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

Top 10 half-term activities from KidRatedWe love our friends over at KidRated.com: the site that specialises in reviews by kids, for kids. Why spend hours trawling TripAdvisor or MumsyChat forums for sane advice about family-friendly activities, when you can hear it straight from the horses’ mouths: let’s face it, they’re the ones who really make the decisions anyway (‘because grown-ups can be a bit useless’).

So we’ve asked them to run down the 10 best half-term activities in and around London – as chosen by children. You’re (all) very welcome.

Half-term activities | Shard viewing platform1 GO UP THE SHARD

For those still reeling from the wallet-bashing Christmas gave us, a half-term visit to London’s highest landmark is well worth the trip as kids go free. The timed access to the Viewing Gallery cuts down on the queues so it never really feels busy and overcrowded, and kids rate it (ahem) highly. The lifts are breathtakingly fast and the guides are very friendly. Kids will love the digital telescopes that allow you to go back in time as you take in the fantastic views.

Half-term activities | Bletchley Park Turing project2 DECODE BLETCHLEY PARK

Bathing in the reflected glory of The Imitation Game’s Oscar nominations, a visit to Bletchley Park (just outside London in Milton Keynes) feels both topical and exciting. There is so much to see here a family can easily spend the whole day taking it all in. Highlights include authentic Enigma devices, a restored Bombe machine and a dedicated exhibit to the great Alan Turing. All the buildings and huts the code-breakers worked in have been lovingly recreated and, finally, in the main house you can see costumes and props from The Imitation Game. Under-12s go free, and visitors of all ages will love the snazzy iPod guides.

3 CELEBRATE CHINESE NEW YEAR

There are a host of events taking place around London for the Chinese New Year. Our favourites are the Chinese Shadow Firecracker workshop at the V&A Museum of Childhood, where kids can learn to make their own puppets(18 February; 10am–12.30pm and 1.30pm–4pm; free); Yeh Shen at the Polka Theatre – the Chinese version of the Cinderella story (18 February – 8 March). And of course the traditional Chinese New Year Parade through Chinatown and Trafalgar Square (from 10am, 22 February).

Half-term activities: RAF Museum4 TAKE FLIGHT AT THE RAF MUSEUM

They may have been surpassed by Minecraft and Candy Crush, but once upon a time, Airfix models were the ultimate pastime for any self-respecting kid. Ok, so we tended to just sit next to our parents as they made them, but nothing could beat the unrivalled joy of seeing a collection of plastic bits morph into a plane or tank.

From 16–20 February, the RAF Museum in Hendon will be holding their popular workshops where kids can go and make their Airfix models. Entrance and attendance is free; the kits cost £3 each. Watch the KidRated review.

5 SEE SHAUN THE SHEEP AND BIG HERO 6

With the weather still on the wet, cold and miserable side, the cinema is always a safe bet, and there are two critically acclaimed films currently on release for kids this half-term.

Shaun the Sheep Movie sees everyone’s favourite woolly friend turn action hero after a mix-up leaves him, the flock and the farmer stranded in the city. This is classic Aardman fare, with fast-paced jokes delivered with pinpoint accuracy. As usual, there’s more than enough here to keep both kids of all ages and adults entertained. And some of the set pieces will have your heart in your mouth and you rolling in the aisles.

Disney’s Big Hero 6 promises to another emotional rollercoaster. Somehow this story of boy meets robot feels like a cross between Scooby Doo and Battle of the Planets. There are big themes, including death, time travel and the meaning of friendship, but a word of warning: remember the opening scene in Up? Well we’re in that sort of territory here, and younger kids may find it a little overwhelming. Watch the KidRated review.

6 ZOOM THROUGH LONDON ON A SPEEDBOAT

Our K-Raters have never given the London RIB Experience a bad review, and this is echoed by TripAdvisor, which makes it their Number One London attraction.

You’ll be hard pushed to find a better experience as you take in the sights bombing down the Thames in one of their ‘Rocket’ boats. It’s exciting, informative and with their hilarious guides, always fun. Watch the KidRated review.

Half-term fun activities in Bath7 ENJOY BATH TIMES

Even if the weather isn’t great, there’s a lot for families to do in Bath this half-term. Why not visit the Fashion Museum, where kids and grown-ups can dress up in crinolines and collars to know what it really felt like to be Victorian?

