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Orlando 29th Dec, flights & hotel, 8 Nights €699!

IOA_Universal_Orlando

Fancy ringing in the new year in style? No where does it better than Orlando, amazing fireworks, long lasting celebrations and balmy weather… tempted?

Orlando is one place that will definitely guarantee you a holiday full of fun. There are over twelve theme parks and four water parks to choose from as well as numerous entertainment facilities on International Drive, you will literally be spoilt for choice. The biggest surprise for me was that Orlando is not just for kids, most of the theme parks are great for adults too. It’s not all about Mickey Mouse and roller coasters. My favourite theme park is  Universal Studios, the Harry Potter experience is amazing and the simulator rides are remarkable. And if thats not enough you have the Florida Mall and the Premium Outlets on your doorstep with plenty of bargains waiting to be snapped up! Read my blog on Orlando for more information.

This fantastic offer includes flights with Virgin Atlantic on the 29th of December and 8 nights in the Ramada Gateway Hotel, based on two adults and two children sharing. This accommodation receives good reviews on trip advisor and is centrally located. You can choose to stay longer or upgrade your accommodation but bear in mind there is so much to do in Orlando you won’t spend too much time in your hotel.  This price includes all taxes and charges based on four sharing, supplement for 2 sharing is only €100 per person.

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LowCost Holidays

Sarah

The Travel Expert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AmericaDestinations

Barbados Holidays – Where to Stay, When to Go, And What to See

Barbados

You only have to talk about Barbados holidays to anyone and you can see they are mentally wishing they were there, sipping cocktails on one of its stunning beaches.

In fact I have yet to speak to someone who didn’t like Barbados. There are more than 700 islands in the Caribbean but for me Barbados is the jewel in the crown. Some islands are blessed with the world’s best beaches,  some with dramatic landscapes, others have UNESCO world heritage sites and vibrant nightlife. Barbados holidays have them all!
 

 

 
There is a great vibe from the people you meet. I know this may sound like a cliché but everyone I met was happy!  You will find people from all walks of life who emigrated there for a better lifestyle.

Barbados is English speaking and felt extremely safe. I visited other Caribbean islands and usually feel like a tourist, and in some cases an intruder. I certainly wouldn’t feel safe wandering around the streets of many other Caribbean Islands alone at night time.
 

 

 
Although more developed than some of its neighbours Barbados still has a Caribbean feel, with plenty of charm and character to savour.  It wasn’t long before I felt myself thinking that I would like t0 live there. 

Barbados by The Travel Expert

Some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean are in Barbados too. Choose mouth watering sandwiches from Cutters at Crane Beach where you can even order from the beach and they will deliver it to you.

There are numerous Bajan restaurants that are very affordable too, but if you are on holiday for a special occasion, or if you simply have some money to spend, you have to visit The Cliff.
 

 

 
The Cliff is one of the best known restaurants in Barbados, both for the quality of its food and for the stunning setting. Perched on a cliff edge overlooking a bay where sting rays happily swim by, it is breathtaking.

The torch lit decks add to the drama, and although it is expensive, it is worth it – it is one of the top things to book in advance if planning Barbados holidays. Top Tip: Ask for a table with a sea view.

The Cliff Restaurant, Barbados, Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert
 

 

 

Where to stay in Barbados?

Barbados is actually a very small island, it is only 34km in length and 23 km wide, yet it is extremely diverse. We hired a local moke ( tiny 2-seater car ), and drove around the whole island in a day.

The east coast is renowned for it’s excellent surf, and Bathsheba beach is a cool place to hang out – there is no shortage of  billabong and rip curl clad surfers catching the waves.

Barbados Surfer, Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert

The south coast of Barbados has some of the best nightlife in the Caribbean – it tends to attract a younger crowd or couples who are looking for budget accommodation. Although St. Lawerence Gap is the most popular spot for nightlife, make sure you take a trip to Oistins where every Friday and Saturday night they have a wild street party.

The south coast is also home to the capital Bridgetown. This bustling town, although not that visuallly appealing, offers plenty of sightseeing  and some of the best shopping on the island.
 

