Why Israel Is A Great Family Vacation Destination

It is that time of year when the leaves are about to start falling, even the biggest optimists resigned themselves to the fact that they need to get out their jackets again and the Christmas fan brigade starts to gear up and our family starts to think about booking a trip to Israel.

Where can we catch some sunshine before the cold dark winter days  – that’s the big question!

For us the answer is Israel!

I have been to Israel several times before our little one was born and I simply love this tiny ‘controversial’ country in the Middle East. For sake of good order I need to make it clear that I love the quirky people, the delicious food, the sights, the weather and history, and I choose to turn a blind eye to some of the political decisions that this countries government has made over the last decades.

First things first…Is it safe?

Israel is one of the countries that is often in the news and we hear about violence and anger, rocket attacks … hardly images that make you want to pack your bags and take your kids on a vacation to this little nation.  Whenever I told friends and family that I was visiting Israel in the past, I was met with 3 types of reactions: a) Are you not scared of going to such a dangerous place? b) Are you religious ? c) Why Israel?

I visited Israel for the first time nearly 10 years ago to visit a good Israeli friend of mine,  who had just repatriated. All the subsequent times I visited was simply because I sincerely consider Israel a great  family travel destination. Have I read up on the latest travel advice? Sure! Have I checked on no go areas with locals/the hotel before getting in the rental car? Sure! Have I ever had any issues or felt unsafe? No,I have not. I have visited Israel 4 times over the last years and have never  felt unsafe.

But I admit it always takes a day or two to get used to the continued presence of armed military at every corner and the signage you find along the roads does remind you of the ‘conflict’.

What makes Israel such a great family travel destination?

*** Scroll down for our perfect 14 day Israel family vacation itinerary***

IT’s EASY TO GET THERE (and GETTING THERE IS QUIET AN EXPERIENCE)

From most big European airports, like Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Brussels, Israel can be reached in  4,5 hrs .  And there are several airlines that fly to Israel daily.

Personally I like flying with Israels national airline El-Al. Why? Because flying El-Al is an experience in itself. At the check-in area at Amsterdams Schiphol airport, you will find dedicated security personnel with machine guns securing the check-in desks, before you get to any of the desks you will undergo a 10-20 minute interrogation. If you are lucky that was it. Else if you or your bag get selected for closer inspection, you will not be duty free shopping and lounging around at the airport, while waiting for boarding. Instead you will make your way to another dedicated area of the airport exclusive to El-Al where you will be asked more questions and your bag will be thoroughly searched. And once that interrogation is complete, you will get someone to escort you to your plane. And that experience, prepares you well for all the security checks you will pass through in Israel, whether it is at the cinema, shopping centre or bus station, you and your bag will be checked before entering.

The People

Out of 155 nations surveyed Israel took the 11th rank in the 2017 World Happiness Index released by Sustainable Development Solutions Network. I once read somewhere that Israel is a nation full of people that are very diverse, blunt, nosy  and love to complain, but have the warmest hearts and are extremely hospitable. And I find that to be true.

The bluntness I have experienced myself on numerous occasions – there was the time when I was told by a shop assistant that I should better grab the dress a size bigger, as she did not want the zipper to rip. Or another time when I was told in a shoe shop that they would not bring me the shoes I had asked to try on, as they were not sure I could afford them.  I am sure some people would be put off by these experiences, but I thought it was funny that these people I encountered on those aforementioned occasions were so typical Israeli.

Life in the Old city of Jerusalem vs. City life in Tel Aviv

It’s Really KID FRIENDLY AND family ORIENTED

It is a cliche, but it is true from what we have witnessed. Jewish families are big. And families are valued and appreciated everwhere, this is also reflected in Israel being ranked 3rd most child friendly country in an expat survey by InterNations. Israel is an  extremely child-friendly society, and has a “we’re all family” vibe, which you will experience everywhere. Restaurants often have big tables available, plenty of high chairs are available and childrens chatter and giggling are all around.

During holiday season special child focused activities are available daily in museums, parks and open spaces across the country. And we have seen families and kids everywhere from the hiking trails up in the North, to the beaches, Alpaca farm in the desert and national parks. In  the warm summer months,  parents keep their little ones up late to enjoy the cooler air of the night and you will see plenty of little ones out on the streets, restaurants and cafes.

