Lorraine’s 10 Top Family Holidays
Taking the family on holiday can be a daunting task, so it pays to do some homework, says Nicky Holford. Here is a selection of holidays guaranteed to make sure the whole family has fun.
Le Meridien Chia Laguna, Sardinia
This four-star resort is located just 700 metres from one of the best beaches in Sardinia, surrounded by sand dunes and stunning mountain scenery. Although there is a road in between the hotel and the beach, a mini-train runs every five minutes from outside reception and the only difficulty will be persuading the kids to get off the train.
There are several pools, an amazing children’s activity centre and a complementary supervised mini-club for three to 12-year-olds, plus baby-sitting services payable locally.
Every night there’s top entertainment for all the family. Other facilities include a large gym, tennis courts, golf course and driving range. There’s even a five-a-side football pitch, plus the usual watersports. Most families opt for half board and eat in the main restaurant, but there’s a choice of around five restaurants and adults should book into the à la carte restaurant for a romantic meal away from the kids.
How to Book: Sardatur – www.sardinia-holidays.co.uk
Sample price: One week from £655 per adult half board in a standard room including flights from Heathrow to Cagliari.
Center Parcs, UK
There are large weatherproof indoor water parks with flumes, rapids and wave machines to entertain children of all ages – and their parents – so that this holiday in Britain is not affected by bad weather.
Accommodation in the four villages in Whinfell in Cumbria, Sherwood in Nottinghamshire, Elveden in Suffolk and Longleat in Wiltshire is in apartments and villas (graded comfort, executive and VIP), which are set in beautifully landscaped grounds. The villages are car-free (you leave vehicles in a car park on site) and everyone walks, pedals around on hired bikes or takes the little Center Parc train; this is a very safe environment for children.
Crèches and children’s clubs offer supervised activities and sports, from football coaching to African drumming and carp fishing, as well as ‘chill-out zones’ with sofas and wide-screen televisions for those aged 11 to 14. Adult activities include art classes, scuba and fencing – and each village has a spa.
Some families stay for a week but most take up the three or four-night short-break options, available all year. Prices vary according to village and date of visit; a two-bedroom ‘comfort’ lodge at Sherwood, sleeping a family of four, costs from £338 for three-nights, activities extra. It’s worth checking the website for special offers though.
How to Book: Tel: 0870 520 0300; www.centerparcs.co.uk
Winter Wonderland, Alpe d’Huez, France
As the most visited resort for family skiing Ski Alpe d’Huez offers the widest choice of facilities. To make sure everyone has enough ski time Crystal provides a nanny service (for children aged 6 months to 4 years) and Whizz Kids Club (for children aged 4 years to 10) where there are plenty of gentle nursery slopes close to the village; free activities included with the lift pass: entry to swimming pool, ice-rink and sports centre.
This French resort has an excellent snow record and snow-sure guarantee. Transfer time is just 2 hours. Offers are available for special family lift passes for 2 adults and up to 4 children. Children under 5 ski free when sharing a room with 2 adults.
Prices from £1,468 for a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children under 12) including: return flights from Gatwick to Chambery, transfers, 7 nights’ accommodation in a quadruple room, breakfast, afternoon tea, three-course dinner with free drinks.
How to Book: Crystal Ski, tel: 0870 160 6040; www.crystalski.co.uk
Activity Holidays in Kitzbuhel, Austria
Club Active Hofer: exclusive properties run by Crystal Holidays with a bike and hiking guide in every hotel who organises a daily programme of events. These guides are keen biking enthusiasts who have been specifically trained in mountain leadership and bike maintenance.
A fleet of up-to-date Specialized® mountain bikes (and kids’ bikes) in each hotel are at the disposal of the guests. There are many hiking and biking programmes. Other activities include: white-water rafting, family rafting, canoeing, canyoning, paragliding and horse riding. Activities in the resort include swimming in Lake Schwarzsee, climbing, golf and shopping.
Prices start from £1,196 for 2 adults and 2 children and includes flights, transfers, 7-nights catered accommodation, use of a range of mountain bikes, one activity (choice of white-water rafting, canyoning, family rafting or horse riding) and guided walks.
How to Book: Crystal Active; Tel: 0870 888 0266; www.crystalactive.co.uk
Parc des Alicourts, the Loire, France
For summer funtime this superb water park will keep the children amused all day. The water park is comprehensive with slides, pools and special features and there is a large sandy beach and mini-club. Prices start at £330 for up to 6 people in an Al Fresco Holiday Home at Yelloh! Parc des Alicourts in Pierrefite, Loire, France for 7 nights’ self-catering. (Very heavy). Price includes a mid-week channel crossing with Eurotunnel, P&O or Hoverspeed.
How to Book: Tel: 0870 402 0293; www.crystalholidays.co.uk
Club St. Lucia, Caribbean
Club St Lucia by Splash is a fun four-star, all-inclusive resort consisting of five colourful villages, four of which are ideal for families. There are several swimming pools, one with a separate children’s section and waterslide and a variety of watersports. Land activities include mountain biking and hiking – there are even championship tennis courts for budding Tim Henmans.