At the Roman Baths, you can get up close to really ‘old money’, palm a few denarius, and design a Roman coin of your own.

And, at the Victoria Art Gallery, join the Jurassic Jaunt, to walk in the steps of dinosaurs and create art inspired by our fossilised friends.

Plot up at The Bath Priory hotel where parents will feel treated, too: there are family-friendly suites (one with bunk beds), dedicated kids’ swim times, a high-tea sitting in the Michelin-starred restaurant, and Ofsted-approved babysitters to give you the night off.

Half-term fun activities in London8 TOWER BRIDGE EXHIBITION

KidRated loved the Tower Bridge Exhibition even before it had its new glass walkway installed. Kids will be fascinated by the engineering feat that goes behind the magic of making London’s most famous bridge open. Time your visit right and you could be there to see this actually happen.

The exhibition also includes photographs of other famous bridges around the world plus the other designs that were submitted and rejected for this iconic building.

As mentioned though, this half-term will be all about the walkway: so make sure you take your camera and give yourself an epic thrill.

9 SURVIVAL SKILLS AT THE EDEN PROJECT

Adventurous kids who love the Hunger Games now have a chance to test their own survival skills at the incredible Eden Project in Cornwall. With various different missions to choose from across the indoor rainforest, kids can pick up survival tips from real-life explorers and exotic animals, learn how to shoot a blow-pipe, and listen to stories of survival told by some great storytellers. With so many activities, your kids will finish the day ready to brave the desert, jungle or even the Antarctic. Book online now and you’ll get 15% off tickets, too.

Half-term fun activities in London: HMS Belfast10 ALL ABOARD THE HMS BELFAST

Run by the Imperial War Museum, HMS Belfast is a museum ship permanently moored on the River Thames. Over the half-term week, they’re inviting kids to design their own tattoo T-shirts using traditional naval tattoos as their inspiration.

Not only will kids learn about the history and significance of these designs, but they’ll also explain the role the ship played in the D-Day landings. Plus they can explore the nine decks and discover what life was like at war and at sea. Watch the KidRated review.

MAKE A NIGHT OF IT

Top off your half-term thrills with a stay at a family-friendly London hotel or self-catering stay: here’s our pick of Smith & Family hotels in London



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¡Hola, family-friendly Formentera!

Posted by Rachel Juarez-Carr on February 6th, 2015

Paraíso de los Pinos hotel in Formentera

We’ve just added our very first family-friendly stay in Formentera to our collection: Paraíso de los Pinos. It’s a few minutes’ stroll from the beach, the two pools and a hottub are muy inviting, the restaurant serves seriously good food… and you have your own apartment, complete with kitchen, to hide out in if you fancy some quiet time.

See you there in the summer hols?

 



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Meet Aimee Chan: Smith reviewer, travel editor, founder of family-travel website Suitcases & Strollers and mum to two ridiculously beautiful little boys. Aimee somehow found a gap in her schedule to chat to us about Suitcases & Strollers, her experiences of travelling with tots in tow, what to do in Singapore with Smith Junior and where she likes to escape to for some R&R. Like Smith & Family, Aimee aims to provide practical advice for parents who don’t think that suitcases and strollers are incompatible. She’s even teamed up with us to offer one lucky family of four a three-night stay at quirky QT Port Douglas in Queensland (enter here to be in with a chance of winning). Enjoy…

Photo by Carolyn Soemarjono, Melia Photography                                                              Photo by Carolyn Soemarjono, Melia Photography

Tell us about Suitcases & Strollers…
Suitcases & Strollers is an online family travel website that provides ideas, tips and inspiration to parents travelling with kids under 12. I started it because when I became a parent, I realised there was no independent, magazine-like resource for me to consult as I tried to continue my travels en famille. At the time, there was no one website to tell me about flying with baby milk, whether the Inca Trail with kids was realistic or which luxury island resorts in Bali actually cater to (as opposed to tolerate) families.

