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All hail the kids’ club: family holidays for parents too

Places

All hail the kids’ club: family holidays for parents too

Don't worry, we know you love 'em. But every parent deserves a break and this is our pick of child-friendly hotels that keep little ones endlessly entertained

Emilie Hall

BY Emilie Hall22 February 2023

A holiday should mean carefree lounging, a time to shake off reality and indulge in whatever makes you happy. Until you have children, that is, and realise that there are no days off in parenting, so holidays become the daily routine in a different location.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here, we’ve gathered the best hotel kids clubs for family holidays – each of these family-first boltholes manage to marry practicality with glamour, and sport a kids club will keep little Smiths entertained for hours, so you can actually relax. That might mean a little robe-dropping action in the spa, a long bike ride, an alfresco lunch or some cocktail-shaking buzz in the hotel bar…

THE UK & EUROPE

Chewton Glen, Hampshire

Beehive Kids' Club at Chewton Glen

Chewton Glen’s formula of five-star elegance, country-club atmosphere and edge-of-the-New-Forest setting means that it’s won (almost) every award going, including ‘Best Hotel in the British Isles’.

And what keeps families returning to the Hampshire hotspot is the kids club (for ages five and up), where mini explorers are kept busy with foraging, goat cuddling, and treasure hunts in the 130-acre grounds; axe throwing and air rifle practice are on offer for older adventurers. And even the grumpiest teenager will crack a smile at the sight of the hot tub-toting, night sky-gazing Treehouse Suites with actual gangplanks.

The Grove, Hertfordshire

There’s a robust roster of fun to tempt Smiths of all ages at the Grove. In a quiet spot by the walled garden, you’ll find the Ofsted-registered kids club Anouska’s (for ages two to nine).

While littles are kept busy with pizza making, storytime, and potting plants, you can sneak off for a treatment at Sequoia spa, a leisurely lunch at the Glasshouse, or even a round of golf. And for days out en famille, the Harry Potter studio tour at Warner Bros is just a five-minute drive away.

Marbella Club, Spain

Pool at Marbella Club

The child-friendly facilities at Marbella Club are enough to make full-size Smiths jealous – the kids club (for ages four to 14) is built on the site of Prince Alfonso’s villa, where the offspring of Hollywood royalty came to play. The 5,000sq m space is basically a whole village, where little Smiths will be kept entertained from dawn till dusk, and beyond.

The programme is child-captivatingly creative: kids can nurture their own crop in the vegetable garden, blend a signature scent, cook up local dishes in the kitchen, learn hip-hop and flamenco, take drama, pottery and cookery classes, paint, craft and play music.

Borgo Egnazia, Puglia

There’ll be no compromising on style or romance at the fortress-like Borgo Egnazia in Puglia, a sprawling and self-contained complex that comprises five-star facilities for the entire family. And where grown-ups can genuinely relax, knowing that the hotel’s three kids clubs will entertain littles in grand style.

At Trullaleri (for ages three to seven), the highly qualified staff have created a world inspired by traditional Puglian fairy tales where little Smiths can play with horses and donkeys, make traditional orecchiete pasta, and get creative with crepe paper. Older children (aged eight to 12) get adventurous at Marinai, playing pool games and five-a-side football tournaments. And at Tarantari, teens (13-16) take part in outdoor sports challenges, beach days, and cooking lessons. 

Daios Cove Luxury Hotel & Villas, Crete

Parents of newborns and toddlers deserve a break, too, so you needn’t hold off on booking a proper family holiday until your little Smiths are old enough for a kids club. At Daios Cove in Crete, teeny tinies from four months to four years are welcome in the crèche, where every employee is qualified to a UK nursery standard (there’s also a gold-standard kids club for ages four to 12).

We love the fact that there’s no need to schlep the whole house here – if you book a family villa, it can come equipped with everything (seriously, everything) that you’ll need to make life with little ones easy: bottle sterilisers, children’s crockery and cutlery, cots, baby monitors, a pushchair, a highchair, a changing mat, a loo seat for tots, stair gates and pool gates.

Now that’s all taken care of, you’ll just need to decide how to spend your free hours: lazing by the sandy beach, trying out the trio of restaurants, or booking into the sleek spa for some well-deserved me-time.

Martinhal Sagres, Algarve

At Martinhal Sagres in the Algarve, the whole culture is built around hassle-free family travelling. But that’s not to say that you’ll spend your holiday by a water slide, deafened by screaming – it all feels gorgeously grown up. And since the hotel’s neighbours are a ruggedly beautiful national park and a sandy beach, you’ll never feel enclosed by the walls of the resort.

There’s a watersports centre on the beach with wind surfing, kite boarding, and kayaking guaranteed to tire out teens, two tournament-sized tennis courts, and mountain bikes to borrow for roaming the coastal paths.

Child seats and stabilisers are always available as addition to the bikes, but if you prefer to bike à deux, you can – the numerous kids clubs will keep active and inquisitive explorers from ages six months to 17 years otherwise occupied (just book in advance to avoid disappointment). 

Precise Tale Poggio Alle Sale, Tuscany

We’ll raise an oversized glass of vino rosso to the news that family-friendly hideaway Precise Tale Poggio Alle Sala has arrived in the hills near Montepulciano. Within the sprawling, classically Tuscan setting there are acres of cypress-lined grounds and olive groves to explore, a quartet of swimming pools (including a shallow one for little swimmers), an Ayurvedic spa and an antique wine cellar where can you embark on a guided vino voyage through Tuscan wines. 

