1. THE BEACH: WE RECOMMEND BEACH RESORTS
For families, we recommend resorts that are close to sandy beaches. Several hotels have shuttle bus services that take holidaymakers to the beaches. These services will make you inflexible mainly because they have fixed schedules and are more than often not on time. 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 on the beach or a few minutes away from it. For instance, we picked the family resort Iberostar Pinos Park Resort in Majorca and the Miramare hotels in Side for our 2019 trips because of their proximity to the beach. Paradoxically, after comparing our experience at the Iberostar Pinos Park to that of the Filion Suites & Spa, we recommend the latter, although there is no beach in its proximity. The nearest beach to the Filion Suites is the Varkotopos Beach in Bali Town, which is about 10 minutes away via shuttle bus. The bottom line is that the attribute "being directly on the beach" should be weighed with other factors.
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. Sandy beaches are beautiful, and children can run 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. LOCATION: WE RECOMMEND BEACH RESORTS CLOSE TO CITY CENTERS
Here, there is another tradeoff. Many fantastic resorts are isolated —some are situated about 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 course, in many touristic resorts, there are beautiful 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 in the famous resort of Agios Nikolaos on the Greek 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 it 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. A resort that is close to the beach (if not directly on the beach) and has a strip of bars, restaurants, shops in its proximity. After so much research, we found the Albatros Hotel 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 rest on hills. Check, for instance, the excellent Asterias Village Resort in Koutouloufari on Crete Island. Also, check out the Hotel Lagas Aegean Village in Kardamena on the Greek island of Kos. We avoided these hotels because of the hills, and will definitely book them when the kids are older. 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. We stayed at this hotel for our honeymoon, and it has stunning views of 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. Finally, factors should not be assessed independently. The picture above is from our 2018 stay at the Filion Suites & Spa on Crete Island. Although this hotel was very isolated and the Varkotopos beach is relatively far away by shuttle bus (the beach is located in the Bali bay at the heart of Bali), our experience was "one in a million." We will definitely go back to this hotel.ly revisit this hotel if we found another excellent package deal.
4. FOOD, COOKING, WORK, DREAMS & VACATION
4.1. FOOD: WE RECOMMEND RESORTS WITH "EXCELLENT" IN FOOD REVIEWS
This is one of the most critical factors. Food reviews have to be "very good" or "excellent" based on Tripadvisor reviews. The best thing about vacation is that you can be spoiled with fantastic 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.
4.2 COOKING: DO NOT COOK ON BEACH HOLIDAYS
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. Leave all those chores back at home and enjoy quality time with your partner or family. Talk about your dreams, goals, and the future. We strongly advise 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. We observed this with my in-laws. It's horrible—times have changed. 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.
4.3 WORK: SHUT DOWN YOUR WORK MACHINE AND TURN ON YOUR "PASSION MACHINE"
Do not take work with you on your family vacation. Your job 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. Showering your kids with gifts will never replace the motherly and emotional love you owe them. Yes, it is owed. My wife, for instance, grew up lacking this loving touch (one reason she is over-attached). She told stories of how the men she met before me ran away because she took things too fast and over-messaged them. I remember her second email to me was like three pages long, and the ones that followed were longer. A therapist later diagnosed that she is trying to find that love she never got from her mother in the men she met. Now, my mother-in-law is a workhorse (this is an understatement). She is best at gifts. But even when a Christian therapist tried to make her understand that this could not replace that motherly love, she entered the typically Swiss defensive mode. Think of what kind of legacy you want to leave your children with. My wife had a beautiful life—traveled to luxury hotels around the world with her family. However, the stories of her childhood mostly revolve around the love she so deeply yearned for but never got and how she found this in me. She would lament about how she could never connect to her father on an emotional level, same with her mom. She talks about how she found this motherly love while staying with a foster family in Mexico. Please enjoy time with your family and shut down the work machine completely when you are on travel vacation. Material gifts to your children or taking them to the best resorts on earth will not replicate that motherly/fatherly love or fix your marriage. If you can't shut down the work machine and prioritize your family and kids, then your relationship or marriage is long dead or is on that path. This is sadly the case of my in-laws
4.4 DREAMS: USE BEACH HOLIDAYS AS A CREATIVE HUB
Empirical studies show that people are most creative when relaxed. Many conglomerates have now incorporated this notion into their corporate culture. For instance, some companies shut down their email systems for most employees at 6 pm daily. Most of our creative ideas come into life during our vacations. For instance, after visiting Mallorca for the second time in 2019, we came up with a plan to acquire property on the island for Airbnb purposes. We then contacted several friends and realized that they had the same ideas and concrete plans in place. One thing led to another, and the dream of a holiday (family home) in Valencia was born in our 5-year family plan. It is fun to work on our Airbnb designs daily while on vacation and observe what hotels are offering to entice their guests. For years, we talked about making our own travel blog, designing our wedding website, etc. During our stay in England, I found the motivation to learn web design and programming, and this is immensely paying off. Most people we know talk about their dreams forever and never get a real shot at them. Being on an island far away from home challenges our creativity. Our goal is to make investments and retire with 45 and travel the world. This is very doable. Find like-minded and positive people, and you will be amazed at the momentum your life will take.
5. FLIGHT / BOOKING: WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND PACKAGE HOLIDAYS
For families, we recommend package holidays. All our 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, food, and accommodation separately. Furthermore, you have to ensure that flight times match your accommodation, etc. Also, with package holidays, if something goes wrong, the agency quickly arranges solutions. What we also learned from the Thomas Cook bankruptcy is that package holidays are insured. 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.
6. TRAVEL PERIOD: VISIT GREECE IN SEPTEMBER
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.
7. TRAVEL BUDGET: SET A STRICT AND REASONABLE BUDGET AND STICK TO IT
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 two 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. Our travel budget is set to about 10 000 USD for 5 package holidays annually (60-70 days of travel), excluding weekend trips.
8. 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 cynical 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.
9. CULTURE. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES IN OTHER CULTURES
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 at our hotel 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 in his car. I got the solution because I got into a tough 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 one of Maslow's criteria for a happy life.
10 WHO YOU TAKE WITH YOU ON YOUR VACATION
This is a critical topic. On 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 rates in attempts to extort tourists. Once on holiday in Mallorca, my wife and I went to a shoe store. The seller priced a pair of shoes for my wife 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. The seller is usually nice, but once you don't buy their product, they throw insults in the air.
So, coming 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. He surprisingly 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 pair of 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.
The bottom line here is CULTURE and to avoid taking RACISTS with you on your holiday if you are not a racist. 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 in-laws are the extreme case of the so-called "Bünzli Schweizer." Their brains are exceptionally squared in boxes in a terrain dominated by extreme arrogance. Also, remember that most racists are ordinary people with extreme low-esteem. Like many racists, they are incredibly judgemental (this is an understatement) and generally immune to other cultures. They live on a one-way street and display the lack of simple cognitive reasoning. After Mallorca, we gave it another shot and invited them to England. In Cambridge, this black Brit tried to sell us tour tickets. He talked and talked, and we did not want. In the end, he reached out his hand to us to say goodbye in a very lovely gesture. My wife and I shook his hand, and my in-laws refused— it was a horrible moment, and his hand was hanging in the air, we were so embarrassed. We confronted my in-laws, who tried by all accounts to justify it. The shock came when my sister-in-law also defended it with the phrase, "I would also not give someone like this my hand." For months we pondered what "someone like this" meant. He was black. For us, it was done. We have witnessed this sort of racial abuse from them first hand. Last year we cut off contacts with them, and it is essential for us that our mixed-race children don't grow up in such an environment.