We love how this family push the boundaries of family travel and prove that you really can take young kids almost anywhere. After their year living in India and exploring much of Southern Asia, Jenny, with her husband and two boys (aged 3 and 4), hired a Land Rover Defender and traversed sub-Saharan Africa for four months. They're now back in the UK and Jenny is now proving how family..
It was a Friday night, we’d just left McDonalds off the A17, and were continuing our 3.5 hour drive through the grey and drizzle. This was wasn’t exactly putting me in the mood for camping. But thank goodness we didn’t need to pitch a tent on arrival. Instead we were going to stay in a Mongolian yurt… in Norfolk.
TraveLynn Family were offered a complimentary two night stay at Swallowtails in return for coverage on the blog and social media. As always, there are all my own words and opinions.
Ducking through the small wooden door of Periwinkle (our yurt for the weekend), it felt like we had stepped into the set of The Borrowers. The warm colours of the mismatched fabrics complimented the antique furniture, and the toasty glow from the log burner made us all feel cosy and at home. My mood had miraculously lightened.
I lined up our wellies by the front door and put the kettle over the fire whilst the kids got dressed into their PJs. This was a much easier style of camping! Plus, with actual beds already made up and all light blocked out by shutters and insulated fabric, we were guaranteed a good night’s sleep.
Swallowtails is just a short walk from the old market town of Holt. So even though you’re tucked away amongst the woodland, it’s not too far to go for a pint and a wander around its charming alleyways. But stepping outside of the yurt that Saturday morning with the skies cleared, I felt hidden away in nature and we were happy to spend much of the day on site. Our boys loved the freedom of the central open meadow, and us parents were happy to let them explore whilst we sat back with a cup of tea.
Inside the yurts at Swallowtails
There are six yurts in total; four luxury 18 ft yurts (sleeps 4), a 22 ft yurt (sleeps 6), and a Lotus Belle tent (sleeps 4). Each yurt is fully insulated, meaning they’re cosy warm on cooler nights, although on a hot summer’s day you can create a nice through draft by opening the door and roof.
Plus, the yurts nicely block out the light with shutters and thick fabric, so your little ones aren’t woken early by the morning sun. Our boys slept in until 8:30 am on the Sunday morning after going to bed at 7:30 pm the previous night. That says a lot for a day playing in the fresh air and the comfort of the yurts!
We slept in Periwinkle, which sleeps four. There’s a double bed and and a trundle day bed for the kids, and electricity provided by solar panels. The furniture is in keeping with the yurt and you’ll find everything you need, including a pull out dining table, a wash basin with jug, cooking utensils, pots and pans, and even a toy box. Many of these items are packed away in little boxes and cupboards to keep things neat and tidy. Although it would have been handy to have had some shelves to store our clothes, and hooks for our jackets.
To keep food items cool, a cold box is provided and you can get ice packs from the main shop (FOC), which also stocks wood, non-perishable food items, and all important marshmallows to toast over the camp fire.
Outside the yurts
The yurts are evenly spaced around the edge of a meadow. You’re not too close to your neighbour, although the layout promotes a sense of community.
Adjacent to each yurt is a wooden gazebo which creates a little cooking area, including a gas BBQ. There’s also an outdoor dining table and chairs, two sun loungers, and a fire pit.
Behind the yurts, you’ll find a long drop toilet, with instructions for where to wee and poo to maximise composting! There seemed to be only one toilet for the six yurts to share, although there may have been another one hidden away somewhere.
You can use the bowl and jug in the yurt for washing. But if you need a shower or there’s a queue for the long drop, you can walk the 100 metres to the main toilet/shower facilities in basic portable cabins. It’s a shame these aren’t aesthetically in keeping with the main glamping site, but they are more to serve the general camping site.
With all the hiking, travelling and exploring we do with our boys, I always make sure that they have quality footwear with good grip, waterproof material, and can last a year (well, until they grow out of them). I recently wrote about the importance of good hiking boots for helping little legs walk further. It’s all about being comfortable and supported, and a pair of wellies just won’t do it. Similarly, when it comes to the summer, a pair of flip flops or poorly fitted sandals is not going to do them any good if you want them to go the distance.
Now that we’re coming into the summer, I’ve been on the look out for good hiking sandals for the boys. Their hiking boots are great, but with the warmer weather I want their feet to be able to breathe.
