Snorkel in a volcano, stay in a zoo or learn how to be a cowboy — it’s not too late to book a fantastic trip, writes Julia Brookes.
Pompeii and pizza in Italy
Forget battling with the Easter crowds in Rome, Florence and Venice and take the children to Naples. Roam Spaccanapoli, the main street that bisects the old town, in search of the best pizza and don’t miss the excellent Naples underground tour, where you can zip through 2,400 years of history, squeeze through narrow candlelit tunnels and visit Second World War air-raid shelters. Get the train to Pompeii and Herculaneum, take the cable car up to the Vomero hill for the best view of the Bay of Naples, and expect stops for gelati at every turn.
Details: Prices start at £1,950 per family of four for five nights’ B&B in a family suite (15 is the maximum age for children) at the centrally located Hotel Costantinopoli, return flights and a three-hour tour of Pompeii (020 7520 3100, expertoitaly.com)
This is a great time to visit Namibia: the Namibian dollar is so low that fly-drive holidays are selling at the same price as a decade ago. Stay at Nhoma Camp in a remote region of the northern Kalahari where your brood can spend time with the bushmen tracking game and learning to make arrows and snares, as well as search for black rhino, leopard and lion in Etosha National Park — and gawp at ancient rock art in Damaraland.
Details: Expert Africa’s 16-day Hartebeest self-drive safari trip starts at £2,197 per adult, £1,419 per child, with a minimum age of seven (020 8232 9777, expertafrica.com). This includes flights from Heathrow, transfers, mixed-board accommodation, some activities and car hire
Lambing in Cornwall
Stay at The Olde House, a collection of cottages on a 550-acre working farm near Cornwall’s north coast, and your young ones might see lambs being born. They’ll be able to help to feed pygmy goats and pigs — get them up sharpish for the 8am shift — and join in lots of other Easter activities, including woodland den building, archery and pond dipping. You can all wrap up for bracing walks along the coast at Polzeath, Rock and Padstow and warm up in Keith Floyd’s old pub, The Maltster’s Arms, next door in the pretty village of Chapel Amble. Most of the 30 cottages on site are dog-friendly.
Details: Rose Cottage (sleeps four) costs £840 for seven nights from March 25; Penpont Mill (sleeps eight) costs £930 for seven nights; The Olde House (01208 813219, theoldehouse.co.uk)
Coasteering and kaying in Wales
Pack plenty of dry clothes — you’re all going to get wet if you get stuck into the adrenaline-charged activities in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Go coasteering, sea kayaking, surfing and kiteboarding, then get toasty at your eco-lodge. There’s a choice of five-day programmes: Action Packed or Action and Relax, where one day is free so you can explore the area. Take a boat trip around Ramsey Island, go fishing or meander through the bluebell woods and look forward to toasting marshmallows on a beach bonfire one evening.
Details: Prices start at £475 an adult, £375 a child over nine, proficient swimmers only (01273 823700, responsibletravel.com)
Winter sports in Norway
Head to the beautiful winter wilderness in highland Norway and you can stay at the Fefor Mountain Hotel, where Captain Scott tested the motor sledges he hoped would help him to conquer the South Pole. When you can drag yourself away from the open fires in the warm and cosy lounges (and the indoor pool, saunas, playroom and squash court), get your kit on for fabulous dog sledding, cross-country skiing (there are nearly 200km of trails across the surrounding fells), curling, ice fishing, ice-skating, tobogganing and snowshoeing.
Details: The seven-night trip departs March 24 and starts at £1,092 an adult and from £418 a child when sharing with two adults (01653 617000, inntravel.co.uk). It includes half-board, with lunch packs and afternoon tea each day, flights and transfers
Cuba with kids
This is the year to take the family to Cuba before it all changes. Start in Havana — take a trip in a horse and cart around the old city (negotiate a price first) and don’t miss the 1950s-style Coppelia ice-cream bar. Around Viñales there are strange caves and stunning landscapes to explore and the snorkelling off Playa Ancon beach is superb. Stay in casas particulares (Cuban homestays) to get to know the locals.
Details: The 12-day trip departs March 26 and starts at £1,993 an adult, £1,794 a child over five, including direct flights, accommodation, some meals, transport and entry fees with the Family Adventure Company (0808 2507273, familyadventurecompany.co.uk)
Morocco by mule and camel
For families with itchy feet, Explore’s eight-day trip to Morocco is a nonstop adventure. Riding through the Atlas Mountains on a mule, visiting a remote Berber village, biking from Ait-Ben-Haddou towards the Draa Valley and travelling like a nomad by camel through the desert to Ouarzazate (where Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia were filmed) are on the itinerary but the highlight is undoubtedly spending a night camping under the stars in the Sahara.
