Forget Easter eggs, it’s time to take those little lambs on holiday, writes Joanna Booth.
Summer is too busy. Christmas is too fiddly, with all those family members to visit. And the half terms simply aren’t long enough.
To my mind, Easter is the perfect school holiday. It’s a time of transition. Spring is doing its thing, and while Europe’s beaches haven’t really hit the boil, temperatures in the southern Med are perfect for an active break. Yet you can still hit the tail end of the ski season or spot the northern lights if chilly thrills appeal. And with a solid fortnight, long-haul travel really comes into its own. We’ve rounded up some of the best Easter breaks based on age – for tots up to the age of seven, tweens from eight to 12, and teens from 13 and up – so you can find one to fit each client.
What young families are capable of taking on is rather subjective. Some parents may be champing at the bit to get back to their adventurous ways, while others, taking their first tottering steps towards a family holiday, may prefer the simplicity of a more manageable resort stay.
For the latter, Al Fresco Holidays recommends La Croix du Vieux Pont, a holiday park just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Calais. Indoor soft play and a retractable roof over the family pool, shallow kids’ pool and spray park – all heated – weather-proof this trip to France so early in the year. When the sun is out, there are three playgrounds and activities including go-karting, trampolining and cycling, with kid-sized bikes and baby seats available. Seven nights in a two-bedroom mobile home plus a standard car on the Dover-Calais ferry is just £460.
“Some parents may be champing at the bit to get back to their adventurous ways, while others may prefer the simplicity of a more manageable resort stay.”
If sun is key, budgets are bigger and they’re game to go long-haul, Tui suggests the Riu Santa Fe in Los Cabos, Mexico. It’s a 24-hour all-inclusive with an on-site splash park and a kids’ club for over fours – a week at Easter starts from £1,120 per person, including flights.
Adventure can be on the cards, even for very young children. Families Worldwide brings Morocco into play for kids of two and over with its Atlas Mule Train trip, a nine-night adventure that includes a horse-drawn carriage ride around Marrakech, four days in the Atlas Mountains (adults walk, kids can ride mules) and then a beach stay at Essaouira.
Solo parents can benefit from the security and companionship of an organised tour, and Intrepid Travel’s 10-day Northern India Family Holiday for Solo Parents is open to children of five and over. Explore bazaars, marvel at the Taj Mahal and even spot tigers – they’ll think The Jungle Book has come to life.
Three flight-free breaks
Find fun come rain or shine at Butlin’s, where Easter activities, including a Spring Farmyard and Easter Egg Hunt, suit the very youngest. The Bognor Regis resort has a huge indoor pool facility with a toddler area, plus football classes from age two.
Haven parks have plenty for tweens, from bushcraft to archery, and at the Craig Tara park, the new Lighthouse Harbour Adventure Village is an all-weather facility with rope courses, climbing walls and crazy golf.
Easter at Disneyland Paris – accessible by train or car – combines all the kids’ favourite characters, with Frozen celebrations continuing until May, and Marvel Super Heroes, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America and Captain Marvel, arriving at the end of March.
This age bracket is the easiest to book for. They’re not too old for fun-packed stays at hotels with all the bells and whistles, and age-appropriate adventure tours abound.
If it’s the first time the family has gone beyond fly-and-flop, a familiar destination can calm parental nerves. Activities Abroad has a new, week-long Active Family Adventure in Tenerife, with thrills including snorkelling, whale-watching, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, zip-lining and a cable car ride up Mount Teide. It’s maximum fun, minimum fuss, staying in one hotel all week, in the characterful north coast town of Puerto de la Cruz.
Also staying at a single centre – a lodge on the Arctic Circle – Exodus Travels’ Finnish Winter Adventure can bring snowy magic and sightings of the northern lights as late as April. This time of year sees long hours of daylight, leaving plenty of time for snowshoeing, dog-sledding and, for the bold, ice-climbing.
“Thrills include snorkelling, whale-watching, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, zip-lining and a cable car ride up Mount Teide.”
For something farther afield, try Costa Rica – it’s small and safe, with well-established infrastructure and a thoroughly exotic range of landscapes and wildlife. Sunvil suggests a 12-night trip, staying in a jungle lodge in Tortuguero National Park, traversing canopy walkways and swimming in hot springs in the shadow of Volcano Arenal, and ending with a stay near Manuel Antonio’s beaches in a resort where you can spot sloths, toucans and iguanas in the grounds.
For parents who’d prefer to combine action for the kids with adult downtime, Gold Medal recommends a stay at Centara Grand Beach Resort in Phuket. With a water park featuring a lazy river and slides, a kids’ club, children’s playground and sports centre, there should be more than enough to keep the youngsters entertained while their parents relax with a book or spend time in the spa. Seven nights with breakfast starts from £1,179 per person including flights.
Safaris with kids
Classic Collection Holidays director of product and supply Alex Gavalda recommends Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa for safaris with younger kids. “It’s in a malaria-free zone and has the Big Five. Even under-sixes can enjoy a private, 90-minute game drive with their parents.” He suggests combining Madikwe with a stay in Cape Town where they can see penguins, and time at Sun City, which has a water park and crocodile village.
G Adventures’ new National Geographic Family Journeys feature an Easter Serengeti Safari. It’s for over-sevens and anti-malarials are necessary but the game viewing is iconic, visiting both the Serengeti plain and the Ngorongoro crater.
Ah, teenagers – perhaps the trickiest customers of all. Offer action, adventure and access to others of their own age to avoid the grunts, groans and sighs that signal dissatisfaction.
Luxury family favourite Sani Resort is starting the season with a teen-focused bang, with its new Bear Grylls Survival Academy launching on April 10. Teens can take part in survival skills training, including shelter and raft building and wild food, with classes starting from €40 per day.
“Carnival Panorama features Sky Zone, a trampoline park and challenge area with a climbing wall, jousting beam and tug of war contests.”
Caribtours recommends the Annabel Croft Tennis Academy at Algarve super-resort Pine Cliffs. Coaching courses during the Easter holidays will get any budding Venus or Roger Centre Court-ready for the summer term, and a seven-day, room-only stay with five days of coaching for the whole family starts from £2,739 for two adults and two children.
Cruise lines are getting in on the teen market, increasing facilities tailored to their needs. MSC reports that 40% of its under-18 passengers are now teens, and new flagship MSC Grandiosa – sailing in the Med during the Easter holidays – features three new activities: a dance crew competition, drone relay race and a spy mission.
Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Panorama, is sailing from Long Beach along the Mexican Riviera, and features Sky Zone, a trampoline park and challenge area with a climbing wall, jousting beam and tug of war contests. There’s also a 24-hour video arcade, some fairly hardcore waterslides and two teens’ clubs – Circle C for 12-14s, and Club O2 for 15-17s.
Adventure tours also present a great opportunity for family bonding. The average age of children on Explore’s 11-day Vietnam Family Adventure Tour is 14, and the highlights – kayaking in Halong Bay, trying the traditional martial art of Kinh Van, and learning to make Vietnamese doughnuts from a homestay in the Mekong Delta – suit teens perfectly.
Ask the expert
“Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom lets toddlers meet their favourite Disney characters and has many gentle rides without height restrictions. Tweens love the animal and marine life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and SeaWorld Orlando. And no teen could be bored with the new Universal Orlando Resort thrill rides – Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. My pick for family stays are the new Universal Endless Summer Resort Dockside and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Both are conveniently close to the parks and offer benefits such as early admission.”
Malcolm Davies, product destination manager, Funway Holidays
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