I bet many of you are looking to escape the UK weather and are planning a February half-term break to relax. Here are some ideas to inspire you with picture-perfect weather conditions, bucket-list adventures and feasible travel times for a week, for you and your kids.
The Winter Spots
Northern Lights Sighting
Location: Norway, Finland and Sweden
Image Credit: Norwegian Travel (https://www.norwegian.travel/experiences/hunting-northern-lights-by-husky#group_activity-5)
Norway, Finland and Sweden are the ideal countries to see the Northern Lights BUT to catch this lucky phenomena, you must travel to cities within the Artic Circle with latitudes around 65°N being optimal.
Pair this with the fact that you need to be in towns or locations with minimal air and light pollution, you are left with a handful of cities to see the aurora borealis. February is the ideal time to ensure that the skies are clear and dark to see this magical occurrence.
Most of the molecular activity that results in the spectacular northern lights happens near the earth’s magnetic poles. As a result, you need to be far up north and consider the following locations which have family-friendly hotels and apartments and are easier to access with young children.
Norway: Tromso and Alta
In Norway and Finland particularly, you can couple the aurora borealis sighting with husky rides, reindeer sleigh rides, staying in a glass igloo hotel, ice fishing and even a bit of cross-country skiing, if you please, making these ideal for a 4-5 day Winter trip.
Skiing and Sledding
Location: France (Avoriaz, Courchevel, Megeve or Meribel), Switzerland (Gstaad, St Moritz and Grindewald-Wengen), Italy (Cervina and Dolomite SuperSki) and Austria (Kitzbuhel in Tyrol, Lech and Alpbach))
Flight Time from London:
- 1 hour 45 minutes to Geneva (for Avoriaz, Meribel, Courchevel, and Megeve) via British Airways
- 1 hour 40 minutes to Bern (for Grindewald-Wengen or Gstaad) via BritishAirways
- 1 hour 45 minutes to Zurich (for St Moritz) via BritishAirways
- 2 hours to Innsbruck (for Alpbach) via AustrianAir
- 2 hours to Milan (for Cervina and Dolomite SuperSki) via BritishAirways
Image Credit: The Times Travel (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/best-ski-resorts-families)
Whilst Europe is an oasis for skiing with stunning resorts presented within the most picturesque backdrops and filled with history, there are also some key differences between locations. French and Italian ski resorts tend to be smaller and more well priced compared to Switzerland and Austria. All the ski areas listed here have slopes for beginners and ski schools that teach younger kids and non-skiers alike, but also cater for those more experienced skiers who want the adrenaline rush with black slopes!
There are a wide range of accommodation to choose from ranging from traditional hotels and luxury resorts. Opt for a resort with kid-friendly menus, childcare facilities and certainly in some resorts access to red (basic) slopes for children under the age of 5/8 is free!
In addition to skiing, these areas can also be great to go sledding, ice-karting, snow tubing, tobogganing and to also relax at the spa.
The Summer Spots
Swim with Manta Rays, Turtles, Whale Sharks, Dolphins and see the Aldabra Tortoises
Location: Seychelles or Maldives
Flight Time from the UK: 12.25 (Mahe via ) and 10.5 (Male) hours via BritishAirways
The Indian Ocean islands such as Seychelles and Maldives are at their optimum temperatures in February with an average air temperature of 29 °C and sea temperature of 28 °C, and there is very little rain - just perfect!
Seychelles and Maldives both host spectacular coral, where some sadly have been bleached by the sun due to climate change, but you are still likely to find deeper reefs that are largely untouched. Diving and snorkelling conditions are ideal in February.
In Seychelles, you can see turtles in the water, beautiful schools of fish, dolphins and large aldabra tortoises. In the Maldives, you will encounter large, gentle manta rays, whale sharks, beautiful fish amongst the reef and dolphins. Aldabra Tortoises are unique to Seychelles. These giant animals are beautiful and gentle to watch and feed.
Staying on the island of Mahe is easiest for the Seychelles for a week long break and you can do a few nights or a day trip to Praslin, La Digue and Cocos & Felicite Island if you choose.
In the Maldives, you are spoilt for choice with the private islands. However, if your goal is to explore via snorkelling or diving, then heading the the South Ari Atoll might suit you best.
There are plenty of luxury accommodation available in both locations with the difference being more private islands in the Maldives compared to Seychelles. Seychelles additionally has a number of other activities such as ziplining and hiking to complement your trip whilst Maldives will offer you a private relaxed holiday.
Track the Big Five in Africa
Location: Kenya,,Tanzania or South Africa
Flight Time from London: 8.5 (Nairobi), 11.5 (Dar es Salaam) and 11 hours (Johannesburg) via British Airways
Seeing the big five which includes African buffalo (wildebeest), lions, African elephants, black rhinoceros and the elusive leopards should be on everyone's bucket list and a week is more than enough time for this.
South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania offer diverse options for a family friendly safari. Whilst South Africa hosts some malaria-free areas which are specifically more conducive for younger children where anti-malarials are not recommended for under 5 years of age, Kenya and Tanzania offer a rustic yet still luxurious experience in malaria areas for older kids.
In South Africa, Kruger National Park and Sabi are the obvious choices with plenty of luxurious accomodation on offer, particularly in the latter. However, if you want to avoid malaria-regions, consider other parts of South African including the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga (e.g. Madikwe Game Reserve) and parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Maasai-Mara and Serengeti are the evident choices in Kenya and Tanzania. But there are also other smaller reserves that cater well for kids.
It's important to note than for children under 6, game drives are not permitted. However, for those aged 3-5, some lodges do accomodate additional more child-friendly drives. Furthermore, those aged 6-15 years old are generally not permitted on nature walks.
See the Tallest Building in the World and explore the Arabian Desert
Flight Time from London: 6 hours via British Airways
Dubai is the perfect February retreat with perfect temperatures of 25 °C as an average during the day and 16 °C at night. Moreover, the average sea water temperature in Dubai in February is 24.4°C which is warm and pleasant swimming.
You are spoilt for choice with accommodation with some of the most luxurious hotels in the world hosted in Dubai. Accompany your trip with a range of activities including a desert safari coupled with dune bashing, see the Burf Khalifa - the tallest building in world, and have plenty of fun at the water parks such as The Atlantis and Wild Wadi.
Hope these help inspire you. Have an amazing half-term break!
The Kensington Diary