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30 July 2014 Last updated
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Our top 12 family holidays

Take your pick from 12 fantastic family-friendly holiday destinations, so that this summer, everybody wins

By Sudeshna Ghosh, Features Editor, Aquarius
1 Jun 2011 | 12:00 am
  • African safari

    An African safari is one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips you have to take.

    Source:Getty Images Image 1 of 2
  • Schloss Velden resort

    The Schloss Velden resort is located on the shore of Lake Woerth in Austria.

    Source:Supplied picture Image 2 of 2

Selangor, Malaysia

Why: This pretty town on the western coast of Malaysia is conveniently close to Kuala Lumpur, and seems custom-designed for family holidays with its array of child-friendly activities. Selangor's Sunway Lagoon theme park is a one-stop destination for the family, with stomach-churning rides, water parks, surf beach, and extreme adventure activities. There's also a wildlife park featuring live shows and educational attractions. The Sunway Resort & Spa Hotel located within the same 800-acre complex is the perfect place to base yourselves, with both villa and suite accommodation, as well as a mall with shopping and entertainment facilities. Plus, there are the tropical landscapes and beaches to explore too.
How: Holiday Factory is the UAE's first package-tour operator, and offers great value travel packages. A three-night package including flights, hotel stay and transfers costs from Dh3,510 per person. Visit www.holiday-factory.com.

Mauritius

Why:
Even though its picture-perfect beaches, bejewelled sea and chilled island vibe make it ideal as a holiday destination, Mauritius probably isn't the first place that comes to mind when thinking of trips with children. Enter Villas Valriche, a resort offering the perfect combination of exclusive luxury with family-style comforts. Located on the relatively unspoilt south-western coast of the island, the colonial-style villas feature infinity pools, child-friendly fittings and a private butler. As part of the neighbouring Heritage Golf and Spa resorts, you have access to the full arsenal of resort facilities including a kids' club, spa and a party beach club ideal for older children. The nearby Valriche Nature Reserve offers activities like hiking and horseriding, and if you feel like going further afield, Mauritius has adventure activities from zip-lining at the Casela Nature Reserve Park to submarine dives with Blue Safari.
How: Two-bedroom villas cost from Dh2,600 per night, www.villasvalricherental.com.

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Why: This Red Sea resort is one of the world's best snorkelling and scuba-diving destinations, with a unique, diverse marine eco-system now preserved under the banner of the Ras Mohammad National Park. The beautiful coastline is met by the rugged terrain of the Sinai peninsula, making for exciting on-shore activities such as jeep safaris. Sharm El Sheikh has a very well-developed tourist infrastructure, making it a convenient option for families. And at a resort like the Four Seasons, along with the signature luxuries, the hotel pulls out all stops to welcome children, starting with free stay for youngsters under 18. Other amenities include child-sized bathrobes, children's toiletries, colouring books, special kids' menus, complimentary baby accessories and baby-sitting services upon request. The concierge desk is also geared to cater to family demands with a wealth of local information.
How: Room rates start at Dh1,500 per night, visit www.fourseasons.com/sharmelsheikh.

Masai Mara, Kenya

Why: An African safari is one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips you have to take. For one of the best up-close experiences with the wildlife, opt for a week in two Safari Collection lodges, which take ‘glamping' to a whole other level. Sala's Camp is the first safari lodge to get views of the wildebeest migration, situated as it is just across the Tanzanian plains. Accommodation is in seven luxury tents, and activities include game drives, bush lunches and Masai village visits. From here you can move on to the Leleshwa camp, a community and conservancy-focused tented camp where you can not only enjoy day and night game safaris, but also try something different, like hot air balloon rides, and attend photography workshops. Intimate and personalised, and with many opportunities to interact with the local Masai community, a stay here is different from most typical safari lodges.
How: Take advantage of their special offer which lets you stay for seven nights and pay for six (including both camps). Prices start at Dh1,100 per person per night, visit www.thesafaricollection.com.