 

 
The west coast is home to Sandy Lane – need I say more? This part of the island is a celebrity hang out, however, there are plenty of affordable hotels there too.

The Caribbean sea is very calm and completely contrasts the Atlantic on the east coast. The white sandy beaches and clear water are a Mecca for sunbathing or swimming. 

Read: Where to stay in Barbados – My top picks of Barbados Hotels
 

 

 
There are plenty of boat trips available, and you don’t have to venture far out to sea to swim with turtles, go snorkeling or try your hand at scuba diving.

Barbados by The Travel Expert

Barbados holidays offer a wealth of day trip possibilities. A visit to a Plantation House is one of the most popular excursions. George Washington’s House, St Nicholas Abbey and Sunbury Plantation House are particularly impressive.
 

 

 
You can also visit some of the nearby Caribbean islands. We took a trip to the Grenadines and spent the day on board a catamaran visiting some of the Caribbean’s most spectacular beaches – it was sublime.

If you have some spare time before you fly home, check out the original Concorde aircraft in Bridgetown Airport. This experience costs approx €15 and is worth it if you are even remotely interested in airplanes.
 

 

 

The best time to enjoy Barbados Holidays

The rainy season is from August to October so it is best to avoid travelling at that time if possible, but for the other nine months of the year the weather is very pleasant. The weather from January through to April is less humid and usually the driest.

 

Sarah

Family HolidaysTravel Tips

Top 5 reasons to book your holiday early

Travelling-with-kids-4

With the busy booking period fast approaching for holiday bookings, here are my top five reasons to book your holiday early.

 

1. Travelling during school holidays.

If travelling during peak time, i.e when the kids are off school, the earlier you book the better. Special offers are very limited during these periods so usually the earlier you book the better value you receive.

 

2.  Have specific requirements.

Are you looking for something in particular, a 3 bedroom apartment, a good hotel on the beach or one of the top family properties with excellent kids facilities? Then remember these will get booked well in advance so make sure you do the same if you have specific requirements.

 

3. Get the best choice

Take advantage of the choices available. With most airlines on sale eleven months in advance you may find that you can get ten days for the price of seven or better flight times without paying large supplements. Many hotels offer early booking offers too with savings of between 10-20% if booking early.

 

4. Makes budgeting easier.

Use your holiday as a savings plan. When booking just pay an initial deposit and pay the balance off monthly. It will be easier to budget throughout the year and avoids one large payment eight weeks before departure.

 

5. Have something to look forward to.

It’s nice to have your holiday booked in advance and have something to look forward to. It makes it easier to plan other things and takes away the stress of worrying that you might not find a holiday at the last minute.

 

Want to see more travel tips? Click here!

 

Sarah

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DestinationsEuropeFamily HolidaysFeaturedSunseekers

Alvor in the Algarve – The Perfect Place for a Relaxing Break.

Alvor fishing village portugal

Looking for a quiet break with great restaurants and a stunning beach? Alvor in the Algarve ticks every box.

My husband and I went to Alvor in the Algarve when I was pregnant with Alex and we couldn’t have chosen a better location. We stayed in the Pestana Dom Joao villas which are right on the beach. Although the accommodation is more like large apartments than private villas, you can’t beat their beachfront location. The sand is literally at the end of the garden, a luxury that is hard to find on a typical package holiday.

alvor portugal fishing village tourist attraction

Having the garden was a massive advantage. I was able to sunbathe while Luke slept. It was also handy when I was preparing meals, Luke was able to play football outside. The Dom Joao Villas are ideal if travelling with young children who don’t need kids clubs or entertainment to amuse them,  and are just happy to be at the beach or kicking ball.

There are dramatic rock formations all along the Alvor coastline. These are not only stunning to look at, but have the added advantage of creating rock pools, a great way to pass the time with young kids too, searching for crabs, small fish or other pirates treasure!

Alvor, The Travel Expert

Alvor is a small fishing village, yet despite the influx of tourists it still retains much of its old world charm. The village has narrow cobbled streets with some fantastic restaurants, as well as some lively bars boasting inexpensive prices. Adega Alvor is a great family choice with an extensive menu to suit all tastes. The local Alvor wine is particularly good too.

