When you have children, everything you thought you knew about travel changes. You may have trekked the Himalayas, bussed across South America or seen enough European cities to know the train timetables by heart. But when you take that first holiday with a pre-schooler you realise your hard-earned global prowess counts for naught and merely packing a suitcase feels like scaling a mountain.
With children on board, travel priorities change. Are chips on the menu? Is there a shallow end? Does the water park open over half-term? Is the kids’ club restaurant licensed?
And yet, you’re still a traveller. You still want to explore, see new places, enjoy in stylish stays; you’re still “cool” — which is why a hip, short-haul resort is the holy grail of family travel. These precious places keep the whole clan happy, with local menus and an authentic sense of destination, but also with a water slide or two and a kids’ club.
● Best family hotels in Ibiza
● Best family hotels in Cyprus
The king of the cool family resort is Greece (both the mainland and the islands), where hoteliers understand that being a parent shouldn’t consign you to a life of buffet dining. Many family resorts in Greece have private beaches, spacious villa accommodation and advance-level kids’ clubs where children can learn to sail, dive or windsurf.
In joint-second place, Italy, Spain and Portugal also offer hip family digs — partly because these countries generally place such importance on children and the multigenerational experience, but also because their citizens tend to take domestic holidays. We say grazie mille to them as it means that you can order sea urchin risotto while your youngsters tuck into veal Milanese.
There is also a new breed of all-inclusive resort that deserves a mention in this list — these are hotels on a smaller scale than you might imagine, where the emphasis is on a luxury holiday without the stress of constant bills. The onsite restaurants are often à la carte, and the inclusion of car rental and off-site dining vouchers demonstrates that these properties want you to get out and explore.
See? There is life beyond the paddling pool — you just need to know where to find it . . .
Prices are for school summer holidays.
Valle dell’ Erica, Sardinia, Italy
1. Valle dell’ Erica, Sardinia, Italy
No one looks after kids quite as brilliantly — or reverentially — as the Italians. Here, the nappy-bound have a Baby Club staffed till 11pm (yes, you read that right — romantic dinners are yours for the taking!). Older kids get golf lessons, swimming courses, five-a-side pitches; they can even join a Robinson Crusoe day, which involves canoeing to a remote stretch of coast, learning to photograph the landscape, and then camping overnight. The “cool” element comes in for parents who’ll love the outdoor spa (a stylish clutch of thermal pools in gardens), airy rooms using Sardinian stone, and the best food of any of these resorts featured (sand-under-foot Li Zini being the star).
Details Seven nights’ half-board for four from £10,396, including flights and private transfers (citalia.com)
A villa at Elivi, Skiathos
2. Elivi, Skiathos, Greece
If you have Mamma Mia! fans in tow, they’ll want to TikTok from Skopelos — the Sporades island where that ravishing hilltop wedding was filmed. Problem is, this rustic speck doesn’t really do “cool”, so base yourself in Skiathos next door (which has direct flights from the UK too), from where you can take the 20-minute ferry. Slick Elivi resort awaits, with A-list status of its own (actress Kate Hudson and family visit Skiathos every year) and contemporary white-cube bungalows hidden among pine forest. Kids’ activities are health-driven — yoga, Pilates, Zumba, even diving with a “bubble” suit — though there’s a children’s cinema too.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £6,393, including flights (olympicholidays.com)
Lujo, Bodrum peninsula, Turkey
3. Lujo, Bodrum peninsula, Turkey
You can’t move these days for mega-all-inclusive resorts lining the southern Turkish coast — the capacity is high and the room rates are low. Good for them. But such size can feel anonymous, which is where the Turkish-owned Lujo steps in, smaller in scale, and set on a spectacular bay (we’re talking Maldives-esque clarity of water) on the Bodrum peninsula. It’s hyper-modern in design, but the use of local stone and retention of subtropical gardens help it to blend into the hillside, where fish restaurants and overwater bars welcome guests who can’t believe it’s not a boutique hotel. Kids are treated like mythical gods (given that ancient wonder Ephesus is two hours’ drive away).
