Smith & KidsStylish family travel: child-friendly hotels, family holiday tips and insider guides

Have baby? Do travel. Here’s why…

Posted by Lucy Fennings on October 15th, 2014

Attention new mamas and mothers-to-be: you might be daunted by the idea of travelling with a newborn, but at Smith & Family we’re all about paving the way for happy family travels. We know all the best baby-friendly boutique escapes, plus, Lord knows, nobody’s as deserving of a holiday than a new mum. But don’t just take our word for it: here, food and travel writer Nicky Evans sings the praises of travel with a baby…

Nicky Evans: travel with babyHaving taken my son to the Canary Islands when he was two months old, and to the Caribbean three months later, I now take a glass-half-full approach to travelling with a young baby – it’s not just possible; it can, in some ways, actually be preferable. OK, so maybe nothing beats a carefree break à deux. But rather than leave your baby with relatives or give up your holiday habit altogether, here are a few benefits to bringing a baby on board.

For one thing, new parents laugh in the face of jetlag. We’re used to sleeping for only two hours at a time, functioning for long stretches on little to no sleep, and feeling foggy-headed around the clock. Young babies, too, barely register the time change – being used to regular naps, they quickly adjust if you maintain your routine, and a poker face.

Baby does travelIncentive number two: a baby is a ticking time bomb: as soon as the little one hits school age, you’ll be obliged to go on holiday during the high-season crush, paying over-hiked prices. On the other hand, with a baby, you can travel whenever you like. What’s more, with one parent on maternity leave, only one of you has to beg for time off work. Still need convincing? Under-twos only pay taxes for their flight, as they don’t require a seat.

The flight… Although I can’t deny that going long-haul with an infant can be challenging, there are actually great benefits to flying en famille. Firstly, with a decent airline your luggage allowance increases dramatically – and if you’re staying somewhere with a washing machine or laundry service, then you can guiltlessly claim that extra space for yourself. So wave goodbye to the finely balanced capsule wardrobe and carry on the kitchen sink.

Flying with a baby also means getting the best seats in the house – well, the best in economy at least. Bassinets are located in the bulkhead of the plane – the seats with free extra legroom that most passengers try to blag. Since this spot is also close to the toilets, you’re likely to attract a number of baby groupies (usually middle-aged women) during the journey. In the best-case scenario, they will offer to take the little one off your hands for a few minutes to enjoy a harmless nostalgia hit. This allows you – and your grateful neighbours – to take a break.

If a difficult flight leaves you stripped of all positivity, just repeat this mantra: at least I didn’t travel with a toddler. As soon as your baby starts moving, flights will become an unending nightmare of roaming up and down the aisles, saying (or shouting) ‘No’, managing tantrums, and apologising to other passengers. Babies, conversely, sleep a lot, are easily distracted and can be entertained on your lap.

In any case, you’ll appreciate your baby once more when you reach the airport. Some passport control stations have special lanes for young families, with much shorter queues, while others allow travellers with young babies to jump straight to the front – look out for ‘special assistance’ lanes.

All of these benefits come before you even reach your accommodation – and this is where the fun really starts. Most new parents will tell you that their brilliantly organised lives were smashed to pieces by the new arrival. For me, the worst casualty was my fastidiously tidy house. So imagine my ecstasy at rediscovering hotel housekeeping services: having someone tidy up after you and your baby once – if not twice – a day is a holiday in itself, believe me.

Then there’s the fact that you will likely eat some or all of your meals out, meaning no food shopping, cooking or washing up (all of which feel like almost impossible feats with a newborn baby). Add to this the listening-in and sitting services, which allow you to recharge your batteries and take time out as a couple again, and you’ll soon reacquaint yourselves with the people you were before you became Mummy and Daddy.

Wherever you’re planning to travel, you will find that most countries are more naturally baby-loving than Britain – being accompanied by an under-two will elevate you to near-celebrity status. Embrace the extra attention lavished upon you by taxi drivers, waiters, shop assistants, hotel staff and passers-by – the universal language of babies opens the door to a lot of kindnesses.

Last but not least, if anyone deserves a luxury holiday, it’s a couple of stressed-out first-time parents. So book your first family trip with an open mind: before you know it, you’ll be planning the next one…

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• Before you travel, check what necessities – mosquito nets, sterilisers, etc – your accommodation can provide, and whether there is a washing machine and/or laundry service.

