Our writers test and research products independently. When you buy through a link on our site we may earn a commission but this never affects our product choices.
Summer is firmly underway, but if you haven't had chance to enjoy a summer holiday yet - don't worry, there's more opportunity to get away this year.
With a new school year and lots of uniform and stationary shopping ahead for many parents, planning a winter holiday with the family may not be at the top of your list. But we're here to tell you that winter sun holidays are the underdogs, and shouldn't be overlooked. After all, who can't resist the thought of the sun on your face to get you through those long, dark evenings that are approaching?
Disclaimer: it does mean a mid- or long-haul flight is required, but with some planning, preparation and a lot of travel toys, it's perfectly doable - and worth it!
Parents may shy away from travelling with little ones on lengthy journeys, but don't be put off. Our writer and mum-of-two Charlotte survived a nine hour plane journey with a one and four year old. Sure, there were parts she'd rather forget, but she's here to tell the tale - and the memories made at the other end were priceless.
From personal experience, we know if the kids are happy then so are the grown ups. We’ve spoken to the experts; real parents on our Mumsnet forums to help us gather honest reviews to provide this list of the top 10 destinations offering sun in those long winter months.
We’ve catered for a variety of budgets, balancing a range of activities as well as time for relaxing. From the luxurious surroundings of the Maldives, to the theme park fun offered in Florida, the beautiful coasts of the Canary Islands and the impressive attractions of Dubai, there’s plenty of winter sun holidays for families to choose from.
Here's our guide to the best winter sun destinations for families.
1. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai, United Arab Emirates | Find a hotel in Dubai
“The fountain display at the bottom [of Burj Khalifa] is spectacular if you can time it. A speedboat trip out round the coast gets you to many of the famous landmarks. The aquarium in Dubai mall is impressive - even if just to walk past the front. A trip out into the desert.A bu Dhabi - several themed parks (Ferrari, Lego, water) if any of those suit the age ranges you are going with, plus the grand mosque. My kids adored the very very cheap boat trip across Dubai Creek. There are some souks on the far side worth exploring. Global Village, if you are there when it is open." Recommended by WinterHeatWave.
With summer months hitting highs of 50°C here, winter is decidedly the best time to visit one of the Middle East's most recognisable destinations. Averaging at 25°C in the winter months, you're guaranteed sunshine without it being unbearable.
Whether it's a ride to the top of the iconic Burj Khalifa, experiencing one of Dubai's famous brunches, visiting the family-friendly water parks, or shopping until you drop, there's something to suit all ages in this desert playground.
The distance from Dubai International Airport to the main areas of the emirate are between 10 and 25km, depending on where you're staying. So after a seven hour flight from the UK, you only have a short transfer to your chosen hotel after you've landed - and a drive down the emirate's recognisable Sheikh Zayed Road offers incredible views!
Though glamorous, Dubai is also incredibly child-friendly. Not only is there plenty to do, but children of all ages will receive a warm welcome at most, if not all, establishments across the emirate.
To help you find a place to stay, take a look at our guide to the best family hotels in Dubai.
Flight time from the UK to Dubai, UAE: Around 7 hours
2. Florida, United States of America
Florida, United States of America | Find a hotel in Florida
"We took our boys to Florida many times when they were young. They are men now with families of their own and both really want to take their children. A Florida holiday is hard, hard work. It’s not really a ‘holiday’ for mum and dad BUT absolutely it’s worth it. I have so many wonderful, wonderful memories and so do my boys." Advice from Lentil63
“I adore Florida, not just the parks but everything about it. The restaurants, supermarkets. The Florida Keys is meant to be amazing”. Recommended by Darbs76
Florida is known for its beach resorts, sunny climates, and huge theme parks, with the likes of Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando to please the thrill seekers amongst us, and sprinkle a boat load of magic on our holidays.
The USA's southeasternmost state is a popular destination for summer vacations - but one thing that makes it a little less magical... The humidity! Summer here can reach tops of 35°C, but if you're wanting to visit when the weather is a little cooler, and more manageable for younger guests, you may want to plan your trip during the winter months.