We’re actually headed to the Dordogne in France next week and I needed to find the boys some new sandals before we left, as obviously they’ve grown out of last year’s! Just in time, Keen got in contact with us and gifted the boys each a pair of Newport Neo H2 Keen Kids Sandals in exchange for an honest review. Ezra picked a red pair, and Arthur a blue pair.
What I love is that the Newport Neo H2 kids sandals are designed and developed for travel and exploration. Well that ticks our boxes! I know that these sandals are going to end up splashing through rivers, climbing rocks, leaping off walls and running down hills.
On initial inspection, they seem to have excellent grip and I love the simple bungee cord design in the place of laces – even three year old Ezra was able to get them on himself quite easily. The toe is protected, which is perfect for rock climbing and there’s good cushioning of the sole for protection when leaping from great heights.
And I don’t know about you, but my boys sandals usually get so stinky in the summer! Thankfully all Keen sandals are machine washable, so I can hopefully curb the stinks to a degree! Apparently the ‘chemical free Cleansport NXTTM treatment’ (whatever that is) will help with that too.
This is the info from the Keen website:
Durable synthetic overlays
Secure-fit lace-capture system
Adjustable hook-and-loop closure
ESS shank offers lightweight support
PFC-free durable water repellent
Cleansport NXT™ for natural odor control
Washable polyester webbing upper
Non-marking rubber outsole leaves no trace
Lightweight EVA midsole for cushioning
Quick-dry lining for active use
Metatomical EVA footbed for cushioning
All KEEN water sandals are machine washable. Use a small amount of detergent, wash on gentle cycle and air dry.
All sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Well there are some impressive technological words in there. But for me the test of time will tell. I’ll report back at the end of the summer and let you know how we go with them.
Who else gives the Keen sandals the thumbs up?
A very good sign is that our friends over at Mini Travellers are big fans of Keen footwear. Their girls first wore them to Rwanda in 2017, and loved them so much, they got them again for their Malawi trip (where we met them) last year! Check out their review of Keen Newport Sandals for kids.
“Keen shoes have been a staple summer purchase since we moved to Europe. They are perfect for the playground and Kindergarten, a hike in Schwarzwald, or a splash in a river. Comfortable for kids and easy to clean for mom. The durable toe cap keeps my energetic son’s feet safe while the adorable ballerina design ensures my daughter has suitable outdoor shoes that cater to her girly needs. We’ve never regretted a Keen shoes purchase!”
“Keen sandals are probably the most versatile summer shoes you can buy for kids. They’re comfortable and suitable for so many different occasions – school, theme park visits, beach vacation, city trips, and of course also for outdoor activities like easy hiking or kayaking. Not only are they sturdy and have a good grip, but they are also washable and dry fast. In fact, we’re just about to buy three new pairs for our kids for the upcoming summer.”
1. Tell us a bit about yourselves. Where are you from and how often do you travel as a family? How old are your children?
We are Thrifty Family Travels which is made up of myself (Melissa), my partner Andy and our daughter Myla who is currently 8. Both Myla and I are born and breed Australians, however Andy is from New Zealand but has called Australia home for almost 30 years. We travel as often as we can around school and work both internationally and within our own country which is Australia and even our own local city of Brisbane.
2. How many times have you travelled to Asia and why do you love travelling there?
I personally have been to Asia over 10 times, gosh maybe even over 20 times! Even Myla has been to Asia around 10 times. Myla’s first international trip was to Thailand when she was 18 months old.
Given Asia, in particular SE Asia, is so close to us in Australia it makes it an easy and cheap holiday destination. We also love the gorgeous beaches, the exotic culture and how friendly and welcoming the people are in SE Asia. Oh and the food – it is amazing!!!! We love Asian food.
3.Why is Koh Lipe your favourite destination?
Koh Lipe is such an amazing island to visit. We just love it for it’s calm, crystal clear water, cheap massages on the beaches and great places to eat. Unlike many other Thailand beach destinations, there aren’t many vendors trying to sell you stuff, so it’s far more relaxing.
I love the fact that the water is calm so its super kid friendly. Andy and I can dine on the beach or have a few drinks and Myla can swim in the shallow water or build a sandcastle.
Once you have had enough of lying around, there are a few other beaches to explore with some great snorkelling.