Was there a particular experience that inspired Suitcases & Strollers?
I was always picking up tips and learning tricks about travelling with kids that I wanted to share with other parents – and they wanted to hear them. I realised Suitcases & Strollers could be a place where all this knowledge and information could be shared and stored for anyone to see, not just friends and people I was meeting at parties. I still regularly get personal emails and messages from strangers with travel questions; at least now I have a resource to refer them to.

We hope you point them in the direction of Smith & Family, too! Where is your favourite family holiday destination (and why?) in Asia for:

… a weekend trip?
I find that with small children, a trip needs to be at least more than a couple of days to warrant the hassle of boarding a flight. I particularly love Nikoi Island in Indonesia and Rawa Island in Malaysia. The beaches are clean, the water is tame enough even for very little ones and they are really easy places to chill out with the kids and feel like you’ve escaped from the everyday stress of living in Singapore.

… a two-week getaway?
For a city escape, I love Tokyo. Even two weeks is not enough; there is so much to see, do and experience. I also love Vietnam and somewhere like Danang or Hanoi probably has a better combination of beach/relaxation offerings and city and cultural excitement, all quite close together.

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Top five things to do with children in Singapore?
• Singaporeans are particularly proud of their street food and going to a hawker market is a fun way to introduce the local culture to the kids. Check out the teh tarik (local tea), roti (Indian-inspired bread) and any of the made-to-order fried noodle stalls as there’s always a lot of culinary theatre involved as well. We regularly visit Malaysia Street at Resorts World Sentosa as it is air-conditioned (hawker centres can get extremely hot and sweaty) and has lots of unique finds all in one spot.
• The many water play areas all over the city. Our favourite of late has been the one at Gardens by the Bay, but we’ve also spent lots of time at Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden (in the Botanic Gardens), Singapore Zoo and even in the water fountains at Resorts World Sentosa (strictly not supposed to be a water play area!).
• Spoil them by taking them for afternoon high tea at one of the luxury hotels. My son’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw the array of desserts on offer at Goodwood Park Hotel. That was a treat for both of us.
Universal Studios Singapore. It’s tacky and touristy but the kids absolutely love a theme park and this one is done well enough that it’s enjoyable for parents too.
• Wandering around Marina Bay Sands is actually good fun and you don’t need to set foot inside the casino or spend a single dollar. The place is huge, air-conditioned and there’s lots of things to look at, such as the synthetic ice-skating rink and the gondolas that float between the shops. If you are happy to spend a bit of money, the theatre often hosts world-class family-friendly musicals and the ArtScience Museum has really fantastic exhibitions.

Have you experienced any holiday horror when travelling with your two boys?
I did a trip with my first son, normally a very placid child, and he screamed the entire flight there. Then he screamed for the next few days. He could not be settled at all. In that first hour or two on the flight it was the worst feeling knowing the entire plane was listening to him. But after that I realised that it actually could not get worse – he could not scream any louder and it was clear there was no stopping him – and I just resigned myself to it. Funnily, it’s made travel easier since. I now know that being the parent of That Screaming Kid on the plane is survivable after all.

What’s the best travel advice you’ve ever received for family-holiday bliss?
Plan for everything but then be prepared to throw all those plans out the window. Planning to the last detail means you will know where the plastic bags are when your child suddenly vomits, you’ll know how many nappies you have left or you have emergency medical contact details on hand when you need them. But remember that kids don’t always like to follow adult plans, so you need to realise that flexibility is the key to survival. If your child will only drink juice or eat white rice and nothing else for an entire day, sometimes it is just easier to roll with it so you can actually relax and have a holiday!

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What three things are always in your suitcase when packing for a family getaway?
• Multiple sets of clothes and shoes for every type of weather. Kids in wet shoes or clothes are a disaster, so having multiple options is important.
• Sunscreen and hats. I’m Australian and we’re all obsessed with sun protection.
• It doesn’t fit in a suitcase, but we never leave home without our stroller. We learnt the hard way when we went to Berlin with our three-year-old who never used the stroller at home. Within just a few minutes he was refusing to walk anywhere and we knew we’d made a big mistake!

Are there any myths about travelling with children that you and your family have busted?
Overnight flights are generally presumed to be better for kids. Personally, I disagree. I find that, when flying with kids in the daytime, other passengers are more tolerant and I prefer to live without the stress of worrying about my children waking up other people who are trying to sleep. In my experience, when the kids do the night flight they are generally the last to sleep and first to wake, which means they never have enough: cue meltdown.

