We stay at the hotel next to the famous Wookey Hole Caves in Wells
Our video tour of the hotel and attraction
Wookey Hole Hotel
Where is it?
At the famous Wookey Hole Caves attraction in Somerset, two miles from the cathedral city of Wells and 20 miles from Bath.
What is it?
A 58-room hotel with a memorable turret shaped like a witch’s hat.
There’s a nod to witches in other details too including the curtains in our room.
A witch peers out of a bush at the hotel
This is due to the legendary Wookey Hole witch – said to have lived in the caves until she was killed by a monk.
Is it family friendly?
Yes, there were lots of families here when we stayed and it is the target market for the hotel. Many are likely to be here to visit the adjacent Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions.
Children also benefit from a well kitted out games room and a great children’s menu in the restaurant.
We had a family room with a comfortable double bed and two singles, a great alternative to the usual offering of two double beds and the children were pleased to have a bed each.
There was lots of good storage space, tea and coffee facilities and a tv plus free WiFi for unlimited devices.
Our family room
There are also double, superior and luxury family rooms. And a Witch’s Hat Suite for two adults with a bedroom and lounge. It can be found, as you might imagine, under the Witch’s Hat tower turret.
Food and drink
The Bistro is the bar and restaurant on site. It’s a nice room with wide windows on two sides.
Breakfast is served between 7.30am and 10am daily and there’s the choice of a buffet-style continental or a cooked alternative such as an English breakfast or eggs benedict.
There’s a good selection of evening meals, with something for everyone, served from 5.30pm to 8.30pm.
*The location – this is fantastic if you want to visit Wookey Hole Caves as it’s right next door. You can also do some scenic walks around the village and to Ebbor Gorge, which is about a 30-minute walk from the hotel.
*There is free car parking.
*The games room includes a giant Connect Four, air hockey table, table football, Jenga and classic arcade games.
Part of the games room
*As you’re staying on the same site, make sure to get up and out early as you can be first in the caves like we were – they opened at 9.30am when we stayed.
*Book the restaurant for breakfast or evening meals before you arrive to make sure you get one at your preferred time.
*Adjoining rooms are available if needed as are travel cots – only the bottom sheet is provided so bring your own bedding.
*There are often special packages available with stays including tickets to Wookey Hole, breakfast and discounts to other attractions, if you book directly with the hotel.
*The adjacent Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions is a series of show caverns which date back millions of years. Alongside the caves are a dinosaur park, 4D cinema, adventure golf, soft play and circus theatre. Read our full review of Wookey Hole Caves and Attractions.
*It’s two miles from beautiful Wells – the smallest city in England. We spent a fantastic afternoon here, spending ages exploring the Bishop’s Palace glorious gardens.
Bishops Palace and Gardens, Wells
*It’s 20 miles from Bath, where we spent a lovely couple of days visiting attractions like the Roman Baths, the Royal Crescent and the American Museum and Gardens as well as enjoying hop-on, hop-off open air bus tours. Read our full guide: Things to do in Bath for families
All you need to know about Marriott Village Orlando and its three hotels SpringHill Suites, Fairfield Inn and Courtyard Hotel
We stay at Marriott Village Orlando – a great base from which to get to the top Florida attractions of Universal or Disney World.
Marriott Village Orlando
Where is it?
Marriott Village is in the Lake Buena Vista area near Disney World. It’s in a quiet development just off the main International Drive road which runs from Orlando to Disney.
What is it?
A village with three different hotels, SpringHill Suites Orlando, Fairfield Inn Orlando and Courtyard Hotel Orlando.
Each hotel has its own pool with all three available to those staying. There is a shared food court, playground, shops and gym.
If you stay in one of the hotels you can use a free shuttle bus to Disney World.
Is it family friendly?
Yes, very much so. We stayed at SpringHill Suites Orlando which is probably the most family-orientated with large rooms, free breakfast, Disney shuttle and ticket outlet and an outdoor pool with splash pads.
The view from our room
The hotel could do with a slight modernisation on decor and furniture but was excellent value, very practical and a pleasant place to stay.
All the rooms are the same and they are a great size with two double beds and a sofa bed if needed.
There is also a sink, fridge and microwave if you want to make your own food.
The decor is a little dated and could maybe do with an upgrade in places but with a desk, bathroom with bath and shower, separate sink area and storage cupboard there is loads of room.
Desk in our room
There were also two televisions so our children could have one each and the free WiFi was fast and reliable.
Food and drink
Breakfast is self-serve and can get quite busy. We suggest going early.
The highlight is definitely the Mickey Mouse waffle makers which give you a Mickey-shaped snack to start your day.
Mickey Mouse waffles for breakfast
The queue to use them gets long but it is great fun for children to make their own, under supervision.
There is also plenty of other food with a good range of cereals, yoghurts, fruit, drinks and hot food.
There’s a shared food court area if you want a quick and easy lunch or dinner like pizza and fries. It isn’t a restaurant as such but there is a nice seating area outside if the weather is good and a few stools and tables inside.
The food court
There is a standard menu of family favourites and you can also buy drinks and snacks for your room.
Then there are three restaurants next door within walking distance next to the Marriott Village.
We ate at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse and had a tasty meal with a good children’s menu and an activity pack to keep them entertained.
About a five-minute walk away are five more restaurants including an Italian grill but it means crossing a very busy road which we weren’t too keen to do with young children.
There is also a small store attached to a petrol station for water and snacks.
