I know many of you are thinking about your family holidays for the year, if you haven’t already planned and booked something. Well, if the all inclusive is leaving you feeling less than excited, and you definitely won’t want another staycation, then how about one of these trendy family holiday ideas? They aren’t for everybody, but maybe they’ll inspire you to find the perfect destination.
Farm holidays are really growing in popularity alongside the huge growth in the “eat local” movement. A farm stay can be great for those with younger children because it’s a terrific education into how food is grown and what is life like on a modern farm. Your options range from luxury farm stays (which is pretty much a hotel with a farm next door), to working stays where you’ll get a discounted holiday in exchange for pitching in with some of the work.
A house exchange is generally for longer periods of time (2 weeks up to 3 or 4 months!), and these used to be hard to land because who wants to trade homes with a stranger you’ve just found on Gumtree? Today, there are lots of home exchange sites – I can’t recommend a specific one, but it’s worth spending some time in Google to look through ones that have homes in the places you’d like to visit.
A home exchange is great value because you are trading the accommodation, and you also get to experience the destination like a local, but it requires some upfront planning and flexibility.
I’ve noticed this becoming a huge trend in certain parts of the world – the American West (think Utah, Nevada, Arizona) comes to mind, but you can find houseboat options elsewhere in the world as well. It’s a fun experience, and your extra costs that you’d have by getting the boat are offset by the fact that it is self-catering and your accommodation is included. Most houseboats are dead simple to navigate, and are geared towards the tourists who doesn’t know much about nautical terms, and other motorists are pretty friendly and helpful, such as the canal routes in North America or England. The only problem? Cramped quarters – so be sure to plan for some off-boat activities like watersports are shore excursions.
Speaking of boats, a lot of cruise travellers are opting for smaller boat cruises. Smaller boats means shorter journeys and less time on board – think about your cruises down the rivers in central Europe or trips around seaside cities like Boston. If you’re flexible on dates, sometimes you can get a better deal on these boats, and when onboard I’ve found the amenities are a lot more reasonably priced than the same options on a large cruise ship. Plus the smaller cruises give you lots of time to go off and exploring, so it can be a more relaxed way to spend time with family.
I’m finding lots of folks heading further afield for their city breaks. Small towns, especially in continental Europe, can be great value for money, and with low cost carriers like Ryanair flying into smaller cities anyway, they’re easy to get to on a budget, and cheaper accommodation without those crowds. Think Bremen instead of Hamburg, Orvieto instead of Rome.
As much as I dislike these whimsical names for new styles of vacations, the “voluntourism” or volunteering vacation certainly has its heart in the right place. This is another great way to educate your children about the world, and also give a little something back. Be sure to throughly research a volunteering holiday – some of them give most of the money to the holiday coordinator, not the people who need it. The other thing to consider closely is what work you’ll be doing – be sure that it is work you can physically do, and something you can really put your heart and soul into it. And of course, be sure to give yourself a day or two at the end of the break to enjoy the locale and reflect before heading home.
Some call it “glamping,” the luxury camping scene is really becoming huge. Don’t let the luxury name put you off – often you can get a great deal on what is basically a great hotel experience, except that at the end you sleep outside. Luxury camping has been in place for years; anyone who has taken some of the Machu Picchu tours will attest to this “hands off” style of camping, but now it’s becoming more widespread. If some outdoors and fresh air sounds fun but you don’t want the hassle factor, maybe this is for you.
Last but not least is an old favourite: the last minute approach. Sunshine has their own set of late deals, and they can kind of be fun. I call it the dart board approach, because it’s not for the faint of heart – the week before your holiday, you’re going to only have a few options on where to go, so you can’t get too attached to any specific destination or you’ll walk away disappointed that there isn’t a deal.
What are your “unique” ideas for a family holiday this year?
Posted : Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 at 11:00
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.