Time, it’s played some strange tricks on us recently. It’s sped up, slowed down and, on occasion, even seemed to stand still. For many of us, adjusting to this new rhythm (one that runs to the beat of video calls and home schooling) means that the bonding experiences that typically bring families together – sharing new discoveries, places, sights and smells – have been few and far between. Words: Lauren Romano
As we begin to (tentatively) re-emerge into the wide blue yonder outside of our own four walls, a holiday that takes into account the interests of the youngest members of the family can help all generations to reconnect. Whether they want to live out their Swallows and Amazons fantasy of sleeping under canvas in the desert hinterland or slalom down powder-dusted peaks, personalised experiences can help instil important life lessons, where children are fully engaged to try new things, experiment and investigate nature. Being immersed in these moments together forges deeper, more emotional connections with one another.
So carve out a little time together to celebrate those exam results, becoming a teen or embark on one last adventure together; here’s five ideas to get you started that offer far more than innovative kids clubs and sporting academies.
From lavish opera at the Lincoln Center, to Tony-award winning musicals on Broadway and edgy underground productions in Brooklyn dives, New York is an eclectic epicentre of performing arts. The skyscraper-silhouetted city comes alive at night when it transforms into one grand stage, so where better to inspire a budding star’s creativity?
Your itinerary could involve front-row seats at Hamilton, followed by a meet-and- greet with a lead actor from the cast (pictured above). Or – to really get under the city’s skin – a bus tour with The Ride, an immersive travelling theatre that does the rounds of New York’s most famous landmarks with a troupe of actors in tow (which should help bring to life that infamous line in their GSCE copy of Shakespeare’s As You Like It: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players...”).
After the curtain call, allow yourself to get swept up together in the crowds, colours and intoxicating aromas of the city’s diverse neighbourhoods, from Chinatown to the Upper East Side, all the while thriving off the energy, enthusiasm and dream-weaving the Big Apple is renowned for.
The final holiday before the kids fly the nest is something of a last chance saloon; as your ultimate opportunity to impart some wisdom, it calls for a truly once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Cue New Zealand. It’s a blockbuster of a destination: sublime forests, rugged coastline, enthralling Māori culture and other- worldly glaciers that possess a mysticism of their own.
Speaking of blockbusters, mention the country, and more often than not The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies will spring to mind. That’s because back in the late 90s, Sir Peter Jackson stumbled upon a sheep farm in the heart of the Waikato region and transformed it into The Shire of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional Middle-earth.
Today, the surrounding area remains as untouched as it was then; with no power lines, buildings or roads in sight, you can fully immerse yourself in the magic of the landscape on a tour of the film set left behind after The Hobbit. Let your imagination run riot amid the undulating 12-acres of greenery, pock-marked by Hobbit Holes and framed by the mighty Kaimai Ranges tiptoeing up to touch the horizon. Rather than using a camera to capture the moment, however, commit it to memory. You’ll be left feeling humbled by the untameable beauty of nature – and with shared souvenirs of a place that no photo will ever do justice.
There’s nothing quite like a shared adrenalin rush to bring parents and older children together. If it’s exhilaration you’re after, then Whistler’s magnificent peaks should suffice.
The lofty vantage points of this acclaimed ski resort will help clear minds, giving you both the physical and metaphorical space to set the world to rights before psyching yourselves up to hit the runs.
There’s something nostalgic about embarking on a skiing trip with grown-up children, but to create experiences firmly rooted in the present, enlist an Olympic instructor to help you navigate the pic’n’mix of terrain, all the while sharpening your senses and encouraging each other to push yourselves further.
If that fails to impress them, up the cool factor a notch by taking a turn in a two-man bobsleigh. Negotiating the exhilarating ice speed, while crammed into a steel pod, will no doubt prove to be
a fun lesson in teamwork and communication. A story they’ll no doubt share with their children one day.
Nestled in upper Whistler Village, Fairmont Chateau Whistler will elevate your bonding experience even further, with Snow Hosts on hand to cater for your every whim. This includes serving up steaming hot chocolates slope-side, so you can continue the heart-to-heart and goad each other with old rivalries about who’s the better skier (which will be your prompt to remind them that you taught them everything they know).
While filled with joyful moments, the first year of motherhood can also be overwhelming and exhausting. If the sound of a full night’s sleep, improved hormone health and a little time alone to restore your sense of vitality has you raising your hand with a ‘where do I sign up?’, then you’re in need of Cocoon & Bloom.
Andalucian coastal haven the Marbella Club has created the postnatal wellness programme designed to aid mothers to reconnect with themselves on a three-day nurturing and healing experience. The private and personalised programme will focus on your hormone health, relaxation and nutrition, with tailored sessions to combat feelings of anxiety and exhaustion. Each retreat is crafted to fit your lifestyle, so the theory is that you’ll be able to introduce these new practices into your everyday routine back home. You’ll leave feeling reinvigorated and better equipped to deal with whatever motherhood throws your way.
Until then, everything is geared up to help you have the most relaxing stay possible, from eight hours of childcare provided by a team of qualified nannies to a complimentary laundry service for newborns. There’s something for expectant mums too. You can concentrate on restoring balance with a Sleep-Inducing Ritual at the Thalasso Spa to ease fatigue and quieten the mind. The peacefulness emanating from your treatment should (hopefully) invoke a sense of inner calm in your baby, and help you both to nod off listening to the sound of the waves lapping at the shore.
If your child is a Bear Grylls in the making, throw them a birthday celebration to remember by glamping in one of the USA’s national parks. With deep gorges, jagged plateaus and glassy lakes, the national parks of Utah, Arizona and Wyoming offer front row seats to viewing nature at its most spectacular, allowing everyone to revel in the freedom of being outdoors and connected to the earth, rather than glued to a screen.
From the dusty russet-toned North Rim of the Grand Canyon to Lake Powell, a flooded canyon where water licks its way into every crevice, budding young hikers, climbers and bikers will be floored by the magnificence of landscapes where their voices ricochet off rockfaces to be engulfed in deafening silence.
Head into the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, one of the most photographed landmarks in the US, to see its magnificent crimson red sandstone towers with heights of 1,000 feet. It’s here you can visit the Four Corners Monument, the only place in the country where four states intersect at one point. Later on, step back from the lens and take in the scenes at Arizona’s two largest ruins – Betatakin and Keet Seel – to see how people lived more than 900 years ago.
Now more than ever it’s moments of connection like these that we all crave – with each other, with our surroundings and with the present. When it comes to building and cementing bonds as a family, let the younger generation take the lead and feel included. It can help pave the way to thrilling discoveries that enable you to learn from each other long after you return home.