There are also some stunning restaurants built into the cliffs along the beach. Canico is a particularly good choice, you can access this from the beach, or through the Prainha Village complex. Canico is more expensive than the local village restaurants and although the food does not necessarily justify higher prices, the setting certainly does. Watching the sunset over the Atantic Ocean from its dramatic clifftop setting is something I would never tire of.

 

I recommend that you hire a car if you want to see a little more of the Algarve. The coach transfer from the airport can be two hours depending on the amount of stops, but to drive it, it is just over an hour. I also recommend a trip to nearby Portimao, the Algarve’s capital, to visit the modern marina and local shops.

Zoo Marine which is close to the airport, is an excellent theme park with dolphin, seal and bird shows. It also has a man made beach with slides and a splash park.

The Algarve is a great holiday destination with a huge number of resorts to choose from, but Alvor will always have a special place in my heart. I look forward to returning soon.

Sarah

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Travel

Orlando – Where to stay

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Before you book your accommodation you need to ask yourself, do you want a hotel or a home, and do you want to rent a car.

If you are going to spend most of your time in Walt Disney World then maybe one of their Hotels or a nice Home in Lake Buena Vista would be most suitable. If on other hand you are visiting most of the other Theme Parks then International Drive is ideal. There are plenty of great value Motels here and  there is a regular bus service (I-Ride) to all of the main attractions and shopping malls, so car hire is not required. There are plenty of  bars, restaurants and lively nightlife, so if you want to be in the hart of the action, then I-Drive is for you.

My favourite theme park is Universal Studios so given the choice I would stay at one of their hotels. They have four hotels of varying standards so they have one to suit every budget. One of the main advantages is that you are allowed to enter the park one hour before opening, fantastic for the Harry Potter Rides. The Cabana Bay Resort is their three star hotel but to be honest its more like a four star. Its 50s retro style gives you the feeling you have walked on to the set of Grease. They have a bowling alley upstairs and a real diner downstairs. In fact I’m told the reason it is not rated four star is that the diner is self service.   I thought it was a great family hotel, really spacious rooms with a kitchenette, which saves on the cost of dining out. There is a large family pool with a lazy river, slides and a jacuzzi, open till late every night, a fab way to relax after a long day at the park.

Tom ten city breaks for families

Depending on your budget, there are also three luxury hotels which, not only allow early access to the park, but where you receive a complimentary express pass ticket. Express pass tickets are fantastic, particularly in high season, the queue should be no more than 15 minutes on any ride.  Note the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is excluded from the express pass.  You  can also buy these passes at the gate but they only sell a limited number and they cost $89!

My personal favourite was the five star Portofino hotel, its such a contrast from the busy Theme Parks. Designed by Steven Spielberg, it is an exact replica of the jet set Italian Resort. Sitting at one of the lake side cafes, sipping a latte, listening to the Tenors singing, you almost forget where you are. The rooms are very spacious and beautifully furnished and the service is what you would expect of a five star hotel. It is suitable for families and couples as there are three swimming pools. You can choose from the lively family pool with slides and waterfalls, the quiet pool, or the fantastic spa. You can also avail of the free water taxi straight to Universal Studios, it’s such a nice touch.

Portofino hotel

If, however, you fancy a livelier setting then the Hard Rock Hotel is for you. However bear in mind, you can’t get away from the music, it’s everywhere, even under water in the swimming pool.  It is also a five star hotel so you can expect the same excellent service but for me it lacked the grandeur of the Portofino.  There is also another choice, Lowes Royal Pacific Resort, another themed hotel, this time like a Pacific Island. I felt it was a little dated and more like a four star but then it less expensive to stay there than the others and the cost of drinks and meals  are reasonable too. It is one of their luxury hotels and you will still receive a complimentary express pass, so this is an excellent choice if you want to keep the costs down.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

Family HolidaysTravel Tips

9 Dublin Airport Tips You Need To Know Before You Fly

dublin airport

For some people who are not used to travelling the airport can be very stressful. Read my top airport tips below and get your holiday off to a great start.

