Spring is just around the corner and that means it’s time to make travel plans for what is likely your first family getaway of 2020. Whether you’re a busy mom hoping to put together a last-minute family trip to a visa-free destination or a family of travel lovers hoping to make this an adventure of a lifetime, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best spring break destinations for your next family getaway.
1. VISA FREE AND VISA ON ARRIVAL DESTINATIONS
Island Paradise in Sri Lanka
The teardrop-shaped island of Sri Lanka is a little piece of paradise with palm-fringed beaches, ancient Buddhist temples, lush tea plantations, culture-rich cities, verdant national parks, vibrant festivals, delectable cuisine, and some of the friendliest people in the world. The best part? You can fly there from Dubai in just under five hours and most nationalities can enter either visa-free or get a visa on arrival after they’ve registered online for an ETA approval.
Itineraries can be adapted to every preference – whether it’s staying put in one region and using it as a base to explore around, or traversing the length of the country on an itinerary that’s full of epic, bucket-list worthy experiences such as safaris and whale-watching.
For beautiful beaches, take your pick from the beach towns of Unawatuna, Weligama, Mirissa (where you can also go whale-watching), Tangalle and Hikkaduwa (home to a turtle hatchery). The five-star Hikka Tranz by Cinnamon (best rates on Agoda) offers spacious, ocean-inspired rooms with balconies in Hikkaduwa, and fantastic sea views, a pool, spa, and six in-house restaurants.
Visit Yala National Park on safari to spot leopards, deer, elephants, and more. The Cinnamon Wild Yala offers overnight stays in luxurious safari-style villas along with destination dining in the wild, nature walks, and safari and birdwatching tours.
Hidden Gems in Azerbaijan
While the Caucasus region has gained popularity in recent years among travelers, Azerbaijan still remains something of an unexplored destination. If you’re a resident in Dubai (with at least six months left on your resident visa), you can get a visa on arrival in Baku.
Baku is modern, cosmopolitan, and home to eclectic architecture – a visually striking mix of ancient palace complexes and mosques, Renaissance-inspired facades, modernist free-flowing lines, and shiny skyscrapers, all of which reflect the evolution of this city. Located on the ancient Silk Route, Baku has historically been a city where cultural influences met, mingled, and left their mark on each other.
Head to the city’s historical heart, Icherisheher, to explore the Unesco-listed 15th century Palace of the Shirvanshahs. From Baku, take daytrips to see prehistoric petroglyphs and bubbling mud volcanoes in Gobustan, or ancient fire temples in Ateshgah.
Elsewhere, the city’s art galleries, museums, theaters, and live performance venues offer a peek into modern-day culture. From traditional Azerbaijani cuisine to slick sushi restaurants, Baku’s dining scene has something for everyone.
Stay at the stately Four Seasons Baku, where elegant rooms offer views of the Caspian Sea and three restaurants and bars offer international dining.
2. LESSER-KNOWN DESTINATIONS YOU CAN VISIT WITH SCHENGEN VISAS
Quaint Cobbled Towns in Montenegro
If you’ve used your multiple-entry Schengen visa at least once in the Schengen zone, you can use it to enter and stay in Montenegro for up to 30 days. This tiny country in the Balkans lies along the Adriatic Sea and offers everything you can ask for on a holiday in Europe – pretty cobbled towns, lush vineyards, beautiful beaches, pretty national parks, delicious cuisine, nightlife and more.
The Old Town of Kotor, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is a delightful, cobbled medieval maze of stone houses, churches, Venetian palaces, and museums scattered around narrow streets and alleys. A great way to spend a day or two here is to explore the sights and sit down for a coffee or al fresco meal at one of the charming restaurants that spill onto the streets and squares, and browse the boutiques for unique handmade jewelry. The ruined Castle of San Giovanni sits high above the town – a hike that’s worth it for the spectacular view over the town and the Bay of Kotor.
The maritime town of Perast is an easy daytrip and is home to 17 Venetian palaces and 16 churches. But the main thing to do here is to visit the Church of Our Lady of Rocks, an island church that is associated with local legends.
