The kids are back at school, the nights are drawing in and flights are finally back to their term-time price tags. Meaning there’s no better time for some late summer sun. As a result BB and I have been on our first girlie holiday together: an all-inclusive package deal to Majorca where the temperature at this time of year averages a respectable 27 degrees. Envious? You should be.
It was a week of firsts for us: the first time BB has had her own seat on a plane, the first time I have travelled solo with a toddler, suitcase and pushchair in tow, the first time BB has been without her daddy for more than two nights in a row, the first time we have visited the Balearics and the first time we have experienced an all-inclusive package holiday.
When Thomson – which is targeting young families with its pioneering Family Resorts concept – first asked me to review its Majorcan offering, the Protur Aparthotel Bonaire in Cala Bona, I must admit I was sceptical about whether a holiday with obligatory wrist bands, buffet meals and evening entertainment was really for us.
But this isn’t just any kind of package holiday. Thomson is reinventing the traditional all-inclusive at this 4 star resort, which features a pirate themed splash pool, Mothercare baby equipment and children’s activity sessions as standard. Oh, and a pond with resident terrapins. The focus is entirely on making things as easy for families as possible, and I have to say they’ve hit the nail on the head.
The hotel is set in five separate blocks around a river-style swimming pool, and with plenty of ramps and two sets of lifts on each floor getting around with a pushchair couldn’t be easier. And if you don’t fancy lugging a buggy all the way from the UK, trusty McLarens can be hired for €3 a day.
BB couldn’t believe her eyes when she caught sight of the pirate ship in the middle of the kids’ swimming pool, which is set away from the main (and therefore peaceful) pool and is partly covered by a sun-shading wooden canopy. The knee-deep water is peppered with numerous shoots and slides, and the whole thing is so safe one can easily lie on a nearby sunbed while ‘supervising’ at the same time.
And if you fancy lying on a sunbed with nothing but a nice cold drink to supervise, there’s both a crèche for 0-3 year olds, where a two hour session costs just €11, as well as a kids’ club where children can play with a host of toys and make everything from wands to princess hats.
Such fun left BB hanging when it came to her afternoon nap, but there was no need to sit around in a darkened room waiting for her to wake up. The apartments come complete with bedroom, separate bathroom, living room (with flat screen TV helpfully tuned in to CBeebies, the sort of thing I feel I ought to disapprove of but when holidaying as a ‘single’ parent with a small child was incredibly useful), kitchenette (with fridge for milk) and balconies with table and chairs meaning I could lie in the sun with a book while BB had 40 winks.
I quickly discovered the best thing about going all-inclusive with a toddler in tow has to be the meals: there is no need to plan, prepare or clear up anything. At Bonaire the food far exceeded its 4 star rating – dried figs and fresh melon for breakfast, grilled sardines for lunch and a variety of local fish, meat and salads for dinner.
But don’t panic: if that doesn’t float your boat there’s no shortage of British options either – you can have your fry up, sausage and chips or steak and kidney pie and eat it. And don’t panic about the kids not eating ‘foreign’ food either – there’s a dedicated children’s buffet with all the family favourites, including chocolate petit filous. My advice: do not draw their attention to this. Oh, and ice creams are also unlimited throughout the day. Definitely don’t draw their attention to this either.
And if you think an all-inclusive deal means you’re confined to the resort, think again. The hotel sits just a stone’s throw and five minute walk from Cala Bona beach on the island’s quieter east coast, where the pedestrianized – and as a result child friendly sea front – is lined with a host of bars, restaurants and shops – plus the odd (huge) sand castle.
While you’re there, a trip to the island’s capital, Palma, is a must. For the kids it boasts an aquarium with the deepest shark tank in Europe (8.5m in case you were wondering) and for the adults there’s the harbour and cathedral surrounded by a rabbit warren of shady streets with designer shops, stylish bars and restaurants and the most delectable looking chocolate shop I’ve ever seen.
Of course an all-inclusive package holiday wouldn’t be complete without its mandatory evening entertainment, and back at the resort this is led by Thomson’s mascot Thomson the Dog. BB was beside herself when he came on stage to kick start the dancing every night – check out the look on her face when he first appeared (below, far left in the pink dress).
And she was practically apoplectic when the resort staff organised a ‘special meeting’ with Thomson and our team of mummy bloggers and their tots at the end of the trip.
As an all-inclusive newbie my verdict is this: do it, even if it’s just once. You can kid yourself you’re the ‘let’s all jump in the VW camper van and explore Europe’ types, but let’s face it: now you’ve got pre-schoolers that’s really not a holiday. The kids will love it, you’ll actually get a break and all the thinking is done for you.
An all-inclusive week for a family of four at this resort in October costs from £529 per adult, £384 for the first child and £470 for the second child, including flights from Gatwick. Given that while there you really needn’t spend a penny, I think that’s pretty good value. And as for the memories, as we sped along in the coach on the way back to the airport, they’re priceless.
I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. For more information visit www.mumsnet.com/bloggers-network
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