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"Best Holiday Ever": 5 Reasons Why a Croatia Vacation Is a No-Brainer for Families

Croatia is an ideal holiday destination for families. There are plenty of activities and attractions for both children and adults, including beautiful beaches, national parks, historical sites, and family-friendly resorts. Croatia's long coastline is particularly attractive for families, with its crystal clear waters, pebble beaches, and plenty of water sports and activities to keep everyone entertained. One of the most popular destinations for families in Croatia is the Istrian Peninsula, where you can explore charming old towns, go cycling or hiking in the hills, and enjoy the beach. Other popular destinations for families include the city of Dubrovnik, the Plitvice Lakes National Park, and the island of Hvar.If there is a better destination for families than Croatia, we haven’t heard of it. Here are our top 5 reasons why Croatia is a must for vacations with kids:

Best Holidar Ever

1. Super Safe

No one wants to worry about bumps in the night or getting home safely from an evening meal. When it comes to peace of mind, Croatia is hard to beat. The U.S. Department of State ranks Croatia as a “Level One” country – its safest category. According to the 2021 Global Peace Index, Croatia ranks 15th out of 163 countries in terms of overall safety and peace, two spots ahead of Norway and 114 spots ahead of the United States. It is the safest destination in the Mediterranean. 

Those who are familiar with the region’s history are aware that Croatia suffered a brutal war with Serbia in the 1990s, and so some people still associate the region with instability and violence. However, that war ended in 1995, almost three decades ago, and Croatia now enjoys one of the lowest rates of violent crime in Europe.

Gun ownership in Croatia is both culturally and legally discouraged, and levels of mutual trust are high, especially in smaller towns, where many people still leave their doors unlocked. In the off-season, it is quite common to see cars parked with the key in the ignition, so that someone else can move the vehicle if they need to get in and out of a tight parking space or street. We do not suggest that visitors try this strategy, however!

The biggest danger in Croatia is certainly traffic. Local drivers can be careless; rental drivers can be clueless; roads can be shockingly narrow and rough. Don’t be afraid to take your time and always, always take care when crossing streets. Look out as well for e-bikes and scooters whizzing past. As in other countries, this form of transportation remains poorly regulated and can be quite dangerous both for riders and bystanders.

2. Kid-Friendly Food

Kid-friendly food

An unfamiliar cuisine can put picky eaters into overdrive, turning relaxing family dinners into a masterclass in patience and negotiation. Fortunately, Croatian culinary traditions tend to offer a lot of “safe” options for kids. The cuisine is influenced by Mediterranean, Eastern European, and Balkan flavours, resulting in a unique blend of cooking styles. In general, though, Croatian food relies on fresh ingredients and simple, flavourful seasonings, which typically appeal to children's tastes. For example, Croatian traditional menus almost always include a variety of kid-friendly dishes, such as grilled meats, pasta, pizza, and seafood. Many restaurants also offer international options, such as burgers and fries, chicken nuggets, and spaghetti bolognese.

Here are some of the most popular dishes in Croatia:

1. Ćevapi: grilled minced meat sausages usually served with pita bread and onions

2. Peka: a slow-cooked meat and vegetable dish typically prepared under a bell-shaped lid over hot coals

3. Pljeskavica: a grilled beef or pork patty typically served in a bun with kajmak (a type of spreadable cheese)

4. Burek: a baked pastry filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables

5. Octopus salad: a refreshing salad made with boiled or grilled octopus, potatoes, onions, parsley, and olive oil

6. Black risotto: a flavourful dish made with squid ink, rice, and seafood

7. Strudel: a sweet pastry filled with apples, cherries, or other fruit

8. Fritule: small, fried doughnuts typically dusted with powdered sugar

9. Kulen: a spicy sausage made with pork and paprika

10. Zagrebački odrezak: a breaded and fried veal cutlet filled with ham and cheese

Coastal Croatia is most famous for its seafood, which is caught fresh from the Adriatic Sea. Dishes like grilled fish, calamari, and mussels are popular in coastal towns and cities. Be aware that fish is usually served whole, so if your young gourmand is put off by a fishy gaze, you can ask that the head be removed in the kitchen. Likewise, be vigilant for small bones and do not serve whole fish to young children.

3. Affordable

Little travel buddies can add up to big expenses. Fortunately, Croatia tends to be very wallet friendly for families, thanks to the relatively low cost of living and the multitude of cheap or free kid-friendly activities.

In general, prices tend to be lower in Croatia than in many other European countries, although it pays to be savvy and avoid the most popular destinations in peak season. For example, Spain is often thought of as one of Europe’s cheaper holiday destinations, but it’s slightly more expensive than Croatia. Just compare the cost of accommodations. In Spain, a budget-friendly hostel or guesthouse can cost around 20-50 EUR per night, while a mid-range hotel can cost 70-120 EUR per night. In Croatia, a budget-friendly hostel or guesthouse will set you back only around 10-30 EUR per night, while a mid-range hotel can cost 50-100 EUR per night. As far as food and drink, in Spain, a meal at a local restaurant can cost around 10-20 EUR per person, while a meal at a high-end restaurant can cost 50-100 EUR per person. In Croatia, a similar pair of meals would cost around 5-10 EUR per person and 30-50 EUR per person, respectively.

