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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?