Choosing a family getaway is no mean feat, particularly when you're trying to find something to keep everyone happy across a wide range of ages, interests and abilities.
As a mum of five ranging in age from 16 down to 4, girls and boys, and throwing autism into the mix too, choosing a holiday is a mammoth task. I basically need a holiday just to recover from choosing one. There is so much to be taken into consideration, while also trying to keep in mind that it is meant to be a holiday for the Mister and myself, too.
Now that the children are that bit older and we don't have to faff with cots & pushchairs and baby paraphernalia, we are keen to try and travel a bit further afield with them. L is anxious at the idea of travelling abroad (particularly flying), and so for our first vacation we opted to drive to Paris & the south of France to ease him into it gently. It was a success, and he really enjoyed it. We had our own villa, and our own space, and we all had a wonderful week away in the sunshine together. It was a pleasant, relaxing experience for all of us which is exactly what a holiday should be.
I was lucky enough to win a place on a blogger trip to the beautiful Greek island of Rhodes with Mark Warner Holidays, and last week I got to experience first hand what a Mark Warner break has to offer a family like mine. Sadly I didn't get to take the family with me and so this is only written from my own perspective rather than experience, but to be fair I did enjoy having a few days away while the kids were taken care of by their - very capable - father. Don't worry, he's off on a golfing day soon.
The 5* Levante Beach Resort in Rhodes is, in a word, stunning. The sprawling complex, interspersed with bougainvillea, beautifully kept lawns & even ruins from the Hellenistic period, stretches past the amazing 83 metre long main pool right down to Afandou beach on the eastern coast of the island, and offers a vast range of options to suit almost everyone.
So - what's on my ideal family holiday checklist, and does Levante Beach Resort fit the bill?
- Spacious, clean rooms large enough to accommodate seven.
Tick! We would require 2 adjoining suites but this is an option that is available on request, rather than trying to book online so it would be recommended to call the sales office & speak to someone about these needs.
I stayed in a beautiful deluxe suite with an enormous bed (seriously - I could share it with the Mister and kids and probably still have room to starfish), lounge area with sliding partition door, & large bathroom with double sink, shower, & tub. Both the lounge area & bedroom had patio doors that opened out onto the balcony, which overlooked the pool area facing up towards the main hotel (& just a stone's throw from the beach). It was lovely to sit out there in the evening and enjoy the cool breeze after the heat of the day.
- A wide range of meal options.
One of the bloggers on the trip has coeliac disease and it appeared to me that she was well catered for, with clearly labelled dishes, even having the option of requesting GF pancakes if she so desired. As well as the outdoor grill preparing & serving different dishes each evening (for example, fish one evening, chicken another), there was a massive selection of food inside the dining hall for the breakfast & evening buffets. Children are even able to eat with their friends during special child-friendly mealtimes.
I have a couple of fussy eaters, particularly L who is exceptionally picky about what he will eat due to his sensory issues, and I think we would manage with what is available. As well as the main dining hall, there is a poolside Greek taverna, and pan-Asian restaurant serving a wide variety of dishes including salads, burgers, and curries, as well as plenty of dessert options. I enjoyed a delicious Katsu chicken burger with fries & salad at the Annora restaurant for lunch the day before we left, and I have to say the breakfast buffet was outstanding. The waffles... Om. Nom. Nom.
- Activities for everyone.
My favourite activity was 'sunbathing', and while not officially on the activities list for the resort, it's definitely up there as one of the best in my opinion. Since I was child-free, I took full advantage of enjoying peace and quiet by the over 18s pool (nice touch, Mark Warner, and handily located right outside my suite). During the day the over 18s pool is the venue for rather vigorous games of water polo in the mornings, which we sat and watched from the relative safety of our sun loungers. No, you're a perv.
There are a plethora of watersports available to try out including sailing, paddleboarding, water-skiing, and kayaking, with tuition available from highly qualified instructors. During the day, even the tots come out in the pool with a tiny little sailing boat and the nannies & lifeguard take them on a sailing lesson - it is the cutest thing. The entire week I was squealing "Oh! My kids would love that!" at just about everything, I so wish I could have shared it with them. I got to go sailing on a catamaran with Kate, Rebecca & Victoria and managed to avoid any actual sailing responsibility - we made it out of the water alive so I feel that this worked out for the best..!
It's not all go-go-go, one morning I took some time out while the other ladies indulged in aqua-aerobics in the Over 18s pool and headed off up the AquaSpa in the main hotel, treating myself to a 50-min long Swedish massage at a price of €55 - which was fabulous. I felt completely relaxed and ready to enjoy a leisurely lunch with the other ladies when I was done.
|Image Credit: Hollybobbs.com|
As I said, a holiday should be a holiday for everyone & while we will of course want to do things together, Levante Beach Resort offers holiday childcare that is second to none, and I am certain that my kids would love it more than hanging out with their boring parents all the time. The purpose-built air conditioned childcare centre is staffed by highly qualified British nannies, & is designed to accommodate children aged from 4 months to 17 years. It also has its own paddling pool, and outdoor playground. E would love the Minis Club (3-5 years), which offers 6 mornings (09:30-12:30) or 6 afternoons (14:30-17:30) included in the price of the holiday, or 6 full days 09:30-12:30 - 14:30-17:30 for £180, with a good balance of indoor and outdoor activities, like mini sailing, seashell painting, wave jumping & parachute games.
For Juniors (6-9y), Kidz (10-13y) & Indy (14-17y) Clubs, the 6 full days are included in the price of the holiday and include activities such as sailing & windsurfing, beach rounders, sea frisbee & beach volleyball as well as an 'Indy Dinner' at 8pm so teens can eat with their holiday chums. While I didn't see this first hand, I'm told that there is 1:2:1 childcare available for children with special needs, though availability is limited & cannot be booked online.
|Image Credit: NotAnotherMummyBlog.com|
- Opportunity to tour the island.
I could easily have spent the entire break at the resort and have been perfectly happy doing so, but it would have been a waste to not explore the beautiful island beyond the resort. There is opportunity to rent bikes to either go out riding by yourself, or as part of a guided tour. You are also able to hire a car independently, or to book a place on an excursion with Ibiscus Tours who have a desk situated in the hotel lobby.
One afternoon we visited the utterly gorgeous Lindos, with its quaint winding cobbled streets full of shops, bars and restaurants that lead you up to the Acropolis and some breathtaking views - take good walking shoes and some cash to purchase all your little souvenirs and knick-knacks (like Katrina's funky Greek slippers), it is absolutely a must-visit.
|Image Credit: LittleLikelyLads|