Thinking of heading to the Middle East with kids? Don’t believe the media hysteria, say Jenny Bufton and Laura Davison of Mums The World. The Middle East and especially Dubai are safe, fun and make a fantastic family holiday destination. These bloggers and best friends live in the United Arab Emirates with kids (Jenny has George (5) and Isla (2) and Laura is mum to Finlay (6) and Elliott (3)) and say that far from backward or unsophisticated, the Middle East is modern, glitzy and actually very luxurious. They tell suitcases&strollers why Dubai with kids makes for great family holidays you won’t soon forget.
Why should parents plan a family holiday in Dubai?
Dubai is a city that never sleeps – thankfully your children will after fun packed days whilst holidaying here.
Dubai offers culture and paradise and amongst the manicured lawns and high rise buildings lies a playground for its visitors and residents alike. Dubai captivates us every day and is one reason why, after 9 years and 2 children each, we are still happy expats living in one of the busiest and exciting travel hubs of the world that continues to make history every day.
Dubai airport is the first place visitors will experience and they are sure to be nothing short of amazed. Complimentary strollers for children help parents to manage on that last tiresome walk to the baggage hall until they are able get their own strollers – we love this service every time!
Once in Dubai, most of the hotels are child friendly, without compromising on luxury, and offer gold standard kids’ clubs and facilities that will keep your children occupied for a good few hours everyday. It is easy to get around and taxis are readily available in most places. Affordable new concepts by companies such as Careem and Uber mean you can pre order cabs in the city equipped with child car seats for a safer journey.
[For more travel tips on why you should use kids car seats when you travel, see the suitcases&strollers interview with a Child Passenger Safety Expert.]
Where is your favourite place to take kids in Dubai?
This is dependent on the time of year. Dubai gets hot – very hot! Between April and September outdoor activities – beside the odd pool visits (which are a sweat fest) – are not recommended. Regardless of the summer heat wave, we are never left short of things to do. We like to visit Dubai Mall for its super fun Kidzania, ice rink, aquarium and child friendly eateries.
[For more travel tips on things to do at the Dubai Mall with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Or another mammoth mall – Mall of the Emirates – houses the famous Ski Dubai and other child friendly options including cinemas, soft plays and Magic Planet.
We should also mention Bounce, an Australian trampoline concept available in the Al Quoz area of Dubai, fun for all the family.
If you visit between October and April, Dubai is all about the great outdoors. Parks, beaches such as Kite Beach and JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) offer a range of street food, restaurants and play areas that can keep you and your sprogs busy all day. Child friendly farmers markets which sell local, organic produce are becoming increasingly popular here and help us stay healthy in between enjoying gourmet meals and the endless stream of outdoor bars in places such as downtown Dubai and Madinat Jumeirah.
Where are your kids’ favourite places in Dubai to hang out?
Dubai offers a range of activities for all ages, whether it is a fun filled day at the beach, one of the local zoos or a tour of old Dubai on top of its Big Red Bus – our children love all of these.
A day can consist of a quad biking trip to the desert or a metro journey to the world’s largest fish tank and world’s tallest building at Dubai Mall. We sometimes take the monorail to the Atlantis resort on The Palm Jumeirah where you can enjoy a waterpark and kiss the dolphins at Aquaventure.
The sky really is the limit for iconic things to do – they couldn’t possibly choose just one!
What is the best free activity to do with kids in Dubai?
Is anything free?! We struggled with this question because what starts as a free day inevitably always ends up costing money (in Dubai it does anyway). However, if you feel like packing a picnic and keeping your wallet at home to avoid the spending temptation, head to the beach at JBR, the desert for sundowners or one of the city’s parks (however, there’s still a 5Dhs entrance fee).
[Actually, most other cities in the world have many free activities for kids. Check out the suitcases&strollers story here for some travel tips and ideas.]
Where is the best place to take kids in Dubai when the weather is bad?
Anywhere that has air conditioning and is indoors! We don’t suffer with much bad weather here; it is the hot summer that is our bad weather. Avoiding as much as possible is the only answer!
What are some of the city secrets that tourists might not know about but shouldn’t miss on a family holiday in Dubai?
1. The Ripe Market Located in Zabeel Park and super popular with expats. Live music, a great atmosphere and gourmet street food to fill your Friday morning.
2. Zero Gravity A new and cool, child friendly (up to 6pm) beach club that sits underneath the infamous falling skydivers coming in to land at Skydive Dubai next door. As well as grabbing a soft spot on the beach you can indulge in great food whilst watching the sunset away from a hotel atmosphere.
3. Bastakiya To get a taste of culture visit the Bastakiya area in Old Dubai, just around the corner from the museum. Visit their café with its beautiful courtyard sanctuary and fresh juices.
What’s the best way for children to have an authentic Dubai experience?
Get out there and explore. Go on the big bus tour, see the heritage at Dubai Museum (Al Fahidi St., Dubai, United Arab Emirates, +971 44 353 1862), head to the desert for a safari, try some new food, maybe learn a few words – a “Shukran” (which means “thank you”) would go down well!
[For more travel tips on things to do in Dubai with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Where are your top 3 places for family-friendly meals in Dubai?
Dubai is very family friendly and we’ve seen children in high-end fine dining restaurants on occasions! Typically we love the Noodle House which has a great kids menu and Reform for its gastro pub type food and setting. We also like Wavebreaker at the Hilton Jumeirah Beach, which is a lovely casual beach restaurant with cute play area for the little ones.
[Considering taking your kids to a fine dining restaurant? Don’t miss the suitcases&strollers travel tips in How To Eat In Expensive Restaurants With Kids]
What are your tips for kids' shops in Dubai?
Which is the best place family friendly accommodation in Dubai?
Ideally a beach front hotel. There are many that line Jumeirah Beach Road and Palm Jumeirah. If you stay at a city hotel there is normally a shuttle bus service that drops you off at a public beach or sister hotel if there is one.
What is the ideal time frame for a holiday to Dubai with kids?
10 days should be enough to give you a real taster of the city with enough time to explore and laze by the pool in equal measures.
The Middle East has a dress code for women. Does the same apply to kids and girls? What is the most appropriate way to dress your kids in Dubai?
As you would anywhere else in world! There are a lot of misconceptions about what you can and can’t wear in Dubai, especially for woman. On a beach, a bikini is perfectly fine, in a mall it is not. Surely that applies nearly everywhere?! Be respectful and it will be appreciated.
What are your top 3 tips for families travelling to Dubai with kids?
1. Dubai is our home and wouldn’t be if it weren’t a great place to live. Come with an open mind and don’t have any expectations.
2. Come with some spare change as it’s not a cheap place! We’d recommend downloading The Entertainer app which has buy one, get one free vouchers at hundreds of restaurants and attractions. After a few uses, it pays for itself.
3. As well as the shiny new areas of Dubai, adventure to “Old Dubai”. Enjoy an abra (traditional boat) ride on the creek or wander through the souks (markets) soaking up the atmosphere. The contrast is overwhelming and will give you a true reflection of the city.
For more travel tips on exploring the Middle East with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story Oman Road Trip With Kids
Images: suitcases&strollers, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Mums The World