There’s a saying that when you go on holiday with children, it’s the same problems, just different views and weather (hopefully). But stress and problems can be minimised. It’s all about choosing the right destination and, most importantly, the right accommodation. If your accommodation has everything you need for the children, there’s less packing and lugging around airports to worry about, and if your budget extends to somewhere with a kids’ club and pools, even better.
We have chosen the best family resorts in Europe, from the heart of South of France countryside to Limassol in Cyprus, which take the stress out of travelling with children. Here there’s plenty to keep youngsters happy, and quality time to be had as a family, and as couples, too.
If you have young children and want to go to Sardinia, you can’t go wrong picking a Delphina resort: there are eight on the island. The four-star Le Dune, comprising five hotels and 10 restaurants, has the most on offer for children, including a large playground, trampoline, helter-skelter, aviaries where children collect eggs and a vast 8km stretch of Blue Flag beach. Valle dell’Erica Resort, home to hotels Erica and La Licciola, is its luxe, more sophisticated five-star sibling; and it’s just been voted Europe’s Leading Green Resort in the World Travel Awards 2019.
It’s situated within 1.4km of unspoilt coastline, characterised by dramatic granite rock formations and trees leaning from the regular Mistrals. The beaches – seven tiny but beautiful coves and a larger one, La Licciola, complete with bar-cafe and a sack of buckets and spades for children to enjoy – are short walks away. There are 271 rooms (many of which have simple Sardinian-style decor and are interconnecting so ideal for families), but you’d never know from the spacious, secluded feel; rooms have mirrored glass so you can’t see in and verandas are concealed by greenery. An excellent selection of shops including a pharmacy proves useful should you forget children’s toothpaste (as we did) or suncream.
The lively Ericaland miniclub (free for four to nine-year-olds) is bursting with enthusiastic, multilingual staff and caters for two-year-olds to teenagers in small age groups, with ever-changing activities including a “Robinson Crusoe” adventure sleepover for the eldest and pizza-making in the wood-fired stove for all. They also have a veg patch to tend to, with the produce going into meals. Tweenagers can make use of complimentary canoes, snorkelling equipment and computer games.
Tables are laid beautifully for tiny diners in the miniclub; the hotel dinner service doesn’t start until 7.30pm. Parents of under-threes will rejoice at the complimentary nursery with bottle service, highchairs, pushchairs, sterilisers, and freshly-made vegetable soups and purees, pasta, yoghurts and fruit, milk and juices available to feed little ones 24 hours a day. Paid babysitting is available for 12 to 36 months.
Restaurants and many rooms have sublime views of the sea and neighbouring islands. Food at Les Bouches and Nautilus is a gourmet’s paradise, a smorgasbord of pasta, seafood, grilled fish and meat, and vegan fare, although there are also restaurant options for a la carte, including the refined beachside Li Zini.
This is an ideal resort to reclaim some couple’s time. Remarkably the miniclub is open until 11pm, which means parents can enjoy romantic dinners; while the huge Thalasso spa centre, with sauna, treatment rooms and four seawater pools of varying temperatures with seaviews, is where parents can truly unwind.
Both resorts are open from 18 May-28 September 2019.
Valle dell’Erica from £145 per person per room on a half-board basis.
Le Dune Resort from £87 per person per room on a half-board basis.
Sani Beach Hotel, Halkidiki, Greece
Sani Resort is ideal if you’re in need of both quality family time and relaxation as a couple. Its five 5-star hotels sprawl over 1,000 acres of lush, pine-filled ecological reserve in the Greek mainland’s Halkidiki. Three have their own onsite UK Ofsted-approved childcare for children from four months, but Sani Beach is the best pick for young families with its position by the largest beach with four miles of fine white sands and gentle turquoise waters and its onsite facilities: playgrounds, heated pools and a splash pool that’s brand new this year. Teenagers aren’t forgotten: there’s a new adventure park and the O-zone house is open until 10pm.
Plastic plates and cutlery make mealtimes easier, and children’s menus offer more imaginative options than the usual fish and chips; think mini Med-inspired dishes. An ice cream van dispenses complimentary treats throughout the resort.
There’s plenty of details here to make things relaxing for the whole family. The beach “babewatch” facility where babysitters amuse children for 30 minutes so they can take a relaxed dip in the sea is inspired. While children play at the Kids’ Club, parents can enjoy treatments at the spa, relax by the infinity pools or take morning yoga and pilates classes, forest walks, or lessons at the new Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre. It’s a dream, too, for foodies, with two restaurants run by Michelin-star chefs, and a dine-around programme allowing guests to sample the resort’s many eateries offering everything from traditional Greek to Japanese.
