Baby friendly holidays
By Mark Frary
Looking for baby-friendly holidays? Here’s some great advice on why it’s never too early to start travelling with your children. I will also give you suggestions on where to go and how to plan your trip, and recommend the best companies that will ensure you not only have a fun and stress-free holiday, but also get some all-important ‘me time’.
Should I go on holiday with a baby?
Of course you should! Babies are not only perfectly portable, but they also usually travel free of charge. They can’t dictate where you go or what you should do (make the most of it while it lasts) and locals in most countries will make a big cheek-squidging fuss of them – which can be a huge morale boost for weary new parents. Choose the right holiday and you can even get some well-deserved parent pampering.
Reality check? We’ve all been there. New parents are stalked by fatigue; they’re sleep-deprived, irritable and can barely summon the energy for a trip to the shops, let alone get their heads around a family holiday. And then there’s the ‘raised eyebrow’ brigade – those unsympathetic fellow travellers who seem generally peeved by the mere presence of anything in nappies.
There are also practicalities to consider. Babies are unable to communicate when things are wrong (except through the obvious medium of bawling) and you need to be extra-vigilant with things like sun, heat and water.
Ultimately, though, the art of happy, successful baby-friendly holidays has been beautifully refined by a caring bunch of travel operators, offering everything from self-catering cottage breaks to mollycoddling at luxury resorts.
Note: if you are looking for childcare, check out our pick of the best holiday kids clubs for babies.
Holidays for babies in the UK
If your priority is minimum fuss, minimum travel and minimum disruption to hard-won sleep and feeding routines, then stick to the UK. Centrally located and easy to reach, the Cotswold Water Park Four Pillars Hotel has well-equipped self-catering apartments and some great dining options, including a take-away service from the local pub. You can re-energise yourself at the hotel’s spa, walk buggy-friendly paths around the water park, feed the ducks and dabble baby’s feet at one of the UK’s best inland sandy beaches.
If you crave the coast, Cornwall has several equally baby-friendly places to stay.
I recommend Sands Resort Hotel in Porth, near Newquay. It really pushes the boat out for new parents, providing everything from family suites to free bottle warmers, sterilisers and a baby-listening service. Also on Cornwall’s invigorating north coast, Gwel an Mor offers a luxurious self-catering option with its fabulous timber lodges, onsite spa, restaurant and wildlife centre.
With all the expense that comes with starting a family, many new parents are understandably counting the pennies. A self-catering cottage holiday offers excellent value, particularly outside the school holidays. Classic Cottages have around 120 baby-friendly properties in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, while
Holidays for babies in Europe
How about piling everything you need into the car – from jars of baby food to bales of nappies – and setting off for a self-catering break in a villa or holiday village? Travel to France in the shoulder seasons of May-June or September-October and you not only sidestep peak-season price hikes, but also avoid the gripe-inducing heat of July and August.
If the prospect of long car journeys with a fractious baby strapped in the back fills you with dread, try Siblu Villages. They’ve got great-value holiday villages throughout France, including several just over the Channel in Normandy and Brittany. Siblu’s Bubbles club provide non-stop fun for littl’uns as young as one, while baby essentials (like cots, high chairs and buggies) can be pre-booked if you want to cut down on the packing.
I also like Pierre & Vacances – they’ve got 26 self-catering properties and holiday villages all within 200 miles of French ports. Some, like Belle Dune, located between the sea, dunes and lakes of the Bair de Somme region, offer professional childcare for babies as young as three months.
Of course, there is another way to ensure high-quality babysitting on holiday: take the grandparents with you! In fact, by staying at one of the properties offered by The Big Domain there will almost certainly be room for both sets of grandparents and perhaps some aunts and uncles as well. Sitting pretty in the Dordogne, the spectacular Chateau de la Couronne sleeps up to 26 and has its own music room, cinema and private beautician.
For something more modest, try Casas Cantabricas with its fine portfolio of self-catering villas in northern Spain. The long ferry ride to Bilbao or Santander will appeal to parents wary of taking their babies on flights, while the Basque coast has some lovely sandy beaches that are generally less crowded and sunbaked than their costa counterparts on the Mediterranean.
That’s not to say we’re ruling out the Med for baby-friendly holidays. Far from it. As long as you take sensible precautions against sun and heat exposure – especially if you have to travel during mid-Summer – the Mediterranean is gaga with baby-friendly villas and resorts.
Brownie points for Vintage Travel, which not only has a fantastic array of villas right across the region, but also lists villas with fenced pools – an essential requirement if you’ve got a baby that’s discovered the liberating joys of crawling.
The island of Menorca is particularly good for babies with gentle sandy beaches, short airport transfers and a great range of villas. If you have children of varying ages you could go for a family villa in Ibiza. Also try Cachet Travel for villas on Crete, and Oliver’s Travels for family villas in Italy – anything from a Tuscan retreat to a farmhouse in Umbria.
If it’s a fully-fledged resort you’re after, I can’t fault Forte Village on the southern tip of Sardinia. A cluster of eight hotels, it offers just about every leisure facility and childcare option you can imagine – a paradise for kids of all ages and a total break guaranteed for parents.
Boasting an Ofsted-accredited crèche, the Sani Resort on the Greek peninsula of Halkidiki is another leading family resort in the Med, while the five-star Daios Cove on the island of Crete has a renowned Scott Dunn Explorers club where babies as young as four months can enjoy fun and games with qualified childcare professionals – not to mention a complimentary supply of swim nappies.
The Westin Resort Costa Navarino on the Greek mainland has great facilities for babies, and the creche takes children from four months old. On the Algarve, the Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel has a choice of luxury hotel rooms or self-catering villas, plus other thoughtful touches that all new parents will appreciate, such as a crèche and dedicated baby concierge service.
Slightly further afield, the Canary Islands are a great year-round destination, with a wide choice of baby-friendly accommodation. Our top picks for parent pampering and family facilities include Lanzarote’s Princesa Yaiza Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton, Abama on Tenerife.
Also try Club Med, which has around 20 all-inclusive resorts in Europe and beyond offering childcare for babies aged from four months. The Baby Club Med programme revolves around your child’s sleeping and feeding patterns and includes plenty of stimulating activities.
Long-haul holidays for babies
Plan with military precision for a long-haul flight with your baby. Request bulkhead seats where skycots can be fitted and don’t forget to pack all baby essentials in your hand luggage. Feed your baby on takeoff and landing to reduce discomfort caused by changes in air pressure and don’t be afraid to ask flight attendants for help, warming baby food etc.
Try to travel outside the main holiday seasons when airports and flights are less busy – and fly direct. Not all of the islands in the Caribbean, for example, have non-stop flights from the UK or Europe. Beaches Resorts, however, feature properties on Jamaica and the Turks & Caicos that are served by direct British Airways flights from London. Antigua is also a good choice – it has fabulous beachfront hotels with excellent childcare, such as the Verandah Resort & Spa. In Barbados, the Almond Beach Resort has a nursery for babies and tots aged two and under.
Beachcomber Tours’ superb line-up of family-friendly hotels on Mauritius offers an Indian Ocean alternative – great weather, warm seas and no jet lag.
For more ideas please visit 101 Family Holidays (you can select “babies” on the homepage).
Last updated: 26 May 2016
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