Details: The Rock the Kasbah trip departs on March 27 and costs from £899 an adult and £857 a child (minimum age seven). This includes flights, seven nights’ B&B and transport (01252 884 723, explore.co.uk)
Dude ranching in Arizona
Saddle up for a week at Arizona’s White Stallion Guest Ranch. There are rides to suit all abilities, whether you want a gentle pootle admiring the scenery, fast canters or to test your family’s mettle on the mountain trails. A proper oasis in the desert, the ranch has tennis courts, an arena for team cattle penning and barrel racing practice, a pool, indoor hot tub and petting zoo.
Details: Seven nights start at £1,009 an adult and from £759 a child (2-11 years) including full board, most ranch activities, transfers and tips. Flights to Tucson start at £839 for adults and from £730 for under-12s (01509 618811, ranchrider.com)
Northern lights in Norway
Easter is early this year and there’s still a chance of spotting the northern lights if you head far enough north. The Norwegian frontier town of Kirkenes is home to the world’s most northerly snow hotel, and children will never forget sleeping in one of the freshly sculpted ice suites. Two nights is enough, however, so then move on to a cosy Gamme Cabin, designed in the style of traditional Sami hunting and fishing huts but with tall one-way glass windows so you can gaze out into the night sky. Take a snowmobile tour in the hope of seeing the light show and fill your days with a husky safari, ice fishing and trying to catch king crab.
Details: A four-night tailor-made tour with Best Served Scandinavia, (020 7838 5956, best-served.co.uk) starts at £1,668pp, departing on March 23, and includes flights, transfers, accommodation, some meals and a snowmobile tour. Minimum age is seven
Treasure hunt in Scotland
Who can resist a treasure hunt? Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Islan d, written in the Cairngorms in 1881, Wilderness Scotland has designed a trail from the west coast to the Cairngorms National Park combining lots of activities, including sea kayaking, mountain biking, geo-caching, wildlife watching and canoeing, plus the chance to ride on the Harry Potter steam train. During the week you collect various clues in each destination and at the end you’ll be taught navigation skills, which, combined with the clues, will help you to grab the treasure.
Details: Six nights’ B&B costs from £985 an adult and £785 a child, based on a family of four, including one lunch, activities and guiding (01479 420020, wildernessscotland.com)
Sardinia’s south coast couldn’t be more Instagrammable: Mediterranean vineyards, ancient olive groves, small fishing villages, Roman ruins and lagoons packed with pink flamingos. It’s perfect for exploring by bike — especially if you don’t have the bother of transferring your luggage from hotel to hotel every night — and has white sand beaches to play on at the end of the day.
Details: Utracks (utracks.com) has an eight-day Sardinia Family Cycle Adventure (for age three-plus using bike trailers or tag-along bikes), departing on March 26, from £575pp. Flights to Cagliari start at £200 with easyJet (easyjet.com)
Activity holiday in the Peloponnese
Easter is a brilliant time in terms of the weather for an activity holiday in Greece’s Peloponnese. Go whitewater rafting on the Lousios River, where Zeus used to bathe, bike across the Tripoli plateau and visit the Kapsia Cave, a cool three million years old. Add on sea kayaking in Kalamata, hiking in the Lousios Gorge to see if you can spot hidden monasteries built into the rocks, and beach walks and water sports on Karathona beach just outside Nafplio and that should be enough to wear out the family.
Details: A seven-night, two-centre trip departing on April 2 starts at £1,015 an adult, from £900 a child aged seven and over. This includes flights, transfers, B&B in Tripoli and Nafplio, two lunches and one dinner, all activities, equipment and tuition (01670 789991, activitiesabroad.com)
Dolphins in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a perfect Easter destination, with temperatures of about 28C (82F) and low rainfall. Head for the east coast, where beaches that have been off-limits for years because of the civil war are open again; think shady, rentable beach shacks, swaying hammocks and seafood barbecues. Kalpitiya is a gorgeous stretch of white, sandy beach popular with kitesurfers and families, with just a few relaxed hotels such as Palagama Beach, where there’s a choice of rustic cabanas or more conventional villas. At this time of year the waters off the coast are full of spinner dolphins — a great sight to start the day before your breakfast curry. See them along with the Sigiriya rock fortress, the ancient capital of Polonnaruwa, a tea estate and a leopard safari.
