Home > Best Family Breaks > Travel > 4 Dreamy Holidays That Don’t Require a Plane

Flying with children is far from easy – especially if there’s more than one of them, and even worse, they’re too young for iPads. 

Well, we’re here to tell you that trains and automobiles (and ferries too!) are the way to travel for a stress-less parent-pleasing holiday. 

From the Scottish Highlands to the beaches of San Sebastián, @tinytravelship (www.tinytravelship.com) the experts on stylish family travel – have rounded up their favourite flight-free family-friendly holidays. 

The best place to visit via the Eurostar


Just two stops and 90 minutes from London St Pancras, the tiny town of Lille makes an excellent choice for a baby’s first city break. Small in size but mighty in sights, you can cover most of the city within a long weekend.

The best place to stay in Lille with kids
The best place to stay in Lille with kids

Mama Shelter is the name to know for chic city stays – a brand on a mission to offer design-led, affordable, hip hotels. Their French outpost is less than a 5-minute walk from the Eurostar terminal, so a big tick for convenience. The vibe here is retro chic, with clashing prints, concrete walls and neon art. Older kids will love the signature table football, found in all Mama Shelter hotels, plus free-to-play retro-style arcade games. Whilst parents will appreciate the interconnecting rooms and on-site restaurant (prepared with plenty of highchairs).

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Things to do with kids in Lille

The charming city zoo is adorable. While you won’t see any tigers or elephants, there are rhinos, zebras and monkeys, plus the 4 euro charge makes it an affordable attraction. Right next door is Cita Parc, an amusement park designed for little legs with gentle animal-themed rides and a forest train. Culture vultures won’t want to miss Palais des Beaux-Arts, the largest museum in France outside of Paris and widely regarded as second only to the Louvre. Home to fine and modern art, tablets can be borrowed with games and information to engage aspiring creative minds.

Eurostar Top Tips

Children can travel for free up to the age of 4 on the Eurostar – 2 years longer than on flights! Whilst checking in is generally a lot quicker and easier than at airports juggling luggage and caffeine through security is fun for no one. There’s a Pret post passport control, but no food, so stock up on snacks beforehand.

The Best Place to Take the Train


With beaches to rival the Caribbean, misty moorlands, fairytale castles and surrounds straight from Harry Potter, Scotland has some serious bragging rights when it comes to must-see sights. With much of the country accessible via public transport, we think you’ll agree that a scenic train journey is the most beautiful (and relaxing) way to get around.

The best place to stay in Scotland with kids
The best place to stay in Scotland with kids

Gleneagles, the most famous hotel in Scotland, affectionately known as the country’s ‘mini kingdom’, is an iconic institution all parents should add to their staycation bucket list. You’d have to stay a lifetime to fit in all the activities on offer. This, combined with the wealth of on-site restaurants (many worth a foodie pilgrimage alone), makes it hard to find a reason to leave the hotel’s glorious grounds. Getting there couldn’t be any easier – Gleneagles has its own train station and is on the main London to Inverness line. Jump aboard at Kings Cross and five and a half hours later arrive – without a single car seat battle or inopportune demand for a toilet stop in sight.

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Things to do with kids in Scotland

Toddlers will love playing make-believe in the Kids Club’s fantasy treehouse and railway carriage, whilst parents will love the opportunity to lean into the luxury lifestyle with 2 hours of free childcare a day. Outside, there are 850 acres of grounds to be explored – golfing, falconry, fishing and horse riding are all on the menu, not to mention the off-road driving experiences tailored for big and little legs alike. Venture a little further afield and discover history & heritage aplenty; travel back 750 years at Blair Castle, also the perfect place to tire little legs in 9 acres of walled gardens, or plan an autumnal getaway to catch the Highland Games in Pitlochry (on the second Saturday of September). Both can be reached by train from Gleneagles in under an hour and a half.

Train Top Tips

Fill a packing cube with (cheap) new toys. The novelty will keep kids entertained for a lot longer than usual, especially if you wrap them like presents first. Local charity shops and Facebook Marketplace are great places to stock up. If you’re gearing up for a long journey with naps involved, the Bubba Board is also a convenient travel hack – a seat extender that allows tiny travellers more room to relax.

The Best Place to Drive to


One of the finest corners in the UK, in our opinion, Cornwall is the ultimate parent pleaser; with expansive golden sands, hidden coves, art galleries, and clifftop walks just begging to be explored. Thanks to the (almost) subtropical microclimate, Cornwall is warmer and sunnier than the rest of the country – making for a great alternative to a European beach break.

