How to plan a Sri Lanka itinerary that kids love

Sri Lanka family itinerary

Sri Lanka is a little heaven on earth filled with amazing wildlife, pristine beaches, beautiful sceneries, history, and rich culture. There is no need to stress how important it is to get your itinerary right, especially when you are travelling with small children. That is why we thought of writing an in-depth guide to help you plan a flawless itinerary to discover beautiful Sri Lanka with your family.

Throughout the years Travelers Isle has made it possible for many families to discover this beautiful island nation. When planning your Sri Lanka family holiday, we hope this article will help you to avoid any pitfalls and help you and your loved ones to have an incredible time in Sri Lanka.

How to minimize the time spent on the road

When planning any tour with small children, one of the main concerns should be to minimize the time spent on the road. Anything above 4 hours of travelling won’t be comfortable for your little ones. There are 3 things that you can do to achieve this.

 

  • Spending the first night and the last night closer to the airport – Most suitable locations are Negombo and Colombo.

 

  • Picking at least 3 bases for the tour - Do not fall in to the pitfall of booking the entire stay in one location and trying to do sightseeing as day tours.

E.g. – Negombo to Kandy distance is only 102 km. One might think, it’s possible to do a day tour to Kandy from Negombo. In reality, it will take at least 3 hours to get to Kandy by car. Which means 6 hours will be spent in the vehicle, if you are returning back to Negombo.

 

  • Hiring a vehicle and driver – If your kids are under 10 years old, do not use busses and trains for the tour. They are very slow and tiring.

E.g. – Negombo to Kandy takes at least 5 hours by bus. For the same journey, it will take about 3 hours by car.

 

Photograph from Ms. Dominika Domanska's tour

Picking the right beach area

Sri Lanka has very complex weather patterns. One should have a good understanding of them to put together a nice itinerary. Picking the right beach is the most crucial, as it determines whether you should follow a clockwise itinerary or a counter clockwise itinerary. Here is a simplified guideline to pick the correct beach area.

For winter tours Pick a south west beach (Bentota, Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa, Mirissa, Tangalle)

For summer tours Pick an east coast beach (Trincomalee, Nilaveli, Pasikudah)

Note - According to the Sri Lankan tourism industry, winter season is defined as the period starting from November to end of April. Summer season is defined as the period starting from May to end of October.

 

Pro tips – If you are not interested in sea swimming, for July and August you can also pick a south west beach area. Weather is excellent, but the sea is too rough for swimming. On the flip side hotels are much less expensive in south west coastal areas compared to east coast during this period.

Family itineraries for the period November to April

Here are a few family itineraries that are suitable for the period November to April. As mentioned earlier, if you are not interested in sea swimming, these itineraries are also recommended for July and August.

For the itineraries below, it’s not a must to spend the last night in Colombo. You may skip Colombo and drive to airport straight from Bentota. The Bentota – Airport drive will take you about 2.5 hours.

 

Option 1 - For short tours and slow-paced tours

The route below is ideal, if you have only few days in Sri Lanka (about 7 days) or if you prefer a slow pace tour. Highly recommended for families with infants and toddlers.

  • BIA arrival terminal (Katunayake airport)
  • Negombo
  • Dambulla
  • Kandy
  • Bentota – Down south beach
  • Colombo
  • BIA arrival terminal (Katunayake airport)

Note - If you would like to see a detailed itinerary for this, please refer to our "Sri Lanka with toddlers" holiday package.

Option 2 - To see as much as possible

This route is ideal, if you want to see as much as possible in Sri Lanka. You will need at least 12 days for this vacation. If you don’t have that many days to spend in Sri Lanka, you can omit Nuwara Eliya, Colombo, Yala and Udawalawe from the itinerary.

  • BIA arrival terminal (Katunayake airport)
  • Negombo
  • Dambulla
  • Kandy
  • Nuwara Eliya
  • Ella
  • Yala / Udawalawe
  • Unawatuna – Down south beach
  • Colombo
  • BIA arrival terminal (Katunayake airport)

Note - If you would like to see a detailed itinerary for this, please refer to our "Sri Lanka with a baby" holiday package.

