Whether you’re toting a toddler, trying to keep junior entertained or travelling with hard-to-impress teens, the City of Gold is a holiday hero for the whole brood. We asked our Personal Travel Experts what makes Dubai so good for families and got their tips on the best things to do with little ones in tow.
We know you love them dearly. But if holidays with the kids feel a bit like the same daily routine in a different location, it’s time you pay a visit to Dubai. This fabulously family-friendly destination manages to marry the fun factor with some seriously grown-up glitz and glamour in a way that keeps everyone happy – and prevents you from feeling like you need a holiday as soon as you get home.
“Dubai appeals to such a wide range of ages,” explains Heather Flanagan from the Kuoni marketing team. “It’s like having a cosmopolitan city break and a fun beach holiday all rolled into one. It’s also packed with places that make young minds boggle. It’s quite a feeling when your kids’ eyes widen at the sight of the world’s tallest building.”
Megan Reilly, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni Liverpool agrees. “A city break to a huge metropolis may not seem like the ideal choice for families, but Dubai is no ordinary city. Vast theme parks, sandy beaches, cultural experiences and unique attractions means they won’t be bored. But the safety and cleanliness make it a dream destination, particularly for those travelling with their children for the first time.”
So is Dubai the right choice for you and your own little crew? We asked our Personal Travel Experts to inspire us with their own tales of travelling to the desert oasis of fun with small humans in tow. Is Dubai a good family holiday? You’ll find out here.
In this article we’ll be covering:
4. Cultural highlights
5. Family-friendly resorts
6. Things to do in Dubai with family
1. Easy Travel: Getting there is child’s play
Shudder at the thought of wrangling your toddler on a long-haul flight? From the amount you need to pack to the stress of navigating the airport, some may wonder if it would be easier just to stay at home. But when you travel to Dubai with family, the holiday really does begin on the plane. “Although it’s classed as long haul at just shy of seven hours, flight times to Dubai are significantly shorter than heading to the Caribbean or Indian Ocean,” says Stephen Glover, Assistant Store Manager at Kuoni Cambridge. “The three or four-hour time difference means minimal jet lag and puts kids in sync with Dubai's late-night culture, too.”
Dubai’s airline, Emirates, goes out of its way to ensure your journey is as stress-free as possible – and maybe, just maybe, even enjoyable. “Ask any new parent their worst fear and many will say being trapped inside a plane cabin with a toddler on the rampage,” says Zoe Fox, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni Meadowhall. “But while most airlines accommodate children, Emirates really goes the extra mile. Besides the complimentary pushchairs at the check-in desk at Heathrow Terminal 3 and in Dubai International Airport, there’s amazing kids’ food, age-appropriate toys and activity packs and incredible entertainment available on-demand at every seat.”
Even packing for Dubai is easier, according to Becky Allen-Gurr, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni Chester. “My top tip for those heading to Dubai with a baby or toddler in tow is to travel light. The city has hundreds of shops where you can buy anything you run out of, from nappies and wipes to baby formula.”
The best children’s resorts in Dubai go even further to lighten the load for parents, according to Heather. “Sofitel Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa, for example, is great if you’re travelling to Dubai with an infant. They can provide bulky items like cots, bottle warmers, highchairs and even strollers.”
Sofitel Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa
2. Fantastic Weather: The sun always has its hat on
“Why is Dubai good for a family holiday? It has to be the weather,” says Stephen. “It’s warm, it hardly ever rains and you’re pretty much guaranteed sunshine whenever you come so making the most of its golden-sand beaches is a breeze. Winter is Dubai’s high season, with average temperatures ranging from 19C to 25C. It’s a pleasant time of year to visit and can even get a little chilly in the evenings around November and December.”
But as much as this balmy desert climate can be a bonus from November to March, if you visit anytime from late spring, temperatures can climb to above 40C. “Powerful air-conditioning means you can come in the summer and still have a great time,” says Megan. “But I would always take the heat into consideration if you love the beach, as it may be unbearable to sit out in.” Heather agrees. “Bring sunblock and all-in-one sunproof swimwear for the kids because, even in early October, the sand is almost too hot to sit on. When we went, we explored by day and spent the evenings by the pool.”
