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…
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!
What 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.
HASSLE-FREE FAMILY TRAVEL: TAMARA’S TOP TIPS
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).
Watch 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.