How to improve holidays with children

Hey, mum, let's play fantasy family holidays
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The Independent Travel

My younger son Stanley has been saving up. His piggy bank now contains the grand total of £48.57 - making him officially the richest person in our house - and when I asked what he was going to spend it on, he had his reply at the ready. Apart from buying a whoopee cushion and a plasma TV (in that order), he says he's planning to go on holiday for the whole year, so that he doesn't have to go back to school.

As I'm not sure we'd get this authorised by his teacher, I've come up with a compromise. All we need to do is add a few noughts to Stanley's bank balance and - hey presto - we could book a holiday for every school break during 2006. It may be a dream, but it's good to start the year on a positive note, so I've been playing "fantasy family holidays". It hasn't been easy, because I've been spoilt for choice - the market has more to lure families than ever before - but I've come up with a schedule.

To start off our fantasy holiday year, we'll spend next half-term skiing in France at Club Med's brand new ski village in Peisey-Vallandry (08453 676767; clubmed.co.uk) or Mark Warner's fully refurbished Chalethotel Hauts de Tovière in Tignes (0870 770 4228; markwarner.co.uk). Both have excellent reputations for their children's facilities and crèches.

I'm sure we won't want to come home, but if we do, it'll only be a few weeks until Easter, when my mini jet-setters and I will be sunning ourselves at the five-star Hotel Botanico in Tenerife, which this year is introducing an exclusive children's "academy" for its younger guests. They'll entertain (and apparently even educate) my little treasures while I hang out in the hotel spa. Book through Sovereign Holidays (08703 661634; sovereign.com).

Then there's our May half-term break in the Med to look forward to. The Villa Collection (01753 853737; thevilla-collection.co.uk) has just introduced some brand new family-friendly offerings in Kefalonia, which provide everything from private infinity pools to PlayStations.

No doubt this will leave us refreshed enough to spend the long summer holidays doing some serious trekking in America. The new Family Discovery Programme from Footloose (0870 444 8735; footloose.com) will have us rambling around the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park as well as gambling with Stanley's pocket money in Las Vegas.

Then we'll spend the October half-term on a Nile cruise (020-7371 1113; onthegotours.com) visiting the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings. The boys are particularly keen on this trip (Stan wants to know whether the Egyptians had daddies as well as mummies) and they might even earn some Brownie points from their teachers, because it promises to be a "very educational" trip.

Quite an exhausting year, you'll agree. We'll need a good rest by the end, so our final fantasy holiday will be spent in the Seychelles with Reef and Rainforest Tours (01803 866965; familytours.co.uk) on one of its newly launched Family Adventures. There, instead of last-minute shopping, we'll be messing about on the beach and spotting giant tortoises. Jealous? We'll send you a postcard - that is, if Stanley's piggy bank has anything left in it by then.

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