Dreaming about your next international vacation but can’t decide where? Your search ends here!
“…people don’t take trips—trips take people”
- John Steinbeck in Travels With Charley
There is nothing quite like the thrill of travelling with family. Yes, it takes a minor miracle or two to find a restaurant that caters to all of your needs. Yes, it means no clubbing in Ibiza with Leonardo di Caprio and (blech) Justin Bieber. But it can also mean a lot of quality time spent with those you love most (we presume). For the younger members, it is an opportunity to broaden their horizons and learn how to acclimatise away from the comfort zones of their home-castles. For the grandparents, it is a chance to see the places they’ve read about and seen on television all their lives. And for those of you – in between – it is the perfect antidote to a routine vacation at your parents’ place every summer.
The Great Indian Family is travelling together, and how. Just last month, we were greeted with the site of a van-load of Indian tourists proudly wearing “Jayammamma’s Sixtieth Birthday” T Shirts and traversing the Uffizi Gallery together. We were floored by their sense of camaraderie and adventure, and slightly jealous that assorted cousins can be on baby duty while the others take in the Renaissance Art. So the next time you’re planning a “phoren” vacation, instead of depositing your little tyke with your grandparents, consider asking them to come along!
Here are some of the cities that have a little something for all ages (and sizes):
Why We Recommend It: The best part about a holiday in Bali? The fact that Indonesia is one of the few countries in the world where us Indians don’t need a visa! And that means that if you have an extra cousin who decides to join in the last minute, you don’t need to panic.
But seriously Bali has so much going for the group travellers that it is fast gaining traction as a “destination wedding” location for a kind of Indian tourists. We recommend splitting your time between a few days of sun n sand and a few of culture. Depending on the age – and the comfort level with travelling – of your family, you could choose to stay in one of those all-inclusive resorts of Seminyak and Nusa Dua, or head further north to Ubud. Not only is Ubud easier on the pocket, but it’s also the perfect place for the full Eat Pray Love Treatment. The children can enjoy elephant rides at the touristy Elephant Reserve, or spend time exploring the seriously fun/creepy Monkey Forest, the grandparents can trek to a Hindu temple or two, and you can indulge in some of the most wonderful spa treatments of the world and shop for some of the most gorgeous trinkets and tchotchkes you’ve seen.
Begin each day with a gentle hike up the paddy fields, attend a Balinese cooking demonstration in the afternoon, and end your day sipping beer and eating rijsttafel in the Lotus Cafe.
Really, life can’t get any better.
Why we recommend it: Those gruff Turks – they love their little ones. Your child will be accosted by grannies pinching her cheeks, offered free sweets and toys, and a princess treatment wherever she visits.
Istanbul is full of the kind of delights that make up a young child’s imagination. The serpentine lanes of the Grand Bazaar, full of bright useless trinkets that you MUST have at that moment, delicious locum in every single colour of the rainbow, and the hundreds of playgrounds with the Bosphorous at the backdrop. We’ve had success with our toddler even in places like Istanbul Modern, because even the art they curate is a little more “fun”. The grown ups will love their visits to the Topkapi Palace, and all ages are likely to sigh in amazement at their first sight of the Blue Mosque or the Hagia Sofia. It helps that all of Istanbul’s architectural wonders are surrounded by gardens and open spaces, and never get too crowded anyway.
A particular kind of child (not ours) will also find much to enjoy in chasing the hundreds of imperial cats that fill every alleyway of the delightful old town.
While we wouldn’t recommend a side trip to the Cappadocia unless everyone in your travel group is super fit, there are plenty of other nearby escapes- including Anatolya for some sun, and Ephesus for the sight of majestic ruins.
Cape Town, South Africa
Why we recommend it: Whales for the children, wine for the grown ups!
Oh Cape Town! With your beaches, and a wine district WITHIN the city- and an occasionally lazy walrus sunning himself near the broadwalk – who can resist your charms? Not the kids who can commune with creatures of all stripes from baboons to penguins to whales to walruses; and all this without an expensive Safari! Not the parents who can’t resist the full bodied Pinotage wines. Not the teenagers who will love the strenuous trek up the Table Mountain, or the LA-style beach shacks at Camps Bay, and definitely not any one with a passing interest in history for whom a visit to the stormy Robben Islands- the site of Mandela’s incarceration- is a must see.
