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Family adventures

Holidays are better than toys

Ellen Brown January 10, 2018

According to recent studies, our buying habits are changing. We are consuming less and investing more in the ‘experience economy’, preferring to spend our hard earned cash on things that enrich our lives, as opposed to buying things that maybe quickly forgotten – including toys at Christmas.

The theory goes that buying items that make us happy in the short term, lose their lustre in the long term. How many times have we been overjoyed to receive something new, only to tire of it quickly afterward? Yet, the experience that you enjoyed while travelling, stays with you forever, becoming a permanent addition to your identity.

Family activities at Sun City Africa

You revisit these experiences across the decades. It informs your choices. These experiences are not purchased as you would buy a new phone or pair of shoes. They are earned; clamouring over a hill to be greeted by an ancient temple, kayaking in lagoons and spying turtles, beaming with pleasure as you zip-line across a rainforest.

 So if you’d prefer to give experiences rather than presents next Christmas for you and your family, here are some suggestions that prove holidays might just be better than toys.  

1. Embark on a jungle holiday at Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp in Thailand

 Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp in ThailandThailand offers adventure for all the family. Beaches, easy travelling, gorgeous year-round weather, friendly people and world class cuisine. Of course, the coastline gets all the plaudits but further inland Khao Sok National Park is a place of outstanding natural beauty. Nestling amid all this splendour is the tented luxury of Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp.

We don’t think you will ever get over the sight of those dramatic limestone cliffs, rising out of the rainforest, the chatter of monkeys and exotic birdlife. Get closer to nature when you stay on a floating villa at the lakeside camp, absorbing the tranquility of your surroundings. Then take a kayak tour to discover the biodiversity of this fertile region, plus when you visit the nearby elephant sanctuary, your family will have the chance to help bathe, feed and observe the Asian elephants at close quarters. It’s a memory that you will never leave you.

2. Combine futuristic Singapore with the rainforests of Borneo

Immerse your family in a different culture in Singapore, a cultural melting pot and an architectural wonder that mixes modern skylines with old world heritage and captivating landmarks. Not only is this the home of one of an amazing grand prix circuit, there are iconic sights such as the Gardens by the Bay and OCBC Skyway, plus, you’ll also find Sentosa Island. Your children will be left dazzled and delighted by the immersive entertainment and thrilling rollercoasters as the silver screen is brought to life at Universal Studios. After a fun packed day, retreat to the tropical haven of Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa and unwind on idyllic beaches while the little ones enjoy The Flying Trapeze, an exhilarating beachside activity.

Orangutan in the trees in Borneo

Then, after your amazing exploration of the city, the next part of your adventure will take you to Borneo’s tropical rainforests to spot flame-haired orangutans swinging through the trees. Stay at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort and Spa and enjoy breakfast with spectacular views of Mount Kinabalu, while the kids’ club provides a wide variety of activities, from mask making to assisting rangers with their daily tasks.

3. Embark on a dramatic culutral adventure in Oman


Our Oman Explorer tour is the ultimate family desert adventure. Begin in Muscat and explore Al Alam Palace, the residence of His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos and the Muttraj Souq – one of the oldest marketplaces in Oman, an Aladdin’s cave of sights, scents and sounds. Enjoy a cruise in the Persian Gulf to witness friendly dolphins before taking to the water yourselves to explore the marine life.

Swap the city for the desert as you transfer to 4x4’s for an adventure across sand dunes. The adrenaline junkies of the family can take part in sand boarding and quad biking, before a night under the stars in camp will astound impressionable minds with the beauty of the cosmos. Nothing quite beats a desert sunrise, so wake early to witness the stunning sunrise over the dunes. Head up to Jabal Shams, the highest peak of the Arabian Peninsula at 2800m above sea level. Tour the Bahla Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and explore the sandstone walls of the ancient city of Nizwa before returning to Muscat where you can reflect on an unforgettable family adventure.  

4. Combine cosmopolitan city life with the cowboy lifestyle in Seattle and Montana


For an action-packed family holiday, discover Seattle, where city skyline meets emerald hills, before unleashing your inner western spirit with a ranch stay in Montana. Take in the spectacular panoramic vistas from the top of the Space Needle, before getting out on the ocean to spot whales on a wildlife tour. Be swept upward on an aerial adventure across the beautiful state of Washington on the state-of-the-art theatre ride, Wings over Washington. Experience the sights, sounds and tastes of Pike Place market, savour cinnamon coated doughnuts and watch the exciting flying fish display as vendors toss seafood in the air.

Explore the wonders of Montana when you stay at The 320 Guest Ranch, where luxury meets unspoilt wilderness. Saddle up for a horseback ride and enjoy gourmet campfire dining. Prepare your children for an exhilarating adventure through the wild meadows and forest areas, from sleigh riding to zip-lining and whitewater rafting to rock climbing.

5. Experience the thrill in Dubai  before chilling out in Mauritius


To get away from the blast-freezer that is winter, combine the thrilling entertainment capital of the Middle East – Dubai – with the laidback paradise Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Both grown-ups and children will be left with lasting impressions of iconic landmarks such as the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain.  Explore the fun-filled resort Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai. Slide through shark filled lagoons and take The Leap of Faith at Aquaventure Waterpark, and visit The Lost Chambers Aquarium to gaze at 65,000 marine animals. 

After an adventure in Dubai, contrast with a slice of exotic island life in Mauritius. Situated on a white sandy beach, with plenty of activities to keep both young children and teenagers entertained, discover the perfect holiday for families at Long Beach Golf and Spa Resort. Parents can chill in the infinity pool with a signature cocktail in hand, while little ones are kept occupied with afternoon rock climbing, windsurfing and nature treks.

6. Unlock your family’s wild side in South Africa


Next Christmas, watch your children’s eyes light up as they enjoy the exhaustive list of fun packed activities at the Sun City Resort amid the breathtaking scenery of South Africa. This haven of child-friendly adventures will thrill all the family from flumes rides at Valley of Waves, water-skiing at Waterworld and adrenaline pumping zip-wires to Segway tours and unforgettable wildlife encounters. With plenty to keep younger minds occupied, adults can enjoy a round of golf safe in the knowledge that the little ones are being entertained.

Continue your journey of adventure and become fully immersed in the naturally beautiful surrounds of the Eastern Cape. Enjoy an amazing safari experience at Shamwari Game Reserve’s Riverdene Lodge. Upon arrival you’ll be greeted by fully qualified coordinators and each young explorer will receive a back pack full of activities. The kids on safari programme is guaranteed to keep them entertained and includes a visit to the Born Free Big Cats Rescue Centre.

7. Discover the great outdoors of Ontario, Canada


If your family would like to experience a Christmas that is all about snow, then head to one of Canada’s cosmopolitan cities and enjoy a beautiful Christmas experience. Quebec City offers an enduring scene of Christmas markets and boutique shops set in cobble streets filled with dazzling lights. Choose the historic Canadian capital of Ottawa and witness the thousands of lights illuminate the capital from early December onwards, and be sure to visit the enchanting Christmas trees by the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel. In Toronto, we suggest you take to the ice at the Natrel Rink at Harbourfront Centre, for some scenic lakefront skating.


Once you’ve explored all the exciting attractions that these cities have to offer, take the children for adventurous and unique activities at the family-friendly Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville. The festive activity list includes Nordic skiing, sleigh rides, snow-shoeing or take an exciting snowmobile adventure, plus lots of indoor adventures too from indoor pools to rock climbing walls and giant play zones.

So, have we convinced you holidays might just be better than toys next Christmas? If you’re tempted, but you need more inspiration, visit our Family holiday pages and start planning your next adventure.