At Original Travel, we completely understand (first-hand) that each and every family is unique and therefore has entirely unique holiday preferences. However, after years of experience (15 years to be exact) planning family holidays, we like to think that we've learnt a thing or two and are able to give some valuable advice on when we think the best ages are to do certain holiday activities. Here's a bit more detail (we love a bit of detail) about the whys and wherefores of each...
Many children graduate to snorkelling pretty much the second they can swim and we know plenty of dive-obsessed parents who are then counting down the days until their little mermaids and mermen can start diving. PADI's brilliant Bubblemaker try-dive is available for eight year olds and up (see our Original Diving Bubblemaker blog), as is their Seal Team course, which ups the ante to include 'AquaMissions' where the children learn about underwater photography, navigation and the marine environment.
Any skills they've learnt will also go towards their PADI Open Water Diver certification, which children can try for from the age of ten. After that, there's the Advanced Open Water Course for ages 12 and up, and soon they'll have more dives under their weight belt than Jacques Cousteau.
As discussed in our blog post My First Safari: Wild in South Africa we think that your wild things will enjoy a safari experience in South Africa's family-friendly and malaria-free (no need to force feed revolting malaria tablets) game reserves from around the age of five. Elsewhere, as a general rule in all safari destinations, families must book private vehicles if travelling with tinies in tow, and there may be restrictions on how close you can get to certain types of wildlife. The early (and often cold) mornings and long stints in a 4x4 may also not appeal until children are ten or older. For Big Five walking, riding or gorilla spotting safaria, most places won't allow under 16s.
The first time you're elegantly carving down a blue run and overtaken by a stream of three-year old helmeted human cannonballs you realise that it's technically possible to try skiing from pretty much the time they can walk.
At Original Travel we're of the opinion that you should start a child skiing from the age of four or five, but bear in mind that a ski tantrum puts all others (except maybe a plane tantrum) to shame, so make sure the kids in question are strong enough, both physically and mentally. Given the ski-lugging, glove-finding and snot-wiping required, that probably applies to the parents as well, so if you want to delay the process, remember this truism - whether the start aged four or seven, they tend to be the same standard by ten.
While little ones are easy enough to lug around a city's museums, the real pleasure comes a few years later on when you can visit somewhere culturally intriguing that they might also appreciate. And if it helps the children put a place they're learning about at school into context, so much the better.
Unfortunately it won't be long before they're calling your bluff and correcting your somewhat sketchy knowledge of the destination - a moment of decidedly mixed emotions.
This is possibly the most difficult holiday type to judge, because you need to assess your children's physical (and mental!) strength, sense of curiousity and appetite for risk if planning an adventurous trip. If they're good to go on all of the above, then the world is your family's oyster and you should have many exciting holidays ahead that broaden the children's minds and help build up their self confidence and sense of self-worth. Pretty key stuff, really.