There’s something about January that always makes me desperate to travel. Maybe it’s because the excitement of Christmas is over or perhaps it’s the persistent grey skies we get in the UK at this time of year. Or maybe it’s that a new year promises a new start and for me that always means travel. Come January, I want to go everywhere and see everything. So compiling a list of places I want to visit is filled with delight and despair. Delight at the excitement of seeing new places, despair at the realisation that I don’t have the time or the money to see it all right now.
When planning our travels I’m forever caught between the desire to return somewhere I love and the need to go somewhere new, to discover all those places in the world I haven’t been to yet. One of the advantages of travelling as a family is that you can return somewhere you visited in the past and rediscover them through the eyes of your children.
So here’s a list of all the places I’d love to visit this year. If only…
I’ve taken the boys to Morocco a couple of times and it’s a brilliant country for family travel. The people are friendly and everything feels so different – even though it’s only a three-and-a-half-hour flight from the UK. I’ve wanted to go to Essaouira on the Moroccan coast ever since reading Esther Freud’s beautiful descriptions of her visit there as a child in ‘Hideous Kinky’. We’d walk along the ramparts, stay in a riad, play on the beach and eat freshly caught fish every day. The trouble until now was getting there. It’s a three-hour bus ride from Marrakesh and I didn’t much fancy that with two small children. But last year, Easyjet launched direct flights from London so suddenly a trip to Essaouira is top of my must-do list for the year.
Lisbon, Copenhagen and Venice
All European cities, all beside the sea, all so different. We’ve promised ourselves a four-night break over the boys’ February half-term holiday and we still haven’t decided where to go. The boys like the idea of going somewhere that no one in the family has visited before and Lisbon and Copenhagen have both been on our must-visit list for years. But Venice has crept onto our list because although my husband and I have been a few times, the boys haven’t, and they’re both desperate to see it. In truth, our decision will probably boil down to which is cheapest to fly to but I’d love to think that we could visit all three of these cities in the next year (or two).
When is the right time to take your kids on a safari? I’ve always felt that it was best to wait until they were old enough to appreciate it yet young enough to be completely blown away by the experience. My two are now 10 and 12 and just the right age so I would love to take them on a safari to Africa this year. I’ve picked Botswana for my list because the Okavango Delta is renowned for some of Africa’s greatest concentration of wildlife from lions and hippos to elephants and leopards. I’d book the boys onto a specialist tour for children where they could learn how to make bows and arrows, fish for their dinner from canoes and discover how to track wildlife from fresh spoors.
The Isles of Scilly
I have always wanted to visit the Isles of Scilly, the archipelago of islands off the coast of Cornwall. Beautiful, unspoilt and uncrowded, it sounds exactly like my sort of place. There are beaches to play on, castles to visit, great seafood to eat, rock pools to explore and miles of gorgeous coastal walks. What’s not to like?
I’ve wanted to take the boys to India for a while now. I spent nearly a year backpacking around the country after university and want them to experience this extraordinary place for themselves. Kerala is the perfect choice for a child’s first experience of India: it’s more laid-back than other parts of the subcontinent, children are warmly welcomed and even the curries are milder. We’d take a boat trip along the waterways, watch the fishermen hauling in their catch from nets on the beaches, trek into the jungle to spot elephants and flying squirrels and eat food off a banana leaf.
Regular readers will know my heart belongs to Greece. We went to Turkey last year so it would be hard not to return to Greece this summer. So for us, as always, it would be a case of another year, another island. I’m thinking small, untouristy and picture perfect. Somewhere with a small harbour with a beach and a couple of tavernas… Anyone got any suggestions?
In the same way that I wanted to wait until my two were old enough to go on a safari, I wanted to wait until they were old enough to take them to Egypt. They’re already fascinated by the stories and history of Ancient Egypt. Now feels like the right time for them to experience the wonders of the country for themselves. They’re the right age to appreciate the Pyramids in real life yet young enough to be thrilled at the thought of riding on a camel or a donkey. On our ideal trip, we’d visit Tutankhamen’s Tomb, the Mummies Room in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, ride camels around the Pyramids of Giza, sleep under the stars in the desert and sail around the Nile on a felucca.