4. What were your top three things to do on Koh Lipe with kids?
Swimming in the calm ocean, kayaking around to the different beaches and snorkelling.
5. Can you recommend any family friendly accommodation on Koh Lipe?
We stayed at a few different places in order to try and experience the various beaches.
On Pattaya Beach we stayed at Green View Beach Resort which is fairly basic – just huts on the beach. The location is absolutely fantastic!
On Sunrise Beach we stayed at Salisa Resort as well as the Mountain Resort. Sunrise is within walking distance to town, whereas Mountain Resort isn’t. However I loved Mountain Resort for it’s stunning beach and being close enough to kayak around to Sunset Beach which has fantastic snorkelling as well as a few secluded beaches.
If I had to just pick just one beach for families to stay at, I’d recommend Pattaya. The beach is fantastic for kids, plus there is loads of places to eat.
6. What did the kids eat?
Well Myla loves rice, so she’s always good in Asia. There is all the usual western food if your kids are not into Asian food like sandwiches and chips.
7. How did you get around Koh Lipe?
Walking. There are a few motorbike taxis and when we stayed at Mountain Resort they had a vehicle that took guests into town every so often, but really the island is super tiny and you just walk everywhere.
8.What is your top tip for families travelling to Koh Lipe?
If you have time, try out at least 2 different beaches. I’d also recommend you hire some kayaks and spend at least a few hours exploring the little beaches around Sunset Beach – they are stunning and this is where we found the best snorkelling. If you’re not into kayaking, you can even just go from the beach.
9. What item could you not have done without on Koh Lipe?
Swimmers and a sarong – seriously you won’t need anything else!
10. Where are you off to next?
We are going to Japan! Our first time but it’s been on our bucket list for ages!
Feet dangling into the pool, looking over glistening Lake Maggiore backed by jagged mountains… I couldn’t help but breathe out a big sigh of satisfaction. Golfo Gabella Lake Resort, Maccagno, is situated in such a beautiful spot. With lake swimming, hiking, cycling and kayaking on the doorstep, it’s a fantastic destination for outdoor families, and a great choice if you’re looking for self-catering accommodation around Lake Maggiore.
I was invited on a three night press trip to Lake Maggiore with Bookings for You, staying at Golfo Gabella Lake Resort, with a group of seven other travel bloggers. Complimentary accommodation was provided in exchange for honest coverage on my blog and social media.
As a family with young kids, we always prefer self-catering accommodation. It gives us the flexibility to eat as and when we want (ie. breakfast at 6 am when the kids are up) and means we don’t have those stressful dinner times trying to keep the kids entertained between courses. We do love a meal out with our boys now and again, but our preference is always to spend our days adventuring and exploring, to then return to a base with facilities to cook for ourselves. Plus, this helps save the pennies for any activities.
Golfo Gabella Lake Resort apartment tour | Lake Maggiore, Italy | AD Press Trip - YouTube
I stayed in a three-bed standard apartment with partial lake views, with good pals Karen (Mini Travellers) and Carrie (Flying with a Baby). This was a different apartment to the one showed in the video above, although the standard apartments are very similar.
The apartments are clean, fresh and a good size. What it may lack for in character, it gains in practicalities. Fresh linen and towels are provided (although no pool towels), as well as all your cooking facilities, a large fridge freezer, microwave and dishwasher.
Our three-bed apartment consisted of one master bedroom with an ensuite, two twin bedrooms, a bathroom with shower, and a kitchen / lounge / dining area. It sleeps six people in total. There is no TV, bath or washing machine provided in the apartment, but there is a laundry room available on site and some standard apartments do have a TV.
My favourite spot though was our balcony with this view of the terracotta roofs set in the lush hillside.
View from our apartment balcony at Golfo Gabana Lake Resort
Other self-catering apartments available
Aside from the standard 3 bed apartments where we stayed, there are also standard 1 and 2 bed apartments available in a similar style.
Should you want something a little cosier and with better lake views, you can upgrade to a superior apartment. Or if you want something very special, there is the standard penthouse apartment or the superior four bed apartment. The latter boasts very impressive views over Lake Maggiore from its expansive balcony.
Superior four bed apartment at Golfo Gabella Lake Resort
There is no tea / coffee / milk provided on arrival, or any snacks. Bring these items with you. You could bring powdered milk for your first cuppa, or pop by a supermarket on the way.
