During those awkward years when your offspring are transitioning from child to teen, family holidays can be tricky. Thankfully, we’ve found some places to stay which work perfectly for the tween age.
Cities are Cool
This is a good age to discover cities together as a family; stamina levels have improved, eating out is no longer an ordeal, and the lure of bright lights, shopping, and iconic sights will appeal.
Berlin exudes cool, with a unique history, lots of starchitecture, easy transportation, urban art and independent boutiques. Ackselhaus & Blue Home is in leafy Prenzlauer Berg, which abuts the Berlin Wall, and has adventurous quirky decor and apartments and suites with kitchenettes.
Tweens are usually confident swimmers, and it’s an ideal time to learn new water-based skills. Stand-up paddle-boarding, kayaking, sailing, surfing and snorkelling are all good candidates.
To please everyone, base yourselves at an activity-focused coastal retreat which offers a combo of watersports. Modern and bright OceanBlue Portugal is 5 minutes from beaches in a national park in the unspoilt western Algarve, and offers sea safaris to secret coves, surfboards and wetsuits to hire, SUP and windsurfing, and a pool on site.
We all have them, and having kids (itself a tick off the list!) can delay achieving cherished dreams. So if you’ve always longed to swim with dolphins, climb a volcano or see a tiger in the wild, now is a good time.
Talking of tigers, luxurious tented jungle camp Sher Bagh in Rajasthan is next door to the famed Ranthambhore National Park, which offers spectacular wildlife via jeep safaris (tigers not guaranteed but it’s one of the best places for them), a swimming pool, fabulous food and camel rides.
Most tweens turn their noses up at kids clubs, but there are places that have designed them especially for this age group. And if the property is in an interesting location, so much the better for everybody.
Oman is hailed for its spectacular coastline, ravishing desert landscapes and unparalleled hospitality. Luxurious beach resort Six Senses Zighy Bay has pool villas and amazing activities – from scuba diving to Arabic cookery classes. Its teens kids club offers adventures hikes, wadi swimming, kayaking, raft building, abseiling and photography skills.
Back to Nature
When the kids are older you can really start to go off-grid (although WiFi is usually advisable for motivation!). Smaller kids can be scared by dark nights, but parents have more confidence in letting 10+ year olds roam wild with less supervision.
There are only a few places in England with dark skies and open spaces. Swinton Bivouac is a 20,000-acre estate of rolling meadows, walking trails and dry-stone walls in the Yorkshire Dales, an informal haven of yurts and wooden lodges with wood-burning stoves. There’s a Forest School in season, a birds of prey centre and a cookery school, castles and waterfalls nearby, and the on-site cafe has WiFi!
It’s a relief when your children are old enough to aim for more adventurous locations. Creepy-crawlies, heat, humidity, bumpy roads, unfamiliar food can all deter the less intrepid.
Costa Rica delivers a safe family-friendly destination whose many highlights include lush rainforests, plentiful wildlife, and pristine beaches. Enjoy all when staying at Alma del Pacifico, a colourful villa and spa resort set on a magnificent Pacific shore. There’s surfing, zip-lining and horse-riding nearby, plus boat trips and the famous Manuel Antonio National Park, which is 45 minutes away.
Going wild in the country becomes a more attractive proposition too. Kids get lots more independence to roam, are more likely to enjoy walking and foraging, and can go wildlife-spotting.
One of our all-time favourites is organic farm Fattoria Barbialla Nuova found in the depths of wild Tuscany; converted farm buildings share swimming pools and 500 hectares of woodland, hills and pasture. Truffle-hunt with the local dog in season, pick wild herbs, cherries and figs, look for wild boar and porcupines, learn to cook pasta, play boules or try fly-fishing.
Somewhere that has all things for all the family. The west coast of the US or the southern coast of South Africa make superb holiday destinations for this age group: incredible scenery, good quality kid-friendly food, lovely weather, cinematic cities and endless activities.
Check in to boutique hotel Cavallo Point Lodge, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, for unrivalled views and plenty of space to roam. The tons of things to do include visiting a seal sanctuary, boat trips across the Bay, hiking along the cliffs, riding on cable cars, cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge, whale-watching in season, meeting some of the world’s biggest trees, visiting the Academy of Sciences, going on a mural tour, discovering Mexican food, hitting the beach…
Or, head 2 hours east of Cape Town to wilderness retreat Grootbos, for unique fynbos vegetation and family-friendly lodges with a swimming pool. There’s whale-watching (June-December), horse-riding along incredible beaches, caves to explore, tree planting, picnics, treasure hunts around the grounds, boat trips to see penguins and seals, and nature trails galore.
Learn a New Skill
This is the age to acquire knowledge in more depth. From cooking to sports, lessons and classes for tweens are offered by many family-friendly places to stay, which gives a structure and purpose to your holiday.
The riding school at Irish country house and equestrian playground The Lodge at Castle Leslie offers special packages for children over 7. There are 21 miles of cross-country rides to discover. And if your other child(ren) aren’t pony-mad, there’s tennis, basketball, clay pigeon shooting, fishing and kayaking on offer too.