To get quickly acquainted with Montenegro’s awe-inspiring landscape, take a boat tour around the Bay of Kotor. The views reveal magnificent mountains, winding roads, thick forests, and cute towns. Stay at the historic boutique Hotel Cattaro (discounted rate on Agoda) to sleep in luxurious, traditionally decorated rooms in the heart of the old town.
Medieval Towns and Beaches in Croatia
With a gorgeous coastline along the Adriatic and picture-perfect islands, Croatia isn’t exactly a secret. Dubrovnik’s popularity does not seem to be slowing down in the aftermath of a boost in Game of Thrones-inspired tourism. The size of the city’s crowds begins to make sense as soon as you see the medieval old town with its historic city walls, atmospheric squares, and cobblestone streets for the first time. Tucked away in the backstreets are gelaterias and cafes, romantic wine bars and seafood restaurants, and artists’ studios where you’ll find the best souvenirs.
If Dubrovnik feels too crowded, head to Split, Croatia’s second-largest city along the coast. Here, the walled old town, home to the Unesco World Heritage Site of Diocletian’s Palace, is a maze of museums, squares, boutiques, cafes, wine bars, bakeries, and stores selling everything from beachwear to handcrafted wood items. The beach is a leisurely stroll away and the bright, sunny afternoons are ideal to work on your tan while the kids lick on swirls of ice-cream from beachfront stalls. Stay at the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa for modern rooms with great sea views over the coastline, beach access, and spa facilities.
If you’re craving a bit of nature, then head to Plitvice Lakes National Park to spend a day or two hiking in the landscape of lush forest, pristine lakes, and cascading waterfalls – it’s the perfect escape from city life.
3. DESTINATIONS TO VISIT WITH CHILDREN
For Young Kids: A Fun Holiday in New Zealand’s North Island
If you’re taking a family vacation with young children, chances are that they won’t be interested in museums and art galleries as much as you. Luckily, New Zealand’s North Island is home to the kind of unique experiences that won’t just wow your kids, they’ll blow your mind too.
While the city of Auckland is nice enough, once you’re done sightseeing, it’s best to head where New Zealand’s main highlights lie, ie the great outdoors. The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are a jaw-dropping experience, where you tour an underground river by boat only to look up at the roof of a dark cavern that’s lit up by the light from millions of glowworms. Stay overnight at the charming Waitomo Caves Hotel, a quaint property with modern amenities, a garden and hot tub.
Afterwards, head to Rotorua, where hot springs, mud baths and geothermal pools offer much-needed relaxation in family-friendly spas. A fun way to spend an afternoon is to visit Skyline Rotorua – ride the cable car up to Mount Ngongotaha to enjoy the view, and come down by the three-wheeled Luge cart. Fun for all ages! Another highlight of this region is the Maori Experience at an indigenous cultural center where visitors visit a Maori village, see geysers shoot into the air, learn about the culture, watch and participate in cultural dance shows, and feast on a meal prepared in the local style.
For Teens: Epic Adventures in Iceland
What better way to please even the fussiest teenager than to take them on a holiday that brings them some serious Instagram-fame? Iceland offers the kind of bucket-list worthy experiences neither you nor your teens will be able to stop talking about. If you visit between November and March, you might be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights.
The nature in Iceland is wild and dramatic and a trip to Iceland is all about being active and outdoors. Most people begin at the Thingvellir National Park, to see the Gullfoss Waterfall, erupting geysers at the Geysir Geothermal Area, and go diving between tectonic plates at Silfra. Iceland also offers the chance to go on horse-riding tours and spend time with the beautiful and unique Icelandic horses.
Stay at the Ion Adventure Hotel for modern, minimalist rooms and facilities such as hot tub and sauna.
A road trip along the south coast is chock-full of sights such as lava tube caves, waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, and the black sand beach at Reynisfjara. If you find yourself in Iceland, you absolutely must go glacier hiking – it’s an easy and fun activity that takes place under the supervision of a qualified guide. A fitting finale to the trip is a visit to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, an otherworldly experience that you’re unlikely to forget for years to come.