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10 Great DIY Indie Family Adventure Ideas

10 Indie Family Adventure Ideas
Written by Kirstie Pelling

10 Great DIY Indie Family Adventure Ideas

We’ve pulled together ten top ideas for independent family adventures, gathered from research at London’s World Travel Market. These are adventures you can sort out for yourself. You don’t need a guide to do them and you don’t necessarily need a tour operator to book them. And whether you’re into nature, family attractions or active family adventure there is something for you and your family in our list.

If you want to cut straight to the 10 ideas list click here, but otherwise, let me first take you on a journey around the amazing World Travel Market London and tell you how I found them….

Around the world in four days…

London was grey; a thin layer of drizzle glazed the pavements. TV sets blared out news of collapsing economies, sacked politicians and roller-coaster currencies. But in a far corner of the capital, thousands of people were escaping into a dream world of midnight sun and midwinter snow. They basked in the sunshine smiles of the Caribbean, while the Northern Lights illuminated their thoughts.

World Travel Market was a colourful experience

World Travel Market was a colourful experience

For four days, World Travel Market transformed the sprawling Excel Exhibition Hall into a pocket sized globe. For these four days the cramped Docklands Light Railway shuttled passengers to a fantasy island with no barriers, borders or budgets. You could go where you liked. You could get there on foot. You could travel alone and not worry about safety. There was no need to measure footprints or make carbon amends. From Iceland to New Zealand, the world unfurled in a riotous tangle of sounds and sight, colour and light. Even Greece and Italy looked cheerful while back home their economies burnt.

I wandered this man-made version of our globe, seeking out the new and the enticing. As an active mum who steers clear of journeys involving luxury cruise liners and all-inclusive hotels, I avoided the honeymoons, cruises and spa holidays. My mission was to seek out the latest options for family friendly outdoor activity. But on the way I made a little time for a drink with a man-sized green dragon from Slovenia, accepted leaflets from feathered, stilted creatures, and kept my eyes peeled for Dannii Minogue, scheduled to bring a little X Factor to the Etihad Airways stand.

Many destinations caught my eye during these four days. And I’m certain as I browse the many leaflets and brochures that I’ve collected, many more will steal my heart in the coming weeks.

So here’s the ten destinations for indie style family adventure that won my vote at London’s World Travel Market. I’d be interested to hear whether they capture your imagination too.

10 Indie Family Adventure Ideas

10 Indie Family Adventure Ideas

10 DIY Indie Family Adventure Ideas

1. Biking the Balkans: Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro

Great for active family adventure

“If Croatia was a person it would be wild, romantic, elegant, emotional, warm and generous.” –  Croatia Tourism

With some of the cleanest beaches in the Mediterranean, 65 award winning wines, and shades of blue and green like you’ve never seen before, Croatia is fast becoming one of Europe’s ‘not to be missed’ destinations. Active families have the option of bobbing around ‘the land of a thousand islands,’ visiting 8 national parks or taking in some of the 10 UNESCO heritage sites. Accommodation wise, there are 140 small and family run hotels spread across the country as well as a good few luxury hotels. We’re planning to bike around Croatia for a few weeks next year, and if there’s time, to hit neighbouring Serbia too. The recently launched ‘Soul food Serbia‘ gastronomy tours sound delicious, and we can burn off the calories on the Danube’s endless miles of flat riding. We also hope to take a look at the relatively undiscovered gem of Montenegro. We hear dramatic cliffs, extensive coasts and great mountain biking trails are just some of its charms.

Croatian Beach in Gradac, Makarska Riviera

Croatian Beach in Gradac, Makarska Riviera

2. Wild about water: Florida

Great for family oriented fun and attractions

Our kids have reached the age where the water park is king. One summer we cycled 1800 km’s across Europe from Munich to Krakow taking in pined forests, cloud swept mountains, world class museums, and historic cities. And what do they still go on about? Tatralandia; a banana-yellow water park with a spaghetti junction of slides and spas. So, I’m thinking, why not really go H20 and visit some of the best Waterparks in the world?

Discovery Cove provides the opportunity to swim and wade through water filled trails hosting otters and marmosets. For a more high adrenalin experience Orlando’s new Coco Key Water Resort has the latest in watery rides ‘n’ slides. And for cycling enthusiasts like us, Miami’s Everglades National Park has the potential for some biking and croc watching. Now that’s a natural attraction with built in thrills!

Gatorland Orlando Florida

Gatorland Orlando Florida

3. The year of the Mayans: Mexico

Great for nature, wildlife and ancient history

Tulum is an ancient city and gateway to the Mayan world. It combines beautiful beaches with the legacy of an ancient civilisation. A visit to the Riviera Maya also provides the chance to swim in safe bays only a few hundred metres from nesting turtles. This is a destination that gives you the chance to grab some education and relaxation in equal measures.

Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Image Credit: Diorama Sky under Creative Commons Licence

Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Image Credit: Diorama Sky under Creative Commons Licence

4. Safari in the city: Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, Malawi

Great for nature and wildlife

The Lilonwge wildlife rescue, conservation and education centre provides sanctuary for orphaned or injured animals and works with the locals to conserve the country’s animal population. It recently won an international Responsible Tourism Award but it’s not just a worthy cause. Set in 180 acres of woodland within the city, the centre offers opportunities for walking, biking and picnic safaris on wilderness trails that provide a home to monkeys, hyena and bushpigs. And beyond Lilongwe, Malawi looks like an incredible country to explore.

