Top 10 International Child-Friendly Cycling Holidays
If you are a keen leisure cyclist on the familiar highways and byways just outside your door, the chances are you will enjoy the experience of discovering new places from the “comfort” of a bike saddle. However, the care-free, adrenaline-fuelled adventures enjoyed pre-parenthood will probably need to go on hold for a few years and you will have to move more slowly and stop more frequently than you did previously.
You may find that the prospect of encountering busy, unfamiliar roads, which did not faze you as a solo cyclist, suddenly becomes fraught with worry when you have a family in tow. You will also discover the impact that family cycling holidays have on your wallet! Flights, cycle hire and accommodation for an entire family soon add up and it becomes more imperative than ever to have chosen the right holiday. Booking on to a guided or self-guided trip that is too much for the littlest legs in your party will be a waste of money and the perfect recipe for a terrible holiday full of grumpy frustrations.
Family cycling holidays are big business. Providers such as Headwater, Freedom Treks, Hooked on Cycling, Wheel2Wheel and many more offer a multitude of bicycle-based adventures all over the world, so it is easy to feel over-whelmed with options.
With this in mind, we have compiled a list of our top 10 child-friendly cycling holidays worldwide, grading the experiences for beginners or those with young children, right through to experienced riders with older children who are also strong, confident cyclists. If you find the right family cycling holiday then the shared endeavour of physical exertion, the fresh air and the excitement of discovering of new places together makes for a fantastic bonding experience that will be remembered for years to come.
Quick Menu Navigation
- SOUTHERN ENGLAND: New Forest to the Isle of Wight
- NORTHERN ENGLAND: Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway
- BELGIUM: Discover Bruges and its Environs from a Single Hotel
- ITALY: Dolomites to Lake Garda
- AUSTRIA: Salzburg and the Austrian Lake District
- SPAIN: Coast-to-Coast Mallorca Flatlands Tour
- AUSTRIA: Cycle the Danube from Passau to Vienna
- CAMBODIA: A South East Asian Family Adventure
- MOROCCO: African Souks and Lonely Mountains
- COSTA RICA: Weird and Wonderful Wildlife
For Beginners (or those with young children)
SOUTHERN ENGLAND: New Forest to the Isle of Wight
For your first foray into the realm of family cycling holidays it may be worth taking a short staycation and enjoying the traffic-free trails of the New Forest, one of UK’s most beautiful national parks. The Carter Company is a family run business based in Hereford that offers cycling (and walking) holidays throughout the UK and Europe. Each of the cycling tours they advertise has been cycled by Wendy Carter, the company founder. Her meticulous research and first-hand experience has resulted in a range of holidays that epitomise the maxim that ‘it is not just about the destination but about all those hidden gems you discover along the way’.
From all the trips that The Carter Company offer, we have selected the New Forest to the Isle of Wight tour, which is 70% traffic-free and features a ferry trip to the Isle of Wight, which has proved very popular with children. This five-day trip starts and finishes from Burley, near Brockenhurst and the terrain is described as ‘flattish’. The trip calls for three days of cycling between 13 and 20 miles (2-4 hours) per day, with a further day of optional cycling if desired.
NORTHERN ENGLAND: Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway
A slightly hillier option to the New Forest, but still achievable for determined little legs, the Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway runs from Bowness to Tynemouth and offers stunning scenery and a rich history to share with the kids. Skeddadle offer a 7-day self-guided cycling holiday along the Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway for a minimum of two people.
Requiring between 13 and 22 miles of cycling for six out of the seven days, the route utilises quiet roads, traffic free tracks and National Cycle Network paths, so is great for children and inexperienced cyclists. Accommodation, transfers, luggage transfers and emergency back up are all included and, although the holiday is self-guided, detailed route notes and maps are provided to help you on your way.
BELGIUM: Discover Bruges and its Environs from a Single Hotel
If you have children that get unsettled by sleeping in unfamiliar places, the prospect of a cycling holiday where you are in a new hotel every night may put you off the idea completely. This four-night holiday takes you to different part of the countryside around Bruges each day. There are four routes to choose from, with most guests choosing to do three of the four (particularly keen beans can fit in all four if they arrive early enough on day one to fit in a ride).
Graded as ‘Easy’ by the Freedom Treks website, the three main cycling routes range in distance from 32 to 43 miles and take in a wide range of scenery, from seaside towns to picturesque villages, quiet canal paths to water-besieged Polder lands. Cycling in Belgium and the Netherlands is a way of life for many people and the well-paved and clearly numbered cycle paths allow you to take your nose out of the map and really enjoy your surroundings.
On returning to Bruges each evening, all the family will have earned their Belgian waffles and the adults will be spoilt for choice if they want to enjoy a celebratory beer. Aside from the gastronomic delights of this tour, another major bonus is that, due to its single centre, you can choose to have an impromptu rest day (should little legs need it) without compromising the holiday.
For Intermediates (venturing further afield and maybe taking on more challenging terrain)
ITALY: Dolomites to Lake Garda
If you are looking for a gentle, child-friendly cycle route but are keen to leave the UK for your holiday, you can’t really go wrong with this easy and scenic 6-day trip from Brixen to Lake Garda in Italy. Although it is surrounded by views of the Dolomites, this Flexitreks cycling holiday avoids all but one major climb and the rest of the way is on flat and scenic riverside cycle paths.
