Having children changes how you travel. Gone are the cheap, out-of-school holidays breaks scheduled around all-night partying, all-day sunbathing and barely seeing the inside of whatever hovel you got for cheap. Now, the quality of the hotel WiFi could be the difference between a joyful bonding experience and everyone being at each other’s throats.
Pleasing both adults and children equally is phenomenally difficult. Can you find places that will get your little bundles of joy to look up from their phones and engage with the world around them? And if so, will the grown-ups get any time to kick back and relax – because when you’re the one paying for a holiday, you need to enjoy yourself too.
Thankfully there are some great destinations that fit the bill. Here’s our round-up of family travel destinations in 2019 to give you a little inspiration.
You could be forgiven for not being familiar with the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, but you’ll know about it soon enough – its status as European Capital of Culture 2019 led ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents, to name it as one of the hottest destinations of the year.
It’s one of Europe’s oldest cities, with 8,000 years of history. Just think about that for a second: Rome was settled in around 753BC; London in AD50, or so; Plovdiv has been inhabited since about 6000BC, which is extraordinary. It’s filled with fascinating sights like the ancient Roman Theatre and the stadium of Philippopolis, but also benefits from its location. Pamporovo ski resort, one of the more affordable ski destinations, is 90km to the south, so a break on the slopes bookended by ancient sights is extremely doable.
Also recommended by ABTA is the beautiful area of Galicia. Ancient tombs, a 2,000-year-old lighthouse (Hercules Tower) and beautiful rock carvings are among the attractions of this part of north west Spain. There are festivals like the annual Shearing of the Beasts and the Roman reenactments of Arde Lucus, and amazing seafood all year round. A word of warning, though – those allergic to bagpipes might think twice: the Galician gaita has the same Celtic roots as its Scottish cousin.
“Set-jetting” is the travel industry’s (mildly irritating) term for holidaying in places made famous for the location of TV shows. ‘Game Of Thrones’ is coming to an end in 2019, and has done wonders for the profile of a few places – Northern Ireland has a lot to thank it for, and Dubrovnik, which doubles as King’s Landing, is also doing extremely well. With beaches, boat trips to outlying islands, higgledy-piggledy streets and bustling markets – all surrounded by sea so blue you’d swear it was CGI – there’s plenty going on.
Ryanair and Easyjet have both recently begun new routes to Aqaba in Jordan, making it that bit more accessible. Unleash your inner Indiana Jones (your Innerdiana Jones?) by visiting the ancient city of Petra, carved out of the rock 6,000 years ago. Also known as the rose-red city, it’s accessible only via an extraordinary narrow path with towering cliffs on either side and looks completely otherworldly. The Wadi Rum is a stunning desert (as seen in ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’) filled with cave paintings, Bedouin tents and remnants of ancient cultures. And with both the Red Sea (great for diving) and Dead Sea (ridiculously buoyant) around, there’s something for everyone.
The Peloponnese, Greece
This beautiful Greek peninsula is slightly off the beaten track, but after a seven-year hiatus, a train line from Patras to Pyrgos (not the Pyrgos on Santorini, the Pyrgos in the Peloponnese – they’re 500ish miles apart, so book carefully) is reopening in 2019, and is an awesome way to explore the region.
There are glorious beaches, fascinatingly gimmicky upmarket hipster-tastic hotels (ever dreamed of staying in a converted water tower? You’re in luck!), rock climbing, rafting, paragliding, hiking, archery, kayaking, scuba diving and wineries – because come on, it’s not just about the kids.
Twinned with Plovdiv as European Capital of Culture 2019, Matera is at the top of the heel of Italy’s boot, and home to some of the gnarliest dwellings you’ll find on all of AirBnB.
The town started out as a cave settlement, and loads of the houses carved into the mountainside still remain – with plenty of them converted into businesses, bars and hotels. In the Sassi Di Matera, the old town, you can even stay in a room that pre-dates the written word. If that doesn’t impress the youngsters, it also stood in for Themyscira in ‘Wonder Woman’.
What are your best tips for having a stress-free family holiday? Let us know by commenting below, or email email@example.com.