Family holidays offer precious downtime together. But that’s not to say you can’t also enjoy an afternoon off. Here we suggest some brilliant tried and tested resorts and hotels with kids clubs in the UK and Europe.
Holidays with young kids? Some argue there’s no such thing… By the time you’ve packed and flown, you need a holiday to recover. Of course, in your brochure holiday, the sun is shining and you’re wafting around in a kaftan while the children eat ice cream and splash in the pool and someone takes beautiful photos of you all. You dine out together early evening, tanned and smiling (a little later on account of the balmy weather and lie-ins), simultaneously enjoying a sundowner and your children’s charming company.
But while we all enjoy family time, it’s also ok to admit that you want to be able to doze off while reading a trashy novel in a straw hat, safe in the knowledge that they won’t drink the sun cream or drown one another while attempting to ‘swim to that island over there’.
So instead of palming them off on an irresponsible-looking teenager while you worry through a spa treatment or plummet down the black runs, choose a hotel with a brilliant kids club and enjoy the win-win.
Here are 5 of our favourite European hotels with kids clubs:
Marbella Club Hotel, Spain
The staunchly glam hangout of locals, ex-pats and tourists alike, the Marbella Club Hotel has given over one of its best villas – formerly the private summer-house of Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe – to create a superlative kids club that frankly, takes the trophy. The palette of bleached wood makes it feel like a miniature Daylesford, but beyond the extraordinarily cool design (courtesy of Spanish designers Minimec) the activities and staff make the club not only a guilt-free treat for parents but a truly magical hangout for the kids.
Cooking classes in the open kitchen teach children the entire process from planting to plate, using ingredients grown in the kids club vegetable and herb garden before they sit down to a lunch they have created (‘It was delicious Mummy, much better than Pizza Express’). Children can create their own perfumes in the Aroma workshop, learn flamenco, get creative in an art class or meet eagles and owls during a visit from a local handler. They can chill out in the library, get messy in the pottery room or bang around in the courtyard, dipping their toes in the lagoon.
The staff are young, energetic and playful – a number of them were former students of the club manager Guy, himself an ex-teacher. Overall it’s so breezy, stylish, engaging, playful and creative, the problem will not be getting enough children into the club, but keeping the parents out.
Book It: www.marbellaclub.com
Mini VIP 1850, L’Apogee Courchevel, France
While Oetker hotels are king of superlative experiences for those with deep pockets, rest assured it isn’t only the grown-ups who benefit. At the Mini VIP kids club in this lavish mountain bolt-hole, you can forget the usual converted damp basement or bolted-on, ring-fenced outbuilding. This space is as considered as anything else in the hotel.
Extremely spacious with an igloo at its centre, the kids club is staffed by ‘Petit VIP’ ambassadors who are on hand to play games and lead activities from dawn till dusk. From simple board games to à la carte experiences such as magic tricks, jewellery and perfume making. They can make chocolate or do explosive science experiments, while older kids partake in movie night or have a go at making crepes.
The other kids there carry an air of entitlement that you may not wish to rub off on your offspring, but with any luck yours might come home wearing the wrong trainers (Dior probably), so you can eBay them to pay for the holiday.
Book It: www.lapogeecourchevel.com
The Peligoni Club, Zakynthos, Greece
If you live in Suffolk or SW6, you will no doubt have been invited to someone’s villa at the Peligoni club before now, one of the key holiday hotspots for those who like to stick stoically within their socio-economic category. But for outdoorsy families and sporty kids who want to enjoy active time together as well being pleasantly off-duty in familiar company, this hotel is perfect.
Hit the gin-clear waters of north Zakynthos and take the kids sailing with RYA instructors on hand, or let them go kayaking and paddle-boarding while you knock about on the tennis courts. Then while you relax/hob-nob/retire to your villa they can check into the kids club, where they can get competitive over ping-pong or join in the pool volleyball.
Older kids will love the dressing-up parties and little ones fall in love with the young, charismatic staff. It’s hardly surprising that the repeat rate is sky high, so holiday friends often end up meeting year after year.
Book it: www.peligoni.com
If you’re keen on Greece but fancy something a little more low key, Sani resort is a firm Mr Fox favourite.
Tresanton, St Mawes, Cornwall, UK
While the kids club is only fully active during the school holidays, there is always an Ofsted registered nanny on hand to arrange day trips and entertain children. During the holidays though, is when this place comes into its own for families. Ostensibly a grown-up hotel, the food, staff and general attitude of the entire place make this a brilliant choice for families.
Try and book the largest three-bed family suite for space, privacy and a ships-captain bedroom with awesome bunk beds. Children will enjoy the best British summertime activities: from crabbing off the wall, to collecting shells on the beach, before heading back to make pretty collages while you take tea (read: chilled Chablis) on the terrace. The playroom is well stocked, there’s a cinema room, wendy house and crucially, high tea for younger ones between from 5.30-6.30 – extremely well received after a busy day at the rock pools.
Book It: www.tresanton.com
Go anywhere there’s a Scott Dunn Explorers club and you can rely on the fact that the children are probably having a far better time than you are. Unusually for kids clubs, they take children from 4 months, and offer a 1:2 staff ratio for younger ones. At Verdura, Scott Dunn separates the activities into age groups – Globetrotters (4months to 2 years), Adventurers (3-4 years), Voyagers (5-7) and Pioneers (8-13); offering activities tailored to each group which means no time hanging about the club getting bored.
Little ones can take golf buggy rides to the beach to find lizards, go shell hunting or have games of water balloon catch. Older kids can choose between tennis or pro golf lessons, body-boarding or pony rides, and join in with off-site trips for a little more independence.
If you are there at the beginning or end of the season, or out of the UK school holidays, expect it to be much quieter – nice (and more affordable) for you, but bear in mind there may not be a full programme of activities. There are some advantages of travelling in peak season after all.
If you aren’t booking with Scott Dunn, the resort runs it own popular kids club in high season for children aged 4-12.
BOOK IT: www.scottdunn.com
Your turn: have you stayed at any of the above? What did you think? And where have we missed? Tell us in the comments below.