Staycation or a trip abroad? When planning a holiday around the needs of a young family, it can be hard to know which to choose.
Will the weather be too wet if you stay in the UK or too hot if you go further afield? How will you get the car seat on the plane? Will the children cope with a long car journey? Will there be baby listening facilities in the room and do they have a crèche? The list of potential concerns can be quite dizzying.
“People often worry that taking children abroad will be difficult but, these days, it can be very easy and children under three tend to be resistant to time differences – it’s adults who get more disturbed by them,” says Debi Green, founder of the travel company www.babygoes2.com.
“The golden rule is choosing somewhere that has facilities for children but also caters for mums
and dads so they can relax too.
“You don’t want somewhere where all the focus is on the children.”
Certainly, as a tired parent, I would agree with that. We recently stayed at the Princess Yaiza Hotel in Lanzarote, where there were provisions for babies – sterilizers, high chairs and room service that included a baby puree menu – and for toddlers, play areas and children’s swimming pools with a life guard on hand.
However, despite the child-welcoming ethos, it felt like a ‘grown up’ retreat too. There were sophisticated restaurants on site as well as a spa, hairdressers and bars with the most dazzling views.
Our room had a spacious sitting room and fridge, giving it the feel of a mini-apartment. There were bigger suites available too to cater for the growing trend of semi self-catering within a hotel.
“A lot of people now choose luxury villas either on their own or within a hotel-style complex,” says Debi.
“It means you can get your meals cooked, have all the amenities of the hotel and the chance to meet and mix with other children but with more room to relax when the children are having their afternoon nap or asleep at night. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Sure enough, when not exploring the awe inspiring Lanzarote landscape (which my son said looked like the moon), he was in the hotel pool with other children.
Yet it isn’t always necessary to go abroad to have a good time. Before becoming a parent, I would not have put the words England and holiday together. However, since becoming a family, some of our most successful holidays have been in the UK.
Not only can you pile everything you need into the car without worrying about the weight of your suitcase but, as clichéd as it might sound, a UK break often involves
simple pleasures – like looking for shells on the beach or going for a windswept walk which children love.
One of the best short breaks my husband, small son and I had was to one of the new breed of UK child-friendly hotels, which cater for parents as much as the children.
Knoll House is set within beautiful tumbling countryside and is within walking distance of Studland Bay
beach in Dorset.
As our son is an only child, he loved the fact that, again, there were so many other children to play with.
He was able to charge around the adventure playground and jump into the outdoor heated swimming pool with his new friends which meant that, although we had to keep an eye on him, we didn’t have to endlessly entertain him.
There was also a playroom and a special children’s dining room providing healthy home-cooked meals at tea time.
For grown-ups, there were beauty treatments available in-house and a spa. However, for me, the piece de resistance was the baby listening service.
Every evening, members of the housekeeping team sit in each corridor to listen out for any child who wakes up or sounds distressed.
That means Mummy and Daddy can enjoy a really good meal in the dining room…alone!
It felt almost naughty leaving our sleeping child to enjoy the luxury of a little uninterrupted adult conversation - but it was also blissfully liberating.
It felt like a proper holiday and having some adult time somehow made the more child-centric pursuits
I didn’t leave with a deep tan but I did feel relaxed and ready to face the real world again.
By Lucy Elkins
Debi Green’s top foreign destinations for young families:
Luxury villa accommodation in
Cyprus, Portugal or Greece
Long haul: Mauritius, Maldives or
the Caribbean (but avoid September
Princess Yaiza Hotel princesayaiza.com
(Monarch fly from London Gatwick
Woolley Grange Hotel
Mr and Mrs Smith
I village tips