Sep
13

UK Family Holidays with Kids- London Syon Park Hotel- An Unexpected Oasis

Planning a UK Family Holiday with Kids?

Syon Park view from interconnecting room

UK family holidays with kids offer a diverse range of engaging experiences for your whole family. If you are planning UK family holidays with kids, London is an excellent place to start. Our family recently enjoyed staying at Syon Park Hotel, a recent addition to the Hilton/Waldof Astoria chain. Previously we had done the bed and breakfast thing, but with small children we preferred a hotel experience- as hospitable as B & B hosts can be, there is always a degree of discomfort staying in someone else home with little kids. So this time we were seeking a hotel that would not only give kids some space to be kids and run around, but it also needed to be well located to the airport, downtown London and Surrey and Legoland, where we were attending a wedding. London Syon Park  Hotel fits this bill. It is well located, about half way between Heathrow Airport and downtown London which is only 10 miles away.

This property is like an oasis, on pastural land owned by the Duke of Northumberland near the next to the Thames River. The Syon Park Hotel shares the 200 Acre property with grazing animals, a garden center, and a Castle which is the Duke of Northumberland’s London residence. The Castle and its grounds can be visited several days each week. (http://www.syonpark.co.uk/information.asp).

The staff were friendly and obliging and check-in very smooth. Interconnecting rooms are modern and ornately decorated, although somewhat small. They opened on to a balcony, with views of the large gardens and grounds of the castle. Ground floor rooms lead straight out onto the grass which is a bonus for families with sleeping babes and toddlers.

The fitness facilities are excellent, including a Technogym gymnasium and a beautiful indoor pool and spa. Kids were unfortunately restricted to swimming during designated times in the morning and afternoon, allowing adults enjoying the spa facilities some peace during the daytime. It didn’t really affect us greatly, we just planned our day around the available swimming times. The restaurant is somewhat formal inside but outside is a great option for dining with children giving them some space to wander and enjoy the courtyards edible garden. The staff were very helpful but they were late setting up and in opening for breakfast each morning – important when little tummys were waking up at 4am and ready to eat the second doors were to open! That being said, breakfast was very lavish and included in our room rate. The waiters were proudly serving traditional English fare which was certainly tasty but loaded with butter and salt. They were unable to accomodate requests for reduced salt and lower fat options.  No complaints from the little people however! Another thing to note was their were no kids meals available on the menu, but the chefs were able to modify the dishes to meet the tastes of youngsters.

Plan Some R&R On Your UK Family Holiday

One great aspect of this property is that the hotel actively supports environment awareness sourcing produce which is grown locally, and in fact much of its produce is grown on the grounds of the hotel including many delicious herbs and vegetables. We were fortunate during our garden strolls to meet Robert, the head garden architect who showed us around the green-house where there is a special dining experience on offer at the chefs table. We were lucky to sample some of the best tomatoes we have eaten, plucked straight from the vine.

Any UK family holiday with the kids needs a little “R & R”. There is plenty of opportunity for some quality downtime here with your kids. Wandering through Syon Park is very pleasant. Push bikes are also available from the hotel, but unfortunately they don’t have any bikes for kids yet (hint to management!). There are great paths for biking, walking and jogging with one leading down to the nearby Thames River and a great little family friendly pub where the kids can watch the punts and ducks floating by. Syon Park is also home to The Tropical Zoo with animals such as insects, tarantulas, snakes, lizards, iguanas, and even a baby crocodile.

We found a hire car very useful as it is a bit of a distance to public transport. The gardens are a still a work in progress and the hotel and it’s staff are still finding their feet. All in all, with it’s interconnecting rooms, plenty of space to walk, run and hide for the kids, animals to visit etc, this is a great place to consider staying with your family. Given time, this hotel will be an even more  wonderful place to stay, close to London.

Would we go back? Sure. Let us know if you have any other ideas for our readers of great places to stay when planning UK family holidays with kids.

Aug
24

Florida Keys Family Frolic at Cheeca

Cheeca Resort and Spa Florida KeysIf you’re interested in a tropical family vacation within the continental US, with easy access from Miami/Fort Lauderdale airport, the luxurious Cheeca Lodge & Spa (http://www.cheeca.com/) on the quaint island of Islamorada, in the Florida Keys is worth checking out. This beachfront resort has beautifully manicured grounds, villa style rooms with private balconies, with a good blend of amenities that a high-end resort has to offer, as well as facilities and activities that the whole family can enjoy.

You can dine outside on the beach or indoors at one of the three fine restaurants, sit under the shaded cabanas near the heated pool, pamper yourself at the spa, enjoy a game of tennis or squeeze in a nine hole 3-par golf game, work out in the state of the art fitness center, soak up the sun while lying out along the 1,100 foot palm-lined private beach, take a leisurely bike ride around the property or splash in the ocean.

