Ready, set, roam: Vacation ideas for June school holidays
Believe it or not, June is just around the corner. For the past two years of the pandemic, June spelt holiday camps and chaos for most parents of school-going children.
Now that borders have reopened, it is time to conjure up grander plans that do not involve shuttling your kids to yet another robotics class.
Whether it is splashing around in cobalt-blue oceans, admiring centuries-old monuments or chowing down on breakfast in a morning market, this year's June downtime is filled with promise.
If you are a little rusty in the trip-planning department or just plain undecided, The Straits Times has rounded up some new (and a few tried-and-tested) vacation ideas.
There is nothing like piling into a trusty old vehicle and hitting the open road together for some serious bonding. While there are millions of kilometres of highways circling the globe, some roads are better made for cross-country driving than others.
Think Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe and even neighbouring Malaysia.
Last year, Johor made international headlines with its up-and-coming leisure destination, Desaru Coast. Just a brief jaunt across the border, this once-sleepy coastline has been named in Time magazine's prestigious list of the World's Greatest Places for 2021.
While a ferry service to Desaru is being planned, the area - which is brimming with kid-friendly accommodation as well as attractions both man-made and natural - is still best explored on your own set of wheels.
Hop aboard the region's first water-coaster at the Adventure Waterpark, get up close and personal with one of nature's wonders at Kota Tinggi Firefly Park, learn all about fishermen at Tanjung Balau Fishermen Village and Museum or go on an eco tour in the Belungkor Mangroves.
Two new luxury hotel chains - Anantara and One & Only - have also recently made their Malaysian debut here.
If you have more time, why not give caravan tourism a shot? This form of travel - which involves towing your "Airbnb on wheels" along - is now trending among younger travellers overseas, thanks to the pandemic.
While this method of travel is not entirely new, the mobile homes are. These classic recreational vehicles are now outfitted with a whole range of mod cons, such as central heating, proper ovens and a separate shower and toilet.
Scattered among the great outdoors of Australia, Europe and the United States are also numerous self-sufficient "holiday parks", designed just to accommodate these massive motor homes.
From Big4 and NRMA in Australia to Parkdean Resorts in Britain, these budget-friendly caravan sites are big on facilities and fun.
You can expect all the frills of a luxury hotel at a five-star holiday park, including heated swimming pools, kids' clubs, play areas, spas, restaurants and even evening entertainment.
Most of these parks are usually located in nature, so you can go straight from kayaking on a river to a Vegas-inspired performance in one day. There are also self-catering chalets or camping pitches for rent, if you arrive in a car instead of a camper van.
For extra convenience, why not try a holiday at sea? Ships nowadays brim with experiences to keep young ones entertained so the adults could have some time to themselves.
Departing from Singapore is Royal Caribbean's Spectrum Of The Seas, a colossal floating hotel "designed for Asian guests in mind".
Apart from the usual line-up of restaurants and bars as well as attractions such as a surfing simulator called Flowrider and dodgem cars, this new ship also boasts Skypad - a unique virtual-reality experience that combines trampolines with bungee jumping.
If you have deeper pockets, splurge on the Ultimate Family Suite, a two-storey kid-friendly hideaway that comes decked out with an air hockey table, a slide, a private gaming room-cum-cinema and your very own butler (Royal Caribbean calls them "Private Royal Genies").
If you think the Spectrum is big, wait until you lay your eyes on the Wonder Of The Seas. This 18-storey behemoth, which embarked on her maiden voyage last month and will be sailing around the Mediterranean in June, is not called the world's largest cruise ship for nothing.
On-board highlights include a new underwater-themed play area dotted with slides, climbing walls and games called Wonder Playscape as well as the AquaTheatre, a high-tech water-filled amphitheatre.
Princess Cruises has also recently welcomed a new addition to its fleet of Royal Class ships, the largest vessels within the cruise line.
The Discovery Princess, which will be touring Alaska in June, blends the old-world elegance of past cruise liners with new dining experiences and features like the Skywalk, a glass floor that extends about 8.5m over the ship's edge to offer guests unparalleled views of the ocean.
Like other ships under the Princess banner, the Discovery Princess has partnered television conglomerate Discovery Inc for its kids' club. At Camp Discovery, young cruisers can dabble in science experiments and participate in interactive scavenger hunts, among other things.
3. Group tours
Wish you could go on a unique, immersive adventure with your family without the hassle of planning? These escorted tours might just be the thing.
Small group adventure travel company Intrepid Travel has designed a range of active holidays dedicated to families with children. This means kid-friendly hotels with swimming pools and family-friendly experiences such as swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands and sailing down the Nile in a felucca.
The child-friendly itineraries offered by adventure travel company Explore! are just as exciting. Its Family Turkey Coastal Active Adventure, for instance, allows families to explore southern Turkey's dramatic coastline via a full-day boat trip and canoeing, while its Family Tuscany Multi-Activity Adventure includes kayaking, trekking, canyoning and a trip to a zip wire adventure park.
The Walt Disney Company's travel arm, Adventures by Disney, also has an impressive line-up of family tours. Start with a far-flung locale such as Alaska, then sprinkle some champion Iditarod sled dogs, rafting among the glaciers and, of course, an abundance of Disney magic.
Older children might love the bike and barge tours in Europe. They get to explore beautiful countryside paths by two wheels during the day and retire to a barge in the evenings for a hearty meal and sleep on board the river boat. An experienced tour guide will be with you throughout, so getting lost would not be a concern.
Beginner cyclists would enjoy the flat terrain and tulip fields of Holland and Belgium, while more seasoned ones would welcome the undulating landscapes of France and Germany.
With so much to see and do around the world, who needs a ball pit or video games?
4. Theme parks
Standing in line, eating junk food, snapping goofy pictures with a costumed character - these are quintessential family experiences. Thankfully, the pandemic did not stop the world's favourite theme parks from ramping up their offerings with new hotels and zones.
This year is set to be a big one for The Walt Disney Company, with its highly anticipated Star Wars-themed hotel at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida launched just a month ago.
The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser allows guests to interact with characters aboard the vessel and embark on a bespoke two-night adventure.
In June last year, the Avengers Campus threw its doors open at Disney California Adventure Park. This Marvel-themed zone features several superhero-inspired rides as well as character meet-and-greets.
At the same time, Disneyland Paris launched Disney's Hotel New York - The Art Of Marvel. The Marvel-themed hotel houses a Super Hero Station, where fans can schmooze with the likes of Iron Man and Captain America; as well as the Marvel Design Studio, where one can learn how to become the next American comic-book writer Stan Lee.
Legoland New York also sprouted up in Hudson Valley last year. Featuring seven themed lands and a 250-room resort hotel, it is touted as the largest Legoland in the world. Nestled within the park is the Lego City Water Playground, which is slated to open very soon.
So strap yourself in, socially distance wherever possible and enjoy the ride.