If you enjoyed walking and cycling holidays BC (Before Children) why give up on them WC (With Children)? So many parents believe they need to hang up their walking shoes and leave their bikes in the garage until their kids have become fully-grown but that’s just not the case. You do need to take the time to plan the right cycling or walking holiday for you family, especially if you have young children, but great holiday adventures are out there waiting to be enjoyed.
Prepare well: Flying the kids to Switzerland, popping on brand-new hiking boots and then expecting them to walk high mountains for seven hours every day for a week is probably not going to work out too well! However, if you introduce youngsters to walking and cycling outings at home, making them short and fun and allowing them to become used to their boots or bikes, you have a much greater chance of a successful active family holiday.
Ease them in: Start with shorter walks and rides on the flat with the promise of an ice cream of hot chocolate and cake at the end. Then build up the miles over the months and add in a few hills. You can walk or cycle on a wide network of off-road trails and quieter roads in the UK so there is no need to spend much time on busy roads.
Buy the right kit: Adults and children will be miserable if they have the wrong size of bike or clothing that isn’t fit for the activity. So when you’re splashing out on your lightweight, 24-speed gear mountain bike or a good quality waterproof jacket for yourself, make sure you buy something similar for the children. It is false economy to expect them to put up with poor equipment. You will be able to pass on their kit to younger siblings or sell it second-hand.
Trailers for toddlers: A good investment for very young children is a trailer that can be fitted to an adult’s bike. As they grow they can progress to a tag-along bike, before owning their own bike.
Make it fun: If you’re going out for a walk, get the kids to look for “treasure”, such as different leaves or fun-shaped pebbles, and offer rewards for items found. We have blogged about top tips for walking with kids.
Carry the kids: Until they are aged about nine months, it’s possible for fit parents to walk with their kids sitting in special kid-carrying backpacks. One of our youngest customers walked the full English coast-to-coast riding on her mum’s back!
Here we bring you a selection of our favourite walking and cycling holidays for families.
Downhill and waymarked: The Classic Danube Cycle Path (Passau to Vienna). One of Europe’s most popular cycle paths and a real treat for families. This section can be cycled over eight leisurely days and is perfectly suited to families. The cycling is wonderfully flat or gently downhill as you follow the Danube downstream. The route is also waymarked, paved and traffic-free so there is no need to worry about getting lost, losing your kids as they cycle on ahead or being anxious about motorised traffic. If you wanted to cycle with young children in a trailer this is the ideal family cycling holiday for you. In addition, there are plenty of stop off places, including villages and cafes, en route to keep children entertained
Straight and narrow: Cycle the wonderful Canal du Midi Cycling holiday in France with your family. This trip is best suited to older children, especially those with a fascination for history. The canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and provides the perfect cycling route to journey past many historic and heritage attractions. You can adapt the holiday to suit younger children by cycling fewer miles per day. Highlights include cycling across the 240m arched Orb aqueduct at Bèziers and relaxing at the canal side with a just bought picnic.
Boat and bike: The Danube Bike and Boat River Cruise is another family-friendly cycling holiday, with the bonus of offering days on board a boat if pedalling legs have become tired. Cycle the waymarked Danube Cycle Way on flat and easy going paths, watch boats as their cruise by and see the famous Danube Loop. There is no need to repack your entire luggage for transferring between hotels each morning and there’s easy access to the boat at the end of each cycle. (This can make a huge difference to tiny tempers when children are tired after cycling and just want to sit down and eat a meal.)
Go off-road: The UK offers a wealth of off-road cycling and one holiday that is perfect for families with children is the Hadrian’s Cycleway. If you live in the UK, you could take your own comfortable bikes on this holiday and you only have to ask if you would like to make the cycling days shorter and the holiday itself longer. It’s important to be realistic about what your little ones can manage on a bike in one day. The scenery will certainly keep everyone in the family happy and welcoming bike-friendly accommodation is guaranteed.
Walk the coast: Scotland’s stunning Fife Coastal trail holiday could be the perfect active trip for your family. There are plenty of stop off points en route so you can decide before you go how many miles you would like to walk in a day. Why not combine walking days with beach days in between? The coast in this eastern part of Scotland offers a wealth of things to do on the beach and in pretty fishing villages.
Tell us your top tips for successful walking and cycling holidays with children (apart from leaving them with grandparents!)