Looking for inspiration for that much-anticipated family getaway? We’ve selected 10 places where fun and good food is guaranteed, from easy access UK escapes and no-fly French ski trips to European beach breaks, exciting activity holidays and that big bucket list trip to see the pyramids in Egypt or the wonders of Japan.
Top 10 family travel destinations 2022
1. Kent: stay overnight at a nature reserve
Treat yourself to a sleepover at the only national nature reserve in England in which you can spend the night. Elmley Nature Reserve, on the nearby Isle of Sheppey, comes with bell tents and farmhouse cottages to rent, owls to spot swooping low over the marshlands, and a bevy of Kent’s best farm shops nearby. You’re perfectly placed to explore further afield with the seafood shacks at Whitstable and the Cathedral city of Canterbury just 45 minutes away. Don’t miss The Goods Shed, a farmers' market-cum-foodhall adjacent to Canterbury railway station, packed with picnic-worthy local produce and a lovely rustic café. 15 minutes east, there’s more wild fun to be had this year. By spring 2022, a small herd of wild European bison will be introduced to Blean Woods. Hunted to extinction, it’s been thousands of years since free-roaming bison were an integral part of our UK landscapes but a £1m project led by Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust sees the beasts return, in the hope that they’ll do their natural job of rewilding, managing forests by grazing on bark and felling weak trees. Once settled, ‘safari’ style nature tours will allow careful approach on foot.
2. Greece: small islands & mainland escapes
Avoid the crowds and make a beeline for Greece’s bountiful choice of little islands characterised by family-run hotels and authentic local food. Follow in the footsteps of savvy Greek travellers and try Agistri. One of the closest islands to Athens (an hour by hydrofoil) its fragrant with pine forests offering easy hikes down to the astoundingly clear waters of the Saronic Gulf, plus a good selection of laid-back psarotaverna specialising in oysters, mussels, octopus and squid, and kakavia fish stew. And don’t forget the mainland. An excellent base in the Athens-adjacent Peloponnese peninsular, Nafplio is an elegant harbour town below ancient fortresses with a lively local dining scene fuelled by weekending Athenians and some great wineries nearby. Hotel Ippoliti is one of Nafplio’s exemplary Italianate mansion hotels complete with family suites, a pool and a sister restaurant that tops the town’s dining spots. Both can be paired with a short stay in Athens, for visits to the Acropolis and the excellent adjacent museum.
3. Northumberland: dark skies & deep history
2022 will provide a powerful opportunity to plug kids into ancient history as the UNESCO-listed structure that formed the north-west frontier of the Roman empire for some three centuries marks its 1,900th birthday. Get your hands dirty at live excavations and join in with a year-long programme of outdoor performances, costumed re-enactments and sunset music concerts, along with a new illuminated garden, al fresco art installations plus a Roman Big Birthday Bash in August. And with the wall’s footprint stretching 73-miles from North Sea to Irish Sea coasts, taking in the counties of Northumberland, Cumbria and Tyne & Wear means you’re in excellent territory to combine a family foray with foodie treats. Stay over at YHA The Sill, the region’s smartest hostel (with private family rooms) adjoining the National Landscape Discovery Centre whose café/bar serves family friendly ‘supper club’ dinners, take-outs and cooked breakfasts. Set in one of the UK’s official Dark Skies regions, it’s great for campfire stargazing, too.
4. Rome: take a kudos-guaranteed teen trip
The Eternal City has added contemporary gloss to its ancient foundations with the recent arrival of some affordable chic hotels – a boon if you’re travelling to Rome with style conscious teens – a fun, foodie destination with plenty street eats, and accessible ancient history. Funky, inclusive and affordable: The Hoxton, Rome has set up shop in the boho northern Salaria district, while W Rome has brought playful pizzazz to venerable Via Veneto, and Mama Shelter Roma has transformed two modernist office blocks in the Prati district. Hit Mama’s rooftop restaurant overlooking the banks of the Tiber, or wallow in its very modern take on Roman baths with pool and hammam. And Rome’s makeovers span the years, vividly bringing those ancient history lessons to life. For the first time in centuries, you can now walk Rome’s ancient Aurelian walls – get initiated with a free city walking tour. The Colosseum is soon to have a new floor, allowing visitors to see the ancient amphitheatre from a gladiator's vantage point for the first time in two centuries, as well as new tours already accessing its subterranean chambers. Some tour operators even offer gladiator school as part of Rome holidays.
