Help! Never booked a family holiday before!(20 Posts)
DH and I want to take our DS on our first beach holiday next year. He'll be a little over 2 years old by the time we go.
As I've never had to cater to a little persons needs abroad before can anyone suggest any do's and don'ts when it comes to family holidays, please? This is everything from hotel facilities, what board type works best (thinking all inclusive?) and even what country to visit. I have only ever visited adult only hotels so have no experience of family life on holiday.
My thoughts so far are that we'd like to stay within Europe to keep it short haul and within a fairly similar timezone. Don't want to push him on a long flight or screw with his bedtime too much. We thought the canary islands would be ideal but the prices seem to have gone up a lot since we last visited as a couple 3 years ago. Not a deal breaker but just thought there might be some hidden gems out there!
Any help would be greatly appreciated. TIA
Any of the Balearic Islands are great for little ones. All 2 year olds really need is a beach or pool, somewhere to play and somewhere to sleep during the day.
Menorca is lovely and very family friendly. We always self catered when the kids were small, but if you are looking for all inclusive, try Son Bou, there are one or two hotels right on the fantastic beach.
We took DD on her first trip aboard at a similar age we went to the first choice holiday village on Majorca.
Somewhere like Menorca is great for young DC and because you can go out of the school holidays I would look at prices and book before they start to jump up for the summer. Early June, for instance, can be very reasonable with lovely weather in the Med.
Brittany is another place that we loved to go when our DC were young. You can either take the ferry or drive, but there are lots of lovely beaches, child-friendly food, a gentle pace of life and if you go in summer the weather is usually warm and sunny (we were lucky and had amazing weather both times we went).
As for what you need - a gently sloping beach is good, toddler pool, playground, shady outdoor space and stair gates, high chair, etc if you're staying in a SC place with stairs. I found several places to holiday via the MN reviews board, so take a look and see if you find some inspiration, but there are lots of child-friendly places on there that have been tried and tested.
MN travel reviews
How well does your DS sleep? We always SC as DS was never a child we could go out late with and would sleep late, so a villa or apartment with space for DH and me once he is asleep is essential.
Agree re. gently shelving sandy beach.
Aside from that, where do you want to go?
When ours were tiny we went to Santa Tomas in Menorca. Lovely beaches and a quiet little resort. We had a 2 bedroom S/C apartment at this complex.
Right on the beach and lots of space. It's a long time ago now but I remember we had meals from the restaurant in our room so DC could go to bed while we chilled on the balcony.
Thanks very much for all your help so far I spent ages last night having a think and a look at what was out there based on all your suggestions. Menorca and Majorca seem to be coming up trumps like you all say. I also had no clue about holiday villages but they look fantastic!
My little one sleeps so well but only at home in familiar surroundings. He goes to sleep at 6:30pm and wakes up at 6:30am. Whenever he sleeps somewhere different, like my mum's house occasionally, it's a different matter though. Won't go down until he's over-tired at around 8pm and stirs in the night because he wakes up in unfamiliar surroundings. So I don't know how well he'll do in a hotel next year. I don't think we'd be able to keep him up late on purpose and go out for a meal with him because he'd just be cranky and overtired. So it sounds like we need somewhere we can be comfy indoors once he's down for the night.
As for where we'd like to go, our initial thoughts were the Balearic, Canary and Greek Islands. Could also be swayed by the idea of somewhere in France like Brittany, but I would much prefer a package holiday. I like someone else to organise the package for me and take the stress off my shoulders.
I still need to check out your hotel specific recommendations as I ran out of time yesterday. Thank you for those too!
Would this sort of hotel or even this one be overkill for a 23 - 26 month old? Am I on the right track?
Menorca and Majorca have the best beaches and sea in the med, lovely sand and warm, calm sea. All feels much cleaner / tidier than the Greek islands and much greener /prettier than the Canaries.
Cala Galdana in Menorca is definitely the nicest resort if you can find something there but I notice one of your links is for Cala'n Bosch which is a good second, further transfer time though, about 90 mins from memory.
Is it an option to go before he's 2? Will be cheaper as his flight will be free.
If you can find somewhere where you can stay in an apartment, all the better! Our last two hols have been all inclusive but we've still had a little kitchen and lounge etc and it's made a massive difference at bed time so we're not just sat in one room with a sleeping child all eve!
Looking back at holidays my now grown up children remember nothing before they were 10 or so. Find somewhere you can relax and enjoy and the baby will be happy with a bucket and spade on the beach or the tiniest paddling pool.
I agree about apartment. When ours were babies we always booked 2 bedroom apartments. They were not the sort who you could take out in the evening and they'd sleep in a pushchair so space for us was a must. In most big hotels al you would get is a bedroom with a cot.
