Holidays with Kids


girl in tentFAMILIES are enjoying a return to the great Aussie holiday as the economic downturn forces them to travel closer to home. Coastal camping grounds and caravan parks are filling up in the lead-up to Christmas as families choose affordable beachside holidays above expensive overseas destinations.

"People are taking advantage of the fabulous hoilday opportunities up and down the NSW coast," Sundowner Tourist Parks manager Simon Luke says. "Families are embracing a return to the traditional holidays where the beach played a big role rather than the five-star resort or theme park."

The Caravan, RV and Accommodation Industry of Australia (CRVA) reported 70 per cent of people aged 35-49 with children have chosen a caravan/holiday park destination within the last two years.

Tourism Research Australia's National Visitor Survey March 2009 Quarterly report found two-thirds of visitors travelled within their state or territory. And more than half of the money spent on travelling in Australia was done in regional areas rather than the capital cities.

But popular resort locations in places like Bali and Fiji are luring travellers with cheap package deals which won't set you back much more than a local trip.

Lisa Allan, manager of Travel With Kidz, an agency that specialises in family holidays, says there are so many specials out there that families would be crazy to automatically disregard overseas destinations.

Overseas carriers such as Singapore Airlines are so desperate to fill seats they are periodically offering deals where children fly for free, Allan says. "The A380 seats 500 people and they don't want to send these planes out empty, so they offer the world to get people travelling.

"In places like Fiji deals commonly include offers where kids stay, eat and play for free so you virtually pay up front and then don't have to put your hand in your pocket again once you get there."

Club Med, which has popular locations at Phuket and Bali, is another top choice for families due to their seasonal offers that kids stay, eat and play for free.

Lisa Allan says a seven-night family holiday to Fiji's 3-star Naviti Resort including flights, airport transfers, taxes, kids club, all meals and even alcohol comes in at under $5000 for a family of four.

"Overseas holidays are great for families because the kids get that cultural experience and something a little different," Allan says. "This is the time for people to take advantage to go overseas and make the most of these specials."

The srength of the Australian dollar means locations such as Disneyland in the USA are looking more attractive financially.

Lisa Allan says the top three overseas destinations for families at the moment are:

1. Fiji: especially Castaway Island
2. Thailand: especially Phuket and the southern beaches such of Koh Samui
3. LA: especially the Disneyland experience

Closer to home Simon Luke says families can enjoy a great holiday experience at locations such as Sundowner's Tiona Resort near the mid-north coast town of Forster for as little as $22 a night. The place caters to families wanting anything from a tent site to a spa cabin with self-contained ammenities.

But activities such as family 'learn to surf' packages, kayaking and whale watching trips make these local trips a unique experience.

"These types of packages encourage families to spend time together rather than turning up at a resort where the parents drop the little ones at the kids club and take off," Luke says. "It's great to see families doing activities together during the day or simply hanging out at the great local beaches then having a relaxed barbecue in the evening."

Tourism NSW spokesperson Annabel Porter says during the school holidays the NSW coast is the first to book up, especially Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie. But she encourages families to consider locations such as the Snowy Mountains which have great mountain hiking trecks, pristine fishing spots and great horseriding trails.

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