Family holiday ideas for the winter

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There’s nothing quite like a holiday to make the winter go quicker. Before having children, I’d often go away for a month or more in November. By the time I came back, it was nearly Christmas. The weather was properly cold, but the new year was in sight, so it felt like spring was already around the corner. Since getting a camper van, we’ve been making the most of UK holidays with the children in the colder months. Whilst it doesn’t make winter seem shorter, we all feel better for spending more time outside, whatever the weather. Here are a few ideas for winter breaks to make the chilly weather a bit more bearable.

The snow-dusted Malvern hills

Family ski holidays

The first thing I think of when someone mentions a winter break is skiing. I never learnt to ski as a child. Although I have learnt to snowboard as an adult, it was only in the UK so now I’m keen to go on a winter sports holiday. I wouldn’t want to be in a learn to ski group with the children because I know they’d show me up. So, I need to find a ski holiday with separate adult and child lessons so we can all learn at the same time, but not together.

I’ve looked into the best family ski holidays and found some resorts with various options for ski lessons. Children who are too young to ski can enjoy tobogganing and numerous other winter activities. The same goes for adults. I’d always ruled out a winter holiday due to not being able to ski or snowboard. I’ve now got to a point where I do want to learn, but if you don’t fancy it, that doesn’t mean a ski holiday will be rubbish.

My rule would be that you should get just as much fun out of a holiday whether you ski or not. So, if you decide it’s not for you, make sure you earmark the money that would have gone on your lift pass, ski hire and any other incidentals. Then decide what you’ll spend it on instead. Enjoy a spa day, go wildlife spotting or e-biking on specially adapted mountain bikes or treat yourself to a fancy lunch. Whatever you decide on, cold weather holidays aren’t just for skiers and snowboarders.

A man and woman enjoy a winter fat bike ride along Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

In search of warm weather in New Zealand

I am a huge fan of New Zealand for holidays during the winter months. I may be a little biased, it happens to be my favourite place in the world and some of my favourite people live there. In fact, I’ve been three times. I fully intend to go back again too. I’m not worried about the children on such a long flight really, I know they’d take it in their stride. I am putting off going until my tolerance levels improve though, I’m not sure I’d cope with 24 hours on a plane with my own children at the moment.

Nonetheless, a winter holiday in New Zealand is ideal for active families. Whenever I’ve been over there, I’ve always envied their lifestyle. Running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, rugby, canyoning and any other activity you care to mention are part of everyday life. Open water swimming is popular and accessible. The countryside is largely unspoilt and outdoor activities are generally reasonably priced.

Better still, from November onwards the sun is starting to put in an appearance. North Island is considerably warmer than South Island, but our winter is their summer, so even in the South Island, late November until February brings glorious weather. My tip from the top is to spend some time in Abel Tasman National Park if you can. White sandy beaches, clear blue sea and stunning countryside combine to make this my favourite place in the world.

Abel Tasman New Zealand – Image by Moon Station from Pixabay

UK holidays out of season

Battling with British weather might not be your idea of a holiday, but bear with me. There are some brilliant UK holiday destinations that have both indoor and outdoor activities to keep you entertained. Centre Parks, Bluestone and Butlins are all great examples. The benefit of visiting places like that in the winter is that the price is nowhere near as extortionate. You’ll also get far more use out of the indoor facilities. Let’s face it, who wants to be stuck inside a pool or watching a show when it’s a glorious day outside and there’s a beach around the corner.

On the subject of beaches, that’s another great thing about UK holidays out of season. If you’ve never been to the coast in bad weather, you’re missing out. Watching the waves crash against the cliffs (from a distance), or running down the beach, dodging the approaching sea in coats and wellies is equally fun. Then there are the beach front cafés. The owners know you’ll be chilly after a winter beach walk, so they’ve been busy developing the best hot chocolates ever.

Lastly, I feel I should put in a good word for camper van holidays. When we bought our van, we knew we’d want to use it in winter. That’s why we chose a hard top. In fact, it was such a difficult job finding the ideal hard top van for our family that I ended up going all the way to Scotland to collect it. Since then though, we haven’t looked back. Virtually every school holiday we have at least a few days away, whatever the weather. We pick somewhere with plenty for the children to do indoors in the vicinity if the weather is looking bad. However, we make sure we spend some time outside too. Inevitably, we all feel better for the fresh air and it’s never too costly to stay on a campsite when everyone else would rather be snuggled in front of a fire indoors.

City breaks

The problem I’ve found with city breaks with children is that in summer, they don’t cope very well with the heat. It’s the nature of a city break that there’s often a lot of walking involved. We spent a fabulous few days in London last year, but the girls did get quite hot and bothered because the heat was so oppressive.

That said, city breaks are a brilliant way to spend a few days with children. There’s so much to do, see and learn that they’ll never get bored. So, a city break during the winter months is the ideal solution. There’s no need to worry about the cold because there’s plenty to do indoors. You won’t get too hot walking from one attraction to the next. If you time it right, you’ll hit Christmas markets, fun fairs and ice rinks. Bringing to live both the magic of Christmas and the magic of the city you’re visiting. You might need to kit the children out with some warm winter clothes before you go though!

National Express London trip Horseguards Parade
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