Family-friendly road trips
To travel is to appreciate the journey as much as the destination but with kids in tow that seems an unlikely premise. However, while the shouts of ‘are we there yet?’ every ten minutes may not be entirely avoided, it is possible to take a family-friendly road trip that both parents and their progeny will remember forever.
LONDON TO CORNWALL
(South West London to St Ives: 5 hours 30 mins approx, one way)
Yes, the roads south west are busy all through the summer holidays but set off early and you’ll have a head start. There’s plenty to keep you occupied en-route with the obvious stop- off being Stonehenge. However, the National Trust also has many appealing places to spend an hour or two with grounds to stretch your legs in and cafes for a decent food stop. Try Stourhead with its magnificent lake. For a longer rest, Longleat is a great place to break up the journey with its drive-through safari park, and there’s a good selection of country houses and pubs nearby. We loved Bishopstrow Hotel, which has an indoor and outdoor pool, and a spa for that well-deserved relaxation after a long drive.
FLORIDA THEME PARKS AND THE KEYS
(Orlando to Key West: approx 8 hours, one way)
Most kids want to go to Disney. Most parents want to kick back with a cocktail in the Keys. It is easy enough to do both over a couple of weeks – we flew in and out of Miami, and used it again to break up the journey from Orlando, seeing different sides of the city each time. Miami is urban cool but family-friendly, although there is a lot to see over quite an area – try an open-top bus tour. We loved mooching around Little Havana and watching the domino players in Maximo Gomez Park. On our return, we checked out the art deco charms and swathes of white sand in South Beach. The drive north to Orlando is straight-forward (although prepare for traffic jams) then when you have done your Disney duty (I arrived cynical but left charmed) you can sweep back south towards the Keys traversing the famous Overseas Highway with endless blue waters on either side of you. There are some great resorts such as Cheeca Lodge & Spa on Islamorada, which was badly hit by Hurricane Irma, but reopened in March – kayaking around its bay is a perfect way to end an afternoon. Key West is party central, although again there is plenty for families such as dolphin-watching trips and the obligatory but spectacular sunset viewing from Mallory Square, which comes alive in the evening with street entertainers. Finish off your trip with a little detour en-route back to Miami with an airboat cruise in the Everglades for alligator spotting.
FRANCE TO SPAIN
(Calais to Tamariu: 12 hours approx, one way)
Getting to France via the ferry is (usually) child’s play – simply load the car with everything you need, pitch up at the port and off you go. No hauling the family through airports, no waiting around at baggage reclaim – more time for holidays. Driving from Calais to Tamariu on Spain’s north-east coast is an ambitious route but spreading the journey over four days there and three back is manageable, with a week in between spent in the beautiful bay of Tamariu, relaxing on the beach and taking lazy lunches in one of the many seafood restaurants. On our journey through France, my two boys loved being marauding invaders in the fortified city of Carcassonne, we explored Dordogne’s caves, and stayed in former monks’ cells in the hugely atmospheric Le Grand Hotel de L’Abbaye on the banks of the River Loire. There are more chateaux in the Loire than even the most ardent wannabe knight can manage, but highlights for kids include Chenonceau, which arches majestically over the river.