When travelling with my boys and self-catering, I tend to pack some tortelloni to cook on arrival. I know it may seem strange bringing pasta to Italy, but it means we have an easy-to-cook meal on arrival to our destination. Once my boys are fed, we can get on with exploring!
The swimming pool overlooking Lake Maggiore is the centrepiece of the resort, and the views are sublime. At the time of writing the children’s pool was being renovated, but this should be open in time for summer.
Bike and kayaks are available to hire free of charge on site. There is no minimum age for the kayaks, although young children must be accompanied, and there are no children’s bikes available. Should you wish to hire children’s bikes, head to Germignaga.
Or perhaps a private motorboat is more your thing? These can be hired for €70 per hour. But if you’re one of these people who happen to have your own boat (mine sadly didn’t fit in my Flybe luggage limit from Manchester), you can moor directly in front of the resort.
There is an onsite restaurant (Ristorante Pizzeria Acquaduezero) offering both indoor and outdoor seating. Pizzas are, of course, on the menu; which I know will keep my boys happy. You can even make your own pizzas! Book this in advance with Bookings For You. Breakfast is also provided which includes a buffet of breads, cereals, eggs, juices, and cakes(!).
My pizza creation! (It’s a bunny… obviously)
If you are self-driving, there is secure, underground parking at the resort. Each apartment has an allocated parking space. Be warned that these spaces are VERY tight, and it make take a few manoeuvres to park.
In the direct vicinity, you can wander along the beach to the playground or enjoy a dip in the lake. Take the ferry over to Cannobio to explore its pastel-washed alleyways and beach, or take the bus up to Chiesa S.Rocco for a hike to Lago Delio and take in the Alpine views (
Lake Maggiore, is often overlooked by its better known sisters, Lake Como and Lake Garda. But nestled in the foothills of the Alps straddling the Swiss border just northwest of Milan, lies the glistening waters of Lake Maggiore, framed by colourful villages and snow capped mountains. This is a place off the radar for many tourists, but extremely accessible from the UK due to regular cheap flights in to Malpensa (Milan). Spend your days kayaking along its shores, hiking up in the mountains, or if you want to slow the place, find a spot at one of the many lakeside tratottoria’s and sit back with a local vino as the kids paddle in the ripples of water.
I was invited on a three night press trip to Lake Maggiore with Bookings for You, staying at Golfo Gabella Lake Resort, with a group of other travel bloggers. The boys weren’t with me on this trip, but I was thinking about how much they would love it all the time. So much so, I’m already planning another trip back with them!
It really is the perfect destination in Europe for adventure loving kids, and here’s why I think so, including lots of ideas of things to do in and around Lake Maggiore:
This is the foothills of the Alps after all! On a clear day, the views of the jagged peaks are seriously jaw dropping. One of the easiest ways to appreciate this is by heading up on a Bucket Lift at Laveno (yes, an ACTUAL bucket) – read Mini Travellers review here.
Alternatively, take the Motterone Cable Car from Stresa on the western side for 360° views overlooking seven different lakes. At the top, aside from the views to take in, you will find the Alpine Gardens and a 1200 metre long toboggan. Do note for the toboggan that children under the age of four are not allowed to ride, and children under 100 cm (and over the age of 4) must ride with an adult.
Fantastic hiking trails
Grab a map from the local Tourist Office (Ufficio Turistico) and don your hiking boots. Avoid an initial steep ascent with the little ones and drive up in to the mountains, or take a local bus.
This view from Chiesa S.Rocco over to Cannobio marks the start of our hike.
We did a lovely walk starting from Chiesa S.Rocco (click here for starting point) towards Lago Delio and back again. If you go all the way to the lake and back it’s 7km, but you can stop for cheese tasting along the way and we also passed through a village of stick men at Musignano!
Another lovely walk to do in this area is to the tiny village of Monteviasco, which can only be reached by foot or cable car. Take the cable car up (from here) and you can walk back down (you can walk up too if you’re so inclined).
On the Western side there are some lovely marked trails starting from Cannobio, or enjoy a gentle stroll (flat, 1 hour) around the wetlands of Fondotoce Nature Reserve.
Cycle paths and ferries around Lake Maggiore
It is possible to cycle all around the lake and it’s easy going as it’s mostly flat. However, if you have young kids on their own bikes, you may want to stick to the footpaths, as the tunnels and main roads can be nerve-wracking with speeding cars.