• Book your flight with a good airline: you don’t need the hassle of stingy baggage allowances, oversized luggage charges and free-for-all seating.

• Buy a car seat that is FAA-registered. These can be used during the flight in place of bassinet seats – handy if you board when the baby is asleep.

• Pack a sling in your hand luggage – pop your baby in it for naps (especially during daytime flights) to keep your hands free.

• Feed your baby during take-off and landing to minimise the pressure difference and avoid discomfort to their ears.

• Use sterilising tablets – they are easy to use and far less bulky than electrical equipment (though your hotel may be able to provide sterilising equipment or even do it for you).

• Fill a spritz bottle with cold water for an instant cool down in a hot climate – an easy way to reduce the risk of infant dehydration.

• Buy a beach tent for pop-up shade – it will give you and your partner much more beach time and provide privacy for feeds.

• Do plan sightseeing trips – but be realistic about how much you can fit in around feeds and naps.

• Remember that newborns are perfectly portable if you want to have dinner out, but babysitters or in-room dining services can help maintain their night-time routine.

Nicky Evans is a food and travel journalist and mother of one. She has written for publications and websites including BBC FoodTime Out and Square Meal, where she is currently News and Online Editor. She is also one of three women behind thirty-something lifestyle blog Follow her @Everyday30blog

Feeling inspired? Check out these hotels with free baby-listening; or browse our pick of the best baby-friendly boltholes at Smith & Family.


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Asia this half-term? Nah. Just head to Alicante.

Posted by Juliet Kinsman on October 1st, 2014

Ah, the half-term holiday headache. The tension that started nagging you at the end of the summer holidays as back-to-school loomed. That period of year when you know you should be thinking ahead to that next stretch of time-off when you have [a] that fantastic window when you can all enjoy time as a family (if you’re an optimist) and/or [b] a whole hellish week to keep them happy/entertained/exercised (hello, pessimists). Maybe you’ve already booked, or perhaps you always leave it too late and that half-term holiday headache will soon be evolving into a full-on migraine as the most suitable rooms in the best family-friendly hotels have all been snapped up. Throw flights into the mix – timings and ever-spiralling prices – aargh! Logistics are reason enough to have you needing a lie-down when planning that part of an October holiday. Then there’s the issue of whether it’s long enough or too far to long-haul it en famille. What to do? 

Asia Gardens

If you are showing any symptoms of this condition, let me play Hotel Doctor. I am prescribing a place that you might not have realised is just so well, exotic – Spain. And if you had your heart set on – or at least you’ve been fantasising about an exotic hideaway in an eastern hemisphere, Barceló Asia Gardens is heavensent. What’s important is that I speak from experience, that’s how we roll at Smith: we check out places in person. And if it’s a place we’re going to send you with your kids, we make sure a family or parent has given it the thumbs-up.

Asia Gardens half term holiday breakfastDrive from Alicante Airport along the Costa Brava seafront in the direction of Benidorm, and it may look like Brits-abroad package-holiday terrain. Until you swerve up towards the hills where this five-star retreat is set on these picturesque Mediterranean-view mountain slopes. The hotel’s architecture and atmosphere makes you feel as though you’ve in fact been teleported somewhere truly tropical. Immediately there’s a whiff of Thailand (that’ll be the lemongrass tea on arrival); next this bamboo-filled botanical paradise transported us far away thanks to Asian plum trees, variegated-leaved Thai ginger plants, Japanese Bonsai trees… All of our senses were truly hoodwinked. As well as the landscape – see Instagram images as evidence – our meals (when we wanted them to) took us to India via upscale eatery, Udaipur. Thatched-roof poolside Palapa treated us to the best of the Mediterranean with hyper-local flavours for lunch, while a candlelit supper at Koh Samui was as delicious a taste of Thailand as I’ve known in Bangkok’s most celebrated restaurants. And breakfast (pictured) spanned every food group and flavour whether you are in the mood for classic European or an exotic umami hit, with each dish labelled with its nutritional benefits.