The Weather

The summers can be very hot and the winter can sometimes bring snow to the hills around Jerusalem and the North. It is  a great country to visit in shoulder season i.e. spring and autumn, as the temperatures there are still warm and sunny, while Europe is hidden under grey skies and endures rain and autumn storms. The weather in a nutshell:

January

February

March

April

It is rainy, cold and grey Great time to explore, but can be wet Still chance of rain, You might get to celebrate Purim, a fun holiday for kids! Many pilgrims visit at that time, as it is Easter & Passover,  prices are high. A great time to visit!

May

June

July

August

Perfect time to visit, great weather. Shavout is another fun celebration to visit, especially on a kibbutz It is getting hot, but is still bearable HOT HOT

September

October

November

December

Perfect time to visit Great time to visit, but take a jacket for the evenings. Sukkot is another nice holiday to experience. It is not the most beautiful time, as day can be grey, but temperatures are still mild Cold and rainy, but pilgrims come for the Christmas experience in Bethlehem and Jerusalem

The Food

You must have lived under a rock, if you have not heard from one of the most famous Israeli chefs Yotam Assaf Ottolenghi. His cooking books and restaurants have been raved about by food critics all over the world in the last years.  Israeli cuisine is  about fresh ingredients,  it’s flavourful and shaped by influences of the diverse cultures that make up the population of Israel.

When you are in Tel Aviv there is always something to do no matter what time of the day it is. Tel aviv  like New York does not sleep. And it is also a relatively small walkable city. Whether you are up with a cranky toddler in the middle of the night and hunger strikes or you are there without kids and feel like a late night snack – Benedict is an institution in Tel Aviv. There are several  locations in Tel Aviv and they serve delicious breakfast 24/7, as Israelis love their breakfast.

Also in Israel you will find loads of great juice bars at every corner and unusual ice cream flavours. The ice cream flavours influences by the local cuisine, that I have never found anywhere else are tahini, halva , fig and pomegranate.

IT IS A GREAT COUNTRY FOR VEGETARIANS, VEGANS AND LACTOSE INTOLERANCE SUFFERERS

Why?  Due to the kosher food rules, as the tourist in Israel website explains: Kosher food laws stipulate that meat and dairy products must not be mixed. The result is that kosher restaurants either serve meat or dairy products. Fish is considered to be neither meat or dairy (it is grouped with what’s termed ‘pareve’) and so is served at both, but other than that, pretty well everything else dairy restaurants in Israel will serve, should be suitable for a vegetarian.It is estimated that around one-third of restaurants in Israel are kosher, meaning that a very high proportion of restaurants in Israel are almost effectively vegetarian restaurants.”

THE SCENARY AND EASE OF TRAVEL

Israel has some beautiful beaches along the West coast,  at Mount Hermon in the North you can go skiing, in the south you will find the Negev desert, and in the middle of the country, lush vineyards, green mountain ranges and plains.

Due to its size, you can easily explore all of these diverse scenaries within a week of roadtripping across Israel. You can reach all this within a 2-3 hours drive from either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem!

     

The history

It is a small country rich in culture and history. You don’t need to be religious to have heard about Jerusalem or Bethlehem. Everyone has heard about the floating phenonemon in the Dead Sea waters. Tel Aviv is as much known for its beach and Bauhaus architecture, as for it being a great city to party. You can visit actual places mentioned in the Bible, such as Sodom & Gomorrah (quiet boring) and Meggido (it is literally a hill and a highway junction), the place believed to be the site of the Battle of Armageddon.  There are places linked to Jewish history, such as Masada and the Western Wall and towns shaped by the history of the Knight Templars….I could go on and on. There is a reason why this country evokes such strong emotions with millions of people around the globe. Israel is somehow engrained in their psyche through stories, religious beliefs or family connections. There is plenty  to see and do in Israel for every age group.

Check out our article on Jerusalem’s ramparts walk

AND OF COURSE THERE IS MOUNTAIN BIKING

If you follow our blog, you know that the Dad of this family is an avid mountain biker. And Israel has been hailed as one of the next mountain bike destinations. Where can you mountainbike in Israel? We have not tried out all the trails, but the most talked about seem to be these 2 areas. #1 Mount Carmel National Park ( Horshan Mountain Reserve) – Mountain range by Haifa in the North and #2 Mitzpe Ramon – Crater in the Negev Desert in the South.  Also check out these Israel trail reviews on Pinkbike.

