The best big family holidays, from road trips across the United States to trekking in the Himalayas


Missed family trips and get-togethers mean that plenty of us are looking for an extra-special break for 2021. 

Despite the uncertainty, this summer is filling up fast. The good news is most tour operators have Covid policies in place – some even let you cancel on the day of departure – although you should ensure you have insurance for any Covid-related eventualities. 

Here’s our pick of the best big family trips, with prices valid in the school summer holidays.

Get on the road in America

Utah’s Partition Arch in the aptly named Arches National Park, which is home to 2,000 sandstone arches 

The freedom that comes from touring in a motorhome now has the added security of creating your own accommodation bubble. Head to Utah and marvel at the towering cliffs of Zion National Park, some of the 2,000 sandstone arches at the aptly named Arches National Park and the natural amphitheatres of Bryce. 

Take a boat trip on Lake Powell or down the Colorado River, hike into the Grand Canyon and stand where four states – Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona – meet at Four Corners.

Book: The 14-night holiday costs from £1,649 per adult, £1,565 for those aged 12 to 15 and £1,399 for those under 12, with flights to Las Vegas, but does not include campsite fees (americansky.co.uk).

Covid policy: Full flexibility and free changes included.

Get wet and wild in Ontario

In Ontario's Algonquin National Park, pictured, you can paddle past beaver, moose and mink on a canoe expedition (stock image)

In Ontario’s Algonquin National Park, pictured, you can paddle past beaver, moose and mink on a canoe expedition (stock image)

Let the crowds flock to the Rockies and head instead to Ontario’s Algonquin National Park for a wilderness adventure. Paddle past beaver, moose and mink on a canoe expedition, sleep under the stars, then stay in a log cabin and explore the maple and fir forests. 

The five-day adventure is part of a two-week self-drive trip including Toronto and Ottawa, Niagara Falls, and some of the 1,000 islands along Lake Ontario. There’s also time to enjoy zip-lining and mountain-biking in the Blue Mountains.

Book: Two weeks’ fly-drive, room-only apart from the five-day Algonquin Park experience, which includes meals and activities, costs from £2,700pp, £2,300pp for under-12s (stubbornmuletravel.com).

Covid policy: No-quibble full-refund guarantee until day of departure.

Room for everyone in Paxos

Guests can hire an entire hamlet of houses on the Greek island of Paxos. Orkos Beach, pictured, is a short walk away

Guests can hire an entire hamlet of houses on the Greek island of Paxos. Orkos Beach, pictured, is a short walk away 

Gather the clan and hire an entire hamlet of houses on the Greek island of Paxos. Meli sleeps 17 guests in five stone houses on a wooded estate with olive groves. 

Each house has its own private pool and up to three bedrooms, while a sixth house, which is home to the live-in staff, also has a large pool and dining terrace where everyone can eat together. Orkos Beach is a short walk away. Or hire the villa owner’s boat and a skipper for a day trip to Antipaxos.

Book: A week costs €1,090pp based on 17 sharing, including breakfast and lunch. Dinner service is also included but ingredients have to be paid for (scottwilliams.co.uk).

Covid policy: Bookings can be rolled over to different dates.

Luxurious African safaris

At South Africa's Makalali Private Game Reserve, there are stunning views of the Drakensberg mountains, pictured

At South Africa’s Makalali Private Game Reserve, there are stunning views of the Drakensberg mountains, pictured 

Bag a safari camp to yourself in South Africa at Garonga’s Makalali Private Game Reserve. With views to the Drakensberg mountains, its four air-conditioned tents provide a luxurious base for up to eight people from which to tick off the big five of lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo. About 20 minutes from the main camp, the new outpost has a deck with a four-poster bed for sleep-outs. 

Or head to Kenya for the chance to see both the wildebeest and whale migrations. Private-hire lodges in the bush can be combined with secluded villas on the coast, plus a couple of nights at Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, where giraffes stick their heads into the breakfast room to be fed.

Book: Nine nights at Makalali cost from £4,800pp based on a group of eight, with flights, game drives and full board. The 14-night Kenya trip costs from £8,965pp for exclusive-use properties, or £6,350pp otherwise (originaltravel.co.uk).

Covid policy: Change of dates or destination up to 30 days before departure.

See Iceland’s coolest geysers

The geysers and waterfalls of the Golden Circle, south-east of Reykjavik, make for an explosive sight on an Iceland tour

The geysers and waterfalls of the Golden Circle, south-east of Reykjavik, make for an explosive sight on an Iceland tour

Control your costs but enjoy an epic adventure on a self-catering holiday in Iceland. Go whale-watching, soak in a geothermal pool, skidoo across an icecap or climb a volcano. You can explore at your own pace during this twin-centre trip, which includes car hire and lets you add on activities or excursions that interest you. 

After flying to Reykjavik, your first base is Glacier Lodge, with views of Snaefellsjokull to the north and a panorama across Faxafloi bay to the south. Then stay about the same distance south-east of Reykjavik, near the geysers and waterfalls of the Golden Circle.

Book: From £1,021pp for nine nights’ self-catering based on two adults and two teens, with flights (discover-the-world.com).

