Following an unforgettable week in Portugal with her young family, Western & Oriental’s Claire Watling explains why that when it comes to trouble-free luxury family holidays, Martinhal is hard to beat…
“After a long, long saga of changing nappies, weaning, teething, walking then finally tantrums within the Watling family, we decided that we all needed a holiday. It didn’t take long for us to realise that this holiday was going to be quite different to our last (our honeymoon in the Maldives, which seemed a lifetime away). However, I knew that there were a few things that would make the holiday enjoyable for the whole family and our lives much easier.
To start with, there was no way I wanted to fly for over 4 hours with a 19-month-year-old on my lap. She doesn’t sit still for 5 minutes at home so why should she on a plane? We decided on Portugal; 2 and a half hours from London and plenty of airlines flying out at different times of the day so that we could choose one that fit our routine. We also didn’t want it to be too hot and Portgual had perfect weather in May.
Try to minimise flight time when flying with young kids
Next was location. We wanted to be close to a village so we could go for a walk in the afternoon or evening, it also needed to be pretty and not too far from the airport. The Martinhal Beach Resort in the Western Algarve fitted these requirements perfectly. It’s 1 and half hours from the airport (forward facing car seats included in the transfers) and only 15 minutes along the beach from the historic town of Sagres.
Marching on the beach
Set within a national park area, the Martinhal is surrounded by rolling wild grasses and c0lourful flowers. Walks, mountain biking and marine excursions can be arranged from the hotel for those who are in need of activity.
I realised that, for best part of a year, my little one had had her own room -she was used to that and certainly so were we. However, with its 1-3 bedroom houses, this really was a home from home where we never had to compromise on our child’s comfort. Each house has its own living room and full kitchen (including washing machine, fridge, oven, microwave) meaning you can be flexible when it comes to the needs of a young child. We ate breakfast early in the kitchen if she woke before 8 and were able to keep snacks, milk etc. in the fridge. The supermarket stocked everything we needed: nappies, wipes, swim nappies, milk and all the essential food items.
A home from home ensures comfort and convenience
If the little one was having an “off” day we would have lunch in our house while she napped in peace. We could still use the balconies and living room in the day and night without disturbing her. I wondered how she would sleep in a strange bed in new surroundings but I needn’t have worried. All the bedrooms have black out blinds so she didn’t wake too early, and we had a few lie ins past 8 o’clock!
We also made sure there was a stairgate and highchair in the house (complimentary), a godsend at home. We didn’t bother with the door jam, changing mat or steriliser but these can all be provided.
Great facilities were a must and the Martinhal has these in spades, including 5 swimming pools, tennis courts, a fantastic beach, village square with supermarket, a kids club and creche, 3 restaurants and something that a working mum always needs – a spa!
Excellent facilities are a must
There were two main pools we used most days: one down by the beach which featured a massive sand play area, and one nearer to the village which was partly under cover – ideal for some respite from the sun. The sandy beach is renowned for windsurfing and it can get quite breezy in the summer months but for us it was perfect. What more can a child want than a bucket and spade and to run in and out if the sea!
The eating habits of young ones are predictably unpredictable so flexible dining options are always welcome. We loved eating out at O Dunas restaurant where dinner started at 5pm, which was extremely convenient if we needed an early night. The Italian restaurant in the village square is fantastic for those special occasions when the kids are with the babysitter. The food was delicious, excellent value for money and they even offer takeaway. Children are well catered for in the main restaurant with their own plastic beakers, plates, spoons and forks. They have 3 sizes of high chair and in high season they even have a kids club member on hand to entertain them whilst you are finishing your breakfast.
A wide choice of dining options allows more flexibility
Of course, you’ll want some assistance in keeping the kids occupied, and although we didn’t use the kids club at the Martinhal due to wanting to spend as much time as possible together as a family, the range of facilities on offer was fantastic. The baby room was filled with baby gyms, soft matting etc. while the the toddler room was massive with fantastic role play toys. The kids club was chargeable and all the activities was tailored to the children’s ages. Toddlers at Raposinhos can try their hand at face painting or join an outdoor treasure hunt. There is also a Blue Room which offers table tennis, pool, computers and movie screenings. There is also creatively designed children’s playground featuring a helicopter as its centerpiece!
Keep the young ones busy with a kids club
Older kids can join the Explorers and Adventure Club where among other things they can learn to windsurf, go dolphin watching and take a junior lifeguard course. The Martinhal also features football and tennis academies where kids can hone their sporting skills or learn new techniques from fully trained instructors.
The kids shouldn’t be the only ones getting pampered on a family holiday and it’s important to allow some quality time for yourself. If there was one thing I was looking forward to most it was a massage and facial in the spa – something I would never be able to fit in at home. The spa was lovely, a wonderful oasis of calm with a tranquil chill-out area to relax in before and after my treatments. My last massage was on the day before we came home, it was so pleasant to be able to gather my thoughts and reflect on what a wonderful holiday we’d had.
Don't forget to treat yourself to some "me time"
The past 19 months had been a rollercoaster but now we were relaxed, rested and looking forward to the next 19 months. I have a feeling we’ll be back to the Martinhal again… it’s exactly what we wanted and needed. An amazing, memorable luxury family holiday.”