Seven nights at Sani Beach from £1,690pp, based on two adults sharing in June
Four Seasons, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France
Nowhere does reliable personalised service quite like Four Seasons resorts, and here in the imposing, grand building where 2015’s Absolutely Fabulous was filmed, the treatment extends to the littlest guests. Staff welcomed our two by name, and with surprises in the room: floating balloons, and chocolate teddy bear-shaped Madeleines on our arrival, and personalised colouring books another day. Breakfast is a delight with plentiful highchairs and a children’s area where sweet-toothed youngsters can help themselves to pastries, yoghurts, fruit puree and pretty melamine plates and cups.
When it looked as though our energetic offspring might damage the opulent furnishings – glass table and vases packed tight with cream roses – of the white, marble-floored room, we asked reception for toys. We next arrived in our room to age-appropriate toys with a superb touch: Lego and cars spelling out “Theo”, Jenga pieces spelling out “Clara”.
All pools – including the main one and children’s pool – are heated, a definite plus for little ones. Deluxe rooms have their own infinity pool, ideal for taking a dip while children nap or play. Parents are reassured by the pool safety alarms that are obligatory in France. Children can try out the mini luxury cars around the manicured grounds, and a kids’ club for ages four to 12 is open selected weeks in April and May and the whole of June, July and August. There you’ll find a 150-square-metre seaside-themed playground with mini lighthouse and see-saw boat. There’s also a paddling pool, swimming lessons, and mini vintage and super cars to try out. Video games and colouring competitions will keep children busy on rainy days. And there’s a glorious coastal walk to be had around Cap Ferrat on the French Riviera.
The hotel has launched a new activity for budding bakers: a one-to-one lesson with the hotel’s own pastry chef. Our four-year-old loved donning her mini chef’s hat and apron (which she got to keep), and making treats to enjoy with us afterwards.
Rates from €1,000 (£880) per room per night
Parklane, Limassol, Cyprus
Parklane opened earlier this year as part of the Marriott chain. With its stunning views of the Troodos Mountains, set in 25 acres of landscaped gardens and 300 metres of sandy beachfront, and plenty to keep the family entertained, there’s no need to leave the resort; however history-laden Limassol is just 15 minutes away.
The big excitement for children is the 3,000-square metre Park Kidz club, with a princess and pirate-themed two-storey castle and pirate ship decked with water slides, outdoor pool area, mini-football pitch and tennis courts. Complimentary for three to 12 year-olds, it’s open from 10am-6pm and has a busy programme of daily activities.
Parklane is ideal for sporty youngsters, who will be thrilled by the world-class Football Academy, where ex-Premier League stars such as Rio Ferdinand and Bobby Zamora share tips and techniques with five to 15-year-olds. The week-long courses are run in partnership with Football Escapes during selected weeks in the school holidays, and children get a full, personalised kit in addition to one training session a day. There are also two family pools, one of which is seawater.
While the children are burning off energy, adults can regenerate theirs at the 3,000 square metre Kalloni Spa, including five seawater pools of Thalassotherapy, or head to the adult-only pool.
The 274 rooms designed by Harrods Interiors are luxurious and contemporary, with white and aqua hues nodding to the Mediterranean setting, and their spectacular views of the sea or mountains. They’re also generous in size. The best options for families are the two-bedroom family suites, or, if you have the budget, the two and three bedroom park suite villas, which include their own private pool. All-day dining is at the Lanes, but there are a further four restaurants with international and seafood-rich Cypriot cuisine.
Rates from €635 per room, per night based on a bed and breakfast stay in a Family Sea View Suite
Country Kids, Hérault, France
Run by parents for parents, Country Kids is a joyous, relaxed retreat for families in a converted dairy farm in hilly South of France countryside. With only seven apartments, there’s an intimate, friendly feel. On arrival, you’re whisked off to the bar which turns out to be the central hub where afternoon tea and breakfast are served and parents come for drinks and wine tastings (armed with child-monitors) once their children are asleep.
Country Kids’ motto is that happy children makes for happy parents, and youngsters are treated as individual guests just like adults. A board lists names of parents and children with their ages, and apartments are fully furnished with child-friendly apparatus, plus age-appropriate nappies and toys. Every morning, children board a tractor trailer to visit the farm to feed the animals.
There’s unlimited, award-winning childcare for babies to 12-year-olds, swimming pools, mini-golf, boules and playground with sandpit and zipwire. For parents, there are spa treatments and – the dream – twice weekly babysitting and a lie-in when children are collected by staff for a breakfast club. Local activities tailored to each family member include swimming, pony trekking, sailing and e-biking.
The decor is rustic-chic, but there’s five-star treatment with L’Occitane toiletries, the concierge, welcome hamper, daily housekeeping and turn-down service. Food is a combination of fresh, generous meals –homemade pizzas, local delicacies – delivered to apartments, and communal feasts. You can also opt out of group meals and select chef-made dishes from the freezer and watch a DVD in the comfort of your apartment.
From June to mid-September, there’s the “Absolutely Everything’s Included” package of meals, drinks, shop items, spa treatments, activities, and weekly laundry service.
Self-catering from €3,950 (£3,540) per week for four. All-inclusive from €7,350 (£6,580)
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