Kelly Ruth, Assistant Manager at Kuoni John Lewis Norwich has a solution. ”Some hotels let you pre-book cabanas around the pool, and that’s a great way to keep everyone safe in the sun.” Sam Leckie, Assistant Manager at Kuoni Liverpool adds, “Dubai is always good value in May and June because it’s so hot. Luckily, the best kids’ pools in Dubai always include some sort of shade, whether that’s from palm trees or a large sail.”
Megan’s top tip for families looking to escape the sizzle is to book into Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort. “Compared to other hotels on The Palm, there are more quiet and shady corners to chill and relax in with your family. Plus, there are rooms with direct lagoon access as well as the only overwater villas in the UAE.”
Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort, Deluxe Lagoon Access Room
3. Dining options: There’s food that’s fit for the pickiest of eaters
Eating out with the kids is a joy in Dubai. No, really! “Mealtimes abroad can be challenging when you’ve got young children,” says Sam. “You might not be able to find something they’ll eat, and in certain cultures little ones are expected to remain quiet. But the local attitude in Dubai is so different. They’re incredibly friendly towards kids and, with the sheer variety of restaurants on offer, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The food is incredible – there really is something for every palate, including young ones.”
“We found the best kid-friendly restaurants in Dubai to be the fast-but-casual options in the shopping malls,” says Heather. “But we also really liked the food courts as everyone could choose what they wanted to eat, then all dine together. There was everything from fast food to healthier options, while if you were feeling adventurous you could try Lebanese, Indian or Chinese food.”
But you may not even need to venture as far as the mall, according to Stephen. “Many of the best family restaurants in Dubai are in hotels. Centara Mirage Beach Resort Dubai has an all-inclusive package which includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks throughout your entire stay. There are four outstanding restaurants to choose from, the food is really delicious and there are always lots of different options to pacify the fussiest of eaters. If you wanted to be more city-based, the Grand Hyatt Dubai has great family facilities and it’s soon to be all-inclusive, too”.
For something a bit different, Heather has this recommendation: “One of our favourite nights was a bring-your-own picnic at the open-air cinema at Jumeirah Lake Towers. You can pick up some take-away or pop into one of the supermarkets, bring a blanket and enjoy your snacks al fresco.”
Brunch in Dubai is another not-to-be-missed institution for families. “Adults-only Friday brunches are the stuff of legend in Dubai. But more family-friendly versions, held on a Saturday, are also very popular,” says Kelly. “The best kid-friendly family brunches in Dubai combine everything parents love about the Friday brunches, like delicious, all-you-can-eat food and free-flowing bubbly, with a child's idea of fun - think entertainers, live bands and arts and crafts.”
The best family brunch in Dubai? It has to be the Bubbalicious brunch at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina. This buffet superstar takes over the hotel’s three huge restaurants and its terrace and features huge seafood displays, an entire room dedicated to cheese and hundreds of global foodie favourites to fill your plate with. But there’s also top-notch entertainment for kids including live music and acrobats.
4. Cultural highlights: The learning opportunities are endless
The only thing worse than not visiting the most prestigious cultural highlights on a city break is visiting its most prestigious cultural highlights with a reluctant child in tow. Luckily, Dubai has plenty of ways for adults to get their high-brow fix that also consider the length of children’s attention spans.
“Dubai doesn’t get the recognition it deserves as a top cultural destination,” says Heather. “And the good thing about it is that kids can soak up the best of Emirati culture without costing their parents a fortune. Sailing across the Creek in a traditional wooden boat called an abra costs one dirham (about 20p), while one of the best things to do in Dubai for free with family is simply smelling the spices or foraging for treasures in the souks. Teach them to haggle over curly-toed slippers at the Textile Souk for an experience they’ll never forget – and they’ll pick up a new skill for life, too.”
According to Stephen, every day in Dubai brings the chance for a new educational adventure. “You can visit a Bedouin camp on a desert safari, view local arts and handicrafts in the Al Fahidi historical neighbourhood, or try to spot some Arabian oryx and gazelles in the dunes.”
