Family Traveller Excellence Awards 2019: Winners

Last updated 18th November 2019

Meet the winners of this year’s Family Traveller Excellence Awards – 50 travel organisations who offer families truly exceptional travel experiences.

Family Traveller Editor, Jane Anderson, talks family travel trends at the Awards

50 of the world’s top travel experiences and attractions have been crowned winners in the newly formatted Family Traveller Excellence Awards, hosted by renowned singer-songwriter and mum of five, Sophie Ellis-Bextor. The event was held at the spectacular Natural History Museum Ice Rink in South Kensington, London, on Wednesday 13 November. 

To cater more pertinently to the changing way in which British families travel and reflect emerging holiday trends, we did away with traditional award categories, such as Best Hotel for Families, instead giving our readers the freedom to nominate the travel brands and experiences that they find truly awesome and inspiring. 

Among the themes that emerged from the nominations, two stood out in particular: sustainable intentions and inclusive wellness. These seem to demonstrate our readers increasing focus on the impact that their holidays have on the world. Pester power from our children has become less about materialistic things and more about climate change and world events.

Getting Christmas-y at the awards venue, the Natural History Museum Ice Rink

Thanks to climate change leaders like Greta Thunberg, children are realising that they do have a voice and can use it to make a change, which is why, for the first time, we recruited a kids’ panel to help us decide our award winners. 

Our readers cast over 110,000 votes (double the number case in our 2018 awards), to determine the 50 Family Traveller Excellence Awards winners. Host Sophie Ellis-Bextor said: “The outstanding calibre of the award winners really shows what’s important to Family Traveller readers when choosing and booking their holiday experiences. As a mum of five boys it’s important to me that they not only have a wonderful time, but they are also educated by other cultures and experiences.”

From left: Ayla’s Hamzah Shaban, our host Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Family Traveller Editor, Jane Anderson and CEO, Andrew Dent

Jane Anderson, editor, Family Traveller added: “It’s vital to us that we’re constantly evolving with the times and offering our audience choice. We know their holidays are precious and we have seen from the awards that sustainability and environmental impact is a real deciding factor when they choose to book an experience or holiday. We want to support those intentions and will continue to raise the bar with the content we create for our readers and make sure it’s topical and informative to help them make those decisions.”

Travel professionals and writers watch the Awards ceremony

The winners

Six Senses Laamu has an outstanding Junior Marine Biology programme

Sustainable intentions

These awards recognise the organisations working hard to make sure we leave a positive impact on the natural and cultural environment we visit.

  • Morukuru at Madikwe Game Reserve for its ‘Safari with a Purpose’ wildlife conservation programmes for kids.
  • MalaMala Game Reserve for its junior ranger programme, which sees families learning survival and conservation skills, as well as fun activities such as cooking brekkie in the bush.
  • Six Senses Laamu for its ‘Junior Marine Biology’ programme where kids have the chance to identify mantas and more. KIDS’ VOTE
  • Feadon Farm Wildlife and Education Centre for its hands-on, ranger-guided wildlife experiences where kids can interact with tame rescue foxes and more.
  • Forest Holidays for its back to nature adventures where kids go on bug hunts and make dens in the wood.

Hillside Beach Club offers a creative film festival for families

Cool innovations

We all love something new and innovative and this award is to recognise the attractions and initiatives doing something completely different. 

  • Le Massif Resort, Courmayeur for its lodge with kids’ club, ski locker room and restaurant right on the slopes, making life easy for everyone.
  • The Core at Domes of Elounda is a forward-thinking, open-air recreation area which blends, art, action and gastronomy.
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises for thrills including the tallest slide at sea and VR bungee trampoline zone.
  • Anantara Layan Phuket Resort where kids get a behind-the-scenes experience as they shadow hotel members of staff, be it chef or housekeeping.
  • Hillside Beach Club for its creative film festival for families created in conjunction with the prestigious British Film Institute, where kids get to make and screen their own live movie. KIDS’ VOTE

Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain at Disneyland Paris

Awesome thrills and spills 

It does what it says on the tin – all of these winning experiences are guaranteed to get your heart beating just a little faster.

  • Norwegian Cruise Line for cool features including the at-sea racetrack for go-kart speed demons.
  • Canopy Park at Jewel Changi Airport for making airport life an educational wonder rather than a chore.
  • Disneyland Paris for Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain and Marvel Season of Super Heroes. KIDS’ VOTE
  • Diggerland for the chance to operate a real JCB digger.
  • The new Sani Adventure Park at Sani Resort, Greece for its challenging treetop experiences for all the family.

Crans-Montana Switzerland provides a magical winter festival

Immersive Experiences

This is to award the top five tours, treks and programmes which go beyond tourism and allow families to fully immerse themselves in a destination 

  • Crans-Montana in Switzerland for its magical winter festival, Etoile Bella Lui.
  • The Acropolis in Athens which brings 3,000 years of history alive with a range of creative experiences. KIDS’ VOTE
  • Cite de l’espace in Toulouse where budding young astronauts can board a real space station.
  • Visit Jamaica for its vibrant attractions that make going on holiday with teens a joy, including the Bob Marley Museum.
  • Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Resort where kids can take part in a hat-making workshop inspired by the Mad Hatter.

