Just because you have made the decision to have family does not mean that you have to hang up your walking boots and backpack and surrender yourself to a future of package holidays. With some careful planning and a sense of adventure, it is perfectly possible to travel to some more exotic destinations and expose your children (and yourself) to a new culture and totally different way of life. Not only is it a culturally broadening experience for everyone, it is also incredibly bonding for the family unit to be off on a real adventure together. Another benefit is that Moroccans are notoriously child friendly. Travel with kids and all of a sudden people will smile and say hello. They are an immediate ice breaker and can often allow you to strike up friendly chats with local people, especially if you teach them some basic Arabic phrases before you go.
Morocco is a fantastic family destination as it offers mountains, trekking, wild coast, surfing, desert and an immensely different culture, yet it is only 3 11/2 hours flight from the UK and in the same time zone. Added to that, several of the airports are serviced by cheap flight providers from the UK and you have a reasonably priced adventure in your midst.
The best part about travelling in Morocco with children is that you don't have to sacrifice your travelling spirit for the sake of your brood. It is perfectly possible to stay in characterful accommodation with an individual style. Many of the traditional riads have family rooms or suites and roof terraces make terrific places to play hide and seek for younger children and to lie back on a sun lounger and listen to an i-pod, for older children. The only pitfall of staying in these types of places is that they haven't been rigorously tested for health and safety and will almost certainly have balconies and steep stairs - parents need to keep a watchful eye. We have hand-picked some of the best family friendly accommodation to be found and road tested it with young children ourselves, so please don't hesitate to get in touch for help in planning your family holiday.
If you are planning on travelling within Morocco and staying in one destination, then you can either self drive in a rental car or hire a driver. Car seats are not particularly common and if you have a small child, you might want to consider bringing your car seat with you. (BA & BMI will allow you to bring a car seat in the hold free of charge)
Depending on your child, the prospect of trying lots of new foods can either be very exciting or incredibly daunting. Breakfasts in riads and hotels are breads, jams and pastries and children will almost certainly be offered hot or cold chocolate as an accompaniment. Many places will serve pasta and pizza as well as local food, but if you want to only eat local, there are tagines, cous cous and kebabs which are fairly accessible to children.
First time visitors to Morocco will almost certainly want to visit Marrakech, a lively and exciting city with a real buzz. The focal point of the old town is the main square, the Djemma el Fna. In the evenings, snake charmers, drummers, acrobats, story tellers and food sellers congregate, creating an electric atmosphere. It can be quite a culture shock for first time visitors, but get stuck in and it will be an experience to remember forever. There are several sites to see in Marrakech, but the key is not to overload on them. The Bahia and el Badi palaces are well worth a visit, as they offer a chance for the children to run off a bit of steam, as do the Majorelle Gardens. Designed by the late Yves Saint Laurent, the vibrant colours and cacti are a great contrast to the dusty city (and there is a nice cafe there). Back in the medina, most visitors will spend at least half of their time exploring the souks (markets) with stall holders selling everything from lamps to tea pots to rugs. With motorbikes, cyclists and donkeys jostling to get past, the souks can be chaotic to say the least, but children will be intrigued by all of the stalls. A visit to the spice market is highly recommended for the interest factor )and there is a nice cafe there.) In Marrakech, we have hand=picked some child friendly accommodation where children are welcome, but not at the expense of the atmosphere.
For those with a love of the outdoors, a trek in the Atlas Mountains is not to be missed. You can choose from 2 - 6 day treks depending on the fitness and ages of the children, but most families opt for 2 or 3 days. Accommodation out on the treks is very basic, you will all stay in one room together and there are shared (and very basic) facilities. The walking itself is stunning, with deep, lush valleys and proper peaks. All of our treks are supported with mules to carry your bags and when families trek ,we provide an extra mule for when children need to rest their weary legs. After a couple of days in the mountains, many people choose to stay in a guest house with a pool afterwards.
Morocco enjoys a stunning coastline to the West, with large Atlantic rollers and vast sandy beaches. The summer months offer perfect conditions for younger surfers and you may enjoy staying at a surf camp with daily lessons for the whole family. If surfing is not your thing, then a visit to Essaouira is highly recommended. This laid-back coastal town offers a relaxed medina, gorgeous beach and the closest thing to cafe culture that you get in Morocco. Children wll love playing games on the huge beach and climbing on the ramparts. Parents will love the bohemian feel and fresh fish on offer at every corner.
Camels, kasbahs, enormous palm trees and vast sand dunes, the Moroccan desert is a geography lesson that your children will never forget. You can almost trip over Unesco World Heritage sites, with Ait Ben Haddou, a crumbling citadel, one of the most popular. Made famous from films such as Gladiator, it is accessed by stepping stones over a River and you are then free to explore at your leisure. Children will love climbing to the top and exploring the dilapidated buildings. (There is absolutely no pretence of health & safety here) This part of the desert is predominantly rocky, but if you don't mind long car journeys, you can head out to the Sahara to see vast sand dunes up close. Once in the desert, you can travel out to a traditional Berber camp, where you will sleep under the amazing Saharan sky and climb up and roll down sand dunes to your heart's content. Camps vary from basic wild camping with no facilities to luxury camps with proper beds. No trip to the desert is complete without a camel trek, which children of all ages will love.
On the way back from the desert, don't miss the chance to stay in one of the many palmeries you will see along the way. These vast oases offer fertile land awash with date palms, cacti and farmlands. A wander through a palm grove is the perfect way to round off a trip to the desert.
You can visit Morocco all year round. Marrakech gets very hot in the summer months - children will probably only be able to tolerate the intense heat for a day or two. The coast and mountains both provide the perfect antidote to the heat of the summer. You can get out to Ait Ben Haddou in the summer months, but a trip out to the dunes is only possible from September - May due to the heat.