We use the term 'winter months' loosely, with temperatures averaging around 23°C between December and February - a comfortable climate to explore all the great things Florida has to offer.
If Mickey Mouse isn't your thing, Florida has some incredible beaches and cities to explore. With stunning coastlines in Clearwater, promenades in Fort Lauderdale, clear waters at Destin, and a notable arts scene and nightlife down in Miami, there's lots to explore across the state of Florida.
Flight time from the UK to Orlando, Florida: Around 9 hours
Flight time from the UK to Miami, Florida: Around 9 hours, 30 minutes
3. Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria, Canary Islands | Find a hotel in Gran Canaria
"I’ve been in November/December a couple of times and it was plenty warm enough during the day for laying on a sun lounger and going in the pool (a little chilly on getting in after a length or so just fine). Cooler in evenings but just requiring a light jacket or sweater." Hugasauras
If you're not a fan of long haul flights, this option close to home could be the one for you.
Just four and a half hours away from the UK, Gran Canaria offers weather warm enough to enjoy some sunbathing during the day in the winter months, with temperatures reaching highs of 24 °C. The evenings can dip a little, we'll admit, so jackets and sweaters are recommended - but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the sun on your skin before sunset.
As one of Spain's Canary Islands, this destination is popular with families and offers ample family-oriented resorts, with plenty of restaurants to sample local cuisine. With beautiful beaches and plenty of activities for children of all ages, Gran Canaria is a great find to please the whole family.
Boat trips are popular here - whether it's fishing, whale and dolphin watching, or a stop to swim and snorkel. The best places for families to stay are generally considered to be Maspalomas, Puerto Rico, Puerto Mogan, Meloneras, San Agustin, Las Palmas and Playa del Inglés. To help you plan your trip, check out our guide to the best family hotels in Gran Canaria.
Flight time from the UK to Gran Canaria: Around 4 hours 30 minutes
Maldives | Find a hotel in the Maldives
“We went with our DS 13 & 19 and older sons girlfriend. The food, the island staff were amazing. The most relaxing holiday I’ve ever had. Plenty to do if you choose or do nothing…would recommend it completely”. Recommended by Bert3400
With plenty of sunshine on offer at any time of the year and temperatures that range from 27°C to 29°C, the Maldives is a beautiful choice for a holiday. This immaculate, Indian Ocean location is full of white sandy islands, bright blue seas, and views that make you feel like you're in a postcard. Here, dry season occurs from November to April, when temperatures are warm with clear skies and sunshine, making this a great place to visit during the winter.
Whilst famed for its romantic reputation, the Maldives makes just as good a holiday spot for a family trip together. With the softest sands and shallows for paddling in, there's lots to keep kids entertained here - look for tropical fish, spot dolphins, enjoy treasure hunts, snorkel, paddleboard, volleyball... The list is endless when it comes to kids activities here.
We'll admit, it's a lengthy trip to get here. With flight times averaging between 10 to 11 hours, plus a sea plan to most resorts, this journey is something to bare in mind when planning your trip, Don't forget to check out our guide to the best family hotels in the Maldives to help you plan your trip.
Direct flight time from the UK to the Maldives: Between 10 and 11 hours*
Connecting flight times from the UK to the Maldives: Between 12 and 13 hours
*Currently, the only airline to fly directly from London to Malé is British Airways.
Egypt | Find a hotel in Egypt
“The weather is pleasant during the day but you might need jackets for the evening. I’ve been to Sharm in January a couple of times and it was nice." Recommended by Gilmorehill
Arguably a bucket list country, Egypt is a must visit at least once in your lifetime. With a rich and exciting history, the country offers ancient wonders like Abu Simbel and the famous Pyramids of Giza.
It can be a challenging place to visit, even for the most seasoned travellers, but it's one of the best places for world schooling kids. Bringing children to Egypt can bring their studies to life, and is a great country to explore if you're looking for adventure and history.