Spain asia gardens spaAn Asian-fusion ‘theme’, could sound, well,  a little tacky – but it totally works here particularly in Palafito Spa. For my Nuad Thai treatment, I donned traditional loose-fitting cotton Thai pyjamas and was led to a balé for a Thai massage. Stretched and walked on, it was like someone else doing a yoga session with my body on my behalf. Perfect. As I listened to the birdsong and Far Eastern ambient instrumental soundtrack supine by the heated pool and Buddhas, if you’d reminded me I was just above Benidorm I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

And – parents – best of all, there are all the child-pleasing perks you’d want from an upscale luxury Spanish holiday resort.  I haven’t even told you about all the facilities and fun awaiting the nippers. There’s a (free) Children’s Pirates Club for 5–12-year-olds, a playground, pools which are a dream for children and some which are for adults only, plus Blue Flag beaches are only half an hour’s drive away. But truth is, I was too busy having me time as a parent travelling solo for ‘work’… What I do know is this is a place that’s all about you time, whoever you’re travelling with.

Has that headache gone yet?

Asia Gardens half term holiday

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Driven to distraction – Mr Smith’s tips for travelling with kids

Posted by Anthony Leyton on September 23rd, 2014

In one of his recent Travel Dad columns for National Geographic Traveller’s family edition, Smith & Family founder and beleaguered father of two, James Lohan, offered his hard-won wisdom on how to keep the peace when you’re on the road with a back seat full of toddler…

‘Give it back, Tom!’

‘Don’t bait your sister!’

‘For heaven’s sake, just be nice to each other for five minutes!’

Gleneagles Land RoverJust a few of the commands I find myself issuing, with increasing shrillness, on an average journey with the kids. Usually, I’m drowned out almost immediately by my three-year-old daughter’s ear-ravaging response to whatever fresh torment her older brother has devised for her. ‘But… but… but Tom hurt me! Waaaah!’ The exchange that follows may as well be scripted. Tom is instructed to apologise, fails to comprehend that he might have done anything wrong, despite the fact he’s holding a clump of his sister’s hair, I promptly give up, beg my wife to ‘do something’, insert my earplugs and carry on down the motorway, hoping to spot a sign for an orphanage next left.

Children not sharing. Children squabbling. Children getting bored. Children seemingly incapable of understanding that we’re yet to invent teleportation and that travelling tends to involve a period of, well, travel. These are the frontline enemies of travelling with kids — hell, they’re the reason why many parents don’t dare venture further than their back gardens for a family holiday. The stress stakes are simply too high.

But this is how kids are. Although it’s occasionally tempting to do so, I can’t believe my children are uniquely evil. I have a theory about why travelling seems to bring out the worst in them. Children thrive on two things: routine and stimulation. Every parent walks a tightrope between the two. Children soak up new sights and experiences like kitchen roll on spilt juice, but what keeps them content and stable is knowing what will happen next, drawing comfort from the predictable. Travel means never knowing what’s around the corner; often, it’s all stimulation, no routine — is it any wonder that sometimes kids become overwhelmed and act up?

It’s easier if you have just one child, of course. Even the most imaginative toddler will struggle to pick a fight with himself (although I’ve seen it happen). ‘One and done’ may be the modern family mantra but I come from the ‘heir and a spare’ camp, as I believe it’s psychologically valuable for a child to have someone they violently detest close to them at all times. In theory, two kids should be able to entertain each other with affectionate sibling chit-chat, but in the back of a car on the traffic-snarled M4, it’s often the preschool equivalent of Cain and Abel with chainsaws.

So how do you keep the peace, ensure they’re entertained, and still have the energy to get your family to where you’re going, without blowing a gasket? First — and this may take a leap of imagination on your part Traffic— make the journey an exciting part of the holiday. It’s easy to forget kids live almost entirely in the now; they don’t do patient anticipation. Explaining the glorious holiday paradise you’re headed for, and all the exciting things they’ll see and do when they arrive will get you entirely nowhere if they have to wait nine hours for it to materialise. Instead — whether you’re travelling by train, plane, automobile or all three — think about what you can do to make the journey itself the focus; turn it into a game. (But exercise caution: ‘Let’s see how many red cars we can spot’ might defuse the situation for one trip but when they’re still playing it a year later, it can become rather tiresome.)

Talk to them as much as possible — you can have some astonishing and hilarious conversations. It’s amazing what pops into a child’s head when they’re strapped down for hours on end. Instigate a staggered rewards system for good behaviour; keep a stash of distractions in the form of new small toys or magazines to deploy at critical moments (but, crucially, try not to reach into the treat bag mid-tantrum. You don’t want them to think that the best way to get their mitts on the latest issue of Peppa Pig is to shriek their lungs out).

