How to improve holidays with children

Hey Mum, Let's Give It Some Pedal Power
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The Independent Travel

I am delighted to announce that I've acquired two beautiful new family members since I wrote last week's column. They are perfectly formed and rarely wake me up at night, and, since the moment they appeared in our lives, my two boys have been absolutely smitten with them.

But alas, it's not the patter of tiny feet that can be heard up and down the hall at our house, but rather the clatter of rather large wheels. We are the proud owners of two brand new shiny bicycles - although to my boys, they're so much more than this; they are, already, their most loved and trusted companions.

From the moment these handsome choppers left the bike shop, they have accompanied us everywhere - the park, the kitchen and even to bed. This has caused a few logistical problems, but I'm not complaining (yet). I don't want to do anything to dampen their ardour, because, if you ask me, anything that distracts them from their PlayStation addiction is worth its weight in gold.

The problem is the kids have already asked if their beloved bikes can come on holiday with us. This could prove slightly tricky considering the restrictions on hand luggage, but it's not all bad news, because I've discovered some great family cycling holidays (which include bike hire) which promise to be just the thing to fulfil their new-found penchant for pedalling.

For a start there's Freewheel holidays (01636 815636; freewheelholidays.com), which features breaks across Europe on cycle tracks and quiet back roads. Take its tour in Austria along lakeside paths and undulating meadows, or head for the Italian Dolomites, where it's all downhill. You stay in various hotels along the way, and the company takes care of your luggage between hotels.

Headwater (01606 720034; headwater.com) is another good bet. Choose from an assortment of cycling holidays suitable for families; a brand new trip to Gozo is particularly good for kids. Every other day is a rest day, so you and your little darlings get to lie by the pool and rest your aching posteriors.

Other specialists worth checking out include 2 Wheel Treks (0845-612 6106; 2wheeltreks.co.uk), which has just launched a number of new family ventures in Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Go on one of its unique "Freedom Holidays" and you get to sleep on a barge and cycle during the day. The joy of this is that you can let the boat take the strain once your legs have had enough.

But if, like us, you're absolute beginners at this sort of thing, how about a few days in the Isle of Wight to get you started? Visit between 16 and 24 September and you can join the Cycling Festival (01983 203891; sunsea andcycling.com). Watch the experts do their stuff in some serious races, then take a pleasant and altogether more relaxed ride following the Sunshine Trail along country lanes. Stop at a pub or tea room for lunch, and then rest up in a cosy b&bs or a luxury hotel. For details of accommodation and bike hire, Island Breaks have it all (01983 813813; islandbreaks.co.uk).

See you there.

Katy's top tip

Explore hidden France or Italy on two wheels on a tailor-made cycling tour with The Chain Gang (01392 662262; thechain gang.co.uk). The company provides a guide as well as kit, accommodation and even wine tastings.

Katy Holland (k.holland@independent.co.uk) is deputy editor of 'Mother and Baby' and motherand babymagazine.com.

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