The i-escape blog / The kids' guide to choosing a family-friendly hotel / Esme Mellor-Stephenson

By Esme Mellor-Stephenson (age 12), i-escape contributor

What makes a child-friendly hotel truly special? Esme Mellor-Stephenson is the daughter of our Kids Collection Editor, Nadine. She’s been lucky enough to experience hotel-hopping holidays to countries like Cyprus, Morocco and Malaysia. These places have given her a rare insight into the highs (and lows) of family-friendly hotels. ‘I’m no expert,’ says Esme, ‘but here are some thoughts on staying in hotels through my eyes.’

1 Friendly service

A couple of years ago, I stayed in Rebali Riads in Morocco. This charming little hotel was not hundreds of acres long but still got top marks on my mother’s review. What made it so special was that the staff and service were excellent. When we told them we were looking for their resident chameleon (another highlight), they immediately started a search for the elusive animal. They were absolutely lovely, and couldn’t have looked after us more. Kindness goes a long way.

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Esme and her chameleon friend at Rebali Riads


2 Child-friendly activities

When we stayed at Martinhal Cascais, in Portugal, I really liked their trampoline embedded in the ground, which ensured kids don’t fall off, and frankly, it was easier to get on to. It had a kids club that was perfect for my little brother Cormac, plus a football pitch and a climbing frame that for some reason completely unknown to my mother and I, he absolutely adored throwing himself off of. I had my first massage here, which was really relaxing and an interesting experience.

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Esme and brother Cormac at Martinhal Cascais


3 Exciting excursions

I also enjoy the creative outdoor activities that some hotels offer, such as surfing lessons from the big golden beach at Paradis Plage in Morocco, or a camel ride at Rebali Riads, or exploring the jungle with an amazing nature guide at The Datai in Malaysia.

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Esme and family in Morocco and Malaysia


4 A decent food menu

Let’s be frank about this: kids are fussy with food. Usually, many kids won’t touch unfamiliar foods with a bargepole, and my brother is no exception. Most hotels have a kids’ menu, serving pasta, sausages and burgers. But children need to try other things. If a wider variety of items were added to kids’ menus, they’d more likely to choose things they wouldn’t necessarily eat. One thing kids love is the breakfast buffet, with a wide range of food. One of my favourite buffets was in The Datai, which had both cake and Chinese steamed buns for breakfast! I also really enjoy mocktails. Travelling abroad is a great opportunity to try different traditional food. In Morocco, I tried and loved tagine, while at Temple Tree in Malaysia I ate nasi goreng and Thai curries – and have continued to do so ever since.

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Esme says a wider variety of food options allows kids to discover new dishes


5 Family-sized rooms

Rooms need to have enough space for a family, plus a few little luxuries for the children to enjoy (like a mini-bar full of snacks) and your own kid-size bathrobe and slippers (ace!). It should also be so close to the kids’ area that you can practically leap there. This is just my opinion, but I think a room like that would be amazing. In Temple Tree (Malaysia) we had a whole antique house to ourselves, with a swimming pool just steps away. At Salut Maroc in Morocco, the entire hotel was covered in beautiful tiles and patterns with the rooms all having different themes such as black-and-white or peacock colours. My brother and I were entranced by the level of detail and amount of colours and murals. Columbia Beach Resort in Cyprus was modern and sleek, with futuristic rooms and a beautiful view, and the biggest swimming pools I’ve ever seen.

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The perfect room should be big, have a snacks bar, and be close to the pool


6 A fun swimming pool

Of course, the pool! It’s the number one item on any child’s hotel checklist: a place to play, hang out and have fun! Heated pools are great, best if they have a shallow area for toddlers learning to swim, like the one in Almyra. The one in Anassa had some great pool toys. I am not sure if this is possible, but I think soft materials near the side would be great if you slip. In Puglia, I slipped by the pool and cut my chin, so soft padding would be a great thing to add.

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‘A pool is the number one item on any child’s hotel checklist,’ says Esme

All in all, I have enjoyed staying in lots of different hotels, from big to small, from quaint to modern. What matters to me most is great food, great service, a pool, plenty of things to do and somewhere nice for me to read my books.

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