Bella, the one eyed lion, Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. Image courtesy Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

Bella, the one eyed lion, Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. Image courtesy Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

5. Open doors and wild spaces: Iceland

Great for nature, wildlife and cultural encounters

Iceland ran an inspiring campaign in which it invited visitors to meet its people in their own homes and places of work. Locals from all walks of life opened their doors to show others how they live and took visitors on some of their favourite activities. Some family favourites included knitting lessons, ice cream tours, dog walking and swimming pool outings. A quick visit to the ‘Inspired by Iceland’ website even reveals an opportunity to join a local couple for dinner on New Year’s Eve. But Iceland isn’t just about people. It’s also about wild, untapped beauty and if your family likes geysers, glaciers, deserts and hot springs, this could be a great destination for you.

Cameron exploring the Icelandic interior

Exploring the Icelandic interior

6. An eco escape: Guyana

Great for eco-tourism, nature and wildlife

If eco tourism appeals to you then you might want to consider Guyana. North Rupununi’s landscape is a stunning mix of rain forests, savannahs, and rivers, all largely untouched by the mainstream tourist industry. In Rupununi a variety of community based initiatives bring much needed money to locals and let you get up close to monkeys, jaguars and otters, while staying in eco-lodges in the centre of the communities.

Rainforest, Guyana. Image Credit: Sean McCann under Creative Commons License

Rainforest, Guyana. Image Credit: Sean McCann under Creative Commons License

7. Celebrating in London

Great for family fun and attractions

Britain is always a Great place to visit and London especially so. The Olympics of 2012 gave the city a tourism boost and the Royal Weddings of recent years have helped keep the city and nearby Windsor in the global spotlight. Sports fans can visit parts of the The Olympic park and its legacy, visit one of the city’s great football clubs or check out the Twickenham World Rugby Museum but there are many other reasons to visit London.

The Royal Palaces are a great day out for families with a historic interest. And Windsor Castle and the Great Park are fun to visit if you want to see where that big wedding took place. If you do visit Windsor you might also want to check out the 150 room themed resort hotel at Legoland Windsor. We’ve been to the one at Legoland Billund and it was awesome.

Of course London is a mecca for film and theatre buffs too. Taking in a show in the West End is a great family treat. And if you like to get behind the scenes then Potter fans will love getting inside the world of JK Rowling in The Making of Harry Potter studio tour, near Watford.

If you like getting inside or on top of monuments, then there’s lots of options for you too. Try getting inside London Bridge, climbing over the 02 or scaling the ArcelorMittal Orbit at the Olympic Park.

Tower Bridge at Night London

Tower Bridge at Night London

8. Bike the bridges: New York, San Francisco, Monterey

Great for active family urban adventure

If you are into urban cycling but don’t fancy biking in London, how about Manhattan? You can circle the island on 90 per cent traffic free trails, biking over Brooklyn Bridge and enjoying the iconic New York skyline from across the river. Over on the other coast you can bag the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, or take a bike friendly route around Monterey Bay, past the world famous Lone Cypress Tree. Blazing Saddles, a family run company, has all manner of bikes for hire, with trailers and tag alongs for the kids or an engine for granny.

Bike the bridges: San Francisco

Bike the bridges: San Francisco. Image Credit: David Barrett

9. Mad about history: Siene-et-Marne, Paris

Great for history, discovery and active family fun

The charms of Paris are endless, but if you want to have double the fun, make a detour to the region of Siene-et-Marne, a region that is packed not only with woodlands, rivers and hiking trails but medieval sites, châteaux and charming villages that would make for a great discovery tour. If Fontainebleau the chateau is not your thing then why not try treetop adventures or rock climbing nearby. In Meaux there’s an interactive exhibition; The Museum of the Great War. In Nestles the biggest feline park in Europe is purring with life, and in the medieval town of Provins you can all rent costumes and join in the regular town shows.

Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau. Image Credit: Traveling in Europe under Creative Commons License

10. Fall in love with Slovenia

Great for nature and active family adventure

Slovenia has love written into its name. Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards is one of its champions. It’s people are warm and hospitable. It has been putting active green adventure at the centre of its tourism initiatives for a while now. Who needs any more reasons to go?

Julian Alps Slovenia

Julian Alps Slovenia

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

7 Comments

  • Great post – if you guys go to the Riviera Maya let me know – my inlaws have a place there. We love it there – the kids have grown up spending time there. Monterey – great place – we got married in Carmel (right next door) – the kids would love the Monterey Bay aquarium!!!!!!! We really want to go to Africa – I will have to look into the Malawi trip for sure. Our family is excited to explore London and Paris next year!!!!!! I will be book marking this post for sure.
    The best trip I would say we have done so far – a surf camp trip to Costa Rica – we chose the less busy area – small town – great company that brought you into their family – exploring and awesome surf everyday. Costa Rica Surf Camp is the best – let me know if you have any questions about that one!!!!! Thanks again for all the great info.

  • @Cheyenne London and Paris next year.. I was just writing elsewhere about what a different kind of adventure cities can be for families. We’re thinking about a mini family cultural Olympiad in London for 2012. A surf trip in Costa Rica sounds fab too; those kinds of experiences where families take in families always add an extra dimension to things.

    @Clare We’ve been endlessly amazed at what little kids can do. In the end I came to the conclusion that kids are just so much more flexible than we are as adults, and can adapt to almost anything! The Norway piece looks interesting. Scandanavian countries have some amazing family activities on offer, lots of great active outdoor fun too.

  • I just realized that our family will likely see at least 2 of these destinations within the next year!! Paris and London! We are so lucky to spend the next four years in Germany and discovering all of Europe around us.

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...

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