These stopover destinations are the best for children

Long-haul flights are a parent’s living nightmare. And anyone who has kid-wrangled at airports knows that the stopovers are the real killer. They prolong travel time and don’t come with in-flight entertainment.

But what if your stopover could be the key to a stress-free family holiday overseas?

View of boats on ocean through plane window
Turn your stopover into a holiday! Picture: Sophie Cullen

If you succumb to the inevitable – that your plane is going to have to stop between holiday and home – and factor in extra time in your half-way destination, it will flip the undesirable stopover into a welcome mini-holiday.

It will become your ticket to a new culture and destination, your antidote to jet lag, and a breather between a jam-packed trip and the chaos of unpacking and readjusting when you arrive home.

Make the conscious choice to keep a few nights spare to use on these great destinations; frequent transfer points on trips to Europe, UK, USA and beyond.

Dubai

The first thing that will strike you about Dubai is that it is sweltering. Good thing this exciting hub in the United Arab Emirates has some of the best water-based and indoor activities in the world. If you’re lucky, snag a stay in ritzy Atlantis the Palm, next door to Aquaventure Water Park. Or refresh in Wild Wadi Waterpark before heading inside to one of Dubai’s enormous malls. In fact, Ski Dubai is the world’s largest indoor snow resort, located in the Mall of Emirates. At night, watch the light show in front of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. You can also hype up the adrenaline with windsurfing, sailing, scuba diving, hot air balloons and dune-bashing. Stop in at Al-Fahidi Fort and the gold souk.

Playgrounds and wading pools at Dubai Aquaventure Water Park
Make a splash at Dubai’s Aquaventure Picture: Fabio Achilli CC

Who stops here: Emirates, Etihad Airways

Check out our top things to do in Dubai here.

Doha

Doha is the intriguing, hyper-modern capital of Qatar. Its waterfront Museum of Islamic Art houses the largest collection of Islamic art on the globe. Shopping and markets are another draw card, so stop by the Gold souk and peruse the Souk Waqif. Here, you will find everything under the hot, Middle-Eastern sun, from perfumes to falconry accessories. Take a dhow ride on a traditional boat, and embark on a desert safari adventure before peeking in at the Al Koot Fort.

Rows of camels outside the white Doha fort
The camels are a fixture of Doha Fort Picture: Lensfield/Shutterstock

Who stops here: Qatar Airways

Hong Kong

Hong Kong feels like a mix between mountains, jungle and extreme cityscape. A climb up Victoria Peak on the peak tram will showcase the skyscraper-clogged skyline and the lovely harbour – excellent views can be found for free at Lion’s Gate lookout tower, although Peak Tower is the most popular. Take the old-school star ferry across the harbour, which lights up after dark like a night sky. Theme parks like Ocean Park and Disneyland put Hong Kong on the map for younger families. Big Buddha and Po Lin monastery is a better choice for the more culturally-inclined.

Tram on top of Victoria Peak with views of Hong Kong skyline
Catch the peak tram for unparalleled views Picture: Bethany Plint

Who stops here: Cathay Pacific

Read our full Hong Kong stopover guide here.

Singapore

A week? A couple of hours? Singapore is a culinary, retail and zoological haven. World-class Singapore Zoo offers several unique experiences such as polar bear sightings in their tundra enclosure, breakfast with orangutans and an atmospheric Night Safari. For delicious street eats (don’t forget Singapore chilli crab!) stop by Chinatown and Little India. Gardens by the Bay is an urban oasis near Marina Bay, famous for its giant ‘supertree’ structures. Those fond of heights can pick Singapore cable car or the Singapore Flyer ferris wheel. If you don’t want to sleep the night but have a long layover nonetheless (eight hours or more), you can book into a short bus tour from the airport that returns you in time for your flight.

Huge artificial trees lit up at night in Singapore
The supertrees look supernatural at the Gardens by the Bay Picture: Sophie Cullen

Who stops here: Singapore Airlines, Qantas Group

Read our full Singapore stopover guide here.

Kuala Lumpur

The Malaysian capital city blends skyscrapers with Hindu temples, and hawker markets with theme parks. Swing by the huge Petronas Twin Towers dominating the skyline. See the Perdana Botanical Gardens, Jamek Mosque and Hindu temples inside the Batu Caves, which are roughly a 20-minute drive out of central KL. If you need to let your wriggles out after long plane hours, then head to Sunway Lagoon theme park and its six high-octane zones – the water park, amusement park, wildlife park, Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon, Extreme Park and ‘Scream’ Park.

Hindu statue at base of staircase to Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur
The ascent to the Batu Caves in Malaysia Picture: Bound Round

Who flies here: Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia

Read our full Kuala Lumpur stopover guide here.

Los Angeles

It is common that you will hop off the plane at LAX (Los Angeles airport), using it as your first port of call in the land of fame and excess, a la Miley Cyrus. Before you connect to other American airports, check out film-famous sites like Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, Rodeo Drive and Beverley Hills. For a beachy break en route to your destination, enjoy nearby Malibu, Venice Beach and Santa Monica.

Taking a long flight with kids? Read up!

How to deal with jet lag as a family

Top tips for flying with kids of all ages

This flight search hack gets you a free stopover

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