Luxury Family Holidays Handpicked for Parents

Family-friendly spas


Browns’ Hotel in Mayfair was, back in my Conde Nast days, a regular post-work pitstop for a cocktail and catch up with girlfriends after a day at work. On more than one occasion, that one cocktail turned into five (or seven!?) and a bleary cab ride home. So it was odd and delightful, all at once, to be checking in (sober) to that same West London beauty with my husband and two girls in tow last weekend.

Discreet but extremely luxurious, Brown’s Hotel has been a home-from-home for many a big name over the years. Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book while staying there (my daughter was particularly taken by that fact) while Winston Churchlll, so legend goes, once said: “I don’t stay at hotels. I stay at Brown’s.” Lola wasn’t quite so blown away by that historical reference.

Brown's Hotel exterior

And so it was on a dark and cold London day we arrived at the warmth and cosy elegance of Browns’ for a night. And I really can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you’re hitting the capital with your kids. At check-in, our handsome and extremely eloquent concierge George greeted all of us, including the kids (something parents know doesn’t happen often). Lola was given her own Brown’s “passport” to document her stay and, upon arriving in our beautiful Dover Suite, cookies adorned with the girls names were ready and waiting, as was a teddy called Albie, story books and DVDs. Lola, particularly, was made to feel very welcome (as were we thanks to our spoiling confines and the lovely bottle of white waiting on ice, which was particularly appreciated after the traffic jam we endured en route through Knightsbridge). The hotel’s new Families R Forte programme aims to make young guests feel just as welcome as their parents, though I’ve always found the family-friendly offerings of this particular hotel to be of the highest standard. We are Londoners ourselves but the hotel offers a fantastic Kids’ City Guide which, were we new to the place, would have proven very useful. Lola received her own check-in card and comments card so felt very much a part of things.

Children at Brown's Hotel

The Dover suite (which we stayed in) is just one such room that offers huge space for the entire family but also has the option of interconnecting with a neighbouring room if you want even more. Though we were sitting in the midst of Mayfair I was particularly taken by the immense sense of calm and quiet that resulted, I assume, thanks to some seriously good double glazing. Despite being a few floors above Dover Street we could have been in the middle of nowhere. It was that quiet and, given that we had a four month old with us, it was one of the first things I noticed.

Brown's Dover Suite

The suite itself was divine. The attention to detail given to families was unrivalled. Firstly, we were met in the bathroom by a baby bath for Maya and a bevy of Child’s Farm and Burts Bee’s goodies for the girls. The hotel had gone as far as to source the right size of nappy for a baby of Maya’s age and, at the end of our bed, was a beautifully-made (all pink) cot for her to rest in; adjacent to that was a floor mat with toys perfect for her age. Lola had a fabulous bed of her own made up in our ridiculously large and very luxurious living room (complete with personalised television, sweeping writing desk and sofas more comfortable than those I enjoy in my own home). She had her own robe and slippers; Maya had her own hooded towelling poncho. Had we stayed for longer and required babysitting services that would have been no problem and, should you request one, the hotels provides a Kids In-Room Bar complete with healthy snacks and drinks.

Brown's Hotel Dover Suite bedroom

Hix Restaurant downstairs was our dining spot for the night and, as a big fan of Mark Hix, I was particularly excited about our reservation. Being a Saturday night I was well aware, even though we ate early, that we were surrounded by couples on dates. Maya slept the entire way through dinner and Lola was immaculately behaved but I could sense the presence of a buggy raised eyebrows as we walked in. The staff, however, were so welcoming. Lola got a children’s menu that was lengthier and offered up healthier offerings than many I’ve encountered for children. She dined on mini Mark Hix steak burgers, while we shared a Porterhouse steak and a beautiful bottle of Chablis.

And the trip couldn’t have ended on a higher note because Lola spent Sunday morning in the stunning Brown’s hotel spa. In the basement of the building, it is an inner sanctum of calm and tranquility. Again, peaceful and beautifully designed, one feels more zen for just for stepping out of the spa lift and it’s as lovely for children as it is their parents. Lola lay on a warmed treatment bed while the lovely Pru gave her a mini “twinkle toes” pedicure over milk and cookies. (Manicures, facials and massages are also available for children and, though I didn’t hit the spa myself, I’ll definitely be back).

