Take the Kids

My family and other adventures

Issue 7 - 2017
Words by ROSIE MILLARD · Images Getty Images, Rosie Millard

Learning a life skill or experiencing a new culture creates lasting memories, which is why the best type of family holiday is a voyage of discovery – whether it’s a safari in the African bush or olive-picking in Tuscany

Issue 7 - 2017
By ROSIE MILLARD · Images Getty Images, Rosie Millard

Learning a life skill or experiencing a new culture creates lasting memories, which is why the best type of family holiday is a voyage of discovery – whether it’s a safari in the African bush or olive-picking in Tuscany


Two of the Millard kids on their action-packed holiday in the French Alps this summer

There are two sorts of holiday. There is Type One, the lazy holiday, where suntanning and a general level of sloth is the order of the day. Terrific if you’re in the company of adults. However, for Type Two, namely the family holiday, this formula doesn’t work. Children can’t bear sunbathing. What, lie down on a towel? Reading? All day? If you’re travelling as a parent, you need to take your kids out of their comfort zone, by which I mean giving them a holiday that’s a bit of an adventure and has some takeaway in the form of natural history, geography or a skill. This doesn’t mean taking school books on holiday, or learning French verbs before breakfast; it does mean charging up Vesuvius, camping in the Sahara, playing cricket with children in Rajasthan or getting up at dawn to see turtles hatching in the Caribbean.

I first realised my children were ripe for some overseas adventure when my husband and I worked out that you could go round the entire globe without leaving France. We decided to visit all the tiny islands and slivers of jungle around the world that are officially French. No matter that the youngest of our four children was only four at the time. We took all our lot, then aged between four and 12, and what’s more, we did it with hand luggage only and on a bargain budget. It took four months, but it was well worth it. We had achieved something special: a remarkable journey involving hiking through rainforests, getting bitten by fire ants, climbing mountains, living on a boat and swimming with dolphins. Did the children learn much French? Probably not, but they learned that a trip abroad can be about much more than hanging about around a pool.

Even very small children are fascinated by riding on a camel, and if it happens to be walking beside the Great Pyramid of Giza, even better. Egypt provides awesome sights and brilliant child-friendly activities, such as sailing on a felucca down the Nile. Nearer to home, if you quail at the idea of endless galleries but quite like the notion of going to Italy, check out the myriad opportunities offered up and down the boot. You can make pizza in Tuscany or ice cream along the Amalfi coast, while everyone will be impressed by the gruesome sight of plaster-cast corpses – including pet dogs – caught at the moment of death in Pompeii. You, the adult, get a chance to brush up on your knowledge bank too.



Watching my children sample the fruits of their labours in a stone-flagged Italian courtyard was a moment of parenting bliss


In Rome, you can dress up in skirt and helmet and practise fighting, Gladiator-style, while one of our best-ever holidays was olive-picking on a farm near Arezzo; having spent years banning my children from going up ladders, here was a holiday that actively encouraged it. They spent the week combing olives out of the branches into big nets spread out under the trees, and then watched the fruit being pulped into bright green oil. Watching my scruffy, tanned children happily sampling the fruits of their labours – literally – on a giant refectory table in a stone-flagged Italian courtyard was a moment of parenting bliss.

Plenty of adventure holidays throw in a lot of physical activity alongside learning opportunities; so while a week’s immersion in Costa Rica allows plenty of screaming time on zip-wires and rapid rivers (brilliant for teens) it also enables families to see sloths, caymans and red-eyed tree frogs on a midnight walk through a nature reserve.

In Africa, the family holiday market is booming with trips that offer astonishing experiences that really do engage young minds. A dawn game drive in the Cape Province of South Africa enables children to see families of cheetah while examining both a lion’s paw print and some rhinoceros poo. Up north in Limpopo Province, a riding safari allows even small children to ride on ponies next to zebra, giraffe and warthog (nothing with big teeth and claws, but riding enables you to get close to wonderful wildlife). In Kenya, children can spend time with the Maasai warriors, while in Uganda, we set overnight cameras next to waterholes and had an amazing time looking at the photographs of all sorts of beasts the following morning.

Experiencing these things provides a priceless parental memory bank. Being with your child in the dark African night when they spot a bushbaby clinging to a tree trunk, its saucer eyes picked out by the light of a torch, has to be one of the most wonderful moments I’ve ever had as a mum. Forget the beach-based holiday and strike out into the world of family adventuring. It’s worth it.

For more information about adventure holidays visit scottdunn.com/familyadventures


 Scott Dunn Suggests


Warrior for a week

Is there a more authentic way to experience Africa than spending time with the Maasai people for a week? Take safari to the next level as you and your family learn first-hand the ancient ways of the warrior: hunting, tracking, bushcraft, folklore and more. The tribesmen will even teach you how to hunt with a traditional bow and arrow.

Cooking classes at Soneva Kiri

What could be better than having the kids rustle up a Pad Thai on a Friday evening? Soneva Kiri on the lush tropical island of Koh Kood has a cookery school where expert chefs will guide your children through the basics of Thai cuisine, from preparation to cooking – providing them with invaluable culinary skills that will last a lifetime.

The gladiator school

Don a Murmillo’s helmet, arm yourself with a trident and learn to fight like a gladiator, in a restyled Colosseum on Rome’s legendary Appian Way. Anyone over the age of seven can throw on some armour and be taught hand-to-hand combat by specialist instructors, before rounding off the experience with a tour of the Museum of the Roman Invincible Army.

Angkor Thom scavenger hunt by bicycle

Discover the temples at Angkor Thom by bike, solving clues and taking photos to prove you’ve found them. There are 11 to discover and if you get them all, you’ll win a prize. This is the ultimate way for a family of intrepid explorers to uncover the secrets of this ancient civilisation. You can also scavenge by car, but we recommend the bicycle option.

Create at Sundance

Deep in the Utah wilderness, Sundance Mountain Resort is an outdoorsman’s dream – a natural theme park offering mountain-biking, fishing, horse-riding and zip-lining. For the less action-oriented, the resort’s arts hub offers pottery, photography, glass-blowing and jewellery-making classes for creatives of all ages.

Liked that? Try This ...

Ask Travel Nanny

Take the Kids · Issue 5 - 2016

This website uses cookies that will help and improve your experience. By using this website you are agreeing to the use of cookies on this website.
More info