The Independent Parent: Your Questions Answered

Where can we find somewhere to suit all ages for a birthday party in Portugal?
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The Independent Travel

Q I will be 30 on 10 July next year and would like to go to Portugal for a week's holiday with my husband and 18-month-old son. We would also like to invite some relatives and friends, so are looking for either a large all-inclusive resort or somewhere that has both a good hotel and self-catering accommodation on the same site, ideally near a beach. There should also be a good range of sports included in the price and some golf courses nearby. A daytime creche/kids' club is also a must.

Q I will be 30 on 10 July next year and would like to go to Portugal for a week's holiday with my husband and 18-month-old son. We would also like to invite some relatives and friends, so are looking for either a large all-inclusive resort or somewhere that has both a good hotel and self-catering accommodation on the same site, ideally near a beach. There should also be a good range of sports included in the price and some golf courses nearby. A daytime creche/kids' club is also a must.

MK Dilger, Stafford

A My first thought was to recommend an activity holiday specialist such as Sunsail, Neilson or Club Mark Warner, which offer beach-club holidays with all-inclusive water sports. Unfortunately these operators don't include Portugal in their programmes, partly because the Atlantic coast is less predictable for water sports than the Mediterranean.

A good alternative is to book an all-inclusive package to the Algarve with a big tour operator such as First Choice (0870 750 04 65, www.firstchoice.co.uk), Thomson (0870 165 0079, www.thomson-holidays.com), or Thomas Cook (0870 752 2960, www.thomascook.com). These companies offer numerous beach-based "apart-hotels"; these are a good alternative to standard hotels, and offer a little more privacy for individuals travelling in a large group.

The range of activities included in the price depends on the individual package. For example, JMC (a sub-brand of Thomas Cook; call 0870 752 2951 or visit www.jmc.com), offers good-value all-inclusive holidays at the Paraiso Albufeira, a four-star "apart-hotel" in the centre of the large resort of Albufeira. It is within walking distance of the nearest beach and a short drive from three golf courses. The hotel offers babysitting and a children's club, as well as table tennis, snooker, a gym, a steam room and a sauna. Watersports are not included in the price, but there are plenty of options available from private companies on the local beach.

Departing 6 July and staying one week, the package costs £714 for each adult; infants under two, who share their parents' plane seat, cost a nominal £29. This price is based on departures from Birmingham with departures from Manchester costing an extra £14 per adult. If the friends and family who are accompanying you have children over two years, you might want to note that subject to availability, early bookers can secure a free child's place at Paraiso Albufeira. Otherwise, for the dates stated, the cost is £209 per week for the first child and £369 for each subsequent child.

Simply Portugal (020-8541 2207, www.simplytravel.com) is part of the giant Thomson group but offers more individual (and expensive) holidays. It has villa or apartment rentals in the Algarve with creche facilities and a children's club. At the smart complex of Algar Seco Parque, located in a quiet residential area above the beach resort of Carvoeiro, you can choose from apartment, bungalow, studio or villa accommodation. Facilities include three swimming pools (one for children), a poolside bistro serving breakfast and snacks and a laundry. Babysitting services are also available. The beach is two minutes' walk away with various private companies offering water sports. In addition there are three golf courses within a 10-minute drive from the complex.

A week's self-catering departing 6 July, costs £710 per adult based on two sharing a one-bedroom apartment, return flights from Manchester and car hire. Infants (travelling on parent's lap on the plane) cost £50. From May to September, Simply Travel offers a private nanny service at its properties in the Algarve. Nannies who are qualified to British standards are available to look after up to three children (six months and over) at any one time. Prices start at £195 for five half days. You'll also be pleased to hear that nannies come to your property equipped with well-stocked toy boxes.

Also in the Algarve, a more up-market alternative to an all-inclusive or standard self-catering apartment is Vila Vita Park, a luxury five-star hotel with adjacent apartments near Porches. Magic of Portugal (08700 270 480, www.magictravelgroup.co.uk), also part of Thomson, can arrange self-catering or full and half-board packages to Vila Vita Park. The hotel has extensive family facilities, including a creche for children from six months to four years, babysitting and a supervised children's club for your 12-year-olds. The creche is open 10am-6pm daily, costs from €9 (£6) for one hour and up to €45 (£30) for a full day.

You will also have the benefit of a nine-hole pitch-and-putt course, a driving range, an 18-hole putting green, tennis courts, yacht hire and various water sports. A week's stay, travelling before 16 July is £1,265 per adult for a standard double hotel room with breakfast. There are daily departures from Manchester and private transfers from Faro airport. The infant costs a nominal £40.

Destination Portugal (01993 773269, www.destination-portugal.co.uk) is a specialist in tailor-made holidays to the Algarve. It offers a number of family friendly Portuguese apartments and hotels, including the Ocean Club – in Praia da Luz at the western end of the Algarve. The beach – with dinghy, windsurfer and water-skiing hire – is within walking distance. The Boa Vista golf club is a 10-minute drive from the apartment complex. The apartments offer a daily kids' club and babysitting services (around £5 per hour). Departing 10 July, one week costs £594 per adult (£29 per infant) including flights from Manchester and one week's group A car hire.

Tour operators offering similar holidays include Scott Dunn (020-8682 5040, www.scottdunn.com) and Open Holidays (01903 215215 www.openholidays.co.uk).

QThis summer we spent a long family weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark, and took a rail trip across the Oresund link to Malmo in Sweden. Next summer we would like to cycle across the bridge/tunnel. Is that feasible/legal/possible?

P James, via email

A No – cycling is not allowed on the Oresund link between Denmark and Sweden. But it is convenient and simple to take your bicycles on the 35-minute train ride from Copenhagen to Malmo operated by Danish Railways (00 45 7013 1416, www.dsb.dk). Trains depart every 20 minutes. Each has a special carriage reserved for bicycles. You do not need to book in advance, but you do have to pay DKr31 (£2.65) for each bicycle in addition to the train fare. The adult single fare is DKr62 (£5.30). Children aged six to 15 pay half fare. Under sixes travel free. As you probably already know, southern Sweden is an excellent location for a family cycling holiday. It has farms and forests, historic sights, summer festivals and – crucial for younger children – flat terrain with extremely well maintained bicycle paths, separated safely from motor traffic. Skane province, which includes Malmo, has 900km of cycle routes. The tourist office at the railway station in Malmo (00 46 4034 1200) sells a map of the bike paths for SKr70 (£5). You can also order free brochures – and a cycling map – by calling 00 46 4635 5040. To find out more about other parts of Sweden, call the free Tourist Board information line on 00800 30 80 30 80 or see www.visit-sweden.com.

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