Swap exhausting steep climbs for views of crystal clear waters and verdant hillsides. Say goodbye to busy roads and enjoy well-maintained, purpose built trails. All the website reviews for this trip give it five stars and respondents rave about everything from the excellent breakfasts and delicious wine to the customer service and the comfortable hotels.
AUSTRIA: Salzburg and the Austrian Lake District
If, like my childhood self, your children’s two major pastimes are cycling and swimming and they can’t make up their minds which one they prefer, then this 7-night Headwater trip to Austria may just be their dream holiday! The lakeside route offers swimming opportunities every day and the leisurely pace means that there is plenty of time to enjoy some of the other delights the region has to offer.
You only cycle for three of the eight days, never cycling more than 25 miles in a single day. When not in the saddle you have the chance to take a horse-drawn carriage in Bad Ischl, get the adrenaline pumping on the summer toboggan run at Strobl and take the cable car up Zwolferhorn to take in the 360 degree views at the top. In terms of distance covered by bike, this tour is less challenging than some of the Beginners’ holidays, but the wealth of other activities available suggests that this tour would be better appreciated by slightly older children who are willing to plunge into a lake or hurtle down a toboggan run!
SPAIN: Coast-to-Coast Mallorca Flatlands Tour
Bathing its visitors in sunshine 300 days a year, Mallorca is an understandably popular holiday destination. This 6-day family-friendly cycling tour by Love Velo takes you to fragrant orange groves, cooling caves and the beautiful beach at Puerto Pollenca. Love Velo prides itself on its ability to tailor-make your trip to your individual requirements, so you can choose to stay in traditional fincas and boutique hotels or upgrade to 5* luxury, extend your stay and even include route extras to make things more challenging (if that’s your thing!)
Cycling an average of around 20 miles per day on four out of the six days you are away (the first and last days being transfer days), the majority of this route is flat and cycled on quiet country lanes. If you fall in love with the destination but wish to change any of the specifics of the itinerary, it is worth getting in touch with Love Velo to see if they can customise the experience to make it suitable for your family.
AUSTRIA: Cycle the Danube from Passau to Vienna
If you think the junior cyclists in your party are up to cycling everyday for eight days, this ten-day biking tour in Austria may be worth considering. Taking advantage of the popular, traffic-free cycling routes by the Danube, this trip covers mostly flat terrain, though there are some inclines should you wish to explore away from the river.
Daily distances range from 19 to 40 miles (though the 40 mile day can be combined with a train ride to reduce the mileage to 14m, if you feel that this would be a tall order for anyone in your party). You will discover medieval castles, historic abbeys and verdant countryside and the adults can even sample the delights offered by local vineyards to reward their cycling efforts.
For Experienced Cycling Families Hungry for Adventure!
CAMBODIA: A South East Asian Family Adventure
Discover the friendly people, tasty food and beautiful landscape of Cambodia as a family on this 13-day trip. It starts in Siem Reap and travels south via Ankor Wat, Tonle Sap Lake to the country’s capital, Phnom Penh. Riding between 10 and 38 miles per day and covering nearly 220 miles in total the route uses paved and unpaved roads, dirt tracks and village trails and the terrain is mostly flat.
The tour is fully vehicle supported, so you can ride as little or as much as you like, which takes the pressure to keep up off young legs (or tired parents!) The team at Responsible Travel recommend it for touring bikes or mountain bikes that have been fitted with semi-slick tires and feel that is achievable for active families who have a bit of experience of cycling.
You will be travelling with up to two other families from around the world and will be accompanied by a guide/interpreter and local crew. The minimum age for children is 10 years, but if you have younger children who you think would enjoy the holiday, do contact the company, as they sometimes make exceptions!
MOROCCO: African Souks and Lonely Mountains
If you have teenagers who are keen cyclists with a thirst for adventure, this family cycling holiday to Morocco may just be perfect for you! A guided trip that starts and ends in Marrakech, it explores the Sahara Desert, the Atlas Mountains and the busy heart of the Moroccan capital.
You will be in a group of between 10 and 16 people and accompanied a tour leader, a local guide and support staff. Accommodation is generally in hotels, but on Day 4 you get to camel trek to a desert camp for the ultimate Arabian Nights experience of sleeping in the tranquillity of the Sahara.
Due to the nature of the landscape and the desire to create a diverse and interesting family holiday, there are a number of bus transfers on this trip, which provide an alternative way to soak up the North African landscape and to cover more ground than you would otherwise be able to.
COSTA RICA: Weird and Wonderful Wildlife
If you have the budget and the time, this 12-day family cycling holiday in Costa Rica takes in volcanoes, rainforests and spectacular coastline and is sure to be memorable for everyone along for the ride. Travelling between 12 and 19 miles per day on quiet trails, with 4 non-cycling days, this tour is more a discovery of some of the delights of Costa Rica that incorporates some bike riding, than a physically challenging holiday with cycling as the main focus (and that is why we love it – why travel all that way and not take time to explore out of the saddle?).
Keep your eyes peeled for tapir and capuchin monkeys as you cycle through Trapanti National Park and don’t even try to keep your hair dry as you white water raft on the Pacuare River. And if you are lucky enough to spot a jaguar at any time on your holiday, you have to let us know!