A Mediterranean cruise

Why: A cruise ship can be a surprisingly handy solution for a family holiday. Mini-golf for him? Check. Teen disco? Check. Kids' activities which are fun and educational? Check. Spa for you? Check. Cultural shows? Check. Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas not only offers all of these and lots of other family-friendly activities and amenities, they have recently introduced the Dreamworks experience as part of their Adventure Ocean kids' programme, which includes 3D-movie screenings and outdoor poolside cinemas. Plus the ship will be visiting exciting ports this summer on its Mediterranean itinerary, including Provence, Nice, Florence, Rome and Naples. This means there is a range of cultural experiences for the whole family to soak up as well!
How: The seven-night Western Mediterranean Cruise sails from Barcelona from June through to October, prices start at Dh3,150 per person. Visit www.royalcarribean.com.

Mont Tremblant, Canada

Why: Where better than the scenic mountains of Canada for the perfect summer escape? At Blueberry Lake you can book a mountain cabin that offers cosy chalet luxury - complete with real log fires, pine-clad walls, and great views - along with resort facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts and restaurants. But, when the stunning Quebecois landscape of forests, mountains and lakes beckons, with various activities such as cycling, canoeing, hiking and rafting on offer, you won't really need that pool to entertain the kids! End active, outdoorsy days surrounded by nature with a family barbecue on the deck of the cabin, or treat yourselves to dinner at a lake-side restaurant - bliss!
How: Just a 90-minute drive from Montreal, the serviced cabin sleeps eight, and has a well-equipped kitchen and private garden. Prices start at Dh8,600 per week, book through www.pureholidayhomes.com.

Krabi, Thailand

Why: If you love Thailand's unbeatable coastline, but want to stay away from the over-crowded tourist traps that some of the other islands have become, then the Anantara Si Kao Resort is perfect for your family. An unspoilt tropical beach provides the ideal setting for this luxe resort, with nearby islands making for the ultimate day trip adventures. Whether you want to discover the Emerald cave (swim through a cave in total darkness to emerge in a fairytale palm tree-dotted island), snorkel off the private island of Koh Kradan, kayak through mangrove forests, bicycle to local fisherman's villages, hobnob with monkeys in the Chao Mai National Park, or simply frolic in the pool, you will have enough to keep the whole family busy. And when you want some alone time (maybe an escape to the spa?), kids can be entertained at the Dugong Club with games, story-telling sessions and crafts.
How: Room rates at the Anantara Si Kao Resort & Spa start at Dh450 per night, visit www.anantara.com.

Northern India

Why: For a family holiday with a difference, try a two-week break in the mountains of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, with destination experts India Someday. Just a few hours of flying will take you to Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, and a mountain town nestled amidst the majestic Himalayas. Staying in a house-boat on Dal Lake will be a unique experience, and trips to ski resorts such as Gulmarg and Sonamarg are easily done. A short flight from there will take you to picturesque Dharmshala, in the region that is home to the Dalai Lama. While staying in a charming, rustic home-stay, you can take day trips to nearby towns to try adventure activities such as paragliding, visit wildlife reserves, and soak up nature.
How: India Someday arrange bespoke travel itineraries across the country, with accommodation, flights and internal travel arrangements. A two-week trip like this costs from Dh4,100 per person, all-inclusive, visit www.indiasomeday.ae.

Antalya, Turkey

Why:
Kemer is a modern Mediterranean resort town which offers the perfect recipe for a family holiday - sun, sea and all-inclusive resorts. And at the Rixos Sungate hotel you can enjoy traditional Turkish hospitality packaged in five-star luxury. All through the summer, they offer a variety of activities, including water sports; concerts and beach parties; stage shows; sports including football and volleyball; paint-balling and go-karting. Plus, there's the beach, 16 swimming pools, and Rixy Kingdom, a 20,000-square-metre area dedicated to children. The kids' club offers indoor and outdoor activities and nanny services. Kids will also be treated to a special check-in desk, mini bathrobes, story books and hot chocolate before bedtime… need we say more?
How: Accommodation options include suites, terraced family houses and lake houses. Prices start at Dh820 per person, all-inclusive, visit www.rixos.com.