You can also save a lot by renting a house while you’re in Croatia, and the savings just accumulate the larger your group size is. Not only is the price per square metre far better than a hotel, you also have access to your own kitchen, storage, and laundry, which means you can travel much lighter and prepare the food that you and your family prefer at grocery store prices.

At the end of the day, the best strategy for reducing both cost and stress on a family vacation is to choose a home base and limit additional travel to day trips. As tempting as it is to hit all the “must-see” spots, memories of those whirlwind tours can fade fast and much time is lost in transit and orientation; for many children, a hike or a day at the beach can be just as memorable. Likewise, picking a spot that is even a little bit outside of the red hot centre of tourist traffic results in huge savings, and usually offers a safer and less hectic environment for kids.

Affordable

4. Outdoor Activities

Adventures in the great outdoors offer the triple win of getting kids away from screens, using up some of their boundless energy, and costing a lot less compared to alternatives. Croatia is teeming with incredible outdoor offerings suitable for kids of all ages. Here are some ideas:

Go kayaking or canoeing: Many coastal towns and islands offer kayaking or canoeing tours that allow you to explore the local coastline and sea caves. This can be a fun and exciting activity for kids and adults alike. A half-day rental usually costs about 20 EUR.

Rent a boat for the day: Croatia’s islands have many beautiful bays that can be reached only by boat. Kids will love exploring the beaches, snorkelling, and discovering the local culture and traditions. In addition, almost every island has 2 or 3 “hidden” konobas (local restaurants) that are just a boat ride away. Ask your boat rental operator for tips and help making a reservation. A full-day rental usually costs about 100-200 EUR.

The Plitvice Lakes National Park is getting to be a bit expensive – adult tickets are 40 EUR per person. But the Krka National Park is also extremely beautiful, home to a series of waterfalls and natural pools that are perfect for swimming and exploring. Kids will love the chance to cool off in the refreshing water and climb over the rocks. For adults, tickets are only about 13 EUR; for children over 7, 11 EUR; and for younger children entrance is free.

Go on a nature hike: Croatia has thousands of free hiking trails that are suitable for families with kids. The Velebit Nature Park and the Paklenica National Park are both great options for families who want to explore the local flora and fauna. Helpfully, Croatia’s hiking society has published an interactive map. For especially adventurous kids, spend the night in one of the system’s full-service mountain huts, called “planinarski dom.”

Go on a bike tour: Many towns and cities in Croatia offer bike tours that allow you to explore the local area and countryside. This can be a fun and active way for kids to experience the local culture and scenery. Bike rentals usually cost around 15-20 EUR per day, and some cities now have bike share programs that offer by-the-hour options for cruising the town.

These are just a few ideas for outdoor activities in Croatia that are suitable for kids. There are many other options available, depending on your interests and the region you are in. Be sure to research activities in advance and check for age restrictions and safety guidelines.

Outdoor Activities

5. Croatians Love Kids!

Croatians, like people in any other country, are people – which is to say that they have varying attitudes and opinions regarding children. That said, Croatia remains overwhelmingly Catholic and generally the culture strongly values family and children. It is not uncommon for Croatians to have large families and to prioritise spending time with children. Kids are often the stars of the show during various cultural events and holidays, such as Children's Day on June 1st and Carnival, which centres on a masked parade for children.

On summer nights in small towns, it is common to see children playing soccer on the piazza while their parents sit at the cafes nearby, confident that their children are safe under the collective gaze of neighbours and extended family. Likewise, kids and their parents rule certain beaches that are specifically considered “family” beaches because of their shallow waters and protection from sun and wind.

Croatia has a relatively high birth rate compared to many other European countries, and having children is still considered an important part of life for many Croatians. Don’t be surprised (or freaked out), if a stranger smiles at your baby, offers your child candy (you don’t have to accept), or even gives your little one a pat on the head. As in Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean, children are seen as a precious gift and collective blessing. Soak up the good vibes!

Outdoor Activities

Essential Tips for a Family Vacation in Croatia

Now that we’ve got you excited, here are some tips to send you in the right direction:

Choose family-friendly accommodation: Look for hotels, resorts, or vacation rentals that offer family-friendly amenities such as children's play areas, swimming pools, and activities.

Pack for the weather: Croatia can get quite hot during the summer months, so make sure to pack sunscreen, hats, and lightweight clothing for your kids.

Be prepared for crowds: Croatia is a popular tourist destination, especially during the summer months. Be prepared for crowds and plan ahead to avoid long lines at popular attractions.

Learn a few words of Croatian: It's always helpful to know a few basic words and phrases in the local language, such as "hello" and "thank you." It can also be a fun way for your kids to engage with the local culture and people.

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