Mum and travel blogger Rachel from The Ordinary Lovely shares her experiences travelling with two toddlers and her favourite hotels and resorts around Europe.
I love to head off on adventures and days out with my husband and our two boys (five and seven). Seeing our favourite cities and new countries through their young eyes is an absolute joy! However, long gone are the days where I could casually amble through duty-free with a single small bag on my shoulder: travelling with children means never travelling lightly ever again.
With all of the extra organisation needed, having tried and tested destinations on hand – from a fellow mum like me – will mean one less thing to worry about! Here is a mixture of my favourites in the UK and the rest of Europe, based on our personal experiences and recommendations from friends.
UK staycations for families with young children
A luxurious outdoors holiday for toddlers in the English countryside
If you want to holiday in a country home-cum-luxurious family retreat set in 1,800 acres of parkland, The Ickworth is for you. The hotel is jointly owned by the National Trust and although seriously impressive in looks, it’s incredibly welcoming of families and young children… even dogs, too!
There’s plenty for toddlers to do indoors – a swimming pool, a crèche (you get up to two hours free childcare per night’s stay, but book in advance as it has a limited number of spaces), games, toys and books, and a cinema room – but I think you’ll want to spend as much time as possible outdoors. And not just because the fresh air tires out the young ones! There’s a fairy garden, children’s playground and trampoline to explore, and even some farm animals to say hello to.
Room-wise, children stay free when sharing their parents’ room; however there are also interconnecting rooms if you want more space. The Ickworth also provides a ton of baby and toddler equipment so definitely check in advance with them before you pack absolutely everything.
“The Ickworth offers a complimentary baby-monitoring service so you can enjoy a quiet dinner in the restaurant when the kids are asleep...”
The ideal London hotel for toddlers with spacious gardens
If you’re not a city dweller, London can be quite a daunting place to visit, particularly if you want to explore the capital with young children. Enter: The Royal Garden Hotel.
This hotel is centrally located, but also within walking distance of the greenery of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. You can enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city (the London Eye and South Bank are my five and seven-year old’s top recommendations) but then head back to the hotel to borrow micro-scooters – free of charge – for a quieter hour in the park.
The hotel itself couldn’t be more accommodating for families. The executive rooms are more than big enough for two adults and two children (under 12). There are toys, games and play tents to keep little ones entertained, and even backpacks to take with them on their travels. There’s also a special children’s room service menu which I think is a great idea… less pressure to sit nicely in a restaurant after spending a tiring day in London!
“The Natural History Museum is just a 15 minute walk away: a fab place to visit for toddlers who love cBeebies and Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures. You can even have your photo taken next to his clock in Hintze Hall.”
The perfect escape to the Cotswolds with your toddler
Part of the Luxury Family Hotels group, Woolley Grange may be steeped in history (it’s a 17th century Jacobean manor house) but it very much welcomes modern-day guests. It might look and feel very grand, but once you’ve been greeted by the friendly staff, I promise that your shoulders will relax and the inclination to squeak ‘don’t touch that’ as your children amble around the hotel and grounds will reduce.
Even with the beautiful Cotswolds on the doorstep, there are more than enough activities at the hotel to keep you and your children entertained if you choose to stay put. There’s a swimming pool, a crèche/children’s club (for babies from 12 weeks to children up to eight years), and plenty of toys, books and games to loan.
Outdoors is where your young ones will love to spend most of their time though (check out the adventure playground, play sheds, tractor, grass maze and fairy garden) before heading to the restaurant for children’s high tea at 5pm. My advice is to grab yourself a gin and tonic while they eat… you are on holiday, after all!
“There’s a children’s breakfast club (18 months+) on Sundays and staff will pop by your room and collect them if you fancy a lie-in.”
The ideal beach staycation for toddlers in North Wales
When the sun shines, Anglesey in North Wales is a dream location for a family holiday. A stone’s throw from the beach, The Trearddur Bay Hotel is great for children who wake up early and want to head straight to the beach. The family rooms can accommodate up to six people and the onsite pub, Inn at The Bay, has a great children’s menu.
If you can bear to leave the beach, I’d personally recommend a trip to Foel Farm. My children loved feeding the animals and going on tractor rides. The Anglesey Sea Zoo is great for a day out too. If you’re feeling slightly more adventurous, you’re just a short drive from the port and a ferry over to Ireland.