*Disney World is the nearest attractions with a daily shuttle from the hotel. Book as soon as possible the day before to guarantee a place.
The shuttle bus runs between Marriott Village and the Magic Kingdom Transportation Center.
The room size – there is lots of space and having two TVs, plus a fridge and sink gives you options for entertainment and self-catering.
Location – it is in a really nice, quiet area away from the hustle and bustle of Disney or Universal but near enough to get to both quickly.
The pools – being able to use three pools is a bonus. We found the one at SpringHill enough for our needs with a shallow main pool big enough for a proper swim, separate jacuzzi and splash pads for smaller children.
The play area – a small but well stocked play area with two climbing frames – one for ages two to five and another for six to 12-year-olds.
There is also a basketball hoop, giant chess set and hopscotch.
Marriott Village Orlando information
Address: Marriott Village Orlando, 8623 Vineland Avenue, Lake Buena Vista, Orlando, Florida.
We take our children to stay at the Radisson Blu hotel on the River Wear in a great location in Durham
Radisson Blu Hotel
Where is it
It is overlooking the River Wear in Durham city centre, in the northeast of England, a mile from the cathedral and the castle.
Durham is a really beautiful city, full of culture and charm and there’s also loads to see and do.
What is it
This is a four-star hotel with 207 bedrooms.
Radisson Blu hotels are part of the Radisson Hotel Group. (Other brands in the group are Radisson Collection, Raddison, Radisson Red, Radisson Individuals, Park Plaza, Park Inn by Radisson, Country Inn & Suites by Radisson and prizeotel).
The company describes the Radisson Blu hotels as ‘memorable, stylish and purposeful’.
Is it family friendly?
Yes, our room was perfect for a family and the swimming pool is the icing on the cake.
Our family room was a good size, split into two areas – a spacious bedroom for us and around the corner, an area for the children with a sofa bed. Both areas have a tv and a desk.
There’s also an en-suite bathroom with an array of toiletries. The room was equipped with tea and coffee facilities, dressing gowns, iron and ironing board, safe, hair dryer and ice bucket (ice is available along the corridor).
Food and drink
The hotel’s Collage restaurant serves breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner.
Breakfast is a buffet with a range of good quality hot and continental items including pastries, croissants, cereals, bacon, egg, mushrooms, toast, cheeses, fruit and yoghurt.
We stayed over a weekend and it seemed particularly busy on the Sunday morning.
There is a separate big bar area too, serving drinks and bar snacks.
*Our room was a fabulous size and a perfect layout for us with the two sections.
*The location is brilliant – we could walk everywhere we wanted to visit in the city centre.
At night, it’s a short stroll along the river to bars and restaurants and an Odeon cinema at The Riverside.
We particularly like the relaxed nature of the Food Pit – a street food hall. Set up like a restaurant but with seven independent food vendors offering different menus, so everyone can choose from a different section but all sit together. Food included Greek, Thai, Mexican, plus there’s a bar and an ice cream/waffle dessert option. There’s even pizza and chicken nuggets and chips if you look hard enough.
*The swimming pool – we LOVE a pool and this one, at 15 metres is a great size. There were even a couple of lanes sectioned off for lane swimming.
*There is also a good-sized gym/fitness suite, but we didn’t have the tine to try it out, we were too busy swimming!
Our video tour
This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the best examples of Norman architecture in England and has been in use for almost 1,000 years.
Of more interest to us though, is the fact that it has been used in the Harry Potter films.
The Cloisters served as Hogwarts’ quadrangle and outdoor corridors including the scene where Ron has a spell backfire and pukes up slugs.
And the Chapter House was used as McGonagall’s Transfiguration class.
This part is usually closed but we managed to see a bit of it by peering through the keyhole!
Hire a traditional rowing boat and make your way along the River Wear.
Collect sea glass along the shore at Seaham, it’s surprisingly addictive.
This railway museum is a free attraction. It has trains of all shapes and sizes and is in Britain’s first railway town, Shildon.
Beamish – the living museum of the north, is a great day out for all the family. Near the town of Stanley, it tells the story of the people of North East England in the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s.
We take our children to stay at this hotel in the centre of Porthmadog opposite the railway station
Premier Inn Porthmadog Hotel.
Where is it?
This Premier Inn hotel is in Porthmadog in the county of Gwynedd, North Wales, a small coastal town on the Glaslyn Estuary.
It’s in a great location, opposite Porthmadog Railway Station and the estuary. The rear of the hotel has views over Snowdonia National Park.
What is it?
Premier Inn is the UK’s biggest hotel chain with over 800 hotels and this one only opened in 2022.
Our Standard Family room had three beds – a really comfortable and cosy king size, a single and a smaller pull-out.
Our Standard Family room
All rooms have an en-suite bath and shower with shower curtain, tea and coffee facilities, hairdryer, desk and chair, plus free Wi-Fi and a flat screen Smart TV.
Other room options are a Standard Double, Premier Plus Double, Standard Twin and Standard Accessible which includes adjustable beds, more space and wider entry bathrooms.
We were very grateful that the room had very effective air conditioning, as we stayed during a heat wave.
Food and drink
The hotel’s Thyme restaurant serves breakfast and evening meals.
Breakfast is self-service and includes hot options like bacon, eggs, hash browns, mushrooms and baked beans plus fruit, cereals, croissants and yoghurts.
You can toast your own bread, pancakes and crumpets. Breakfast was £9.50 per adult or £7.50 for just the continental options when we stayed.