Pre-school children are well-catered for at the Baby Parrot’s nest, open daily from 9am until 5.30pm and babysitting is available outside these hours. There are then three separate clubs – Jacquots (for ages 4 to 8), Cicero’s (ages 9-12) and the Jump Club for teenagers. In the evening there’s regular entertainment and a choice of bars and restaurants ranging from pizza/pasta to oriental.
Sample price: One week from £876 per adult on an all-inclusive basis including flights with BWIA and transfers to and from the hotel. Child offers start at £185 per child under 12 on the same basis.
How to Book: Kuoni Travel Tel: 01306 747008; www.kuoni.co.uk
The Magdalen Project, West Country
This unique project called ‘Living with the Land’ weekends is all about exploring alternative ways of living. Children can sleep out in a tepee or opt for more comfortable bedrooms inside a converted cowshed.
Magdalen’s eco-campsite on the Dorset-Somerset border includes solar-powered showers and composting toilets (with superb views). The two-night weekend breaks teach children and adults how to make hurdles, try spinning and weaving and try their hand at cheese and sausage making.
During the school summer holidays, six-night family breaks will include activities such as wildlife walks, digging for clay then making and firing pots, building shelters, lighting fires using flints and sticks, eco-adventures and helping around the farm. The camp is open to families with children aged between seven and 13 (under sevens are made very welcome and can join activities but must be accompanied by an adult). The two-night Living with the Land weekends cost £190 per person, including two nights’ accommodation and most meals. Six-night breaks also available.
How to Book Tel: 01460 30068; www.themagdalenproject.org.uk
Family Sailing Holidays, UK and Abroad
There are many yacht-charter companies that offer affordable family holidays where you can hire a boat and join a flotilla. Sunsail has 1,200 yachts and 39 bases in 23 countries. They organise learn-to-sail courses in the UK from Port Solent, Plymouth, Scotland.
You can combine learning to sail with a flotilla holiday. Neilson has 140 yachts in Croatia, the Peloponnese and Ionian Islands in Greece. You can learn to sail in Brighton in the UK and from their flotilla bases in Greece. In Brighton a five-day course (children 16 and over) on a live-aboard starts from £455 per person. Flotilla holidays abroad are suitable for children of all ages as long as the parents have taken a qualifying course.
Learn to Surf in Devon
The resort in Woolacombe Bay, North Devon is set around a great family beach with two and a half miles of sand and gentle waves for beginners. Accommodation is at the Little Beach Hotel on the sea front or nine self-catering apartments. The studios range from £350 a week. Guests at the studios or hotel can book surf lessons for £40 a day (children) or £50 a day for adults, including lunch and all equipment hire. Other activities from riding to orienteering can also be arranged. Two-night weekend hotel surf breaks cost from £200 per person (£170 midweek), including two nights B&B, two lunches, one evening meal and a day and a half of surf tuition and use of wetsuits and boards.
How to Book: Tel: 01271 870398; www.surfersworld.co.uk
Mark Warner, Kops, Greece
Mark Warner has numerous family resorts worldwide but Leilira is the largest just a short taxi ride from Kops and 25 minutes from the airport. There are two beaches, three restaurants, two pools and a wide range of watersports including sailing and windsurfing. With over 11 tennis courts and an Astroturf pitch for budding footballers, there’s plenty to do on land too. Kids are kept busy at a variety of well-staffed clubs that cater for babies from four months old up to 17-year-olds. If parents want a night out in Kos babysitting is available at an extra cost, while child listening is free.
Sample price: Prices from £590 per adult (low season). Kids: two years old from £442 (low season).
How to book: Tel: 0870 7704227; www.markwarner.co.uk
LORRAINE SAYS: Where can you see penguins and elephants in the wild and enjoy some of the best food and wine in the world? Well the answer is South Africa and we enjoyed a wonderful holiday there last year. There’s only an hour’s time difference from the UK so there’s no jet lag to contend with which makes all the difference.
We had a couple of days in Cape Town and did all the sights including Table Mountain and Robbin Island where Nelson Mandella was imprisoned. Do try and make the effort to take the trip there as it gives you a real insight into the troubled history of this beautiful country. We hired a car and drove down to the Cape Of Good Hope where the Atlantic meets the Indian ocean and where you can see Rockhopper penguins frolicking in the sand. We then went down the coast to Stellenbosch, a beautiful university town at the start of the Garden Route with some fantastic restaurants and wineries.
Along the coast further still is Knysner, where lots of South Africans spend their holidays – it’s a typical seaside town with good shopping and fish restaurants. For the last leg of our trip we flew up to Botswana and visited the Madikwe Game Reserve which is just across the border back into South Africa. This was the highlight of the holiday. We went out on big open-topped jeeps and saw lions, elephants, leopards, hyenas and warthogs in the wild.
I know I have seen them in zoos but nothing compares to seeing a herd of zebras or giraffes in the wild. There’s so much to offer in this beautiful country that we felt we had only just skimmed the surface. I would love to go back and spend more time at the Game reserve and also exploring the garden route. Coming home after a 10-hour flight but experiencing no jet lag meant the holiday was even more enjoyable.