Best holiday kids clubs
By Mark Frary, Editor of 101 Family Holidays
Kids’ clubs are like Marmite – you either love ‘em, or loathe ‘em. To some parents they represent the antithesis to what a family holiday should be all about (spending as much time with your children as possible during those precious couple of weeks holiday). To others, they provide much needed “me time” for relaxation and perhaps a spot of pampering.
Whatever your view, something that’s often overlooked is that kids’ clubs have come a long way since the days when hotels plonked a plastic slide or a sandpit in the garden and called it the “children’s entertainment area”.
Nowadays, kids’ clubs buzz with imaginative activities, enthusiastic staff and stimulating play areas. Check out my recommendations, below, whether you’ve got a baby or toddler in need of a professionally-run crèche, school-age kids in search of non-stop action, or teenagers looking for cool places to hang out.
* Although this article is divided by age category, many properties and operators offer kids’ clubs across a range of ages, from babies to teenagers.
Best kids clubs for babies and toddlers
The team at 101 Holidays have long admired Inghams for their comprehensive and well thought-out childcare. The company offers summer activity holidays in the lakes and mountains of Europe with low prices and selected free child places.
Its best destinations include Morzine and Chamonix in the French Alps. Most popular hotels for kids clubs include Hotel le Cret in Morzine, the Villa Paradiso in Italy’s Lake Trasimeno and the Garden Hotel Theresia in Austria.
P&O Cruises has great facilities on some of its ships, including an in-cabin baby listening service plus a night nursery for children aged six months to five years, open every day from 6pm – 2am. The ships for families with babies and toddlers include Aurora, which recently had a £26 million makeover, and Ventura, which has one of the best kids clubs afloat and a play area for under-twos. Find out more about its family cruises.
For an idea of how some family operators give littl’uns the VIP treatment, check out the weekly programme of Globetrotters – the kid’s club from Scott Dunn for ages 4 months to 2 years. I particularly like the sound of “Tobogganing Tuesday”, which features “delicious baking, a bendy bus ride and some sledging fun”. Scott Dunn also offers a private nanny service to chalet and hotel guests in Courchevel 1850, Val d’Isère, Zermatt and St Anton. And if skiing isn’t your thing, check out Scott Dunn’s impressive range of hotels with kids’ clubs – with destinations ranging from Antigua to Zanzibar.
Another global spread of baby- and toddler-friendly accommodation is available from Tots Too. A top pick would have to be the Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel in the Algarve, which boasts a kids club and creche for children from 6 months. It also recommends the Westin Resort Costa Navarino on the coast of Greece, which has extensive facilities for families and a creche that takes kids from the age of four months up to three years.
Also getting a gurgle of approval from nappy-bound travellers, the Sani Beach Club on Greece’s Halkidiki peninsula features an Ofsted-standard crèche (from age four months), run by British childcare specialists.
In Barbados, the Almond Beach Resort has a nursery for babies and tots aged two and under. It’s a big resort set on a gorgeous white sand beach, with 10 pools and a 9-hole golf course.
Best kids clubs for 4-12 year-olds
Kids this age not only need to burn off energy, they also like to be challenged, both physically and intellectually.
With three spectacular beachfront locations in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos, Beaches Resorts offer great childcare whatever age your brood. Their Pre-Teens Program, for example, is typical of the way they capture the imagination and positive energy of younger guests. A supercharged kids’ club, it offers everything from sailing, snorkelling and beach soccer to scavenger hunts, glass-bottom boat rides, pizza making and reggae jam sessions.
Mark Warner also splashes out on activities for this age group. At the San Lucianu Beach Resort, on the French island of Corsica, it has childcare included in the price for ages 3 – 17. Children can enjoy watersports, tennis and a host of other activities, supervised by experienced waterfront staff and tennis coaches.
For sporty families, I also recommend Sardinia’s Forte Village, available from Sardatur Holidays. It also features the five-star Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in Sicily, part of the exclusive Rocco Forte collection. The Verdura has a free kids club for ages 4-12 along with a two-tier swimming pool, tennis academy, Juventus Camp football academy, bike hire and golf.
Tenerife’s five-star Abama Golf & Spa Resort boasts one of the largest kids club in Europe with zones dedicated to science, astronomy, crafts and gardening.
In Dubai, the One and Only Royal Mirage The Palace has great facilities for kids including a play centre and a free programme for ages 4 to 11 years. Atlantis, The Palm has its own Aquaventure Waterpark, an open-air aquarium and kids clubs for ages 3-12 and 13-18 years.
Beachcomber Tours offers a choice of four all-inclusive hotels on Mauritius, each with a complimentary Bob Marlin Mini Club for ages 3-12.
Closer to home, Siblu Villages has free kids clubs at its holiday parks in Normandy and Brittany, The Languedoc, the Loire Valley, Charente Maritime and Aquitaine. The Pirate Club, for 5-9-year-olds, inspires teamwork through arts and crafts, treasure hunts, water fights and sports.
In the UK, Sands Resort Hotel has no fewer than four kids’ clubs. The Adventure Club, for children aged 4-7 and the O-Zone Club, for 8-12 year-olds, run sports and crafts activities, discos, falconry demonstrations and visits to Newquay Zoo and the Blue Reef Aquarium – plus, of course, all kinds of beach fun on the rugged North Cornwall coast, such as bodyboarding and coasteering.
Best kids clubs for teenagers
Beaches Resorts also have the “cool factor” for teenagers. You probably won’t see them for dust once they catch sight of the XBox 360 Game Garage, Scratch DJ Academy and TrenchTown Arcade Lounge. In Barbados, Almond Beach Resort has a teen centre along with free non-motorised watersports and a nine-hole golf course.
Also in the Caribbean, Rosewood Little Dix Bay has great activities for teenagers, plus a superb club for young kids and a weekly Pirates Party. Find more family options in the British Virgin Islands.
Last updated: 15 December 2016