Q I would like to take my boys, aged 13 and 11, on a part-activity, part-relaxing (Mum needs a break) riding holiday in Europe. My budget is £3,000 for two weeks, which needs to include everything. I would like for the non-riding week to be in a warm coastal area or near water. We have only had one basic horse-riding lesson. Any ideas? P Vermassen, via email
A For many families, this is the final run-up to booking their summer holidays, so finding something to meet your criteria at this stage is a challenge. I'm sure you don't need reminding that you will be travelling in the peak season, so the prices reflect this. Nevertheless, there are a few possibilities to consider – both suggestions here meet with your request for horse-riding in the first week, although how many lessons you take is entirely up to you.
The first option is to stay in one location, close to Europe's most westerly point, at the Quinta da Marinha Resort (00 351 214 860 100; www.quintadamarinha.com), near the coastal town of Cascais on Portugal's Atlantic coast. This sprawling resort is surrounded by nature within the beautiful Sintra-Cascais National Park. The golden sands of Guincho beach are close by, as are the Sintra Mountains, where you can find numerous hiking and cycling trails to explore.
One of the reasons Quinta da Marinha might appeal is because of its on-site riding school, home to 230 horses. Novices are extremely well catered for, and there is also a chance to appreciate the region's diverse terrain from the saddle. There are plenty of other facilities at the resort, too, including a swimming pool, golf course, tennis courts, and a health spa that will be of interest to Mum. The capital, Lisbon, which more than warrants a visit, is 30 minutes' drive away, should you find yourselves getting a bit restless on the beach. Temperatures will be balmy, but this being the Atlantic coast, there's always a pleasant breeze to keep you cool.
Thirteen nights' half-board accommodation for the three of you sharing a room will set you back around €200 (£167) per night, and riding lessons cost around €20 (£17) per class. Two weeks' car hire, picking up from Lisbon airport, will cost around £200 with Holiday Autos (0871 472 5229; www.holidayautos.co.uk). EasyJet (0905 821 0905; www.easyjet.com) is currently offering return flights to Lisbon for around £130 per person at the beginning of August, so you should just come in on budget.
An alternative would be to swap the beach for a lake, and head to the high-altitude charms of Austria. For the first week of your holiday, you could base yourselves at the family-run Hammerhof Hotel in Filzmoos (00 43 64 53 82 45; www.hammerhof.at), which is 1,060m above sea level in the Alps. This charming, traditional hotel (think flower-filled balconies and lots of timber) has its own riding school, where you can choose between lessons with the resident instructor and countryside hacks with stunning mountain scenery as a backdrop.
There are numerous other facilities at the hotel, including a swimming pool, and it also has its own organic vegetable garden, providing many of the raw materials for the restaurant. For pampering there are spa facilities that include sauna, solarium and massages.
Your second week could be spent in another charming family-run hotel, the Ferienhotel Kaltschmid (00 43 5212 2191; www.kaltschmid.info), in one of Austria's most popular holiday destinations, the lakeside resort of Seefeld in the heart of the Tyrol.
Seefeld has a spectacular mountain-plateau setting, and you will love the crystal-clear waters of its glacier-fed lake. Temperatures hover in the early to mid-20s in the height of summer.
As well as lounging by the pool, there are lots of activities on offer such as hiking and water sports, as well as jaw-dropping rides on the Rosshütte cable car. Departing in late July or August, this would cost a total of £2,210, travelling with Inghams (020-8780 4433; www.inghams. co.uk). The price includes return charter flights from Gatwick to Innsbruck, transfers and half-board accommodation in a triple room. Horse-riding costs an additional €320 (£266) per person for four days' tuition, so you should all be considerably more accomplished than when you first arrived.
Send your family travel queries to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, 'The Independent', 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or email to email@example.com