9 ultimate family holiday bucket list destinations
Need some holiday inspiration? Bronte Gossling reveals the dream
destinations that should be on your family’s ultimate bucket list.
Every family has a list. You know, the travel bucket list that gets
referenced every time you start talking holidays. A list that, until now,
was only a possibility in the realms of your imagination. Not any more.
We’ve collated the dream bucket list for families with tips on how you
can save to make them a reality.
Image credit © Visit Finland
1. Hometown of Santa Claus
Home to 190,000 reindeer, 749 fells and the one (and only)
Santa Claus, Finland’s northernmost region, Lapland, is the
must-see shining star on top of our Christmas travel list.
Marvel at the phenomenon of 24-hour sunlight
in summer or — for those lucky enough to visit in the
wondrous winter — the magnetic lights of Aurora Borealis
dancing around the sky.
If your little ones are particularly inclined to the jovial
laughter of St Nick, journey to his main headquarters in the
charming town of Rovaniemi, where he greets children
365 days of the year. Another highlight for those who
venture to the 'Hometown of Santa Claus' is the Angry
Birds Activity Park, where children (and children at heart)
can climb, slide and swing around an open-air playground
dedicated to the figures of the addictive mobile game.
Complete your Lapland visit with a one-of-a-kind husky
safari, and feel the fresh, crisp winter air as you travel the
wilds on a sled. And if you’re worried about the ending of a
great family adventure, don’t be. Keep the magic alive by
writing a letter to Santa when you return home, and relive
the joy as little ones open their unique response from the
Image credit © Disney
The Circle of Life works in mysterious ways. Your parents
made peace with the constant singing of 'Part of Your
World' and reruns of 'The Fox and the Hound', so it’s only
poetic that the cycle repeats for you – this time with 'Let
It Go' (I wish) and 'Moana'. Yet at some point, the whole
family has to pack up their storybooks and well-loved
Blu-rays, and explore the living testaments to Walt
Disney’s fantastic imagination in person.
The success of Disneyland Park, which opened in
1955, spurred such a huge demand that a whole new
subsidiary, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, had to be
created to cater for the crowds clamouring for more parks,
hotels, resorts and, eventually, a cruise line. It’s easy to see
why; aside from the lust-worthy locations such as Paris,
Tokyo and Hong Kong, the attractions themselves have a
certain magical air about them.
Perhaps the fact that you can’t go longer than two
minutes without collapsing into a round of infectious
laughter or seeing a child’s dream of meeting Cinderella
come true has something to do with it. Complete your
holiday by enjoying the tailored hospitality of a Disney
Resort or 24-hour entertainment on the high seas aboard
a Disney Cruise.
3. An African Safari
It’s a common misconception that kids and safaris do not
mix well; there are plenty of game lodges that welcome
them with open arms. Immerse your clan in a sensory
experience with the warm savannah breeze rustling your
hair as you explore Pilanesberg National Park. Only a
two-hour drive from Johannesburg, this wildlife hotspot is
one of the most accessible safari destinations in Africa.
If you’re looking for a wilder encounter, Addo Elephant
National Park is the place. You’ll also encounter the rest of
the Big 5 and, depending on the time of year, you might
even sight sharks or whales from coastal lookouts.
Not to be forgotten is Madikwe Game Reserve, the most
private and family-friendly of them all. Not only is it home
to Jaci’s Lodges, whose children’s safari survival
programme is a must for older kids, but nearby is Sun City
and Sun International’s flagship hotel, The Palace of the
Lost City, which is packed with great activties for the kids.
There’s nothing quite like waking up to the tantalising
scent of freshly baked French croissants and baguettes,
something that can only be fully appreciated in Paris.
Visit its magnifique museums and galleries to see
celebrated artworks such as 'Mona Lisa' at the Louvre and
Musée d'Orsay’s 'Water Lilies'. Grab a blanket and enjoy a
picnic in one of the city's pretty parks where children can
sail toy boats, ride ponies, watch puppet shows and ride
carousels. Make your way towards the Arc de Triomphe
along the Champs-Élysées, but not before stopping off for
a macaron at Ladurée. Scaling the Eiffel Tower is a must,
whether you wait for the lift or climb the 704 steps to the
second floor, 115 metres above the city.
5. New York, USA
New York, New York has all the greatest hits when it
comes to family travel, with amazing places to see, play
and stay. Stop for a salty pretzel before setting off to see a
bird's-eye view of the whole city from the 86th floor of the
Empire State Building. It’s best to visit first thing in the
morning to avoid the crowds, or at dusk to see the lights of
the Big Apple twinkling.