But you can also take the bikes on the ferries. So a nice day out is to cycle and ferry hop. Both Laveno and Stresa offer nice easy cycle paths along the lake shore suitable for young kids. However, if your kids are confident on the road, it’s a lovely cycle from Maccagno to Luino, where you can treat yourselves to a gelato, before boarding the ferry to Cannobio and back to Maccagno.
If you need to hire bikes during your stay, there are a number of cycle hire shops dotted around the lake. These can be found in Germignaga, Arona, Stresa, and Ghiffa. The latter also offers scooter and boat rentals. Do call/email ahead to check availability of child bikes.
Outdoor adventure parks
There are a few in the region, but one of the best is on the Swiss side of the lake at Monte Tamaro. For children 4 year old and up, you can climb their treetops and whizz down the zip wire. There is also a toboggan, a paragliding school, a playground boasting one of the best views of the region, and for the bigger kids aged 9 and up, a big 15 metre jump.
There is also a 1.85 km zipwire at Aurano – Lago Maggiore ZIPline – where you can whizz through the scenery at speeds up to 75 mph. There isn’t a minimum age, rather a minimum height of 120 cm.
Swim in the lake
The lake is crystal clear and perfect for a dip. It is a little chilly though, so I suggest wearing wet suits.
There are some lovely beaches along the lake shore that make for good swimming spots and a base for a summer afternoon. Macagno Beach offers lots of shade, a playground, beach bar and toilet facilities. Alternatively head to the beach at Cannobio where you will find two large inflatable aqua parks in the lake.
However, there are lots of tiny beaches dotted all the way round the lake. You can often enjoy the whole beach to yourself if you get the right spot! If it’s a warm summer’s day, I highly recommend an evening dip in the lake when everyone has gone home.
If you fancy an actual swimming pool though, head to one of the lidos. Locarno Lido at the top of the lake is one of the best. Lots of water slides, an indoor and outdoor pools, and inflatable obstacles courses. Volleyball and table tennis are also on offer.
Lots of watersports
The best place to hire watersports equipment is at La Darsena in Pino, near the Swiss border. They offer waterskiing, tubing (when a boat pulls you along on a large cushion and you have to try and stay on!!!), kayaking, paddle boarding, windsurfing etc. They can offer lessons for beginners and have special boards for really young children. There is a beach area for anyone not wanting to take part, as well as a cafe serving snacks and light lunches, and a restaurant serving larger meals. Great place and great value for money.
If you’re looking for more ideas of things to do in and around Lake Maggiore with kids, check out this post from from Travel Loving Family.
Where to stay on Lake Maggiore with kids
There are some lovely campsites dotted all around Lake Maggiore from simple grassy pitches, to holiday parks with kids clubs and water slides.
But if you’re looking for something that offers a bit more comfort after your active days exploring, check out this list of apartments and villas from Bookings for You. These guys are absolute specialists in the region and if you tell them the type of place you’re looking for and budget, they will find your perfect holiday home for the exact same price you would pay if you booked directly. They also have a fantastic personal knowledge of the area, and can tell you exactly where to go and suggest some secret gems.
A ROARSOMELY INTERACTIVE SHOW, PERFECT FOR ALL BUDDING PALAEONTOLOGISTS
This Dinosaur World Live review is from the Saturday matinee performance at Chesterfield’s Winding Wheel Theatre (11th May 2019). TraveLynn Family received complimentary tickets in return for this honest review.
ROOOOOAAAAAAAARRRRRRR!!! Eyes wide open, my boys sat fixated in their seats as the thunderous roar echoed throughout the auditorium. Titus the T-Rex, the most fearsome of all had been released, and he was hungry.
This is probably the point where I should mention that Titus isn’t a real T-Rex. Just in case you hadn’t remembered from Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures that they died out 65 million years ago. Titus is in fact a very large and life-like puppet, who comes with two very skilled puppeteers and lots of very impressive smoke and sound effects.
Aside from travel, my other love is the theatre, and seeing that I have two extremely dino-obsessed boys (aged 3 and 5), I of course had to accept an invite to see this fantastic interactive dino-show at Chesterfield’s Winding Wheel Theatre.