What’s your dream family-holiday destination?
Beach holidays are always fabulous with kids and the most relaxing of them all. Our kids also love theme parks and it was really a great joy to take our (then) three-year-old to experience the magic of Disneyland. But I also love a city escape: living in a foreign city for a few days and doing a mixture of tourist attractions and chilling out in places the local parents do, such as parks and playgrounds. We have also done a lot of road trips and we all enjoy taking in the scenery as you cover long distances in the car.

Browse Smith’s family-friendly hotels in Asia, or admire the full collection at Smith & Family. Don’t forget to enter our competition to win a three-night family-friendly stay at QT Port Douglas – details here.



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A 7-year-old’s favourite boutique hotel in Sweden

Posted by Rachel Juarez-Carr on November 19th, 2014

Treehotel in Sweden

Smith co-founders Tamara and James Lohan took their children hunting for family-friendly boutique-hotels in Sweden, and their little ‘uns found their favourite:

Treehotel in SwedenTreehotel in Sweden‘What more could a 7 year old boy want out of life than to sleep in a UFO hidden and suspended amongst the trees in the depths of Swedish Lapland?’ wrote Tamara.

‘Actually, our three days at the Treehotel in Harads were full of dream like experiences – from zip lining through the tree canopy (even my 4-year-old loved it) to standing in the middle of a frozen lake, pulling out fish from a hole we cut out of the ice with a mini fishing rod – which, by the way, was my 7-year-old’s idea of heaven.

‘If I ask my children which holiday has been their favourite over the years (and they have travelled a lot) it’s not the countless swimming pools and beaches or even the best water park in the world, Waterbom in Bali: it’s freezing their little mittens off in Sweden, eating reindeer over a camp fire and drinking tree sap.

‘For me, the beauty of this unspoilt landscape with its stunning silver birches – and sleeping up among the tree tops – made me feel close to nature in a way that no luxury beach holiday ever has. I’d quite like to come back with just my husband and stay that incredibly romantic mirror-cube treehouse – I’m told no one can see in!’

All photos by Tamara Lohan



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Hip half-term Halloween events for kids

Posted by Kate Weir on October 24th, 2014

Family friendly Halloween events | DubaiWe’ve dug up the best international kids Halloween activities for this October half-term holiday – with supernatural goings on in New York, London, Dubai, and beyond – and stylish child-friendly hotels around the world to stay in. Celebrate Day of the Dead in LA, take pumpkin carving to the next level in New York and take the kids to see Titus Andronicus (the childproofed version, that is)… With Halloween happenings to suit tricksy tots and scare-seeking teens alike, there are plenty of reasons to hop on your brood-size broomstick and fly away…

Half-term activities for kids | The Haunted Pumpkin Garden, New YorkGHOULISH GREENERY
The haunted pumpkin garden at the New York Botanical Garden, US
Even vegetable dodgers will love pumpkin-carving-pro Ray Villafane’s creepy creations. Spooky squashes are the stars of the show – kids can sculpt, carve and plant pumpkins here – but costume parades, after-dark flashlight tours and up-close creepy-crawly encounters are part of the freakish fun too.

Book now Activities take place from 1.30pm to 5.30pm, Tuesdays to Fridays; from 10am to 5.30pm, Saturday to Monday. Weekday tickets are US$8 for 2–12 year olds, US$20 for each parent; weekend tickets are US$10 for 2–12 year olds, US$25 a parent.

Sleep like the dead at The Surrey, where the well-connected concierge will know the best trick or treating routes.



Half-term Halloween events | Wild Wadi Waterpark, DubaiDJINN
-SPOOKED DIGS
Haunted Heights at Wild Wadi Waterpark, Dubai, UAE
The UAE’s sun-kissed metropolises seem fairly spook-free, but Dubai’s first haunted house – at mega waterpark Wild Wadi – has stirred up a few spirits. Over-13s can explore a dark abandoned hotel where a mischievous djinn resides. Too scary for little ones? There’s trick or treating and pumpkin carving too.

Book now Tickets are AED295 for kids taller than 1.1 metre, AED235 for those under. Haunted Heights is open from 1pm to 6pm each day.