5. Suffolk: viking treasures & treetop fun
Sutton Hoo is home to one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made – the early medieval burial site of an Anglo-Saxon king in an ocean-going ship, surrounded by a wealth of treasure – and since 2020’s £4m revamp the site has become infinitely more family friendly. Climb a viewing tower over the digs, see a full-size sculpture of the ship’s vast hull. Visit Tranmer House – home of Edith Pretty, who commissioned the 1930s excavations – for an interactive story of the ship’s discovery, juxtaposed with the looming global events that made its excavation so urgent. Head further inland, to Suffolk’s leafy Brecks region for a forest biking and homegrown food and treetop ziplines. Or go coastal with a stay in a vintage American Airstream trailer, within dashing distance of the smokehouses, oyster bars and seafood shacks at Southwold, Aldeburgh and Thorpeness.
6. Egypt: discover the Boy King’s treasures
2022 is a big year from families fascinated by ancient Egypt. It’s exactly a century since British Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of boy king Tutankhamun, and also when Jean-François Champollion unlocked the mystery of hieroglyphs by deciphering the Rosetta Stone. And there’s never been a better time to explore the associated treasures. This year, the long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum finally opens its doors in Cairo, a new £600m site set two miles from the Giza pyramids. Said to be the world’s the largest museum dedicated to one civilisation, it will house, among innumerable other treasures, some 5000 items from King Tut’s tomb, including a gold mask of his face and his royal undergarments. Operators are offering a number of new group tours and tailor-made trips for families including Responsible Travel and On The Go Tours, taking in Cairo, the pyramids, the Valley of the Kings and Red Sea beach resorts.
7. Nottingham: stay in Robin Hood’s lair
Take your band of merry men to stay deep in Sherwood Forest in wood cabins equipped with hot tubs and BBQs, for archery lessons, ranger-led nature tours and Robin Hood trails through the forest’s 450-acre National Nature Reserve & RSPB centre. Then head to Nottingham Castle, newly revamped in 2021 to the tune of £30 million, for longbow-firing and sparring with Little John as part of new interactive exhibits dedicated to Nottingham’s most infamous rebel and his crew of outlaws. With new adventure playgrounds, ghost tours and art galleries, the 950-year-old fortress has been brought bang up to date. Nottingham itself has some great places to eat including family favourites, Annie’s Burger Shack and mega deli-cum-foodhall Delilah.
8. Montenegro: mountains, beaches & Balkan culture
This Balkan beauty packs big drama into its small expanse: snow-capped peaks tower over turquoise lakes, white water rivers run through five national parks surrounded by charming rural villages, all fronted by a postcard perfect Adriatic coast. Montenegro, one 18th the size of the UK, is accessible terrain for an action-packed family activity holiday – something an increasing number of tour operators, including Families Worldwide and Utracks are taking advantage of. And with the 2021 opening of a One & Only resort in Portonovi, a brand renowned for its bells and whistles kids’ clubs and fine dining (Montenegro’s offering has a Locatelli beachfront venue and Asian Tapas from ex-Nobu chef Yannick Bayjoo), you could reward yourself with some downtime after all that hiking, biking, kayaking and zip-lining.
9. Japan: New family adventures
Interest in family trips to Japan was on the up pre-Pandemic, and with the Olympics keeping the country firmly in frame, the destination remains on the wish list for that much-delayed Big Trip. Families fans of Studio Ghibli animated classics can visit the studio where the likes of Spirited Away and Ponyo were made, with tours revealing an exclusive short film screening. Further afield, you can re-live Princess Mononoke at a new Studio Ghibli-esque glampsite in a nature park an hour’s bullet train ride from the city of Nagoya. Stay in Nordic-Japanese style wood cabins set among the trees in the densely wooded Uga Valley, said to resemble the film’s fictional forest. Meanwhile over in Osaka, Super Nintendo World recently opened in Universal Studios, and tour operators including Cox & Kings are taking in much of these new offerings on adventurous trips specially designed for families.
10. French Alps: a direct ride to the slopes
Eurostar’s defunct winter ski train has been reanimated by Travelski Express, so skiers seeking no-fly access to the French Alps can once again board a direct rail service from London (Dec-April). The Friday night outbound arrives in Moutiers and Bourg-Saint-Maurice in time to hit the slopes Saturday morning (traditionally a day lost to travel on a week’s ski holiday), and with booze banned this won’t be the party train it once was. The Saturday daytime return takes in epic French scenery: the Alps into Lyon, the Saône valley, Macon and the Burgundy region. The Eurostar train is operated as a charter by owners of regional French resorts. Tickets are available as part of ski packages to seven destinations including family favourites, Meribel and La Plagne. There are plenty of chalet options, many right on piste, some with excellent catering and even swimming pool access.
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