'The focus is no longer about yourself and your preferences; you must now appreciate the sorts of experiences that young children enjoy.'

Cape Town - Spending time together as a family, and not just parents and kids, but grandparents too, has become increasingly important as families crave holidays to reconnect and create memories.

Recent studies have even shown there are real health benefits to going on holiday together.

But before you dig deep into your pocket to splurge on the latest theme park holiday or exotic beach destination, take note of the trend towards experiential holidays that let all ages get under the skin of a destination.

Trafalgar South Africa MD Theresa Szejwallo explains experiential travel has become a very popular trend amongst families seeking more than a bucket and spade holiday. “A family holiday offers the right context to encourage children to try new things, explore new cultures and learn while having fun. Sharing once-in-a-lifetime experiences on holiday with your children will enrich your family forever,” she says.

Exploring new cultures with your family also doesn’t have to break the bank in 2016 despite the downward trajectory of the rand, according to Theresa. “We’ve fixed our 2016 tours at 2015 prices, so it’s a 30 percent saving on what you would have paid if we had followed the rand’s journey,” she says.

Here are Theresa’s top ‘experiential’ family travel picks for 2016:

 

1. A foodie holiday in Europe

Who said foodie holidays are reserved for adults only? Foodies are getting younger and younger, just look at MasterChef Junior, and most children enjoy trying new flavours and tastes when exploring different cultures. On Trafalgar’s European Wonderland trip, kids will love tasting Swiss chocolate and Italian gelato. They’ll learn how to spin fresh pizza dough with an expert Italian chef in Rome before sliding them into real traditional pizza ovens.

 

2. Relive Italy’s gruesome battles

Italy is a dream destination for history buffs and culture lovers alike. Going on a family holiday doesn’t mean you need to give up on your own interests and scrap Italy off your bucket list. The trick to keep the kids’ attention is to make history come alive. Your tour guide will enthral your children with tales of Rome's savagery, Florence's romance and Venice's decadence on the Gladiators, Gondolas and Gold trip. Kids will never forget the Roman gladiators after they’ve attended the Gladiator training school, felt the weight of the sword in their hands and learned the basics of sword fighting.

 

3. In the footsteps of Harry Potter

Would you like to explore the dramatic landscapes of the UK and Scotland, but are afraid your kids will get bored? Enter the world of Harry Potter and your kids will be even more excited than you are to start exploring. On the Castles and Kilts Trafalgar trip, children will see the red telephone box where Harry Potter and Mr. Weasley descend into the secret Ministry of Magic in the ‘Order of the Phoenix'. They’ll get a peak of the magical platform 9¾ sign where Harry catches the Hogwarts Express, and they’ll even be able to visit Harry Potter’s house in the picturesque Lacock village in rural Wiltshire.

 

4. Discover America’s Wild West

If there’s a time in history that appeals to everyone’s imagination, it must be America’s Wild West. Brush up on Billy the Kid’s history as you take your children back to the land of cowboys and Native Americans on a historic rail journey to the Grand Canyon.

On a Pioneer Adventures of the Old West Trafalgar trip, your family can enjoy a ‘Be My Guest’ dinner in the historic railroad town of Williams or explore the high desert and the Kaibab National Forest while hearing tales and folklore about the area.

 

5. Monkeys, jungles and volcanoes

Step aside Tarzan. How about a family adventure to the jungle of Costa Rica? Besides flying between the jungle trees on a zipline and having up-close-and-personal encounters with slots, iguanas and toucans, you’ll also be able to meet locals who strive to protect the sea turtles. Explore the underwater world further and go snorkelling amongst the dolphins, parrotfish and sea turtles on the Trafalgar Monkeys, jungles and volcanoes trip.

Adapted from a press release for IOL