 

  1. Weigh your luggage before you go!
  2. Passports, visa and all the important stuff.
  3. Check terminals, car parking, roadworks.
  4. Get to the airport early.
  5. Use the fast track.
  6. Check-in.
  7. Security screening
  8. Executive Lounges
  9. Before you board.

1. Weigh your luggage before you go!

airport tips

Before you go you should make sure you weigh your luggage to ensure you are within the weight limits for the particular airline you are travelling with. You don’t want to be one of those people at the top of the queue taking clothes out of one bag and placing them in another.
 

 

 
You will also want to avoid any excess baggage charges, as not only are these exorbitant, but usually you have to queue up at the ticket desk to pay them and then re queue to check in. This can be very stressful if you are short on time and the security queue is very long.
 

 

 

2. Passports, visas and all the important stuff.

airport tips

I think it goes without saying to make sure that your passports are valid, but you will also need to check the regulations of the country that you are travelling to. Passenger locator forms, as well as proof of vaccination may be required, and  some destinations require that your passport is valid for 6 months after your return date.
 

 

 
This is becoming more and more common with some European countries applying this rule as well as the USA and many long haul destinations.
 

 

 
If travelling to the USA make sure you have your ESTA in place, it is compulsory for everyone travelling to America now. Log on to https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

I always recommend printing your documents, as well as keeping a digital copy, just incase they are mislaid.
 

 

 

3. Check terminals, car parking, roadworks

airport tips

You should check with AA road watch to ensure your planned journey is free of road works, sometimes the airport website will also have this mentioned in their news section.

Check which terminal you are departing from. As a general rule, Aer Lingus and long haul flights go from Terminal 2, and most other airlines from Terminal 1, but you need to check your travel documents to be sure.
 

 

 
Allow plenty of time if using the airport car parks, especially the long term ones, as some of these are 20 minutes from the airport terminal. The DAA airport website is very useful and have many top tips, details of airlines and their terminals,  plus the latest car park deals are available here.
 

 

 

4. Get to the airport early.

airport tips

There are many new restaurants open in our airports now now including Diep le Shaker, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and the fantastic food market – Marquette. Depending on the time of your flight it might be an idea to go to the airport early. It will stop you worrying about traffic, queues etc and allow you some time to enjoy a nice meal before you depart, or check out the shops at The Loop.
 

 

 

5. Use the Fast Track

use the fast track to save time at the airport

If you are short on time or have a particularly early flight – use the Fast Track facility. It’s a fantastic service that caters for a variety of travellers. If you don’t want to queue at security you can pay from €7.99 – €12.99 to use the fast track service. You also get a voucher for a free coffee, which can be purchased in many outlets before you board.

 

 

 

6. Check-in.

airport tips

Where possible always check-in online. Even if you still need to check in a bag, it usually guarantees you a shorter queue and seats together on the aircraft. If  travelling with Aer Lingus use the dedicated self check-in kiosks to weigh your own bags.
 

 

 
If you are travelling within Europe, you should arrive at the airport two hours before your flight departs, irrespective of whether you have checked in online or at the airport.
 

 

 
If you are travelling long haul this is should be increased to three hours. If travelling to the USA you will need to go through emigration at Dublin or Shannon airport, and therefore check-in times are 3 hours before departure. Remember you will still need to go through security even if you have checked-in online and in busy periods these queues can be long.
 

 

 

7. Security screening.

airport tips

Security is where everyone’s stress levels increase! I think it goes without saying not to pack sharp implements, but even kids toy guns, razors etc should never be in your hand luggage. Ideally pack all liquids in your checked baggage, but if you need to have them in your hand luggage, make sure that there are no liquids over 100ml, as they will be confiscated.
 

 

 
Some things are evidently liquid, like drinks and perfume, others are less obvious, like gels, pastes, lotions, toothpastes, hair gels, face creams, liquid cosmetic, deodorants and shaving foam. Any liquids that you have not checked in, and are below the 100ml limit should be placed in one clear plastic bag and separated from your bag on the trays provided.
 

