Lydia Gard is a freelance writer specialising in luxury family travel, since having two boys she is determined to find truly luxurious places that celebrate rather than simply tolerate young families. In her first of 6 blogs Lydia talks us through the her top 5 toddler holidays...

I have always been a keen traveler...

I met my husband sailing off the coast of Zanzibar. We drove across the Sahara, partied in Marrakech, ski-toured British Columbia and sipped sundowners in Nicaragua - all the while swearing that having children wouldn't change a thing. Hey ho, a toddler (Small) and a baby (Boff) later and our prized collection of Bradt travel guides now form the walls of a den behind the sofa. Like many parents of young children, I'm still adventurous. I had children, not a personality transplant. I don't want an all-inclusive resort with crèche and nannies thanks very much, I want my children to see the world, taste it and touch it and get stuck in. However, given that the drive from Hampshire to London requires two loo breaks, a snack stop and almost incessant I-spy then the prospect of driving from East to West Africa in an old Landrover has miraculously lost its appeal. Having a toddler in tow doesn't negate adventure, you just have to think about the practicalities. Given the choice between a kids club in a chic hotel (plastic toys, kids menus, stuffy dining rooms) and a big game safari (animals, vehicles, campfires, tents…), I know which one Small would choose. If you avoid malarial regions, consider time zones and pack with savvy, then adventure travel is far more rewarding than lying on a beach while someone sprays your Melissa Odabash bikini with wet sand.

girl on safari

Top five toddler adventures vetted by Small

Safari in South Africa

A healthy dose of parental instinct will probably put malarial regions off the map for now. With an overnight flight, no jet lag and crucially in a malaria free region, the Madikwe Game Reserve is a great safari destination for holidays with children. Big game means big fun for toddlers, with black rhino, lions, and elephants all guaranteed to delight.

Jamming Jamaica

Entertaining a busy toddler on a beach for an entire week is some kind of hell. Small loves a sandcastle but even that has its limitations. Add to that a donkey ride, reggae lesson and a boat ride along the Black River to explore mangrove swamps to see birds and crocodiles and you have one happy chap.

Festive Finland

If the dodgy beard on Hamley's Santa just didn't quite cut it with your inquisitive little one, consider a family fling in Lapland to meet the real Father Christmas. Complete with reindeer, elves, and a husky safaris through the snowbound forests, it is more than a bit magical seeing the awe and wonder on their faces (under a thermal balaclava of course).

Galapagos adventure

Future naturalists (and fans of Andy's Wild Adventures) take note. The Galapagos Islands are a real life adventure playground full of curious creatures like swimming lizards, flightless birds and tropical penguins. Exploring on a ship, taking trips on a glass-bottomed boat and getting up close to the animals all add to the pirate adventure.

Oman for Baby Bedouins

Like most toddlers Small likes to get involved, so if the dolphin and whale watching doesn't do the trick, meeting Arabian horses, taking camel rides across the dunes and spending a night in a tented camp will all enthrall. It doesn't sound too shabby to me either.

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