Positively perky Miranda introduces us to the dinosaurs that live on her South American island and provides some facts for each, including a baby and adult T-Rex, a baby Triceratops, a Microraptor, a Segnosaurus, and at the end we see a baby Giraffatitan being hatched and bonding with its Mummy. With almost each dinosaur we meet, a child from the audience is invited up on to the stage to help out, whether it be feeding, grooming, or petting.
My boys were totally engrossed, and it was magical to witness their reactions. However, they were rather disappointed that they weren’t selected to go on stage, and I had told them they would be able to meet them after the show. Although the post-show ‘meet the dino’ experience with just the baby triceratops and baby T-Rex was a bit of a free for all, and doesn’t allow for any good photo opportunities (although you are able to take photos throughout the show).
The show is 45 minutes long, which is the perfect length for a kids show. However, my boys could have done with perhaps a little less chat from Miranda and a couple more dinosaurs. There is also the usual merchandise available. I’ve added in the price-list below for parents needing a little warning.
Dinosaur World Live is a wonderfully engaging show for young kids and the craftsmanship of the dino-puppets is extremely impressive. The appearance of Titus towards the end is certainly the pinnacle, though do be warned that some young children in the auditorium found him a bit too frightening.
Are you looking to visit the Sahara Desert with kids? This is an absolute must for any family travel adventure to Morocco! TraveLynn Family were provided with a complimentary overnight stay with Luxury Desert Camp. This is our honest review, including our tips and experience. Our boys were 3 and 5 years old at the time and we visited in April 2019.
Arthur was ahead of me, swaying rhythmically side to side with ease, a smile on his face as he surveyed the endless sea of apricot-coloured sand ahead of him. I on the other hand was on the camel at the back (well technically a dromedary), shuffling around failing to get comfy. Is it just me, or are camels the most uncomfortable thing to ride on?
But my boys were in their element. We were halfway through our Morocco Easter road trip and it had been a long drive to get here. We’d parked our car in nearby Merzouga where we had been met by Hamid and his 4×4 which drove us into the desert, to then be met by our camels. I unashamedly forgot the names of our camels on introduction, and the boys decided to call them Mummy, Arthur and Ezra. Original. Daddy and Ezra (age 3) were on a camel together.
It was a slow plod on the camels as we were skilfully led around and over the shifting dunes. And would you believe that it started to rain?! And quite heavily at that! There was something quite surreal about plodding through the Sahara, one of the driest places on Planet Earth, in the rain. And just to add to the confusion, there was a heatwave happening back in the UK. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
After about 40mins (though my legs will tell you it was longer) we arrived at our accommodation for the night – Luxury Desert Camp – nestled in the majestic dunes of Erg Chebbi.
Red carpets lined with tea lights, set pathways through the sand from the glamping tents to a central seating area around a campfire. We were taken to an undercover seating area to the side for a welcome mint tea, orange juice for the boys, and homemade Moroccan biscuits. Our small overnight bags were taken to our tent for us.
The family tent consisted of two very large double beds (you could comfortably fit three in each bed), an en-suite bathroom with hot water, carpets throughout, and electricity (the site is solar powered). There are even electric blankets on the beds! It does get rather cold at night. We were definitely sleeping comfortably tonight!
As well as camel riding, there are lots of other things to do. On the drive to the camp, Hamid took us to a fantastic spot for fossil hunting! The Sahara was once a warm shallow sea, and you really don’t have to look hard to find fossils of anomites.
But the boys absolute favourite activity was sand boarding. Arthur has even decided he wants to be a professional sand boarder when he’s older. I was seriously amazed how quickly he picked it up, and with no instruction at all. Ez unfortunately had a broken arm (a pre-holiday injury), but he was happy just sat on the sand board to glide down (or running!) Although parents, be warned that it will be up to you to drag the sand boards back up the sand dune. This is no easy feat. Take water with you.
If you are staying an extra day, you can also take the camels out into the desert and enjoy a lunch and tea with local nomads. But once the kids are all sand-boarded out, enjoy a..
A comprehensive guide for any intrepid parents wanting to independently travel Morocco with kids. Particularly aimed at those with young kids. Our boys were aged 3 and 5 at the time. This post contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I receive a small commission towards the running of this blog.