Alternatively, if you're seeking quality time together as a family to relax and enjoy each other's company, Egypt has some truly gorgeous resorts on offer to give you a slice of luxury. All offer beautiful pools - which you'll need, as despite being winter, temperatures here average between 23 and 32°C each day between November and March. Pack a sweater though, as temps can drop on an evening.
Flight time from the UK to Egypt: Around 4 hours 40 minutes
Malta | Find a hotel in Malta
"Valletta is very beautiful and historical in a ‘distressed’ way but can be busy As it’s the capital.Possibly consider Mdina in the north of the island for beauty and history too.Around the coasts there are either cheap and cheerful areas or more ‘classy’ areas with big hotels but all are very touristy still.Quieter, greener on the island of Gozo." Advice from josette
"It's easy to get around. We did 10 days and split it Valletta, Gozo and mdina." Recommended by joggingon
Winter in Malta begins in December, but the temperatures remain mild. With highs of 17°C, this location probably won't make the top of your list if you're looking to sunbathe. While sunny, it can be windy too, which makes it feel cooler than it really is.
A bonus about visiting this island country is the festive cheer you'll undoubtedly feel at this time of year. The Maltese love Christmas, and many streets and houses will be decorated with magical, twinkling lights throughout the month.
It's a small island, meaning you have both time and logistics on your side - you can easily explore many locations across the country while you're were.
Somehow, family holidays in Malta tend to fall under the radar, but with just a three hour flight and no tricky visa regulations, Malta offers winter sun without being a million miles away from home.
A word of advice - a lot of Malta's beaches are pebbly, so if your little ones have their hearts set on sandcastles, we'd recommend travelling to the northern prat of the island and visit places like Ghaderia Bay or Mellieha Bay.
Flight time from the UK to Malta: Around 3 hours
Tenerife | Find a hotel in Tenerife
"I have been to Tenerife in late December and it was just beautiful. Warm, calm, lovely..." Recommended by BitOutOfPractice
"We have booked Tenerife for October after going there last year at that time. Weather was perfect for us low to mid twenties so plenty hot enough to lie outside but not too uncomfortable to do anything." Recommended by rookiemater
Tenerife is one of the best locations in Spain for a winter getaway. The sun shines, temperatures are comfortable, and resorts are still bustling with entertainment and a great atmosphere.
Located just 124 miles off the coast of Africa, with a flight time from the UK of around four hours, this destination offers winter sun pleasantly close to home. Temperatures hover around the 20°C mark over the winter months.
As the largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife has something for everybody - from stunning views and lively evening entertainment, to fantastic beaches along breath-taking coastlines, as well as volcanoes, mountains, and more. There's lots to explore here with kids in tow!
To help you plan your trip here, don't forget to check out our guide to the best family hotels in Tenerife, as recommended by Mumsnetters.
Flight time from the UK to Tenerife: Around 4 hours
Lanzarote | Find a hotel in Lanzarote
“My brother and his family stayed at Jameos Playa and loved it, we visited as we were in PDC. There is miles of beach in front of hotel. You can hire bikes and go for miles either direction along sea front. Lots of shops/restaurants. It is flat all around there so getting around is easy. ” Recommended by No1HolidayPlanner
"Lanzarote should be fine (I did Christmas there once and it was low 70’s..." Advice from maddiemookins16mum
Lanzarote is regularly voted as the best winter sun destination in Europe by travellers and families, and when you look at the forecast - you can understand why! Throughout winter, temperatures can reach as high as 25°C degrees. Online Christmas shopping from a sun lounger, with a drink at your side sounds ideal, right?
With endless entertainment for kids of all ages, you'll never be stuck for options if you're wanting to adventure further than the poolside. With Timanfaya National Park, beautiful beaches, submarine safaris, the Rancho Texas Zoo... The list goes on.
To plan your trip, don't forget to check out our guide to the best family hotels in Lanzarote.
