Lots of hotels have a children’s club that is run either by hotel staff or by childcare reps from family
tour operators, such as Powder Byrne and Scott Dunn. Those run by tour operators are usually only available in peak season, like half-term breaks and school holidays. If you’re travelling out of season, bear in mind that there may not be many, or indeed any, school-age children there, which will be less fun for a sociable child (or great fun for a child who likes attention from grown-ups!). Also check the club’s costs and flexibility, as you may not want your child to go every day. Not all children are keen to go to the clubs, so it’s wise not to make other plans for your days until you’re sure your child is happily settled.
For peace of mind, make sure the children’s club has qualified English-speaking nannies, and check that the carer-to-child ratio is satisfactory (at least one carer for up to three babies under two; one carer for up to 13 children aged three-plus). Also check the age range catered for – some may not cater for babies in the children’s club, but may provide paid-for one-to-one babysitting. It does help if children are divided into age groups, as they will have different tastes and older children tend not to be too happy if they’re bundled off into a room of toddlers.
At Portugal’s Penha Longha Hotel & Golf Resort, a 30-minute drive from Lisbon, Powder Byrne has programmes for all ages. Scallywags (aged four to nine) can take part in tennis and swimming academies, day trips and evening entertainment, while teenagers have the chance to try more daring activities like scuba diving (from £345 at Elba in Italy, where you can stay at the fabulous five-star Hermitage). Powder Byrne also provides excellent age- and ability-appropriate children’s clubs at its ski resorts and hotels, too. Scott Dunn has just opened the OurSpace children’s club at Borgo Egnazia, the Med’s newest luxury hotel on Southern Italy’s Puglian coast. Bright and airy with a selection of toys and games, it caters in four groups for children from eight months to 13 years. Babysitting is also available for around £12 per hour.
The newly renovated KidsOnly children’s club at One & Only St Geran in Mauritius takes inspiration from a shipwreck, with wooden plank walls and sails and barrels as artful decoration. The complimentary club is for ages four to 11, though babies and toddlers are welcome with an accompanying adult. Activities include a playground, pool, movie room, arts and crafts and a Youth Fitness Programme that includes yoga. Travel with Seasons In Style from around £4,930 for seven nights for a family of four, including flights.
Mark Warner, Sunsail, Club Med, Thomson, Esprit Holidays and Crystal also have qualified British nannies running their children’s clubs, while enterprising resorts like Sani Asterias Suites in Halkidiki also offer a Babe Watch service on the beach – and no, it’s not a case of daddies admiring Pamela Anderson lookalikes; it’s a babysitting service that allows parents to take a dip in the sea while their baby is cared for. Book via Elegant Resorts or W&O Travel.
Of course, the ultimate in truly bespoke childcare is to hire a private nanny to suit your exact requirements. Holiday Nannies (tel: 01494 772400; www.holidaynanny.org) has 70 nannies on their books, many with a specialist set of skills, whether it be musical, sporty, creative or sandcastle-building skills you’re looking for.
Look at our Tips & advice section for other useful hints.