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1. Oliver’s Travels
With a huge choice of self-catering accommodation, from waterfront villas in Greece to chateaus in France that could’ve been plucked straight out of a Disney film, Oliver’s Travels takes the legwork out of creating your dream family holiday.
With destinations ranging from the UK to Europe, the US and beyond (we’re looking at you, Bali), the easy-to-navigate website has something for even the pickiest traveller and prices to cater for a wide range of budgets.
Although our testers were impressed with the properties on offer, a couple did mention that some of the villas were less suited to small children than others, since not all properties have pool barriers, so we’d recommend bearing this in mind.
Mum of 2 and MFM Consumer & Reviews Editor, Christy, says: ‘Lovely range of family properties. The box of travel goodies they send to customers, including keys for items such as plug adapters and phone holders, is a lovely bonus to build excitement ahead of your holiday, too.’
We like the modern Villa Rufina* in Mallorca, not least for its ideal location within easy walking distance of the bustling resort of Alcúdia (which also happens to enjoy some of the best beaches in the Balearics).
With 2 bedrooms sleeping up to 4 people, and a private pool, set in a pretty garden complete with barbecue and a pizza oven, it’s a great choice for a relaxed family break.
*7 nights at the Villa Rufina in Alcúdia, Mallorca, in August 2020, approx. £2,111
Available from: Oliver’s Travels
2. Martinhal Family Hotels and Resorts
Family-friendly luxury? Yes, please! “‘If you are looking for a luxury family holiday, Martinhal offers some lovely hotels and villas, with everything you need for a week’s stay,’ says MFM testers and mum of 1, Rebecca.
And yep, we really do mean everything. Take the stunning Sagres resort in the Algarve* (one of four in the company’s impressive portfolio), where you’ll find a baby concierge service, allowing you to pre-book essentials like pushchairs, potties and sterilisers; a creche, as well as a kids’, tween and teen club; four large heated swimming pools and three toddler pools, not to mention bonus point-earning additions like a games room and BMX track. Plus, all 3 restaurants offer carefully tailored children’s menus (including fresh purees for babies) and designated children’s play areas. See what we mean?
Accommodation-wise, it’s swoon-worthy stuff, ranging from slick and stylish rooms in the main hotel to more private garden houses and villas.
Of course, high-end holidays tend to come with a high-end price tag and there are also some hidden extras worth considering. In high season, the cost for the creche, for example, is additional, which means prices can really rack up. If you prefer to just pay one amount up front for your holiday and have everything included, this might not tick all the boxes. However, if your budget can stretch to it, lucky, lucky you. Room in your suitcase for one more?
*7 nights’ accommodation for 2 adults and 2 children, in a 2-bedroom villa, in July 2020, approx. £6,237
Available from: Martinhal Resorts
3. Bookings For You
This is a great place to head if your heart’s set on a villa holiday in Italy or France. As well as dreamy accommodation – imagine postcard-like farmhouses in Tuscany and elegant villas in Provence – you’ll find excellent travel guides, too, helping you to select the right destination for your needs.
MFM tester, Tara, says: ‘Great website which gives clear prices for the season and simple info on how big the villas are. Also, like that you can choose by region.’
Although the destinations are undeniably beautiful, some of the properties are clearly better suited to families with young children than others. Unless your kids are older, apartments with balconies are likely to be a no-no – regardless of that incredible view. And lots of the places on offer have a traditional, rustic feel, which although charming for some, may not suit your taste if you prefer a more modern, streamlined vibe.
Il Camino*, a 2-bedroom apartment close to the beautiful village of Siena in Tuscany, is as quaint as it gets. Situated in a 17th century farmhouse, nestled in beautiful gardens, vineyards and olive groves, it has a communal pool shared with five other apartments. The quintessential Italian escape.
*7 nights’ accommodation at Il Camino in August 2019 approx. £811
Available from: Bookings For You
4. Ski Famille
If you’ve never been skiing before as a family before, knowing where to start planning your trip can be a real head-scratcher.
As the name suggests, families are at the heart of its French mountain trips, so to keep you and your little one contented, you’ll find optional in-chalet childcare on offer 6 days a week, with UK-recruited carers including qualified nannies, teachers and nurses.
There are also playrooms, evening babysitting services, a kids’ club, specialised ski-ing lessons for children age 3 and up, and all the essentials you could possibly need for a hassle-free break on the slopes – whether it be high-chairs, changing mats, sterilisers or baby monitors…the list is endless. The Chalet Aigle* in Les Bruyeres has spacious family suites, a cinema, hot tub, sauna and some seriously jaw-dropping views.
Although some of the privileges do come at extra cost, our reviewers didn’t think the overall price was especially high for the quality on offer, and parents travelling with babies up to 24 months receive a complimentary baby pack, including handy items like nappies, wipes and homemade purees at every mealtime, which should go down well.
Mum of 2, Magda, says, ‘Love that the stress is taken out of a family ski holiday and that there are options to spend time together as well as using the childcare/ski school. Well thought through food options and visible transfer times make planning easy. Great idea and decent value.’
*7 nights’ accommodation in February 2020 from £1,359 per adult, including flights, transfers, breakfast, dinner and wine. Children’s places are reduced depending on age and the number of children in your party, but for a family of 4, with two children aged between 5 and 10, expect to pay around £4,500.
