you'll be wowed by the Pharaohs' treasures (little monsters will love the mummy room) then wander the souqs, sampling street snacks fresh from vendors' carts. Next head over to nearby Giza to clamber the claustrophobic corridors of the pyramids, or succumb to the ultimate Cairene delight, a sunset trip to the dunes aboard those uncomfortable, objectionable ships of the desert.
This article was first published in June 2010 and was republished in June 2013.