Winter sun: Family fun vs. romantic retreat

Winter sun: Family fun vs. romantic retreat

Keep couples and families happy by sending them to the right winter-sun hotspots, says Katie McGonagle

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Dreaming of winter sun is about more than just replacing dreary grey clouds with bright blue skies – we want something to look forward to without waiting until next summer rolls around.

So amid all that anticipation, there’s nothing worse than jetting off on a romantic break only to find hordes of screaming children scuppering any chance of peace. Equally, no family wants to feel out of place if their kids fancy splashing around in the pool or having fun with new friends.

There are plenty of properties catering expertly for each market, so the key is picking the right resort to suit your client, whether they want to explore exotic climes or stick to more familiar destinations.

COUPLES: ROMANCE UNPLUGGED



Where better to find time for each other than the idyllic Indian Ocean? While there are some great family options out there, this region is rightly renowned for couples, and nowhere more than at adult-only Paradise Cove Boutique in Mauritius. With just 67 rooms, an enviable northeast coast location and romantic touches like little love-nests on the beach, this is Travel 2’s top choice for a quiet getaway.

If Mauritius takes your clients’ fancy, it’s also worth pointing out Beachcomber Hotels has up to 25% off holidays between December 1-28 at all but one of its eight island properties.

In the Maldives, Shangri La’s Villingili Resort & Spa offers the ideal solution for couples rowing over whose hobby takes precedence. Its golf and wellness package, from £502 per night (four-night minimum stay, valid until December 23), gives guests a daily round of golf plus $400 spa credit and a dolphin cruise for two.

Those bluer-than-blue waters also set the scene for Explore’s Maldives dhoni cruise. Escorted tours might not be the first thought for winter sun, but this relaxing cruise past remote atolls – stopping for swimming, snorkelling and local fishing villages – more than ticks off the sun, sand and sea criteria.

Explore’s Islands in the Sun itinerary, around Thailand’s Koh Racha Yai, Koh Lanta and Koh Hai, offers a similarly laid-back vibe. It is part of the operator’s ‘edge’ range aimed at 18-30s.

On the subcontinent, Goa offers much-needed sunshine without breaking the bank, plus a gentle introduction to Indian culture. You don’t necessarily have to turn to an India specialist: mainstream operators such as Cosmos and Olympic Holidays feature Goa in their brochures, with the latter recommending the four-star DoubleTree by Hilton as a particularly peaceful escape, though still close to lively Calangute, Baga and Ingo’s popular Saturday night market (a week’s B&B is £1,069 in January, including flights and transfers).

COUPLES: GO WEST



Tropical scenery, sunny skies and dazzling white-sand beaches – the Caribbean is made for couples, and it’s at its most verdant during our winter when the hurricane season has subsided.

Virgin Holidays’ Charlotte McEwan recommends honeymoon favourite Saint Lucia: “It has a variety of adult-only resorts, including three Sandals properties, which allow guests to benefit from exchange privileges where they ‘stay at one, play at all’. Alternatively, Rendezvous, the boutique hotel for couples, is perfect for those wanting a romantic getaway. Excursions for couples to enjoy include a mud bath at the sulphur springs, rainforest walks and horse riding.” A week’s all-inclusive at the latter costs £1,859 with Virgin Atlantic flights departing December 9.

Mexico is also proving popular across the board. Kuoni has seen strong bookings for new five-star adult resort Secrets The Vine in Cancun, while Caribtours has added three properties for 2014: boutique Riviera Maya hotels Esencia and Viceroy Riviera Maya, plus over-18s’ luxury all-inclusive property Le Blanc Spa Resort in Cancun.

Also catering solely to grown ups, Valentin Imperial Maya Resort & Spa (pictured below) has a host of romantic extras, from beachfront dining to wine-tasting or spa packages (with 50% off a second spa place if couples want to get pampered together). Hayes & Jarvis offers a seven-night all-inclusive stay for £1,149 with BA flights on November 12.

The popularity of adult only properties is reflected in openings such as Couples Barbados in September, featuring the brand’s classic upscale all inclusive offering. This covers premium-brand drinks, watersports such as diving and Hobie Cat sailing, airport transfers, green fees at The Barbados Golf Club, sunset catamaran cruises and even wedding and renewal of vows ceremonies.

Winter Sun

COUPLES: CLOSE AT HAND



Don’t overlook short-haul sun-spots either: while the rest of Egypt is suffering, Red Sea resorts remain outside the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s no-go zone. Adult-only Makadi Spa Hotel is a five-star property offering couples’ activities such as yoga, beach massages and a jeep safari trip (from £36); Red Sea Holidays has a seven-night all-inclusive stay for £729 with flights from Gatwick or Manchester on December 12.