Available from: Ski Famille
5. Center Parcs
Chances are you know someone who’s been to Center Parcs. Just as likely? They’ve been more than once. It’s just that kind of place. The go-to for family getaways, without the fuss of navigating airports and regardless of the weather, there are five UK locations to choose from, with the first in Ireland opening this year.
Accommodation varies from the classic woodland lodge to executive houses and even luxurious ‘treehouses’, but all can enjoy the famous Center Parcs ‘experience’ – a beautiful lake and sandy beach, both of which really come alive with water sports in summer; acres of car-free woodland made for riding a bike in, and a subtropical swimming paradise that’ll prove a major draw for kids.
Unlike the activities on offer – and there are countless ones to choose from, including archery, pony riding, adventure golf and bowling – entry’s free, and with rides, play areas, rapids and whirlpools, there’s enough to occupy children for hours.
A lifesaver when the great British weather doesn’t want to play ball! And if you don’t want to leave your four-legged friends at home, dogs are permitted in some of the lodges, too.
Elveden Forest* in Suffolk has one of the largest water sports’ lakes and is the only to offer the exhilarating cable water ski – a must for adrenaline lovers. Or if nature’s more your thing, keep your eyes peeled for the muntjac deer who call the forest home.
Our top tip? Center Parcs holidays are notoriously full-on, so steal an afternoon away from the kids and head to the highly-rated Aqua Sana Spa for some much-needed R&R.
4 nights’ accommodation in a 2-bedroom Woodland Lodge in August 2020 costs £1049.
Available from: Center Parcs
6. Luxury Family Hotels
Priding itself on putting family at the forefront, it’s no surprise that when it comes to keeping kids – and, in turn, grown-ups – happy, Luxury Family Hotels has it sussed.
Offering a complimentary Oftsed-registered creche, a break in one of the company’s five stunning hotels, serves up the best of both worlds: precious time for parents to be alone and a chance to make memories with the smaller crew members, too.
Our pick of an impressive bunch is Fowey Hall*, a beautiful coastal retreat in Cornwall. Enjoy trips en-masse to the beach armed with buckets, spades, nets and wellies (all available to borrow) by day or let the kids run wild in the grounds, splash in the swimming pool or have fun in the Four Bears Den, where they’ll find toys, arts and crafts, and dress-up.
Older kids, meanwhile, will be impressed with the video games and cinema room. Children’s meals are served all day, with a high tea at 5pm, meaning grown-ups can take full advantage of the baby listening service and enjoy an adults’ only dinner while the babes snooze. Sounds blissful, right?
This is a real treat of a trip if you’re after a UK getaway but price wise, the clue’s in the name. Compared to Center Parcs, for example, a five-day break in any of these impressive hotels comes in at a fair bit more. But since what you’re getting is a stay in beautiful accommodation – from a Jacobean manor to a New Forest hunting lodge – plus some child-free time, should you desire, thrown in, it could just be worth its weight in gold.
*One night for up to five people sharing a large family suite in August 2020, including breakfast and dinner, costs around £304.
Read our full review of the collection’s gorgeous New Park Manor, Hampshire.
Available from: Luxury Family Hotels
7. Tots To Travel
Think traveling abroad with kids under the age of 5 sounds like more hassle than it’s worth? Tots To Travel might just prove you wrong.
Head to its website and choose from holidays in villas and hotels across Europe, all geared up for even the tiniest of travellers – that’s all-inclusive dining; spacious, safety-checked accommodation; barriered pools and exciting play areas. And compared to other family-focused holiday companies, the price is far easier on the purse-strings.
We like the Tots Exclusive Experience, designed and created for families with children under school age, which comprises hotels offering guaranteed winners like play corners, complete with books, games and toys, and toddler and baby kits containing all the essentials you’ll need, meaning even less to carry in your suitcase. Hurrah!
Check out the Green Garden* resort in Tenerife – as recommended by blogger and author, The Unmumsy Mum – where you’ll find fun bedrooms, designed just for kids; a wealth of activities to keep them busy and brilliant family dining options.
*7 nights in a 2-bedroom apartment with terrace, including all food, snacks and drinks, in August 2020, costs approx. £1,632.
Available from: Tots To Travel
8. Luxury Lodges
Interested in a staycation and want to combine the wow-factor of Luxury Family Hotels with the ease of Center Parcs’ self-catering? Enter Luxury Lodges – a collection of beautiful resorts across the UK with an impressive choice of accommodation, from traditional cottages to modern apartments, all equipped to make your family feel right at home.
The stylish Farmhouse apartments in Whitbarrow* provide a perfect spot in which to enjoy the Lake District. Sleeping up to 6 people in three bedrooms – all with en suites – there’s a well-designed kitchen, generously sized living area, plus all the day-to-day items a family needs, from bathrobes and toiletries, to vacuum cleaners and ironing boards.
The jewel in the crown, though, is the private terrace and hot tub. MFM tester, Anna, says, ‘The appeal of this family holiday seems to lie in the breath-taking locations and lovely quality and design.’
While every resort has a pool and some have outdoor play areas, there are no creches and, unlike Center Parcs, you won’t find a huge number of activities on offer. It’s also worth noting that dogs aren’t allowed. However, the accommodation is faultless, and for families wanting to spend quality time together in stunning surroundings, Luxury Lodges is surely one to consider.
*A 3-night weekend break in September 2019 costs around £844
Available from: Luxury Lodges