Family holidays provide quality time away the rush of everyday life and create memories that live long after you've packed away the buckets and spades. Going on holiday with young children can sometimes feel daunting, and it can help to make things run more smoothly if you choose a holiday company specialising in family travel.
Catherine Cooper, author of Travelling with Children: A Parent's Guide, suggests some family travel tour operators that will take the hassle out of family holidays.
Tots to Travel
Set up by mum Wendy Shand after a near tragedy when her two-year-old son fell in a swimming pool on holiday, Tots to Travel is especially good for families travelling with babies and toddlers. All their holiday properties are visited and vetted by the company to ensure their suitability for children. The 300 properties in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Canary Islands and the UK are privately owned so have different facilities but they may include English-speaking babysitters, home-cooked food and play barns and each property is fully equipped with baby equipment. The website provides a high level of detail for each property, even highlighting issues such as split level flooring or church bells.
A week in Kreiz Breizh in Brittany with a play barn and shared pool starts at £335.
This French company offers all-inclusive holidays to 80 resorts around the world. Their packages may seem pricey but include almost everything – flights, transfers and accommodation, meals (and being French, the food tends to be very good), wine, beer and soft drinks, childcare and children's club for ages four to 17 and a wide range of group classes and sporting activities depending on the season and location. At certain resorts childcare is also available for babies and toddlers but a supplement is payable. One word of warning – the staff and clientele are largely French and will not necessarily speak English which some children may find stressful.
A seven-night holiday at Club Med Cancun starts at £1459 per adult and £894 per child.
Mark Warner offers similar excellent childcare facilities to Club Med and activities such as water sports and skiing but is not all-inclusive so may suit families who prefer a little more independence. Childcare is free for children aged two-plus and available at a supplement for babies. Children's activities vary according to their ages but include painting and jumping waves for three to five year olds, sailing and windsurfing for older children and beach volleyball and kayaking for teenagers.
Seven nights at the Sea Garden Beach Resort, Turkey starts at £774pp.
These fantastic hotels, mainly in Austria, manage to be incredibly child-friendly while also feeling luxurious for parents too. All Kinder Hotels offer an all-inclusive package of accommodation, meals, soft drinks and up to 60 hours of childcare a week for children and babies from as young as one week old. Activities vary from hotel to hotel and with the seasons but include skiing, horse riding, tennis swimming and even wizard school. I holidayed with Kinder when my son was five and he learnt how to milk a cow. For the parents, many have spas and a baby-listening service.
Seven nights at Alpine Paradise Hotel Ellmauhof costs from £1,866 all-inclusive (excluding flights and transfers.)
Your kids will be beside themselves if you take them to Butlins and you may also get more out of it that you imagine. Butlins has changed: two of its centres (Skegness and Bognor Regis) now have spas; The Ocean Spa at Bognor Regis has a snow cave and disco showers and you can choose from a hotel or self-catering accommodation. Meanwhile your kids can enjoy rides, shows, water parks and themed breaks on selected dates.
Four-night Butlins breaks start at £45 pp.
Every year around 1 million people in the UK choose a European camping hoiday. Keycamp has mobile home holidays at the best campsites around Europe and offers a great value option for family summer holidays. With a range of accommodation on offer, you can choose between a family tent, standard mobile home, a treehouse or upgrade to the all comfort decked Prestige with dishwasher, flat-screen and DVD player. A hit with active kids are the free kids clubs running throughout high season at selected campsites.
Seven nights from 23 May for a family ( 2 adults and up to 4 children) stay in Brittany at the Château des Ormes parc in a 2 bed mobile home, including a return Dover to Calais ferry crossing start from £340 per family.
If you're looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, travelling with a group tour could be the answer. The Adventure Company is the leading specialst in worldwide family adventures with over 85 trips on offer including those with infants, teenagers and single parent departures. Many of the trips have an educational ethos. New for summer 2011 is the Safari & Spice – Young Photographer holiday, an African adventure around Southern Tanzania which also includes expert tuition from a professional photographer for budding photographers to hone their skills. Prices start from start from £2649 adult / £2489 child.
Founded by a mum who wanted to continue to stay in stylish properties once her baby was born, this site lists baby-friendly self-catering and hotel accommodation worldwide. Facilities vary from property to property but the various baby-friendly features are clearly listed on each entry on the very easy-to-use site.
A week in Villa Rustic Puglia which sleeps five plus cots with a fenced pool, all the baby and toddler gear you need and babysitting, evening meals and housekeeping available for a supplement costs from £850 per week.
Catherine Cooper blogs about family travel at http://catherinecooper.wordpress.com/