Family Summer Holidays
I know it seems a bit premature to be talking about summer holidays, but believe me, if you want to get a good bargain for yourself and your family, you need to be looking now!
For me, the joy of summer is the simplicity it brings; dining unceremoniously outdoors, feasting on chargrilled burgers and salads, lying in the long grass watching the clouds move lazily across the sky and the smell of freshly cut grass.
Research shows that holidays are beneficial for your health and that of your relationships. It makes sense really, life is so busy it’s rare we get moments to just sit still and enjoy the passing of time together. I don’t have children and still I find it hard to give enough time to my relationships. I watch in awe as my sister balances full-time work, school runs, homework, afterschool activities, and all without having a nervous breakdown.
What I remember most about our family holidays is not having to wear shoes, being able to stay up late until my eyes got sore and head began to droop, Dad doing the shopping and filling the trolley with delicious treats and Mum sitting still. I remember learning to swim and running through water sprinklers. I’m under no illusion that packing for a family of seven and transporting five excitable children to wherever it was we were heading was a restful experience, but I think my parents would agree, it was generally worth it.
These days package deals can work out the most inexpensive way to do a family holiday and with so many packages geared towards families the resorts available tend to be very child centred. Holidays will never be cheap, but with the right planning it doesn’t have to break the bank. Irish families tend to swarm to the sunny Algarve, while the more adventurous jump aboard the ferry and camp along the west coast of France or rent a cottage in picturesque Cornwall. No matter where you choose, the most important thing is that you’re all together, having a laugh. After all, that’s what holidays are for.
Portugal has become one of the most popular family summer destinations, especially the Algarve, a stretch of 150kms coastline fringed with long sandy beaches, crumbling red cliffs, family-friendly resorts and plenty of activities to keep the young ones occupied. The Algarve is to Portugal, what the Costa del Sol is to Spain, a beachside holiday destination catering for all budgets; luxury resorts with swish hotels and plush villas replete with private swimming pools, golf courses and fine restaurants in Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo or more affordable resorts such as Praia da Rocha and Alvor offering an excellent range of reasonably priced accommodation, good beaches and plenty of family-focused activities.
The resorts in central Algarve are geared towards families, with most package deals bringing you to this area. Children won’t get bored with unending watersports available, from surfing, windsurfing, and kayaking to motor-boating and water parks.For the grown-ups the area has a surplus of golf courses, Faro is renowned for shopping and for the adventurous you can take quad-bikes up into the mountains along dirt tracks and countryside roads.
The further west you go along the coastline, the less developed and the quieter resorts, such as Praia du Luz and over to Cape Vincent.
The beaches of the south are well protected, however once you round the Cape the less shelter there is and the more rugged and wild the beaches become. This has resulted in most of the development happening on the southern coastline, meaning the southwestern resorts are less crowded with a rather pleasing absence of unsavory high-rises. An excellent place near Sagres, is the high-end family-friendly Marthinal Resort , while pricey it is in a secluded Nature Park, tastefully designed and with fantastic facilities.
No matter where you’re staying, it’s worth taking a daytrip away from the coastline to experience the real Portugal. The interior is decorated with colourful orange groves, fig trees, vineyards and quaint villages or venture to the quieter eastern Algarve, probably more suited to those without children as there are fewer activities available, however if you want to relax, soak up the sunshine and enjoy fresh seafood, this could be your spot.
For many years the Portuguese kept the coast north of Lisbon a secret to themselves, however, someone must have let slip about the sheltered coves, sandy beaches and pretty fishing villages.
Getting There Fly direct to Faro from €40 one way
Hotel Accommodation from €350 for 1 bed self-catering apartment per week
SPECIAL OFFERS MENTIONED ON IRELAND AM
CLICKANDGO – http://www.Clickandgo.com
From €999 (2 adult & 1 child) or €1199 (2 adult & 2 children) includes return flights, 7 nights self-catering accommodation, taxes & charges, transfers. Travel June
LOWCOSTHOLIDAYS – www.lowcostholidays.ie
Praia da Rocha
From €1156 (2 adults & 2 children) includes 7 nights in self-catering, return flights, taxes and charges.
Travel: July 2014
CAMPING AND OUTDOOR PARKS IN FRANCE
France has Europe’s highest number of campsites and is one of the best places to experience an outdoor family holiday without breaking the bank. Sites can be found by the sea, in forests, by lakes and accommodation varies from safari tents, to treehouses, wooden cabins and luxury villas. These parks are purposely built for families, providing a wide range of activities for children, family restaurants and children’s clubs. It is generally an affordable hoiday as the parks have free activities to keep the children occupied, self-catering reduces the costs of eating out and you tend to stay put negating daily excursions that can rack up costs.
It is important to choose the right park to suit your family needs and one with a high standard of facilities and good location. There are a host of reputable companies that have a portfolio of parks scattered around France and they often arrange fly-drive packages, which is a good way to do it if you don’t want to have to take your own car.