In the evening, you can choose from a huge menu which includes reasonably-priced standard pub favourites like lasagne, steak and pizza.
Is it family friendly?
Yes, this is a family friendly hotel, our room was a great size for the four of us.
Breakfast is free for children (up to two children eat free with a paying adult).
Also, travel cots are available at no extra cost.
*The location – this is a great spot to explore Porthmadog and we enjoyed several walks from the hotel.
It’s a two-minute walk to the pretty harbour and town centre.
*Spooner’s cafe bar at the railway station opposite serves good value drinks and its terrace has a nice view across the bay.
*The views – from our window at the front we could watch steam trains arriving and departing from Porthmadog Station and the estuary beyond.
Windows at the back look over a pretty pool with mountains beyond.
*The comfortable beds and the room’s air conditioning were a real bonus, as was the cleanliness and the modern fresh feel of the whole hotel.
*Car parking is described as limited on the website. Although the hotel was full when we visited we did manage to park on site each day. If you are keen to ensure your vehicle is left in the hotel car park, then we suggest arriving earlier as it rapidly filled up from around 5pm.
*Don’t miss out on a lovely short walk directly behind the hotel around a lake. If you follow the green railings around the back of the hotel, it looks like a dead end, but you can head out on to Cob Crwn – a short, circular stroll.
A view of the hotel from the lake behind it.
*Breakfast times were allocated at 6.30, 7.30, 8.30 or 9.30am. The area was busy around 8.30am but quietened down afterwards so we suggest if you don’t want to wait for a table, get there either before 8am or after 9.30am.
*There are six electric car charging points in the car park. However, none of them were working when we visited! The nearest charging points in Porthmadog are at the Tesco supermarket, which is a 10-minute walk away.
Porthmadog Railway Station
Porthmadog Railway Station is opposite is a major hub with three lines – the Ffestiniog (which runs to Blaenau Ffestiniog), the Welsh Highland Railway (which goes to Caernarfon) and the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.
Porthmadog Railway Station is opposite the Premier Inn
The Welsh Highland Railway is the UK’s longest heritage railway and runs 25 miles between Porthmadog and Caernarfon.
The Ffestiniog Railway is a vintage railway which has been running for nearly 200 years. It is 13.5 miles long and runs from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway offers a short train ride in historic narrow-gauge railway carriages to Pen-y-mount station and back.
This Italian-style tourist village, built between 1925 and 1975, is two miles south east of Porthmadog.
It is famous for being The Village in the tv show The Prisoner.
Black Rock Sands (Morfa Bychan)
This big beach is two miles west of Porthmadog. It’s very accessible as you can park your vehicles on it.
Just be careful of little ones running around and also keep an eye on the tide and your car – one had to be towed out of the sea when we were there.
Cars parked on the beach at Black Rock Sands
We visited Harlech Castle and Harlech Beach, which were 20 minutes away.
Harlech Beach is large and sandy and is a fair walk from the car park.
It is overlooked by the castle, set high on the cliff.
You don’t have to go far from the hotel for a stunning stroll.
The marina is very close or you can head around the back of the building to a footpath which takes you around a lake. A 20-minute walk brings you back to the hotel.
You can find out more about the attractions by reading our feature on what to do around Porthmadog with children here.
Premier Inn Porthmadog Hotel, Britannia Terrace, Porthmadog, Wales, LL49 9NB.
The stony beach isn’t the most comfortable for children to play on but there is fun to be had skimming stones and walking along it – to the nearby village in one direction or – in the other – to the spectacular Cape Aspro hiking trail.
If you want to travel a little further, the popular Aphrodite’s Rock, reputed as the place where the Goddess emerged from the sea, is just a few miles away.
Or you could enjoy more Cypriot history at Kourion Amphitheatre and Kolossi Castle – both less than 30 minutes’ drive.
A similar journey gets you to the tourist hotspot of Paphos with the Tombs of the Kings archaeological site and the bustling harbour worth a visit.
More active families can enjoy the water park, Luna Park funfair or the zoo.
We take our children to stay at a landmark hotel in the centre of Stratford
What is it
The Grosvenor Hotel is a landmark hotel in Stratford town centre with 76 rooms. It used to be known as the Villare Hotel but now has its original name back.
Where is it?
It’s in the centre of Stratford, a few minutes’ walk from the main attractions.
Our ground floor room had a large bed and a sofa bed, tv, desk and en-suite. It was very hot but a fan was set up ready.
Our room was a good size and simply decorated.
It is family friendly?
There were quite a few families staying here when we visited. There is nothing specific designed for children but the rooms are a reasonable size and it is walking distance into Stratford.
Food and drink
Breakfast was a simple choice of cereals, toast, fruit and hot options like egg, bacon, sausages and tomato. Our children enjoyed having branded cereals they could choose from.
Breakfast at the Grosvenor Hotel
We also had afternoon tea here which included a selection of sandwiches – egg, cheese, coronation chicken and tuna, plus chocolate brownies, lemon cake, strawberries and scones with cream and jam.
Afternoon tea at the Grosvenor Hotel
There is a lounge and bar area which serves discounted drinks during Happy Hour between 9pm and 11pm.
*The hotel’s position is good, it’s a nice walk along the canal to the very centre. Don’t miss the entrance to the canal, which is across the road from the hotel.
