A beach vacation is at the top of many families’ wish list for the summer break and how could it be otherwise? After a long year of school runs, extracurricular activities and rainy afternoons, we ache for some rest and a cocktail of clean sea, soft beaches and all inclusive pampering is just what we need.
I spend hours with my friends talking about these summer dreams but when it comes to the reality of booking a beach holiday, we often find ourselves stumped.
Out of the many offers available, how can we be sure we pick the right one? Before the kids, the choice wasn’t as arduous but now doubts creep up: is the place safe for the kids, is the price right, how can I make sure the place is as it looks on the brochure?
In this article, I list my ways of picking a family friendly beach vacation spot: I hope you find them useful!
Location and Accessibility
The first thing to decide, when booking a beach vacation, is the location, may it be the country or the region within your country of choice.
When considering a place, take into account all the transport involved. Do you need to fly there? If so, how many hours you comfortable spending on the plane, are the kids good fliers? How many days do you have?
My daughter for instance is great on planes but suffers from jet lag horribly. So for us it is imperative to find places that either do not involve a significant change in time zone or to have a long enough stay to give her time to get over the sickness without pressure or the need to get back on board soon.
Once at destination, accessibility can still be tricky: is the location of choice close to the airport, how are you going to get there? Take into account local transport, the possibility of driving and don’t forget to check your time of arrival: cheap flights often arrive at awkward times making it difficult to reach a remote location.
In this sense, I am very fond of beach vacations in Europe and have a soft spot for Italy in particular.
Served by many airports and with a long coastline, I find it is usually very easy to get to our destination of choice and avoid awkward arrangements. Bologna, Pisa, even Rome are great airport for access to the coast.
The next thing is of course safety. I am a bit of a worrier so my list never includes places that need special vaccinations or that have an abundance of health hazards.
Even in ‘safe’ places I like to go the extra mile and check suitability for the kids. In the case of a sun holiday, I always look at suitability of the beach for the kids (water depth, currents, etc), especially if they are hoping to partake in water activities.
In this sense, Italy is again a place we find ourselves going over and over again: the water in many localities here is calm and especially in the coast of Romagna on the Adriatic sea, you have long and sandy beaches perfect even for little ones.
One more important thing I take into account is the availability of entertainment and its suitability for the age of my kids. I will never forget the first time we brought our children to an all inclusive resort with animation: I was adamant it ‘wouldn’t be our kind of thing’ but wow, was I wrong!
The kids adored it and all I heard of, for the next weeks, was the baby dance, the sports activities and the great fun they had!
Since then, I totally changed my take on resorts and highly recommend them for a truly worry free family vacation. When choosing, make sure you take your time to pick places that are equipped for families and that can cater for even young kids.
The Azzurro Club group, for instance, with hotels in several localities on the Italian coast is perfect for families and offers amazing entertainment for kids ranging from beach and pool games, baby dance club, archery, tennis and more.
If you are not going to a resort, the same principle applies: what is in the area for the kids? Are there sports they can practice, opportunities to make friends, attractions nearby?
How inclusive do you want to go
My above comments brings me swiftly to my next point which is: should you go all inclusive or independently?
The answer to this is personal but whatever you choose, make sure you read the small print.
If going to a resort, how much is actually included in the inclusive package (look for drinks, water sports, extra excursions) and if going to an apartment or hotels, what can you count on? Reliable resorts have good websites and transparent policies so make sure you take the time to read them: it is always worth it albeit I know, a pretty boring task.
Last but not least, I want to tackle what is probably the biggest worry about picking a place and that is the fact that it may not look as fab as the brochure suggests.
The best way to limit a bad surprise is to do your research and read carefully the reviews you have on line.
I usually check several sites (tripadvisor, booking. Com and blogs) and read a mix of the best, the worse and the average reviews. It is a bit of a process but it works: you soon get an idea of what the place is truly like, if the good things would make you enjoy it and if the bad thing, if any, would be a real bother.
Also make sure you scout carefully the website of the provider you are looking at: a well kept, up to date website with easy ways to contact the provider is always a good starting point: they are also the best way to get offers (many sites have a lower rate guarantee) which is an extra way to save some money and spend it on an extra day away.
I hope you found my tips for picking a holiday spot in the sun useful. Safe family travels!