Details Seven nights’ all-inclusive for four from £13,208, including flights and transfers (tui.co.uk)
Princesa Yaiza, Lanzarote
4. Princesa Yaiza, Lanzarote, Spain
Here’s a tip, families: don’t write off hotels with an adults-only pool. It just means that the resort is stylish enough to keep honeymooners happy, which can only have a (beneficial) knock-on effect for families. So, while beachfront Princesa Yaiza has bunk bed rooms with bean bags, a kids’ theatre and countless clubs for under-18s, it also has a bells-and-whistles thalassotherapy spa, an award-winning teppanyaki restaurant and breezy suites of navy and terracotta for the grown-ups. You can have your cupcake and eat it.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £4,112, including flights (easyjet.com/en/holidays)
Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, Italy
5. Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, Italy
When your teens will only check in if Romeo Beckham did so before them, a reservation at Borgo Egnazia is in order. Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel also married here, each clan smitten by the pretty Apulian-stone village created of casettas (small houses) and villas built around lavender-and-olive-brimming gardens and various piazzas. It’s wall-to-wall linen, muslins, dried wildflowers and wicker — like a farmhouse styled for World of Interiors — and the scent of fig is intoxicating, but be aware you’re not on the beach (it’s a short shuttle) so this is one for families who love pool time.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four in a Casetta Splendida from £6,100pp, including flights and private transfers (blacktomato.com)
Eagles Villas, Halkidiki, Greece
6. Eagles Villas, Halkidiki, Greece
Eagles Palace was trucking along nicely — a Greek-owned family-friendly beach hotel sitting on the furthest of Halkidiki’s three sandy “fingers”. So nicely, it was forever fully booked. Along comes Eagles Villas to accommodate everybody, ramping up the Greek-fantasy 100 per cent, with individual stone-and-glass villas — showcasing private pools and gardens — built beside the hotel among olive groves, each with astonishing sea views. Kids still get to use all the Eagles kit and caboodle, and attend the brilliant Aqua Explorers club that offers sailing, paddleboarding, diving and kayaking lessons.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £9,169, including flights, private transfers and UK lounge passes (elegantresorts.co.uk)
A balcony at Hotel Romazzino
7. Hotel Romazzino, Costa Smeralda, Sardinia
This level of cool doesn’t come cheap — you’re in an original 1970s white-rendered curve of a hotel — very Costa Smeralda, where balconies look like music-video sets and the pool requires its own Instagram account. So steel yourself for a big outlay, but then revel in the private aquamarine bay that comes with it, a children-only restaurant, freshwater and saltwater pools, and evening shows for kids so that you can twirl your spaghetti vongole in peace.
Details Room-only family rooms for four from £1,390 (marriott.co.uk). Fly to Olbia
Grecotel LuxME Daphnila Bay, Corfu, Greece
8. Grecotel LuxME Daphnila Bay, Corfu, Greece
LuxME is the new all-inclusive tag applied to a handful of Grecotel stays — a chain that is normally known for its old-school, upmarket Greek properties (two of which you’ll see since LuxME guests are invited to sail across the bay in the northeast of the island and dine at either Corfu Imperial or Eva Palace as part of their package). But rest assured, the “Lux” bit is taken seriously at this all-inc, with stylish, airy suites in retro bungalows among gardens, plus a private bay and beach club, a choice of restaurants, a spa and tennis courts. Kids are king here, with three dedicated clubs split by age: GrecoBaby, Mini Club and GrecoTeens.
Details Seven nights’ all-inclusive for four from £5,309, including flights (olympicholidays.com)
9. Château Capitoul, Narbonne, France
France doesn’t do family-focused resorts with the same zeal as Greece, Italy or Portugal; if you’re looking for water parks and puppet shows you’ll need to head for a campsite. But Château Capitoul in Narbonne, in the south of France, does nod its beret to families, and is definitely “cool”, with eight stunning rooms in its 19th-century château, or 44 self-catering villas dotted around the hameau, or hamlet, which also has vineyards, wine-tasting rooms, kitchen gardens, cycle trails and a flamingo-flocked lagoon. In summer, there’s a kids’ club, with au-naturel pursuits such as hikes and gardening classes.
Details One night’s self-catering for four in a two-bedroom villa from £550 (chateaucapitoul.com). Fly to Narbonne (or Beziers or Perpignan)
10. Ikos Aria, Kos, Greece
Straight off the bat, all-inclusive resorts tick the “family” box because kids can eat what they want when they want (and, shamefully, leave what they don’t want on the plate). But they’re very rarely cool. Which is what the Ikos founders realised and remedied by opening a collection of six “luxury all-inclusives’’ (five in Greece, one in Andalusia). Ikos Aria, on the island of Kos in the Dodecanese, hits the mark: chic hanging wicker chairs, driftwood gazebos, infinity pools lined with cushty canvas loungers — this is photoshoot territory, where you happen not to get a bill at the end. Bliss.
