Located along the canals of Amsterdam to the beaches of Antigua, the hidden hills in Italy to the majestic mountains in Crete; these are some of the best hotels to visit with children.
Family-travel expert Frankie Collinson, founder of Tiny Travelship, shares her personal picks of parent – and child – pleasing hotels to check into in 2023.
City Stay: BOAT&CO, Amsterdam
The charming cobblestone streets of the Dutch capital are home to child-friendly museums, oodles of green space and insta-iconic attractions, while the direct train from London makes Amsterdam a perfect place to enjoy a family-friendly city break. For the conveniences of an apartment with the design-led decor of a boutique hotel, check into BOAT&CO. Rooms are spacious (by city hotel standards) and include mini kitchenettes, ideal for those with very little ones. You’ll find highchairs aplenty in the downstairs restaurant, babysitters can be arranged, and there’s a cute park popular with locals a five-minute walk away, complete with baby trampolines.
Bakers and Roasters is the name to know for brunch. The outposts across the city are well set up for children, and the cocktails are seriously parent-pleasing. For something a little different, jump on board the free ferry over to Pllek, a restaurant within a warehouse: the vibes are chill, and the food is good. If you’re after a dinner on the fancy side, Pompstation is hard to beat. Finally, don’t miss WONDR Experience, where 15 interactive spaces include a room full of teddy bears, a life-sized claw machine, and karaoke. This is sensory stimulation at its best.
All Inclusive: Carlisle Bay, Antigua
For a first long haul trip with children, Antigua is an accessible island idyll. A nine-hour direct flight followed by a car transfer (no seaplanes in sight), you’ll leave London in the morning and, thanks to the five-hour time difference, arrive by mid-afternoon – ready for a dip in the pool, cocktail in hand. The iconic Carlisle Bay is a truly standout resort with an unbeatable beachfront location on a private bay. Choose a palatial Beach Suite for the bliss of opening your living room door directly onto sugar-sweet sands.
Tiny travellers (aged two and up) are welcomed into the Cool Kids Club, but the whole resort is welcoming to children of all ages; from the shallow-paddling shelf in the pool, to the safe, serene waters, complete with a resident turtle to befriend.
UK Stay: Penally Abbey, Wales
A visit to Penally Abbey is a breath of fresh (sea) air, both figuratively and literally. This impeccably refurbished, Strawberry Gothic house in Pembrokeshire is located in the UK’s only national coastal park. Cosseted comfort reigns supreme, with sultry interiors full of gorgeous nooks and crannies. The eclectic mix of local antiques, French market finds and Farrow and Ball hues add to the carefully thought-out, pampered feel. The 11 rooms are adorned with pastoral print wallpaper and heavenly headboards: for those visiting with fur babies, the dog friendly rooms are found in the Coach House. The icing on the cake? The spacious bathrooms here are large enough to be used as a makeshift nursery.
When it comes to daytime activities, a 30-minute walk along the coast is the cute seaside town of Tenby, and 30 minutes in the car will get you to Freshwater West (where Dobby, a free elf, lies). A must, not only for Harry Potter fans; the blissfully empty beach is peppered with natural paddling pools made for splashing.
Boutique Stay: Monastery Estate Retreat, Crete
In the nature-rich southwest corner of Crete, far from the maddening crowds of the island’s larger resorts, you’ll find Monastery Estate Retreat with her sprinkling of suites: a boutique bolthole that proves great things come in small packages. For those looking for solitude, style, and an on-site spa, this is rustic, rural luxury at its finest. The spacious interiors combine oh-so-chic boho design with family functionality; there’s plenty of space next to the beds for the provided cots, in them for co-sleepers, and many rooms have their own plunge pool.
An array of Cretan delights is delivered to your room each morning for breakfast by faultlessly friendly staff who make it a priority to learn the names and preferences of their tiny guests. Dinner is served at the terrace restaurant or, if you prefer to dine out, there’s a string of traditional tavernas close by. Hikers, beach babies and culture vultures are spoiled for things to do: visit the nearby world-famous gorges, pink sandy beaches, and ancient towns.
Villa Stay: Special Umbria
If a parent-pleasing holiday means privacy, then Special Umbria will have the Italian villa for you. Their villa, Posabile, in the Umbrian hills, is a private ‘toddler-proofed’ property that sleeps up to 14. It’s a tale of two halves; marrying centuries of rustic country charm with contemporary luxury living. Inside the honey-hued farmhouse walls are five bedrooms and five bathrooms, with decor blending exposed stone walls, crisp white linens and plush, jewel-toned soft furnishings. It’s hard to believe such a gorgeous property has been designed with families in mind, but it’s a masterclass in showing that child-centric can also be chic. We never thought we’d utter the words stylish and soft play in the same sentence but we’re proved wrong by this villa’s aesthetically pleasing two-storey showstopper, handily located next to the adult sitting room. Outside, there’s two pools – including a 50cm-deep one for toddlers – and sumptuous double daybeds for sunny snoozes. The pool area is fenced, and the large garden also has a trampoline and sandpit.
Nearby, the charming town of Perugia is only 30 minutes away and is well worth the visit to explore the piazzas and palazzos. Lake Trasimeno, home to sandy shores and clear, calm waters, is another short drive. Babysitting can be arranged on request if you fancy a date night, as can visiting spa therapists if you’re in need of a spot of pampering.