Close by is also one of Wales’ most beautiful castle, Beaumaris. It’s straight out of a fairy story. They often hold medieval fun days so check the website before you visit. You could be in for a treat.
“The coastal road to Anglesey can get incredibly busy at peak times. Make sure you have plenty of water and snacks, just in case.”
Family-friendly European destinations for a toddler holiday
An alpine resort in the Austrian Alps with toddler-friendly spa
Located at the foot of the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier in the Austrian Alps, the all-inclusive Kinderhotel in Zell Am See is set in one of the most picturesque locations you’ll ever come across. An outdoor-loving family’s dream in the warmer weather and a Christmas card come to life in winter – the most difficult part is choosing which month to visit.
We love it for the sheer amount of options it offers families with children of all ages. The kids clubs cater from babies to teens and run seven days a week. The play areas are immense, with so many games and activities to enjoy. If you want to spend time as a family, you must check out the family spa. It’s amazing, with opportunities for babies and toddlers to take swimming lessons and even have gentle massages.
On a practical note, the hotel has pretty much everything you need when holidaying with toddlers, from HIPP baby and toddler food to high chairs, and even pushchairs and children’s bicycles. You can also request, free of charge, bottle warmers, baths, night lights and potties.
“Take advantage of the kids club and to head to the adults-only spa where you can book a private suite to relax in complete with Alpine views.”
A fun-filled resort for toddlers in the Spanish Canary Islands
This resort was one we visited without our children, but we now have it on our list to return to, because we know they’ll absolutely love it. I hand on heart believe that it’s one of the best hotels on the island… it feels more like an elegant mini-village rather than a hotel, and I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the reception? Wow!
It’s not a resort specifically geared towards families, but young children will adore the swimming pools and the artificial beach. There’s also evening entertainment for them to join in with, too. There are several restaurants to choose from (I’d definitely recommend opting for bed and breakfast because the breakfasts are fantastic), but the hotel is a short walk from the beach and a selection of shops and restaurants so you can head out to eat too.
“Ask for a room away from the main square as it can get a little noisy in the evenings for toddlers who want an early night.”
A toddler-friendly resort in Greece with kids pool
Lakitira Resort, located on the stunning island of Kos, couldn’t be more perfect for families with young children. It has such a relaxed, friendly vibe and the village setting is idyllic with the most incredible sunsets.
We stayed in a deluxe room on the ground floor which meant that once the boys were asleep, we could sit on the patio, chat to our neighbours, and take turns to pop to the pool bar for refills. However, most nights, because of the amazing entertainment programme, the children were excited to stay up and join in with the disco dancing after having eaten at the buffet restaurant.
There are so many opportunities for children to try new sports, even toddlers. Water sports are the most popular (there are qualified instructors) but with many tennis courts dotted around the complex, you could just borrow rackets and balls for a quick knockabout in between swimming in the children’s pool, sampling all of the ice cream or paddling in the sea.
“Don’t miss the evening disco and singalong organised by the entertainment team if you want your heart to melt when your little ones start learning songs in other languages.”
A toddler friendly Swiss break near Lake Geneva
I’m not sure many families have Zurich at the top of their ‘must visit’ list and it certainly won’t be the thriftiest holiday you’ve been on, but I personally think it’s one of the best cities to take children to in terms of ease, beauty and things to do.
Hotel Glockenhof sits right in the centre, opposite the best vegetarian restaurant we’ve ever been to, Haus Hiltl (my boys were pretty much weaned on their fabulous buffet). It’s a fantastic location for exploring the city, just a few minutes’ walk from the lake where there’s plenty of space for children to run around, a botanical garden and a brilliant park for them to play in.
Zurich has many family-friendly lidos which are great for swimming in summer, but a short distance away from the city is Alpamare, Switzerland’s biggest water park which has a newly opened area for children aged zero to six.Compare prices
Behind the scenes at The Ordinary Lovely Rachel is a busy mum to two boys and spends her limited free time pouring over interiors magazines and trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to hang wallpaper. She loves to share simple tips and ideas for brightening up the home and embracing the frequent not-so-tidy outcome of young children. Rachel lives with her family in North Wales but is often found dreaming of far flung adventures and travels to distant shores.