The joys of a package holiday with kids
I'm writing this from my balcony in Portugal. It's the 3rd day of a 5 day holiday and I'm already reminded of why this kind of holiday is not my idea of fun!
If you've read my About Me page, you'll know that JT and I are foster carers for 2 siblings (1 M, 1 F) They've lived with us for 3 years and they are an absolute nightmare to even take to the supermarket together so I'm sure you can understand why we haven't even flirted with the idea of a holiday abroad!
Anyway, we felt it was important to give them the experience of a holiday since they've never been on one before. We chose carefully. A relatively short flight, 4 - 5 days to keep it manageable, an all inclusive hotel (they eat like horses and drink like fish), good pool facilities and kids club activities. What could possibly go wrong?!
It was an early start. We fed them at the airport. Since when is it ok to eat a Burger King Whopper, chips and drink at 5am?? Why don't you do breakfast Burger King??? Or who decided it's acceptable to charge £7 for a sausage sandwich (with scrambled egg in too. WTF???) Anyway, as JT says "that's how they get you".
The rest of the airport time was uneventful until the usual argument about whose going to sit next to who. (This happens on buses, in cars, at restaurants....pretty much anywhere there are seats and us). Flash forward 50 minutes into the flight and the whines of "how long til we get to Portugal" and "I'm bored" start. Don't get me wrong here, I know these kids inside out now after 3 years so I came prepared. They had activity books, they had electronic devices, they had books. Still bored, but this is the same at home when they have a house full of stuff at their disposal. We were always onto a loser there, hence the shortish flight. If anyone has any ideas on how to entertain kids on a plane I'd love to hear them please.
It hasn't really gotten much better since we got here to be honest. The constant moaning, moodiness and fighting is the same as at home. JT and I are just able to tolerate it better here because it's acceptable to drink wine at 11.30am :-). Plus the sun's shining. Everything is better when the sun shines.
So for the rest of this post I'll ignore the fact that we have 2 children who are generally stroppy and un-pleasable (and they're not even both teenagers yet. Something to look forward to)
As far as package holidays go. I generally detest them. Don't get me wrong, I've had some nice ones over the years when my daughter was younger. you have to do those things when you have kids. However, my daughter is 19 now so it's been years since we did the whole package holiday centred around the kids thing.
When we booked this holiday I was not excited or looking forward to it at all despite never being to Portugal before. I resigned myself to just being confined to the hotel each day and refereeing. Still, I thought it would be nice to just do some relaxing and reading and catch up on my podcast backlog. I also didn't plan to do a blog post about this but I've been so pleasantly surprised by the hotel and facilities that I thought people may want to hear about it.
I've got myself a G&T and I'm sat on the shaded balcony with a lovely cool breeze blowing. I almost became contemplative looking out to sea until the boom of the aqua aerobics music kicked in around the pool below. Back to the blog post it is then!
We booked the holiday with EasyJet holidays online. Very simple and straightforward. I just did a search with dates and a few destinations and this is one of the ones that popped up. A quick bit of research on Trip Advisor etc indicated that it was an ok hotel so we went for it. It worked out at £473 PP for 5 days all inclusive including flights and transfers.
When we arrived at the hotel it was 11.30am. 4 1/2 hours until we could check in but the very lovely man on reception explained we could leave our cases in the luggage room and told us where we could change if we wanted to go and enjoy the pool facilities while we waited for our room. He also said he could get us into the room in an hour or so which was great. Anyway we got changed and went for a little wander to get our bearings. The hotel is called Falesia Mar and is situated in a lovely quiet part of Olhos d' Agua. As we got back to the hotel after our wander, we walked down to the pool area and I was instantly blown away by the view. We seemed to be atop some beautiful orange cliffs looking out onto a gorgeous azure blue ocean. So far so good.
A glance at the activity information board indicated that there are a number of regular activities on every day such as pool dance, aqua aerobics, football, darts, archery and a host of other stuff. There's also the obligatory kids disco at 9pm followed by "entertainment".
We had booked an apartment; sea view, which seemed to be the only option on the booking page. However when we arrived, they weren't all sea view apartments and we could easily have ended up with one facing a vacant lot. Well done EasyJet. Mind you the downside of a sea view apartment was that it also looks out over the pool. This is only a problem if you have an aversion to loud music and chatter when you're trying to get to sleep. In the hotel's defence though, the bar closes at 11pm so the noise doesn't go on too late. The apartment was very roomy with a living area, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. All relatively clean and all you need for a few days. The fridge is also a handy addition if you want to store drinks etc.
The dining room was pretty well stocked and I was pleasantly surprised with the food. In my experience, these holidays usually have sub standard food; mass produced and tasteless. Don't get me wrong, it's not fine dining but it's pretty good and there's loads of it. I often chuckle when I read reviews of hotels like this and people complain about the food. I mean what do they expect?? If you're essentially paying an extra few pounds per day for all your meals and bottomless drinks, what are you expecting?? Keep some perspective people! There is generally a soup available, a huge salad bar, 3 - 4 choices of main course. If you're a vegetarian you may not be best pleased however as there is generally 1 or 2 options but they have so far been bland looking pasta dishes. I did try one though and it was quite tasty. There is a large offering of breads and also desserts which consists of cake, jelly, fruit and blamanges. Breakfast is the usual with hard boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms, beans, breads, cheeses, meats, yoghurt and fruit. Drinks are also on offer with the usual juices, soft drinks, teas, coffees and alcohol (even fizzy wine for breakfast!). Something for everyone!
The hotel offer a free courtesy bus to Albufeira Old Town so we decided to check that out. We just had to book at reception. The bus picked up at the hotel reception at 9.15am and drove the 10 minute journey to the old town. When we got there it was still relatively early and a lot of the market traders were just setting up their stalls. We went for a walk to just explore and see more. We had until 1pm when the bus picked us up again. I must say, it wasn't what I was expecting. It was jam packed with wall to wall restaurants, pubs and clubs and not the quiet, quaint old cobbled street town I was expecting. It was still a pleasant few hours however and I did also bag myself an absolute bargain of a tan leather overnight bag for £50! The trip was worth it for that alone!
So there you have it. Not the greatest holiday I've ever been on but certainly not the worst. For the money we paid and the experience we had, it was top notch. However we have decided we won't be hurrying to take the kids away again until behaviour and moods improve as it's cheaper and easier to leave them at home and go away ourselves. They generally have a great time when they stay in respite care or with our friend while we're away. Why deprive them of that?! We also get to keep our sanity!
Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear your comments about package holiday experiences and travelling with children.