“You do know this is going to be chaos?” I said to my husband as we loaded three sleepy children into the car and set off for the airport, at 4am.
Although we’re big fans of holidays and have been lucky enough to enjoy some magnificent Tots to Travel breaks over the last couple of years, that was with two children. Adding a baby into the mix – a baby with reflux, no less – was surely a recipe for disaster? I was therefore fully expecting to return home feeling like I needed a holiday to recover from the holiday, so it is with great surprise that I can report back that it was, in fact, the most relaxed I have felt in ages.
This is testament to the genius of a resort that somehow manages to cater for the needs and wants of small children while at the same time maintaining a vibe of sophisticated luxury. Throw in the Baby and Toddler Essential Kit from Tots and you’ve got all holidaying-with-kids bases covered – the extra icing on an already well-iced cake.
From the moment we arrived, following a smooth hotel transfer where the kids watched Minions on DVD, I was struck with how un-resort-like the whole place felt. It was calm and quiet – not something we were expecting for May half-term!
On more than one occasion during the week we had the swimming pool to ourselves and there was never any queuing or waiting for anything (which when you’re dealing with a hungry baby or a tired three-year-old is quite frankly marvellous).
The beach, which is at the foot of the resort itself, is absolutely beautiful and again was never crowded, even during the sunniest of our days there.
There are five swimming pools dotted around the grounds of the resort, of which we sampled four, with our favourite being the indoor to outdoor pool.
The ‘Village Square’ provides a well-designed hub for both parents and children to gather, particularly in the evenings, with a bar and restaurant bordering the children’s play area. We were able to sit out, with a glass of something cold, watching as our bigger boys bounced on trampolines and made friends with other children.
Admittedly it was slightly less relaxing when we had to take it in turns to pace around the play area with a crying baby but there were moments when he was happily snoozing in the shade as we positioned our legs in the sunshine and we really tried to savour those moments, which were far more tranquil than teatime ever is at home!
We stayed in a Grand Ocean House with a sea view and it was perfect. Modern, bright and clean, the Ocean Houses are upside down in their configuration which meant we slept on the ground floor in return for having the most beautiful view over the resort and beach from the first-floor living area.
As with all holidays booked through Tots, we had been able to request a range of items in advance that would make parenting on holiday as painless as possible, including high chairs, a cot, a steriliser, booster seats and we’d even been able to request a bouncer chair – something we are reliant on at home and had considered taking to bits to squeeze into a suitcase(!) so finding it in our apartment on arrival was a great first impression and big sigh of relief.
There are three restaurants on site: Os Gambozinos, which is right next to the play area and ideal for kids who like a choose-your-own buffet arrangement; O Terraço – where breakfast is served to the backdrop of a breathtaking sea view, and As Dunas which ended up being our lunch venue of choice as it is positioned right next to a further trampoline and sandpit, which meant the boys could play until their food was on the table.
O Terraço and As Dunas both require a reservation for dinner but this is easy to arrange and our fear that they would be ‘too posh’ to let our sometimes fussy and always noisy tribe of boys loose in was unnecessary – despite offering a high-quality dining experience with gourmet food to match, the kids were well catered for and made to feel welcome at all times.
Staff were friendly and polite and one in particular, Bruno, picked up on the fact that our boys are WWE fans and subsequently chatted with them at breakfast about his own favourite wrestlers.
We weren’t sure initially if we would make use of the Kids’ Club as we knew the bigger boys’ ages would split them up (and we’d never attempted a kid’s club before!) but they were both really up for it and spent a morning each in their different clubs, which they really enjoyed.
They put on their best shirts for the Mini Disco and throughout the week we found the entertainment well organised and fun without being in any way annoying or intrusive.
There were many more kids’ activities (and adult activities, too!) that we didn’t get a chance to try and if we visited again I would definitely want to venture to the spa, which I spied from the outside and it looked amazing
We made the decision when booking not to hire a car, noting that everything you could possibly need for a week is on site. While that was indeed the case, it is worthy of comment that buying anything at the resort is quite expensive.
We were staying on a half-board basis, meaning our breakfasts and then either lunch or dinner were included, with us footing the bill for further meals/snacks and all our drinks.
I had read other reviews before we left suggesting the shop and drinks were a bit pricey and I’ll admit I did find myself saying, “How much?!” several times.
However, that really is the only downside we could find in what was a glorious week away. We had such a lovely time and I would wholeheartedly recommend the resort to anyone who is worried about the practicalities of taking babies and children abroad.
The thoughtful set-up has made it a paradise for families and we made some very happy memories there. Take me back!