We asked Nadine Mellor, Kids Collection Editor of the award-winning family travel specialists, i-escape, for her top tips for the nearly-upon-us summer holidays.
Last time she had some great recommendations for one-stop-shops – hotels and resorts with all facilities and activities on tap, making for an easy holiday. Read on for more terrific places to stay, which not only warmly welcome children, but also offer lots to do for the whole family, perfect for those who prefer activity-based vacations.
All suggestions are featured on i-escape, and still have availability for families this summer – check out the full list of places here.
Nadine has chosen three very different summery family destinations in Europe; note that i-escape’s Kids Collection spans the globe, perfect if you’re thinking of getting some winter sun with your family this Christmas or February half-term!
The French Alps are a superb summer destination. Imagine seeing these stunning mountains lush with pasture and sprinkled with flowers, bathed in sunshine, wonderfully free from the crowds, and with rates slashed from those charged in the winter months.
Those tribes seeking guaranteed sunshine should head for Crete. If you strike into the mountains, it’s cooler than at the coast, where temperatures can be pretty fierce in July and August, and you’re more likely to be immersed in the local culture as again, you’re away from the hordes.
It may not enjoy the same elevated beauty, but Nadine really rates Norfolk, England as a wonderful spot for outdoorsy families. There’s the miles of salt-marsh coastline teeming with birds and seals, the Broads were seemingly made for pottering about in boats, and walking is all on the flat, for those in the party with shorter legs.
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During the ski season, this traditional farmhouse-turned-chic chalet in the Abundance Valley (just 5km from the Swiss border) is only available by the week in its entirety, whereas in the summer months (and September and October), you can book by the room. Chalet Cannelle is expertly run by the welcoming Andy and Lorraine, who create wonderful 4-course meals (there are kids options, and they can even arrange packed lunches too). You could be tempted to lounge in contemporary comfort checking out the well-stocked playroom with piano and dressing up boxes, but there’s a wealth of exciting activities on the doorstep. Mountain biking and hiking is of course popular, there are boat trips to be taken on Lake Geneva, and best of all, you get the €55 Portes du Soleil multi-pass for only €10, which provides access to swimming pools, bathing lakes, zip wires, tennis courts, ice rinks and bobsleigh runs.
Sunshine, authenticity and great value are all provided in abundance when you stay in these charming stone cottages nestled in a fruit and olive estate at the foot of Crete’s highest mountain. Eleonas is also a working farm – take cooking lessons, feed the animals, milk the goats and learn to make cheese – with a playground, playroom, a main swimming pool plus a smaller one for kids, and football pitch. The cottages are all self-catering with simple kitchenettes, there’s a taverna on site too which serves half portions and has a kids menu. You can hire bikes on site, there’s a lake an easy walk down the road, the beaches are half-an-hour’s drive away, and archaeological sites encompassing Minoan, Greek, Roman and Byzantine civilisations are nearby.
Just inland from the spectacular North Norfolk coast are two groups of beautifully restored barns, which are superb for family parties of every shape and size. Collectively known as Barsham Barns they come in 2-7 bedroom versions; all have safe outside spaces to dash about in, serene contemporary interiors, well-equipped kitchens (there’s a terrific farm shop in Walsingham), and twin rooms for children. The Walsingham barns (which are 5 of the 7) have a games room, shared spa pool and steam room. When you’ve finished admiring the chic comfort of your temporary home, head forth for some of the best birding in England, glorious vast beaches, seal spotting on Blakeney Point, steam trains, sailing and cruising on the Norfolk Broads, horse riding, the treehouse adventure park at Bewilderwood with its zip wires and jungle bridges, and there’s a dinosaur park and a zoo within reach. Fun for all the family!
To reach Chalet Cannelle, fly into Geneva, which has a large number of flights. Transfers can be arranged although you’re best advised to self-drive through stunning landscapes for the hour and a half it takes to reach Chatel in the Portes du Soleil if you want to make the most of the area. You could also connect from the TGV from Paris to Lyon and thence onto local trains to Thonon-Les-Bains which is 40 minutes away, or via the Swiss railway station Aigle; transfers can be arranged from both.
Pleasingly, Eleonas is under an hour South-West from Heraklion airport. You can take a taxi but if you do want to explore all that southern Crete has to offer, you’ll need to hire a car at the airport. Some may arrive by ferry from Athens, either way you’ll need a car.
North Norfolk is pretty inaccessible without a car. Those coming from further afield could fly to Stansted and collect a car, or head to Norwich or King’s Lynn by train and pick up a vehicle at the railway station. The motorway ends at Cambridge but there are dual carriageways most of the way although you can be unlucky on that final A-road northwards if you get stuck behind slow-moving traffic. Take CDs for the journey (about 2.5-3 hours from the top side of London).