We offer free itinerary consultation. Drop us a message specifying your requirements to get a free tailor-made Sri Lanka itinerary for your family tour.

Family itineraries for the period May to October

Below are two of the most popular Sri Lanka itineraries for family tours in the summer (May to October). Since you have to travel all across the country to reach the east coast, these itineraries are not very practical for short family holidays.

For a shorter holiday you will have to either follow an itinerary that was recommended for the period November to April or take a domestic flight to reach the east coast.

 

Option 1 - For short tours and slow-paced tours

This is the most logical sequence of locations for a summer family tour, if you don’t have much time to spend in Sri Lanka or if you prefer a slow-paced itinerary. This option is highly recommended for families with infants and toddlers.

  • BIA arrival terminal (Katunayake airport)
  • Negombo
  • Dambulla
  • Trincomalee / Pasikudah
  • Kandy
  • Colombo
  • BIA arrival terminal (Katunayake airport)

Sri Lanka toddler itinerary

Note - If you would like to see a detailed itinerary for this, please refer to our "Sri Lanka babymoon" holiday package.

Option 2 - To see as much as possible

This itinerary is highly recommended, if you and your family want to cover as much of Sri Lanka as possible during the summer (May to October).

You will need at least 12 days for this itinerary. If your tour is shorter than that, you can omit Udawalawe / Yala and Nuwara Eliya from this itinerary.

  • BIA arrival terminal (Katunayake airport)
  • Galle
  • Udawalawe / Yala
  • Ella
  • Nuwara Eliya
  • Kandy
  • Trincomalee / Pasikudah
  • Dambulla
  • Negombo
  • BIA arrival terminal (Katunayake airport)

Note - If you would like to see a detailed itinerary that is somewhat similar to the above, please refer to our Sri Lanka family adventure holiday package.

How many nights to spend in each location

Since you are travelling with small children, we encourage spending more than one night in each location. However, your tour duration might not allow this. Below list shows the recommended number of nights for all the locations mentioned above.

  • Bentota or any other down south beach – 2 nights and above
  • Galle – maximum 2 nights
  • Udawalawe / Yala – 2 nights maximum
  • Ella – 2 to 3 nights
  • Nuwara Eliya – maximum 2 nights
  • Kandy – up to 3 nights
  • Trincomalee / Pasikudah – 3 nights and above
  • Dambulla – 2 nights to 4 nights
  • Negombo – 2 nights maximum

Which excursions to include, in which order and how many excursions per day?

This is the trickiest part of planning a tour itinerary, as you need to have a good understanding of each excursion to plan a well-balanced itinerary.

Check the charts given in "Things to do in Sri Lanka with kids" section to get an understanding of the suitability of different excursions for kids. Then go through our Sri Lanka family holidays to get an idea of how each excursion fits into an itinerary.

You may also drop us a message specifying your requirements. We will get back to you with a tailor-made itinerary within 24 hours.

We offer free itinerary consultation. Drop us a message specifying your requirements to get a free tailor-made Sri Lanka itinerary for your family tour.

Things to do in Sri Lanka with kids

It won’t be hard to keep your children entertained in Sri Lanka. The greenery, wildlife and pristine beaches are instant hits among the kids.

The charts below detail almost everything there is to do in Sri Lanka. We have used a color code to indicate the suitability of these excursions for for all ages, from newborn babies to young people 18 years old.

 

  • Red – Not recommended
  • Yellow – Not very recommended. Parents have to decide whether to visit or not
  • Green – Recommended
  • Blue – Must see
Photograph from Ms. Claire Hare's tour

Things to do in the Western Province with kids

Excursion list - Western province

Things to do in the Down South with kids

 

Pro tips – In the past, stilt fishing was the main method of fishing in Koggala area. However, this iconic method is not the most effective way of fishing and it has been replaced by more modern methods over the years.

