Best for child-friendly country house hotels
Move over Cornwall, for foodie family holidays there’s nowhere like the Cotswolds for a luxurious break where kids can live like kings. Home to some of the UK’s standard-setting gastro pubs including The Wild Rabbit, The Woolpack and The Lamb Inn, gourmet food in this rural region of rolling hills comes in an informal, cosy setting well-suited to families. And award-winning local food producers are reason alone for a road trip through the Cotswold’s honey-hued villages. Not one but two vast arboretums – Batsford and Westonbirt – allow kids to run wild under acres of spectacular trees, while Cotswold Country Park and Cotswold Water Park bring some beachy water sports fun.
Where to stay in the Cotswolds:
££ The Fish offers Swallows and Amazons fun with lake boating, treehouse accommodation and rooms in the old coach house where bistro and fine dining are on offer.
£££ Calcot & Spa sets the gold standard for country house hotels where families are front and centre, with a crèche, kids’ club and extensive kids’ menus, cooking classes, extravagant high teas and family rooms in all shapes and sizes.
Île de Ré, France
Best for baguettes and bikes on the beach
With sandy shores linked by a network of cycle paths, and every pretty painted village offering hire of tandems and tag-alongs, this is a two-wheel treat of a seaside retreat. Pack your bike basket with market fare and explore this pretty much flat 30km-long, 5km-wide island. At the north-western end, bird haven nature reserve Lilleau de Niges is a landscape of salt pans and marshes while the western peninsula comes with empty sandy beaches backed by pines and dunes, and oyster shacks where you can pluck, shuck and taste for next to nothing.
Where to stay in Île de Ré:
£ Campsites are the flavour of the day and Huttopia is a tried-and-tested spot among the pines with a top-notch café, pool and the beach a short bike ride away.
££ A salt-water-therapy-focused wellness retreat, Hotel Atalante has a restaurant where fresh, healthy food is front and centre, with summer months bringing a kids’ club and entertainment.
£££ Breakfasts at Le Clos Saint-Martin come with honey from the hotel’s hives and locally baked pastries plus interconnecting poolside suites with baby kit.
Best for fine Turkish food and water sports fun
Beloved by backpacking windsurfers in the ’70s and given a boutique make-over by the boho Istanbul crowd over the last decade, Alaçati (pronounced al-ur-cha-tur) is a Turkish delight for foodie family holidays. Dubbed the new Bodrum, this tiny town has far less glitz and a lot more traditional charm than its better-known neighbour. Expect cobbled streets lined with tumbledown Grecian houses (Alaçati was settled by Greek workers in the 1800s), indie boutiques, shabby chic cafes serving Turkish grills and chilled glasses of local rosé, and grandma-style restaurants dishing up traditional recipes to a culinary savvy crowd. The beaches of the sleepy Çesme Peninsula are 3km away while Alaçati Port, a bike-ride away, is the place for windsurfing lessons.
Where to stay in Alaçati:
£ ARTOTEL: This 2023 boutique opening has 13 rooms including family suites, a seasonal outdoor pool, and generous breakfasts.
££ Biblos Resort is a smart 194-room beachside resort with multiple pools, a kids’ club and spa. Set in Alaçati Port, it’s a great spot for water sports and windsurfing.
£££ Alavya, is a 25-room family-run boutique hotel in walled gardens, set in a hamlet of traditional houses centered around a sparkling strip of swimming pool. Breakfasts are banquets crowned with local honeycomb kids can take a spoon to. Despite feeling quite grown-up, this a place for child-friendly holidays, with babysitting, teddies at turndown and connecting rooms and suites.
Best for boat trips, pizza and pristine water
Just north of the Costa Smeralda’s luxe stronghold, a short hop from Olbia airport, this pretty little harbour town is surrounded by pristine beaches. Set in a deep inlet, sheltered from the strong winds prevalent along Sardinia’s north coast, Palau is packed with small restaurants serving handmade pasta, freshly grilled fish and plenty of pizza. Great day trips include boat rides around the archipelago of Maddalena with its pink beach and wild national park landscapes, the narrow gauge Trenino Verde (Little Green Train), navigating the island’s rugged hilly inland and the Tombs of the Giants, a mysterious archaeological site dating back to the Bronze Age.
Where to stay in Palau:
£ Part of the local Delphina hotel group, Park Hotel Cala di Lepre is a family friendly favourite, with a kids’ club (three to 14 years) and tasty local food.
££ Residence Il Mirto has 60 villa apartments set into the hillside surrounded by wild olive and juniper trees, with beach access, a salt-water pool, tennis courts and a great pizzeria.
£££ Lovely rustic chic whitewashed Villa Ivy sleeps eight across four bedrooms, with a pool, two kitted-out kitchens and kids’ kit including cots and highchairs.
Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique
Best for croissants on a Caribbean beach
French and West Indian culture and cuisines are a winning combination for families who visit St Lucia’s sister island. Like its better-known neighbour, Martinique offers a postcard perfect landscape of lush jungle interiors, rugged mountains and talc-white beaches. But here, you can also expect proper French restaurants serving ripe cheese, boulangeries selling croissants for beach breakfasts and roadside food shacks cooking family friendly specialties like grilled fish with ratatouille, and poulet boucané (smoked chicken) with a rainbow salad.
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And there’s plenty to do beyond eat and splash around in Martinique’s sparkling Caribbean waters. In the island’s south, the bays of Anse Noir and Anse Dufour respectively offer a novel black sand beach and spectacular snorkelling; kayaking trips are popular in the calm waters of the west, while surf breaks are a feature in the east. In the lively westerly resort town of Les Trois-Îlets, named after the three rocky islands just offshore and populated by distinctive brick-and-wood buildings roofed with antique tiles, you can pick up regular dolphin-spotting boat tours and check into a choice of elegant family friendly accommodation including an abundance of private villas found via the likes of Vrbo and Airbnb.
Where to stay in Martinique:
£ Pierre & Vacances Village Sainte-Luce is a spacious beach resort on the south coast.
££ In the west, La Suite Villa offers two- and three-bedroom candy-coloured villas, walking distance from the beach.
£££ Also in the south of the island, Club Med is a trusted destination for families.
Best for winter sun and delicious food tours
Delicious flat breads, flavoursome falafel and even camel burgers: Emirati food has become better represented on the menus of Dubai’s best restaurants. So along with sampling Michelin-starred offerings from some of the best international chefs at high-end restaurants like Hakkasan, Orfali Bros Bistro and Nobu, there’s great local cuisine, exceptional street eats and some really fun food tours to try out.
And fine dining in Dubai, given the Vegas-style excess, is far from a stuffy experience. Tasting menus at Ossiano at Atlantis, The Palm come with panoramic views of The Ambassador Lagoon, where thousands of marine animals are swimming around, while tables at Ristorante L’Olivo at Burj Al Arab’s Jumeirah centre around a giant aquarium – something to entertain younger diners during tasting menus.
Where to stay in Dubai:
£ The budget-friendly Rove brand has various locations citywide, but Rove at the Park comes with teen-friendly gaming rooms, a pool and a roller-coaster theme park on the doorstep.
££ Address Dubai Mall is home to a mega rooftop pool, a cracking kids’ club and the excitement of the Mall next door, with its vast ice rink, aquarium and virtual reality park.
£££ Ocean-themed, Atlantis, The Palm is home to Aquaventure, an integrated water park with more than 100 slides, children’s pools and play areas, plus an underwater aquarium theatre for fishy film nights and sessions with divers and aquarists.
Best for theme park thrills and upscale eats
Disney, done properly, doesn’t have to be all about fast rides and fast food. Certain areas of Orland’s theme park zones, and parts of the central state have some fabulous places for families to eat. Disney Springs is a waterfront hamlet of high-end cafés, restaurants and shops where international chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Morimoto serve showstopping food and you can try a smorgasbord of great American eats, from barbacoa food trucks to gourmet pretzels. Just north of Downtown, the Winter Park and Mills 50 areas have some standout dining championing the flavours of Vietnamese, Chinese and pan-American cuisine. Plus, some exceptional barbeque joints.
Where to stay in Orlando:
£ Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, set between Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort, comes with a waterfall-studded mega pool, classic buffet-style dining and the restaurants of Disney Springs right on its doorstep.
££ In Winter Park, the Alfond Inn comes with sub-tropical gardens, a rooftop pool and a restaurant serving generous portions of refined southern-style food.
£££ Four Seasons Resort Orlando has the luxe atmosphere of the Bahamas, ‘beach’ cabanas, a lazy river, waterpark and some serious five-star dining – with Disney’s nightly fireworks exploding over the palm trees.
For anime adventures and the food trip of a lifetime
Japan has become the go-to destination for families to blow the budget on a bucket-list trip. With its anime and samurai museums, robot-served restaurants, cos-play shops, neon-lit skyscrapers, conveyor belt sushi and noodles galore, Tokyo offers some serious bang, albeit for some serious buck. But while flights may be expensive, and high-end hotels likewise, transport, food and entertainment can be surprisingly affordable. And there’s so much to do beyond having an amazing food adventure, including the Studio Ghibli Museum, half-hour west of the city, for fans of the hit animated films, and Kiddy Town on Omotesando Road in Harajuku offering five floors of tax-free toy shopping.
Where to stay in Tokyo:
£ Set in a plush skyscraper, Keio Plaza Hotel comes with a rooftop pool backed by panoramic city views and 15 restaurants offering picky eaters almost infinite choice.
££ Above its flagship store in the heart of Tokyo, Muji Hotel is the sort of beautifully designed minimalist space you’d expect from the brand, with family rooms and a child-friendly atmosphere, plus one child under 12 stays free.
£££ Contemporary and decked with modern art, super sleek, Park Hotel Tokyo is a cool stay. One for aesthete families, certain rooms have sofa beds to accommodate children.