Sleep like the dead at glam stay One&Only the Palm, which looks like the inside of a well-to-do djinn‘s lamp.



Half-term Halloween events | Shakespeare's Globe, LondonAN EVENING WITH SHAKES-FEAR
Shakespeare Untold at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, UK
From 27–31 October, Globe Education are staging retellings of Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merchant of Venice, where sidelined characters tell their story. The coup de grâce? For Halloween, infamous bloodbath Titus Andronicus has been given a family-friendly makeover – yes, really…

Book now Tickets are £15 for one adult and one child, extra tickets are £8 each. Plays start at 11am or 2pm and are suitable for over-6s.

Sleep like the dead at classic London stay Claridge’s, where your kids will find a few special treats in-room.



Half-term Halloween events for kids | Halloween pumpkin trail, Sea Life London Aquarium, UKCREATURES FROM THE DEEP
Halloween pumpkin trail at the Sea Life London Aquarium, London, UK

From 27 October to 2 November, the London Aquarium’s eerie aquatic activities will make kids shake like a jelly(fish). Carve pumpkins, meet the glowing and grim undersea spectres, snorkel with sharks and, on halloween, don your freakiest fancy dress for a storytelling session with the fearsome Fish Witch.

Book now ticket prices start from £18.36 an adult and £13.52 a child; snorkelling with sharks is £100 a child. The aquarium opens from 7am to 10pm, each day.

Sleep like the dead Check in at the Corinthia Hotel London – a Thames-side stay just a 10-minute walk from the aquarium.



Half-term Halloween activities around the world | LA Day of the Dead, USSPIRITS, SKULLS AND CELEBS
LA Day of the Dead at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, US
Visiting a cemetery needn’t be grim – celeb haunt (well, sort of) Hollywood Forever Cemetery is host to a Dia de Los Muertos-themed bash from 12 noon to midnight on 1 November, with Calaca (skull) face painting, live music, ceremonial altars and costume competitions – it’s lavish and full of life.

Book now Under-8s enter free, until 4pm; tickets are US$20 each for over-8s.

Sleep like the dead The Montage Beverly Hills hotel is holding a Children’s Halloween Fest on 25 October, with creepy cookie decorating, storytime and arts and crafts (US$45 a child).



Find many more vampy and dressed-to-kill family-friendly hotels on the Smith & Family site…



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Top 10 family hotels: the Smith Awards shortlist

Posted by Lucy Fennings on October 23rd, 2014

World's Best Family Hotels: the Smith Awards shortlist – Borgo Egnazia, Italy
Like the idea of a stay at the world’s best family hotel? Thought so. Read on, relaxation-starved brethren, and we’ll reveal the ultimate child-friendly holiday destinations…

Over on the Smith Travel Blog, we’ve been rolling out the 2014 Smith Hotel Awards shortlists – but if you’re one of the 22,000 travel-loving Smith & Family hotel fans and parents who responded to the survey, you’ll be dying to find out which child-friendly hotels are in the running. Well, wait no longer: we can now reveal 2014’s top 10 summer-holiday havens, romantic family resorts and baby-friendly boltholes – as championed by you, the voting public.

Best Family Hotels: Wolgan Valley Resort & SpaEMIRATES WOLGAN VALLEY, BLUE MOUNTAINS, AUSTRALIA 

Zoos are one thing; 4,000 jaw-dropping acres of pristine natural wilderness (with a world-class spa and restaurant) are quite another. At Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, families are in for the eco adventure of a lifetime, spotting wallabies, wombats, kangaroos and cockatoos, in jeeps, by bike, on foot or even horseback. Lap-of-luxury suites with unbeatable views complete the out-of-this-world picture.

More family-holiday highlights…
The staff, the service, the superb wine list, the spa… this all-action adventure playground doesn’t stint on life’s luxuries.
Wolgan prides itself on being Australia’s first conservation-based luxury resort, and is accredited by international group CarboNZero.
Junior bushcraft courses that teach animal tracking and shelter-building are perfect for your budding Bear Grylls; nature photography, stargazing and kite-flying appeal to gentler souls.