*The staff did their best but I felt like more were needed, they were run ragged on reception and at breakfast. The young man who served us afternoon tea did an excellent job and seemed happier than some of the other employees.
The hotel bar
*There is a back entrance from the car park so you don’t need to keep going up and down the front steps.
An outdoor area at the back of the hotel
*As it is a grade two-listed building there is no lift so let the hotel know if you need a downstairs room.
It’s a short walk into Stratford town centre if you cross the road, turn right and take the canal path.
There is loads to do in Stratford – Shakespeare-related attractions such as his birthplace and school, shops, boating on the River Avon, restaurants and cafes and of course theatres. See our top picks here.
Address: Grosvenor Hotel,12-14 Warwick Road, Stratford upon Avon, CV37 6YW.
Parking: There is a car park and it costs £9 per night to park your car. The car park did get full when we visited so arrive early to park and then leave your car to walk into Stratford.
We stay at St Michael’s Manor Hotel with our children to visit the Harry Potter Studios and explore St Albans
St Michael’s Manor Hotel.
Where is it?
A 10-minute walk from St Albans city centre, which is just north of London near the M1 and M25 motorways. The building, converted into a hotel in 1965, is on Fishpool Street bordering the city’s large Verulamium Park.
What is it?
An historic 500-year-old building which is now a lovely four-star upmarket hotel in five acres of fabulous grounds, which include a lake. The hotel has 30 bedrooms, a bar and restaurant.
Is it family friendly?
Families are probably not the hotel’s main market (it is a popular wedding and fine dining venue) but they are well catered for here.
The main attraction for visitors with children is the large grounds, nice for children to run around and explore. There’s a pool with a fountain and big fish. Inside, family rooms are an excellent size and breakfast has plenty of child-friendly options.
The hotel’s suites are the rooms suitable for families of four. We stayed in Sycamore and it was a very good size with a king-size bed and a sofa bed for the children tucked around the corner so it almost felt like having two rooms.
Our hotel room, Sycamore
There were two TVs, one opposite each bed, a massive bathroom with large bath and separate shower.
There was also a desk, large wardrobes with plenty of storage, kettle, ironing board, coffee maker, biscuits and bottled water.
Food and drink
Breakfast was all self-service with a good selection of six cereals, including Weetabix, Cornflakes, Rice Krispies and Coco Pops. There were also pastries, fresh fruit, yoghurt and a full cooked breakfast offering.
Breakfast is served in the bright and spacious Lake Restaurant, which has views over the gardens and, as you might have guessed, the lake.
Breakfast at Lakeside Restaurant
The restaurant also serves afternoon teas, which you can eat on the large terrace or in the gardens on a nice day. The evening meal menu is upmarket fine dining so may not be ideal for children – we ate in the city centre instead.
The large Verulamium Park is a three-minute walk away. It has a playground, splash pool, football goals, Roman museum and plenty of space to run around.
The main attractions of the city centre, like the huge cathedral, market and museums are around a 10-minute walk.
St Alban’s Cathedral
We combined our visit with a trip to Warner Bros. Studios Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, which is a 20-minute drive from St Albans.
*The grounds – a fantastic space to explore, although be careful with young ones around the lake. The five acres are flat and inviting to burn off energy. In the corners of the garden there are trees and bushes to play in. It could do with a swing or slide in a quiet corner, but apart from that it is a wonderful space.
*The room/suite – we all felt comfortable straight away, a lovely room with plenty of space and everything we could need.
*The bathroom – one of the best family bathrooms we have seen in a hotel – big with a large bath and separate shower, bath robes and fluffy towels.
*Breakfast – a good selection of food for children in a sunny and bright orangery-style restaurant, with great views over the garden.
*Parking – sounds a bit dull but parking is very tricky in St Albans so this is a godsend. The hotel’s large car park is free and stretches around the side and back of the property. It is close enough to the city centre to leave your car for your entire stay. You can stroll through the park to reach the attractions, or take the slightly quicker route along Fishpool Street to the Cathedral area.
Our son’s review!
It’s great, the rooms are named after trees.
It has a delicious breakfast, a fountain, a pond, a garden, deck chairs and a car park.
St Michael’s Manor Hotel, Fishpool St, St Albans AL3 4RY.
We review a stay at NH Amsterdam Centre in Holland/The Netherlands
Where is it?
NH Amsterdam Centre is a well-positioned hotel right next to Leidseplein square in Amsterdam. It is across the road from canal cruises, within five minutes’ walk of Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.
What is it?
A six-floor hotel featuring cafe and restaurant, gym and sauna.
Is it family friendly?
Fairly – standard rooms don’t accommodate more than two people so you will have to book a suite or superior room.
Breakfast was of a high standard but is adult-orientated – eg cereal options were cornflakes or six different types of muesli. But our children were welcomed with activity book and crayons.
The televisions in the rooms have a good choice of English language channels including some children’s programmes.
Tasteful and modern decor with a light wooden floor, the rooms are welcoming. We thought the beds were very comfortable and a good size.
Bathrooms vary, we tried a superior room with a bath and overhead shower and then a suite (which was a great size), which just had a large shower.
There were good size flat screen televisions (two in the suite)! Plus tea and coffee facilities and a small fridge/mini-bar.
The suite had two televisions
Food and drink
Breakfast has a high-quality selection of food. As noted above, it isn’t geared particularly towards children but the food was excellent with eggs made to order, fruit, cooked options and pastries.
For lunch and dinner, the Copper Pot restaurant does not offer a separate children’s menu but they happily catered for our two.