Teenagers are no less loved and, if you’re staying with children aged 13-16, they can enjoy everything from cocktail-making courses to their own specially designed spa treatments (and, yes, there are games consoles for the bedrooms, too). The concierge will also design itineraries across the city should you need them.

Brown's Hotel spa

Lola floated back up to our suite, her sparkling purple toe nails out for all to see, and we had a fabulous breakfast in our room before (very reluctantly) checking out. What makes Brown’s such a fantastic choice for families is how easy they make everything. Lola was considered every single step of the way, as was her baby sister. I needed her nightdress thrown in a dryer at one point – that wasn’t a problem at all. Warm milk was brought to our room before she went to sleep and our car was taken by the valet on arrival so all we had to do was grab our bags and head inside. Because they provide so much for the children, we could pack light and, had I needed bottle warmers or sterilisers, they would have provided those, too. Discreet as Brown’s is, the levels of luxury, thought and service really are second to none. It’s long been a favourite of mine in London and, while that was once thanks to my love of the Donovan Bar, it’s now the experience I’ve had there as a parent.

With Families R Forte, children are divided into age groups. ‘RBabies’ is designed for children from newborn to three-years old, ‘RKids’ is designed for children aged four to 12 and ‘RTeens’ for teenagers aged 13 to 16, with entertainment and gifts throughout their stay. For more information click here.

 


Soneva Fushi is one of the Maldives’ largest island resorts, and one of the most family-friendly. So much so, that it was recently shortlisted for Best Long-Haul Accommodation for Families in the Family Traveller Awards. Holly Tuppen was lucky enough to sample their Robinson Crusoe-style luxury with her two year old in tow.
For people like me (not filthy rich), Soneva Fushi is a once in a lifetime experience. Sadly, my two year old won’t remember what was, probably, the most magical holiday he will ever go on. But that’s not to say it hasn’t had an impact – one month later and he still gets excited seeing sting rays and turtles whenever we go near open water and I’m convinced Blue Planet is watched with a little more intensity. For myself, it is still (and will be for a long while) my happy place when London seems unbearably hectic and life is filled with more chores than joy.
Soneva Fushi son
Whereas some Maldivian resorts are designed for a quick ‘fly and flop’ experience, often tied in with Sri Lanka or Dubai, Soneva Fushi is a destination in its own right. The island takes 45 minutes to circumnavigate by foot (many take only 10 mins) and having been an island resort for over 15 years, the vegetation is lush and dense. The owners, Sonu (who founded Six Senses) and his wife Eva, have been involved every step of the way and they have embedded a sustainable ethos throughout. Within an hour of us arriving at Soneva Fushi, shoes became obsolete and the barefoot luxury vibe was fully embraced.
Soneva Fushi beach
My fear of ‘getting bored’ on a tiny tropical island was completely futile. Sunbathing is not my thing, but I could happily while away a couple of weeks at Soneva Fushi. I spent hours weaving around the island’s sand paths by bike past the giant banyan trees and dodging scuttling lizards beneath a canopy of greenery alive with birdsong. That was my favourite part of every day. Beyond the villas there’s plenty to explore – a house reef full of marine life, beaches for all occasions, an outdoor cinema, a garden growing everything you could imagine, an observatory, a fabulous kids club, a dive centre, a sensational spa, the yoga retreat and eco centre – the list goes on.
Soneva Fushi bikes
Our personal ‘Mr Friday’ worked out our interests and planned as much or as little action as we liked for each day we were there. A key component of said ‘action’ was obviously eating and drinking. With seven dining options throughout the island and much of the produce made or grown on site, food is a serious past time. A special mention should go to fresh sushi, the chocolate room, homemade sorbet, breakfast juices, Fresh in the Garden jungle-top feasts, sunset cocktails and the beachside BBQs. In between such delights, we lounged on our own private beach, snorkelled with a marine biologist, learned to free dive and enjoyed sunset dolphin cruises.
Soneva Fushi villa
Often catering for families that lead busy, urban lives, Soneva Fushi’s ethos is very much embedded in traditional family values. This is a place for kids to be kids again and for adults to switch off and get involved as much as they like. The kids’ club, The Den, factors in ‘family time’ throughout the day and children are made to feel very welcome throughout the entire island. Childcare is top notch, even when kids are too young for The Den which, for those old enough, offers everything from music lessons to snorkelling trips.
Soneva Fushi kids
Villas come in all shapes and sizes, each providing guests with their own slice of island paradise. Living in one of these villas was a complete break from the norm – simple but beautiful inside and out with huge open air bathrooms, sandy gardens and sea views. Our two-bed Soneva Fushi Villa Suite had every luxurious touch we could want, whilst also feeling simple and calming. It was also big enough not to have to worry about a restless toddler. The outdoor saltwater pool offered the perfect respite to the afternoon sun and our upstairs terrace was a little haven for evenings spent stargazing. If holidays are about luxuriating in a more simple existence filled with childlike excitement, then this place has hit the nail on the head.
For more information click here.
For more Maldivian family-friendly accommodations click here.