Cheeca has hosted generations of families, Hollywood celebrities, Washington elite, and several United States Presidents over its 60 years. The ambience is casual and intimate, with attentive but never intrusive service. Sprinkled throughout 27 acres of lush gardens winding through shimmering pools and cascading waterfalls, the spacious West-Indies-style rooms, suites, and bungalows offer stunning ocean, island or golf course views. Rooms are beautiful and appointed with every luxury – from fine linens, extravagant marble bathrooms, and screened-in porches to wireless Internet access and sleek plasma screen televisions.

To add to the family friendly aspects of this hotel we love that all the Villa Suites have the option of interconnecting with a 2 queen room and have a fully equipped kitchen, accommodating up to 8 people. Babysitting is available and the resorts kids club, Camp Cheeca provides  loads of fun and supervised entertainment for children 5-12 years. Activities include fishing off the pier; arts and crafts; scavenger hunts; lagoon swimming/snorkeling; group games and beach exploration. The Florida Keys are home to North America’s only living coral barrier reef- the 3rd largest reef in the world. Home to more than 500 species of fish and nearly 50 varieties of living coral. Older kids can experience kayaking, sailing, snorkeling and windsurfing and they have so many places to hang out and explore.

We were recently at Cheeca for a wedding, “sans enfant”, and can’t wait to get back there with the whole family. It’s a gem.

Mar
14

The Ayana Resort and Spa, Jimbaran Bay Bali.

Ever had that thought on the way to the airport “I wish we could stay in paradise just another couple of days”

Well last night that was exactly my thought and thanks to the syncronicity of a Javanese volcano miles away, we’re staying a while longer. This time returning to an old favourite- the Ayana Hotel and Spa (formally the Ritz Carlton Resort) Jimbaran Bay Bali.

After a surprise notice at the airport, and a brief encounter with Jetstar’s complimentary “5 star hotel”, the Goodway Hotel in Nusa Dua– NOT!! Greatly in need of renovation this property is tired and well past it’s prime– our suite was spacious but mouldy, unclean (even the sheets were stained) and had insufficient beds (the absolute final straw). Given the onslaught of unexpected guests,we thought it quicker to move to another hotel than wait for another bed with tired and muddled children. And thanks to great travel insurance with our AMEX card, we had options.

The Ayana aptly named meaning ‘place of refuge’ in Sanskrit, is by contrast a very well maintained property with 8 swimming pools, various impressive restaurants and world class day spa and gym. Interconnecting Rooms are spacious and well appointed. This stay we are blessed with a palatial 2 bedroom villa ( 2001). This is heaven. It is huge, with several dining and enertainment areas, 2 rose petal filled baths, outdoor shower, its own sprawling lawn for the kids to run with day beds, and an infinity plunge pool. The villa is also close to the kids’ club, kids’ pool, restaurants and overlooks one of two the wedding chapels. This morning we awakened to singing birds, gently flowing water and a breathtaking views of the glistening Indian Ocean. I’m sitting by the kids pool watching the kids make friends and enjoy the supervised water slides, meanwhile the villas appointed butler is keeping us abreast of Jetstars latest news.

Breakfast served at Padi is sumptuous and vast- a feast that could last for hours! We ended up taking a “doggy bag” packed lovingly by the staff for the kids keeping them fed for hours. The Villa’s guests also have their own breakfast retreat at Dava which is also open for an elegant white table cloth dinner and live entertainment. There is no shortage of dining experiences at this resort. From cafe’s, Japanese Teppanyaki to dinner theatre experiences with a view, this resort has it all. The kids menus are particularly noteworthy with a vast choice and many healthy food options like homestyle chicken soup and grills with steamed vegetables.

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The kids club and children’s activity centre caters for 2-10 year olds and provides very flexible options at reasonable prices- check in for an hour, half or whole day or a short visit with a parent or babysitter. A wide range of activities to inspires all ages, and if nothing else the trampoline is a great hit. Children under 4 need to be accompanied by a parent of babysitter. We have used the baby sitting service and found the careers to be fun, kind, and responsible. In fact all the staff resort wide are wonderful with the children, paying them special attention and catering to their anticipated needs.

The Ayana’s spa complex is very impressive complete with cold plunge pool, steam and sauna rooms, aerobics and yoga studio, Aquatonic Seawater and HydroTherapy Pools, and an extensive range of treatments. The gym is excellent with onsite trainer to assist with weights and equipment. The only tip here is to bring cool training wear as the gym is warm.

Put simply, an outstanding family focused resort.


Ayana Resort and Spa at Google Maps:

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