WITH sun, sand and loads to do and see, Dubai was 2022’s most popular destination for sunshine-hungry Brits, according to Travel Republic.
And while we all know how great Dubai is for couples, solo travellers and groups of friends, it’s also a brilliant family destination.
There are activities for every age and taste – as well as 600 miles of sand to lay towels on – so there’s no time to get bored.
“With so much to do and see, families with children of all ages will find no end of things to thrill them,” says Antonio Fellino, managing director of online holiday expert Travel Republic.
“Dubai has a sunny, warm climate year round, and you’ll never get bored in this vibrant city. It really does have something for everyone, whether it’s a quiet, relaxing holiday you’re after or something much more adventurous.
“It’s such an awesome destination, and one that’s growing in popularity all the time.”
That soaring popularity looks set to continue this year.
One welcome change, as the cost of living crisis bites, is Dubai axing its 30 per cent booze tax, making nights out more affordable.
And Travel Republic has pulled together a price-busting collection of hotels offering free upgrades from B&B to half board.
“Dubai is an all-round great place to visit for those seeking luxury but also for the more budget-conscious,” adds Antonio.
The majority of Travel Republic’s family-friendly hotels allow kids to stay and eat for free. With holidays to suit every age and budget, all you need to do is pack the suncream.
Here’s why a trip to Dubai is the ultimate family break for 2023.
Explore a city of the future
Dubai is the kind of place that makes you say “wow”.
Toddler tantrums and teenage sulks melt away in the face of a new form of city, with a world-famous skyline of cutting-edge architecture and attractions to keep you busy for weeks.
From the 148th-floor viewing platform of Burj Khalifa and the breathtaking Dubai Aquarium to the dancing Dubai Fountain and the multicoloured Palm Fountain (the biggest in the world), there’s something amazing to see on every corner.
To really take your breath away, head to Sky Views Observatory, 52 floors up, where you can cross a glass bridge, rocket down a transparent slide and brave the Edge Walk – outside and around the skyscraper.
Need to tire the kids out? Hit the malls – there are more than 40 in this shopping heaven.
In Dubai Marina, life revolves around the water. Above it too: the XLine is the world’s longest urban zipline. It’s also one of the steepest and fastest, ripping you over the marina at 50mph.
Go for desert thrills
Leave your bucket and spade at home because while Dubai has all the sand you could possibly need, it’s not just on the beach.
Out in the desert you’ll find once-in-a-lifetime adventures for all ages.
If the kids are over five, start the day with a Morning Safari by Arabian Adventures. This 4×4 dune drive is a much better wake-up buzz than your morning coffee, and it comes with camel riding and sandboarding (weather permitting) thrown in – yes, surfing down the dunes.
Best of all, Arabian Adventures picks you up from your hotel and provides a breakfast box, so there’s no need to worry about getting everyone fed.
Also, if you’re time and budget-conscious, you’ll have ticked off three must-do Dubai activities in a single morning.
Need extra bragging rights for when they’re back at school? Teenagers will love a trip to Hatta, a 90-minute drive east of downtown Dubai.
This is the gateway to the showstopping Hajar Mountains, where you can go trekking, mountain biking, horse riding or even kayaking – there’s a stunning blue lake formed by the Hatta Dam.
And don’t forget that classic: sunset in the desert. Operators will whisk you to a Bedouin-style camp to enjoy dinner and (for the adults) a puff on a shisha pipe.
For something more educational, Platinum Heritage offers a private night safari with an after-dark desert walk and stargazing before dinner. That’s one trip worth delaying bedtime for.
Learn something new
Every day’s a school day in Dubai – only it’s the kind of schooling you don’t want to miss.
Dive into Emirati culture with a ride on an abra: a traditional wooden boat that ferries passengers across Dubai Creek (don’t worry – there’s shade and seating for the little ones) to get a glimpse of the city’s roots.
Prep for next term’s food tech classes with a visit to the Spice Souk or a food tour that’s all about Emirati cuisine.
More into history? With its narrow winding streets and traditional sandstone wind towers (an ancient air con system), the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood whirls you back to the 1800s. It’s also home to Dubai’s oldest building, the Al Fahidi Fort.
You can visit more than 50 buildings on walking tours of the neighbourhood or go for a DIY wander. Don’t miss the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, where you can learn more about Emirati traditions over a delicious meal.
There’s also Arabian Tea House, if the teens are feeling sophisticated, the Coffee Museum and, for budding artists, the XVA Gallery, which shows contemporary works from the Arab world, India and Iran.
PE more their thing? Read on…
Enjoy the sunny great outdoors
You’ve come to a place known for lots of sun. Now it’s time to enjoy it.
Older kids in search of an adrenaline boost can head to Deep Dive Dubai, which has the deepest pool in the world for diving – more than 60 metres. It offers freediving and scuba lessons for the over-tens.
Feel like something more sedate? Hit the beach.
There’s no need to do your homework about which one. With sun, sand and warm water guaranteed, you can’t go wrong.
If you’re feeling adventurous, leave the family on their loungers and try some watersports. Wakeboarding, kitesurfing and jet-skiing are all popular here.
Or take a self-drive water tour with HERO OdySea. You’ll zoom across the Arabian Gulf at up to 30 mph as the skyline is explained to you. Kids aged six and up can ride as passengers, while over-18s can take the wheel.