 

 
Medication is allowed, but you may have to demonstrate that it is for medical purposes – I recommend a note from your doctor stating this. Similarly with baby’s bottles – you may have to drink them to prove they are indeed what you say they are.

Remember to remove outer jackets, belts, shoes, laptops from cases when you reach the passenger security screening area as this will speed things up.
 

 

 

 

8. Enjoy the Executive Lounges and additional facilities available

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Sarah Slattery – Travel Expert (@the_travel_expert)


You can use the Executive Lounge in Terminal 1 for up to two hours (regardless of what class of ticket you have) with complimentary drinks, snacks and newspapers from only €20 if booked online. The luxurious 51st &Green Lounge in Terminal 2 is €30, or complimentary if travelling business class.
 

 

 
There are also other genie services where you can book a family care attendant or chaperones if someone is travelling alone and needs help. All of these are available to book on the Dublin Airport Website, www.dublinairport.com.
 

 

 

9. Before you board

my top picks for airport shopping online

When you make it through the screening area, check the flight information screens to see which gate your flight is departing from. Sometimes gates can change for operational reasons.
 

 

 
If shopping in Duty free on the way out, make sure to use Shop and Collect system – they take care of your purchases and you don’t need to worry about the extra weight in your luggage, you simply pick them up when you return.

Take advantage of the ‘honest’ airplane water stops that are scattered around the terminal. Put €1 in the box provided, so you will have water when you board and stay hydrated for your journey.
 

 

 
Bon voyage!

 

Want to see more travel tips? Click here!

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

 

City BreaksDestinationsEurope

Cascais and the Lisbon Coast

Lisbon

Despite visiting Portugal on many occasions, I had never visited Lisbon until recently. I wanted a beach holiday but with the opportunity to do some sightseeing too – the Lisbon Coast has both in abundance.

 

I was really impressed by the Lisbon Coast as a holiday destination, it had something for everyone. I stayed in the beautiful village of Cascais which offered the best of both worlds. We enjoyed staying in a holiday resort, but within easy access to Lisbon. Lisbon is a great city to visit. It is so colourful, has a great food scene and there is an endless supply of sights to see.

things to do on the lisbon coast

 

Things to do in Lisbon

If you are on a city break and staying in Lisbon you may get to see all of the top attractions, but if like us you are staying along the Lisbon Coast, and day-tripping to Lisbon, it is impossible to see everything! I would recommend taking one of the old fashioned trams and doing a hop on hop off city tour, this will enable you to see as much as possible. If you want to go it alone, Tram 28 offers the best route to all the sights.

 
things to do on the lisbon coast
 

The city is quite spread out, but using the trams will allow you see the cultural centre of Belem, the Castelo de Sao Jorge and even climb the Cristo Rei: a huge statue of Christ where you can see views of the whole city. If you are travelling with children, the Aquarium is a must-see. It’s one of the worlds largest aquariums, and one that you could easily find yourself spending the day in!

Wondering where to stay in Lisbon? Read my top picks of 3, 4 & 5-Star Lisbon hotels here.

 

 

 

Things to do on The Lisbon Coast 

A visit to Sintra is one of the top attractions on the Lisbon Coast. Wander through the narrow streets and marvel at the architecture that dates back to the fifteenth century. It has numerous designated UNESCO world heritage sites, the most famous being the National Palace. I loved the lesser known Quinta de Regaleira, a mystical place, great for families with children, who can explore the many nooks and crannies in its wonderful gardens. There are underground tunnels, waterfalls and a magical castle. My son Luke (6) thought we were in middle earth and needless to say he thoroughly enjoyed it!
 
things to do on the lisbon coast
 

 

 
If, like us, you want to stay in a beach resort, there many to choose from. We chose Cascais and loved it. It is such a charming town, filled with quaint cobbled stone streets, some great shops, and a huge variety of restaurants to cater for every palate. I found a little gem hidden away from the main centre called 5 Sentidos, Casa do Largo, with typical Portugeese food that catered really well for all of us. There is a nice cove beach with a marina close by and plenty of larger beaches a few minutes drive from the centre too.
 

