What do you call someone travelling with children? A hero. Showing kids the world is an unforgettable experience. Getting them there and back with your sanity still intact can be a whole other thing. Certain types of travel seem off-limits: too far, too strenuous, too dangerous, or worst of all, too boring (we can hear the whining already). But don’t be so quick to put your safari adventure or European river cruise dream on hold until the kids are done college — the travel industry has your back with trips and tours designed with both kid and grownup fun in mind — and don’t worry about disturbing other travellers, these trips are made for families. Here are five kid-friendly adventures we’d brave any airport security line for.
1. A safari adventure in Tanzania
With the release of Disney’s live-action Lion King movie coming up next month, parents should prepare themselves for endless requests to see the real thing. G Adventures’ new National Geographic Family Journeys collection offers parents with kids ages seven and up a Serengeti Safari in the East African country of Tanzania. Starting out in Arusha, families and/or brave souls willing to travel with OPC (that’s other people’s children) will see elephants, lions, and zebras (oh my!) as the tour circles through Serengeti National Park and some surrounding villages. Kid-friendly highlights include making traditional crafts with local artisans, a visit to a Masai village, and (this one’s for the tired adults) a trip to a coffee farm. All Family Journey tours have two specially trained Chief Experience Officers (aka guides) on hand to make sure everyone has the trip of a lifetime.
2. A cycling trip through Morocco
You can tell by their name that Saddle Skedaddle has kids in mind when they design their customizable cycling trips. Children as young as two can be buckled into a baby seat while older children get their own bikes (and helmets, naturally). The eight-day Desert, Mountains and Coast guided tour takes families from Marrakech to the Sahara (think camels and camping under the stars) and on to the Atlas Mountains (there’s no climbing involved, promise). Afterwards, sun and sand give way to surf in the seaside towns of Sidi Kaouki and Essaouira where kids and parents are treated to a surf lesson (be prepared for your children to be way better at this than you are by having an excuse on hand: their centre of gravity is lower). The trip ends with a cycle back to Marrakech and a tour of the city’s grand bazaar.
3. A tour of Japan’s hidden gems (and snacks)
Take a manga and/or anime-obsessed teen on G Adventures’ Backroads of Japan tour and you’ll have them doing their homework and making their beds for months afterwards out of sheer gratitude. This once-in-a-lifetime trip starts of with a taste of Tokyo’s neon-lit streets before moving on to visit a castle in Matsumoto, a staggering Buddhist temple in Nagano, snow monkeys in their hot spring baths, and a tiny desert (or massive sand dunes) in coastal Tottori. The trip ends in Kyoto with a visit to an otherworldly (where ‘otherworldly’ equals ‘OMG so Instagrammable’ in teenspeak) bamboo forest that’s one of the trip’s many highlights. Any stress over the long flight from Canada to Japan can be dealt with by booking a ticket with a decent layover — time to wash up, stretch your limbs, and get something to eat that isn’t airplane food. G will even book your flights for you, giving you one less thing to worry about.
4. A castle-spotting cruise along the Rhine
You might not make the connection between the romance of a river cruise and travelling with kids but when you see firsthand how Uniworld’s Generations Collection of tours pulls it off, you’ll get it. Ashore or onboard, kids ages four to 17 on the Castles Along The Rhine cruise are treated to activities geared to their individual interests. Got a budding foodie on your hands? Sign them up for a strudel-making class. Music lover? Take them on the ‘Let’s Go Hike’ excursion to Assmanshausen to see the tiny music boxes adorned with singing mechanical birds and serenading violinists. Adrenaline junky? Uniworld has that covered too with an aerial cable car ride over the Rhine (no need to mention that it’s vineyards the grownups are gazing down longingly towards). Finally, the whole fam will be excited to bike or sail past the Rhine’s Marksburg Castle. This UNESCO World Heritage site has stood since the year 1100 and is just one of many castles travellers will spot on this eight-day trip.
5. Sea kayaking in the wilds of Scotland
In search of an athletic adventure for adults that introduces the small people in their lives to the wonders of the great outdoors? Check out Wilderness Scotland’s Family Sea Kayaking Holiday set in the gorgeous Scottish Highlands. Structured for first-time kayakers and veterans alike, adults can hone their skills while kids pick up a paddle for the first time (or vice versa). Safety-focused local guides are experts out on the water, steering these small group tours in double and single kayaks (for the independent teen who wants her own boat) along the Sound of Arisaig, where paddlers explore the lochs, visit small islands, take in views of the Highland mountains, and keep an eye out for the ocean’s inhabitants: the local dolphin population. They’re not just in the Carribean!