Centre Parcs have 20 villages around Europe, all set on acres of forest accommodation in sleek log cabins, funky treehouses and luxurious chalets all contained within their own space to allow for privacy and some accommodating up to ten people. The parks, open throughout the year, cater specifically for families, with and abundance of both indoor and outdoor activities– sailing, badminton, gyms, craft workshops for toddlers, quad-biking, cycling, horseriding, you name they have it. There will be no excuse for adult or child to be bored here, and with the great children’s clubs adults get to have time to themselves to sit and relax in their cabins, go to the spa or take part in one of the many activities on offer.
The newer parks such as Trois Forets in France , a wonderful village set in over 400 hectares of land and all accommodation is in wooden cottages. They have built an incredible indoor pool, with slides, while a snack bar, loungers and palm trees skirt the extensive pool.
Most of the parks are luxurious, the interiors of the cabins and even treehouses super modern and slick and with all the utilities you need. The parks are perfect for family breaks, with a whole host of activities that you could easily stay for two weeks and never have to set foot in your car.
If you are looking for a beachside location L’Escale Saint-Gilles in Southern Brittany (under 2 hour drive from Roscoff) is a five-star beachside campsite with good facilities, accommodation in canvas lodges, tents and mobile homes or try out Camping des Abers, Landéda, Brittany (1hr20 from Roscoff) or Le Domanie Les Ormes also in Brittany (2hrs20 from Cherbourg and under 3 hours from Roscoff).
Getting There Fly from €40 one way per person
Boat From €250 return car with 4 passengers www.irishferries.com
Accommodation Costs From €350 for 7 nights in cabin catering for 4 people
CRYSTAL ALFRESCO – www.crystalalfresco.ie
Brittany, France – 9 night package ‘by ferry’ package
From €849 per family (2 adults & 2 children) – Includes 7 nights in a 2 bed mobile home in the La Grande Metairie resort plus overnight sailings with cabins.
Cote d’Azur, South of France
From €259 (was €566) includes 7 nights in 2 bed mobile in La Baume (Depart 1st June)
Lake Garda, Italy
€385 – includes 7 nights in a 2 bed mobile in Altomincio Family Parc
OTHER SPECIAL OFFERS FOR FAMILY HOLIDAYS
FALCON HOLIDAYS – http://www.falconholidays.ie
Splashworld Village in Majorca
From €2722 (2 adults & 2 children) – includes flights, luggage, transfers, 7 nights all inclusive accommodation, access to waterpark. Travel July 2014.
The above price includes a Free Child Place early booking discount of €494
CLICKANDGO – http://www.Clickandgo.com
Sands Beach, Lanzarote
From €999 (2 adult & 1 child) or €1249 (2 adult & 2 children) includes return flights, 7 nights self-catering accommodation, taxes & charges, transfers
AMERICAN HOLIDAYS – www.americanholidays.com
Orlando from under €2000
From €499 per person – includes: Return flights ex. Dublin, 7 nights accommodation, taxes and charges.
Travel: January – June 2014
Cornwall is a fantastic family holiday destination, with thousands of self-catering cottages lining the coast, campsites with excellent facilities and often stunning locations and family holiday resorts with all the facilities you’ll need for the little ones. Restaurants and bars cater for families with family menus, outdoor children’s play areas and in case the weather fails, crayons and colouring books at the ready.
The coastline is dotted with scenic fishing villages, bustling coastal towns and some of England’s most dramatic cliffs and stunning beaches.
Padstow is the most popular town in North Cornwall for holidays, home to Rick Stein’s restaurant and a working fishing port, it is a lively spot even outside the summer months.
Newquay is a busy seaside town, popular with surfers so a good place if you have teenagers keen to take part in surfing lessons and meet others their age. St Ives is a quaint fishing town, however can get packed during the summer months and if you plan on visiting you will have to book well in advance. An alternative is to choose a smaller village outside these main towns and make day-trips to them.
If you get bored of the beaches and fancy some day trips, head to the famous Eden Project – and be sure to give yourself the full day; rainforests, sculputural gardens, education centre, quirky dome buildings will keep you occupied for the day. Check their calendar of events as they run family activities throughout the year. Nearby to the Eden Project are the The Lost Gardens of Helligan. Over in Falmouth you can visit Trebah Gardens, sub-tropical gardens situated on a beach.
Taking the boat over to the UK can be a hassle free holiday for families, with the boat to Pembroke only 4 hours and once you disembark the boat you are a short drive from some wonderful fishing villages and beaches. If you are making your way to Cornwall, it is a good idea to incorporate a night in Wales to break the journey.
Getting There Fly to South Hampton from €50 return
Hotel Accommodation From €500 per week (self-catering for 6 people)
Special Offers Stena Line – From only €259* for a family of 6 including travel by car on boat, 3 nights self-catering accommodation