Are you thinking about your next family holiday? Would you like to try something a little different? Over the years, we’ve been lucky to be able to go to quite a few holidays with one, two, or three children. So here are 5 types of child-friendly holidays for you to consider next time you book a trip – all tried and tested, from our family to yours.
The self-catering apartment
Staying in a self-catering apartment is always a bit of a gamble. You just don’t really know what you’re going to find there! Depending on how well-equipped (or not) the place is, you either have to pack your whole house or end up buying stuff when you’re away. And when you’re doubling up on things you already own and flying back home with baggage weight restrictions, that’s never a good idea.
But we’ve been quite lucky over the years and found that most places have everything you need (and sometimes more!). Some of the places we’ve stayed in offered lovely welcome gifts (in the shape of local food or drink), and even some amazing tableware and crockery! But wisely, we’ve often made the decision (with young children) to use our own plastic plates instead.
The biggest advantage of staying in a self-catering apartment is that you get to cook at home. And while that’s not some people’s idea of a holiday, we found it’s realistically a lot easier with young children. I don’t quite like the term ‘fussy eaters’ (and personally don’t use it). But let’s just say that if we stayed in a hotel for every holiday we go to, our children would end up eating chips at every meal every single day! Not cool.
Our self-catering holidays
Over the years, we’ve had loads of these holidays.
- Los Cristianos, Tenerife (April 2011) – note that this was at the time of William and Kate’s royal wedding, and it was warmer in London than it was in Tenerife! Oh, well.
- Sandown, Isle of Wight (July 2011) – this was a long weekend trip.
- Marina di Massa, Tuscany, Italy (June 2012 and July 2013) – we hired a villa where we stayed with my parents and my brother and sister-in-law.
- Almunecar, Spain (April 2015) – we had a fab villa with our own outdoor swimming pool. Our youngest was just starting to move (bum shuffle, to be precise), and the other two boys (6 and 3 at the time) hugely enjoyed the swimming pool.
- Malta (March 2016) – we stayed in a very spacious aparthotel which gave us the best of both worlds. It was cleaned daily, but we had the freedom to cook and eat whatever we wanted.
- Quartu Stant’Elena, South of Sardinia, Italy (August 2016) – stunning villa on top of a hill which allowed us to visit different beaches every day. Rental car definitely needed for this one.
- Mykonos, Greece (October 2017) – another great location, albeit maybe a bit too secluded (the closest shop was a 10-minute drive away). We got to explore the island during the off-peak season, and it was just a great, peaceful holiday.
- Lavagna, Italy (August 2018) – I spent 5 days here with the boys and my mum, so we could go to the beach with my nephew and niece who were staying nearby. Great to have the cousins together.
- Gibraltar and Benahavis, Spain, (October 2018) – always tricky to find hot weather in Europe during the October half-term holidays, but we stayed in a huge apartment complex with various outdoors swimming pools available. It was very quiet, and the boys braved the cold pool water, so another hit after all.
The camping holiday
We bought our tent in 2016 if I’m not mistaken. And we originally used it overnight locally around June time of that year with some friends. But we had our first ‘proper’ camping holiday on the Isle of Wight in August 2017. We stayed in a campsite called Ninham, with great facilities (including an outdoor swimming pool), which I definitely recommend.
We’ve also just returned from a camping holiday near Newquay, in Cornwall (August 2019). And we all really enjoyed it. We booked an electric grass pitch at Newperran, which we went to check out last year during the August Bank Holiday weekend. (And if you want to check it out, here’s a post on the benefits of living by the sea that I wrote after we returned from that mini-break).
Back then, we didn’t bring the tent but stayed in a static caravan (not knowing you have to bring your own towels!). And we can definitely recommend the campsite – it’s an incredibly family-friendly location.
The hotel stay
We’ve done a few of these over the years, but it’s not our preference. And that’s simply because while the children are still young, it’s just easier for us to be able to make them food they like (and that they will actually eat). Finding meals they’ll all enjoy when we go out can be a bit of a hit and miss. And if you’re staying away for a week or longer, eating out at every single meal becomes really hard (and expensive too, of course!). Plus, as a family of 5, we’re finding it increasingly harder to find hotels that can accommodate us!