The Baby Spa, Kensington
When you tell people that you’ve been to a baby spa, the usual response is ‘ahhh how nice, someone looks after the little one while you get spoilt’. This presumption that the mother (you know – the one that hasn’t had a full nights sleep for however long and cowers under a body full of aches and pains) gets some R ‘n R is unsurprising, but utterly false. Nope, Baby Spa is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a spa experience for babies.
Scepticism aside, Baby Spa is a very pleasant experience, lovely, soft, and welcoming. I don’t easily coo, but this place got me. For starters, the small, three room set up feels completely safe and warm – always a relief when karting around a newborn. As is the fact that everything is provided, so there is absolutely no need to think or plan ahead with bulky bags of gear. And then there are the big smiles from the baby ‘masseurs’ and Laura Sevenus, who owns the spa and has a wealth of experience in dealing with babies in the water.
The Baby Spa, Kensington
After an introduction to the spa room and some play time, your baby is gently lowered into a neonatal pod (think of a big kitchen sink) or a larger pool, depending on their age. An around-the-neck floatation device allows, probably for the first and only time, your baby to be completely independent without being able to swim. For the next 10 to 30 minutes (that’s up to you) you can enjoy watching your baby bobbing around in warm water and, whether they’re looking smiley, confused or serene, lots of ‘coooos’ and ‘ahhhhs’ are guaranteed.
Once your baby is showing signs of having had enough (and you’ve exhausted the photo taking), he or she is lifted out, wrapped in fluffy towels and given a massage. My little one’s ‘masseur’ was a maternity nurse, which I found useful as someone to target with my never-ending list of baby questions. As with all good spas, once your baby is dressed and smelling delicious you can take them to the chill out room for a feed or a lounge around in the ‘cot-pods’.
The Baby Spa, Kensington
Laura’s vision behind the spa is twofold. She wants to help babies get used to the water from birth while using water and massage to develop the muscles and ease out any tension. Most clients go back time and again and many travel from all over the world to see her. At the moment, this is the world’s first baby spa with a second due to open in South Africa later in the year. So if you’re travelling to London with a baby or are simply in need of a new novelty baby activity, head to Kensington and take a camera.
A Baby Spa session costs £60 and you can make a saving by booking a full course. For more information go to http://yourbabyspa.com
6 Lancer Square, Kensington, W8
020 7937 3747

 


Intercontinental Park Lane Hotel, London

After a morning spent wrestling with a teething infant, gale force winds and a tube strike, I would have paid serious money to be simply locked in a dark room for an hour last Wednesday. Luckily, such drastic measures weren’t needed because I was booked into Spa Intercontinental’s new 60 minute quick fix. Not only did I get to lie in an extremely luxurious dark room for an hour, but I also had someone tending to my every (beauty) need.

Sandwiched between Hyde Park and the glitz of Mayfair slap bang in the middle of London, Intercontinental Park Lane is just the spot for some indulgent rest and relaxation. The spa doesn’t have a pool or a steam room, but is heavily focused on treatments, with some of the plushest rooms I’ve ever seen and a VIP couples suite. The spa is very much open to non-guests of the hotel, too.

Intercontinental Park Lane Hotel, London

Although not specifically designed for Mums with limited time on their hands, the new 60 minute quick fix caters for them just perfectly. On arrival, clients get to pick 60 minutes worth of treatments from a menu that includes manicures, waxing, facials and various forms of massages. This means you can cram in as much beautifying (or in my case ‘resurrecting’) as you can in a manageable time slot away from little ones. And if the 60 minutes isn’t enough to completely unwind you, the package includes an optional 20 minute floatation bed experience, which amounts to the equivalent of three hours sleep. More rest in less time – exactly what all parents need.