The restaurant is at the front of the hotel, with modern decor looking out onto the road, park and canal opposite.
We all really enjoyed our dinner there and it was nice to finish the day close to bed for our children after a busy day exploring Amsterdam.
The location is great. Next to the busy Leidseplein, it is walking distance from three major attractions – Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.
There is a tram stop across the road with a frequent service into the heart of Amsterdam (Centraal Station is about a 15-minute ride on the tram). In addition, you can take lovely canal strolls just outside the door and catch several canal cruises (we took the Blue Boat company family cruise from just down the road from the hotel, see our review here). There are also plenty of places to eat around Leidseplein.
Location – far enough into the city to be near major attractions but well away from the seedier side of Amsterdam. The hotel is in a great spot for exploring.
Breakfast – a high quality selection of food in a nice dining area. The scrambled eggs were particularly good. The pastries were fresh and there was lots of choice – plus the colouring packs kept the children entertained.
Beds – comfortable and clean in bright and modern rooms.
Value – when we booked it was a great price for peak season, for the standard of hotel.
Address: NH Amsterdam Centre, Stadhouderskade, 7, Amsterdam, 1054ES, Netherlands.
St Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster proved a hit with this family on a break to London
What is it?
St Ermin’s Hotel is a grand and classic London hotel which balances its history with a relaxed attitude to children.
Where is it?
This hotel is ideally situated in the heart of Westminster, between Parliament and Buckingham Palace, right opposite New Scotland Yard. The area feels very safe and quiet in the evenings so there’s no noise to wake the little ones.
Is it family friendly?
Yes, the staff enjoy children being around, breakfast is relaxed, the outside entrance has a little green space and the Budding Bonds themed package offering a treasure hunt for youngsters is a nice touch (see more under highlights).
The hotel’s budding Bond’s package
We stayed in a lovely family suite at St Ermin’s which boasted two big beds and the added bonus of two bathrooms. It was nicely decorated and a good size for London where hotel rooms are usually on the small side.
It had a large TV and sofa for relaxing on.
Food and drink
Breakfast is very tasty but the real treat was an afternoon tea. The sandwiches and cakes are beautifully presented and our children loved the experience. There is champagne for the adults and on a warm day you can eat outside on the balcony overlooking the wonderful entrance to the hotel.
The Caxton Grill is the restaurant for evening meals, it is quite formal but lighter bites (perhaps better suited to children) can be eaten at the Caxton Bar next door.
The bartender will even mix a child’s cocktail which certainly impressed our son.
It is walking distance to Buckingham Palace, St James’ Park, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Southbank. There are plenty of restaurants on the main road towards Victoria, about a five minute walk from the hotel.
*The Bond theme. This hotel is where MI6 were based during World War Two and the 007 package is a perk for budding James Bonds. Staff handed our son a sheet with clues to solve around the hotel. It’s a great way to explore – the staff really embrace it, pretending to be security officers if you ask them for help – and when you’ve finished you get a couple of special prizes.
The hotel interior
*The entrance. It gives a real wow factor for children and adults thanks to the tree lined entrance and grand staircase next to reception.
*The history lesson. St Ermin’s housed MI6 during World War Two and more recently it was the venue where Boris Johnson amazed the country by pulling out of the race to become Prime Minister.
*Exploring. The hotel is large with plenty of nooks and crannies, an old library and corridors to venture into. Our children enjoyed exploring such an historic building.
St Ermin’s Hotel, 2 Caxton Street, Westminster, London, SW1H 0QW.
How to book
This is a brilliantly-located and child-friendly hotel in the heart of London. For more information and room rates visit their website St Ermin’s
We stayed as guests of St Ermin’s for this review. All views are our own.
We take our children to review Solent Hotel & Spa in Fareham
Where is it?
The Solent Hotel & Spa is in Fareham, south east Hampshire.
It’s in a good location, near the M27, between Portsmouth and Southampton.
What is it?
The hotel is part of the House of Daniel Thwaites company.
It’s a four-star business and leisure hotel and spa with a swimming pool, AA Rosette restaurant, tennis court, gym and neighbouring pub owned by the same company.
Is it family friendly?
Yes, very much so, this hotel was a real find and very popular with all four of us. Our children are really keen to go back.
*There is a children’s room filled with a PlayStation, table tennis table, pool table, board games and more.
*The indoor swimming pool was large, with a separate, shallow baby pool and comfortable seating around it. Three times a week, there is a special splash time with floats and toys.
The changing rooms are lovely. Getting the children showered and changed after swimming feels easier, with extras such as a costume dryer and plastic bags for wet things.
*There are woods behind the hotel to explore which our children enjoyed.
We had a signature family double – it was nicely decorated with a comfortable double bed and a sofa bed which our son and daughter shared. The sofa bed was great for our two but would be too small for a couple of teenagers.
The children were thrilled with little welcome packs for them on their bed, full of activities and treats. And two little dressing gowns (two bigger ones for us were in the wardrobe).
Our room at the Solent Hotel & Spa
Room amenities are good – a fridge held complimentary water and milk, plus there were biscuits, teas and coffee, a kettle and a desk.
If pushed to find anything to change I would say a step in our room next to the children’s sofa bed looked nice but could be a trip hazard at night.
Food and drink
The restaurant feels really nice to sit in, pleasingly designed and decorated. It has a choice of seating areas including a conservatory, an outdoor terrace and booths.
