The winner of Smith's Best for Families award has everyone's best interests at heart. It knows how precious family holidays are and makes room for relaxation with thoughtful restaurant timings, fantastic facilities and plenty of parent-pleasing extras: evening crèche sessions, fun activities, and dedicated spaces where kids and adults can share time together – and apart.
With a breathtaking jungle-meets-ocean setting, switched-on service and fun-loving attitude, eco-friendly Soneva Kiri takes luxury family holidays to a new level. The free kids’ club the Den is beyond impressive: Dutch eco-architect Olav Bruin asked groups of children to design 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. Activities focus on creativity and nature, so there’s not a games console in sight, and they'll get a flavour of their destination, too: kids can learn the Thai alphabet, create a local toy, learn a Thai instrument, or try their hand at traditional batik.
'Italy is such a great place for kids to explore. This
hotel offers cooking classes for children and, in the evenings, the kids
get to put on plays'
Jessie Randall, Loeffler Randall creative director
'I love this stylish hotel... and the beaches are not
over-run: the area's a surfers paradise and perfect for active
Tamara Lohan, Mr & Mrs Smith co-founder
Do staff make families feel truly welcome? Can children stay free in parents' rooms, are they greeted by name? The best child-friendly hotels cater for kids as well as they do their parents.
As well as cots, can the hotel help lighten your luggage by providing some of the paraphernalia, from bottle-warmers to buggies? Maybe there's a playground, a well-stocked games room or watersports centre, or a welcome basket of toys in your room.
Keeping them occupied requires more than a few PlayStations. Are there lots of opportunity for play, supervised activities or bikes to borrow? Is the pool family-friendly, the beach perfect for paddling? We love a kids club that embraces local culture, with edutational pizza-making, bug safaris or language lessons.
Is there a bullet-proof baby-listening system? Is babysitting available day and night? Is there a fantastic crèche that nurtures and inspires? Qualified staff? Your peace of mind – and their wellbeing – is paramount.
Mealtimes can be stressful with little ones – especially in a hotel where you're always on show. Is there a stash of highchairs? Some crayons to keep them occupied? Does the kids' menu exceed expectations? Is it available via room service? Are staff happy to help?
Here's the crucial bit: parents must feel they're on holiday, too. Adults-only spa time, a romantic meal for two and decor that doesn't scream 'Wipe me!' or 'Don't touch!' all play a part in making the perfect family hotel.