EDUCATIONAL FAMILY HOLIDAYS

These five family vacation destinations are so steeped in educational value that even the meanest head teacher wouldn’t mind your holiday over-running into term time by a day or two! They are also great for school projects or helping your children get to grips with subjects that they may be struggling with in the classroom.

When they’re bored of history, take them to... Egypt
The secret is to combine fact with fun. Don’t make your trip an endless procession of museums and adult-focussed tours – instead, build itineraries around mini-adventures, like sailing on a felucca or riding a camel.
Gold-star sights In Cairo, top marks go to the Great Pyramid of Khufu (built using two million limestone ‘megablocks’) and the Royal Mummy Room in the Egyptian Museum, which displays the engrossing remains of 11 Egyptian queens and rulers. In Aswan, you can delve into Nubian culture on Elephantine Island, while highlights of the West Bank at Luxor include the tombs of Ramses I and Ramses VI – both of which have burial chambers with elaborately painted scenes of animal-headed gods. You’ll find that two or three early morning excursions to the West Bank have less ‘whinge potential’ than a single, long, hot daytrip. Spend afternoons relaxing by a pool and then set off again when it’s cooler to visit local Luxor beauties like Karnak – easily reached by horse-and-cart.
Do your homework 
• Avoid excessive heat by travelling during autumn and spring.
• At historic sites, keep children interested for longer by setting them challenges like hieroglyphic code-busting.
• Check that your hotels have that all-important swimming pool.
Book a trip Cox and Kings (020 7873 5000, www.coxandkings.co.uk) offers a seven-night Nile Explorer tour for families, from £1415 per adult and £1115 per child, including return flights, local transport, accommodation and most meals.

When they’re bored of French, take them to… Paris
From Disney to Da Vinci, Paris bridges a cultural chasm that will leave you and your kids reeling. It also makes a supremely child-friendly city break – and there’s no better place to rekindle an interest in the native tongue.
Gold-star sights A riveting romp up the Eiffel Tower has to be top of your list. Take the lift or climb 1665 steps to the Second Level, from where another elevator reaches the Viewing Gallery at 274m. To avoid a mutiny at the Mona Lisa, focus on just a few major exhibits in the Louvre or book a museum workshop for 4-13 year-olds. Elsewhere, Catacombe de Paris is a très macabre museum piled with the bones of six million Parisians exhumed from overcrowded cemeteries during the late 1700s. Don’t miss the buskers and living statues at Centre Georges Pompidou or the Punch and Judy show at Théâtre du Vrai Guignolet. The dialogue is in French, but the gratuitous violence will be familiar enough. Parc de la Villete, meanwhile, has the Cité des Enfants with hundreds of interactive challenges for enquiring young minds.
Do your homework
• If your kids have got Disney on their minds, spend a day there first.
• Visit anytime, although it can be hot during August.
• Creperies make great energy-boosting stops.
Book a trip Eurocamp (0844 406 0456, www.eurocamp.co.uk) provides seven nights for two adults and up to four children in a Verona mobile home at Paris International, Maison-Laffitte, from £286, including Dover-Calais ferry crossings.

When they’re bored of geography, take them to… Iceland
Textbook geography with a whiff of sulphur, hyperactive Iceland is riddled with spitting steam vents and lava flows that resemble Granny’s burnt apple crumble – hardly your typical family holiday destination, but great for adventurous kids.
Gold-star sights Nowhere is Iceland’s volatile character more evident than Lake Mývatn in northern Iceland where kids will be captivated by (and no doubt keen to impersonate) the belching, foul-smelling mud pits at Hverarönd. Nearer to Reykjavík, the Golden Circle takes in Thingvellir (a World Heritage Site of lava flows, deep ravines and the site of Iceland’s original parliament), Geysir (a hotspot of geothermal vents, including the Stokkur geyser which erupts 20m every five minutes) and Gullfoss (a beautiful waterfall plunging around 33m into a mile-long gorge). You can also take a jeep tour to the foot of Mt Hekla, Iceland’s most active volcano, ride a skidoo across the Langjökull icecap or poach yourself in the geothermal Blue Lagoon – about as weird and wonderful as swimming pools get.
Do your homework
• Car hire is available, but join a 4WD jeep tour for expeditions into the interior.
• Iceland’s waterfalls and geothermal attractions have few safety fences – keep small children strapped in strollers or firmly tethered on reins.
Book a trip Discover the World (01737 218 800, www.discover-the-world.co.uk) can arrange 11 or 12 nights’ self-catering in Iceland, from £723 per adult and £274 per child (under 17), with departures May to September.

When they’re bored of maths, take them to… China
Everyone knows there are nine million bicycles in Beijing, but to a child’s mind just about everything in China involves sensational statistics and plenty of opportunities for some serious number crunching.
Gold-star sights China is nothing, if not daunting, which is why many holidaymakers stick to a fairly well-trodden circuit in the northeast. Arrayed like massed ranks of life-size toy soldiers, the 2000-year-old Army of Terracotta Warriors at Xi’an is one of the country’s most arresting sights. Some 6000 stony-faced warriors, along with their horses, face east in battle formation – ready to march into the afterworld at the eternal service of emperor Qin Shi Huang. Punctuated by watchtowers every 70m, the crenellated battlements of the 6700km Great Wall allow kids to fire imaginary arrows at advancing Mongol hordes – while preventing them from toppling off the 6m-wide, 9m-tall ramparts. In Beijing, the world’s largest public square, Tiananmen Square has more than enough space for children to burn off excess energy, while the Forbidden City will further stretch their concepts of scale with its vast courtyards, marble terraces and palaces.
Do your homework
• Take the sleeper train from Beijing to Xi’an.
• Rainy day in Beijing? Head for the interactive ExploraScience centre.
• Look out for children’s discounts, usually for kids under 130cm in height
Book a trip Explore (0844 499 0901, www. explore.co.uk) has a 16-day family tour of China’s highlights from £1799 per adult and £1599 per child, including UK return flights, local transport, accommodation and some meals.

When they’re bored of physics or technology, take them to… Washington DC
If you’re looking to expand your kids’ minds, you won’t find anywhere in North America more ‘brainy’ than Washington DC where the world’s largest museum complex showcases everything from spy technology to space shuttles.
Gold-star sights The National Air and Space Museum has magnificent flying machines ranging from the 1903 Wright Flyer to the command module of Apollo 11. You can handle moon rock, take a virtual journey through space and race paper darts, while a separate branch of the museum, the Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport, has a vast hangar containing the Space Shuttle Enterprise. Meanwhile, at the National Museum of Natural History, you can peep at palaeontologists working in the glass-enclosed FossilLab, then do a spot of detective work in the hands-on Discovery Room. Afterwards, slink over to the International Spy Museum where the KidSpy programme of workshops, demonstrations and action-packed missions will hone the skills of every 003½ secret agent.
Do your homework
• Entry to all 17 Smithsonian Institution museums is free.
• Combine DC with some free-spirited roaming in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, then head north for a good drenching at Niagara Falls.
• The Washington Post Weekend section has a listing of child-friendly events.
Book a trip Virgin Holidays (0871 222 5825, www.virginholidays.co.uk) offers three nights room-only at the centrally located Omni Shoreham from £578 per adult and £327 per child, including return flights from London Heathrow.