Take the hassle out of family holidays by staying in an all-inclusive, writes Katie McGonagle
Parenting often gets called a full-time job, but that’s not really the case. With no evenings or weekends off, no overtime pay and no chance of a break until at least 18 (and probably not even then), it’s more demanding than any career could ever be.
That’s why an all-inclusive holiday is so appealing to the family market – mum and dad can lie back and relax knowing everything is taken care of, without the prospect of a nasty hotel bill at check-out.
That’s just as true for luxury-loving clients as the more price-conscious. Prestige Holidays marketing manager Nicky Shafe says: “We have seen a steady growth in all-inclusive breaks over the past five years. For clients that are used to four and five-star breaks, they provide a great way of enjoying a luxury getaway while sticking to a budget.”
Yet with so many all-inclusive options out there, how do you start narrowing down the search? Here, we look at a few short-haul options to suit any age.
Under-fives: Baby blues
If anyone deserves a break, it’s the parent of a pre-schooler, so pick a destination with short flight times – Thomas Cook reports the Canary Islands and Greece are most popular this year – and a property that accepts toddlers at its kids’ clubs or has a lending facility for baby equipment, such as changing mats or high chairs.
Many kids’ clubs are chargeable at this age, so be clear about what’s included and what will be payable in resort.Mark Warner’s all-inclusive Sea Garden Beach Resort in Turkey, for example, has a sliding scale of costs.
At age one, toddlers cost £180 for six half-day sessions or £360 for full days; from two to five, half-days are free but full days cost £180 for a week. From there on, all clubs are included.
Club Med likewise offers paid-for Baby and Petit Club Med sessions from four months to three years, but beyond that, sessions are free.
Many parents’ next big concern is what kids will be able to eat, but despite the reputation of all-inclusive buffets, hotels are coming up with increasingly creative dining options.
Thomson family resort Hotel Atlantica Club SunGarden in Ayia Napa, for example, gives each child a Thomson’s Diner reward card, for which they can earn stickers by choosing healthy food.
It is worth looking out for offers, discounts for travelling outside school holidays and free child places. Prestige Holidays highlights the Gloria Golf Hotel in Turkey, where a child under seven can stay free when sharing a room with their parents.
And if anything could help you close a sale, it will be Cosmos Holidays’ suggestion to upgrade guests at Dream Gran Castillo Resort in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote, to All-Inclusive Premium. Not only will they get the usual branded spirits and extras such as a 20-minute massage, but the hotel’s “first date” option entitles them to a night’s free babysitting.
School-age Kids: On the go
Once children are old enough to try a few of the activities on offer, the fun can really begin. Those with a sporty bent should opt for a resort with wide-ranging facilities such as Club Med, Mark Warner or Neilson Beachclubs, where most, if not all, activities are included, and many come with free tuition.
Andriake Beachclub in Demre, Turkey, includes lessons in dinghy sailing, windsurfing and waterskiing, plus free kayaking and an added bonus of £50 pocket money for children under 14 to spend in the resort.
Water babies won’t be disappointed at First Choice’s SplashWorld or Thomas Cook’s Aquamania resorts either. Among the former, Aqua Fantasy Aquapark Hotel & Spa in Kusadasi on Turkey’s Aegean Coast is a sure-fire hit: with more than 30 slides, including fast-paced snake runs, tubes and multi-lane flumes for racing, plus a lazy river and smaller slides for younger visitors, the only problem parents will face is how to get kids out of the pool at the end of each day.
Spain also has its share of fun-packed resorts. Jet2holidays highlights Sol Katmandu Park & Resort in Majorca and PortAventura on the Costa Dorada, which have on-site theme parks. Magic Natura Animal Waterpark and Polynesian Lodge in Benidorm, with its theme and wildlife parks, has lots to suit all ages.
Jet2holidays tour operations director Peter Kearns says: “Magic Natura is perfect for any budding young zookeeper or intrepid adventurer. The on-site Terra Natura animal park offers a thrilling experience of seeing tigers, rhinos and elephants up close, while Aqua Natura water park offers white-knuckle water slides and a wave pool.
“There is enough to entertain kids for the whole holiday.”
For customers with more environmentally conscious children, Classic Collection Holidays recommends Sandos San Blas Nature Resort & Golf in Tenerife, whose eco-friendly ethos is reflected in its kids’ club activities – which include astronomy, gardening, recycling and pottery making – for four to 12-year-olds.
Teenagers: Take it easy
Keeping teens happy is no easy task but Thomas Cook’s SunConnect properties, which ensure tech-savvy teens (and their parents) are never out of touch, will certainly help. Along with the usual water parks and activities, these 15 properties feature free Wi-Fi, a ConnectTeen Lounge offering Xbox consoles and a ConnectBar with docking stations, so guests can charge devices over a drink.
At SunConnect Atlantis Fuerteventura Resort, over-16s can also access the adult-only Premium Club restaurants, pool and bar, which could be a selling point with older teens.
Olympic Holidays directs tech-focused teenagers towards the five-star Olympic Lagoon Resort in Ayia Napa, where a well-equipped Teenz Club boasts PlayStations and Kinect for Xbox, an internet room and a “cool club” open until 11pm each night. Prices range from €6-€60 depending on the length of stay.
Sister resort Olympic Lagoon Paphos caters equally well to teenagers and is already selling well, according to Simply Luxury by Travel 2, despite not opening until June 1. Its teen club features video game booths, interactive games and a “chillax” area offering TV screens and non-alcoholic cocktails.
Not all teens want to spend all day inside, though. The DB San Antonio Hotel and Spa in Malta, for example, offers beach volleyball and football, water polo and mini-golf.
Belleair Holidays director of sales Craig Davidson says: “Teens can mix with their own age group and enjoy sports tournaments or even learn a skill such as archery, all within the price of the all-inclusive holiday.”
If they really want a new skill to boast about back home, teens are old enough to learn to scuba dive. Padi, the regulatory body, recommends 10 as the minimum age for open-water courses and 12 for advanced options. Red Sea Holidays offers introductory beach dives in the warm waters of Naama Bay from £39 for beginners, with advanced open-water courses starting at £310.
If that all sounds a bit too much like hard work, substitute diving for snorkelling (£17 for under-16s with Red Sea Holidays) and throw in a desert adventure to meet Bedouin tribes and a camel ride (£18) or a visit to Cleo Park (£17).
Thomson offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at the 4T-rated Hotel Atlantica Club SunGarden Beach Thomson Family Resort in Cyprus from £559 per adult and £379 per child, for a May 6 departure. The price is based on a family of four sharing and includes flights from Birmingham.
A week at Magic Natura Animal Waterpark and Polynesian Lodge, in Benidorm, starts at £369 with Jet2holidays, based on two adults and a child aged eight sharing a Polynesian standard one-bedroom lodge. The price is for a Manchester departure on May 8, and includes shuttle transfers and 22kg baggage allowance.
Simply Luxury by Travel 2 offers a week at the five-star Olympic Lagoon Resort, in Paphos, from £729. The price is based on two adults and two children sharing an inland-view junior family suite on an all-inclusive basis.The package includes flights from Gatwick on June 17 and private transfers.
Red Sea Holidays is offering seven nights’ all-inclusive at the four-star Ghazala Gardens Hotel in Naama Bay from £751 for adults and £439 for under-12s. The price is based on a May 23 departure from Gatwick to Sharm El Sheikh, and includes a 20kg luggage allowance, transfers and late check-out.
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