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how could we make self-catering holidays better for families?

(59 Posts)
lapetiteanglaise Fri 14-Nov-08 10:37:45


We moved to France from the UK about a year ago with our two small boys and are living on the Ile de Ré, an island linked to La Rochelle by a road bridge, whose raw natural beauty, picturesque cycle tracks and wide sandy beaches make it a popular family holiday destination as well as a great place for us to bring up our kids.

We are currently looking into the idea of setting up a holiday rental company to cater to the discerning UK traveller and particularly to families with young children.

The idea is to provide a hand-picked selection of upmarket properties of varying sizes well located on the island and to rent them out year round, whist also providing a service tailored to the family and designed to make life as comfortable and as easy as possible for those away from home with littlies.

So far, we have hit on ideas such as providing all child/baby equipment as standard for anyone arriving with children, organising babysitting evenings and lunchtimes, providing a welcome hamper, child age-appropriate, of useful goodies waiting which will include such things as milk, nappies, wipes, Ready Brek (cant be bought in France!), Hipp Organic baby foods and organic baby bath products, having toys, English kids' books and dvds in all the properties, providing the facility to borrow car seats, buggies, sun tents and more, calling French doctor on your behalf if necessary.

We would also like to try to provide a level of comfort which goes beyond the average self-catering holiday: fluffy robes in the bathroom (for all the family), regular cleaning, croissants or seafood platters delivered to your door, apéritifs on the house and local restaurants, massages and beauty treats in your home and more.

I would welcome any tips, comments or ideas from holidaying parents out there to help me work out how i could really make this work for people like you! thanks

PortAndLemon Fri 14-Nov-08 10:46:10

I've stayed somewhere similar at Toddler Holiday in Normandy. You seem on the right track; one other thing they have is a playbarn/playroom onsite at each gite/set of gites.

Fimbo Fri 14-Nov-08 10:48:41

Appropriate crockery and cutlery for children would be good and no ornaments etc around that could be broken.

Outdoor toys for the children, Little Tikes cars etc

silverfrog Fri 14-Nov-08 10:52:30

The thing I need most when travelling abroad (and have to go self-catering because of this) is information on health food shops/speciality foods.

both my daughters are gluten and dairy intolerant - it makes staying in a hotel impossible, so we always go self catering. But, we still end up having to bring most of our food with us, as the problems are huge - reading labels (hard enough with your own native language! let alone navigating a different labelling system), and even finding out which shops sell what we want to buy!

so an information service - whether printed, or in advance via email would be brilliant for me - there is nothing so stressful as trying to find out how you can feed your children safely!

elliott Fri 14-Nov-08 11:10:04

The thing I need most, and is least often provided, is DECENT BLACKOUT IN THE KIDS BEDROOMS!
I have taken to carrying a supply of blackout material, blu tak and drawing pins (!), but it's still a pain if I can't manage to get it attached to the window.
It makes all the difference between a holiday ruined by 5am starts and one where I actually feel reasonably rested.
My children are nearly 7 and 5 and this is still really really important to me. smile

elliott Fri 14-Nov-08 11:12:11

The other things that spring to mind - well I'm not too fussed about fluffy bathrobes, but reliable babysitters would be nice if you want people to actually take advantage of the odd night in a smart restaurant!

Fimbo Fri 14-Nov-08 11:12:21

Good one Elliot - yes blackout is very important to us too. We normally end up draping spare blankets or sheets over the windows - which doesn't always work.

PortAndLemon Fri 14-Nov-08 11:14:03

Wooden shutters are good for blackout purposes. Which reminds me that nighlights should be included in the essential kit category.

ClareVoiant Fri 14-Nov-08 11:14:17

You seem to have it covered, but maybe a bit over the top. When we went away to france in the summer, we would have liked supplied:
bedding and towels
kitchen stuff - washing up liquid, tea towel, cloths etc.
Hoover and cleaning stuff.
A decent set of pots, pans crockery etc. And a good coffee maker.
A selection of toys, including beach toys.
A welcome pack so you could at least make a cup of tea\basic dinner on arrival, including stuff like salt and pepper, garlic, roof heras etc

janinlondon Fri 14-Nov-08 11:14:38

Nightlights for kids' bedrooms? Have spent many nights in hotel rooms with the bathroom light (and the horrendous fan) on and the door open just a crack...........

ClareVoiant Fri 14-Nov-08 11:15:56

That last bit should have read 'some herbs'.
Oh, a babysitter would be fab

snickersnack Fri 14-Nov-08 11:19:00

Stack of crayons and paper. Jigsaws that don't have pieces missing.

