1. THE BEACH
You do not want to book a holiday resort that is far away from the beach when you are with kids or babies. That is our recommendation. Several hotels have shuttle bus services that take holidaymakers to the beach and then back to the hotels. These services will make you inflexible especially because they have fixed schedules and are often late. Of course, an alternative is to book a hotel that is not near the beach and then rent a car and drive to the beach whenever you want. This constellation is, however, not as convenient with little kids and babies and cannot outperform the merits of being directly or a few minutes close to the beach. The hotel is this picture is the Iberostar Pinos Park Resort in Majorca. We picked this hotel for our 2019 Majorca trip precisely because albeit being very family oriented, it has a very romantic touch. Additionally, the small beach displayed in the picture belongs exclusively to the hotel and therefore, will not be overcrowded.
2. SANDY VS. GRAVEL VS. MIXED BEACHES
Before booking beach holidays, find out whether the beach next to your resort is a sandy or gravel beach. Some beaches are a mix of both. This makes a huge difference. Sandy beaches are nice especially with children to play around. You can do other beach activities like Volleyball with your children. Our advice is to book a hotel next to a sandy beach. Beware that at times these hotels will be more expensive. If you, however, do go with a gravel beach or a mix of both, make sure to buy beach shoes.
3. HOTEL LOCATION
This is the tricky part. Many fantastic resorts are isolated. Some are located at places 30 km or more from cities or small towns. If you are looking for perfect relaxation, this is ideal. These hotels usually have a beautiful beach which is a plus. Hotels located directly in cities are expensive and are not blessed with lovely beaches. Of courses, in many touristic resorts there are nice harbors and small beaches scattered around the cities. Most hotels in the cities, however, are also not children oriented. Check for instance the Hermes Hotel (https://www.hermeshotelcrete.gr) in the famous and beautiful resort of Agios Nikolaos on the island of Crete. It is fantastic but has no children's pool. Our recommendation is to book a hotel that has it all. That is the tricky part but is not impossible. If you are traveling with children, you don't want to be isolated so that you can do as many activities with them as possible. You don't want to drive or take a bus frequently on your vacation.
We recommend finding a hotel that is not isolated, that is close to the beach (if not directly at the beach) — the hotel that has a strip of bars, restaurants, shops, etc. in its proximity. After so much research we found the Albatros Hotel (http://www.albatros.gr) in Hersonissos on the Crete island to be such a perfect fit (considering our budget). Another thing to take note of is hills. Greek islands and parts of the Canary Islands, for instance, are particularly hilly, so many hotels are located on hills. Check, for instance, the excellent Asterias Village Resort (http://www.asteriasvillage.gr) in Koutouloufari on the Island of Crete. Also check out the Hotel Lagas Aegean Village in Kardamena ( (https://www.aegeanvillage.com), on the beautiful Greek island of Kos. The only thing that kept us away from these hotels are the hills. If your children are a bit grown then do not hesitate to book them. There are however exemptions; for instance, the award-winning Gloria Palace Royal Hotel & Spa (https://www.gloriapalaceth.com/en/hotels/gloria-palace-royal-hotel-and-spa/rooms-and-suites/). We stayed at this hotel for our honeymoon and it has stunning views to the ocean. Although this Hotel is on a hill, there is an elevator that drops you right down at beach level. You can also walk 10 minutes to the famous holiday resort of Maspalomas. The harbor displayed in the picture above is just a 5-minute walk from the Albatros Hotel that we booked for next year.
This is one of the most critical points. Food reviews have to be very good or excellent. The best thing about vacation is that you can be spoiled with amazing cuisine during your stay while enjoying quality time with your family. If the food is not good, you may end of with stomach problems and your holiday is destroyed.
5. COOKING, WORK & VACATION
Please do not cook on your travel (beach) holidays, especially on a beautiful island. It is called VACATION and you are not supposed to be stressed during this period. This is the time in your life where you leave all those chores back at home and enjoy quality time with your partner or with your family. Talk about your dreams, goals and the future. We strongly advice against booking vacations where you end up cooking your own food. Imagine arriving on vacation, and the first thing you have to do is go shopping, then cook, then clean, the next day cook, clean, etc. Moreover, you do not save when you cook yourself. In many 4 to 5-star resorts, you can upgrade to half board for 300 USD for the whole family. Times have changed. Another piece of advice, do not take work on your family vacation, your work might be your center of self-esteem but will one day pass away, latest at retirement age. Your family and kids, however, will continue to live your legacy when you and your job pass away. Think of what kind of legacy you want to leave them with. Enjoy time with your family and shut down the work machine completely when you are on travel vacation. If you can't then your relationship or marriage is long dead or is on that path.
6. FLIGHT / BOOKING
For families, we recommend package holidays. All our summer holidays so far have been package holidays and worked seamlessly. Package holidays usually comprise of Accommodation + Halfbaord (or All Inclusive) + Transfer to the hotel + even sometimes train tickets to the airport. You get the whole package for a very reasonable price and with one click. Imagine you have to book flights separately, then food separately, then accommodation separately, then have to make sure the flight times match your accommodation, etc. Also, with package holidays, if something goes wrong, the agency quickly arranges solutions. For Switzerland, please get a supersaver ticket to the airport. We paid only 19 CHF for 2 of us (kids do not have to pay till the age of 6) for a train ride from Basel to Zurich. It is amazingly cheap and worth it.
