What are you doing for Christmas? I am aware that using the C-word seems a totally inappropriate way to start a column in the middle of August. But my kids are already using it liberally. Now that they're back from their summer holiday, they've announced that it's the Next Thing To Look Forward To.
Or dread, if you're a parent. The idea of the festive season is enough to make most non-children want to run away, and I'm here to help you do just that, with a sneak preview of some of the best new places you can escape to this winter, in a country that's warm, family-friendly and, best of all, totally Christmas-free. It's Thailand, to be exact, where a small number of family retreats and adventures are launching just in time to allow you to flee the season.
Take the new Six Senses Soneva Kiri (00 66 3961 9800; sixsenses. com/soneva-kiri), a luxury property due to open in November on the remote island of Koh Kood. Built from eco-sustainable materials, this is a little haven for families, offering something far removed from the big five-star beach resorts.
A mind-boggling array of activities are planned for mini-guests, who are allocated their very own treetop den, hovering over the rainforest canopy. They can learn to play traditional Thai instruments, design jewellery, try their hand at creative writing, take cookery classes, or fly kites. Families get to dine together in tree-top pods and when you're not lounging by your infinity pool, there are opportunities for you too to learn anything from astronomy to gardening, as well as take private boat excursions to nearby beauty spots, including Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
For wildlife fanatics, the new and rather glorious Anantara Si Kao Resort and Spa (00 66 7520 5888; anantara.com), which opened in January in the Sikao district of southern Thailand, is a real treat. This is one of the few areas where sea cows hang out, and the hotel has created its very own wildlife trail to give your little ones a chance to get up close and personal with these gentle sea creatures. There's plenty to do besides, including sea kayaking, nature walking and kids' clubs – or hire your own speed boat and explore the region.
But for a truly alternative Christmas, how about taking the kids to stay with the hill tribes of northern Thailand. A new family trip being offered by KE Adventure (017687 73966; keadventure.com) starts this December, beginning with a sleeper train from Bangkok to spend several nights in a remote village. There are also trips to the Nan River, where you'll be guests of a local family. Kids can really get stuck into village life, helping with cooking, farming, fishing, and even tending silkworms. And with three days on a beach on Koh Samet at the end, there's enough on this trip alone to make sure the whole family has a very happy you-know-what.