OUR perfect Israel family vacation Itinerary (15 DAYS)

TEL AVIV  We like the  CROWN PLAZA TEL AVIV BEACH as it has direct beach access, but most hotels along the beach front are nice and suitable for families.
Day 1: Arrive at Ben Gurion Airport. Make your way to Tel Aviv . Check-in and take a stroll along the beach to the old harbour in the North of Tel Aviv (nice indoor playgrounds)

Day 2:Enjoy Tel Aviv ( App for self-guided tours in TLV ), the Carmel and Levinsky or Sarona markets. Walk through Neve Tzedek neighbourhood, The Suzanne Dellal Centre of Dance has some great worldclass dance and music performances on the agenda.

Day 3: Take a taxi down to Jaffa. Explore the little streets and flea market in Jaffa and walk back to Tel Aviv along the beach front. Stop for lunch and play time for the little ones at a former train station turned restaurant/shopping area –HaTachana Train Station.

 THE NORTH

KIBBUTZ  SHAAR HAGOLAN COUNTRY LODGING Great for families, they offer spacious self catering appartments

Day 4: Drive to Acre to do a tour of the city incl. the Templar Tunnels. On the way there stop in Haifa to see the Bahai Gardens. Then head East to the Sea of Galilee.

Day 5: Explore the Sea of Galilee region. Stop at Christian sites likes the Mount of Beatitudes and head up to Rosh Pina for the views and loads of lovely cafes and art workshops.

Day 6: Spent the day relaxing at the hot springs in Hamat Gader, a small town on the Jordanian border, they also have a crocodile farm, which is interesting for the kids. Drive along Route 98 for a beautiful view over the Sea of Galilee at sunset. Tiberias is the biggest city in the area, we always skip it, as it is rather touristy and plain, in our view.

DEAD SEA

METZOKE It is an old very simply kibbutz, offering great food , basic rooms and an amazing view over the Dead Sea ( get up for the sunrise!)

Day 7: Drive down to the Dead Sea on highway 90. Stopping at the Beit She’an archaeological site and Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

Day 8: Spent the morning exploring Masada (take the cable car up) and Herod’s Western Palace and take a dip at one of the beaches in the Dead Sea in the afternoon (make sure you do not shave before or have any cuts or open wounds, else the salt will sting. All beaches require an entrance fee and lockers are available).

Day 9 : Explore Ein Gedi Botanical Garden and Nature Reserve (OPTIONAL)

NEGEV DESERT

BERESHEET HOTEL ( if travelling with kids)

IBEX DESERT INN (Only allows kids as of 15 yrs old)

Day 10: Drive down to the Negev deset via route90/25/204 to Mitzpe Ramon. Stop on the way in  Sde Boker Kibbutz and Ben Gurion’s House, it is a nice stop and you can pick up some great local wine.

Day 11: Spent the day exploring the famous crater. Go hiking, biking or take a desert safari and visit the Alpaca farm with the kids.

JERUSALEM

HOTEL ELDAN The hotel is a simple hotel in a prime location! It is opposite one of the most  expensive and best known hotels in the city and walking distance to the old city.

Day 12: Drive up North to Jerusalem stopping to explore the Avdat National Park on the way. When driving to Jerusalem make your first stop Mount Olives. This way you can get a first great glance of the city panorama before heading to your hotel.

Day 13: Explore Jerusalem. We used the first day to explore the Old City, Western Wall and do the self-guided Rampart’s walk ( walking on the old city walls of Jerusalem offers breathaking views and is a must do. Due to little shade, morning or late afternoon I would advise to avoid the noon, take enough to drink and plan a good 1,5 hrs!) Another great tip is to join a FREE guided tour, we had a lovely tour guide. The tour is free and you pay the guide a tip at the end of the tour.

Day 14: You need at least 2 days in Jerusalem to explore this fascinating city. Today we would explore Jerusalem’s neighbourhoods and visit at least one of the very interesting museums, such as Yad Veshem (it is tought provoking, impressive and can make people quiet emotional. Yet it is a must see. Great architecture too), the Israel Museum .

Day 15: Flight home from Ben Gurion Airport

Have you ever visited Israel ? We would like to hear from you.

Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

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44 thoughts on “Why Israel Is A Great Family Vacation Destination

    • Shades of Courage Family says:

      Sarah, the security checks are a bit weird, but they are not bad. It is what El Al does, other airlines tend to do more or less the same check-in procedure as usual. It is quiet an experience, the first time I visited I was intimidated by it, now it is ‘normal’

  1. Dara says:

    We are Jewish and have been to Israel a bunch of times, the last few times with our kids as well. It’s such a beautiful country with so much to see in such a small area! I totally agree about the people being blunt and nosy but so hospitable! Great post!

