Holiday hotspots for family fun
Summer's here and it's time to take the kids on another fun-filled holiday - but with the proliferation of flights to every corner of the planet, where on earth do you choose to go to this year? It might seem difficult to find the perfect place that will keep both parents and young ones fully entertained, but upon closer inspection you'll find that there are options to suit everyone, whatever kind of break you're after.
Tried and tested - and the alternatives
Sunshine-filled seaside spots always seem like the best choice - who doesn't like the prospect of endlessly warm days devoted to lazing on the beach? Spain is the obvious option for this kind of holiday, but there's always the danger that the kids will quickly tire of doing nothing much. In this case it might be an idea to hunt down a hotel further inland that offers plenty of things for children and teenagers to do, while also being a short distance from the coast.
Mark Hodson, writing in the Times, recommends the La Manga hotel in the Mercian Mountains - but it's not for the lazy adolescent! He says: "Nothing to do with Japanese comics, La Manga is the ne plus ultra of family sporting holiday destinations. It's a place where you can bond with your teenagers over golf or tennis, or, if they're really keen to hone their ball skills, they can sign up for an academy course."
Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, La Casella in the Umbria region of Italy gets a recommendation for its unique farm-focused activities. The hotel is actually on a farming estate near Orvieto, where young children can learn the basics of horse and pony riding, as well as other pastimes such as archery, mountain biking and tennis for older offspring.
If you're itching to get away from the hotel, one of the most popular destinations in the world for families has to be Orlando, Florida. Not only is it pleasantly sun-soaked, but it's also home to the famous Disney World resort, where the kids (and adults) get to meet their favourite characters from its cartoons and films, as well as check out a host of rides and themed attractions.
However, for those with a bit less to splash around than those who fly to the USA on a regular basis, it might be an idea to hop over the Channel to Paris and take in the equally magical - and slightly less humid - atmosphere of Disneyland.
Escape the west
What if you want to go on a truly exotic holiday to somewhere like south-east Asia? Again, key locations such as Thailand and Malaysia offer a host of resorts that cater for those with toddlers and teenagers, but if you want to just stay in a child-friendly hotel and check out the sights for yourself, this can be easily managed.
Take, for example, Malaysia. According to family travel site Take The Family, Malaysia "is one of the most pleasant, child-friendly and hassle-free countries to visit in Asia", with a plethora of beaches, rainforests and wildlife to be seen. Children are sure to be enthralled by the colourful plants and animals that are ubiquitous throughout the country, as well as novel day trips such as exploring a wildlife park by boat, or visiting the oldest rainforest in the far east at Sabah.
Elsewhere, a trip to Australia or New Zealand could also be a viable family holiday option. Even though they are both predominantly English-speaking countries, their geographic positioning means that they boast a wide variety of landscapes and sights rarely seen anywhere else in the world.
Instead of heading to the bustling cities of Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, why not take the kids to the Northern Territory and explore its deserts and tropical coastal features? Alice Springs is an ideal location from which to take driving tours of the region, according to Holidays With Kids magazine, and for those days when driving seems like too much effort, the area is home to the Alice Springs Desert Park, which calls itself "the essential introduction to central Australia".
It's a widely held belief that there's not much that's more fascinating to kids than a cute or strange animal - so why not hop on a plane to Africa and treat them to a safari? South Africa in particular is home to Kruger National Park, which offers both an unforgettable safari experience and accommodation fit for any family.
Elsewhere, check out the Masai Mara park in Kenya in September and October, when the famous migration of the wildebeest takes place. The park is home to all kinds of animals, including lions, rhinos, hippos and cheetahs. If you want a truly eye-opening experience, you might want to take advantage of the campsites dotted around the area instead of opting for a hotel - but this is perhaps not the most practical option if you have a small baby to look after!
It's all very well knowing where to go, but how do you go about managing the extra fuss that taking children on holiday with you entails? Some things to do in advance include searching the web for holidaymakers' own reviews of hotels and resorts to make sure they are as child-friendly as they say, and checking details such as weather forecasts and political stability to ensure your family will be as safe as possible from any potential dangers that are beyond your control.
While you're travelling, Take The Family advises that you double check meal and seating arrangements and setting off early in case of any unforeseen delays. Make sure the little ones are kept fully entertained with little toys and snacks, as well as the inflight entertainment system onboard nearly all traditional carriers. Booking airport transfers in advance can also be a huge help, as can preparing children for the possible culture shock ahead by explaining what they can expect once they land.
All in all, a family holiday can be an enjoyable as well as a stressful experience - just make sure you pick the right destination and make the fun bits really count.