Our hotel-stay holidays
- Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt (March 2010) – we went there to celebrate my 30th birthday and only had one boy at the time. He was 13 months old, and aside from the nightmare we had with mosquito bites, he got ill during this holiday. I can’t tell you whether we realised what was wrong with him. But I have vivid memories of us trying to convince him to take this pink-looking medicine that he just did not want. A month or so later, he got ill again, with a serious UTI that had moved to his kidneys (a UTI we’re pretty sure he got in Egypt), and we ended up being hospitalised in Italy for 5 days during the Easter holidays that year. It’s the only time we’ve ever missed our flight back home (because we were in hospital!). And to be fair, we’re really lucky he didn’t suffer permanent damage from that infection, but he had to be monitored for several years after that.
- Agadir, Morocco (March 2013) – I wasn’t sure about this one after what happened in Egypt, but we were all okay on this one. We had two children by this point and had a lovely stay in an all-inclusive resort.
- Malta (April 2014) – we LOVED Malta. So much so, that we went back two years later but to a different location. The hotel we stayed in was lovely, but the only restaurant didn’t really serve any child-friendly food, so we had to go and eat out a lot.
- Medina and Mecca, Saudi Arabia (February 2014) – we went for Umrah in 2014 (while I was pregnant with our third son). And we stayed in a really lovely hotel in Medina (the breakfast was amazing there). Medina truly is an amazing place!
- New Forest and Boscombe, (June 2014) – probably one of the poshest places we’ve ever been to, this was a freebie from my employer to celebrate my 10 years working for them. We stayed there with the children (and my heavily pregnant belly) for two nights. And the highlight for them was seeing bunny rabbits jumping around outside the room window (and using a softball inside the room!).
- Kuala Lumpur and Penang, Malaysia, and Singapore (April 2019) – we stayed in 4 different hotels during this holiday. The Kuala Lumpur one was an aparthotel, and it was fab and spacious. The Singapore one was lovely but way too tiny for a family of 5. Thankfully, the resort I’d picked for our 7-night stay in Penang was great (and had food the boys liked). So it all worked out.
Staying with friends
If you’re lucky enough to have friends or family who live in lovely places, go and visit them! My parents live in Italy, so we go and stay with them often – every Christmas and at least once or twice more either in the summer or during the half-term holidays if we’re not going away elsewhere.
But we’ve also had a couple of other trips further away:
- Toronto, Canada (July 2015) – this was a family wedding, and I had the added challenge of packing 3 outfits for every single one of us to attend the various wedding ceremonies. (And that’s 15 outfits, by the way!). Plus the rest… (I’m great at packing, if you ask me).
- Reunion Island (April 2017 and April 2018) – for those who don’t know (and most people don’t, to be fair), Reunion Island is a French department near Mauritius. It’s an 11-hour flight from Paris. And we’re very lucky to have been able to go not once but twice and stay with friends we met in London back in 2006. We had so much fun on our first trip in 2017 that we decided nothing would beat that. So we went back in 2018. But on our first day there, the Husband had a bit of a freak accident and broke a vertebra in his back. So it was still an adventure, but not quite for the same reasons as the previous year! If anything, I’ve learnt that you should NEVER travel anywhere without insurance.
Now, we’ve only been on a cruise once, and it was in 2009. So it’s been a while! We took a one-week Mediterranean cruise to Turkey and Greece (flying from the UK to Crete and back).
At the time, we only had one child who was 6 months old when we traveled. He was right at the weaning stage. And I remember packing all these ready-made food jars I bought to feed him. We did baby-led weaning with our other children. So in hindsight, I probably could have avoided all the processed food. But I guess I didn’t know at the time!
Being on a cruise with a 6-month old was very easy – it’s probably the perfect age. He wasn’t mobile yet and spent a lot of time in his pushchair when out and about and generally chilling out in our cabin when the ship was on the move. We easily found highchairs available at all the restaurants. And having picked this cruise as our first real holiday after having children, we certainly felt like we could do this!
So there you go – 5 types of holiday we’ve had with our children. If you would like any recommendations or more details on any of the places we’ve stayed in, just leave a comment or drop me a message on Instagram.
Which type of child-friendly holiday have you tried or would you recommend? Do you have a go-to type of holiday? Did this post inspire you to try other types?