Creating a child-friendly experience for the school holidays

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When school’s out for the holidays that means one thing for many hoteliers and other properties – a sudden influx of children. With these practical tips, you’ll be able to keep the kids, and all of your other guests happy during peak season

Even if your hotel is normally a haven for romancing couples or a bustling hive of business people, you’ll probably be welcoming at least a few 5 to 18-year-olds this summer, so you might want to consider making some simple seasonal adjustments.

Trying to figure out what to spend your budget on can be tricky, so luxury villa company Oliver’s Travels commissioned a customer survey to understand which amenities families most valued. “The results showed that table tennis, table football, bikes, badminton and pool inflatables - plus super-fast Wi-Fi for the teens - all go towards making it a much more enjoyable holiday for the whole family,” says Owner, Ravi Sabharwal. While you might not have space for a ping-pong table, a badminton set is affordable, and you could partner with a nearby cycle-hire shop to offer a drop-off rental service for guests.

Many parents don’t have the time to think of daily activities, so appreciate when hotels create interesting excursions, especially if they help them learn about the region. At Santa Maria Beach Hotel in Crete, Greece, they can arrange for families to take Cretan cooking class, a pirate treasure hunt, and a boat trip visit to nearby ancient ruins. “We’ve tried to think of authentic experiences that will thrill guests of all ages,” says Owner, Manolis Giannoulis.

With its base in the Swiss Alps, The Kulm Hotel St Moritz has a heavy focus on outdoor children’s activities, including a partnership with a nearby sports camp. But for rainy day alternatives, they’ve asked each of the hotel’s departments to come up with their own offerings, including a mocktail mixology class that’s proven popular with teens.

Call in the experts

Sometimes you might want to draft in help from an expert, as São Lourenço do Barrocal in Portugal has done. “We’ve employed a local archaeologist to create a guided ‘Wildhood’ programme this summer. Artistic children will collect natural bounty on the estate’s grounds to create pottery and sculptures, while sporty types can learn how to craft their own prehistoric bow and arrow,” explains Owner, José António Uva.

Hotel Leone in Italy encourages families to find out about the region’s culinary culture by arranging truffle hunting trips with a truffle-sniffing dog. “They also have a pizza experience, where guests can make their own pizza from scratch and then cook it in the traditional wood fired oven. Children love it!” says Anne-Marie Francis of holiday company, Essential Italy.

But as anyone with school-aged children knows, sometimes, they just want to play games indoors, so why not provide a box filled with toys and games for all ages, suggests Jo Mackay, Owner of villa company Bookings for You. “And a games console, such as a Wii, with a selection of family-friendly games is a relatively inexpensive investment, too.”

She adds: “We also provide picnic rugs, ice packs and cool boxes for guests to borrow.”

Older kids, in particular, can get bored at night, so Sani Resorts in Greece has devised a summer stargazing offering – a great idea if you live somewhere far from light pollution. You can purchase basic stargazing kits relatively cheaply, or if you have an astronomy club near you, they could help create a programme and might even loan you equipment.

Food and movies

Movies are always a popular evening activity too, and it’s quite inexpensive to create a ‘movie-night’ package with popcorn, soft drinks and a DVD list, or get a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription. But to make it even more special, you could move it to a different part of your property. At The White Swan Inn in Yorkshire, England, they often host family movie nights in the small stone farmer’s hut on their land.

Finally, think about food, which can be tricky with children. Offering different meal times – earlier dinners for younger children, or leaving out cold breakfast items for late-rising teens – can be a real help to families and costs little. And what you serve is important, too.

“Some children might want burgers or pizza every night, so we have created a separate ‘kids café’ area that offers foods they love, but with healthier twists,” says Georgios Hatziemmanouil, General Manager of Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort in Greece about. By sneaking healthy ingredients into popular foods, and serving them in a different section of the restaurant, it keeps kids, their parents and the other guests happy.

Check out our article on securing last-minute deals during peak season

Hero image: credit to Adam Bruzzone

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Parents particularly appreciate offerings of authentic cultural experiences
Think about indoor and outdoor offerings so kids have a choice, depending on the weather
You can create some on-site amenities with a fairly small budget, such as a badminton set, a Netflix subscription or a games console
Treasure hunts are always popular and require very little investment
Don’t forget about meal times – adjusting your offering and timings won’t cost much, but will help keep the peace