Best Family Hotels: Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, FijiJEAN-MICHEL COUSTEAU RESORT, FIJI

There are kids clubs, and then there are kids clubs. The Bula Club has a freshwater pool with water slides, a jungle gym and mini restaurant – it’s considered the best in the South Pacific – and your children are assigned a personal Fijian Mary Poppins, yours to adore from 8am until 9pm every day. Gently educational activities for all the family under the guidance of these kindly ‘buddies’ will get kids loving Fijian island life from the moment they arrive.

More family-holiday highlights…
Five-star PADI dive centre, private beach and free watersports, glass-bottom boat trips and a never-be-bored roster of daily activities, all included in rates.
Lantern-lit private dining at the end of the pier; traditional Fijian Lovo Feasts; tasty kids’ menus.
• Families are a real focus: there’s a great range of accommodation for parents and children.

Best Family Hotels: Castiglion del Bosco, Tuscany, ItalyCASTIGLION DEL BOSCO, TUSCANY, ITALY

There are Lorenzetti frescoes in the estate chapel (take that, Florence!); there’s wine tasting in the enoteca (who needs Montepulciano?) – there are even the ruins of an Etruscan fort in the hotel grounds. But how you spend your days here depends not on the age of your children, but on your willingness to leave the perfectly poised pool crowning Castiglion del Bosco‘s 4,000-acre Unesco-protected estate.

More family-holiday highlights…
A whole hamlet of incredible facilities, including a Brunello winery and enoteca; restaurants and bars; cookery school; tennis courts, football and bocce pitches, playground and sandpit…
Late-evening sessions at the kids’ club, so parents can dine à deux stress-free.
Special spa with therapies based on organic ingredients grown in the orto; past elixirs have featured Brunello grape must and Bacchus nectar.

Best Family Hotels: Constance Halaveli, MaldivesCONSTANCE HALAVELI, THE MALDIVES

It’s the Maldives, so you know the drill: overwater spa, perfect private beaches, adults-only ambience. But Constance Halaveli stands out with its cheerful family focus – the Family Beach Villas have private gardens, are stocked with kit for young kids, and have a separate children’s room with bunk beds; the kids’ club is attractive and engaging; and there’s so much to do, they’ll forget they knew iPads existed.

More family-holiday highlights…
Toddler playground; kids’ club cookery classes; sweet children’s menus.
Romantic overwater dining at Jing; sociable pool bar with 11 different takes on the G&T.
Resort-tailored scuba-diving courses for all levels; kit-packed family-friendly villas; sandy beaches and calm, clear lagoons.

Best Family Hotels: Calcot Manor, GloucestershireCALCOT MANOR, COTSWOLDS, UK

Amid Gloucestershire’s quiet country grandeur, with child-geared facilities at every turn as well as a parent-pampering spa, long-time Smith favourite Calcot Manor offers the acme of family escapes. Rooms designed with families in mind, free baby-listening, a crèche that takes newborns, a daily kids’ tea and a special swimming pool for little ones make Calcot a strong UK contender for the Best for Families award.

More family-holiday highlights…
The Playzone: Calcot’s Ofsted-rated day nursery is open seven days a week for all ages, from newborn babies up. Over-8s have the run of the Mez, a tech-packed hideaway with table football, computers, games consoles and a 12-seater cinema.
220 acres of landscaped grounds, featuring cycling trails, walking paths, tennis courts, a mini playground and, in summer, horse-riding and a maize maze.
The Gumstool Inn – a standalone pub in Calcot’s grounds – is a family-friendly haven. Its children’s menu is one of the UK’s best: all home-made and organic.

Best Family Hotels: Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, ItalyBORGO EGNAZIA, PUGLIA, ITALY

This 21st-century fairy-tale fantasy is renowned, with good reason. In summer, Borgo Egnazia‘s outdoor pools are sun-kissed, and a shuttle runs between two beaches; there’s tip-top all-ages childcare (with a member of staff for every two children), a superb two-storey spa (with amazing Puglian treatments) and an atmosphere of laid-back luxe that’s a huge hit with like-minded families in need of sociable spoiling.