Those hotels look nice, would certainly suit older children but the entertainment and facilities would probably wasted on a 2 year old unless the whole thing would suit you and you would find it relaxing. There would certainly be lots of other families with toddlers.
We went to the North-East of Majorca when DD was just under 2, just south of Alcudia. The beach is lovely, shallow and clean.
We always went s/c when DD was small. She never went to sleep in a pushchair, ate with us but hated large noise restaurants and never went to sleep in the same room as we unless it was pitch black dark.
So, sharing a room still (she will be 11 years next months) is a bit of a disaster.
We found two bedrooms, a kitchen and space for adults the best. No problems with a hungry toddler regardless when she woke up as well. At that age I also didn't need the full AI programm, totally wasted on us.
We normally did something in the morning and had lunch somewhere, came back for a nap and went to the beach later in the afternoon.
I only use s/c with a washing machine and dishwasher and no cleaning required at the end. Apart from the odd BBQ we often ate cold cuts/cheese/salad in the evening so also no need to cook.
Right, I've put those two hotels i mentioned previously on the 'maybe' pile and moved onto more basic hotels with apartments. We'll be happy somewhere that isn't packed to the rafters with things to see and do. Just want to relax! I would also never have seen the drawback of having us all in one room all night and evening so thank you to everyone who recommended that
I'm also going to contain my searches to Majorca and Menorca based on your opinions and previous visits. They do sound and look lovely and are very reasonably priced, which is always a bonus.
We would have liked to have taken advantage of travelling before our DS turns 2 but it doesn't work out, sadly. We'd like for this to be our main, summer holiday next year but his birthday is on April 7th. So we'd have to travel no later than March. We'd like to go somewhere more around June or September to break the year up a bit. I have seen though that you can get free child places with some packages so hopefully i'll be able to take advantage of that.
Another good point about the transfer times! Hadn't considered those! Before kids I would have sat on a coach for as long as it took to get to our hotel but that sounds trickier with a tired toddler!
On the subject of transfers, how does that work exactly with kids? Here we obviously have to use car seats to travel, but what's the score when you're transferring by coach or taxi?
Another thing to consider is the hour change. If you go to Greece or Cyprus its 2 hours after UK time. If your little one gets up at 6.30 it's 8.30 over there which seems much more civilized. Bed time later as well so you can get out for an early evening meal without changing his routine.lts an hour difference in Spain so not quite as extreme.
That hour change works for me now as I am rubbish at staying up past 10 o'clock.
It's only 18 years ago but we never had car seats on the coach, don't know what people do now.
We tend to prefer places with a short-ish transfer time so we can just grab a taxi at the airport on arrival. Pretty sure in the Balearics the taxis are regulated so the cost will be the same whichever cab company you use. Airport to Cala Galdana was about 40 Euros I think.
Coach transfers are fine IF you're on an early drop off - I'll never forget a torturous one hour transfer in Zante with a vomiting child behind us, we were last on the list, and then on the return journey got picked up 4 hours before the flight. It wasn't until I got home I realised how small Zante is and that we were only 10 minutes from the airport.
I doubt taxis or coaches will have car seats, but hire car companies will provide one if you decided to go exploring. If you feel worried about it you could take a travel booster seat. Menorca roads are good, one main one across the island with the resorts branching off, but easy driving and not too busy.
Menorca is only an hour from one end to the other so most places are reasonable on transfer. Arenal den Castell is another lovely gently shelved beach. We really like Cala Santandria but the beach is small though lovely, we like it as there is decent access to the rocks for jumping in which my teens like. Most of Menorca would be ideal for your purposes and indeed was our first abroad holiday with DSs then almost 2 and almost 3.
Coach transfers we never bothered with car seats but did stick a folded up beach towel or two under them for taxis to raise them up to a decent height for the seatbelt but think taxis are more up on things and you can book car seats now mostly.
Time change, that only worked for us the first day and then we are business as usual. I wouldn’t count on any late night = late mornings
Sorry to introduce a down note but the thing I wish I'd known before my first family holiday is that it's not really a holiday with little kids. Or at least, not as you knew it before kids. There is still the endless childcare but in a more difficult place without all your usual resources, and often with an unsettled child (my 1 yr old woke every hour for the first 10 nights of our 1st holiday). You can still have a good time and do some nice things but IME it doesn't feel like a holiday in the old sense.
Once my youngest got to about 5, holidays got much better and now (tweens) they are just lovely. Although still quite different from the kind of holiday I'd have without them.
So I'd say the most important thing is to lower your expectations of a holiday and then hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised!
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