After gazing at the menu of spa treatments for a good 10 minutes and biting my lip at the thought of having to make a decision, I finally opted for a manicure and a facial. A consultation with the therapist before the treatment began meant the service was absolutely spot on. The hour was spent in a private treatment room, making the whole experience wonderfully relaxing and seemingly removed from the outside world. Cleverly combining the treatments also maximised the time I spent lying down, something parents of young children will appreciate entirely. When covered in soft towels and quilts, listening to gentle music and breathing in Elemis scents, I challenge anyone not to dose off at some point.

Just an hour and a half later I walked out onto bustling Park Lane with sparkling skin, shiny nails, shoulders dropped and a head held high, restored enough to return to the mayhem of tube strikes, gales and a screaming baby with ease… for now.

Alongside the quick fix menu, the spa has several treatments specifically designed with Mums and Mums-to-be in mind. Pregnancy treatments include a customised ‘Skin Solution’ massage and facial to help restore imbalances caused by hormones. Mums will love the Musclease Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap, which literally cocoons the body in essential oils designed to mend aching muscles and fatigue.

For more information on Spa Intercontinental’s 60 minute Quick Fix see here.

For other fantastic family-friendly hotels with noteworthy spas see here.


Lime Wood, Hampshire

I was lucky enough to visit Lime Wood several years back for a friend’s wedding, when it was freshly painted and very newly reopened. Despite the falling snow and the seemingly uninviting weather that beset the New Forest that day, Lime Wood sparkled magically under the starlight. We danced the night away and fell into bed, bellies full of decadent food and far, far too much wine. (That was before I had a baby and gave no thought to hangovers, of course).

Yesterday, the New Forest wasn’t looking much better. The horrendous gale force winds and rains that are smattering the south west coast of England howled with intensity and rage. The roads were partly flooded and hoards of helpless roadside ponies huddled together to keep warm. Yet, despite being issued an amber weather alert, I got in the car and drove to Lime Wood, knowing full well I’d be very happy I had made the effort once I got there.

Lime Wood, Hampshire

What struck me when I first stepped into Lime Wood (on both occasions) is the incredible attention to detail. The design and aesthetic is faultless. Every cushion is tossed with perfection; every napkin folded, just so. But it isn’t in any way formal or intimidating and it is surprisingly family-friendly. The newly-opened Forest cabins welcome guests as they start their journey up the driveway, so they are close enough to the hotel’s main building for the odd bit of room service, but far away away enough to guarantee some serious privacy. The children’s bunk beds have edges and steps that are carved out of tree branches and trunks, there are ample DVDs and board games if the weather fails you, roaring fireplaces accentuate every room and fresh eggs and milk are delivered daily to the door. (These are collected from the neighbouring farm, which families are more than welcome to visit).

Angela Hartnett heads the kitchen of Lime Wood so you know you’re in for a serious gastronomic treat, though the Italian flair to her fare makes it extremely appealing to younger eaters. And the spa? Well…… even if you don’t stay at Lime Wood but you are anywhere in the county of Hampshire, do stop in. Between the bubbling outdoor hot tub, the elegant indoor pool (which has kiddie-friendly times for swimming), and the gorgeous Raw & Cured eatery (which serves cured meat and fish from the hotel’s own smoke house), the Herb House Spa is a joy from start to finish. Incidentally, it is aptly named as the roof is one large herb garden (visible from the gym) with everything grown there finding its way into the kitchen. I spent an hour in the capable (and very strong) hands of a therapist called Emily who gave me a deep tissue massage. Laying on the heated bed, I gave myself over to the moment, the scent of delicious Bamford body oil filling the air. If you do visit with your children you can still experience the spa. The hotel happily arranges babysitters so you need not miss out.

And if you do head out in the surrounding grounds together there are maps (so you won’t get lost) and bikes for your use (including a chariot-style bike for two and baby seats for tiny tots). The natural environment of Lime Wood, set as it is in the heart of the untouched and very pristine New Forest, gives it an ethereal quality, whether it’s pouring with rain or drenched in sunshine. And for that hour with Emily in one of the gorgeous treatment rooms of the Herb House spa, I honestly would have driven through a hurricane.

Book this hotel here.

View other UK family-friendly hotels at kodomo.com here.