More family-holiday highlights…
• 
I Trullalleri – a superb kids’ club with indoor and outdoor spaces, a childcare ratio of 1:2 and an enticing to-do list of theatre workshops, dancing, bracelet-making and cookery classes. Older children pick from tennis, swimming, zoo trips or bike rides to archaeological sites, and staff help put on productions in the evenings.
Hyper-local Pugliese cuisine: anything not home-grown comes from nearby farms.
Stylish, well-appointed family suites and villas in the Borgo village.

Best Family Hotels: Montage Beverly Hills, LAMONTAGE BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA, US

You don’t take a family city break to while away the hours relaxing at your hotel: but Montage Beverly Hills begs to differ. Beyond chef Scott Conant’s accolade-netting restaurant, the chic rooftop pool prompts all-day family lounging; Beverly Hills’ biggest spa pampers you into slothdom; and Disneyland-trained staff host the best kids’ club in town.

More family-holiday highlights…
Elegant rooms, eye-candy views, serious spa, bars and a clutch of farm-to-table restaurants keep high-maintenance guests of all ages happy.
The Paintbox kids club offers fun daily childcare for ages 5–12; come the weekend, ‘Kids Nights Out’ keep them busy with dinner, a movie and popcorn.
 Gourmet kids’ menus at Modern Italian fine-diner Scarpetta; child-friendly afternoon tea sessions, with PB&J or Nutella sandwiches.

Best Family Hotels: Parrot Cay by ComoPARROT CAY BY COMO, TURKS & CAICOS

As if ‘private island’ and ‘Turks & Caicos’ weren’t already synonymous with out-and-out luxury, Parrot Cay by Como ups the ante with water adventures for the whole family and a truly decadent Como Shambhala spa pavilion; delicious seafood doesn’t hurt, either. Days are spent snorkelling, spying iguanas, hoisting a sail or just strolling the white sand together… bliss.

More family-holiday highlights…
Fabulous food, from Mediterranean and Asian menus to castaway family picnics: staff can drop you off at a secluded beach with a ready-packed hamper.
• Under-12s stay in parents’ rooms free in a cot or extra bed, with breakfast included, and many rooms have day-beds that can be converted to beds for children.
Family-fitting Beach Houses have to-die-for views, direct beach access, plenty of space and fully stocked kitchens.

Best Family Hotels: Daios Cove, Crete, GreeceDAIOS COVE, CRETE, GREECE

Calling all water babies: Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas, a clifftop escape with its own private beach and more saltwater pools than you can realistically splash about in, has everything you need for a blissful summer getaway – indulgent restaurants, a spa for frazzled parents, expert babysitters, a mountain of baby kit, and a wealth of aquatic activities.

More family-holiday highlights…
• 
All the essentials – from pushchairs to pool gates and baby-listening equipment – can be provided; every detail has been considered. Book a Family Villa and you could feasibly turn up empty-handed, armed with just your passport, a smile and your brood in tow.
• The glamorous spa has tempting treatments featuring salt crystals, essential oils, fruit extracts and ‘pearl essence’; plus a hairdresser and a beauty salon.
Ocean restaurant serves a creative Italian menu by a Michelin-starred chef.

Best Family Hotels: Tresco Sea Garden Cottages, Scilly IslesTRESCO SEA GARDEN COTTAGES

Tiny, time-warp Tresco is an endearingly old-fashioned patch of perfection. With a mild climate, gorgeous white-sand bays and fresh cloud-scudded skies, it offers a Best of British getaway in a so-good-it-feels-staged setting. Tresco Sea Garden Cottages have an easy-breezy stone dwelling to suit every family set-up; and this private island’s car-free interior invites you to explore unfettered.

More family-holiday highlights…
• 
Two family-friendly pools at the main hotel site, plus access to the island’s Flying Boat Club spa.
• Cornish mullet, Falmouth Bay scallops and organic leaves from the neighbouring island of St Martin’s served up at the Ruin Beach Café.
The entire island is your playground – it’s small and entirely family-owned. 

The Best for Families award-winner and runners-up will be announced at our awards party on 7 November. In the meantime, find your favourite family-holiday destination at Smith & Family.



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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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TEN TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELLING WITH A BABY

• 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 Food and Square Meal, where she is currently News and Online Editor. She is also one of three women behind thirty-something lifestyle blog Everyday30.com. 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

smithandfamily.com



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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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