7. TRAVEL PERIOD
If your kids have not started school, you are blessed and can vary your travel period according to the price of the package, assuming you have a less stressful job. However, once they start school, this luxury is over, you will be tied to the high summer season. Our Advice is to book as early as possible (one year in advance) to get the best conditions like good flight times, pool view, garden view, sea view, superior rooms, etc.
8. TRAVEL BUDGET
Set a strict travel budget and stick to it. Make sure you set a reasonable travel budget. If your priority is to travel, cancel your other leisure subscriptions like cinema and save towards your travels. You will be amazed at how much money you spend annually on trivial stuff. Always measure your bills annually and not monthly, in this way you can see the scale. Imagine that 300 USD monthly is equivalent to 3600 USD annually. With 3600 USD you can do 2 vacations (14 nights each in a 4 star resort) on a beautiful European island with flights, Half Board and Transfer included for a family of four.
9. BE POSITIVE AND ADVENTUROUS
Avoid negative people because negativity is highly contagious. Most theories in psychology and their empirical underpinnings have found out that constantly being around negative people will make you negative and unhappy. If you want to travel and enjoy life, be confident, positive and adventurous and do not take negative people with you on your trip. Be excited about every little thing in your life and be grateful for growth and the opportunity to see something different. Appreciate other cultures, only in this way can you see the beauty of the facets of life.
10.1 CULTURE I
While in Greece in September 2018, we waited for a bus that showed up an hour later. We are easy-going so this was no issue. Many processes, however, were chaotic, the people working at the bus stop did not know the bus travel times, and one of the workers told us that bus travel times are "spontaneous." I mean, in the end, it worked out well. But beware of different cultures. One day the hotel shuttle bus was late, and a lot of old Brits were complaining. This is common in Greece. People are so laid back and relaxed, so if you travel there with a Swiss or German mindset, you will be unhappy. I also confronted the manager one time the bus was late. After a little debate, he drove us with his car. I got the solution because I got into a conversation with him. Be open and communicate. Know the culture of the places you travel to and be open to accepting what's in other cultures. This is actually one of Maslow's criteria for a happy life.
This is an interesting one. In many Spanish islands and holiday resorts, there are no fixed prices in most stores (better said, the prices are negotiable). The sellers usually charge higher prices in attempts to extort tourists. One time we were on vacation with my in-laws in Mallorca. My wife and I went to a shoe store. We found a pair of shoes for my wife, and the seller priced it at 70 Euros. I told him I would give him 30 Euros for them. He aggressively drove us out of his store and insulted us in some Arabic language. I am originally from Cameroon, so I know this culture. I visited Cameroon in 2011 and while at a market with my brother, I was perplexed at the aggressive bargaining at markets and I found out this was the norm. People will charge aggressive prices, and the buyer will negotiate it down.
So back to the incident in Mallorca. When this seller at the shoe store sent us out, I took my wife's hand, and we left the store. Guess what? All of a sudden, he ran behind us and asked us to give him the 30 Euros for the shoes. My wife (new to this culture) felt so offended, so she refused to buy them and walked away. Guess what, he followed us further, apologized and even went down again with the price to 28 Euro. When we turned it down again and walked away, he shoved his hand at us and insulted us. We found the same shoes in a store just 2 mins away and bought them for 30 Euros (of course after negotiating again). NOW WHY DO I TELL THIS STORY: While in Mallorca, we went shopping with my mother-in-law. We entered a store to buy a dress, and the seller charged 30 Euros. I told him I would give him 13 euros. He aggressively drove me out of the store in Spanish. My Mother-in-law was so ashamed. She said to me "you disgrace us, I will never go somewhere with you again, the poor people here have nothing to eat and you are negotiating." Guess what, we found the same dress in the next store, and I paid 54 Euros for it. My mother-in-law turned to me and said "please just buy it, don't negotiate again." So I removed my bank card and paid it. Then she told the story to family members, the next day my father-in-law openly refused to give me his hand in public. So, I was a disgrace.
NOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: As we shopped further, we found the dress in another store for precisely 12 Euros. The same dress. I showed her (mother-in-law). She ignored it as if it never happened (I was not surprised, in her world there is no acknowledgment of guilt—perfection prevails— this is one of the symptoms of the narcissistic personality disorder). My wife was later so pissed that evening that we paid so much for the dress. The worst part of it is, when we went to Palma, we found the dress for even 6 Euros in some stores. MORAL OF THE STORY: Bottom line here is CULTURE. Understand the behavioral patterns of the places you travel to and make sure the people you take on your trip are open-minded to avoid conflicts. My mother-in-law has never been confronted with this culture. Moreover, because she is from rich Switzerland, she felt terrible negotiating prices down and pitied those sellers. Here in Switzerland people are extremely judgemental and generally immune to other cultures, although I must quote my wife saying "my parents are the extreme case."