Now is a great time to book your family summer holiday for next year. There’s a little lull in November, post-half term, before the craziness of Christmas begins. Tour operators are offering early booking discounts and most airlines have released their summer flights; and crucially, most properties, be that hotels, villas or apartments, have good availability. If you have specific requirements, and let’s face it, most families do, booking early saves time and energy and also gives you something to look forward to over the winter months. So, with this in mind, I am going to write a series of blog posts on summer holiday ideas to give families some suggestions on where to go in 2017. Perhaps you’re a family venturing out of the UK for the first time with young children or maybe you’re looking for some fresh ideas; whatever your situation, I hope that this series of posts will offer some inspiration.
I know from my experience as a travel agent and as a parent that one of the key things when booking a holiday is the cost. So in this post I have put together a selection of holidays which I think offer good value for money. Some are cheaper than others; like most things in life, you get what you pay for. I have however avoided all-inclusive package holidays as I think these are detrimental to the local economy of the area you are visiting. Although some budget-conscious families will argue that all-inclusives allow you to know exactly how much you are spending over the course of your holiday, an easy alternative is to set yourself a daily budget in advance for meals and activities when you are self-catering or staying somewhere on a half board (breakfast and dinner) or bed and breakfast basis.
All of the prices that follow include transport (flights or ferry), car hire or transfers in resort and two weeks accommodation over the peak summer season for 2 adults and 2 children under 12. I’ll be looking at holidays for larger families and for families with older children in subsequent posts although some of the options which follow will also work well for these families too. I’m not being paid or sponsored to write this post: these are my opinions and generally places I have sent clients to, been to myself or I am hoping to visit in the future.
A villa in Greece
Greece is excellent value for money and has guaranteed hot weather for anyone who doesn’t trust global warming to give us two good UK summers in a row. The flight is long, around four hours, but once there the two hour time difference will work in your favour should you wish to take your children out for dinner in the evening: 7pm in Greece will be 5pm for their body clocks. There are countless ways to book a holiday to Greece but I quite like some of the long-established tour operators who know the country well and often feature properties in low-key and less mass-market areas. Have a look at AITO or contact a local travel agent to do the work for you. Greek villas range from very simple to incredibly luxurious but even if you opt for the former you can end up with a priceless location or stunning view worthy of the latter.
George Villa (fourth on list on the link) in Corfu, £3032 through Sunvil
This simple 2 bedroom villa sleeps up to 5 people and is enviably located just a few minutes’ walk from the lovely long sandy beach of Aghios Gordis in scenic western Corfu. There is no pool at the villa but if your kids are tiny they may well prefer playing in the sea (and you can relax in the garden knowing that they can’t fall into the pool when your back is turned for one second). The resort itself is popular with all ages and nationalities so families with young children and those with teens will be equally happy (there is a gentle nightlife should you have teens who need a bit of independence.). The scenery here is spectacular with mountains, rugged cliffs and shimmering blue seas.
Sunvil has yet to release its prices for 2017 but it is taking advance bookings with the assurance that if prices increase by more than 10% (which is unlikely) you have the right to cancel.
A gite in Brittany
For many families France, and in particular Brittany, is where foreign holidays begin. It’s close enough to avoid flying, you can bring half the contents of your children’s bedrooms in your car and you might remember a smattering of French from your school days to make you feel like you’re a good tourist. And of course, taking the ferry is an adventure for the kids, particularly if it involves an overnight crossing. Being a bit further south, Brittany should in theory offer slightly better weather than the UK without hitting the scorching temperatures of the Med so it’s a great destination if you’re concerned about sun exposure. There are great campsites if you want to keep costs low but if you’re not yet ready to experience stumbling to a toilet block in the dark on holiday try renting a gite instead. There are hundreds of gites available in France and plenty of agencies and tour operators marketing them. I have used a package holiday through Brittany Ferries to give you an example of what’s on offer at the lower end of the market.
Gite St Gonven (BF6141) £1920 through Brittany Ferries (price includes 4 berth cabin each way from Portsmouth to St Malo, overnight out, day time back)
This little cottage is located in the hamlet of Plouezoch, within walking distance of the beach. It sleeps up to five guests in three bedrooms. It seems well set up for infants, offering stair gates as well as a cot and highchair while outside the pretty garden is equipped with swings and a slide. In Brittany you’re never far from sandy beaches, peaceful countryside and pretty towns and ports offering enticing food markets and shops for stocking up on fresh bread and morning pastries. This gite is not far from the medieval town of Morlaix, full of timber-framed houses and boasting a 19th century viaduct which my train-obsessed boys would love.
An apartment in north-west Spain
If you fancy a beach holiday slightly off the beaten track, north west Spain has some stunning green scenery (it receives more rain than other parts of the country) as well as lovely sandy beaches and good value accommodation. If you’re keen to mix shoulders with local tourists rather than Brits, this part of Spain is a good bet. Depending on which part of the region you decide to visit, you can take a ferry to Bilbao or Santander or fly to various local airports to avoid a long drive (or long ferry crossing). I’ve picked a property through Casas Cantabricas located close to the Portuguese border near Santiago de Compostela. I’ve sourced the car (compact size which is VW Golf or similar) through Holiday Autos, for more on hiring a car see my post on how to do it smoothly. I’ve opted for Ryanair which has good flight times in each direction from Stansted, the price includes 15kg luggage per person and seats together but not speedy boarding (I don’t think this is necessary unless you’re desperate to be first on board to squeeze tons of luggage into the overhead lockers).
Apartmento de Concha 2 in Galicia (GXUN4) through Casas Cantabricas
£1304 for the apartment, £826 for flights, £350 for car hire making £2,480 in total
This apartment is located in the village of Xuño. It is part of a large building which contains another flat and the owner’s accommodation. There is shared use of the garden and a swimming pool. You can walk to the beach as well as various bars and eateries while further afield are countless fishing villages and towns to explore. The location of this particular property lends itself best to exploring the nearby beaches but if you’re keen to explore some of the historic towns and cities of Galicia such as Lugo with its impressive Roman walls or pretty medieval Ourense, Casas Cantabricas should be able to offer a property nearby. Personally, I’m keen to visit Las Islas Cies billed by the Guardian as having some of the best beaches in the world.