 

 

 

 
The beaches at Guincho are particularly impressive,  with huge waves and wide stretches of sandy beach. The train station is right in the centre of the town, with trains going every 20 minutes to Lisbon and the surrounding area.

Overall it was a great trip. It was not your typical family beach holiday, but that was part of the charm. When I think of the thousands of Irish visitors that travel to the Algarve each year, I enjoyed taking the path less travelled on, it made all the difference!
 

 

 

Wondering where to stay in Lisbon? Read my top picks of 3, 4 & 5-Star Lisbon hotels here.

 

Like city breaks? See more here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

Travel

Glamping – What’s all the fuss about?

Glamping Sarah Slattery The Travel Expert

Being a travel agent, I love nothing more than jetting off to a hot climate and a sandy beach.

Every now and then, a new trend in travel appears. Some are short-lived whereas others seem to capture the imagination of everybody and anybody who tries it.

 

What is Glamping? | Grove Lane Glamping | Exploring Killarney | Stories by the Fire

I do like small breaks away in Ireland too or ‘mini breaks’ as my kids call them. They let you have a few days away without breaking the bank and without too much effort packing and planning! We decided to try ‘glamping‘. I felt that I should at least experience what so many other families were talking about and see if it really was different to traditional camping that we did as kids.

Glamping Sarah Slattery The Travel Expert

What is Glamping?

When I started my research I noticed that the word ‘glamping’ or glamorous camping which is the literal translation can really mean anything from a fancy tent with a mattress to a log cabin in the woods with flat screen TVs.  There are also traditional style camp sites with lots of facilities for kids, boating, playgrounds, even swimming pools that are categorised as glamping sites because they have facilities that regular camp sites don’t have. My first piece of advice is to find out what exactly you want from your glamping experience. Do you want kids facilities? Or comfortable log cabins? Maybe you fancy a luxury tent in peaceful surroundings?  Do you want to cook on an open fire and feel at one with nature? All good questions! I choose the latter. To me a log cabin with a tv is not camping and I really didn’t fancy hundreds of people squashed together in one of those glamping sites with slides, zip lines and go karts.

O'Connells 17

Grove Lane Glamping

I chose Grove Lane in Killarney, a small glamping site with only five bell tents and where they limit the number of families to two, so that its never over run with kids. It’s actually quite romantic and attracts a lot of couples too. There are some friendly resident horses and cats and plenty of things to keep the kids amused. The tents come with a comfortable double bed, camp beds for the kids and a hot stove which seems to heat up instantly so you never feel the cold. They also supply lots of board games, cards and toys that we played with as kids! ! There is an individual kitchen behind each tent complete with BBQ and plenty of utensils. The toilet facilities are only 10 meters from your tent, there is plenty of hot water and showers with good pressure which was a pleasant surprise.

Glamping Sarah Slattery The Travel Expert
guide waited in the boat to bring us back.  There is also the world renowned Muckross House and gardens and Torc Waterfall, suffice to say their are numerous attractions in Killarney to keep everyone amused. And if you choose to eat out there you will be spoilt for choice with typical Irish pubs in abundance, all of which have great menus and plenty of ‘craic’. I couldn’t resist Las Ramblas though, a lovely tapas restaurant just off the Main Street. The food was excellent and very reasonably priced. The kids loved the pasta with meatballs and we chose a selection of tapas which were all delicious.

Glamping Sarah Slattery The Travel Expert

Stories by the Fire

Although I enjoyed dining out, one of the highlights of the weekend was the fire pit in the woods. We cooked delicious steak on the bbq and toasted marshmallows (also provided) over the fire pit.  I really felt I was experiencing camping and with creature comforts. Huddled around the fire, we even found ourselves doing a spot of star gazing and telling ghost stories to the kids, it’s something that you would never imagine doing on a typical summer holiday. I must point out though that although I buy into the slogan ‘there is no place like Ireland when you get the weather’, Im not so sure I would have had the same experience in the rain! I would suggest booking in the summer months where you have the best possible chance of good weather, or alternatively leave it late to book so you can gauge the weather forecast.

