Your 2018 long-haul holiday planner
We're all going on a summer holiday! Or is it actually a spring, autumn or winter one? Whatever your season, we have a destination for you.
Are you in holiday planning mode? I’ll hazard a guess you are – as winter lingers on we’re all dreaming of sunnier climes, white sands and lazy, hazy evenings spent with a cocktail to hand. Heck, right now I’d even settle for a day clement enough to venture outside without wearing thermals – is that too much to ask?! Anyway, if you’re trying to work out where to go this year – and when – this one’s for you. I spoke to the very charming Tom McKee, travel oracle at long-haul family trip specialists, Turquoise Holidays. Tom gave me the lowdown on the best destinations for spring, summer, autumn and winter (because nobody wants to blithely rock up in the Caribbean during hurricane season), and urged me to ponder a few destinations that weren’t previously at the top of my family holiday list. Right Tom, my passport is packed and my sunnies are on – where to?
Where to go in… SPRING
Spring is what we call “shoulder season” in Thailand. In December, January and February you pay a premium but if shift your trip to March or April the prices are a fraction but the weather can still be great (the monsoon usually arrives on the west coast in late April). It’s often not a destination we think of first for family holidays because so many people go there aged 18 as backpackers to get drunk, and that tarnishes their perception, but it’s such a huge country and that backpacker route is just a tiny part of it. There are little slices of paradise hidden away if you know where to look. I’d recommend Elephant Hills – it’s a national park and basically this amazing wilderness with a luxury camp plopped into the middle of it, with rescue elephants.
Traditional high season is Dec, Jan and Feb here too but April and May can be brilliant even though it’s officially the start of their winter – I was there that time last year, wearing shorts and a T-shirt and swimming in the sea every day. What’s more, you can see all the natural beauty without hordes of other tourists getting in your way! If you went for two weeks over the Easter Holidays, you could travel around the South Island in a 4×4 (the beauty of New Zealand is all in the journey), seeing whales and dolphins, waterfalls and volcanos, exploring glowworm caves and trying white-water rafting. There’s an unbelievable amount there for kids to experience and, with temperatures in the mid-20s, it’s very comfortable.
Where to go in… SUMMER
BA started direct flights to these Indian Ocean islands this year (they take around 12 hours), so no need to wake up grumpy kids in the middle of the night to drag them off a plane. The Seychelles are just off the coast of Africa and in terms of culture, they feel more Caribbean than the rest of the Indian Ocean, with larger islands than the Maldives. If you like immersing yourself in nature, this is a good choice as there’s no significant urban centre – Mahé’s capital Victoria is the smallest capital in the world, and once you get onto the other 114 islands, they’re surprisingly under-developed. The hotels are well set up for kids – the Constance Ephélia, for example, has loads of inclusive watersports like kayaking, windsurfing and snorkelling to keep them happy.
Its proximity to the Maldives means people often think that Sri Lanka is rainy in the summer because the Maldives are. But while that’s true of the south coast, it’s such a varied island, in terms of topography and terrain, that it’s actually a year-round destination. And nowhere else within a 10 hour flight offers such a variety of experience – the wildlife, the culture, the history, the scenery, amazing hotels. Sri Lanka has got it all going on. You can tour the colonial-era tea plantations, go whale watching or take a guided hike along a shaded path to Sigiriya rock fortress, built on top of a huge boulder in the 5th century.
Where to go in…AUTUMN
The major benefit for families is that there’s hardly any time difference – it’s only one hour in South Africa, which means jetlag-free kids. It also means South Africa is very much doable for a week-long holiday in October half term. The weather is spot-on in autumn and more consistent than in the UK – temperatures of mid-high 20s. I’d recommend going on safari – there are lots of family friendly ones and there really is nothing else quite like it. It’s one of those experiences children never forget.
Going into the rainforest is on a lot of people’s buckets lists but many don’t know that there are awesome beach hotels on this tropical island (the world’s third largest) too – so you can combine both aspects. The Shangri La Rasa Ria hotel is great for children who love nature – they can become rangers for a day, and go out in the nature reserve with the rangers to see all sorts of primates, birdlife and elephants. Borneo’s rainy season is January/February but at this time of year it tends to be drier (although obviously it is a rainforest!) with temperatures in the high 20s/early 30s.
Where to go in…. WINTER
Our winter is traditionally the driest time in the Maldives and I think it’s a great choice for this time of year when in the UK we’re very low on vitamin D and sunlight. It’s basically a 10 hour flight direct to paradise. We tend to think of the Maldives as just for honeymooners but there’s actually an island to suit every type of person or group. Some of the larger islands have hotels with unbelievable kids clubs – kids clubs for children who say they don’t like kids clubs, with everything from snorkelling trips to cookery classes. And they’re very safe too, as the hotel leases the entire island.
A great choice for families as the bigger islands are only about 7 hours direct from the UK and it’s glorious here in January and February when the UK does its worst, weather-wise. Each island has its own culture and topography but if you want somewhere that’s a bit of an adventure, try the British Virgin Islands – they’re a bit niche, a bit off the map compared to somewhere like Antigua (you can’t fly direct), and less developed (some of the 60 islands are uninhabited). You can spend a whole day exploring beaches without coming across another tourist. Hit by the horrific hurricane of September 2017, they’re already rebuilding with over 60% of restaurants and 90% of charters back in business so you can feel good about helping the island recover too.
For more info, see Turquoise Holidays. Tel: 01494 678400.