The best family winter sun destinations – and how to have a successful trip
Let’s face it, winter can be a challenge for families, especially once the heady festivities of Christmas and New Year are over. Daylight hours are short, the weather doesn’t allow for much freedom outdoors, and the excitement of Father Christmas has ebbed away, leaving only a comedown from the sugar-rush.
But it doesn't need to be. Book a break to one of the best winter sun destinations, either over the Christmas holidays or later in winter, and give the whole brood something to look forward to.
We’ve compiled a list of the best family winter sun destinations. There’s something for all of the brood in these fabulous holiday locations, so get ready to shake off the winter blues and slap on the sun-cream.
Best for lazy beach days: Mauritius
Vanilla-coloured sands and crystalline waters border the pesto-green interior of this peak-topped island nation in the Indian Ocean. In short, it’s a tropical paradise. Family holidays in Mauritius are a breeze, with kids’ clubs, activities for all ages, and a warm island welcome for tots, teens and every age in between.
Winter is an ideal time to visit Mauritius: you get the warmest sea temperatures of the year – around a perfect 27C – and long hot days. The gently-shelving beaches and calm waters are also ideal paddling grounds for even the youngest of swimmers.
Dotted around the main island of Mauritius are family-friendly resorts, set in lush landscaped grounds and offering everything you might need to bookend those lazy days on the beach. From sumptuous breakfast buffets (no need to wash the dishes) to evening entertainment that will enchant the children as a nearby cocktail shaker dishes up a little taste of the tropics for mum and dad.
Mauritius family highlight
The waters surrounding Mauritius teem with dolphins. Bottlenose and spinners are most common here, and the playful antics of these majestic creatures are truly spellbinding, whatever your age. Talk to your hotel about whether it can help you to organise a boat trip for an unforgettable family encounter.
Best for pre-schoolers: The Canary Islands
There aren’t many destinations within a reasonable flight time of the UK that can guarantee a spot of warm sunshine, which is what makes the Canary Islands such a popular choice for Brits looking to jet away in winter.
At around four hours from UK airports, it’s not exactly a short hop, but those hours will be worth it when you step off the plane and into the warmth of the Canarian sun. Travel during the school term-time with pre-schoolers, and you can book a bargain break in the sun to boot.
Gran Canaria, the third largest Canary Island, is the button in the belt of the Spanish archipelago, which sits off the western coast of north Africa. Roughly round in shape, Gran Canaria is packed with rolling sand dunes, theme parks, camel rides and a huge selection of hotels offering that famed Spanish welcome to families.
Gran Canaria family highlight
When little legs get tired, treat pre-schoolers to a trip on the mini tourist train at Playa del Ingles.
Best for a spot of culture: Cancun
The sun, sea and sand capital of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, family holidays in Cancun can be flavoured with a spicy seasoning of culture and history. The beaches are idyllic (think dazzling sands and bright cyan seas) and the resorts are luxurious (kids’ clubs, spas, global cuisine and five-star service), so it can be hard to peel away from poolside. However, rewards of street art, underwater art museums, mariachi beats and colourful markets are there for those that do.
Hot days, balmy nights, and very comfortable sea temperatures also make Cancun a top winter-sun destination for families.
Cancun family highlight
Boasting a combination of outdoor fun, relaxation and bursts of Yucatan culture, Xcaret Park’s sprawling natural playground rocks to the rhythm of local song and dance. It’s well worth the hour’s trip by road from Cancun.
Best for primary school aged children: Orlando
The epicentre of family magic in Florida, Orlando is ideal for pre-schoolers as the new year gets underway. Warm days and nights – minus the high humidity and frequent thunderstorms of the summer months – and fewer guests in the theme parks (watch out for US holidays and special events) make for a much more comfortable experience for toddlers and pre-school aged children.
Disney, Harry Potter, water parks: whatever your brood is into, there’s a place in Orlando for you.
Orlando family highlight
Almost every attraction in Orlando is a family highlight – this place was created to put smiles on faces. For younger children who need a break from the vast parks, get crafty and creative at the Crayola Experience in Florida Mall. Who knew crayons could be so much fun? Toddlers, that’s who!
Best for city lovers: Dubai
If city breaks scream top-notch cuisine, endless shopping, and a dose of culture, then consider boosting your beach break this winter with a family holiday in Dubai. The pristine sands and warm shallow waters are, undoubtedly, a magnet for visitors with children to this Emirati playground, but the pulsating city life of Dubai promises to dazzle and enchant all ages.
This coastal city is home to theme parks, water parks, indoor skiing, aquariums, butterfly gardens, malls, trampoline parks and almost every other way you can imagine to keep youngsters entertained.
Dubai family highlight
Blooming gardens might not spring to mind when you think of sizzling-hot Dubai (though winter weather is much more manageable, with daytime temperatures in the “coldest month” of January of 24C). Visit Dubai Miracle Garden for a fragrant, vividly-colourful slice of city life. Kids will love the Smurfs Village.
How to have a successful winter sun holiday with children in tow
- It’s easy to forget the sun-cream when you jet off from chilly British climes, so make sure you stock up and pack it as a priority.
- Relax your standards. From screen time to dinner time, the change of pace, location and weather can be overwhelming for young children, so go with the flow of your family’s needs.
- Take a few of the children’s favourite items from home to help them settle.
- If you are going long-haul, get with the routine of local time as quickly as possible to overcome jet lag and over-tired tantrums.
- Plan some “me time”. If you can, carve an afternoon out for you and only you, leaving the children with their other caregivers. It is your holiday too and the whole family will benefit from your revitalised state of mind.