    • Shades of Courage Family says:

      Bryna, I cannot deny that I was nervous when I visited the first time. But I can honestly say it just gets some getting used to, but after a day or two it is kind of ‘normal’ and you will be so intruiged by all the things there are too see that you quickly ‘forget’ about it. I really think it is a great holiday destination, else I would not have visited 4 times already and am planning another visit with my little one soon.

  2. Jo -Mother of Teenagers says:

    A dear friend visits Israel frequently and I have to confess to being one of those with a barrage of questions about safety. Although my husband spends most of his working life in the Middle East it is not my first choice holiday destination. You do a very good sell though and I love the itinerary – it is better than popping onto a travel agent’s website. You are right too – it is the time of year to think about getting away somewhere warm! Great post. #MondayEscapes

  3. Katy says:

    My brother nearly moved to Israel last year and now I am so annoyed he didnt! I have been reading amazing things about Tel Aviv and would love to visit Jerusalem for the history. Ottolenghi is one of my favourite chefs so there’s that too. This is such a great guide. Hope we can make it to Israel soon. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  4. Vanessa says:

    You had me at warm weather and vegetarian food 🙂 I’ve heard so much about Isreal in religion lessons at school and have always been intrigued to visit!

  5. Sarah Chrstie says:

    I visited Israel many years ago the people were the loveliest people there were some areas that made me feel vunerable yet some they were just incredible moments that I will never forget, thanks for linking up #MondayEscapes x

  6. Erin Gustafson | Oregon Girl Around the World says:

    We are tentatively planning a trip to Israel next summer to see our son play in the World Lacrosse Championships (unfortunately in JULY!) and want to take the whole family. Thank you for inspiring and assuring that it is a place to take your kids. Pinning and saving for planning next year! Thank you for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

    • Shades of Courage Family says:

      Erin, that sounds like a lovely trip. I once visited in early July and it was very hot, but then again every house and car has airco. I hope you and your family will get to visit Israel. It is really worth a trip. If you have any questions or want advise on your itinerary. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

  7. Melissa C. says:

    I totally agree with you! Israel is such an amazing place to visit with kids: history, culture, beach, food… and kids are accepted everywhere. DH and I have each been several times and most recently with the kids. We’re going next spring on our round-the-world trip and the kids CAN’T WAIT!

  8. Su says:

    Wow, it looks like lots of fun. Defiantly on my list of possibilities now.

    Thank you so much for linking up with us. My apology for the delay in commenting. I hope you can forgive me! xx #ExplorerKids

  9. Shannon says:

    I’m desperate to get to Israel before the rest of the world discovers that it’s an awesome place to travel, and it suffers from over-tourism. Your kids must be so well-travelled, I think it’s great!

  10. Elaine says:

    Israel is a dream destination for me. It is for religious reasons, though.
    I had heard of the thorough security of El Al, but from your details, it is even more than I expected.

  11. Jenn and Ed Coleman says:

    It seems like May or October are the best months to visit. (That’s true for so much of the world). Israel is such a beautiful country and sooo much history. Even without religious affiliation, you have to appreciate the breadth and depth of the culture. Tel Aviv is a hopping metropolitan city and I heard the foodie culture is unreal.

  12. Ivy says:

    Good to hear people venturing off to destinations less traveled so I can live vicariously through you! Will definitely avoid the rainy and summer months if we ever go. My husband will probably have a hard time there thought because he can’t do without meat haha

  13. Dany says:

    I loved reading this article because it offers a very interesting insight. Thank you for offering your unbiased opinion! Also I had no idea it was such a short flight from Europe!

  14. Christine says:

    I never would have thought of Israel as a family holiday place, but I suppose kids are too young to be aware of the controversial realities there! Middle Eastern food is so delicious, those ice-cream flavours sound amazing!

  15. amit says:

    It’s funny, just on my last trip to South America I started to meet quite a few Israelis and getting to know some quite well I was quite surprised of how much they talked up their home country. It had never really been on my radar before hand and now reading through this post it makes me think I should add it to my list. Would you say 15 days is sufficient enough, or if you had the chance to would you take much longer? I’m not a family traveler – Still a single solo traveler haha 😀

  16. Jim Jones says:

    I’ve heard that Israelis are very friendly and open, and that they love children. I’m glad to see that you addressed the issue of safety on the trip – honestly, when I started reading this article I thought about whether it was a safe area or not as well. Thank you for the honest assessment and information.

  17. Mary says:

    Thank you for such an extensive guide! I never thought of Israel as a family friendly destination before. The food looks amazing as well. I will have to add Israel to my list of places I want to visit.

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