Travelling to Dubai with kids? This post has my top tips for a family holiday in Dubai, including what to do, where to stay and where to eat.
While a holiday closer to home may still be the norm for many families, there is no doubt we are all getting more adventurous and long haul family holidays are becoming more and more popular. Dubai is a great choice for families as it is so accessible. There are direct flights from 85 different countries to Dubai with Emirates alone! Flying time is relatively short compared to other long haul destinations, so a family holiday in Dubai is a good option if you want to try something different, without venturing too far. It is also a great stopover destination, if you happen to be travelling further afield.
Dubai is extremely modern, in fact some would say too modern! You could easily spend a week there without ever seeing the ‘real Dubai’. Walking along the marina with skyscrapers all around, you may think you are in an American city instead of the Middle East. With the exception of seeing the Emirati in traditional dress, there really is no culture shock for kids.
If you are travelling during the summer months, where temperatures can be over 40 degrees, make sure you plan some indoor activities. The world’s largest indoor theme park is in Dubai and there is even an indoor ski resort. Waterparks are also a good way to cool down and there are plenty of them in Dubai. Dubai is jam packed with things to do for kids, but make sure you take time to discover old Dubai too. Take a trip to the desert, have an authentic Emirati breakfast and haggle for gems in the Souks. Here are my top tips for a family holiday in Dubai.
Top things to do on a family holiday in Dubai
1. Book a meet and greet with breakfast on the morning you arrive.
Most flights arrive into Dubai early in the morning, but more than likely your hotel room won’t be ready until 2 or 3pm….. One of the best things we did was to book an airport transfer, with a stop en route for a traditional Emirati breakfast. Believe me when I tell you, it was superb!
When went to the Arabian Tea House in Bur Dubai. I loved everything about it, the setting, interiors and of course, the food! Our driver waited for us while we ate and brought us to our hotel afterwards. Not only did this save us hanging around, waiting for our hotel room to be ready, but we got the chance to sample some traditional Arabic cuisine and see where the locals dine. It was a wonderful experience. Don’t worry if you have fussy eaters, there was a huge variety of food available. My two loved the traditional bread (like a hot tortilla wrap) with hummus, but there was scrambled eggs, cheese and sandwiches too.
I highly recommend this experience. We were met at the airport, brought to a private car, offered cold towels and bottled water and brought straight for breakfast. We booked through Incentive Connections, an award-winning destination management company in Dubai. All of their services can be booked via your local travel agent.
2. Visit the Burj Khalifa & Watch The Fountain Display
No family holiday in Dubai would be complete without visiting the Burj Khalifa. The kids will want to tell their pals they were in the world’s tallest building and it is ideally located beside the Dubai Mall and the Fountain Display. There are two different viewing platforms but the difference in price between the 124th floor and the 148th floor was €244 for four of us. Needless to say we went to the 124th floor! We booked with Attraction Tickets Direct, the cost is only €36 per adult and €24 per child.
We timed our visit to Burj Khalifa so we could watch the fountain display afterwards and it worked out perfectly. There are shows every 30 minutes from 6pm -11pm. TOPTIP: Afternoon time also offers the best chance of a clear sky as there can be sand storms in the morning.
3. Make sure you go on a desert safari
This was one of our favourite family activities in Dubai. When we were out in the middle of the Arabian desert, we felt far removed from the skyscrapers of modern Dubai. It felt exotic, cultural and enchanting. We booked a five-hour trip through Attraction Tickets Direct and it was surprisingly good value, €71 per adult and €53 per child, which included collection from our hotel, dune bashing in the Arabian desert and a sunset BBQ with a show in a Bedouin camp. The desert safari will always remind us of our family holiday in Dubai. You can read all about our adventure and more family activities in Dubai here.
4. Spend a day at the beach
The beaches in Dubai are superb and the water is so warm, kids will love it. Many hotels have private beaches, but there are some great public beaches too – and they are free! We went to JBR beach, located beside ‘The Walk’. There is an inflatable water park on the sea and lots of watersports available. This area is full of restaurants and cafes too so you could easily spend day here.
5. Go to Atlantis the Palm and Aquaventure Water Park
Atlantis is a must visit on a family holiday to Dubai. Located on Palm Island, the hotel is impressive in its own right! You will need a full day to explore the waterpark and the Lost Chambers Aquarium. TOP TIP: The Aquarium is open late so my advice is go to the water park first and enjoy the Aquarium in the evening.
There are plenty of rides to suit kids of all ages, including a splash zone for young children and thrilling rides for teenagers. My personal favourite was the river ride, there are sneaky rapids half way through! It is a great ride for all the family to enjoy together. Price for a combo ticket to Aquaventure and the Lost Chambers Aquarium is €86 for adults and €68 for children – see more here.
Where to stay with kids in Dubai
Dubai is expensive, especially dining out at night time. If you are staying for more than a few nights I would suggest booking an apartment. I’m not suggesting you cook on your holidays (because I wouldn’t!), but you could get a take-away and enjoy a night in during your stay. We went to a pizza restaurant one evening and boxed the leftovers, which we thoroughly enjoyed the following day for lunch. We stayed in the JA Oasis Beach Tower which was superbly located on ‘The Walk’. There is a pool on-site and they serve breakfast till 11am – this can be handy if you want to skip lunch. Whether you stay in a hotel or an apartment, I think ‘The Walk’ is the best place to stay in Dubai. There are loads of shops, bars and restaurants here and it is close to Dubai Marina and the public JBR beach.
Where to eat with kids in Dubai
We enjoyed a great meal in Soul, located in the Movenpick Hotel on The Walk. This American fusion restaurant offers a delightful mix from New York’s top foodie neighbourhoods. You can have surf ‘n’ turf from the Meat Packing district, beef wellington from the Upper West Side or pasta and pizza from Little Italy! The kids menu was pretty good too with generous portions. There is indoor and outdoor dining and the prices were quite reasonable. It was the best meal we had in Dubai.
There are plenty of restaurants with birds eye views of the Fountain display. Be careful though, you will pay handsomely for the privilege. If, like us, your kids are tired after a long day, you might find it worth it. We were able to sit at our table for hours and watch the display over and over again, with different music each time. We ate in Serafina an Italian restaurant which has good kids menus and serves alcohol. TOP TIP: Note many restaurants don’t serve alcohol in Dubai so ask before you book a table!
The marina has lots of restaurants and is a great place for an evening stroll. Visit the hugely popular Pier 7 – where there are 7 different restaurants to choose from. Massimo’s Italian Restaurant is also a great choice and the American favourite, The Cheesecake Factory is located at JBR, within walking distance of the marina.
I hope you liked my top tips for a family holiday in Dubai. If you have any more tips I would love to hear them, just comment below. Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change.