5 of the best family-friendly holiday hotspots for 2017
Wave ‘bye-bye’ to those winter blues as Gurgle's style editor, Catherine Hudson, brings you the best places to visit abroad this year
1. Vancouver, Canada
Above - Kitsilano lido, Vancouver, Canada
The home of outdoor living, fresh air and 46 national parks, Canada has been crowned 2017’s top place in the world to visit by Lonely Planet (lonelyplanet.com). It was the first big trip abroad for Princess Charlotte, last year, alongside her toddling brother. The Cambridge family’s eight-day tour of the big sky country last year highlighted what an incredible place it is, and the weak Canadian dollar makes it even more of an alluring time to visit.
Vancouver, on the west coast is a particularly family-friendly hotspot, with its open feel, easy-to-navigate, grid like street systems, and city, beach and mountains to explore – pick and choose, depending on how adventurous you are feeling! Want to spot whales while you’re in Canada? It’s easy to take a ferry to Vancouver Island for an overnight stay, where during the high season it’s most likely you’ll see a humpback, or two.
Check out the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel, (find package deals at thomascook.com) in downtown Vancouver, on the waterfront, where you are surrounded by glossy high-rise buildings, a harbour filled with yachts and seaplanes taking off. You can borrow bikes from the hotel, for kids as well as adult bikes with baby seats, as (along with the hop -on-and-off trolleys) the best way to see the city. You can go at your own pace and the cycle path system is incredibly easy to follow and safe.
Holiday, celebrate? There will certainly be a party vibe in the air across the country, since 2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday. All of its national parks and reserves will be made free entry, and loads of events will be taking place all year. WestJet (westjet.com) and Air Canada (aircanada.com) have increased the amount of flights from London to Vancouver and both offer decent package flight and hotel deals, too. Bon voyage!
Don't miss in Vancouver…
1. Granville Island
Along with its street food trucks the place for foody families in the know to head for is Granville Public Market. What used to be factories is now a hub of fresh produce, perfect for stocking up for picnics. Kids will love catching the little tugboat from the city to the market, across False Creek.
2. Stanley Park
One of North America’s largest urban parks covering 1000 acres, you can follow the Seawall all the way round the edge. In the park, there are Indian Totem Poles, an Aquarium and a Children’s Farm, and walking trails too, if you are up for it!
A neighbourhood of suburban Vancouver with a hippy vibe with loads of café restaurants and shops. Kitsilano also has a great beach, with a playground. The lifeguarded lido next to the beach is a brilliant place to splash around safely in the summer months. (tourismvancouver.com)
2. Costa Navarino, Greece
There are good reasons Greece is always popular with UK family holidaymakers, namely that it’s not too far and the beaches are pretty unbeatable. The western Peloponnese region of Greece used to be a little tricky to reach for us Brits. However, British Airways now runs direct flights to Kalamata, meaning just a short car journey onwards to the coastal resort of Costa Navarino. Result!
Where to start? Top of the list should be the horseshoe-shaped Voidokilios beach, regularly voted one of the best in the world. Just add a bucket and spade. Bored of the beach? Lots of the ancient fortresses and temples have been preserved, so the area is buzzing with history but still tourist crowd-free – the perfect combo.
You can find family-run hotels, like Hotel Anezina (Booking.com), in Pylos, a sleepy, quaint fishing village centred round a harbour. There are lots of great places to eat homemade ice cream, and it’s where the boat trips around Navarino bay begin. The fresh seafood is unmissable. An acquired taste, perhaps, although even fussy eaters are sure to enjoy the traditional Greek souvlaki, as well as trying them out with olives and feta cheese.
There are a couple of large five-star hotels along Costa Navarino. The Westin Resort (westincostanavarino.com) is more family-orientated. Think golden sands with a backdrop of mountains, and lots of olive groves in between. The Scott Dunn managed kids club has a Cocoon crèche, for babies from four months to three years.
Above - The cool kids' pool at the Westin, Costa Navarino
3. The Maldives, Indian Ocean
Above - Aerial view of the Conrad Rangali Island, Maldives
The Maldives have been the mainstay of honeymooners for far too long. So this year, the babies are taking the beaches by storm - just scroll through Instagram to see the amount of babies floating around in swan-shaped lilos! Lots of resorts are now offering a very tempting package of island bliss coupled with baby-friendly facilities.
If you’ve always wanted to go the Maldives (who hasn’t?), then the good news is that having a baby doesn’t have to mean no more tropical sunshine. Year-round sunshine and sandy beaches (what more do babies need?) come as standard. Plus, the time difference is five hours, so little ones should be able to stay up until dinnertime with ease, without being naggy.
How to get here? Choose an island that is a short plane or boat transfer from the main island, the capital, Male, where long haul flights end. Package holidays can organise your seaplane transfers so all you need to do is choose which of the glistening 1,192 islands (over 100 of which are habitable) to stay on. Overwhelming, hey? To give you a head start, we’ve chosen a few of our favourites for families...