Covid policy: Free cancellation up to 45 days before departure.

Turn nomad in Mongolia

In Mongolia's Khogno Khan Nature Reserve, you can go camel-trekking over the dunes and stay with a local herder (stock image)

In Mongolia’s Khogno Khan Nature Reserve, you can go camel-trekking over the dunes and stay with a local herder (stock image)

Truly get away from it all in Mongolia with its vast, rugged landscapes and nomadic culture. Take a yak cart trek into the steppes, see the White Lake’s volcanic craters, go camel-trekking over the dunes of the Khogno Khan Nature Reserve and stay with a local herder. 

This trip, which starts and ends in the capital, Ulan Bator, includes the services of a guide.

Book: Adults from £2,941pp, children under-15 go free, 15-to-18-year-olds half price. Flights cost extra (responsibletravel.com).

Covid policy: Full refund of balance for cancellation up to four weeks before trip, with 110 per cent credit for the deposit.

Ride high in the Himalayas

The oldest and largest statue of Maitreya Buddha in the sparsely populated former Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh

The oldest and largest statue of Maitreya Buddha in the sparsely populated former Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh 

For the ultimate high-altitude adventure with teenagers in tow, take them to the sparsely populated former Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, where you can take a raft down the Indus River, ride a yak bareback across the Wari La Pass and cycle through the Nubra Valley. Explore a culture similar to that of neighbouring Tibet.

Book: From £2,295pp based on a family of four, with private transport, 11 nights’ B&B plus nine lunches and dinner, activities, domestic flights and the services of a guide. Flights to Delhi, where the tour starts, cost extra (corinthiantravel.co.uk).

Covid policy: £200 deposit only with the balance paid four weeks before departure.

Swedish island-hopping

The Stockholm archipelago, pictured, is made up of almost 30,000 islands and islets

The Stockholm archipelago, pictured, is made up of almost 30,000 islands and islets 

There are almost 30,000 islands and islets comprising the Stockholm archipelago, leaving you plenty of space to explore in a skippered yacht. Hike on wooded islands, hit the beach, go foraging and fishing, and spot seals and eagles. 

The itinerary is flexible, and while the scenery changes every day, each night you return to the comforts of your yacht. And if you want to go with larger groups, you can sail in your own flotilla.

Book: A yacht sleeping up to six costs from £3,614 for seven nights. Skippers are paid an additional £180 a day (dreamyachtcharter.co.uk).

Covid policy: Trips can be rescheduled if the destination is affected by Covid. Free Covid insurance for trips taken before the end of April.

Rare sights on Borneo rivers

In the trees that line the Kinabatangan River in Borneo, pictured, you can spot troops of proboscis monkeys

In the trees that line the Kinabatangan River in Borneo, pictured, you can spot troops of proboscis monkeys

The proboscis monkey is native to Borneo, and you can see troops of them in the trees lining the Kinabatangan River, along with the occasional wild orangutan. 

Based for two nights in a simple river lodge, you will also be able to tick off crocodiles, macaques and perhaps a pygmy elephant. This two-week trip to Borneo includes five nights at the superb Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort.

Book: Two weeks’ B&B from £2,995 per adult, £2,295 per child under 12 and £2,920 for ages 12 to 17, with flights, plus three lunches, four dinners, activities and the services of a guide (bambootravel.co.uk).

Covid policy: Cancellations and changes allowed up to 42 days before departure.

Drive of your life in Namibia

On a self-drive trip in Namibia, you can take in the soaring dunes of Sossusvlei, pictured (stock image)

On a self-drive trip in Namibia, you can take in the soaring dunes of Sossusvlei, pictured (stock image)

The best way to see Namibia is on a self-drive trip (and they drive on the left). Take in the soaring dunes of Sossusvlei and the shipwrecks of the Skeleton Coast. There’s the chance to kayak with thousands of cape fur seals before heading to Damaraland, home of the desert elephant. 

Take in the full safari experience at Etosha National Park before heading to Okonjima Private Reserve, where sightings of cheetah and leopard are common.

Book: 13 nights’ B&B with seven dinners, some activities, car hire and flights costs from £2,895pp. Children under 12 from £2,195 (familiesworldwide.co.uk).

Covid policy: Full refund of deposit. If Covid affects the operation of the holiday, options include postponement, alternative destinations or a refund.

Get up close in the Galapagos

In the Galapagos, animals pose and preen inches from your camera. Pictured is the volcanic landscape of Bartolome Island

In the Galapagos, animals pose and preen inches from your camera. Pictured is the volcanic landscape of Bartolome Island 

See the utopia Charles Darwin described in the Galapagos, where animals pose and preen inches from your camera. Visitors are strictly controlled on the 13 islands 600 miles off Ecuador. The four-day cruise also takes in a visit to Guayaquil in Ecuador.

Cost: Eight-night trip from £3,999pp with flights, and full board on the cruise and B&B otherwise (abercrombiekent.co.uk).

Covid policy: Changes up to 15 days before travel. Includes £50pp discount towards a privately arranged Covid test.



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