If you've decided it's time to get more foreign stamps in your passport and explore the world with your children, here are some ideas of family-friendly destinations overseas. What they have in common is that communication won't be an issue as English is either the country's official language or widely spoken. Each in its distinct way will create exotic memories, broaden your kids' horizons, and enable your family to discover new cultures and landscapes.
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, South Africa
If it's your first family trip to Africa, the southernmost nation is a great place to start, especially if you wish to experience a Big Five safari -- a reference to the lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard which are the most dangerous animals to hunt and make for mesmerising viewing. The most famous national park in the country, the Kruger, is the ideal destination for some spectacular wildlife-spotting. With an excellent conservation record and a wonderfully diverse range of animals roaming around, that's where you want your kids to go on their first safari adventure.
Set by the park, Ulusaba Private Game Reserve offers stunning views over the African bush and as you'd expect from a Richard Branson property, all the trimmings for a fun and exceptional stay -- think spa on top of a hill, great wine cellar, and pools. Guests, ages 6 and over, can participate in twice daily game drives and safari walks. Family-friendly accommodation is available at Rock Lodge, standing on top of a koppie with picture-perfect panorama. Currently, up to two kids, ages 0-11, can stay for free. And there is also an opportunity for families to volunteer at one of the partnering charities, an unmissable experience for kids to meet local children.
London is a fantastic year-round destination for families with fascinating historical sites, entertainment options ranging from sport venues to wonderful musicals, and plenty of shopping opportunities. Add to these a great food scene, beautiful parks and castles, and first-class museums and you have the ideal mix for a fun and educational vacation. One day you might be admiring art masterpieces at the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, check out Buckingham Palace, then take a long leisurely walk in Hyde Park. Another excursion might lead you to upscale department stores Harrods and Harvey Nichols in the elegant Knightsbridge district.
A perfect base to explore all these exciting places is the luxurious and kid-friendly Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, where you can get your 3rd night free plus $50 lunch credit. Not only does it offer complimentary cots, fold-out beds, mini bathrobes, kids' umbrella (after all, it's London we're talking about!), storybook and crayons to its young guests, the five-star property also has babysitting services and one of the most knowledgeable concierges in town to recommend the best spots for families.
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Experience Arabian hospitality and the Gulf's rich history by taking the kids to Abu Dhabi, a family-friendly destination offering year-round sunshine, beautiful historical and natural sites, as well as extraordinary accommodation standards. Among the activities kids will love are Yas Waterworld, a futuristic waterpark with 43 rides, slides and attractions, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, and the Al Ain Zoo, home to over 4,000 animals. Hikes in the Al Ain oasis, a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an enchanting edifice, or dune bashing are other popular options.
The Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, offers families an exquisite base for their vacation in Abu Dhabi. With access to a private beach, close reach to the famous Corniche and city center and superb modern Arabic style accommodation, the 8.5 hectare resort is sure to wow parents and children alike. And with their current special rate and a $100 spa credit offer, families can bask in luxury without splurging.
Puerto Rico (Courtesy St. Regis)
The tropical island of Puerto Rico is a fantastic playground for families looking for a relaxing but active vacation with water sports, hikes, and cultural outings available. Plus, you don't need a passport to go there. This family-friendly Caribbean getaway features beautiful beaches, historic castles, and a lush rainforest. If you're traveling with young kids, the Museo del Nino (Children's Museum) is a must.
Stay at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort to enjoy stunning ocean views from the stylish rooms and suites, swimming pools, a gourmet restaurant, spa, and Robert Trent Jones Jr golf course. The resort's Iguana Children's Club offers educational, adventurous and ecological activities for kids ages 4-12. Turtle feeding, treasure hunts, and arts and crafts are among activities your young ones can partake in.
Sonia Esther Soltani contributed this to MiniTime.