Family holidays: Self-catering v all-inclusive

Family holidays: Self-catering v all-inclusive

Pick a package to suit the place, says Katie McGonagle

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Parents devote a lot of time to teaching their offspring how to act in all sorts of different situations.

Racing around at full speed might be fine for the park or the playground, but not for their grandmother’s living room. And the way they chat with friends probably isn’t the way they should talk to their teachers.

As in all things, context is key, so why not remind parents of that lesson next time they come in to book a holiday?

While one country might lend itself to an all-inclusive resort-based break, others are suited to getting out and about, so a self-catering stay will be a better fit.

Self-catering: DIY dining

Orlando: Any worries about fussy eaters not finding food they like can be laid to rest across the pond. With plenty of reasonably priced, familiar and child-friendly options, going self-catering in the US is a no-brainer.

Most hotels offer room-only rates with the option to add breakfast at a supplement, but the abundance of apartments and villa-style accommodation in popular family resorts such as Orlando also fits the self-catering model well.

Guests can then mix and match between home cooking – many villas come equipped with a kitchen and outdoor barbecue grill – and eating out.

Travel 2 features a selection of three to seven-bedroom Orlando villas within 20 minutes’ drive of Walt Disney World Resort. Most are allocated on arrival, but guests who want to know exactly where they’ll be staying can choose specific areas such as Windsor Hills, Glenbrook or a host of other gated communities.

Funway has also seen a 25% jump in sales to its self-catering Disney area homes this year, making them a bestseller over the past six months. Each booking comes with a welcome pack of essentials, and platinum-level properties also feature a games room and spa, free Wi-Fi, UK calls, a barbecue, PlayStation or Wii, and a mid-stay clean on stays of 14 nights or more.

Outside the villas, there’s certainly no shortage of family-friendly restaurants, stretching far beyond our familiar fast-food joints to encompass the myriad cuisines of the US’s multicultural population.

Eating out is also much more affordable in the US than the UK, so it shouldn’t break the bank to dine out with the family each night, but do warn clients that generous tipping – around 20% of the total bill – is expected.

Italy: While some short-haul favourites such as Spain and Portugal have embraced the all-inclusive model, family-orientated Italy remains resolutely outside that bracket, with only the occasional all-inclusive property in some of its beach resorts.

That leaves families free to explore the local food scene, and with familiar flavours and easily recognisable dishes sure to appear on every menu, no matter how un-touristy the eatery, that shouldn’t pose any major problems.

John Escott, sales manager at Al Fresco Holidays, says: “Self-catering holidays in Italy are easy when it comes to fussy eaters: kids know Italian food well, with pizza and pasta being firm favourites, which makes dining out less daunting.

“All of our parks in Italy have an on-site shop located conveniently for guests to pick up essentials or to provide the entire family meal. Each Al Fresco Holidays mobile home comes with an easy-to-use kitchen and its own barbecue for families to enjoy the beautiful setting of the Italian country while dining.”

Al Fresco has 18 parks across Italy, but highlights for families keen to self-cater include Bella Italia in Lake Garda and Union Lido on the Venetian Riviera, which each have greengrocers on-site to pick up fresh local fruit and vegetables, and Norcenni Girasole Club in the Tuscan hills where families can take a cooking class together then try to put their new skills into practice using the mobile home’s fully equipped kitchen.

There is up to 30% off all 2016 breaks booked before November 5, with prices from £372 for a week in a two-bedroom Bellini mobile home at Union Lido during May half-term, or from £1,115 for a two-bedroom Puccini mobile home at Bella Italia next August.

Turkey: When a family asks for a Turkey holiday, it’s easy to steer them automatically towards an all-inclusive resort along the coastline, many boasting water parks and sports facilities on top of a great-value dining and drinks package.

Yet that’s not the only family option. Parents who don’t want to be tied to the resort at every meal time will find Turkey’s relaxed coastal towns awash with cafes and restaurants serving good-value local bites, with a chance to browse through the shops and soak up the local vibe on the side.

Turkish Cuisine

There shouldn’t be anything too challenging for younger palates, with plenty of grilled meats, dips and pitta breads meaning picky eaters will always find something they can rely on, whether in familiar tourist spots or more traditional areas such as Akyaka, a favourite of Anatolian Sky Holidays managing director Akin Koc.

He says: “Eating out is a fantastic way to sample the country’s culture, and a bed-and-breakfast basis stay allows the freedom to explore the surrounding area. One of my own favourite restaurants is in Akyaka, it’s a lovely place on the Azmak River called Halil’in Yeri, which is set on a platform in the middle of the river in beautiful surroundings, and serves delicious freshly-caught fish.”

Thailand: At first glance, Thailand might seem like another obvious spot to go all-inclusive, not only because of the quality of dining at its resort-style hotels but also to head off any concerns from parents about finding child-friendly food outside the hotels.

They need not worry: with British kids as used to eating Thai green curry as they are fish fingers and chips these days, the fare in most tourist towns should actually be quite recognisable.

Restaurants are good value and there will be pan-Asian, Italian and other international cuisine as an alternative to Thai dishes, though if kids do take to the local flavours, parents can go beyond simple pad thai to experiment with street snacks or spicier dishes.