And if all the above fails? Well, what do you think they invented iPads for?

Of course, it’s not just about keeping them happy/distracted/sedated; you have to keep your head together too. Arrivals and homecomings can be ruined if you turn up harassed and borderline infanticidal. The only advice I can give on that score is this: the things that make travelling with kids so challenging — their restless curiosity, their blank-canvas exuberance, the up-and-down intensity of their sibling relationships — are also the things that can make it so rewarding. There are times when I’ve been travelling with Tom and Alex, seen them agog with wide-eyed wonder at some exotic sight or giggling with irrepressible glee as they hurl themselves into a new experience, and I’ve thought, ‘Wow. This really makes the journey worth it. (But I’m still dreading the return trip.)’

Published in the Spring 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveller Family

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Travel gallery: our photoshoot in Greece

Posted by Rachel Juarez-Carr on August 13th, 2014

Smith & Family photoshoot at Ekies Resort in Greece

Last month we spent a few very hot days at Ekies All Senses Resort in Halkidiki for our glorious Greek Smith & Family photoshoot… We took along our top model Tillie and her exceptionally good-looking family – Freddie (almost six), Louis (four), Arthur (two, and universally known as Bear) and Chris (grown up) – and met our new best friend Maria (seven) once we got there. Somehow the little ‘uns were all chatting away within an hour, despite the boys not speaking a word of Greek and Maria not speaking a word of English. Massive thanks to Petros at Ekies for hosting us, and Vangelis for taking us out on his boat!

The little Smiths had Trunkis full of clothes from I Love Gorgeous, Rockley Cove and Sunuva. For our model Mr & Mrs, we packed our cases with swimsuits and beachwear from London Boutiques (Biondi Couture, Pistol Panties, Varley London, Beach Candy, Spektre, Finlay), gorgeous goodies from Frame Chain and the very soft, very stylish Frescobol Carioca towels.

(All photos by Rachel Juarez-Carr)

Smith & Family photoshoot at Ekies Resort in Greece

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Meet the parents: Mr & Mrs Smith

Posted by Madevi Dailly on July 24th, 2014

Remember long, romantic weekends à deux? James Lohan and Tamara Heber-Percy do. They were so fond of them, in fact, that they made a name for themselves finding idyllic boutique hotels as Mr & Mrs Smith. Since Tom (seven) and Alex (four) joined the clan, their holiday wish list has had a little tweak: good bye in-room bath tubs, hello kids club and miniature bathrobes. But travelling with nippers in tow needn’t mean giving up on style…

James Lohan and Tamara Heber-Percy with children Tom and Alex

How have your holidays changed since launching Mr & Mrs Smith?
When we started Smith we looked for the perfect boutique boltholes for romantic weekends away. Now that we have two children in tow, our needs as a family have evolved, but we still want stylish getaways with great food and service. Our kids’ needs have changed, too: a bottle warmer and space for a cot just aren’t enough for our over-active seven-year-old boy and our four-year-old daughter who’s trying to keep up!

Borgo Egnazia cookery class for the familyWhat do you look for in a great family hotel?
It has to be fun for the kids, of course, but it also has to work for the family as a whole: we both work, so holidays are a rare chance for us to spend time with our children – we don’t want to leave them in a kids club all day. We’re always on the lookout for interesting, exciting activities we can do as a family such as Arabic calligraphy or a pasta-making class in the morning (right, at Borgo Egnazia) and surfing in the afternoon. Once the kids are asleep, we want somewhere that feels a bit special for us, too: a quirky bar, an adults-only restaurant or a great spa tick all the right boxes.

How do you ensure quality couple time when on a family trip?
It’s important to book babysitting in advance and ask for an English-speaking nanny, as they can be hard to come by in high season. Take jet lag and local culture into account, too: you might have to go out a bit earlier or later than usual.

Any hilarious family-holiday moments you can share?
We bought a seven-seat car recently. We had a vision – we imagined our best friends and their kids hopping into our happy bus and joining us on merry jaunts to the countryside. This happened precisely once – one of Alex’s epic tantrums ensured our friends vowed to never climb aboard the ‘Torture Bus’ again.

