On paper at least, family holidays mean quality time. Until the babysitter arrives and it’s ‘margarita o’ clock’, that is. We’re giving mums and dads a little robe-dropping action in the spa, late-night meals and cocktail-shaking buzz in the hotel bar with child-friendly hotels where kids’ clubs will keep little ones entertained for hours and babysitters are ready to swoop in at the drop of a tantrum-veering toddler…
SOLUTION ONE SONEVA FUSHI, THE MALDIVES
Bye-bye kids Calling all castaways: this Maldives escape has a kids’ club with more pull than the Pied Piper. The Den (open daily from 10am to 5pm) is the collective imaginings of Soneva Fushi’s younger guests – who were consulted during the design process – resulting in in secret passageways, a clownfish-shaped pool with water slides and a pirate ship for kids to breach. There’s a hut for table tennis, an open-air cinema, dress-up room, music studio, Lego lounge, zip lines and a botanical garden with swings. Youngsters can snorkel, cook, craft and stargaze. And, there’s a mocktail bar, which they can prop up – just like mummy #proud.
Hello parents Soneva Fushi is eco-friendly, so you needn’t feel bad about anything you do here (including abandoning your children). Heck, you’re practically saving the world. You even have a butler to help you do whatever you’d like and a range of activities that runs as wide as the Indian Ocean (within which you can snorkel with manta rays, scuba with a marine biologist, sail, free dive, surf and fish). Blow your own glass doodad to take home in the resort’s art studio, meet the locals on island-hopping expeditions, then hit the spa for papaya facials and pranic-flow cleansing (you’re well overdue). Then dine a deux on a secluded softly lit stretch of beach. Wait! What’s the time? Relax, it’s island time…
SOLUTION TWO THE LAKES BY YOO, COTSWOLDS
Bye-bye kids Here you can open the door of your luxurious modern villa and set your kids free – if they love you, they’ll return. And, if they don’t, the Ben Fogle-designed bushcraft skills taught in the School of Wild will serve them well (we’re kidding, it’s really very safe). The friendliest of supervisors at the three kids’ clubs – Crawlers, Critters and Yoo Crew – will put them through their paces on the zipline (they have low ones for nervous little’uns); teach them circus skills and puppetry; and help them form a band at the summer School of Rock (‘No, you are not getting a drum kit’). There’s a small petting zoo and a bug hotel, plus enough craft kit to knock a Blue Peter presenter’s hand-crocheted socks off. The clubs are for kids aged four and up and run during the school holidays.
Hello parents The indoor pool is vast, with soul-restoring country views and a steam room and sauna to alternate between after a dip. Then slip away to treatment rooms that smell like Christmas or the nape of Armie Hammer’s neck (ahem) close by for top-to-toe Spiezia massages and Bamford facials. Once relaxed, get your pulse racing again by ziplining over the lake, hopping in a kayak made for two, knee and wakeboarding, rally driving or clay-pigeon shooting. Or, go genteel on a village-hop through the Cotswolds. If you really need a break, take the 100-mile trek along the leafy Gloucestershire Way.
SOLUTION THREE EAGLES PALACE, HALKIDIKI
Bye-bye kids If your little ones are buoyant they’ll have a brilliant time at this Grecian stay’s Explorers’ Club, where young ones can waterski, paddleboard, kayak, windsurf and sail. Your water babies can even compete in a mini regatta. If they’re non-aquatic, there are kids’ clubs for all ages from four months to 12 years, open from 10am to 6pm, Tuesday to Sunday. These cheery, vividly hued spaces are stuffed with soft toys and baby bouncers, arts and crafts kit, board games, puppets, blocks, trikes and telescopes for stargazing. Outdoors, a playground and sandpit offer hours of monkeying around.
Hello parents If you book through Mr & Mrs Smith, you’ll get two hours of babysitting free – precious time when the incessant jabber of the talking Iggle Piggle doll is silenced and Greece’s beguiling peninsula beckons. Bag a sunlounger on the resort’s Blue Flag beach, order up a round of tiki drinks, frolic in the Aegean, marvel at Mount Athos, take a trip into pretty Ouranoupolis village, head out on an Athonian wine-tasting session and get to know your Greek herbs on a garden tour – though, probably not all in two hours. Finally, hire a yacht for hopping around the Ammouliani islands and check the resort’s calendar, too – events such as mixology classes and Mexican fiestas (of course) are held frequently.
SOLUTION FOUR SELMAN, MARRAKECH
Bye-bye kids Around an hour’s drive from Marrakech in the ochre desert surrounding the Atlas Mountains – there’s something of the Disney palace to Selman hotel: the overflow of chandeliers, ample tasselling, ponies trotting about in the long stretch of garden… Aspiring princes and princesses will love it. It’s also home to one of the sweetest kids’ clubs we’ve seen (for four to 14 year olds) – a candy-hued, ogee-arched confection stashed with stuffed tigers and monkeys, craft materials, games and books, with a foosball table and little pouffes and Berber-style rugs to sit on. There are slides and swings, too, and My Little Pony fans will lose their tiny minds at stable visits and horse-and-carriage rides around the grounds.
Hello parents Do long lazy laps of Selman’s centrepiece pool, say hello to the very fine Arabian horses in the custom-designed stables (the horses’ digs almost rival guestrooms), then watch them prance their stuff at Selman’s vast Sunday brunch, for those who could eat a horse but won’t. Also vast is Selman’s spa, a beautifully decorated tadelakt-and-tile-bedecked space with restful pools, spice-scented treatment rooms and authentic hammams where you can get all rhassoul-ed up. You’re roughly equidistant from Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains, so you can cover both town and country pursuits. Don’t leave without a personal photoshoot with one of the horses – kids optional…
SOLUTION FIVE MARBELLA CLUB, SPAIN
Bye-bye kids The ginormous kids’ club at this legendary stay will cater to even the most spoilt celeb sprog/royal progeny/footballers’ bairn (delete as applicable). Set in villas around a central decked courtyard in Marbella, it’s packed with high-quality toys (wooden hobby horses, go-karts, vintage-style ride-on cars) and its Scandi-style furnishings would make grown adults squeal. Activities usually run from 10am to 1pm and 3pm to 6pm, with a break for lunch. Kids can potter about in the garden, harvesting ingredients to use in the mini kitchen and herbs and flowers to mix up in the aroma workshop. The arts-and-crafts den caters to the wildest imaginations and music lessons and sports entertain until movies and discos take over come evening. Your children may genuinely have forgotten who you are by pick-up.
Hello parents By day, hit the beach and follow the scent of frying meat and fish to the chiringuito. Then hit the spa and listen politely to the consultants (there’s a whole team of ’em), before zoning out on a lengthy spa journey – couples’ packages can be booked if you can’t bear to be parted. Then, you can horse ride, wear matching plus-fours on the golf greens or score love on the tennis court (if you’re not that good). After dark, Marbella Club’s champagne room is far too glamorous for sticky-fingered tots to bomb around. What if you run into a prince or even some lesser noble? Qué horror, no?
Plot more ways to keep your kids busy on holiday with our family hotels and villas.