Debbie Goffin, head of sales and marketing at Premier Holidays, has taken her two children to Thailand several times. She says: “Eating out as a family in Thailand is excellent value for money and offers a variety of options for all tastes, but of course to get into the culture and to get the best value, we recommend going Thai. Starting children off with dishes such as chicken satay is a great introduction to Thai food, and chefs are always happy to accommodate mild requests. There are always lots of fresh fish dishes on offer too, many of which are served without sauces which can put some children off.”

All-inclusive: Planning ahead

Red Sea: “With the majority of properties in Sharm El Sheikh all-inclusive, it makes sense to book an all-in holiday and benefit from the exceptional prices available,” says Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides.

“Couple that with the fact that as Sharm covers a long stretch of the coast, individual properties can be a fair way from bars and restaurants, and it’s far simpler to eat and drink in the resort.”

That’s why all but a handful of the Red Sea hotels featured by Olympic Holidays are all-inclusive, with new additions for next year such as the five-star Royal Albatros Moderna Hotel, with 635 rooms, and the four-star, 380-room Oriental Resort Hotel.Regional specialist Red Sea Holidays has a similar leaning towards all-inclusive properties in its family programme.

Royal Albatros Moderna_Egypt,Sharm

Deputy managing director Jason Hilton says: “All-inclusive packages are a great way to budget, offering families peace of mind and keeping additional spending money to a minimum. Our Red Sea hotels offer a choice of restaurants, combining international buffet options with an exciting mix of à la carte restaurants, and dedicated kids’ menus and snack bars serving sweet and savoury treats throughout the day.”

Barbados: The Caribbean has long been known as a haven for all-inclusive escapes, pioneering the concept of mega-resorts where guests need never step outside the grounds unless they want to explore.

That’s just as true today, with family-focused,all-inclusive properties dotted across the islands, including hugely popular brands such as Beaches on Jamaica and the Turks and Caicos Islands; Club Med in the Dominican Republic, Bahamas and the French Caribbean; or AMResorts’ family brands Now and Sunscape in Mexico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Curacao.

Easygoing Barbados is no stranger to the all-inclusive concept either. Despite having a reputation for great local dining, its relaxed beachfront properties are all about hassle-free holidays, with no need to head out in search of dinner each evening.

Elegant Hotels’ all-inclusive Turtle Beach and Crystal Cove properties offer a premium all-inclusive package, factoring all meals, drinks and snacks, daily afternoon tea, water sports and kids’ activities into the cost.

With Turtle Beach’s new family activities this season including cinema under the stars, beach football, treasure hunts around the hotel, and weekly pastry classes run by dessert chef Ezra Beckles, the food and drink isn’t the only highlight of an all-inclusive stay here.

Cyprus: “Everyone wants all-inclusive these days,” according to Theodoros Frangos, general manager of the new Olympic Lagoon Resort Paphos, when I met him on-site this time last year. Speaking before the hotel opened its doors, he had already put his finger on the growing trend for Cypriot hotels.

He adds: “We are going back to the original idea of all-inclusive – it doesn’t necessarily mean cheap holidays. It offers the facility of having everything there, but the biggest advantage is that people know what they will spend so there are no surprises.”

The hotel redesign included moving many of its restaurants to waterfront locations, either overlooking the coast or adjacent to the resort pools, with more alfresco seating and family-friendly options such as a 1950s-style diner.

Olympic Lagoon Resort, Paphos, 50s diner

The all-inclusive trend is echoed across other new properties on the island, such as the 250-room King Evelthon Beach Hotel and Resort, which opened last year by the Tombs of the Kings in Paphos, and has an all-inclusive package covering themed dinners, snacks, ice cream and local alcoholic drinks; and the rebranded Sensatori Resort Aphrodite Hills, both supremely well set up for kids.

Mauritius: This Indian Ocean island was built for romance, with exclusive resorts dotted around its sandy fringes, often a distance from shops and restaurants, and top-quality, in-hotel dining where well-heeled couples could eat each night without even a glance at the prices.

Yet as hotels have adapted to entice a growing family market, they have also had to tailor their packages to suit more cost-conscious parents who don’t want to face a steep bill for every ice cream and orange juice when they come to check out.

They will still need deep enough pockets to cover what are, on the whole, upmarket all-inclusive packages with prices to match, but the growth of all-inclusive has opened up this destination to a wider family audience.

Mark Spivey, international sales director at Maritim Hotels, which runs the all-inclusive, four-star Maritim Crystals Beach Hotel and five-star Maritim Resort & Spa on the island, says: “All-inclusives are more popular with families as they offer an easier way to budget for the additional cost of food, drink and leisure activities. Many families tend to stay in the resort to dine as most of the larger hotels are set in private beachside grounds which are a taxi ride away from the towns or villages where the restaurants are located.”

How to sell

The strong pound means your clients’ cash will stretch further at bars and restaurants or in supermarkets, especially in the eurozone, so this could be a good time to try self-catering even if clients have goneall-inclusivein previous years.

Highlight the convenience of anall-inclusive stay, where meals and drinks are provided and there’s no need to spend time shopping for food or searching for restaurants.

Assume all-inclusive guests are tied to their resort for every meal. Even if they opt for the occasional lunch or dinner outside, it can still offer great value.

Sample Product

Funway Holidays offers seven nights’ self-catering in a three-bedroom home in Orlando from £499, based on two adults and two children, and including car hire and BA flights from Gatwick, in May 2016.

Simply Luxury by Travel 2 offers a week’s all-inclusive at the five star Olympic Lagoon Paphos in a family junior suite, with flights from London and private transfers, from £929 in August 2016.


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