Safety - plug covers, no hazardous cables for them to trip over, no hard marble floors, fence and lockable gate around a pool (actually I think that might be a legal requirement in France).

It would be fantastic if you had a shopping list you sent guests in advance so they could order food for arrival - just basics, but so nice to know that on your first evening you didn't have to dash to the shops, but there would be milk, coffee, cheese, something for the children etc.

A few contact numbers of local people who are happy to come in and cook a meal - for us, that was absolutely fantastic this year, as it meant we didn't need babysitters.

Agree very much with the nightlights/blackout curtains.

elliott Fri 14-Nov-08 11:23:57

Yes, shutters would work really well. And yes I agree about night lights as well!

I have to say though, as my kids get older our budget basically gets more stretched and I am less and less inclined to pay more for a 'luxury' holiday - I don't want pampering, I just want somewhere I can sleep in comfort and where the childrne have plenty of things to do.
So, particularly in the current climate, I would think quite carefully about your market!

MrsBadger Fri 14-Nov-08 11:28:56

Offer decent cots - the ones they have at Centerparcs are ace [rummages]. These ones - click the pic to see how they fold. A million times better than travel cots.

other things you could offer to hire/borrow:
- pressure-fit stairgates that you can use on any door
- bikes / seats / trailers / helmets, esp in kids' sizes - am guessing there's a source for these locally though

flash coffee machine not necessary - filter jug and cone work fine

lisasimpson Fri 14-Nov-08 11:31:31

agree with basic toys, some for indoors and outdoors and dvd's. Agree with nightlights and blackout curtains.

ChippyMinton Fri 14-Nov-08 11:47:42

Beach umbrella, mats, bodyboards, buckets & spades, coolbox and a rumble truck to transport everything to the beach. The beach must be in walking distance.

Gas barbeque - DH refuses to use charcoal on holiday since we got a gas one at home.

Plus everything ClareVoiant mentioned - the boring but essential items like loo roll and liquid handsoap.

A decent-sized fridge & freezer.

Sharp knives.

Outside - solid chairs & table, sunbeds, lighting.

haggisaggis Fri 14-Nov-08 12:01:40

I don't know if outdoor showers are used much in Fance - but when we go to teh States we find the outdoor shower at the property we stay in invaluable! Kids back from beach, straight into shower so limiting teh amount of sand trecked through the property. (it has hot and cold water)
As mentioned above, a pull along trailer or something to take the beach stuff, and a cool box are good too.

Quattrocento Fri 14-Nov-08 12:07:22

Things that we like in a self-catering holiday:

1. A couple of bookshelves with books for adults and children
2. A good broadband or WIFI connection
3. A couple of good tennis courts
4. Reasonable access to water - a beach or a pool
5. A good welcome pack with guides and information about local amenities
6. A cleaning service
7. Privacy so that the villa is not overlooked
8. Something like a pingpong table

Bink Fri 14-Nov-08 12:19:00

Beach towels! - masses of them, battered old ones that nobody worries about getting grubby, in a special section of the linen cupboard that says "These are beach towels and they are MEANT to look well-loved and be well-used". (So that you don't get people getting hoity about faded threadbare towels.)

A very well organised house-info file which tells you exactly how the heating works, where the wood is for the fire, what not to put down the loo, etc. etc. And includes a really thorough inventory, so you can see whether there was meant to be a corkscrew/cafetiere/fish kettle.

bythepowerofgreyskull Fri 14-Nov-08 12:22:17

haven't read all the responses but DS's have always HATED travel cots.. if you have designed things for families please have proper cots for the munchkins.

Peabody Fri 14-Nov-08 12:35:54

Having completely baby-proofed rooms would be wonderful (stair-gates, kitchen cupboard locks etc).

MrsBadger Fri 14-Nov-08 12:39:36

... or at least things for effecting such babyproofing (eg things to tie cupboard handles together)

ohIdoliketobebesidethe Fri 14-Nov-08 12:44:44

Nappy bin.
Sand pit on terrace so they can play while you sit in the sun.

It sounds wonderful to me. When are you opening?

witchandchips Fri 14-Nov-08 12:45:49

option to buy in coooked food for some nights would be great. was thinking of a le crueset full of coq au vin or something like it. Nice to have something simple and cooked ready for you on your first night if you arrive late. Also perhaps some home cooked children's food in the freezer for emergencies (things like bolognese sauce, home made chicken or fish nuggets) together with frozen veg + those cheap ice lollies that you can get

ohIdoliketobebesidethe Fri 14-Nov-08 12:45:51

Would be great to be able to hire sat nav off you and bikes with baby trailers.

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