Breakfast was delicious with the most attentive, lovely staff, who specially made me pancakes one day when they found out how much I wanted some.
A sweet baked waffle special was lovely and brought to the table along with hot drinks.
Staff help you to a cooked breakfast while you help yourself to pastries, cereal, fruit, yoghurt etc, more than enough to keep everyone happy.
At night you can also eat at the hotel.
We ate at the Parson’s Collar pub next door, run by the same company, and also finished nicely with televisions and an ice cream bar. The menu was great and portions are generous.
The hotel is close to Whiteley shopping centre and leisure complex so there are plenty of places to eat.
It is about 15 minutes drive from the nearest beach, Lee-on-Solent.
It is also 20 minutes from Peppa Pig World and Paultons Park.
*The hotel is beautifully designed and our room was also nicely decorated.
*The fabulous breakfast and attentive breakfast staff.
*The games room and woodland are great extra entertainment.
*The swimming pool and changing rooms.
*There is lots of parking.
*Staff on reception were very helpful providing something I’d forgotten to pack.
We stay in a Thomas-themed hotel room before trying out Thomas Land at Drayton Manor Theme Park in Staffordshire
I wake to find a giant Thomas the Tank Engine staring at me.
Then my son’s excited face pops up over the top.
What a wonderful way for a boy to wake up on his birthday – in the top bunk of a Thomas bed.
We are at Drayton Manor Hotel near Tamworth in Staffordshire. It is on the same site as Drayton Manor Theme Park and our stay-and-play package includes breakfast and tickets to the park.
Our Thomas-themed room has no less than four television screens and a railway line printed on the floor which continues into some of the corridor.
We choo choo our way along it and make our way down to breakfast before skipping into the park.
A Thomas-themed room at Drayton Manor hotel
First stop – and our main reason for the visit – is Thomas Land. Having heard tales of long queues over the holidays, on this term-time day, the place is blissfully quiet.
James and the Red Balloon Ride
And with the sun shining, we go quickly from ride to ride, enjoying such delights as Cranky’s Drop Tower and Jeremy’s Flying Academy. And the quite exhilarating Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster is clearly enjoyed by us adults as much as the children.
The rest of the park
Then we climb aboard a Thomas the Tank train at “Knapford Station” and ride to another part of the park. Here, our two children enjoy all the birds and animals at the zoo and take the Dino Trail where there are model dinosaurs.
We then try out the handful of bigger rides suitable for younger children in the rest of the park, like the big wheel and the water rapids, which I scream my way through, much to everyone’s amusement.
Daringly, we board the very fast (I think) Accelerator (formerly known as The Ben 10 Ultimate Mission Coaster), suitable from aged four.
We alight full of happy laughter.
And it is this, not just Thomas, which is the theme of our stay.
Drayton Manor is also home to the stand-up roller coaster Shockwave
Accommodation: We stayed as guests at Drayton Manor Hotel for the purposes of this review. All views are our own.
We review Chateau Rhianfa in Anglesey and explore the surrounding area, beaches and attractions with our young children
It is not every day you wake up in a castle.
And the spectacular sight from our ridiculously comfortable bed through a large picture window means getting up is not appealing.
We are in Anglesey and our view takes in the waters of the Menai Strait, framed by majestic Snowdonia.
Other families we know holiday in Anglesey yet we had never been so we had decided to visit the beautiful island off north Wales for a half-term break.
Chateau Rhianfa is more decadent than your average venue with its grand decor and tiered gardens sweeping down to the water (click here for our full review of Chateau Rhianfa).
Fans of ITV’s Cold Feet will recognise it as it recently featured in an episode for the wedding of Spanish nanny Ramona.
It was built in the mid-1800s in the style of a French Renaissance chateau as an aristocratic country retreat.
This fairy tale venue is impressive from the outside and fascinating on the inside.
Inside Chateau Rhianfa
Our children loved exploring the grand drawing and music rooms and were excited to discover cosy cubby holes in turrets.
And we were all happy to find an atmospheric wine cave among the rabbit warren of spaces.
The hotel rooms and suites are lavishly finished.
A hotel room
The Gate Lodge
Or you can stay in equally beautiful self-catering accommodation in the grounds.
We were in the Gate Lodge, a two-storey cottage with arched entrance and miniature turrets, where attendants of visitors to the chateau would once have stayed.
It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/diner and lounge area.
The Gate Lodge self-catering accommodation
With the space and the large grounds to enjoy, I could have stayed there all day. But there was an island to explore and two children eager to get going.
We were spoilt for choice for beaches and our favourite was Newborough, a wide sweeping bay backed by sand dunes and woodland walks.
We also liked Lligwys Beach near Moelfre – quiet and good for rockpooling – and the more rugged and windy Rhosneigr which was home to kitesurfers and kayakers.
Our daughter never tired of throwing stones into the water and our son loved hunting for crabs among the rock pools and paddling in the sea.
And we discovered exactly how crashing waves worked through clever replications at Anglesey Sea Zoo.
Everything in this aquarium is found around the British coast, and we found out plenty thanks to the friendly staff as they fed the fish and lobsters.
You can enjoy a feed too at the well-priced cafe and outside there’s a playground, bouncy slide, crazy golf and more.
Back at our castle, trying the food is a must as it has previously won Hotel Restaurant of the Year (Welsh Food Awards).
We had a delicious breakfast on our last morning and also risked our young children in the quiet and refined dining room for an evening meal.