5. Family-friendly hotels: The resorts are so good they won’t want to leave
Forget hotels with one paddling pool and the occasional bit of face-painting. From action-packed kids' clubs to incredible water parks, many of the best resorts in Dubai were built with just one aim: to please all the family, all of the time.
Just take the long-standing family favourite Atlantis The Palm, Dubai. Becky tells us, “When we stayed here, visiting the adjoining Atlantis waterpark was the highlight of our stay. It is one of the best aquaparks I have ever visited, with a huge range of rides and a brilliant lazy river. The hotel can even provide a golf buggy service to get across to the waterpark if you do not fancy walking, which I thought was a real plus for families with young children.”
But what about teenagers? Book into Atlantis The Palm and they may never want to leave, according to Megan. “The resort’s newest addition is the Wavehouse, which is like a cross between a youth club and a bar. There’s a four-lane bowling alley and a games arcade, along with a terrace fitted with swinging sun loungers, an Astroturf stage and a Flow Rider wave machine.”
Craving beach-front bliss? Megan tells us where to head for some superlative bucket and spade action. “Jumeirah Beach Hotel is one of the most family-friendly sea-front resorts you’ll find. Perfect for younger kids, it’s located right on the golden sands of the best family beach in Dubai. The kids’ club is out of this world, with indoor and outdoor areas and activities like pizza-making classes and boxing lessons. You even get unlimited complimentary access to Wild Wadi Waterpark, just a short walk away.”
6. Activities: The incredible things to do in Dubai for families
Zoe tells us, “There are so many unbelievable things to do in Dubai for kids they’ll have a hard time deciding where they want to go first. From the world’s best waterparks and theme parks to the once-in-a-lifetime activities like indoor skiing and swimming with dolphins, everything is big, bold and exhilarating.” In fact, Zoe thinks parents should resist the temptation to cram everything into one trip. “Whenever I’m advising people on what to do in Dubai for families, I always recommend having activities planned for every other day. That way it’s not so overwhelming, plus you all get some time to relax and enjoy everything that’s on offer at your hotel.”
What would be Megan’s top tip for things to do in Dubai with toddlers? “Take advantage of all the entertaining ways to keep them out of the heat. For example, animal-mad toddlers will love visiting the penguins in Dubai Mall or seeing all the vivid colours in the Aquarium.”
For those travelling to Dubai with teenagers in tow, Stephen has this advice. “In my experience, teens want to explore the not-to-be-missed highlights so they can come home and tell their friends about it. You can’t miss taking them to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, or going for a snowboard session at Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates. It’s worth it for the bragging rights alone.”
It’s never easy planning a trip for this complicated age group, but Sam thinks she’s found a way to give teens the Dubai trip of a lifetime. “Why not book a twin-centre holiday? Staying at Atlantis The Palm means they get to go on all the best rides an hour before the waterpark is open to the public. But combining the Atlantis with a resort in Abu Dhabi lets them visit Ferrari World, home to the world’s fastest rollercoaster.”
Atlantis The Palm, Dubai
This article features expert advice from:
• Megan Reilly, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni Liverpool and expert in honeymoons, short breaks and more.
• Becky Allen-Gurr, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni Chester. With eight years’ experience in the travel industry, Becky’s worked with Kuoni for three months and loves pairing families with their perfect resort.
• Heather Flanagan, Marketing Team. Former Personal Travel Expert and mum to two active boys, Heather’s an expert travel writer who knows a thing or two about dream family destinations.
• Zoe Fox, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni Meadowhall, has worked for Kuoni for eight years. She specialises in holidays to the Middle East, Mauritius and Thailand.
• Kelly Ruth, Assistant Manager at Kuoni at John Lewis Norwich, who loves matching families with their perfect holidays in Dubai.
Ready to create your own perfect family holiday to Dubai? Whether you're travelling with tots or teens, we can help you plan a trip the whole brood will enjoy. Read more about our Dubai holidays here or chat with one of our Personal Travel Experts for tailored advice.
This feature was created on 1st December 2023. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge.