It’s a big decision deciding where to take a family holiday, especially abroad. Will the destination be child-friendly? Will the weather be too hot for little ones? Will it really live up to the online photos? It can be even more confusing if you don’t want a typical package holiday. I’ve asked the blogging community for their recommendations of family-friendly holidays in Europe, perfect for summer, or out of season too. Here’s what they say.
All prices are correct at the time of publication and are based on stays during the school summer holidays. They will naturally be cheaper out of season and sometimes when booked further in advance.
Do you have any family-friendly European holidays you’d recommend? Do let me know in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or by tweeting me on @cardiffmummy
Eurocamping in the Vendée, France
Eurocamp are a tried and trusted favourite for family holidays, and Vendee is a favourite with Brits because it’s not as far as the South of France but the microclimate of the Pays-de-la-Loire region means it’s just as sunny. Lots of families like to be able to pack the car up with everything they need and drive, either via the tunnel or by ferry. If you travel from Dover to Calais, it’s a six hour drive, or four hours if you sail from Plymouth to Roscoff.
La Garangeoire is a Eurocamp site set in the grounds of a 19th-century manor house and has around 300 pitches, a combination of mobile homes, tents and caravans, with a handful of quirkier units like tree-houses and eco-cabins. The site also has four swimming pools, plus toddler splash area and poolside bar; a freshwater lagoon, a play area and trampolines, go-karting, mini golf and table tennis, plus as it’s set in over 200 hectares of land, there are marked walking trails ranging from three to five kilometres. It’s near to beaches including Bretignolles sur Mer (12 km away), a small town 12km away, with a choice of rocky beaches with surfer-friendly waves, or fine sandy stretches perfect for sandcastle building and paddling in the sea.
Nell of Pigeon Pair and Me writes about her family holiday to La Garangeoire here and here. She says the site was impeccably clean. “Unlike some holiday parcs, where you feel you could be anywhere in western Europe, La Garangeoire is inescapably French. The traditional stone buildings of the reception, bar and swimming pool hub are flanked by the woodland and lakes typical of the Vendée, just a short stroll away from the pitches.”
Sample price: 7 nights in a Safari tent, with a complete kitchen including fridge, and sleeping six costs from £1,665. Add a return ferry journey from £50 extra.
Explore the walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia
The ancient Croatian city of Dubrovnik is truly beautiful, with walking the famous walls around the red-tiled roof tops one of the main draws for tourists. There’s a real Italian influence, and the pizza and gelato is amazing. Cardiff Daddy and I visited about 12 years ago and hope to return some day with our children. Gretta of family travel blog Mums Do Travel writes here about walking the walls, as well as other family-friendly activities in the area, including Dubrovnik Aquarium and getting a boat out to Lokrum Island, a nature reserve just 700 metres away from the city of Dubrovnik and home to a gang of confident peacocks.
Her family stayed at the Sun Gardens Resort, a luxury beachfront holiday resort with James Villas, just outside Dubrovnik. It is, says Gretta “a modern, roomy, comfortable, well-equipped and tastefully decorated with high quality furnishings”. Read her review of the apartment here and the onsite activities here.
Sample price: 7 nights from 22nd July 2017, including flights from Luton with EasyJet costs £4,886 for a family of four.
A tranquil stay on a traditional Greek island
I’ve been drooling over Clare from Suitcases and Sandcastle’s photos from Greece on her Instgram feed for some time now. The blue skies, sandy beaches and white stoned buildings bring back many memories of island hopping around Greece the summer I graduated from university, with the man who is now my husband. Clare says Greece is the “perfect family holiday” and in particularly she recommends Folegandros, a tiny island in the Cyclades collection of islands. She says, “It has everything I dream of when I think of the perfect Greek island – pretty little harbours, beautiful beaches and great local tavernas. It was delightfully laid-back and despite the fact that we were there during the peak summer season, it wasn’t heaving with tourists. Folegandros has the unspoiled, old-fashioned feel that I love about Greece. We watched local fishermen untangling their nets at the harbour. We passed farmers using donkeys to get around and saw octopus hanging out to dry in the sun outside local tavernas.” Read her full review here.
Sample price: Fly from London Gatwick to Santorini with Easyjet (currently £400 return in August, but if you can go off peak flights are around £100 in September), and hop on a 40-minute high speed ferry to the island.
A fairytale adventure in the Netherlands
Efteling is one of Europe’s largest theme parks, with a fairy tale theme, rides for all ages, playground areas, live shows, onsite hotels, a holiday village, theatre and golf course.
Aby from You Baby Me Mummy writes about the magical experience here. Highlights for her included the “totally amazing” Aquanura, the largest water show in Europe, which uses fire and coloured lights; a well as the Fairytale Forest where you weave your way through the woods, passing Pinocchio, Cinderella, the Dancing Red Shoes, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Tom Thumb, the Troll King, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, The Frog Prince, The Fairytale Tree (which speaks!) and many more amazing characters.
Aby stayed in Efteling Village Bosrijk, a wooden village by the lake, but there’s also the hotel, designed to look like a castle in the sky and with themed rooms. Read her review here.