Based on the composition of your group, make a detour to the scenic Stellenbosch Wine District, or a two day trek to the Kruger. If you have ten days do both!
San Jose, Costa Rica
Why we recommend it: Stunning beaches, incredible tropical rainforests, great for just chilling
Pura Vida!, or the full life, is how locals describe Costa Rica, and a few days in this tiny Central American country will convince you that they are not far from the truth. Base yourself in San Jose, the capital city, and enjoy its charming restaurants, colourful cafes and the boisterous downtown. Hire a car and drive along the Pan American Highway – the longest motorable road in the world that connects 18 countries in North, Central & South America – to the neably town of Grecia, renowned for its pretty church and delightful local artifacts. Plan a couple of days for the Corcovado & Tortuguero National Parks and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to introduce your kids to the wonderful world of turtles, tapirs, sloths, howlers, macaws, butterflies and many other wonders – nearly a quarter of Costa Rica’s land mass is in protected national parks. Don’t forget to take a canopy ride in the forests – your parents and your kids will squeal in joy as they go sliding along the sky kissing tree trops. Enjoy a caipirinha while taking a lazy swim in the stunning blue waters of the Pacific or the Caribbean. And just when you think it can’t get any better, take a short drive to the active Arenal Volcano – enjoy the hot springs during the day and watch the red lava light up the black sky as you enjoy your dinner.
From adrenalin thumping adventures to languid luxury, Costa Rica has it all.
Prague, Czech Republic
Why we recommend it: Medieval charm paired with quirky modernity, easy going vibe, convenient public transportation and fantastic country escapes in the vicinity.
If you’re looking for a break from the London-Paris-Rome-Barcelona-Lucerne circuit, it’s time to head to Prague. The city of red tiled roofs is a delightful mix of old world charm and bohemian modernity. Enjoy a walk along the cobbled streets of Old Town or take a tram if you have the elderly with you; visit the Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world; admire the Gothic architecture of Tyn Church and the Astronomical Clock; take a lift to the top of Petrin Hill for panoramic views of the city and delight your kids with a smaller version of the Eiffel Tower; lose yourself in the wonderful world of classical and contemporary art in Prague’s many galleries and museums; take your kids to the greenhouse in the Botanic Gardens adjacent to Prague Zoo; and don’t forget to amble along the historic Charles Bridge. If this ain’t enough, take an evening cruise on the Vltava river that runs through Prague or head out to the neighbouring Karlovy Vary (2 hours by car) to relax in its hot springs and soak in the beautifully quixotic architecture!
Why we recommend it: We don’t know where to begin – there’s no place quite like Tokyo!
Your first view of Tokyo is likely to remind you of your child’s Lego box – unending columns of glass and concrete packed together in a tight embrace as they struggle to reach the sky, and more people than you’ll find in India! It’s only when you spend a couple of days wandering around the city that you start noticing the small things that make the Japanese the epitome of perfection – restaurants with brightly coloured signs, each different from the other; the quaint customs and impeccable politeness, such as not showing your back to someone you respect and closing the restaurant door behind you ; and the wonderfully sensible and sometimes quixotic innovations – from remote controlled taxi doors to umm, heated toilet seats for maximum comfort!
If you’re travelling with your parents or grandparents, you may be concerned about having to dine on raw fish all the time. Worry not – Japanese food is wonderfully diverse and every chef prides himself on the uniqueness of his dishes. Try out the delicious grills, the stuffed pancakes (okonomiyaki), the soba and udon noodles and the farm fresh vegetables. Sushi lovers cannot afford to miss the Tsukiji fish market, our favourite culinary destination in the world.
There is lots to see, do and eat in Tokyo for everyone in the family, but what you are likely to remember after the end of your wonderful vacation is the enigmatic city itself – with its mix of cutting edge modernity, old world principles and a dedication to excellence that is beyond compare.
Planning a vacation with your family, or made one recently? Share your recommendations in the comments below!
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