Family holiday tips

With yet more school holidays looming, what to do?

Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa
Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa
Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa
Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa
Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort
Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort

Gulp… Eid, followed by the National Day holiday, means some schools shut at the end of November only to reopen on December 6. Not sure if you can stand it? Break the monotony with a mini-break

Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa

Good for kids because... it’s a fabulous family resort, with three pools, a diving centre, camel rides, horse riding, a long stretch of beach and more water sports than you can fling a rubber ring at. The Peaco kids’ club keeps nippers aged four to 14 entertained, with evening movies for teens and tweens so mum and dad can relax with a cocktail. Twenty minutes down the road, you’ll feel like you’ve had a real holiday.

Nitty gritty: Dhs888 per person per night in a junior suite with breakfast and either lunch or dinner. Two kids under 12 stay and eat for free, valid Nov 26-28. 04 883 600;

Hatta Fort Hotel

Good for kids because... there’s plenty to keep them occupied, from two rock pools to crazy golf, archery, tennis and the resident camel (famed for his can- crushing capabilities). Take a hike in the Hajar mountains or learn about Arabian life in days gone by at the Heritage Village.

Nitty gritty: Dhs900 per person per night with breakfast and dinner. Two kids under six stay and eat for free, valid November 26-28. 04 852 3211;

Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort

Good for kids because... parents can take a thoroughly relaxing break while the little darlings are kept busy in the Penguin kids’ club, where mini-golf, face painting, pizza-making competitions and a kids’ disco abound. Still some excess energy to burn? Check out the pool, the large playground or the gaming arcade.

Nitty gritty: From Dhs1,940 per night based on two adults sharing, including breakfast and a special Eid buffet lunch. Kids aged five to 12 years pay a Dhs111 supplement. 09 244 9000;

Al Suwaidi Beach Resort

Good for kids because... The ‘you-provide-the-tent, we’ll-provide-the-space’ concept means you get the thrill of the great outdoors with the resort’s excellent facilities thrown in. Take advantage of a pool, private beach, toilets, showers and nine restaurant outlets, as well as a kids’ adventure playground, mini-golf, volleyball, quad bikes and horse riding.

Nitty gritty: OMR30 (around Dhs300) per night, based on four people sharing a tent. +968 2 679 5545;

Sheraton Grande Laguna, Phuket

Good for kids because... Phuket has masses of things to do for families on land and sea. Go elephant trekking or kayaking, take a boat ride through the mangroves and enjoy superb swimming and snorkelling. At the resort, there’s a VIK (Very Important Kids’) club with a daily programme of games and crafts, including local batik painting, beading and jungle gym as well as daily visits by the resort’s baby elephants, Lucky and Lilly.

Nitty gritty: Dhs4,180 per adult (Dhs2,670 per child) for a three night stay including flights on Thai Airways, breakfast and transfers. 800 8118;;

Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa

Good for kids because... The hotel offers a Westin Kids’ workout where little ’uns walk through the rainforest, spotting birds and wildlife and learning how to take cool photos. Expand their palates with a ‘taste adventure’ or sign up for a raft of excursions and activities, such as eagle feeding, island hopping, sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, sunset cruises, waterfall trips, cultural tours, mountain biking, jungle treks, horseback riding, four-wheel drive experiences, go-karting and elephant riding... phew!

Nitty gritty: Book three nights for Dhs4,540 per person (Dhs2,480 per child) and get an extra night free. Includes flights with Singapore Airlines, breakfast and transfers. 800 8118;;

InterContinental Bali Resort

Good for kids because... Planet Trekkers, a mini-resort just for kids aged four to 12 years, has a packed daily programme, while the resort, set in 14 hectares of tropical landscape with its own white, sandy beach, has six swimming pools a fitness centre and spa and offers kayaking, bike tours, cooking and fitness lessons. Outside, Bali offers some great surfing beaches, plus a fascinating landscape of active volcanoes, fast-flowing rivers, deep ravines and tropical forests packed with exotic wildlife. Oh, there are a few thousand temples, too…

Nitty gritty: Dhs3,600 per person (Dhs2,630 for kids) for a three-night stay, including Qatar Airways flights, breakfast and transfer. 800 8118;;

Our holiday

The Kapila family from Arabian Ranches booked into Thailand’s Tongsai Bay for a four-day break after reading glowing internet reviews
As a high-end, luxurious hotel that isn’t too big, but has comfortable, spacious accommodation, Tongsai’s location is perfect. It’s not inconveniently isolated – but nor is it slap-bang in the middle of a bustling town.

Like any other normal family of four, our budget was an issue and, thankfully for us, Tongsai Bay is the poor man’s Four Seasons. Accommodation consists of a variety of lovely, well-equipped rooms. But those needing more space can opt for the cute, brown cottage suites. These are charmingly studded across the resort’s lush hillsides, separated by a gently curving bay, and are perfect for families to share.

We found the service at Tongsai Bay fantastic. Not only are staff attentive, but they’re genuinely caring too. When our daughter cut her big toe after clambering over some rocks (following, incidentally, a fabulous swim in a waterfall pool), we asked the attendant for a fresh plaster – expecting to be handed a Band-Aid. Instead, he delved around in his cabin and produced cleaning spray, cotton wool, bettadine and two plasters – all of which were applied with surgical precision and the required gentleness that enabled him to get near the big toe in the first place!

Even in peak season, the weather in Koh Samui can put paid to the best laid plans. One day we awoke to a morning of prolonged showers, which resulted in us cancelling the day’s excursions. But even then, the surroundings meant our moods weren’t dampened. Instead, we made the most of our time in the villa, enjoying the glorious setting and even doing a spot of painting.

Thankfully, after that the weather behaved and there were plenty of opportunities for trips out. We visited the Six Senses Hideaway, which is just a short hop from Tongsai, as well as the most amazing bay located immediately after Santiburi, with sugar-soft white sand and an emerald coastline.

Life on Tongsai’s shingle beach is a lesson in relaxation. The massage service, carried out on a day bed and shaded in thick palm fronds, was great value at just 350baht (around Dhs35) for an hour, while a few metres way, a small beach bar and café kept us well refreshed.

Dining out is also uncomplicated. Sala Samui restaurant is conveniently just down the road from Tongsai Bay, and is the only restaurant with a seal of approval from the Samui Fine Dining Society. Despite having eaten a gargantuan lunch that day, we were still able to do the menu justice in the evening, so it’s just as well that local Thai food is tasty and healthy (if you avoid the deep-fried options).

In short, we enjoyed a wonderfully peaceful and relaxing family break at Tongsai Bay and would be more than happy to repeat the experience.
Monica Kapila is a UAE-based freelance journalist and mum

Getting there
Flights: Fly from Dubai to Koh Samui on Qatar Airways, Thai Airways, Etihad and Emirates. Economy prices range from Dhs2,560 to Dhs6,621 excluding taxes (prices go up over Eid).

A beach-front suite at The Tongsai Bay costs Dhs1,325 per night based on a family of four sharing, no meals included.

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