Flight time from the UK to Lanzarote: Around 4 hours
9. Cape Verde
Cape Verde | Find a hotel in Cape Verde
"Beaches are unbelievable. Yes it's windy but not more than the canaries (breeze was v pleasant given temperature). Weather guaranteed. We were very lazy and ended up doing beach most days but if you like water sports it's a mecca, you can do anything for a reasonable price." Recommended by SkiFan
December is a great time to visit Cape Verde, for several reasons. Escaping the dreary weather in the UK is always a big incentive - especially when you learn Cape Verde enjoys eight hours of sunshine a day throughout winter, as well as highs of 27°C!
Direct flights are available from the UK that are around six hours, and with long bays of golden sand and blue seas, the little extra travel time is perfect when you have sunbathing and watersports waiting at the other end.
Booking in advance will ensure your best chance at finding some great deals in Cape Verde, so don't hang around.
Flight time from the UK to Cape Verde: Around 6 hours
Mexico | Find a hotel in Mexico
"I went to Cancun in January and no stinky seaweed. We lived in the US at the time so it was a cheap escape the brutal winter break. If I’d flown long haul to get there then I would have been bitterly disappointed. I’d like to go back to Mexico for sure but not to Cancun." Advice from RandomQuest
"We went to Cancun in February, it was great. As PP said you will be outside seaweed season in January!" Recommended by HappyGoDucky
Last but not least, if you find yourself daydreaming about pearly white beaches, crystal clear waters and fruity cocktails, look no further than Mexico.
With an appealing selection of activities for all ages - from jungle hikes, to historical sites, as well as beautiful family resorts - there's something here for everyone.
High season runs across the Christmas holidays, as people escape for a sunshine-filled break. It's a destination further away than other's we've recommended, with a direct flight time of just under 12 hours from the UK! But fear not, long haul flights with kids need not be miserable. Book yours eats in advance, load the electronics, pack all of the snacks and travel toys, and accept help when offered - remember the memories made on the other side are priceless, and Mexico is a great destination to create them together.
Flight time from the UK to Mexico: Around 12 hours
The best winter sun destinations
Advice for winter sun holidays
We’re confident we’ve found a really great line up of destinations to suit a variety of budgets and interests and give you your fix of winter sun. Whether you’re willing to travel long haul, or you want some a little closer to home, you’re guaranteed to be the envy of friends and family in colder climates over those long cold winter months!
To guarantee the warmer weather, travelling further afield to destinations such as Florida, Mexico or the Caribbean are going to serve the higher temperatures. Whilst throughout Europe there’s some beautiful areas on offer, they might be a tad chilly on an evening or in the pool.
Having said that, if you do prefer to stay in Europe, the warmest destination is likely to be the south of the continent. Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Cyprus and Italy all have nice winters, however the Canary Islands are by far the most warm.
Inspired? You’ll find loads of great resorts on sites such as Booking.com to book your perfect winter getaway with your family.
Top tips for travelling abroad with kids
You've taken the plunge and decided to book a holiday abroad this winter with your children. Don't fret, as Mumsnetters have been there, done that and have shared their tips.
Consult a travel agent to help you plan, choose and arrange your holiday
Go hands-free and pack a baby carrier if you're travelling with young holidaymakers
Travel light - items like cots and highchairs are available at many destinations
Research the facilities - check your accommodation has everything you need for the family
Practice playing airport and flying with kids
Expect an accident or two and pack spare clothes
Remember your box of tricks, snacks and entertainment
And don't forget the essentials - milk, sun lotion, medicines etc
For a full, detailed guide jam-packed with top tips on how to holiday with young children, check out our guide here.
How we chose our recommendations
Recommendations by real parents
Before choosing any destination for our roundups, we first consult the Mumsnet forums. With over 10 million users per month, there’s a lot of suggestions by real parents who have been there, done that when travelling during winter with the family.
Expert guidance and traveller reviews
After we’ve collated our destination picks, we then turn to the experts and consult the likes of TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and Expedia to see what their recommendations include for family holidays here.
Here we’ll also check what travellers are saying about each destination on these sites, taking into consideration both the positive and negative points of their trip to bring you a well-rounded and honest guide.
Finally, we cross-referenced all of the above information to find the best winter sun destinations for families that had won the most awards and recommendations across the board. We feel there’s something here for everyone, to suit every budget.
Why should you trust us
We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.