Glamping Sarah Slattery The Travel Expert

Linda and Mike the owners, couldn’t be more friendly, it’s a very personal experience for them and you get the feeling that they really care about your time there. They want to be sure that you really make the most of it and are always available if you have any queries.

There is no Xbox! There is no wifi! It’s board games and playing cards, its really back to nature albeit with a touch of glamour! We really felt that we were away from the hustle and bustle of every day life.  When I asked my seven year old son what he enjoyed the most from the weekend he said ‘everything’ and I couldnt sum it up any better myself, its an experience that I would recommend to all families.

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

DestinationsEuropeFamily HolidaysFeaturedSunseekers

Family Holiday Guide to Zakynthos, Greece

Zakynthos

With beautiful scenery, amazing food and a low cost of living, it’s not surprising that Zakynthos is a firm favourite with Irish holidaymakers.

 

Until recently however, Greece was considered more suitable for couples or groups than families. I guess the perception was that the accommodation was more basic in Greece than its European counterparts and maybe lacking in some kids facilities. This may have been the case many years ago but certainly not any more…

Family Friendly Zakynthos Resort

I managed to find a great family resort on the Island of Zakynthos called the Alykanas Beach Village. It’s like a hotel but with self catering facilities so if you have small kids this is ideal for making breakfasts, baby food etc. They have endless facilities for adults and children, day and evening entertainment, a kids water park, kids clubs and  three swimming pools. There is a ‘quiet’ pool if  day time entertainment isn’t your thing and failing that, the Hotel is right on the beach.  They also offer free wifi, although if you are an avid ‘Facebooker’ beware –  it can be temperamental! 

Splash park at Alykanas beach resort, Zakynthos

 

Many family resorts in Greece are ‘All Inclusive’ , with all meals and drinks included. This works very well for many families but personally I prefer to dine out so the Alykanas Beach Village suited me perfectly. In Greece, the food is so good and so cheap, my personal favourites are their traditional dishes like stifado or saganaki and of course the typical Greek salads. The restaurants cater so well for kids too with most places having play areas or bouncing castles. My little ones had great fun choosing the restaurant each night and the restaurants with biggest play areas usually got picked! They also believe that the best spaghetti bolognese is not to be had in Italy, but in Zakynthos!


Zakynthos
But it’s not just the accommodation that made the holiday so special for me. Zakynthos has so much to see and do for all family. There are numerous options for day trips, a trip to see the famous loggerhead sea turtles is a must. These are now endangered so it is great to see them in their natural habitat. Another famous landmark is Navagio or ‘Shipwreck beach’ as its more commonly called. It is the most photographed beach in the world and is simply stunning.  It is only accessible by boat but there are organised boat trips to bring you there from all of the holiday resorts. A word of warning though, the bus trip from your Hotel is not the most comfortable! It is a long winding road and can lead to some upset tummies.  If you are travelling with kids make sure you get good seats on the lower deck of the bus ; trust me, the sound of sick kids on the upper deck was  not a pleasant way to start the trip! The pictures that you see of Navagio beach on various websites are, dare I say, a little misleading! Yes, it still is a stunning site, but the white ‘sandy’ beach that you see in the photos is actually tiny white stones and is quite hard underfoot. I would recommend that you bring surf shoes to make it easier to jump off the boat and if you want to go swimming. Also bear in mind that unless you go extremely early in the morning or late at night, there will be thousands of other people on the beach with you!


Navagio beach, Zakynthos
Although I would highly recommend taking one of the organised boat trips, if you don’t fancy doing this there are numerous other activities to satisfy you. All of the typical water sports you would expect to find at a beach resort are in Zakynthos too, from pedaloes with slides to glass bottom boat rides.  There is also a waterpark with plenty of slides and high speed tubes to keep kids entertained all day long.  And if you are still looking for more action you can visit the larger island of Kefalonia, less than an hour by boat, see the setting for Captain Corelli’s mandolin and the beautiful capital, Argostoli.

I am writing this on my return plane journey home, a leisurely 3 and a half hour flight. I can’t help asking why have I waited so long to bring my kids to Greece? It has so much to offer and still relatively unspoilt, I will definitely be returning.

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

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