The call to prayer drifted over the rooftops as we gazed below to the blue washed alleyways of Chefchouen, our cheeks still flushed from the day’s trek in the surrounding hills. We were only three days into our 2.5 week Morocco self drive itinerary, but we had been transported to an entirely different world for our Easter family holiday, and our boys (who were just 3 and 5 years old) were in their element. It’s a country that we have now ventured to three times, and I know that this recent road trip won’t be our last.
For those living in Europe, Morocco is the ‘accessible Africa’. It’s a 3.5 hour flight with budget airlines from the UK, or your could even take the 2 hour ferry crossing from Spain. There are no visa or vaccination requirements, and no jet lag if coming from Europe. A total win for family travel.
Plus, the Moroccan landscape is fantastically diverse. Kids will love running around the maze of colourful medinas, camel riding over the sand dunes of the Sahara, and trekking through the snow capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains on a mule, not to mention all the warm interactions they’ll experience with locals who make a fuss over them.
This Morocco with kids itinerary takes in a big loop from Marrakech, up to the blue city of Chefchouen, via the capital, Rabat, down to the Sahara, and back across to Marrakech through the Atlas Mountains. Feel free to copy it exactly, tweak it to your preference, or just read for inspiration.
Our self-drive route around Morocco. Credit: Google Maps
Hiring a car in Morocco
By far the easiest way to get around Morocco with kids is by hiring a car. Not only does it provide flexibility to move around on your own schedule, but for a family of four, it worked out cheaper than using public transport. The total cost of car hire, petrol and tolls for the entire trip was £377 (which worked out at £19 per day).
The roads are well maintained and the tolled motorways are excellent. We relied on Google Maps for navigation. Pick up a Moroccan sim for your phone from the airport. I paid €8 for 5GB of data with INWI, and reception was remarkably good across Morocco.
The main thing to be wary of is the tendency for local drivers to drift between lanes and cut corners on bends. Just remember when driving that there is no shame in being the slowest person on the road. It makes for much a more relaxed journey. There are also regular speed checks by police. It can be tricky to know what speed to drive as there are limited speed signs. When it doubt, stick to 60km/h. We found the police to be no problem whatsoever.
When visiting cities, we would park in car parks outside the city walls and walk to our accommodation. These were only DH20 per day (double this for Marrakech) and had guards on duty 24/7. Finding a parking spot was always straightforward and I have provided exact locations in this post.
Is Morocco safe for families
Whilst we’re unable to deem any destination as totally ‘safe’ in today’s troubled world, we found Morocco to be very safe with young kids. The main concern was the motorbikes speeding around the narrow alleyways of Marrakech’s medina.
Some tourists report being hassled by touts and there have been pick pocketing incidents. But if you keep your usual travel wits about you, you will be totally fine. Most travellers to Morocco experience no problems whatsoever. Remember to dress conservatively, don’t wear flashy jewellery, and negotiate any payments up front.
In all honesty, if you’ve travelled a fair bit as a family to Asia or Africa, you won’t find Morocco a problem at all.
Finding the best value family accommodation in Morocco
We have visited Morocco with kids three times now, and every time we have found Airbnbs to be the best value. The Airbnbs we stayed at on this trip were £40 per night on average. The cheapest was £25 and the most expensive was £60.
Airbnbs give us the added benefit of self-catering facilities, separate rooms for the children, space to play, and are a good choice for larger families.
However, in places where we were just staying the night, we would opt for a ‘hotel’ on booking.com as breakfast the next morning would be provided, making it easier to get going the next morning.
Our costs and budget for travelling Morocco with kids
This trip was almost entirely funded ourselves, apart from our overnight Sahara Desert trip and two night stay in a Marrakech riad which was hosted. With regards accommodation, we consider ourselves ‘comfortable budget travellers’.
This is the break down of our costs:
Return flights from Manchester to Marrakech with Ryanair for two adults and two children (including 2 x 10kg checked in luggage) = £600 (This was over the Easter holidays, if you can travel during term time, you will probably find even cheaper deals)
Tolls = £10 (only on road to Rabat and then part of the way to Chefchouen)
One restaurant meal for family of four = £15
Average daily spend of accommodation = £40
Our 2.5 week self drive itinerary for travelling Morocco with kids
If you only have 2 weeks, cut out a day or two in Chefchouen, and perhaps skip Ifrane.