Thankfully they behaved. Or at least, nobody was looking when they didn’t.
It was a small, thoughtfully put together menu. There were no separate options for children. But the chefs were happy to adapt one of the dishes to suit them. And my steak was the best I have ever tasted.
The food lived up to expectations, as did the venue, as did Anglesey itself.
We are one more family won over by its charms.
Chateau Rhianfa on the Menai Strait
Have you been to Anglesey? Where do you recommend for children?
Answer these questions before booking an all-inclusive hotel for you and your children
All-inclusive holidays have never been as popular as they are now in 2018.
Holidaymakers on all-inclusive breaks can relax knowing after paying one price up front, all their meals and drinks have been paid for in advance. But it certainly doesn’t suit everybody.
So should you and your family go all-inclusive or not? The answer depends on you, your budget and where you’re going. Our comprehensive guide can help you decide.
What is all inclusive?
All-inclusive usually means that the accommodation, meals, drinks (soft and alcoholic) and entertainment are included in the cost. Some or all activities can also be added and occasionally also the airfare.
Where are you going?
It is important to take into consideration your destination when deciding whether to go all-inclusive.
In general the more familiar, cheaper and developed the location, the easier self-catering or a non all-inclusive hotel stay, will be.
In places like France and Spain, there are often nearby supermarkets, restaurants and bars, selling food and drink at reasonable prices.
But in destinations such as Mexico, parts of the Caribbean, Morocco and Cuba, there may be a lack of self-catering accommodation, limited restaurants and food can be expensive to buy. Also if safety is an issue you may be better off staying at and eating at a big resort.
So, unless you are a seasoned traveller, confident being out and about in less-developed areas with your children, staying at a hotel and eating there can be the more sensible option in some areas.
What do you want from your holiday?
If you want to relax away from the stresses of everyday life, with nothing to plan, everything taken care of for you, food prepared, drinks poured and entertainment for you and your children on the doorstep then all-inclusive could be for you.
But if you are adventurous, keen to explore the area, visit attractions and try out local restaurants, you may be better off self-catering, else you’ll be paying for food and drinks more than once and staying somewhere there is less incentive to leave. Self-catering also suits people who enjoy planning and are good at sticking to a budget while away.
We took a self-catering trip to Italy (read about it here) where we did a mix of cooking and eating out at lunchtime which kept costs lower than an all-in hotel.
How many people are going?
The bigger the group the easier all-inclusive may be. We recently took an all-inclusive trip to Fuerteventura (read about it here).
There were 11 of us, aged three to 70, and for us, all-inclusive was more straightforward.
It meant the children didn’t have to sit for ages waiting in restaurants for food as we ate buffet-style quickly and easily, there was something for all tastes and there were no worries about the bill or paying for drinks.
A villa is another good alternative for a big group. You can split the cost of accommodation, food and drink and take it in turns to cook. You will also have more space than a hotel room with communal spaces to socialise.
How long do you want to stay?
One complaint often levelled at all-inclusives is that it gets a bit samey. Same food, same pool, same activities.
A week suits us but I know people who love two weeks, as they feel they can really relax.
Pick a good all-inclusive like this one in Gran Canaria with three or four restaurants and you might find you have enough variety for 10 to 14 days.
The other way to break things up is to get out on excursions or attractions to keep the scenery fresh.
What is included?
Check what is included before you book an all-inclusive as it varies from resort to resort and some travellers end up paying for things they expected to be covered.
Added extras can include bottled water, snacks, activities, resort fees, hotel safe and Wi-Fi charges (and Wi-Fi is sometimes only available in the hotel reception).
There are usually one or two main buffet restaurants serving similar food.
There can be other restaurants such as Japanese, Thai or Asian eateries, which can be buffet-style or à la carte.
Sometimes only meals in the main buffet area are included in the cost and you have to pay to eat in any other restaurants.
Others allow a restricted number of visits to other restaurants while expensive all-inclusives may have no limit.
Sometimes there may be a cost for items like lobster and steak.
Often you have to reserve tables in all but the main buffet restaurants in advance. Check first as this can be before the holiday or on set days while you are there. Also ask whether there is a dress code.
The food package sometimes includes snacks and ice cream between meals.
For some people the free (well, included) drinks is the biggest draw as bar tabs can get very expensive.
Often it is the local brands of drinks (such as spirits and wine) that are given, with charges for imported brands.
But high-end all-inclusives can include premium brand international drinks. At more expensive resorts, you may also have waiter service on the beach, fetching you drinks and cocktails as you relax on a sun lounger or, more likely, build sandcastles.
Minibars in some all-inclusives include free drinks and snacks but check first. At the same time confirm whether room service is free.
So how much do you drink?
If you are a family of four, we calculate that both adults need to be at least moderate drinkers to save money going all-inclusive.
In a country like France where a decent bottle of wine can cost about £3, you won’t save a lot so assess the destination and be honest about your drinking!
The activities included in the cost vary enormously, so check first. They can include non-motorised water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding, beach games, exercise classes, water aerobics, water sports and scuba diving. So it is a good opportunity to try out new things. There may also be a games room, tennis courts, gym, children’s clubs, water park, playground or mini golf.
Normally you will pay for motorised water sports, spa treatments, excursions and babysitting.
Check the entertainment schedule straight away so that you don’t miss something you may enjoy.
There can be discos, live shows, children’s discos, children’s magic shows, character breakfasts etc. The quality also varies considerably between hotels so check out reviews.
