I've been trying to book a holiday - yes, a holiday!  For me, my long suffering wife who has been holding the fort whilst I've been galavanting around Africa researching for travel features, and for our 8 month old baby.

We just want to lie in the sun and do nothing for a week. We don't have a stack of cash to spend, but we could spare a couple of grand I guess (for everything). But we absolutely don't want to be in an all-you-can-eat-buffet place with aqua-gym in the mornings and karoake at night.

Who to go with? I haven't a clue.

Previously as a relatively adventurous traveller without a baby in tow I'd have plonked for a tour co like Exodus or Explore if I'd wanted my hand held a little but a frisson of adventure at good value. If it were me and the wife doing something a bit more relaxed, I'd have probably considered Inntravel who do lots of nice self-guided walking and cycling breaks in Europe and elsewhere. If Joseph were older I'd take the family on an Activities Abroad break - I think they offer great value holidays for adventurous families.

But a package holiday for a young family without the awfulness of packages? A package holiday for the Waitrose shopper rather than the Asda one?

I have no idea.

Who would you travel with and why? And am I right in thinking this is a niche that the market fails to cater at all well for?

Pic by flickr user Hans Pama

23 thoughts on “Holidays for ‘nice’ families (the kind that shop at Waitrose)

  1. I've had a mixed bag of experiences as father to two girls, now five and nearly one. I've cancelled trips, abandoned breaks due to bad weather/sick children/general disappointment.
    I've been on trips I would never have dreamed of five years ago - a long weekend at an Austrian Kinderhotel anyone? Not my scene but low stress with a new baby.
    Having said all that, my most recent attempt to combine family with a working trip in Portugal went very smoothly on the ground. It's getting easier as the girls get older.
    Packages are a tough one, though. My experience has been more along the following lines: self catering, cottages/villas, breaks closer to home (in my case Lakes and Snowdonia are obvious targets), taking my folks along for extra help, being very organised about packing, independent travel.
    But I'm interested to hear the experiences of others. A couple of years from now, we'll be the epitome of the target market for an operator with a stand-out product.
    Are you out there?

    1. Hi Matt
      Could you explain a bit why you rate these four places for young families? I know Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus is pretty good, but not familiar with the others. Surprised that a Ritz Carlton which is pretty upmarket would be good for babies?

  2. I'd say our (Tell Tale Travel) family customers are more Waitrose than Asda, but I suspect in reality, the majority of them most likely shop at Sainbury's. This is of course for older kids, it used to be mainly teens (and the families had been going on villa holidays in France and Italy whilst the kids were younger) but last couple of years, we've had a lot of families with younger children, we have an official age of 6 and above though have had the odd active 5 year old.

    But back to your post of very young children, you could look at Original Travel? Someone describe them to me as if you lived in Fulham and you wanted to go on holiday who understood what people who live in Fulham want, and you want to book a holiday with someone from Fulham, then you call them :-) Not sure if they do stuff with very young kids.

    Ocado also sent me a travel partnership once, the same way they like sticking in a Boden catalogue (er hello, I want some milk not a lifestyle), but can't remember who. Mark Warner?

  3. As a father of a very wee girl have had some joy with these two Jeremy. Course you're not paying an operator 20% commission...

    Outside Salzburg - Kinder hotels in Austria - kids clubs, pools, great food, bar at night, and free entry to local attractions that have no kids age limit. Would recommend the go karts down a 2000 metre mountain - they give you helmets...
    Went here http://www.hotel-hauser-kaibling.at/ (also have cheap rooms for grandparents which is a bonus...)

    Cotswolds - http://www.bruern-holiday-cottages.co.uk/ Again good local attractions, lovely cottages and there's a private pool. Rooms are kid proofed.

    Off course in Austria the equivalent of Waitrose is Spar or Lidl...


  4. Though not a parent myself, I do work for The Adventure Company (the leading family adventure specialist) which offers 85 family trips, including teen holidays, which ensure that erstwhile adventure-lovers need no longer compromise their wanderlust just because they've breeded.

    Henry Miller famously said that “one’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things” and school holidays are an ideal time for parents to encourage enquiring minds to look at the world around them with fresh eyes. The opportunity to meet new people, enjoy the local food, get totally absorbed in the local culture and wildlife and understand a destination’s history can have an enormous educational impact on children – whatever their age.

    As such adventure holidays are becoming an increasingly popular option for those keen to enjoy quality time together away from the daily routine while gaining a ‘little extra’ from their time away. And we're not even talking just about when the kids are a little older - there are now even infant holidays for those barely out of nappies, such as their Magical Morocco trip (minimum age 2), which include some trekking in the Berber villages of the Atlas Mountains. Here the walks are designed with small children in mind, complete with mule support for when they might need to hitch a lift.