Tucker the kids out by walking the length of Central
Park, cheer on the New York Yankees or sail across the bay
to Coney Island. Kids will love Broadway shows like
'The Lion King', 'Aladdin', 'School of Rock' and 'Charlie and
the Chocolate Factory'. And, in December, ballet-lovers can
see the New York City Ballet perform 'The Nutcracker'.
Then there’s the Museum of Natural History, one of the
largest in the world. Covering two square blocks, you’ll
need a game plan if you don’t want to miss out on your
6. The Great Wall of China
One of the New 7 Wonders of the World, The Great
Wall of China is arguably the oldest and greatest relic
of Chinese history, with its origins commonly said to date
back to the seventh century BCE. Despite the fact that the
wall was last estimated to be more than 21,000 kilometres long and
crosses over mountains, into rivers and across deserts,
making some parts of it off limits to visitors, its
magnificence is not hard to experience.
The wall is most accessible from Beijing, with the more
popular sections being towards Beijing’s north and east.
Located about 73 kilometres north of Beijing, Mutianyu is
a favourite among foreign tourists and is a notably
family-friendly section of the wall, due to the fact that it
only takes half a day to tour. Mutianyu, as one of the only
fully restored sections of the wall, is also the ultimate
example of ancient Chinese fortifications, with 23 uniquely
designed watchtowers and fortresses spread evenly along
its length. And the best bit? Tired little feet can rest easy on
cable cars, which run up and down the wall.
Want to tackle the mighty wall? You can read how
Evie Farrell of Mumpacktravel and her daughter did it on a girls'-own
adventure in China here.
7. Cruising the Pacific
Out of the hundreds of islands, islets and reefs that
populate the Pacific Ocean between Australia and the US,
it’s understandable that you might feel a little
overwhelmed choosing which to visit with your little
pirates. The perfect solution, of course, is island-hopping in
style on a cruise. With accommodation that also gets you
from point A to B and all-inclusive meals and
entertainment, it’s the ideal solution for a transpacific
Carnival Cruises adventure from Honolulu to Sydney.
Feel the white (or sometimes black) sand between your
toes and snorkel crystal lagoons. Get a taste for Polynesian
culture in Tahiti and stop off in friendly Fiji after crossing
the International Date Line. Each day, you’ll have your
choice of aquatic adventures. Parents looking for a break
can finally relax and rest their eyes, lulled into a state of
serenity by the sound of the waves
lapping at the shore, while the kids
frolic in the sand. It’s not all soft sun
and long naps, however; the beauty of
cruising is that there are plenty of
activities to choose from, for every
age, making a cruise holiday the
perfect balance of proper relaxation
and absolute excitement.
8. The Big Lap
It’s time to stop talking the talk, and start driving the drive
– that is, the year-long 'Big Lap' that every Australian and
their dog aspires to complete at some point in their lives.
Pack the kids into your 4WD (or low-range gearing
equivalent) and hit the road to drive the 40,000-kilometre
circumference of our sunburnt country. Of course, if
you’ve never been off-road or outback driving before, we
suggest getting ready by doing a 4WD training course.
Believe us, you’ll be grateful when you can successfully
manoeuvre yourself out of that tight spot that could delay
the completion of your trip. Once you’ve got your fast and
furious skills down-pat, purchase a satellite phone, map
and extra drinking water and you’re all set.
Now the only question left is… clockwise or anticlockwise?
If you start your trip in Cairns in summer, head
south and avoid the Red Centre because temps are fiery.
Once the southerly winds turn from pleasantly cool to
chilly, venture back up north, to explore the tropics and
the land of orange dust.
Iceland is so hot right now. Known for its dramatic
landscape of sweeping glaciers, volcanoes, lava fields
and hot springs, Iceland is a year-round wonderland
that has been steadily rising as a trending family
Explore the natural surrounds that this Viking land is
famous for in Vatnajökull National Park, which is one of the
largest national parks in Europe and covers more than 13
per cent of Iceland. This diverse landscape is the epitome
of a song of fire and ice; although a majority of the park is
under the icecap of the Vatnajökull Glacier, subglacial
volcanic activity combined with the icy waters makes
for spectacular viewing.
The pretty harbour capital of Reykjavik, surrounded by
stunning volcanic fields, boasts myriad museums and
easily accessible family activities such as playgrounds and
kid-friendly spas. Visit the Laugardalur Valley for the Family
Park and Zoo, ice-skating, roller-skating, an outdoor
sculpture garden and enomous thermal pool.
If you’re not here during summer's midnight sun, spend
a night sleeping in an insulated, inflatable Bubble Lodge,
which allows you to spend a protected night under the
stars and colourful northern lights.
This article appeared in volume 53 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.