Which are your favourite hotels for kid-friendly jaunts?
Soneva Kiri in Thailand was voted Best for Families in our Smith Hotel Awards last year. It has a wonderful kids club designed by children, which looks like a manta ray swimming through the treetops. Closer to home, Borgo Egnazia ticks all the boxes for families who want all the bells and whistles, with its four pools, two beach clubs and a knockout spa. But I also love Château les Merles: set in the family-pleasing Dordogne, it’s a stylish bolthole with plenty of space and games to keep the kids happy.




Family travel tips: what to pack

Pack smart
We always bring a four-gang plug so we don’t fight over who gets to plug in their iPad, Trunki Paddle Paks and sticker books. Plus the inevitable wet wipes – no parent can be without them! When we’re off somewhere sunny, rash vests are a must: my little girl loves the bright, colourful ones by Rockley Cove and my son Tom like Sunuva’s shark one (we’re such fans we’ve talked them both into giving signed-up Smith members 10–25 per cent off).

Bottletop-AmarantaWatch the clock
Plan ahead and travel at a reasonable hour: avoid leaving really early in the morning (getting out of the house is never easy at the best of times ) and try to arrive at a sensible local hour so you’re not trying to get them the children in bed at 3am in your new time zone. And don’t book a hotel that’s not welcoming to families – you’ll be on edge the whole time.

I never fly without…
My weekend bag: my new favourite brand is Bottletop. I love their classic black tote (left), which fits everything. Snacks are also essential;  airplane food is rarely what the kids want to eat and having a secret stash of healthy snacks is great to distract them.

Need more travel inspiration? Browse our holiday snaps on Instagram or check out our favourite summer stays.

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From the blush-pink beaches of Bermuda to the rock pools of Cornwall, our latest pick of child-friendly hotels all have something for the little splashers in your life. This month, we’ve rounded up four retreats blessed with perfect pools and jolly good beaches, including a glamorous Beverly Hills palace and an idyllic stopover crash-pad in Singapore.   


The Idle Rocks | Family-friendly hotel in Cornwall


The Idle Rocks Cornwall, United Kingdom

Just for them Tasty Kids’ high tea
Just for you In-room aromatherapy massages

A luxe take on nautical chic and rugged coastal backdrop make the Idle Rocks the perfect setting for a swashbuckling family adventure. Kayak up St Mawes’ creeks, grab lines and nets to catch lily-livered crabs in the beach’s rock pools or simply relax on the terrace with the Sunday papers. Make the most of the playroom, free baby-listening and handy iPad monitors on offer to sneak away and enjoy the hotel’s grown-up delights: sigh-inducing aromatic massages, adults-only dinners of fresh Cornish produce and tall glasses of Idle Mary, the hotel’s own take on the classic brunch tipple.

More about the Idle Rocks…


Montage Beverly Hills | Los Angeles, US


Montage Beverly Hills Los Angeles, USA

Just for them Wild West Wednesdays at the kids club
Just for you Rooftop pool with eye-candy views  

A prestigious Beverly Hills postcode and decadent spa don’t scream family-friendly hotel, but Montage Beverly Hills’ exclusive kids club Paintbox – staffed by former Disneyland employees – make it the perfect children’s playground. Lounge by the rooftop pool and drink in the views over LA and the Hollywood hills while the little ones splash gleefully in between sunscreen top-ups. While the tots enjoy dinner, a groovy movie and popcorn courtesy of Paintbox, parents can take advantage of Scarpetta’s farm-fresh Italian inspired cuisine on a grown-up date night.

More about Montage Beverly Hills…


Rosewood Tucker's Point hotel | Bermuda


Rosewood Tucker’s Point, Bermuda

Just for them Mini manis and tween-tailored facials
Just for you Yoga and t’ai chi classes with a waterfall view

Set in 200 manicured acres lapped by crystalline seas, this Bermudan getaway promises plenty of island fun. The kids club’s activities, which range from golf clinics to cooking lessons and puppet-making, will appeal to little bundles of energy and more creatively inclined tots alike. Teenagers will love sipping on fruity mocktails and making friends around the infinity-edged Horizon Pool. Where does that leave parents? In the Bermuda Triangle, of course: a two-hour blissful spa treatment involving a massage, facial and shower therapy.