Details: Stubborn Mule (01728 752751, stubbornmuletravel.com) has a 15-day Sri Lanka itinerary for £8,800 for a family of four. This includes flights, accommodation, transport, activities and excursions, a guide and some meals
Peru and Machu Picchu
Take a small group trip and not only do you avoid all the organisational hassle, but there’s the chance for your kids to make new friends. Into Latin America’s new Peru trip is aimed at children aged 8 to 12 and is based around Cusco and the Sacred Valley. They can bond over a pottery workshop and chocolate-making class, a cycling trip to Pisac market, stand-up paddle boarding, river rafting, visit an animal sanctuary to get up close with llamas, condors and other Peruvian wildlife, a day trek on the Inca Trail and a full day exploring Machu Picchu. There are also stays in Lima at the beginning and end of the trip, as well as a visit to a traditional fishing village outside the city.
Details: The ten-night trip costs from £9,590 for two adults and two children aged 8-12, departing on March 25. It includes flights, B&B in two rooms, lunches during excursions, entrance fees, Inca trail permits, all equipment and transfers (0117 2140247, intolatinamerica.com)
Stay in a zookeeper’s lodge at Bristol
Fancy sitting down to breakfast with gorillas? For a family city break with a twist, a weekend in Bristol Zoo’s new safari lodge should do it. The lodge was the zookeeper’s quarters so you get up close and slightly scarily personal with the animals — it’s within earshot of the Asiatic lions and shouty gibbons — and breakfast is in the gorilla house before the zoo opens. A four-course dinner is included (which you could take on the outdoor terrace if the weather is up to it) but the highlight of the stay is a private tour of the zoo with one of the curators.
Details: The two-bedroom lodge sleeps up to six from £750 a night, including an after-hours private tour, animal feeding, four-course meal with wine, breakfast with the gorillas and two-day entrance to Bristol Zoo and Wild Place Project (bristolzoo.org.uk)
March is a difficult time of year to find guaranteed sun without a long flight but you can be pretty sure of decent weather in Madeira. Stay at clifftop Galosol, which has gorgeous ocean views, comfortable rooms and a huge number of activities every day. Go mountain biking, hiking, horse riding and sea kayaking, plus there’s the chance to go on dolphin-watching trips. Yoga and Pilates are also on offer or you can just chill at the beachside lido below.
Details: Seven nights’ B&B from March 22 starts at £595pp based on a family of four sharing two rooms, including flights, transfers and activities (020 8968 0501, thehealthyholidaycompany.co.uk)
Volcanoes and surfing in Hawaii
If you can face the epic flight, Maui (about 20 hours outbound, so you might want to add on a stopover in the US), Hawaii’s second biggest island, is perfect for an action-packed family trip. The island has a two-mile zipline course and you can snorkel in an extinct volcano (Molokini). Hiring an SUV is a must for a trip along the spectacular Road to Hana, before swimming in the Seven Sacred Pools, and it would be a crime to leave Hawaii without surfing lessons — the Maui Wave Riders are the experts.
Details: Bon Voyage (bon-voyage.co.uk) has a ten-night stay at the Royal Lahaina Resort, from £2,685 an adult and from £1,375 a child (aged 2-11), departing March 25. It includes flights and vehicle hire, as well as all excursions, including ziplining (flyinhawaiianzipline.com), surfing lessons, snorkelling at Molokini Island, and bicycle hire at Haleakala Volcano
Botswana by boat
Gliding silently through the reed fields of the Okavango Delta in a mokoro (a cross between a punt and a canoe) in search of giraffe, baboons and impala couldn’t be more different from the usual dusty game drive. Add a cruise on the Chobe River, where you should spot some of the 80,000 elephants in the national park; guided walks in Gweta (the gateway to the Makgadikgadi Pans), where there’s the chance to learn about everyday life in a Tswana village; plus a visit to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, and you have an ideal itinerary for spotting abundant wildlife and meeting local people.
Details: The seven-day trip departs on April 2, starts in Victoria Falls and ends in Johannesburg. It costs from £1,085pp, including transport, camping and lodge accommodation, most meals and a tour leader/driver (020 7706 4700, acacia-africa.com). Minimum age is eight, maximum group size is 12. Flights start at £1,081 (ba.com)