Active Outdoor Holidays for Families? Yes You Can!

When I had my daughter I imagined I’d need to give up on my much-loved active and outdoors holidays. My first love was for trips abroad filled with walking, cycling, tennis and even swimming and kayaking. Lazing on a beach vacations were not my thing at all. But I was willing to sacrifice such desires – at least for a while – for a much-wanted child. What happened next was unexpected!

For the first couple of years of my daughter’s life I resisted any “research” on active-style holidays believing that I would have to put her in childcare while I walked, cycled, dived or whatever. Then, when talking to other likeminded parents, I began to realise that there were other types of holidays out there. Holidays that would cater for grown ups and children who all wanted to be active together.

The next few years were spent on tennis holidays ­– these were tennis for adults and children in the Algarve (see Markson Tennis); running, swimming and cycling for families at Club La Santa on Lanzarote; surfing at the Gower Peninsula in South Wales while camping; and activity weekends in Scotland combining some low-level climbing with a bit of loch canoeing and some hill walking. We hired a campervan on a couple of occasions just for the adventure!

Active holidays for slightly older children

Then I discovered that there are walking, cycling and outdoors activity-based holidays to suit families with slightly older children. While I still hankered after a week of adrenaline pumping mountain biking in Spanish mountains or a fortnight climbing steep Swiss Alps or 10 days kayaking in Croatia, I knew this wouldn’t go down well with my seven-year-old daughter. But, still, I found there are a wealth of options for fairly active outdoorsy families.

Walking and cycling for a week or more is perfectly possible if you’re sensible about the planning. Keep distances realistic and offer lots of things to do en route, such as sightseeing, stops at village cafes and picnics. If you want someone else to have done the planning for you –­ and organise all the accommodation and luggage transfers en route – then all the better.

And so, over the years, we have enjoyed family cycling holidays in France, outdoors activity focused vacations in the Algarve and walking breaks in Scotland. Here, to whet you appetite for summer holidays 2013, are a few of my favourite active family holiday ideas:

Five great active holidays for families.

Pedalling holidays. Cycling the Danube offers flat, and often downhill, pedalling on a dedicated cycle path (see pic!). Traffic-free and mostly smooth, this is a very popular route for families to enjoy cycling together. There are lots of stop off points along the way to keep little ones happy and because your luggage is transferred for you between comfortable accommodations you only need to worry about your own pedalling and the lovely views all around you. You can even join a Danube Bike and Boat River Cruise, which offers the bonus of sleeping on a Danube cruiser boat at night and, when muscles tire, the chance to jump aboard the boat to rest those legs.

Paddling holidays: Canoeing and kayaking are simple to learn and offer an up-close-and-personal way to see the landscape. There is also the option to paddle a two-man boat with one adult and a child. The west coast of Scotland, Croatia and Sardinia are three fabulous places to set off for a family paddling adventure. One trip, offered by Wilderness Scotland, is a family-friendly holiday in Arisaig in Scotland’s Highlands. You’ll learn to kayak on the three-day holiday and witness a wealth of amazing wildlife.

Family beach adventures: Forget lazing on the beach (although that is possible in between the fun activities) and head to Portugal for a tailormade family adventure holiday. Aqua-Ventura organise exciting water-based activities, such as sea kayaking, diving, a boat trip to see dolphins and climbing. And at the end of each day, you can refuel on home-cooked food (and plenty of it!).

Walking the coast: Scotland’s stunning Fife Coastal trail holiday could be the perfect active trip for your family. There are plenty of stop off points en route so you can decide before you go how many miles you would like to walk in a day. Why not combine walking days with beach days in between, just to keep the kids smiling? The coast in this eastern part of Scotland offers a wealth of things to do on the beach and in pretty fishing villages.

Do you have any tips for great active and outdoorsy family holidays?

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