Travelling with kids can be a different ball game altogether. Children can have a tremendous amount of both energy and curiosity, and require a more kinaesthetic approach. Given that there will almost always be differences in personality, disposition and interest amongst various members of the household, to say planning a family holiday can be a mountainous task is very much an understatement.
|Meet the holiday makers|
Mr. and Mrs. Zhu, Wallace (9), Irwin (7), and Terri (4)
A family of nature and animal lovers, the Zhus enjoy heading outdoors. Their two boys, Wallace and Irwin, love coming up close and personal with animals; they are relatively unafraid in approaching anything, and find excitement in anything from tracing their fingers along the smooth, leathery skin of a snake to feeling the peck of the beaks of hungry birds. Their youngest daughter Terri is a little less outgoing and timid. Mr. and Mrs. Zhu look to encourage this love for nature and animals, by trying to engage their children in different experiences with both flora and fauna.
Mr. and Mrs. Ghee, Curie (14), Karl (8), and Clio (6)
Mr. and Mrs. Ghee believes in taking learning beyond the walls of the classroom — to museums, science centres and even outdoor exploration. They would capitalise on any opportunity to feed their three children with titbits on the Russian Revolution or the process of photosynthesis. The Ghee’s two younger kids are inquisitive enough, always asking intelligent and most out of the world questions. They enjoy hands-on interactive media and exhibits in museums and science centres. Their older daughter Curie, on the other hand, has started to resent this seemingly excessive push. Mr. and Mrs. Ghee hope to find activities that can arouse the desire to learn as well as draw their family closer.
Mr. and Mrs. Ho, Darenne (13) and Garton (10)
Mr. and Mrs. Ho are thrillseekers, constantly on a lookout for the most heart-stopping and jaw-dropping activities to try out. They have conquered the likes of the tallest and fastest roller coasters, and surmounted the longest zip line. It has always been their desire for their kids to share this joy. While their elder daughter Darenne possesses the same daredevil stance as her parents, their younger son Garton is a little less willing to share in this sense of adventure, preferring to sit out in fear of heights. Mr. and Mrs. Ho hope to help their younger son to at least overcome his inertia.
That said, knowing what sort of family travel profile you fall under certainly helps in deciding what attractions and activities to shortlist, once inspiration has struck regarding the destination. And if you can’t seem to fill your itinerary with decent suggestions for your inclinations as family, let it serve as a warning that the proposed country or cities are perhaps more suited for other folks. This article will attempt to outline three basic family holiday personalities, for which a specialist concierge based in London and Toronto will suggest evergreen and new attractions. Identify which family yours most resonates with and get the most of ideas and suggestions from our kid’s concierge in each of the two cities!
Meet the destination experts
Tony O’Connell, Assist ant Head Concierge at the prestigious St James’s London, is the hotel’s resident expert in all things fun and has a knack of picking out the right activity for kids from six months to 60 years. A member of the international concierge association, Clefs d’Or, O’Connell was made Assistant Head Concierge in 2009 and appointed Kid’s Concierge a year later.
Liloo Alim, Chief Concierge at the renowned Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, likewise brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the table and boasts a rich network of contacts. She was the first female concierge in Toronto to be honoured with membership in Clefs d’Or.
Q: What key attractions and activities in your city would you recommend for each of the family profiles?
O’Connell: London Wetland Centre. It is a brilliant place to visit with children for a day or half a day particularly if they are interested in nature. The settings are more natural as compared to places like the zoo as there are no enclosures. Simulating their natural habitat, otters have their own waterfall and birds from all over the world gather freely. Depending on the time of the year, you may be able to catch baby coots and geese, nesting swans and courting frogs up close. Families may enjoy a guided walk accompanied by activities such as pond dipping, which children enjoy. For a meal, Mr and Mrs Zhu may take their children to the Rainforest Café, a jungle-themed restaurant serving great food for both kids and adults.
Alim: For this nature loving family, we would recommend more hands-on and outdoor activities. Since Wallace and Irwin love wildlife, I would recommend the Riverdale Farm, African Lion Safari or a trip to the Toronto Zoo to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most exotic animals. These activities would be perfect for Terri, who is a little more timid than her siblings, as she can safely watch from a distance, behind the safety of a fence. Toronto also has the Botanical Gardens where the family would be fascinated with the vast range of plant life. Another activity would be the Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls, where beautiful butterflies can land on your shoulder.
O’Connell: Mr. and Mrs. Ghee may like to take their kids for a 3D movie experience at the Imax Cinema. I highly recommend Deep Sea 3D where their kids will learn about some of the planet’s most colourful creatures. The kids may thereafter go around and browse through the Science Museum. Kids and teenagers alike will find lots on offer here to stimulate and inspire whilst having fun.
Alim: This family has a thirst for knowledge and Toronto has many activities that would be perfect for them. The Royal Ontario Museum, the Bata Shoe Museum, the Gardiner Ceramics Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario would all be on their itinerary. Next stop would be the Ontario Science Centre for some hands-on experiments and learning. With the vast range of history and science to be investigated in these locations, I’m sure that Curie would find something that she is passionate about!
O’Connell: The NEW London Dungeon. It is a scary attraction but not too scary, perfect for kids over 10. A jokey celebration of torture, death and disease, visitors can journey back in time to London’s plague-ridden streets (rotting corpses, rats, vile boils and projectile vomiting all come as standard) and meet some of the city’s unsavoury characters, from Guy Fawkes to demon barber Sweeney Todd. There are two rides to raise the adrenaline: a turbulent boat trip down the Thames towards execution, and a dark drop ride plunging three stories in the pitch black. Alternatively, Mr and Mrs Ho may take their kids to Thrope Park, where they will find rides aplenty created just for kids, as well as roller coasters for the brave-hearted.
Alim: The CN Tower would be the perfect experience for this family of thrillseekers. A walk on the glass-floored observation desk will get their adrenaline pumping — then head to the Edge-Walk where you can literally dangle off the edge of the world’s tallest free-standing structure. This will most definitely confront and (and hopefully cure!) Garton’s fear of heights. Another idea would be to spend the day at Canada’s Wonderland riding roller coasters and exploring the water park.
Q: What are some new or upcoming attractions or tourist opportunities in your city that may be suitable for these families?
O’Connell: Should kids wish to see more spectacular animals, the London Zoo will be perfect — in particular, the new Tiger Territory. Kids will have a face-to-face experience with the beautiful Sumatran tigers through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The exhibit features tall trees for the tigers to scale and high feeding poles to encourage their natural predatory behaviours. There is also a custom-built pool for them to play and when they’re not playing in the water, the tigers will have all-day access to indoor dens where visitors will be able to see the big cats relaxing. Another place parents can take their kids is up The Shard, London’s newest and most eagerly awaited attraction. The View is situated at the top of skyscraper, on floors 68, 69 and 72, and almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in London.
Alim: We Torontonians are very excited about the opening of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, set to open this summer! The aquarium will be home to more than 13,500 underwater creatures; a world-class attraction in the heart of down town Toronto! The Ghee family would revel in spending hours learning about all the different species that exist under the sea. Another event that we are looking forward to in Toronto is baseball season! At the Rogers Centre, one could both watch the game and get a tan with the dome’s retractable roof. The Ho family would love the excitement of watching the Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series! The summer also means a visit to the Toronto Islands is in order. With beautiful beaches and hundreds of acres of recreational space, it is the perfect way to get in touch with nature and would be ideal for the nature-loving Zhu family.