Double check before what happens if you have to cancel your trip, will you lose the whole all-inclusive cost including meals? Make sure you have a good travel insurance policy.
Do you need to tip?
Lots of people like not having to carry cash around but tipping is welcomed at some hotels, find out the resort or culture’s tipping policy in advance.
Tipping is usually appreciated but not required to recognise good service to staff including bartenders, servers and housekeepers.
Will you save money?
Here comes the crunch – is all-inclusive it cheaper? Unsurprisingly the answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. Let’s do a quick comparison.
We price-tested a week to the Costa del Sol at May half-term for a family of four.
All-inclusive prices (flights, transfer, hotel, food and drink) range from £2,500 to £3,200 for a decent four-star resort.
Now the DIY option. Flights come out at £350 per person for four people (total £1,400). A comparable hotel with breakfast included, ranges from £800 to £1,000. That gives us a total of £2,200-2,400, leaving £800 for a week’s food and drink. That is the true cost of the all-inclusive.
Meals out in the Costa Del Sol at a reasonable restaurant would be around £60 for a family of four. So it comes down to lunch and how much booze you want.
Will you save money going all-inclusive?
An all-inclusive resort can be cheaper if you take advantage of all they have to offer but often the cost is comparable, so it is about choice and what will work best for your family.
We have always thoroughly enjoyed all-inclusives with our young children, in between other more active and adventurous breaks.
I love the huge range of food and beautiful pools and our children like the familiarity of being in one resort and getting to know what to do and where everything is. We still try to get out and about a bit too to explore the area to achieve the perfect balance.
How to find a hotel both you and your children will love
Finding the right hotel is crucial for enjoying your precious family holiday. Once you have children you are likely to spend more time at your hotel, even on a more active holiday. Children can get very tired being out all day and often need time to relax in the room and enjoy the facilities. So what are the important things to look for when choosing a hotel?
People often look at the room, the pool, the grounds, the restaurants, the room service, yet they ignore the most important factor – the location.
Is it on the beach, in the right part of town, opposite a brilliant restaurant or a noisy disco? Decide what is important for your family and choose accordingly and read reviews to check there are no hidden surprises.
Make sure you are near to the attractions or the beach you will be spending time at, else children can be worn out before they even start. And check out the transport options nearby or offered by the hotel.
If it’s a hot summer holiday, you’ll need a swimming pool to help everyone cool off. If the weather is going to be cold or potentially wet – then an indoor pool is a great distraction for a few hours.
For us, a pool is almost essential on a family holiday unless we are doing an all-action city break where we will barely be in the hotel. And a slide or splash area is a big bonus.
Always check the small print to see if an outdoor pool is heated, or if an indoor pool has limited times for families.
A small, cramped room is not much fun with children. Besides all the extra stuff you will have, toddlers and older children need space. And you will all feel on top of each other if the room is tiny.
So aim for a bigger room if possible and obviously you want somewhere that feels clean and fresh. Your children are likely to be crawling on the room floor at some point or may be putting something in their mouth (don’t forget hotel room tv remote controls are among the most contaminated items, yuck)!
Families with three or more children are often forced to book more than one room, which is costly, then everyone ends up sleeping in one room anyway.
Bigger families will have to work harder to find a hotel and destination that will accommodate all the family in one room or suite.
If you’re travelling with young children, you will probably need a kettle and a fridge. And a microwave can make life a lot easier too.
Hotels outside the UK often don’t have a kettle and they are vital for anyone wanting to mix up baby milk or heat food pouches.
If there isn’t one, invest in a travel kettle or contact the hotel to see if they can put one in your room.
Fridges are useful for storing milk and possibly some drinks for mum and dad for after the children are asleep!
We’ve also used hotel fridges to keep supplies like butter and cheese so that we can make picnics to take out.
Eating in or out
Does the hotel have a restaurant? If you check in late or fancy an easier night, a nice restaurant on site is useful.
If you plan to be eating out, research the availability and location of suitable nearby restaurants and read reviews and check out menus to see if they are child-friendly.
A good, included breakfast, can start the day on a high for everyone.
Our children love the familiarity of having breakfast in the same place every day and getting to know where everything is and what they like best. And they enjoy the independence of starting to choose for themselves and even fetching their own food and drinks.
Do the staff make your children feel welcome?
It might be the best hotel in the world, but if you feel constantly on edge, praying your children behave, then you won’t relax.
The vibe needs to be a family one. Check reviews to see if staff make a fuss of children and enjoy having them around.
Most places call themselves child-friendly, not all are friendly to children.
You don’t necessarily need loads of outdoor space but you do need a bit. A dash of green space to run around in, a nature trail or a terrace to explore and sit on, can turn a hotel stay into more of an adventure for children.
We love to explore our hotels, roaming the corridors and outside in the grounds. For example, when we stayed at St Ermin’s Hotel in London, it was great to have a terrace with a bee hive on it.
If you are planning to use children’s clubs or a babysitting service, make sure to investigate what is available in advance.
Some kids’ clubs don’t operate all year plus services can be costly.
A soft play area or other indoor play area will really make life easier for you and more fun for your children.
A playground outside is always welcomed too and gets a big tick from us.
Before you start to look at hotels, draw up a list of criteria that will ensure all adults and children are going to be comfortable, relaxed and happy on holiday.
*Is there anything else important to your family? Let us know in the comments below, we would love to hear from you.