You can, of course, book accommodation off site and visit Efteling as day guests, or combine it with a city break to Amsterdam – read about Laura from Sidestreet Style’s family break to Amsterdam here and Cathy from Mummy Travels recommends 11 things to do with kids in Amsterdam here. Or combine it with a stay at Duinrell, a Canvas Holidays campsite in the Netherlands. Read Alison from Not Another Mummy Blog’s review here
Sample price: A four-night stay in a two-bed apartment sleeping four costs around £796 from July 24th-28th. Fly from Cardiff to Amsterdam with KLM from £150 per person. It’s a 1 hour 15 minute drive from the airport.
Spanish sunshine on the island of Gran Canaria
There’s more to the Canary Islands than its high rise beach resort reputation, says award-winning travel writer Cathy of Mummy Travels. She says Gran Canaria is perfect for families, with highlights of their trip including riding camels along the famous wild dunes of Maspalomas, heading into the mountains and dining in a cave restaurant, taking a boat trip to Puerto de Mogan, and visiting the zoo, water park and beaches.
You can see pictures of her trip here, plus read her what to do on the island with kids here. Suzy of Our Bucket List Lives lists her 12 top things to do with kids in Gran Canaria here.
Sample prices: The Villa Gran Canaria website has lots of family-friendly villas for hire – a two-bedroomed villa for four with private pool will cost from £1,750 for seven nights from Saturday 22nd July until Saturday 29th July..
Fly with Thomson Airways from Cardiff to Las Palmas for around £400 per person, from Saturday 22nd to Saturday 29th July, or £255 per person from Saturday 2nd to Saturday 9th September.
Luxury in Lisbon, Portugal
Karen of Mini Travellers says Portugal is the perfect family destination: affordable, gorgeous beaches that are not too busy, mild winters with temperatures that rarely drop below 5ºC along the coast and hot summers that are refreshed by the Atlantic breeze with the highest number of hours of sunshine in Europe. Lisbon is the capital city, but there are glorious sandy beaches just a short drive or train ride from the centre of the city
Karen stayed with her family at both the Martinhal Chiado in the centre of Lisbon, and the Martinhal Cascais, a luxury resort on the outskirts of Lisbon. Here, there’s a well-equipped kids club, swimming pools, huge playground, and stylish décor. The beaches, Lisbon Zoo, the Oceanariumm the Parque des Nações (with family-friendly activities including a cable car that runs the length of the park) are all nearby, not forgetting a ride on the famous yellow tram. You can read her review here.
Sample price: Fly from Luton to Lisbon with EasyJet for around £275 per person from Saturday 26th August to Saturday 2nd September.
Stay at Martinhal Cascais from € 3,326.40/ £2859.82 from Saturday 26th August to Saturday 2nd September
Lalandia tropical holiday centre and Legoland in Denmark
As you’ll know if you read my blog regularly, we recently visited Legoland Windsor for the first time. I know my kids would love the original Legoland Billund in Denmark, which has 9 Lego themed lands, 40 rides and attractions and the world’s highest Miniland. According to Jo from Kiddie Holidays blog, who visited recently, it is “one of the most magical days out for Lego fans of all ages”. It’s 2km from Bilund Airport, which you can fly to from Manchester, Heathrow and Stansted Airports, or it’s a three-hour drive from Copenhagen. You can stay onsite at various hotels, cabins and even wilderness cabins, or it’s next door to Lalandia resort, which is similar to Center Parcs in the UK, with holiday homes, an Aquadome, soft play and Winter World with indoor ski slope and ice rink. Read her review here.
Denmark has a reputation for being expensive, but Jo has some great tips on visiting on a budget. They spent a week in Denmark, starting with 3 days in Copenhagen, before driving over to Jutland and staying at Lalandia from where they visited Legoland Billund.
Sample prices: Fly from London Standstead to Billund for £118 per person from Saturday 22nd July to Saturday 29th July. A week at Lalandia for two adults and two children is £1,665 on booking.com. Tickets for Legoland Billund cost from £35 for children and £37 for adults.
Pampering plus playing at Azia Resort Spa, Paphos, Cyprus
Awaybies blog stayed at the all-inclusive five star Azia Resort and Spa with her family of five and says it has something for both adults and children. There’s a spa – which even does a 10-minute children’s massage; a Jacuzzi on the balcony; a child-friendly swimming pool with a separate shallow area for babies and toddlers; a kids’ club; plenty of onsite entertainment; a path directly from the hotel to the beach, plus other sandy beaches a short bus ride away. Read the review here.
Sample prices: A 7-night stay for two adults and two children from Saturday 22nd to Saturday 29th July costs £2,469 with booking.com
Fly from Stanstead for £251 per person with Jet2.com
A more relaxed way to see Rome
See the sights of one Europe’s most historically significant cities without the stresses of staying with kids in the city by booking at Eurocamps’ Camping Fabulous. Ian and Emma Phillips of Mini Travellers stayed there last October half term and said it was a great base to explore the Italian city. It’s a large campsite with 800 pitches set in 7- acres of alpine woodland, with amenities including play areas, pools, bars and restaurant, geletaria, a shop and well-maintained toilet and washing facilities. Buses travel from outside the campsite to the centre of Rome and to the beach, as well as to Ostia Antica, a well-preserved ruin of a large Roman town. You can read their review here. While there, they visited the Colosseum, the Vatican and did a family-friendly pizza making class.
Sample prices: A 7-night stay for four from Saturday 22nd to Saturday 29th July costs around £1,500. Fly to Rome from Cardiff with Flybe from £242 return per person on the same dates.