Paris, France

Why: Placing Chic Outlet Shopping's La Vallée Village five minutes away from Euro Disney was a genius idea! The picturesque shopping precinct - which offers a boutique experience at discounts of 33 per cent or more on nearly100 international brands, including French heavyweights such as Givenchy and Celine - will be to you what Euro Disney is to the kids. You can stay at one of the five-star Disney hotels and regular shuttles will take you to La Vallée Village for your retail fix. The village also has personal shopper services, an art gallery and a kids' club for when the children are all Disney-ed out (as if!). Plus, there's Paris and the Champagne region to explore.
How: Prices start at Dh2,080 per person for two nights in a five-star Disney hotel, with entry into Disneyland and La Vallée Village, visit www.chicoutletshopping.com or www.kanootravel.com for more.

Co. Kerry, Ireland

Why: Ireland's picturesque green countryside provides a great setting for a farm stay, an experience that is the perfect antidote to UAE's urban desert living. At the family-run Inveraray farm guest house in Killarney, you will get to experience country life, staying in cosy comfort at a working farm. Aside from chilling on the farm and playing with animals, some of Ireland's best-known sightseeing attractions including the Gap of Dunloe, Ring of Kerry, Muckross Park and Killarney Lakes are all short drives away. There's a play area for children on the farm, fishing and golf options nearby, plus award-winning gourmet cuisine on offer too.
How: Room rates start from Dh160 per person per night, special family rates also available. Visit www.inver-aray.com for more information.

Carinthia, Austria

Why:
There is nothing quite like Europe in the summer! At the Schloss Velden resort, located on the shore of Lake Woerth, you can get the ultimate combination of nature and culture. Not only are there water sports and nature walk options in the area, but plenty of interesting sites to visit within short driving distances as well. From petting rare animals at the Rosegg animal park, and living the Heidi experience in an adventure park in the mountains, to checking out the Miniature World (mini replicas of iconic structures such as the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House and Taj Mahal), getting an adrenaline rush at Tscheppaschlucht family park, or visiting the fairyland-like Magic Forest, you will be spoilt for choice.
How: The hotel has a kids' club, and spacious rooms and suites that can accommodate families. Prices start at Dh750 per person per night, visit www.schlossveldencapella.com.

Where do you recommend?

Here are some of our Facebook fans' favourite family-holiday destinations: 

"South of France, Cote D'Azur is a family-friendly destination with a direct flight from Dubai to Nice. Beautiful dark-blue sea, yummy French cuisine, language summer schools and cheap train fares - we find it an irresistible place to be during June-September."
– Facebook fan Anna Solomina 

"Interlaken, Switzerland is the perfect holiday destination... amazing location, ambience, weather, shops, food, clothes, mountains, waterfalls... love that place!"
– Facebook fan Varsha Dilip Mirchandani

"Sri Lanka - lovely, luxurious destination. It has everything for everyone, especially the tea country and elephants at Pinnewala."
– Facebook fan Gopa Goswami 

"Bali. A beautiful country with outstanding retreats and the chance to go island hopping and cycling in Ubud as a family. It was fun, safe and the locals are wonderful!"
– Facebook fan Noura El-Imam 

"Florida! We went with two of our sons and grandchildren. We never tire of meeting Mickey and Co - it's great for all ages."
– Facebook fan Jill Higham 

"Singapore's Sentosa Island. The bird show was amazing, the underwater aquarium is lovely, gardens, theme parks - it has everything!"
– Facebook fan Aysha Samrah

"Australia! Anyday. Had a fantastic holiday last year - the Gold Coast is such a family-oriented place, the theme parks are amazing."
– Facebook fan Harshika Daryanani 

"I like Penang in Malaysia... it is beautiful and full of nature with mountains, sea and green all around. We had lots of fun!"
– Facebook fan Anita Jagdish Khatri 

"Goa... beautiful, laid-back, easy, chilled-out - totally a tension-free place."
– Facebook fan Neha Dadlani

Get in on the Aquarius Facebook chat and become a fan. Log on to www.facebook.com/AquariusMagazine and click ‘Like'.

Go online!

Renting a self-catering villa can be a great budget-friendly solution for a family holiday. Villarenters.com has more than 13,000 holiday homes in 85 different countries, including nearby Sri Lanka and Thailand, listed on its site. The online booking process is quick and easy, and you can pay online too.

By Sudeshna Ghosh, Features Editor, Aquarius

By Sudeshna Ghosh, Features Editor, Aquarius