Two cars driving through the desert in Dubai

Five of the world’s most family-friendly road trips

From discovering fairy-tale French châteaux to driving through the desert, these five scenic road trips are packed with adventure.
There can be nothing more exhilarating than exploring a country on four wheels, but some routes are more geared towards family fun than others. From glacier-backdropped Alpine passes to drives through the Arabian sand dunes, these child-friendly journeys will give your little ones the adventure of a lifetime. It’s time to get this show on the road…
A French fairy tale: Paris to the Loire Valley


The Loire Valley is home to a succession of breathtaking castles with storybook turrets, manicured gardens and intricate mazes to hide in. The journey begins in Paris, at Mandarin Oriental, Paris, set on the couldn’t-be-more-central rue Saint-Honoré. From there, the Louvre is a 15-minute stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries, with its sailboat-dotted ponds and prancing carousel. Elsewhere, kids will love the city’s pizza joints, playgrounds and pâtisseries, starting with the hotel’s very own Cake Shop.

A two-and-a-half-hour drive south from Paris brings you to the Loire’s châteaux – and while all are impressive, some will appeal to children more than others. Follow in the footsteps of Tintin at the Château de Cheverny, whose imposing façade was the model for Captain Haddock’s Marlinspike Hall. Play among replicas of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions in the grounds of his former home, Le Château du Clos Lucé, or get lost in the labyrinth at Villandry. For a change from castles, Zoo de la Flèche is one of the biggest zoos in France, while Papéa Parc promises pedalo rides, pirate ships and more.

A whale of a time: Boston to Bar Harbor

Boston, Massachusetts is steeped in history, from tales of its 17th-century Puritan founders to its infamous Tea Party. Mandarin Oriental, Boston is perfectly placed for its attractions, including the excellent aquarium, and can arrange guided tours of the harbour and museum, if you need to brush up on your history. From here, you’re heading north along the coastal route, past clapboard towns and epic beaches. Between April and September, keep your eyes peeled for humpback, minke and pilot whales.

Portland makes a perfect pit stop for fresh lobster rolls and seafood chowder, before wending your way to Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island. The port, with its charming shops and galleries, is the gateway to Acadia National Park, with its granite peaks, rugged coast and ever-elusive moose. Take the 27-mile Park Loop Road, which includes a steep, winding drive to Cadillac Mountain, for views across the rolling Atlantic.

A tale of two cities: Munich to Prague

The adventure begins in Bavaria, where you can get your bearings at Mandarin Oriental, Munich, with its rooftop terrace and pool. Spend the next day or two exploring the city, wandering the English Garden, meeting the zoo’s giraffes, and marvelling at Marienplatz’s ingenious mechanical clock.

Direct, the drive to Prague is around four hours, but make time for a detour or two. Take car-fixated kids via the circular Audi Museum, whose rarities run from pioneering racing cars to sleek 1960s coupes. Alternatively, drive through medieval Regensburg, then have a picnic at Steinberg Am See, a huge lake with swimming spots on its shores, along with an amusement park.

Your journey’s end? Mandarin Oriental, Prague, set in a serene former monastery in the historic Malá Strana quarter. The next morning, swap four wheels for the hotel’s boat (the concierge can set up a cruise) or explore the city on foot. Start at the nearby Prague Castle, where the changing of the guard is at noon, then stroll across the grand gothic Charles Bridge for lunch in the cobbled Old Town.

Seeing stars: Dubai to Muscat

Built in the middle of the desert, Dubai is a city of superlatives. It’s home to the world’s tallest building, the biggest mall in the Middle East (complete with an ice rink and underwater zoo) and the tallest performing fountain. It’s also a place where children can have off-the-scale amounts of fun – in its theme parks and golden beaches, or at KidZania, a scaled-down replica of a real city, where the kids are very much in charge.

Your starting point is Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai, an oasis on the shore of the Arabian Gulf. Tear yourselves away from its palm-flanked pools and white-sand beach for the next stage of the adventure: heading east to Oman. During the five-hour journey, you’ll see sand dunes, camels and the mountains of Hajar, which are worth a detour for their dramatic vistas. The city of Muscat is delightful for all ages, whether you’re cycling along the breezy Muttrah Corniche, marvelling at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque or soaking up the atmosphere at the souk. To extend your trip, head for nearby Wahiba Sands, where kids will love dune-bashing and sandboarding, before sleeping under the stars in Bedouin-style tents.

Peak performance: Lucerne to the Alps

Surrounded by towering, snow-capped peaks, Lucerne is an ideal jumping off point to explore the Swiss Alps by car. But don’t depart too soon. Make Mandarin Oriental Palace, Luzern your base, and wander round the city, which is compact, child-friendly and backdropped by magnificent mountains. Chapel Bridge, one of the oldest covered bridges in Europe, and the cobblestone streets of the Old Town are best appreciated with a hot chocolate in hand (this is Switzerland, after all).

When the open road calls, head for the Grand Tour of Switzerland, a scenic, 1,020-mile circuit of the country’s highlights. It can be done in a week, though is best at a slower pace, taking you past 22 lakes, 13 Unesco World Heritage sites, and across five Alpine passes. If that’s too much with the family in tow, then drive three hours south to Zermatt, where the mountains are carpeted in wildflowers in summer. Take the funicular to Sunnegga, with its hiking and bike trails, marmot-watching stations and lakes to swim in.