Details Seven nights’ all-inclusive for four from £10,799, including flights (kuoni.co.uk)
11. Six Senses, Ibiza, Spain
Can families do Ibiza, let alone “cool” Ibiza? Si, señor. Six Senses is just one of a few recent openings on an island that understands the need to shimmy off its party image and start making money year-round — often from wellness and families. Instead of in-your-face family fun, Six Senses offers stargazing, open-air cinema, yoga, cookery and art workshops that all generations can enjoy, while your accommodation is the stuff of design-mags: bamboo-shaded terraces, raffia light shades and sculptural bathtubs. Its location on the peaceful north coast means you’ll all sleep like babies.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £32,800, including flights and private transfers (blacktomato.com)
Sani Resort, Halkidiki, Greece
12. Sani Resort, Halkidiki, Greece
Chances are, if you’re a parent and travel with your brood, you’ve heard of the family-focused Sani empire — and quickly determined you can’t afford it. But look past the mighty marketing and celebrity guest list and you’ll see there are actually five different properties, Sani Beach being the most affordable (Sani Dunes is the top of the tree). They all share the same stunning seashore and crystal-clear waters of this Halkidiki peninsula (close to Thessaloniki for flights too) and each does the same line in cheerful white-on-grey styling, with kids’ club, kids’ pools and kids-to-play-with on tap.
Details Seven nights’ half-board for four from £8,744, including flights and transfers (tui.co.uk)
The pool at Amada Colossos
13. Amada Colossos, Rhodes, Greece
Another resort with assigned adult zones (see Princesa Yaiza), you can rest assured that Amada Colossos is not wall-to-wall crayon and nursery rhymes — this resort considers its newlyweds as important as its newborns. Which means you’ll be welcomed with sophisticated interiors of marble, blond wood, white linen and tropical greenery, and snappable pools that look good on social media, whether that’s family Facebook or Gen-Z TikTok. That said, there is a water park — with flumes! — on site, so your kids can always be kids.
Details Ten nights’ B&B for four from £4,526, including flights (thomascook.com)
Martinhal Sagres, Algarve, Portugal
14. Martinhal Sagres, Algarve, Portugal
In some cases, “family-friendly” is a term hotels are almost embarrassed by and reluctantly earn with a paltry kids’ menu or swing-set on the lawn. The opposite is true of Martinhal Sagres, where fox mascots Rafi and Rosita visit your breakfast table each morning, plastic cutlery is on hand and each restaurant has either a playground or soft-play park (in sight of your table). The many swimming pools offer free inflatables and toys, while five different-age kids’ clubs have newborns to sixth-formers covered. Best of all? It looks good, spread across contemporary larchwood buildings on the beach.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £8,399, including flights (kuoni.co.uk)
15. Almyra Hotel, Pathos, Cyprus
“My kids’ club is better than your kids’ club!” you may shout as you compare notes with other parents on the flight home, because Almyra’s was done up this spring, and could pass for a dotcom HQ. Classes in the concrete-and-glass courtyard building include pottery and Cypriot baking, while Fortnite fans will love the interactive gaming system. You can imagine how photogenic the waterfront hotel is if its kids’ club looks this good: a stark-white contemporary confection of terraces, glass balconies and infinity pools. The spa, with its rooftop classes and sun decks, will wow too.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £5,396, including flights and private transfers (sovereign.com)
16. Marbella Club, Spain
This enclave has reeked of “cool” since it opened in the 1950s, offering an escape for jet-setting families — Brigitte Bardot included — over the decades. It’s still the epitome of style today, with the most chic kids’ club among this collection of resorts — driftwood furniture, raffia roofs and a herb garden (for kids’ perfumier classes) — a calming cocoon of a spa and its own sceney beach club. Your entourage can choose from light, bright hotel rooms with terraces, split-level suites or grand villas with private pools among the palms.
Details Five nights’ B&B for four from £18,900, including flights and transfers (audleytravel.com)
17. Daios Cove, Crete, Greece
For families who aren’t quite ready for a fully-fledged, wipe-clean “family-friendly” hotel, Daios Cove is the perfect baby step. It looks like a grown-ups’ domain, with sleek, angular bungalows scattered along a private beach in the east of the island, where you can do yoga on the pontoon before a fish lunch cooked by one of Greece’s top chefs (food is a big deal here). “But, happily, children of every age and every disposition (even teething tearaways) are welcome; it just happens that Daios Cove chooses not to daub everything in primary colours. There’s a UK-standard kids’ club for under-12s and a hip, high-tech games centre for older offspring.
Details Seven nights’ all-inclusive for four from £11,996, including flights and transfers (abercrombiekent.co.uk)
Ritz-Carlton Abama, Tenerife
18. Ritz-Carlton Abama, Tenerife, Spain
“Cool” isn’t one of the first adjectives thrown about when brochures eulogise about the Canaries but Abama is an exception, as past guests Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem can testify. With Moorish architecture as its muse — Tenerife is closer to Morocco than Spain — the hotel, in the southwest, is a rust-red, kasbah-style creation that tumbles down a hillside thick with banana plantations to its own bay. Kids love the natural pools on the beach, playground, planetarium (yup), tennis academy and local whale-watching trips. And if they’re happy, so are the oldies.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £5,145, including flights, private transfers and UK lounge passes (elegantresorts.co.uk)
Sun Gardens, Dubrovnik, Croatia
19. Sun Gardens, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Sure, your kids’ club might come with a couple of goal posts, but does it come with tutelage from Emile Heskey, Wes Brown and Andy Cole? That’s what lucky children can look forward to at Sun Gardens, where the football, tennis and squash academies are good enough to train future sports stars. If your sprogs aren’t sporty, there’s a never-ending roster of clubs, from palaeontology to Lego to laser tag. The “cool” comes into play thanks to nautical blue-on-white rooms and restaurants, not to mention the fact that Dubrovnik is a 20-minute taxi ride away (staff will even tell teens where to pose when visiting the best local Games of Thrones sites).
