My Top 10 Family Holiday Destinations By Shelley Whittaker
Established in 2016, Wander & Luxe is an outlet for all things travel and parenting.
Originally from Perth, Western Australia, Shelley Whittaker has been living the expat-life in York, UK, for the past 2 years with her husband, young daughter Mackenzie and two beagles.
Mackenzie arrived in the summer of 2017 and Shelley has been navigating the previously unknown territory of travelling with a baby and now toddler on her blog, sharing her tips along the way.
Here is Shelley’s post on her fave family hols.
Before starting a family, my husband and I were determined to keep travelling as much possible and while our adventures look somewhat different now from travelling solo or as a couple (sick down clothes, stomping down plane aisles), my daughter Mackenzie will be 2 in July and so far, she’s been lucky enough to visit 15 countries – ticking off must-sees on a bucket list she’s not even made yet!
More than anything, I love showing Mackenzie the world and opening her eyes to different places, cultures and experiences.
Below are my top 10 destinations and holidays as a family of 3.
1. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Our most recent adventure was to Dubrovnik in Croatia over a May Bank Holiday weekend. A picturesque city with terracotta roofs as far as the eye can see and populated with a maze of hidden streets lined with boutiques, jewellers and fresh seafood restaurants, there’s literally not a corner that isn’t Instagrammable! As a family, we enjoyed a stroll around the Dubrovnik Aquarium which explores sea fauna, and even a Game of Thrones tour where so much of the series was shot. If we were to visit during the summer months then the majority of our days would be spent soaking up Vitamin D on their world-famous beaches such as Banje, Sveti Jakov or Šulići amongst many. (First photo of Dubrovnik by Inera Isovic on Unsplash).
2. Nice, France
Nice is our happy place so we couldn’t wait to take our little girl there for the first time as a toddler. This city has such a relaxed pace of life and you can spend hours wandering along the Promenade des Anglaise, stopping for a swim, ice-cream or glass of rose along the way. If you feel the need to explore further afield then you can easily access the timelessly glamorous Cannes, St Tropez or Monaco and given the cuisine revolves around pizza, pasta and seafood, the kids will always find something they can eat. (Read about Honest Mum’s adventures in the South of France here).
3. Dubai, UAE
Build it and they will come – that’s the mentality of Dubai. The desert has been transformed into one impressive city with endless activities to keep your little ones happy. From indoor ski slopes, desert safaris to water parks and even a Legoland, it’s the ideal getaway for kids of all ages. FYI folks, the bottomless Friday brunches are in a league of their own, and you’ll lose yourself in the shopping malls which stock everything from designer fare to diamonds galore. The hotels are opulent and plentiful but surprisingly, won’t break the bank. Plus, the weather is warm for the majority of the year which can be a welcome reprieve from winters at home back in Blighty.
4. Budapest, Hungary
We travelled to Budapest to celebrate my daughter’s first birthday as it coincided with the F1 Hungary Grand Prix my husband was excited about! I didn’t know much about the city or what it had to offer before we arrived but soon discovered their famous thermal baths (visit Szecheny Thermal Bath) and never wanted to leave. The Big Bus Tours are an effortless way to spot the famous landmarks such Parliament Building, Grand Synogue, the Royal Palace and Heroes Square. The Budapest Zoo is one of the oldest in the world and delighted Mackenzie so do go see the giraffes being fed if you’re there.
5. New York, New York
We all know this is the city that never sleeps – and neither did we with our teething 5-month-old! We went to NY for the first time as a family of 3 for Mackenzie’s first Christmas and despite the teething episodes by night, during the day she was utterly fascinated with the hustle and bustle, lapping up the bright lights and magnetic energy of the city. We visited Santa Claus at Macy’s, shopped at the Christmas Markets in Central Park and went to Maddison Square Garden for the basketball game on Christmas Day. I was startled by how accommodating everyone was in the restaurants and pubs we visited, as I expected to receive plenty of eye rolls when we arrived with a little one but New Yorkers are super friendly and we’d visit again as a little family in a heartbeat.
6. Paris, France
We’ve visited Paris with Mackenzie twice now – once in winter and then again in the summertime. The highlight of the winter trip was a visit to Disneyland which was made extra magical as it snowed. Mack was very young then so we could only take her on a couple of the novelty rides, and many were closed due to the snow but it was worth the trip for the baby merchandise alone (is there anything cuter than a baby in Mouse ears). During the summer, we ventured out to Chantilly for the Prix de Diane Horse Race which is a family-orientated Race Day where we enjoyed bubbles and a picnic in the sun while watching the fillies frolic by.
7. York, England
I couldn’t compile a list without mentioning our current hometown of York, England. An breathtakingly beautiful city steeped in history and culture, there’s so much to enjoy there. You can walk the city walls, take a boat along the River Ouse, enjoy afternoon tea at the famous tea house of Bettys or partake in a chocolate tour. There’s the Jorvic Viking Centre for a hit of history and boutique hotels that accommodate families with ease, like the Hotel Du Vin. Bliss.
8. Santorini, Greece
Mackenzie was 9 months old and happy to be in a baby carrier when we visited Santorini which meant we could navigate the otherwise rugged landscape Santorini is famous for. I wouldn’t advise a pushchair so head there with either babies or children who don’t mind a long walk. Despite the rockier terrain, the blissfully romantic scenery and dreamy sunsets are so spectacular, no photo could do them justice. Greek cuisine is divine too of course (fresh, seasonal, vibrant garlic-infused dishes usually drizzled in olive oil), and there is tons for families to enjoy such as the Cable Car at Fira, traditional donkey rides and boating adventures in the pristine waters.
9. Margaret River, Western Australia
The South West of Australia will always hold a special place in my heart as I’d dreamed of taking my daughter there well before she came into our lives. It’s situated close to our hometown of Perth and prides itself on being kid-friendly which it really is. Everywhere we visited had stockpiles of toys and colouring books to keep kids busy as well as sandpits and playgrounds strategically located so parents could enjoy their food and drink whilst the little ones played. There are endless beaches, heaps of local produce on offer and many family inspired activities such as the Yallingup Maze, Countrylife Farm or Ngilgi Caves.
10. St Maarten, Caribbean
Sun, sand and sea. Enough said. The crystal-clear blue waters of the Caribbean are guaranteed to make the perfect backdrop for a family holiday of a lifetime and nowhere beats St Maarten in my opinion. An idyllic escape from the British winter and a relatively easy commute via Miami, you will love it there. Whilst this small island was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017, it can not be denied, its natural beauty. Its natural features include pretty beaches, lagoons and salt pans and if you’re an aviation lover like we are, you’ll be happy spending days on-end at Maho Beach watching the planes approach, gliding over the beach. Beautiful.
I hope I have inspired your family wanderlust and shown you that travelling with a young family is not only possible but worthwhile too!