1. Blow the budget
PER AQUUM Niyama Maldives is a paradise for all: there are underwater AND treetop restaurants! The Scott Dunn Explorers Kids Club for ‘Young VIPs’ (pictured above) has a trampoline, splash park, kitchen and a stage. There are club sessions for age groups, as well as evening entertainment – phew! scottdunn.com
2. Worth saving for
The main island at the Conrad Maldives resort is dedicated to families, with a children’s pool and a selection of family-friendly beach villas and suites. The Majaa Kids Club offers seaside adventures and cookery workshops, as well as group sports and crafts for kids aged 3-12 years. conradhotels3.hilton.com
3. Luxe for less
Expect the usual Club Med excitable party spirit, fun and games at Club Med Kani mixed with lots of laidback island vibes. Set on a white sand beach, there are five over water suites if you really feel like splashing out – in every sense! clubmed.co.uk
4. Baby on a Budget
Air BnB has an increasing number of properties in the Maldives, from an incredible £10 per night! You’ll need to do a little more digging, in terms of finding the right kind of place, but it could prove time well spent if you are watching the pennies. airbnb.co.uk
Above - Ithaa underwater restaurant, Conrad Rangali Island
4. Bordeaux, France
Bordeaux is France’s food capital and the centre of the world’s wine industry, so, a fantastic choice of holiday for parents, non? Mais oui! And don’t worry; it is just as brilliant for the kids, too. The streets of Bordeaux are flat, ideal for pushing a pram, and offer up loads of pretty picturesque squares ripe for enjoying a pastry, or three.
The Water Mirror (or, Miroir d'Eau, pictured above) is one of the city’s many UNESCO World Heritage Site sites, and kids and adults alike splash around in its waters come summertime. Bordeaux’s gothic architecture, 18th century mansions and pretty riverside public gardens set it apart from the seaside towns of southwest France. Although, it isn’t too far to go to the beaches for a day trip, should you be missing some sand action. Dune du Pyla is just an hour’s drive away from Bordeaux, and is Europe’s tallest sand dune at over 100 metres tall.
Check into the Grand Hotel Bordeaux on the city’s main square for a five-star stay. There are goody bags, including Bonpoint gifts, for every child. Or for something less luxe, did you know that Easyjet (easyjet.com) offers package flight and hotel deals at bargain prices? Check the website for the latest deals. Ooo la la, indeed!
Above - The picturesque streets of Bordeaux
What not to miss in Bordeaux…
1. Jardin Public
18th century buildings aside ponds and parks: the perfect 11-acre playground. It is flanked by a Natural History museum, and is home to the famed Guignol Guérin puppet show, the oldest theatre in France. guignolguerin.fr
2. La Cité du Vin
The world’s largest wine heritage centre has a panoramic 7th floor restaurant that offers incredible views of the city and River Garonne: so there’s something for everyone, teetotal or not. Hic! laciteduvin.com
3. Tired little legs?
The little train goes past the Roman amphitheatre and through the heart of Old Bordeaux around narrow streets that bigger buses can’t navigate. Book your tickets at the Tourist Office before getting on the train nearby. Choo choo!
5. Venice, Italy
Amore, amore! It’s time to fall in love with the floating city of Venice all over again, whether you are expecting or still have a babe in arms. These are probably the prime times to visit when you have a family, as the network of canals and crowds of people could prove a nightmare with a wriggly toddler. Don’t be put off by the many bridges, either way, as lots now have ramps.
Splash out on a private water taxi to the city at 59 euros (arriving by boat is quite the unmissable experience), spend on a gondola ride if it’s just the two of you (it’s cheesy but it is romantic), and save by forgoing lavish dinners out and instead eating at local cafes and filling up on delicious ice creams.
Don’t miss a trip on the No.1 boat route along the Grand Canal – a cheap way to see the biggest sights. And plan ahead. There are key busy times to avoid, such as the Biennale and film festival, and Venice is eerily beautiful, and less crowded, in the winter months.
Did you know, there's a beach in Venice?
Yes! An 11km lido beach with beach huts, which stretches between the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea. It is only a ten-minute speedboat, or half hour ferryboat, ride from St Marks Square.
Where to stay?
Avoid the small and overcrowded hotels around Piazza San Marco and find yourself a bolthole...
1. Home from home
The Chioggia Residence is a modern apartment located on a canal, and just 15 minutes away by vaporetto from Venice city. The helpful hosts provide games and toys - if you can tear the kids away from the local ice cream parlours. kidandcoe.com
2. Movie star style
The JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa (pictured above) on Isola delle Rose offers a luxurious retreat perfect for babymooners, since there is nothing but the hotel on the island. From suites up to private villas with their own docking area, this is a slice of the ultimate moviestar lifestyle. The hotel offers a complementary speedboat to St Marks Square, a 20-minute ride across the lagoon. jwvenice.com