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £8,500 including flights and private transfers (scottdunn.com)
The beachside pool at One & Only, Portonovi
20. One & Only Portonovi, Montenegro
If the One & Only hotel group were a supermarket, it’d be Waitrose, or possibly Selfridges’ food hall, so expect to see stars on the sunbed next door, expect style in spades and expect to spend. In family terms, this means smart Med-view rooms in the clutch of heritage-style main houses (the resort is built like a village, with streets), or a villa of your own with a terracotta-tiled roof, floor-to-ceiling windows and a private pool. Take time together and hire the classic speedboat to explore Adriatic islands from your location on the Bay of Kotor, or apart, sending the kids off to try raft-building, stand-up paddleboarding and storytelling (with a local actress, no less).
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £11,199, including flights (kenwoodtravel.co.uk)
Porto Zante, Zakynthos, Greece
21. Porto Zante, Zakynthos, Greece
While there are parts of Zakynthos — also known as Zante — to avoid (the full-English resort of Laganas in the south, for example), there are other parts to add to your bucket list: its famous Shipwreck Beach, for example, has graced the front cover of a thousand travel mags. Fortunately, Porto Zante is miles away from the former and arranges private yacht excursions to the latter, offering the best of the island in one ultra-luxe hotel. No rooms here as such; instead mini villas, each with its own heated private pool are scattered across a vast rural estate with room enough for a kids’ aqua park.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £24,000, including flights and private transfers (scottdunn.com)
Verdura Resort, Sicily, Italy
22. Verdura Resort, Sicily, Italy
You’d be forgiven for getting kids’ club fatigue reading about all these pools and painting classes, but Verdura stands out from the crowd. Here, kids aren’t separated and given a colourful corner to play in; they are enveloped in the hotel experience with children’s newspapers, comment cards, bath robes, teddies at turndown, kids’ hangers and laundry bags, not to mention in-room games consoles (on request). Parents will love the Italian statement rooms — no greige in sight — with pops of colour, seaview terraces, contemporary architecture, and the super location on an untamed southern Sicilian coastline of ancient ruins and fishing villages.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £15,996, including flights and transfers (abercrombiekent.co.uk)
The slide at Westin Resort, Costa Navarino
23. Westin Resort, Costa Navarino, Greece
No need to shove your cossies in a bag and traipse to the local water park — it’s on site here, with (three!) proper slides, a splash playground and a heated kids’ pool. Then there are 20 restaurants to choose from — Division 16 diner is a favourite with youngsters — as well as a golf course, spa, bowling alley, kids’ clubs and water sports centre (and we’re summarising here), which means you really needn’t to leave the Costa Navarino estate at all. Many families don’t.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £7,156, including flights and private transfers (sovereign.com)
Puente Romano, Marbella, Spain
24. Puente Romano, Marbella, Spain
If you’d like to dip your toe into the new-look Marbs of the 21st-century, with its shifted focus from fake tan and sports cars to Andalusian food and architecture, then this is the address. Its timber-built La Casita kids’ club could pass for a Balearic beach bar (classes run by events company Sharky and George), while rooms and villas among palm trees and yuccas are subtle structures of tropical hardwood, terracotta and thatch. Healthy holidays are the order of the day, with a tennis club, Six Senses spa, yoga on the beach and a Spanish branch of celeb-fave, Nobu.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £7,431, including flights (thomascook.com)
Castelfalfi, Tuscany, Italy
25. Castelfalfi, Tuscany, Italy
Imagine the classic Tuscan holiday without the classic Tuscan glitches: no traffic, no draughty old rental houses, trattoria that never close. That’s Castelfalfi, a bona fide historic borgo (country estate) southwest of Florence with acres of olive groves and vineyards, where ancient brick farm buildings have been transformed into restaurants, a spa, clubhouse, and wine-tasting rooms. Its children’s adventure park is vast, with tree-canopy walking trails, zip wire, archery, climbing wall and bushcraft lessons. And the choice of staying at hotel level, in an apartment or upgrade to multi-gen mega-villa means you can avoid a classic Tuscan overspend, too.
Details Seven nights’ B&B for four from £7,193 (castelfalfi.com). Fly to Florence or Pisa
Have you discovered any brilliant family resorts in Europe? Let us know in the comments below
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