When holidaying with the kids in tow, priorities shift and so does one’s viewpoint: you start looking at places to stay from a child’s perspective as well as your own. And this can mean enjoying the very best holidays ever, being able to spend time together outside the normal routine, sharing new experiences, creating those special family memories. So read on for the i-escape team’s favourite family holidays.
When my son Finn was 2.5-years old, we took him to what must be total toddler holiday heaven. Caserio del Mirador sits on a quiet hillside with sweeping views across the Spanish countryside to the sea. Welcoming owners Sarah and Johnny have thought of everything to keep under-5s happy – and their parents, too. Finn absolutely loved sitting on the big red tractor, feeding Beryl the pig (who he still talks about over a year later), jumping in the pool and racing his new-found friends on the ride-on toy cars. When we fancied a day out, we went to his other happy place: the beach. There are plenty of sandy options within 30-40 minutes’ drive. Many have cafes and restaurants, and you can borrow umbrellas, mats and beach toys from the house.
We have stayed twice at these lavish contemporary houses which overlook the estuary, and are within a short stroll of three beaches. Our son, Oscar, loves it, mainly because thoughtful owner Amanda always leaves a beautiful gift for him (last time it was a butterfly hatching kit and nets/lines for crabbing). The houses are perfect for family gatherings, and each comes with age-appropriate DVDs, toys and boxes of dressing-up clothes.
A few years ago, our little family took a short weekend break to Esplendido Hotel, in Mallorca. We had no real expectations. It was all a little last-minute – we just wanted a weekend away in April. Opting to arrange a transfer to-and-from the airport was our first brilliant move. A no-hassle arrival was just what we needed and we felt like we just glided off the plane, through passport control and into the waiting air-con car. No arguments about fitting car seats, taking the wrong road or parking! Our cheeky weekend away turned out to be one of our favourite family holidays ever.
Esplendido was an absolute delight. Lovely big rooms, amazing sea views and a breakfast buffet that my husband still talks about. We loved the fact that it’s a grown-up hotel but very kid-friendly, too – our little boy was welcomed with open arms by staff. There is a lovely pool for families, the spa offers sanctuary to weary travellers and I loved the sauna and steam room. We were able to dine in the hotel restaurant and also just wandered along the sea-front to other local pizzerias. Kids (and big kids) will love the tram that stops outside the hotel and winds up to pretty Soller. We got lucky with the weather and had to buy shorts, flip flops and sun cream as we were so unprepared. During the day we could walk out the door, plonk ourselves on the small strip of beach in front of the hotel and watch as our little one run in and out of the shallow, gently lapping sea. The main stress was choosing which ice cream flavour to have next…
For May half-term 2016 I took my two to Portugal, and we had the best time. Not only are the Portuguese so welcoming and brilliant with children, the weather was delightful; we loved the pastries! After a couple of days sightseeing in Lisbon, we headed to the coast (which is an easy train-ride away, so no car-hire hassle), and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at Martinhal Cascais. The kids spent their days tearing about the fantastic playground – complete with zip-wire, enormous trampoline, excellent climbing frame and sandpit – and jumping in and out of the heated kids pool besides the clubhouse. We went for a bike ride one day, my daughter and I had a special bonding moment during our joint massage session, and we went to nearby Guincho beach to swim in the sea and eat chips. The kids also enjoyed face-painting and making instant friends in the Kids Club. Their very best fun was had ‘driving to Africa’ in the converted camper van.
We’ve not taken our twin baby girls on many trips away yet, but we’re planning to cram in as much as we can over the next year… we’ve got to make the most of those cheaper flights before they turn 2! We’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka in February which will be their first ever long-haul holiday – I really can’t wait. So far, we’ve taken them to Lanzarote (when they were six-months old), where we stayed at Finca de Arrieta: the most wonderful family-friendly collection of eco yurts and stone cottages. They particularly loved splashing in the pool and our daily visits to see the resident donkey and chickens. It really felt like they were soaking everything up from this new, fascinating environment: all the different sights, sounds and smells… They hit so many little milestones during that short, sweet trip. I would 100% recommend it as a first-time family holiday foray.