The Independent Parent: Your Questions Answered

Where's the best place for a family holiday in Croatia? And where can our son find a summer rugby camp in Britain?
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The Independent Travel

Q We have been reading a lot about how beautiful Croatia is and would really love to spend a summer holiday there either this year or next. We have a 13-year-old daughter, and were wondering if you could suggest a few places we could consider for a relaxed family holiday.

R Coe, Malmesbury, Wilts

A Croatia is currently enjoying renewed popularity, thanks to its historic cities such as Split and Dubrovnik, azure waters and hundreds and hundreds of beautiful islands dotted along its 350km coastline. The beaches are not the best in Europe, but with a wide range of activities on offer Croatia makes a good family holiday destination. Furthermore, it's also very cheap compared with some other European destinations.

I am presuming your travel will be limited to school holidays, so if you would like to go this year, although there is still some availability left, you will need to move fast. One of the most popular family destinations is the 60km-long Makarska Riviera, located on the mainland around an hour south of Split. This consists of several small resorts: Makarska, Podgora, Tucepi, Baska, Voda and Brela. Many of the resorts are established family holiday destinations and boast reasonable beaches with shallow water, fringed by pine trees offering shade when temperatures soar.

One of the most spectacular is Punta Rata, close to Brela, looking out towards the island of Brac. The Hotel Maestral, near the resort of Brela, is located in a pine forest and has views out to sea. It has its own beach and marina plus an outdoor heated swimming pool, a bowling alley, billiards and table-tennis. Bond Tours (01372 745 300; www.bondtours.com) offers seven nights at the hotel, for £489 for each of you and £419 for your daughter sharing the same room at the beginning of July. The price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Split, half-board accommodation and transfers.

The larger towns along the Makarska Riviera are equipped for diversions other than sunbathing with sports centres, shops, boat rental and snorkelling equipment for hire. To explore further, it is also possible to take ferries to some of the picturesque outlying islands such as Korcula, Hvar and Brac.

Another location to consider is the northerly Istrian Peninsula and the resorts of Rovinj and Porec. Rovinj is an atmospheric medieval town built on a hillside overlooking the sea. Close to Rovinj is the Hotel Sol Club Istria, located on an island a short boat ride from the centre of town. As well as having its own private beach, the hotel offers an array of on-site facilities including two swimming pools, table-tennis, a bowling alley, tennis courts and sailing. Booking through Croatian-based Adriatica (00 385 1 30 13 666; www.adriatica.net), a triple room starts from around €49 (£35) per person per day for half-board during high season.

One of the cheapest ways to get to Rovinj from the UK independently is to fly to Trieste, 50km north up the coast. In July, return fares from Stansted to Trieste with Ryanair (0871 246 0000;www.ryanair.com) start at around £120 per adult (your daughter is considered an adult, as is anyone aged two or over). From Trieste city, buses depart regularly to Croatian resorts. Note that if you put everything together yourself, you will not be covered by the generous provisions of the Package Travel Regulations nor receive ATOL protection.

A little further up the coast you will find Porec, one of Istria's most popular seaside destinations. This is another charming medieval town with the elaborately decorated Euphrasius Basilica, which is on the Unesco list of world heritage sites. Again, Porec is popular with families with many hotels offering extensive family facilities and entertainment. For departures in July or August, Simply Travel (020-8541 2211; www.simplytravel.com) offers a week staying in the self-catering Parenza, a small house in the centre of town. The price of £575 per person is based on three sharing and includes charter flights from Gatwick to Pula, self-catering accommodation and transfers.

Much further down the coast, 17km south-east of Dubrovnik, is the seaside fishing village of Cavtat. It boasts a traditional resort seafront full of restaurants and shops, and is conveniently placed for exploring the old city of Dubrovnik; boats depart regularly from its pretty harbour and take around half an hour. Bond Tours (01372 745 300; www.bondtours.com) offers seven nights staying at the Hotel Cavtat in the centre of the village from around £479 per person between mid-July and the end of August if the three of you share a room. The price includes return flights from Gatwick to Dubrovnik, transfers and half-board accommodation. If you prefer self-catering, it can arrange rental of a two-bedroom apartment from around £357 per person in high season.

For further information contact the Croatian National Tourist Board in London on 020-8563 7979 or see www.croatia.hr. Another useful source of information is the Croatian-based website www.adriatica.net.

Q My 13-year-old son is an avid rugby player and I was wondering if you might know of any rugby coaching or summer schools that run during the school holidays. Do such things exist and if so, where can I get further information?

M Langley, Berks

AMost rugby clubs have a thriving Mini-Junior programme for children as young as six up to under 17s. However, the summer months are when clubs take a well-earned breather with training finishing in May/June and recommencing in early September

To satiate your son over the summer, the O2-sponsored Rugbyclass (01625 618700; www.o2.co.uk/rugbyclass) appears to be the only network of camps specialising in rugby tuition in the UK. Spearheaded by ex-Saracens player Andy Lee, the Rugbyclass has been running for 20 years. Its summer-camp style "coaching holidays" have produced an illustrious clutch of rugby union stars. The four- to seven- day classes are held in July and August and cater for a variety of age ranges from eight upwards. In your area there are courses in Wellington, Berkshire and Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Prices range from £225- £262 for five days and include coaching (with nurses and medical staff on stand-by), accommodation and meals. As the programmes are residential and Rugbyclass operates from sites all over the UK, your son could combine the camp with a holiday and attend one in Cardiff or Edinburgh.

These courses claim to give enthusiastic youngsters a "taste for the level of training required" by professionals but if your son is not keen enough to want to endure such rigorous instruction there are other alternatives to explore. Summer schools have a more general sporting curriculum and will keep your son active for anything up to a week. Exsportise (01883 744011; www.exsportise.co.uk) has rugby programmes for nine- to 16-year-olds during August. The company utilises independent colleges which are vacant for the summer. It has three sites in the south-east; Clayesmore School, Epsom College and Seaford College. Each camp costs £349 for a week and includes accommodation, food and all activities. For younger children (up to nine) the Tonbridge School (01732 361908; www.tonbridge-school.co.uk/courses/index.usml) in Kent has courses throughout the summer.

Your council should also be able to provide you with a comprehensive list of clubs and leisure centres in your area which operate summer courses. For information on summer camps contact The British Activity Holiday Association (01932 252994; www.baha.org.uk). For more information on rugby, contact the Rugby Football Union (020-8892 2000; www.rfu.com).

Send your family travel questions to SF Robinson, The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS. Or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

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