This week, my family and I are on a short break in Cornwall. Right now, as I type, I’m sitting on a plush red sofa, drinking tea, log burning stove roaring next to me, and I’m looking out onto the choppy English Channel. The sea and sky have a purpley hazy glow to them and Mr P and the four-year-old are off swimming in the hotel pool while I’m catching up on a bit of blogging. If it wasn’t for Status Quo music playing in the background, it would feel pretty perfect.
Our break has got me thinking a bit about what makes the perfect holiday – for me, it’s about going somewhere that has something for everyone. So a hotel that offers swimming for the little ones, a kick-ass crèche, and fun outdoor play areas alongside a spa for me, gorgeous chill out areas, ooh and nice wine please – is pretty much the dream.
That way, you ALL get to have fun and relax – aren’t those the two magical ingredients to a holiday? Time to switch off from deadlines and housework and – well, basically everything a bit boring and rubbish in life. Time to just sit and do a puzzle with your child. Or splash around in the pool. Or eat ice cream every day. Time to recharge the batteries and get some perspective on life. Make memories to store away and recall when you’re back home… cleaning the cooker. These are some of my favourite family memories from the past year…
But for me, a dream holiday should also have an air of predictability to it – there’s something special about having holiday traditions as a family (when I grew up, it wasn’t a holiday if we didn’t take a pack of cards for endless games of Rummy.)
So with this in mind, I’ve created a game – Family Holiday Bingo.
I love a day trip. Not to the sea side or a stately home. I love getting on a plane and going to a different country, just for the day. Back when my best mate turned 30, a group of us went to Dublin for the day. A couple of years ago, I took Mr P to Paris for the day on his birthday. Recently, I flew to Edinburgh to visit my mum for the day. It’s such a brilliant way to spend a few hours in a fab city, perhaps see some faraway friends or family, and then be back in time for bed. No expensive hotels, no need to take more days off work. Win win, right?
Last week, I discovered a new day trip destination: Palma. I know, I can hear you say “Palma? As in Majorca?” but stick with me. It’s a totally overlooked city break destination. Before last week, I’d only ever thought of it as the airport you fly into when you’re going to a beach holiday elsewhere on the island. But it’s a really beautiful city worth visiting. Even for the day…
Which is lucky because Thomson invited me and a group of bloggers and journalists to Palma for lunch. We flew out there on a 787 Dreamliner (which, I admit, I’d never heard of before the trip. Mr P, however, was very excited when he heard which plane we’d be flying on) and even better, the plane was flown by the MD of Thomson Airlines, Captain John Murphy. Before we took off, they filled us in on some company news – things that if I’m totally honest changed my view of Thomson and First Choice. I don’t think I’ve ever gone on a holiday with them, and I’m not really a fan of a standard package holiday, but after listening to the team and hearing about how they operate, I was left very impressed.
It was the attention to detail like the airline crew having iPads which they use to help you do anything from book a brilliant restaurant local to your hotel, to telling you what the weather will be for the next few days, to the football results of your favourite team. They’re also trying to move away from the welcome meeting when you arrive at your hotel, shifting all of that information to the flight and your in-seat TV. And I loved the sound of the family booth style seating planned for future planes. They just seem to genuinely care about the customer’s experience and starting your holiday off in the best possible way.
After a gorgeous Spanish breakfast onboard the plane and an ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the Dreamliner lightshow (a feature designed especially for the company – nicknamed the TUI Wave) we landed in Palma to glorious sunshine – which was just amazing after leaving a very wet and stormy London.
I wouldn’t actually know – having not been on every other family holiday that exists – but I’d place money on it. As a parent of a three-year-old with boundless energy and a love of role play games (“You be Georgina and I’ll be Teacher”) the holy grail for me is a holiday where you can balance off fun family time with proper relaxation. There doesn’t seem much point in going on holiday if it’s going to be hard work, right?
And while there are an array of hotels and holiday companies which offer kids’ clubs and childcare, I’m willing to bet that not many do it as well as Mark Warner do.
I’ve just returned from a (blissful) four night break at Mark Warner’s Levante Beach resort in Rhodes. See a bit of what happened here. Admittedly, I didn’t take the three-year-old with me so I didn’t get to roadtest the childcare or experience the holiday from a truly family point of view, but I had my beady eye on everything, from the kids’ tea to the shallow children’s pool, and I was massively impressed.
The childcare staff at Mark Warner resorts all have to be fully NVQ or CACHE qualified and English speaking, but more than that, everyone who we met was super friendly and warm. You get the impression they never tire of working with kids. The childcare facilities are all bright, airy and filled with clean new toys and equipment. The kids are in age-appropriate rooms but they’re also taken out and about, down to the beach or onto the water to learn watersports (even the toddlers) meaning they’re not confined to their (super amazing) crèche rooms.
Guests get a half day session of childcare each day for ages 2 and up included in the price of their holiday and two sessions a day for ages 7 and up. Which basically means, a holiday day would go something like this: Continue reading
This week, I paid a flying visit to Edinburgh. It’s probably my favourite city in the UK – the beautiful buildings, the winding streets and alleys, the green spaces, the shops, the bars… I can’t think of another city that has my heart in the way Edinburgh does. It’s small enough that you can get a real flavour of it in a day, or if you have more time, book up a hotel (there are loads to choose from on Hotel Direct) and stay a few days. things to see and do in edinburgh
My 4.55am start meant that by the time I got to Gatwick Airport, I was ready for some caffeine…
Getting from Edinburgh Airport into the city centre is easier than ever now that the Edinburgh Trams are running. You could still opt to get the Airport Express bus into town, but I hopped on a shiny tram and whizzed into Princes Street with the joy of free wifi onboard. Wheeee!
I met my mum and after a quick cuppa in the cafe in Jenners (a department store that’s been there since 1838) our first stop was Calton Hill, where you get some amazing views of Edinburgh. You can stand at one side and see down to the Firth of Forth (even getting a glimpse of the Forth Rail Bridge in the distance) or from the other side, you can see Arthur’s Seat (which will forever more remind me of the book One Day).