You can still see stilt fishermen in Koggala area and may take photographs of them fishing. Keep in mind they expect you to pay for taking their photographs. That is now how they make their living.

 

Things to do in the Hill Country with kids

Things to with kids in the Hill Country

Pro tips - The Nanu Oya - Ella train ride is very popular with local and foreign travelers. Make sure your tickets are pre-booked. Tickets sales open 30 days prior to each departure day. They get sold out in minutes during the peak travel periods.

Unfortunately, Sri Lanka railway department does not offer an option to book the seats online. Ask your travel agent or the hotel in Ella / Nuwara Eliya to book the tickets for you. If you are booking your tour with Travellers Isle, we book the train tickets for you at no additional charge.

Things to do in the Cultural Triangle with kids

Things to with kids - cultural triangle

Things to do in the east coast with kids

Things to with kids - East coast

 

Things to do in Jaffna with kids

Things to do in Jaffna with kids

Pro tips - We usually don't recommend visiting Jaffna with small children. It's too remote. Kids are exhausted by the long journey.

We offer free itinerary consultation. Drop us a message specifying your requirements to get a free tailor-made Sri Lanka itinerary for your family tour.

Summary

The key to success of any family vacation is proper planning. Hope this article helps you to plan your Sri Lanka itinerary and make your holiday a memory that will last a lifetime.

Is there anything else that you would like to know about Sri Lanka family holidays? Leave a comment if you have any questions. We are looking forward to answering all your questions.

If you enjoyed this article, please help us to reach more readers by sharing it with your friends. Thanks in advance.

6 thoughts on “How to plan a Sri Lanka itinerary that kids love

  1. 2adults and 2 kids age8&5 is it ok to plan srilanka trip as follows please advice

    On day one reaching Colombo around 4:20 am so would like to take half day rest before moving on. *Early check in*

    Would like to have sightseeing as follows by chauffeur driven ( suggestions welcome ????)
    After12 pm
    Day 1 pinaawala, kandy city tour- dance,temple. (Stay kandy)
    Day 2 nuwara- ella , train, city tour .(stay ella)
    Day 3 yala (or suggest good national park). (Stay yala)
    Day 4 galle fort city tour ,(stay bentota )beach
    Day 5 madu river turtle hatchery (stay in bentota )
    Day 6 Colombo city tour,shopping ,
    departure flight 6 pm from Colombo

    1. Hi, for the most part itinerary looks fine. Since the arrival flight is an early morning one, book a hotel in Negombo for few hours to get some rest. If you are planning this tour for September or October, visit Udawalawe national park instead of Yala. Udawalawe national park is closed for public from 1st of September to 15th of October, as it is the dry season. Depending on the weather re-opening date can be extended till end of October.

      Hope this is helpful.

  2. Awesome advice on your website – thanks! Would you arrange for a driver before you left, or try to find one in each town/major destination?

    1. Hi Nic, it really depends on your itinerary. If you need a vehicle on regular basis, it is less expensive to hire a vehicle and driver for the full tour. If your tour has lots of leisre days, it will be less expensive to hire taxis when needed. Check this article for more information. https://travellersisle.com/getting-around-sri-lanka/

      Hope this is helpful !
      Gihan

  3. Hi. Great advice here thank you. We are going for 12 days in January with our nearly 2 year old and 4 year old – planning on going to the South West but only want 2 (max 3) places to stay and then hopefully go on day trips from there. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Pipa,

      For a well balanced 12 day itinerary you need at least 4 bases. If you really want to limit the number of bases to three, go for something like below.

      Airport – Negombo (2 nights) – Kandy (3 nights) – Bentota (6 nights) – Airport

      You may do day tours to Sigiriya and Ramboda while you are in Kandy. During your stay in Bentota, you may visit a turtle hatchery, Galle Fort and enjoy a boat ride in Madu River.

      Hope this is helpful.
      Cheers !

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