The best place to stay in Cornwall with kids
The best place to stay in Cornwall with kids

Watergate Bay is the aesthetically pleasing epitome of a stylish family-friendly hotel, where your every parental need is met without any garish colours or overbearing entertainment in sight. When it comes to being parent-friendly AND baby-friendly, Watergate Bay wins all the prizes. Baby monitors are handed to parents upon check-in, which stretch to anywhere in the hotel, allowing parents to enjoy spa treatments during naps and adults-only dinners during bedtime. Decor throughout offers a chic twist on coastal cornish design, and the Kids Zone is no exception. The complimentary kids club (from 6 months – 12 years) is as far away from sticky soft play as it gets – think Scandi wooden toys that wouldn’t look out of place in a design magazine.

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Things to do with kids in Cornwall

Endless entertainment inside aside, the real crowning glory of Watergate Bay is its location – perfectly positioned on a two-mile-long stretch of golden sand (more than enough room for toddlers with energy to burn). Older kids can try their hand at learning to surf or paddleboard. Aspiring inner Attenborough’s will love the boat safaris leaving from Padstow harbour – explore hidden coves and cruise the open sea spotting dolphins as you go. Kids can travel the world at The Eden Project (a 30-minute drive away), from the Mediterranean to the rainforest. Forward-thinking and curiously creative, inventive play spaces have been designed to enhance children’s eco-awareness and educate them on how to look after the planet. A 45-minute car ride will get you to the Lost Gardens of Heligan, a magical, mythical garden with sleeping moss-covered giants, farmyard friends, giant exotic plants and the only Burmese rope bridge in the UK.

Road Trip Top Tips

It really pays to think about when and where you might need to stop on a long car journey. Some service stations are better than others. Forestry Commission parks are great, especially if you find one with a Gruffalo trail, and you can’t go wrong with a National Trust pitstop.

The Best Place to Set Sail to

San Sebastián

This summer, set sail from Portsmouth and head for the shores of balmy Bilbao on a 30hr ferry adventure. Less a travel option, and more a holiday in its own right, find fun onboard for the whole family, from restaurant & bar options to children’s play areas. Watch the sunset from the top deck before bedding down for the night in your own private cabin, and wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to explore beautiful Basque. An hour’s drive from Bilbao, head to San Sebastian on the perfect sunny Spanish road trip

The best place to stay in San Sebastián with kids
The best place to stay in San Sebastián with kids

Arima Hotel & Spa, a luxury boutique hotel on the outskirts of San Sebastian, is nestled amongst the lush trees of the Miramón forest. A calm, green oasis, Arima is the perfect place to retire for rest and relaxation following jam-packed days exploring the bustling city centre and beaches. A distinguished design and dining destination. While undeniably parent-pleasing and not purely family-focused, expect thoughtful touches such as children’s cutlery and a kids’ breakfast corner. With babysitting services also available, indulge in some me time with a yoga class in the glass-walled forest studio or a dip in the rooftop infinity pool.

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Things to do with kids in San Sebastián

Located at the top of a mountain (with stunning bay views), Monte Igueldo Amusement Park is a quirky blend of old-world charm with modern thrills. First opening its gates in 1912, rides range from classic carousels to bumper cars, with a decidedly vintage vibe. Though perhaps the highlight is the cliffside wooden funicular up to the park, which is still in operation after more than 100 years. With your feet firmly back on the ground, frolic in the waves at San Sebastian’s three golden sand beaches, or board a boat around the bay for picture-perfect panoramas of the city. San Sebastian is also home to one of Europe’s top-rated aquariums, with an awe-inspiring 360° underwater tunnel, ideally located in the Harbour, a stone’s throw from the Old Town. Here, spend the afternoon wandering the winding cobbled streets, dipping into local pintxo bars & gelaterias to sample the city’s finest foodie fares – home to 8 Michelin-star restaurants. There’s a reason San Sebastian is known as the gastronomic capital of Spain.

Ferry Top Tips

With no luggage restrictions, an undeniable benefit of ferry travel is packing the car with absolutely everything you need for your holiday – though you’ll thank yourself for packing a separate hand luggage bag for the ferry trip, so you can grab and go as soon as you’re aboard. Also, make sure to request a travel cot for your cabin in advance, as these aren’t always provided as standard.

Tiny Travelship

Tiny Travelship is THE community for stylish family travel. Featuring a curated collection of handpicked holidays that prove parents don’t need to sacrifice their taste for their toddlers. Each and every recommendation is mama inspected and selected, so you know you can 100% trust them.

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