Q&A: The Independent parent: your questions answered
Will Menorca suit three generations of our family?
Saturday 29 March 2003
Q Where can I find information about villa or hotel holidays in Menorca, suitable for a family of four (including a toddler of two and a granny), this summer? We would like to be in a charming seaside town to minimise difficult walks and maximise "local colour". Mid-price to higher end considered, and, ideally, everything would be arranged for us.
J Doherty, London
A Menorca is an excellent choice for a family holiday. It is the most northerly of the Balearic Islands, and the least commercial, with plenty for a family like yours. As you are presumably not tied to school holidays, early summer is an ideal time to go – both prices and temperatures are lower.
However well-travelled your toddler and granny may be, catering for the needs of such disparate age groups can be quite a juggling act. With this in mind, the best solution is probably a fly-drive package, staying in either a self-catering villa or a hotel. Hiring a car is a good idea (don't forget to book a toddler seat) as the roads are rarely busy and you can travel from one side of the island to the other in about an hour.
A villa would afford you more space, privacy and freedom than a hotel, but whichever you decide on, ask whether cots and high-chairs are available before you book. It is also wise to check that accommodation is safe for toddlers, both inside and out. The options below take your requirements into account.
The northern part of Menorca has some spectacular scenery, but the flatter south would be more granny- and buggy-friendly. It also has its share of attractions, with some fine stretches of sandy beach and lovely towns such as the capital, Mahon, and Santo Tomas.
Mahon is probably not the ideal place to stay, but it is very striking architecturally, and has a pretty harbour lined with restaurants and cafés. The grown-ups might enjoy paying a visit to the local Xoriguer gin distilleries on Anden de Poniente, 91 (00 34 971 36 21 97), open 9am-1pm and 4-7pm Mon-Fri, closed Sat and Sun. Admission is free.
You could consider basing yourselves in the small town of Santo Tomas, a popular location for families. Bang in the middle of the south coast, it has a two-mile stretch of sandy beach and plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from. Meon Villas (01730 268411; www.meonvillas.co.uk) recommends the three- bedroom Villa Santo Tomas on the outskirts of town, which also has its own swimming-pool and is a short walk from the beach. Departing on 30 June from Gatwick, two weeks will cost £896 for each of you, including your child, who is unfortunately too old to qualify for a discount. The price includes return flights and car hire. A cot is available free of charge, but a high-chair costs an extra £15 per week.
Further south is another family-friendly resort, Binibeca, popular due to its clear waters and array of restaurants. Home & Garden Care Villas and Apartments (01798 872 682; www.menorcanvillas.info) offers a two-bedroom villa, part of a small "garden village", with a shared swimming-pool, for £450 per week in June. A cot will cost an additional £28 per week. If you decide to rent a car, it can arrange one for an additional €160/£106 per week. Flights are not included, but in June, expect to pay around £165 per adult, £135 for your toddler, for a flight from Luton with Monarch (0870 040 5040; www.flymonarch.com); or £159 per adult, £22.50 for a toddler from Gatwick with BA (0845 773 3377; www.ba.com). MyTravel (0870 238 7788; www.mytravel.com) and Britannia Direct (0800 000 747; www.britanniadirect.com) also offer charters from Gatwick, Stansted and Luton.
In north-west Menorca, Something Special (0870 165 2602; www.somethingspecial.co.uk) offers an interesting property within walking distance of Cala Blanca, a small, intimate resort with a pretty beach and a good range of small shops and restaurants. Villa Lucia is a three-bedroom house with its own swimming-pool. It's also near Ciutadella, the pretty former capital, which has a lovely harbour, which should appeal to grandmother. One of the bedrooms is downstairs with its own bathroom, which would afford granny some privacy. Departing a little earlier, 24 May, the total price for the four of you for a week is £2,184, or £2,706 for two weeks. This includes return flights from Gatwick, accommodation and car hire. Cot rental is an extra £20 a week and must be booked in advance.
If you prefer a hotel, The Real Spain (020-8686 3638; www.citalia.com) could help. This firm offers the four-star Hotel Santa Tomas, which overlooks the beach in Santa Tomas, for a total of £2,700 for a week for departures in June. The price includes charter flights from Gatwick, half-board accommodation (including a cot) and transfers. Car rental is an extra £178 per week.
Q I have booked a property for my family – two adults and two children of eight and 10 – in Florida in August, on the internet. We want to fly out (ideally from Gatwick) to Orlando on the afternoon of 14 August, and return on the afternoon of 28 August. So far, a search for flights has revealed fares of £500 or more. Surely there must be some bargains?
M Campbell, London
A Despite the airlines' woes, they know that they can make a lot of cash flying to Florida in August. Since you are tied to dates in the middle of the peak season, the likelihood of a bargain is small. I have trawled around on your behalf and found prices going up at an alarming rate.
The two airlines that fly non-stop from Gatwick to Orlando are British Airways and Virgin Atlantic (which also sells seats through Continental Airlines).
BA (0845 77 333 77; www.ba.com) offers return flights for £690 per adult and £482 per child – a total of £2,344. But book through Trailfinders (020-7937 5400; www.trailfinders.com) and the BA fare falls by £32 for each adult and £24 per child, saving £112. If you prefer Virgin Atlantic, the cheapest deal is through Continental Airlines (0800 747 800; www.continental.com) at £691 per adult, £483 per child, totalling £2,348.
If you can book with Trailfinders before next Monday, 31 March, United has a fare of £587 per adult and £383 for a child, giving a total of £1,940. This is a "direct" flight from Heathrow via Washington, but you have to change planes and go through customs and immigration at the intermediate stop. This makes for a longer journey, and the experience at the US capital is likely to be tedious because of security checks. Also, United's inflight entertainment is not as impressive as BA's and Virgin's.
For a non-stop flight, and if you don't mind going to Sanford airport (north of Orlando), MyTravel (0870 238 7777; www.uk.mytravel.com) offers a direct flight from Gatwick to Orlando Sanford for £534 for adults or children alike, making a total of £2,136.
I also looked at flying into Miami or Tampa (thinking you could drive from there to your accommodation). But prices to both these destinations are very similar to those quoted above for Orlando. Florida is tremendously popular during the summer, and all these prices are subject to availability. Unless you are able to risk waiting for any last minute offers, it is probably advisable to book sooner rather than later.
Send your family travel questions to SF Robinson, The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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