    Essentially The Adventure Company believes the key to keeping all ages stimulated throughout their travels and ensuring all the family come home revitalised by what they’ve seen and done is to combine must-see highlights with other memorable experiences.

    So while many African adventures, for example, provide the chance to camp in the heart of the action to minimise travel times and maximise viewing opportunities, The Adventure Company aims to ensure their holidays provide interactive angles to help broaden younger travellers’ horizons. From learning to spear-throw with the Masai in Kenya and enjoying a Balinese cooking class to staying in a Tunisian Troglodyte cave and going on turtle patrol in Costa Rica, these are the ingredients for life-long memories.

    And ingredients you're far more likely to find in a Waitrose than an ASDA holiday shopping basket...

  5. Sorry! I didn't leave all our information on my last post - I didn't realise it was an opportunity to do so! Duh! Our company is Dales & Vales Cottage Holidays and we're based in Skipton, North Yorkshire. We have cottages on the Yorkshire Dales, Moors & Coast, Norhtumberland, Cumbria and Durham & Teesdale. Great for families, couples - anyone who wants a comfortable holiday cottage in scenic surroundings, maybe an open fire, country pub nearby, a cottage by the sea? Our website address is http://www.dales-vales-cottages.com or ring us and speak to one of us in person on 01756 792498 - we would love to hear from you!

      1. Hi Jeremy, Most of our cottages are child/baby friendly. Even the ones that don't actually provide cots will normally allow you to take a travel cot. Our client base is mainly families and couples.
        Take this one for instance, at Litton, nr Kettlewell http://www.dales-vales-cottages.com/cottage.php?ID=215
        This is Halton Hall, a brilliant property for families to get together!


  6. Thanks for your comments folks. Most of the people offering information about their companies here though cater for older families. So far it's looking like there are certain hotels that offer more for young families with babies, but no one has thought to create a brochure or website that features a whole number of them. Can anyone think of someone who has?

  7. They go on Mark Warner holidays or book villas with Simply Travel or James. Have a good one. P.S If you want to stay in the UK I know a wonderful big house by the sea/aparthotel for the Waitrose crowd in Cornwall called The Rosevine - http://www.rosevine.co.uk

  8. I can't comment if all people who shop at Waitrose are nice - in fact I once has a car park rage incident with a fellow shopper there - however, I can vouch for the people who use my website http://www.BabyFriendlyBoltholes.co.uk and the holiday accommodation featured on it.

    Apparently, about 40% of the users have SW postcodes, so I guess we have the Fulham crowd in there.

    I'm happy to say we list the Rosevine and Almyra amongst the 500-odd stylish yet child-friendly breaks. Top choices this year have been Martinhal in Portugal (think beach houses with Conran interiors and creche plus cool cocktail bar), where we have some exclusive offers and some very chic villas in Puglia including the brand new Borgo Egnazia resort.

    We're very happy to draw up a short list of ideas if anyone wants to give us a call... especially Waitrose shoppers, Fulham residents and any other nice people!

  9. Got to agree with David on the self-catering front. All our best trips with under-5s have been cottages and villas in UK / France / Portugal. Anything more adventurous at this age is more about your ego than their enjoyment.

    Camping can work brilliantly: we rediscovered it when ours were 3 and 1. Featherdown Farms (www.featherdown.co.uk) and their ilk are the soft option.

    Having driven our two to the south of France it's not an experience I'd repeat in a hurry (the 7am seasickness bout set the tone - and aroma - for the next 3 days). However, Eurostar is brilliant with kids - St Pancras to Avignon in 6 hours in summer: rolling scenery, room to stretch legs, snooze, watch a DVD etc. Vastly superior to flying.

    The main problem with babies and hotels is the evenings. Once they're asleep in the room at 8pm, what do you do? Short of a sitter every night or a listening service, you're stuck in with CNN and minibar snacks. In the UK, the deluxe (and oh so Waitrose) solution is this: http://www.luxuryfamilyhotels.co.uk/

  10. I'd just like to say that, with a 3yo and 1yo (and, apologies all round, an account with Ocado), I'm cribbing like mad off of here. Thank you Jeremy, Dan, David and all.

    I'm also backing the self-catering line. Just couldn't imagine our tornado-like chaos in a hotel environment. Though the Kinderhotel thing looks appealing - I've seen them in Switzerland & Liechtenstein too. We just had a week at http://www.greenwoodgrange.com - pleasantly low-key, great for off-season (not sure we'd go in high season) - but the 3yo was, inevitably, far more taken with the snooker table in the games room than anything the Dorset countryside (or Dorchester) could offer. So much for the glory of Hardy's Wessex. Hello to a long weekend of pingpong and bouncing on the outdoor trampoline.