More about Rosewood Tucker’s Point…


Capella Singapore family-friendly hotel


Capella Singapore, Singapore

Just for them A hop, skip and a jump from Universal Studios
Just for you Delectable Far-Eastern cuisine

A lust-worthy destination in its own right, Capella Singapore’s location make it the perfect pit stop to rest travel-weary heads on their way to far-flung destinations. Rest and recover at the organic spa, lounger-lined swimming pool and East-meets-West restaurants. Kids are treated with all the honours, too: there’s a child-friendly menu and staff leave surprises such as soft toys, mini bathrobes and cookies.

More about Capella Singapore…

 Looking for other places to skim stones and catch the waves with your little Smiths? Browse through Smith & Family’s entire collection of child-friendly hotels within reach of a beach.

* Copy compiled by Laura Brassett


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Now we are 25: the original luxury family hotel comes of age…

Posted by Lucy Fennings on July 1st, 2014

Luxury Family Hotels | 25th birthday offersThey say time flies when you’re having fun… and at pioneering parents’ pad Woolley Grange, 25 years has flown past since the doors first opened at the Luxury Family Hotels flagship. Since then, they’ve rolled out their relaxed take on red-carpet treatment for children at some of Smith & Family’s best-loved family staycation spots from Wiltshire to the wild Cornish coast.

As if free baby-listening, dreamy Ofsted-rated childcare and better-than-home comforts weren’t enough of an enticement, they’re celebrating their big birthday with special rates and packages at Smith & Family-selected hotels. Here are our favourites: pick yours, book by 18 July (kids stay free!) and raise a toast…

UK family hotel offers | Woolley Grange, WiltshireWOOLLEY GRANGE
17th-century country living in Wiltshire
Get the picture? The story of Luxury Family Hotels began at Woolley Grange in 1989, when Nigel Chapman and his wife Heather turned their Jacobean manor home into a hotel. As they had three young children themselves, Nigel says it ‘seemed the most natural thing in the world to provide a safe and fun place for both our own and our guests’ children to spend time’. They’ve nailed the formula for family-friendly fun, with hallmark perks including a great crèche, a flexible and easy-going restaurant, and failsafe baby-listening that lets the grown-ups enjoy evenings alone.
Get a bargain Browse all Woolley Grange hotel offers

UK family hotel offers | The Ickworth, SuffolkTHE ICKWORTH
Georgian stately home-from-home in Suffolk
Get the picture? Indoor pool, walled gardens, National Trust good looks… Beautifully foxed, feel-good and family-friendly, the Ickworth is the ultimate child-friendly country-estate hotel. Days are filled with fresh-air fun as you explore forest, fields and formal lawns on the 1,800-acre estate; later you can relax guilt-free with dinner in Fredrick’s while the kids snooze safely upstairs. In the grounds, Ickworth also has a converted farmhouse lodge with family apartments, perfect for longer breaks.
Get a bargain  Browse all Ickworth hotel offers

UK family hotel offers | Cornwall's Polurrian Bay HotelPOLURRIAN BAY HOTEL
Seaside simplicity on Cornwall’s scenic cliffs
Get the picture? Gazing seawards from a cliff-top perch, and with 12 acres of verdant grounds to explore, this is truly somewhere to get away from it all. Inside is as stylish as the surrounds are spacious: there are cosy checked blankets on the beds, beautiful parquet flooring in the restaurant and natural light flooding every room. Toddlers can conquer the climbing frame or run wild in the gardens, and older kids can master the waves at surf school on the nearby sandy Poldhu beach; as for adults, cocktails and couples’ massages turn your holiday into a more grown-up getaway.
Get a bargain  Browse all Polurrian Bay Hotel offers

UK family hotel offers | The Elms, WorcestershireTHE ELMS
Modern-mannered mansion in Worcestershire
Get the picture? This grandly gorgeous period home ups the luxe-country ante with a standalone mini-spa, purpose-built crèche annexe and flourishing kitchen gardens to supply its menus. And yet there are just 23 rooms: no impersonal child-herding atmosphere here. Free extra beds, a wealth of family-friendly dining options, a built-in baby listening service, and free crèche places for under-8s leave enough left over for splashy fine-dining in the adults-only Brookes restaurant.
Get a bargain  Browse all Elms hotel offers