The Mediterranean isn’t quite sunbathing central in winter months, but moderate temperatures still make it a welcome respite as the UK shivers. Sovereign Luxury Travel recommends high-end escapes such as adult-only Constantinou Bros Asimina Suites Hotel in Cyprus (from £897 half-board including flights on October 18), and Lindos Blu Hotel & Suites in Rhodes.

Malta also attracts plenty of Brits seeking a milder climate; Belleair Holidays’ winter-sun programme includes two new Ryanair routes from Leeds Bradford and Glasgow Prestwick, and free private transfers for five star bookings in Malta or Gozo.

FAMILIES: CHRISTMAS WITH CHARACTER



Finding family holidays is a little trickier – not only do you have school term times to contend with, but it’s got to offer equal amounts of fun to stressed-out parents and entertainment-hungry offspring.

Sure-fire hits to suit the whole brood don’t get much more reliable than Orlando and Los Angeles, where kids both big and little will enjoy the theme parks, though without the tropical temperatures and mammoth queues seen in the summer.

Funway favours five-star Rosen Inn International in Orlando for its Kids Eat Free programme and proximity to Universal Orlando Resort, while the three-star Holiday Inn Anaheim Resort in Orange County, California, is similarly just minutes from Disneyland Resort and has kids’ suites with jungle-themed playrooms.

FAMILIES: FARAWAY PLACES



Need a compromise between parents seeking peace, and kids who want to play all day? Opt for a kids’ club to keep everyone happy. Kids will be screaming ‘shiver me timbers’ after a day at Pirates Cove Kids’ Club in Savannah Beach, Barbados, while older siblings hide away at Finn’s Lodge for all the latest gaming, pool-playing and a chance to record their own music.

Over in Antigua, Carlisle Bay has cultivated a strong family reputation. It has a crèche for under-twos ($15 per hour); free Caribbean Cool Kids’ Club for under-sixes, with paddling pool, sandpit and jungle gym; a Crew Blue programme during school holidays for seven to 12-year-olds who fancy raft-building, five-a-side football and zip-wiring; and teen club Crush’s chill-out room, watersports, shopping trips and barbecue parties. A week in a ground-floor Beach Suite, with breakfast, flights, private transfers and lounge at Gatwick, costs £11,595 for two adults and two children under six from Caribtours.

With its reputation for romance, Bermuda might not spring to mind straightaway, but Nicky Shafe of Prestige Holidays says: “Bermuda is an extremely family-friendly destination as it’s so safe, easy to get around, and offers plenty of attractions and watersports to keep all ages happy.

“I would recommend the Fairmont Southampton Hotel for families. It’s on the South Shore but only a short ferry, taxi or bus ride to the capital. It has a gorgeous pink-sand beach, amazing choice of restaurants and a year-round programme of activities for children. Those up to 18 also stay free if sharing a room with their parents, and there is a very generous second room discount.”

A week’s room-only for a family of four in two rooms costs £5,360 in November, including BA flights and private transfers with Prestige Holidays; meals are free for under-fives and half-price for six to 11-year-olds.

FAMILIES: SHORT AND SWEET



Keeping a screaming toddler quiet for a long-haul flight is enough to fill some parents with dread, so remind them of options closer to hand. Dubai is a firm family favourite with action-packed properties like Atlantis the Palm, where an on-site waterpark with tots’ Splashers section, marvellous aquarium, kids’ and teens’ clubs, Dolphin Bay, and more besides means the only worry will be finding time to explore beyond the resort.

The same could be said of Sani Resort in Halkidiki, where the astonishing range of children’s activities within the four-hotel resort – crèche for babies aged four-months-plus with Ofsted-standard staff, kids’ club, football, watersports, cooking classes and spa treatments to name but a few – would keep families happy for far more than a week. Sovereign offers seven nights’ half-board at Sani Beach Club from £1,485 for a family of three, including a free child place, easyJet flights, airport lounge and private transfers during October half-term.

Nearby Cyprus doesn’t lack for child-oriented properties either, although Olympic Holidays recommends checking which hotels offer children’s activities outside peak season. Le Méridien Limassol Spa & Resort has a free Penguin Village club for kids aged three to 12 even in winter, featuring a mini-football pitch, bouncy castle, pool and climbing frames; family rooms sleep up to four, from £2,107 in December, including flights from Gatwick and transfers with Olympic. The Four Seasons also runs its kids’ club off-peak, while Louis Nausicaa Beach and Althea Beach in Protaras and Phaethon Beach in Paphos have year-round kids’ menus, Santelino mini-clubs and partitioned family rooms. The Paphos property also offers a Family World Centre with pushchairs, sterilising units, baby monitors and high chairs.

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