  11. Can't resist dipping in once more time as this is such a great discussion! The aparthotel idea is ideal for families with children because you can have your own space to veg out and be messy while also taking advantage of communal child friendly facilities. At the Rosevine for example there is a children's den with x-box and DVDs as well as an indoor pool, outdoor trampoline and a beach at the end of the garden. Then you can self-cater or use the bistro for the best of both worlds.
    My advice is to look for people promoting themselves as child-friendly because you know they will have baby monitors, carry slings and high chairs so you don't have to lug it all with you.

  12. I'm a hotel reviewer and have an 8-month-old myself and know exactly what you're talking about, having spent 5 evenings in Venice last week watching CNN with the sound down while she snoozed in the cot next to me. Depressing ain't the word!

    Hotels and babies don't mix that well unless the hoteliers know what it's like to travel with them. Luxury self-catering could be the way forward - and here at i-escape we've got plenty of superluxe pads like the fabulous Tresbos Farmhouse (http://www.i-escape.com/tresbos-farmhouse/overview).

    To me, though, apart-hotels seem to be the holy grail. Check out The Cove (http://www.i-escape.com/the-cove/overview) - it's a great example of somewhere with the amenities of a hotel so you don't have to cook all the time, but the freedom of an apartment so you don't have to tote a baby-food smeared daughter around a posh hotel restaurant and worry about what's been trodden into the carpet.

    If you search i-escape's family friendly hotels in Portugal, England and France, you'll now see that you can see which properties have high chairs, which have baby monitor signal from the restaurant to the bedroom so you can actually enjoy dinner, and loads more details that will help you have a great stay. Other countries coming soon...as fast as I can do it, in fact!

    1. I would have thought http://www.totstotravel.co.uk and the lovely Wendy Shand is exactly what you are looking for. All the 300 properties are vetted and safe for babies and young children. She set up the business six years ago due to her own frustrations at finding family- friendly holiday accommodation.

  13. We often have families with little’uns come and stay here on our farm near Rye in East Sussex. Swallowtail Hill http://www.swallowtailhill.com is located in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and offers stylish eco camping in comfortable, traditional bell tents which are fully kitted out and family friendly. The farm’s 40 acres are run purely for conservation so families are encouraged to enjoy the meadows and woodland. Children of all ages like to join in with feeding the farm animals (even the smallest of toddlers enjoy helping to collect eggs) and tractor rides are very popular with the under- fives (and their dads!)

  14. Was interested to read the baby debate although I don't have one of my own. Leaving children and checking on them every 30 minutes, as people used to do, is surely a no-go zone following the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal a few years back.

    We work with KinderHotels in Austria and they offer

  15. A PC glitch meant my link was cut before I'd finished, above! To continue...

    We work with KinderHotels in Austria (www.kinderhotels.co.uk) and they offer up to 60 hours' free child-minding per week, all-inclusive mostly organic food for babes and adults, fresh air a-plenty and also very warm temperatures - up to 27 degrees C, so very pleasant indeed. They all have pools, and many of the Austrian lakes are surprisingly warm to swim in. Above all, this type of holiday is relaxing for the entire family. Parents can have time to themselves as well as with the children, which is surely essential for a real break from routine all round. The cost of a week (excluding travel) is around £1,500 per family of four, all-inclusive, which is pretty good value with 60 hours of child-minding included. Hope this is helpful - we in the UK tend to think "beach" when looking for family holidays, but our European counterparts look to the mountains too for healthy breaks in less crowded environments.

  16. Hello from The Almyra in Cyprus. Where baby Joe (9 months) is snoring on the bed after breakfast (yes!). Have to say this place really is excellent by the way. They can't do enough to help. They even cook special baby meals in the kitchens for you - taking into account Joe's dairy allergy as well.
    Great discussion and thanks for all the comments so far. Fascinating the way it has continued for over a week too.
    My wife found this piece by the excellent Mark Hodson which is a bit dated now - but a good first port of call. This place where we are staying is top of his list. Goes to show PR people that a feature written about a client on-line stays valuable years after the print version is in the recycle bin.
    Feel free to pitch in more places - but baby-friendly rather than just somewhere that has a kids' club or whatever. These are two-apenny, but places that really cater for babies are much fewer and further between.
    I plan a post either here or on a more Family Travel related website about learnings from where we are staying. They get a lot of things very right and are a great example.

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