Camp Bestival in Dorset is full of creative delights for young kids

Pure Fun

When all you want to do is let go your cares of work and school and have a great time.

  • Santa’s Lapland for its ‘Aurora Wilderness Dinner’ and ‘Igloo Experience, in addition to having the chance to meet the real Father Christmas.
  • Hever Castle & Gardens for its exceptional seasonal events and Tudor Towers adventure playground.
  • Shangri-La, Singapore for its innovative children’s play areas and magical themed suites with tunnels between child and parent rooms.
  • Dubai Parks & Resorts showcases rides based on some of Hollywood and Bollywood’s biggest blockbusters and young kids adore LEGOLAND Dubai’s Waterpark.
  • Camp Bestival for its creative delights especially for younger children, from circus workshops to seeing their favourite CBeebies stars live on stage. KIDS’ VOTE

Ski rangers give parents an extra pair of hands at Esprit

On your marks

For those companies pushing the boat out when it comes to awesome physical activities such as sports academies.

  • Clayoquot Wilderness Resort for offering families bespoke one-on-one tuition in exciting activities, such as tree climbing and horse riding in the most stunning natural setting on Vancouver Island.
  • Quinta do Lago in the Algarve for its state-of the-art sports hub offering children the chance to train with footballing legend, Rio Ferdinand, play tennis with Judy Murray or dance with Lauren Jamieson of Strictly Come Dancing fame.
  • Esprit for its Ski Rangers who give parents an extra pair of hands whilst on their snowy holidays, meaning everyone can enjoy the slopes in the equal measure.
  • The Esplanade Hotel in Cornwall which gets kids catching a wave with its renowned Quiksilver Surf School plus many other creative activities from pizza making to Build-my-Bear. KIDS’ VOTE
  • Hard Rock Hotel, Woodward, Riviera Maya which gets kids adrenaline levels up with its cool skate park, indoor snow boarding, parkour and ninja obstacle courses.

Les Villages Nature Paris offers kids inspiring eco workshops

Learning and enrichment

This award recognises the forward-thinking initiatives which educate and enrich our children’s lives whilst on holiday. 

  • Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre in Cheshire where children can get a taste of researching deep space with live science shows. KIDS’ VOTE
  • ZSL London Zoo for its exciting sleepovers with torchlight tours, hosted by knowledgeable and inspiring guides.
  • Peak Retreats for its ‘Winning at Winter’ challenge, which encourages kids to try off the slope experiences.
  • Woolley Grange, a member of Luxury Family Hotels, for its welcoming approach. Kids can walk Rex the dog, make fresh pesto with the chef and plant seeds with the head gardener.
  • Les Villages Nature Paris, an eco-powered resort that helps families reconnect with nature and offers creative kids workshops learning about honey, bread-making and gardening.

Beaches Resorts feature the loveable Julia, Sesame Street’s first character with autism

Accessible and specialist initiatives

Recognising the holiday companies who strive to support children and adults with extra needs to make sure fantastic holidays are available to everyone. 

  • Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas is the world’s first ultra accessible, non-profit family fun park giving free entry for guests with special needs. KIDS’ VOTE
  • Beaches Resorts in the Caribbean wins for its care given to guests with autism. Children can play and paint with the very loveable Julia, Sesame Street’s first character with autism.
  • Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center has been certified as Sensory Inclusive by Kulture City supporting families with autism and SPDs.
  • Intrepid Travel for its portfolio of holidays especially for single parents who don’t want to compromise on family adventures.
  • Virgin Atlantic’s Hidden Disabilities Scheme which helps families with hidden disabilities take the stress out of flying in a way that’s sensitive and thoughtful.

Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi encourages families to paint and draw together

Inclusive wellness

This theme is for travel companies who are showcasing there’s much more to wellness than just spas. 

  • Chablé Wellness Resort, Yucatan which welcomes families and encourages families to be active together. KIDS’ VOTE
  • Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, Switzerland which has recently created a vast family spa with kids’ spa menu and new family suites, not to mention a kids’ club over two floors with mini kitchen and climbing wall.
  • Evian Resort in the French Alps for its inclusive family yoga, sing language classes, archery, geocaching and laser quest.
  • Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi for its inclusive and creative arts studio where families are encouraged to paint, sculpt or draw using canvas, wood or even coconuts.
  • Cocoon & Bloom at Marbella Club in Spain for its fabulous Cocoon & Bloom postnatal programme offering new mums and a restorative retreat.

Ikos Resorts adopt a creative approach when it comes to family holidays

Above and beyond

  • Best of South Africa Travel for their bespoke care with families especially multi-generational groups. KIDS’ VOTE
  • Ikos Resorts in Greece and Spain for their creative approach for family all-inclusive holidays with sports academies, local dine arounds and Mini cars to take out for the day.
  • Original Travel for their verve and inventiveness when it comes to making family holidays seamless from kids’ packs to take on the flight to booking special experiences such as croissant making in Paris.
  • Kuoni’s new Family Collection, where this renowned tour operator has poured all its knowledge into looking after families abroad.
  • TGV/SNCF for the care it takes with children on board, even offering trained chaperones for children travelling alone.