Five no-fly family trips for 2023

From ferry adventures to new sleeper trains, there’s a growing number of no-fly travel options for families this year.

On the beach in Ireland.

Photograph by Alamy
By Rhonda Carrier
Published 4 Feb 2023, 10:00 GMT

Getting from A to B doesn’t have to be the boring element of your family holiday. With slow travel becoming more mainstream, there are more options than ever for families who want to make the journey part of the adventure – and lower their carbon footprint in the process. 

1. Travel flight-free

No-fly travel in Europe is easier than ever. A raft of new train routes and services includes the May 2023 launch of a link between London and Berlin, with just one change required at Brussels, where the Eurostar makes way for the new European Sleeper.  

Flight-free holiday specialist Byway has partnered with group tour operator Intrepid Travel. Book one of Intrepid’s European trips, such as its Italy family holiday (eight days from £1,380 per person) and Byway will arrange your no-fly journey.

Or stay put in the UK. Byway’s multi-destination journeys by train, bus or boat include the Scottish Highlands via sleeper train and the Hogwarts Express (three days from £555 per person), which follows the route (London to Fort William, Scotland) made famous by the Harry Potter films.

2. Go hybrid 

It isn’t always possible to travel entirely flight-free when you’re restricted to school holiday dates. One solution is hybrid travel, which means swapping a flight leg of your trip for another mode of transport. For example, Railbookers’ eight-day Marrakech Express trip takes four days to get from Madrid to Marrakech, with four nights in the Moroccan city. Railbookers will also arrange the London-Madrid leg by train. You can either fly back from Marrakech or add on return rail and ferry via Tangier, Córdoba, Barcelona and Paris. From £1,629 per person.

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany.

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany.

Photograph by Alamy

3. Take the ferry

Great destinations within easy reach of the UK by ferry include the surf beaches of Ireland; Brittany, with its craggy islands; and culture-rich Amsterdam. Or you can take your own car all the way to Bilbao, in northern Spain, aboard Brittany Ferries’ new Salamanca, its first vessel powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas), and if you’re lucky you’ll also spot whales en route. Its ‘casa’ holidays in authentic stone cottages (some with the added luxury of a shared or private pool) cost from £850 per week, including ferry crossings.

4. Try sustainable cruising

The cruise industry has recently increased its efforts to tackle issues including carbon emissions, food waste and single-use plastic consumption, while river cruises have boomed in popularity. Many are adult-focused, but A-Rosa’s A-Rosa Sena, which launched mid-2022, stands out for its family-friendliness, with cabins sleeping up to five, a children’s pool and a kids’ club. This E-motion ship can come into port in an emission-free manner thanks to battery propulsion. A-Rosa’s family-friendly Experience the Moselle 2023 cruises start at €899 (£795), all-inclusive, minus train/ferry travel to the departure point, Cologne.

5. Tour Switzerland by e-car

Several car hire companies have started to offer e-vehicles with extended ranges of over 700km (435 miles), making them ideal for itineraries such as Switzerland Travel Centre’s 1,000-mile Grand Tour of Switzerland, which takes in 22 lakes and five Alpine passes and has 300 EV chargers en route. The company also offers the nine-day Luxury E-Grand Tour of Switzerland from £2,830 per person, including accommodation, while Rail Europe offers travel to Zurich. 

Published in the March 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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