UK family hotel offers | Fowey Hall, CornwallFOWEY HALL
Comfy country château on the salty Cornish coast
Get the picture? Commanding sweeping views of Fowey’s river estuary, port and the sea – and not just from the spa deck – this inspiring small family hotel has an air of literary romance: the inspiration for Toad Hall in The Wind in the Willows also overlooks Daphne du Maurier’s favourite coves. Its French furniture, Wilton carpets and fine oak-panelled dining room give it a traditional but relaxed and intimate feel; a croquet lawn, indoor pool, interconnecting suites, and nearby beaches and sailing position it perfectly for fun family escapes.
Get a bargain  Browse all Fowey Hall hotel offers

All of the above luxury family hotels have two-night and three-night celebration packages, including free accommodation for children, dinner for the adults, champagne on arrival and an upgrade (subject to availability) for stays until 18 July 2014. For more details or to book, ring the Smith & Family Travel Team on 0330 100 3183.

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The summer holidays are fast approaching: our top packing tip? Buy all those ‘last-minute’ essentials well in advance. We bring you family holiday inspiration, and Alexa Till (one half of the husband-and-wife team behind online kids’ fashion boutique Alex and Alexa) picks out the essential pieces to pack for easy-breezy holiday style… Coastal chic in Cornwall | Childrenswear for summer CORNWALL, UK
Where? Watergate Bay Hotel

Why? Cornwall’s always a great getaway for families: there’s no shortage of fresh, open stretches of beach to absorb active children’s energy. Watergate Bay is bang on the beach, which takes the hassle out of getting buckets, spades and toddlers to the sand. Interiors are fresh and contemporary, and wide windows make the most of the ocean views.
Family-friendly highlights Interconnecting rooms and family suites are available, and they’ve really thought about how to make the hotel a perfect stay for adults as well as children: clever childcare options allow you to relax and enjoy the spa, bar and restaurants. Then there’s the watersports centre, kids’ club, outdoor playground and indoor infinity pool…
Don’t forget…
your buckets and spades! A soft rubber Scrunch Bucket (£6.99) can be rolled up and squished into a corner of your suitcase.

Ralph Lauren boys shorts | Childrenswear for summerAlexa’s style tips 
‘This anchor-print dress (£83, pictured above) by British designer Rachel Riley is the perfect nautical style for a seaside escape. Grab a good pair of jelly shoes for seashell searches in Cornwall’s rock pools: these blue Hugo Boss jelly sandals | Childrenswear for summerHugo Boss sandals (£38, right) look good enough to eat. A pair of versatile, easy-to-wear shorts can be smartened up for dining at the hotel, or worn with a simple T-shirt for daytime exploring: try these cute Ralph Lauren seersucker shorts (£55).’
Finca Cortesin, Marbella | Stylish family holiday in Spain

Where? Finca Cortesin
Why? This palatial Marbella resort pulls off that rare trick of being all things to all guests; it’s a real destination hotel, and brilliant at accommodating families. It’s beautiful too: the Castilian frescoes, Moorish hangings and surreal trompe-l’œil tiles will inspire serious decor envy, and the nearby beach club is a super all-ages hangout.
Family-friendly highlights
The kids get a free, activity-packed mini club during the summer months; the grown-ups get one of the best spas in southern Spain. You don’t need to worry about having enough space, either: Finca Cortesin’s smallest suite is a sprawling 52sq m, and if you need even more room and want to self-cater, the sumptuous four-bedroom villa is ideal for group stays and has a kitchen.
Kids summer-holiday style | Melissa Odabash sundressDon’t forget… swimwear, sun cream, and a pop-up sun tent for babies and toddlers, so you can explore the region’s beaches and have shade on demand.

Alexa’s style tips
‘Make a splash at the resort’s outdoor infinity pool with a fun swimming costume; thrill your little lady with a pretty statement print Dolce & Gabbana swimsuit (£156, pictured above). Pop a dress over it for an instant cover-up at the kids’ club; or add sandals for sightseeing: this embroidered Melissa Odabash sundress (£60, right) is so sweet, and exclusive to Alex and Alexa.’