Day 1-2 – Rabat
We flew in to Marrakech and did the 3.5 hour drive from the airport to Rabat. This was a very long day, especially considering our 2:45am start from the UK, and it would have made more sense to fly in to Rabat or even Casablanca. However, this would mean paying a one-way fee on car hire, and at the time flights to Marrakech with Ryanair from Manchester were much cheaper.
Despite being the capital of Morocco, Rabat isn’t on the typical tourist trail. However, the medina is much smaller and calmer than Marrakech, and is easier to navigate, making it a good introduction. If you’re visiting Rabat with kids, and have previously visited Marrakech, you’ll find it quite a novelty allowing your kids a bit of freedom whilst you explore the narrow alleyways, rather than gripping on to their hand for dear life as mopeds brush past you at 60km/h.
Make sure you also head over to pretty Kasbah les Oudaias with its manicured Andalisian Gardens, blue-washed walls and views over to Salé, before heading down to the beach for a play on the sand. If time allows, enjoy a ride on one of the commuter rowing boats across to Salé.
Driving time: 3.5 hours
Where we stayed: Bungalow pieds dans l’eau – Harhoura
A lovely beach-front Airbnb, just a 25 minute drive south of Rabat. To get in to Rabat, we drove and parked at a tram stop and caught the tram to the medina.
Day 3-6: Chefchaouen
It’s a four hour drive to Chefchaouen, a pretty town perched in the rugged foothills of the Rif. As soon as we arrived, we knew we wanted to stay longer than just a couple of nights and immediately changed plans with our Airbnb host to extend our stay. Admittedly, you can do all the ‘sights’ in a day, but this is a place to soak in the atmosphere, get lost in the rabbit warren of blue washed alleyways,..
Days spent playing the soft sand, then boogie boarding in the waves until the sun sets over the Arabian Sea. Absolute bliss. For anyone visiting India with kids, I always recommend tagging on a few days (or more) in Goa at the end of a trip to relax and balance out the city travel, which can often feel rather confronting and chaotic. Check out our Northern India itinerary with kids here.
It’s important you get the ‘right’ beach to fit your family though, as the beaches of Goa present quite an eclectic mix. Check out our post on best beaches in Goa for kids, or if you’re looking for something with a pool, check out these hotels in Goa.
But, if you start to get a bit twitchy and want to get out and explore, here are my top 5 things to do in Goa with kids away from the beach.
Visit a spice plantation
There are two main spice plantations in Goa – Sahakari Spice Farm in Curti and Tropical spice plantation near Ponda. Learn about the spices, how they are grown, and about the ecosystem in which they thrive. Kids will love smelling all the different aromas on a plantation tour and you can also enjoy a traditional Goan lunch.
Hire someone with a fishing boat to take you out to sea to spot dolphins. Just ask your accommodation to arrange for you, although there are formal tours available. Good places to spot them are off Paolem Beach and Coco Beach. This is a lovely activity for sunset.
Take a cookery class
For those children aged 8 and over, enrol into a Goan cookery class and try your hands at conjuring up some Indian dishes. If your kids are a bit younger and you think they would love the experience, just ask the cooking school and they will probably let them in.
Explore the crumbling ramparts of Fort Aguada, still standing from the Portuguese colonial days. There is also a lighthouse, jail and the Church of St. Lawrence.
Wander around the Portuguese-style churches of Old Goa. We visited at Christmas, and my boys loved seeing the Christmas trees and nativity set up.
Goa Science Centre & Planetarium
If it’s a rainy day, or you just need a break from the humidity, head to the Goa Science Centre & Planetarium. There are lots of interactive displays, and a 3D show, the planetarium, and an outdoor park.
Splashdown Waterpark Goa
Whizz down the slides at Splashdown Waterpark Goa. This is perhaps one of the best waterparks in India with regards to cleanliness and maintenance. It may be a bit tame for older kids, but will definitely be a huge hit with the younger ones.
Explore the jungle
Visit India’s second highest waterfall, Dudhsagar Falls, deep in the jungle near the Karnataka border. You can only get there by car, and you may find it cheaper to visit as part of a tour booked through your accommodation.
Snow Park Goa
Now if you really want to escape the heat, head to Snow Park Goa to throw snowballs, slide down ice, hide in an igloo, and sledge around.
Have you visited Goa with kids? If you have any more suggestions of things to do in Goa with kids, away from the beach, please let me know! I would also love to hear your experiences if you’ve done any of the above.