Now is the time of year that I start thinking about holidays, dreaming about jetting off to a remote place to simply swim, sleep, eat and indulge and read at least 5 books! It's a different ball-game when you have kids as there's so much more to think about and pack. The first time I holidayed with my son at 6 months old, there was very little room in the suitcase for my own clothes and definitely no novels! I took every piece of baby equipment as well as nappies and food - so much stuff that I really didn't need to worry about. Then I discovered Baby Friendly Boltholes...
When you travel with a baby you want it to be easy, you want to know what lies at your destination, you want to be free of anxiety - otherwise it won't be a holiday. Sian Williams created Baby Friendly Boltholes to make your holiday just that - an easy break where you can rest your mind about what awaits you and have all the essentials lined up. She says: So, if you're looking for somewhere that combines taste with toddlers and most importantly is run by the kind of people who know that it takes far more than a travel cot and a highchair to make a family-friendly holiday, look no further!
We're big advocates of British holidays which usually take the form of family camping weekends, big barn weekends with friends and cottage breaks with grandparents, but we've never had a cottage weekend with just the three of us - husband, son and I. It's something that is really appealing as we live in a flat so having a whole cottage for the three of us would be like living in our dream home for a week. BFB have selected some beautiful places to stay in the UK. This one comes under the 'romantic' category:
The Dairy Cottage - New Forest, Hampshire
This is a place for fans of architectural design and eco features. It's an oak frame built 2 bedroom cottage that was featured on Grand Designs, with underfloor heating, eco woodburner, solar heating and a water recycling unit. The garden even has a teepee. There's an impressive list of equipment that is available on free loan: 2 x zed beds, Bugaboo stroller, 3-wheeler stroller, bouncer chair, bibs, steriliser (with 2xbottles), bottle warmer, magi-mix, fly net cover for cot, feeding pillow, changing mat, 2xbaby baths (upright & regular), baby toiletries (wash, shampoo & oil), potty, bathroom step, Baby monitor and plastic crockery and cutlery. It truly is geared up for families with any age baby or child. How easy and breezy would you feel heading to this place. With plenty of toys and entertainment, and a pub within 10 minutes walk I think everyone would be happy. I spy some May dates available...
Next I browsed through Italy, a place I am very fond of as I lived there for a while. This place has been named one of Tatler's 101 Best Hotels and I'm certainly drawn in by the glamour....and that infinity pool with a view of the Tuscan hills.
La Bandita, Pienza, Tuscany, Italy
For those who are used to the luxury of boutique style hotels La Bandita is a slice of heaven for you and the kids! The converted farm buildings provides accommodation to suit families with the Pig Sty Suite offering more privacy and space. A brilliant sliding wall turns the open-plan room into a family-friendly two-bedroom suite with a double bedroom, kitchenette and sofabed plus cot. Equipment provided, on request, includes cots, highchairs, baby monitor, plastic cutlery and cups, toys, kids books and pool toys. There's a small toddler pool attached to the 72-metre infinity pool.
The draw for me is the space, the view and the surrounding countryside, plus the lively communal suppers. For my husband the mention of an extensive record collection for guests to use (the owner used to be in the music industry) is enough to make us put this destination on our wish list. Oh, and Pienza is where The English Patient was filmed with the beautiful Sant'Anna in Camprena ('the villa') nearby.
I love the Greek Islands as they hold memories of different phases of my life. The carefree days of heading off on a cheap flight with just a backpack and no acommodation booked and having all sorts of adventures - which is what us sisters did a few times. Then there were the early boyfriend romantic adventures - part of the romance being only having enough Drachma for a bread, cheese, tomato and wine picnic on the beach! Followed by a more luxurious phase with my husband discovering boutique hotels with fine linen and fine restaurant dining. The next phase I look forward to is 'Greek Islands with child' and Baby Friendly Boltholes has just the perfect place....
Ammos Hotel, nr. Chania, Crete
The Ammos Hotel has so much appeal I find myself visualizing myself there and it becoming a regular family holiday spot. It's small and friendly - BFB say 'the staff have a genuine affection for babies and toddlers'. It's beachside and also has a pool, including a small toddler one. It has simple interiors and furnishings using Marimekko (fabric flutter alert). Not to mention the Korres products, treatment rooms and Yoga. Oooh Mama loves, Mama needs....
With a choice of a Studio or Suite you have all the hotel services of a restaurant and room service but with a spacious room that includes a kitchenette. A basic kitchen is a must for us as we always have to buy food - a holiday isn't complete without shopping at food markets and my husband conjouring up an amazing meal for us. Altogether, a perfect family destination...and only 20 minutes from Chania Airport. I'm just off to look up some flights.