And while you’re doing all that, the bambini will be wonderfully catered for – the kids club has pop-up tents, play kitchens, Scandi-style wooden toys and gives little ones plenty of opportunities to help out on the estate planting fruits and vegetables and playing farmer. There are even child-friendly treatments in the spa (like a chocolate body wrap and mini mani-pedis). In short, you’ve finally found it – the family getaway where no-one need compromise at all. 

 

AFRICA & THE MIDDLE EAST

Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman

The otherworldly setting of Six Senses Zighy Bay is backed by an arena of craggy cliffs on a pale crescent moon of sand, setting the stage for adventure of all kinds: scuba diving, waterskiing, canyoning, hiking and rock climbing. And at Chaica’s Club, for children aged four to 12, their activities are exciting as yours are, with distractions from simple sandcastle-building to all-action mini-Olympics or beach bowling, plus Arabic lessons and cookery classes.

Teens have their own club, Al Feetean’s, with more adventurous options including abseiling, archery, capoeira, photography, survival skills, raft-building and snorkelling.

The Oberoi, Morocco

When you all desperately need a blast of sunlight but the summer holidays seem miles away, look to Morocco for (practically) guaranteed sunshine on Easter or May breaks. You’ll have left all remnants of winter firmly behind when you set foot on the palatial, zellige-tiled grounds of the princely Oberoi. And your shoulders will drop a few inches, too – the hotel is set on a fragrant former citrus farm, away from the bustle of the Medina, and comes complete with panoramic Atlas Mountain views.

If the lounger-flanked pool or the serene spa set on its own island is calling your name, there’s good news – you can check the tots into the fantastic free kids club (for ages four to 12), and bask all afternoon. When you’re ready to see them again, family activities abound: camel treks, tennis lessons, and hot-air ballooning in the Agafay desert.

One & Only Cape Town, South Africa

For a stop-over in South Africa’s mother city, One & Only Cape Town is a blissful family bolthole. The complex is spread over two private islands, with waterways that weave throughout (that happen to be perfect for paddleboarding).

When you’re not out exploring Cape Town’s waterfront, climbing Table Mountain or Lion’s Head, or peeping the friendly penguins at Boulders Beach, it’s easy to lose entire days by the free-form infinity pool, or in the state-of-the-art spa. Little ones have a space that’s all their own in the 100sq m kids clubhouse that caters for ages four to 11 (there’s babysitting on request, too).

THE CARIBBEAN

Round Hill, Jamaica

For decades, the storied Round Hill resort in Jamaica has been the Caribbean home-from-home of glitterati, literati, and royalty (both Hollywood and actual). And you’ll soon see why, with its Ralph Lauren-designed bedrooms, tranquil stretch of turquoise bay, and charmingly warm staff who’ll treat your whole clan as though your last name is Kennedy.

When kids aren’t being kept busy in the Pineapple Kids Club (for ages three to six) or the 7-Up Club (for ages six to 12), they can go on glass bottom boat excursions, snorkel just off the beach, and make their way down the superhero-themed children’s menu in the grill.

Malliouhana, Anguilla

At Auberge Resort’s Malliouhana in Anguilla, privacy, peacefulness, and pristine bays are the order of the day. The two swimming pools – one family-friendly, one for adults – are lined with smart navy-and-white-striped sun loungers and face the crystalline Caribbean waters.

At the Little Explorer’s kids club, mini Smiths ages five to 11 will be kept busy sailing, kayaking, and flower-picking while you indulge in a hot shell massage at the spa, have a leisurely alfresco lunch at Celeste’s, or take a free yoga class with the sound of the ocean as soundtrack.

ASIA

The Standard, Maldives

If you associate the Standard brand with urban mischief, you haven’t met the Standard, Maldives, a family-friendly island idyll. Instead of misspent nights spent at afterparties, you’ll be spending wholesome days doing sunrise yoga, taking tennis lessons, or snorkelling on the house reef. And the kids will be more than alright in the Lil’ Shark kids club – it’s home to an inflatable waterpark (we’ll say it again slowly: in-fla-table wa-ter-park) and welcoming of ages four to 12, with babysitting available for littl’uns.

If you’re feeling a tad disappointed that the thrills are all PG, you can still find naughtiness in the adults-only overwater nightclub, Beru’s, complete with see-through dance floor (a boogie water-land, if you will).

Joali, Maldives

The only thing that’s difficult about a stay at Joali is choosing a room. They’re all delightful… but if pressed, we’d opt for one of the over-water villas, for an all-at-sea stay. No matter what room you pick at this Maldivian paradise, it’ll come equipped with a jadugar – or magician when directly translated – your own dedicated butler who will happily cater to your every need.

And they’ve dreamt up every kind of island adventure for little Smiths, too at the Murama kids club (for ages four to 12). As well as snorkelling, water-skiing and dhoni rides, there are organised treasure hunts with maps and clues, cooking lessons, story-telling time and children’s spa treatments.

Soneva Kiri, Thailand

No news, no shoes – that’s the motto at Soneva Kiri, a jungle-meets-beach hideaway on unspoilt Koh Kood island, near Thailand’s border with Cambodia. And on family holidays here, you’ll never feel guilty about dropping little ones off at free kids’ club the Den (for ages six to 12). The impressive facility was actually designed by children – Dutch eco-architect Olav Bruin asked groups of children to draw their dream play area, and then built on that.

His fun, elegant bamboo construction resembles a manta ray swimming through the treetops. There’s a drawbridge entrance, a slide exit and rooms dedicated to art, music and fashion, as well as a climbing frame. Activities, both indoor and out, focus on creativity, nature and the environment, so there’s not a games console in sight.

Plot more ways to keep your kids busy on holiday with our family hotels and villas