Halkidiki holiday style | Stella McCartney sundressHALKIDIKI, GREECE
Where? Ekies All Senses Resort

Why? This great-value resort’s private beach allows kids to splash about in the warm water while you flop on to a towel on the sand (there’s no elbow-jousting tournaments with fellow sunbathers here).
Family-friendly highlights The lifeguard-manned pool, snorkelling and boat trips liven things up when beach lounging gets too low-key for the kids’ liking, and there’s an indulgent polka-dotted eco spa. We love the space-age twist on traditional blue and white Grecian interiors, re-imagined with Matisse-esque dabs of colour.
Don’t forget… to go exploring: Ekies is perfectly placed to make family forays to some of the prettiest beaches and most interesting spots on the peninsula. Read the rest of this entry »

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One tween, and a lot of tucker, at Château les Merles

Posted by Juliet Kinsman on June 3rd, 2014

What happened when Ali Horsfall, deputy editor of Girl Talk magazine, took 12-year-old Billie with her to review this creamy-stoned 13-room château on a vineyard in Dordogne for us? Mum and daughter ate and ate… from amuse-bouches in the sitting room on arrival at Château les Merles to sampling chef Albert Kooy’s haute cuisine in the restaurant proper – as well as finding room for chocolate treats from Bergerac…

Favourite moments

Mouth amusement from start to finish! Tired from our journey, on arrival we flopped on inviting fireside sofas and Mademoiselle Smith chortled at the translation of the outrageously yummy appetisers planted before us. Read the rest of this entry »

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Esther Walker’s family-holiday ‘essentials’

Posted by Lucy Fennings on May 23rd, 2014

Famiy holiday packing essentials | Esther WalkerYou’d have thought packing light was second nature for the Smith tribe, but – trust us – we all know about the need to pack a lorry-load of necessities when taking toddlers on tour.

Just in time for the half-term exodus, journalist, Recipe Rifle blogger and chronic overpacker parent Esther Walker shares her (wry) take on family-holiday essentials…

If you want to stay being my friend then under no circumstances make fun of how much stuff I pack when going on holiday with my kids.

It’s not funny, packing for children, especially if any of them are under 18 months. Or, frankly, still in nappies. When I had only one baby I would complain long and hard to anyone who would listen about how going away for the weekend was like putting up and taking down a circus. Now I have two, the monumental amount of stuff we need when we go away beggars belief. We arrive, set everything up, have a cup of tea, then it’s time to pack everything away and go home again.

But, listen to me: I do not overpack. If anything, I underpack. I rarely take any toys, for example. Other people turn up for the weekend with great laundry bags full of toys, which Kitty has to then steal like a latter-day Artful Dodger. But even without toys, the list of essentials is simply endless. I look at the holiday kit assembled in the hallway and I know that there is nothing in any of these meticulously sourced and packed bags that we can do without.

Without the Dream Tubes, Kitty will fall out of the single bed that she will be sleeping in. Without the packet of soup pasta, Sam will not be able to have tea on Sunday night. Without his Lamaze Elephant that plays tunes when you squeeze the hand, Sam will be sad. Without his bath chair, Sam will not have a nice bath, which is a vitally fun 20 minutes in his day. Without Kitty’s new travel dollshouse she will be bored and demand to watch TV and show me up in front of our hosts. And so on. It’s enough to drive you to drink, let alone anything stronger.

But the thing about packing for small children is that no-one else can do it for you, only you know what you need and where it is. So until my kids are old enough to survive on holiday, (as I used to), with one bathing costume, one large T-shirt and a toothbrush, I will continue to spend a few days gathering everything under the sun for our trips away, and fill any available space in our car with essentials.

Because without the right stuff, you can’t relax – and what kind of holiday would that be?

I never go away without…

• Dream Tubes, which turn a single bed into a cot.
• Magic Blackout is brilliant for keeping light out of bedrooms with flimsy curtains.
• Sunsense Toddler Milk Factor 50 is the best kids suncream ever: one bottle lasts the whole holiday.
 Kitty zones out on flights with her iPad mini and JVC toddler headphones (in pink).
 The MacLaren TechnoXT is the best travel buggy.
• Aden + Anais giant cotton muslins always come in useful on holidays, as a sunshade, towel, vomit-absorber…
 My new Longchamp mini backpack is both stylish and practical and doesn’t get in the way like a cross-body bag.
 A bottle of Piriton cures all known travel ills, from sleeplessness to insect bites.

Esther Walker is a writer for The TimesThe Evening Standard and Grazia magazine. She also blogs about food and motherhood at Recipe Rifle. She is married to food critic Giles Coren; they have two children Kitty, 3 and Sam 1.

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