For some calming park life, there’s the 60,000-square-foot Topgolf – climate controlled so you can play right through summer – and Dubai Miracle Garden, where everything from an Emirates superjumbo jet to entire Instagrammable landscapes are composed of blooming flowers.
On the more exciting side, Wild Wadi is home to Jumeirah Sceirah, one of the tallest, fastest freefall waterslides in the world.
And Aquaventure is one of the largest water parks on the planet. Its 105 slides, attractions and experiences include the Leap of Faith, which rockets you through a shark pool.
Both have play areas for all ages, while Legoland Dubai and its Water Park have attractions for toddlers and up.
Discover amazing places to eat
We tend to hear about Dubai’s world-class food scene, but you might not know that it’s also great for family dining. Kid-friendly cafes and restaurants around the city don’t just serve delicious meals, they provide entertainment for the youngsters too.
Café Confetti has a play area while Masha and The Bear offers soft play for the little ones and chocolate or pizza workshops for older siblings.
Then there’s lively pizzeria Luigia. Its play area boasts everything from soft play and colouring books to video games and a screening room.
There’s good news for parents too. The city is packed with family friendly brunch options. Enjoy a glass (or two) of champagne at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi’s signature Bubbalicious Brunch, or check out We Be Brunchin’ at JA The Resort, which even includes pool and beach access.
If you’re on a budget, Travel Republic has you covered. The majority of its family-friendly hotels have deals that allow kids to stay and eat for free; see below for some top picks.
It also has deals a gogo where you can book a stay and get a free upgrade from B&B to half board.
If you prefer to budget all your spending upfront, you’re not alone.
All-inclusive breaks are more popular than ever, and Travel Republic has curated some incredible deals for families wanting to go all in: at the Rixos The Palm, guests get free access to the nearby Aquaventure water park.
TAKE YOUR PICK OF FAMILY-FRIENDLY HOTELS
5* Caesars Palace Dubai
Overlooking the world’s biggest Ferris wheel – Ain Dubai, which is set to reopen by May – is Dubai’s take on the iconic Vegas hotel. Apart from the odd statue of a Roman centurion, this is less glitzy and more ritzy than its sibling. Pick a room overlooking the sea or the beach club. Twelve indoor and outdoor bars and restaurants, five pools and a 500m private beach should set you up perfectly.
From £1,083pp. Book by March 15 for a stay before January 13, 2024, and you’ll get a free upgrade from B&B to a half board Dine Around package, or stay May 10 to September 30, 2023, and you’ll get a further upgrade to half board deluxe, which includes two selected house drinks per person for dinner. Kids stay and eat free.
5* Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah
Plum on the beach at the iconic Palm Jumeirah, Dubai’s first Marriott resort has sea views from every room (they’re partially in the entry-level category), plus a private balcony to enjoy them from. There are ten restaurants to choose from, bringing everything from Italian and Korean to Mexican cuisine to Dubai. Outside, there are water sports on the private beach, plus the all-important kids’ club.
From £649pp. Book by March 31 for stays until December 22, 2023, and you’ll get a free upgrade from B&B to a half board Dine Around package, plus kids eat free (all-inclusive, no matter the board basis you’ve booked).
5* Rixos The Palm
This family friendly all-rounder is also on the Palm Jumeirah. It’s a rare all-inclusive Dubai hotel, so although it’s a five-star you can stick to your budget. There are four pools (one is adults-only), a water sports centre, and clubs for teenagers and younger children.
From £1,049pp. Book by March 8 for stays before October 31, 2023, and you’ll save on your stay. And whenever you’re travelling, even if it’s next year, you’ll get unlimited access to the Aquaventure water park, plus a free shuttle there.
4* Centara Mirage Beach Resort Dubai
This family centred resort sits on a prime stretch of the Dubai Islands (formerly the Deira Islands) waterfront, north of Dubai proper, though with its theme inspired by Arabian and Thai adventures, it’ll whisk you straight to another world.
The fun rooms are brightened by turquoise feature walls and orange furnishings, while the on-site waterpark has slides, a lazy river and a play area, plus there’s a candy-themed spa for kids.
From £589pp. Book by February 28 for stays until October 31, 2023, and you’ll save up to 40 per cent, plus kids stay and eat free.
4* Lapita, Dubai Parks and Resorts, Autograph Collection
If you’re in the city for its amusement parks, Lapita is the place for you. South of central Dubai, it’s close to Legoland, the Hollywood-inspired Motiongate Dubai, and Bollywood Parks Dubai, a world first. Plus its Polynesian theme means it feels like two holidays in one. There are clubs for kids and teens, and a lazy river for when you don’t feel like going to the parks.
From £796pp. Book by February 28 for stays until March 31, 2023, and you’ll save up to 25 per cent, get a free upgrade to the next room category and unlimited access to the amusement parks for stays of three nights or more. Kids stay free.
5* The Ritz Carlton Dubai Hotel
Nowhere does quiet luxury quite like a Ritz-Carlton. With a private beach on Dubai Marina, the hotel is within easy reach of the city sights, and a huge range of top-notch rooms and suites overlook the water. The Ritz Kids programme for children up to 12 gets them doing everything from building sandcastles to trying origami.
From £816pp. Book by March 7 for stays until November 18, 2023, for a free upgrade from B&B to half board on stays of three or more nights. Kids stay and eat free.
Prices are live and subject to change. Correct at the time of publication
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