What's the attraction?
Gone are the days when hotels merely tolerated smaller guests. An increasing number have cottoned on to the fact that parents don't want to compromise on comfort or style and prefer not to be corralled in the furthest corner of the dining room. With Easter looming, there are plenty of family-friendly options in Europe. A good hotel will offer a kids' club, family-friendly rooms that are child-proofed to keep toddlers safe (no sharp corners or expensive, breakable objects), children's meal times, baby listening services, babysitting and, for older children, plenty of facilities and chances to find new friends. It makes all the difference.
A little luxe
The British chain of Luxury Family Hotels (luxuryfamilyhotels.co.uk) strikes a balance between providing everything for a stress-free stay, with a bit of style for the grown-ups. Having sold the collection seven years ago, its founder Nigel Chapman recently regained control and is giving two new properties – New Park Manor, in the New Forest, and Thornbury Manor, near Bristol – the LFH makeover. Until they are finished, the most recent addition is The Polurrian Bay Hotel (01326 240 421; polurrianhotel.com) on Cornwall's Lizard Peninsula. Doubles start at £145, B&B. Children under 16 sharing with parents can stay for free (maximum two).
Spread over a sprawling reserve and fringed by five miles of shallow seas, the Sani Resort (sani-resort.com) on the Kassandra Peninsula in Halkidiki, Greece, consists of four hotels. The Sani Beach Club is aimed at families and there is an impressive array of services including the Ofsted-registered Melissa's crèche (starting from €28 per session) and complimentary kids' clubs, as well as beach buddies who will take care of children on the beach while you go for a dip. New for this year is a range of activities including bird-watching. ITC Classics (01244 355 550; itcclassics.co.uk) has a week for four from £2,299, half-board, with flights.
Chia Laguna Resort has a warm welcome for children (chialagunaresort.com). The hotel is set on the stunning Dunedi Campana Beach on Sardinia's south-western coast. There are four options for accommodation, including the five-star Laguna and the Village, a good choice for families. The resort lays on children's clubs from May to September; there are tennis courts, sports, playgrounds and a "Bimbi" restaurant for children. A Baby Welcome Kit includes a stroller and a changing table. Just Sardinia (01202 484 858; justsardinia.co.uk) offers seven nights' half-board for a family of four from £1,794. Flights extra.
Kinderhotels is a well-kept secret outside Austria (0845 082 2422; kinderhotels.co.uk). The hotels combine all-inclusive stays with childcare and activities in 36 family-owned properties throughout the Alps and beyond. This year there are three new properties, including the Moar-Gut Hotel with 35 family suites in Alpine style and set in the Grossarl region, not far from Salzburg and close to the Hohe Tauern National Park. There is a kindergarten, plus the option of staying overnight in its alpine lodge. Rooms sleeping two adults and one child start at €115 per adult and €38 per child on a full-board basis. Packages for single parents are available.
Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, on the lesser-developed western edge of the Algarve, has been a popular choice since it opened in 2010. An egg hunt, dozens of activities and five children's clubs catering for infants from six-month-olds to teens are among the options awaiting families staying over the Easter holidays. Between 1-15 April, Western & Oriental (020-7666 1230; wandotravel.com) is offering a price of £999 per adult for seven nights' accommodation in a two-bedroom self-catering garden house with lunch or dinner each day and up to two children staying free with one meal per day. Some activities also included. Flights extra.
Kelly's Resort Hotel & Spa (00 353 53 913 2114; kellys.ie) in Rosslare, County Wexford, is an Irish institution. Overlooking a five-mile beach on the south-east coast, this family-run hotel, which opened in 1895, prides itself on its warm welcome. Children aged four and upwards can be supervised at the Kid's Pirates Club, offering dressing-up and musical games. Diversions for teenagers include quad-biking and a water sports camp, plus there are two swimming pools. There is also an impressive art collection with works by Picasso and Miró. Doubles start at €170, including breakfast. Children under three are charged at €25 per day.
Resorts that offer villas or apartments with hotel services are a good family option. Overlooking Turunc Bay on Turkey's Lycian Coast is the Pinyar Villa Hotel. This family-owned property has 10 two-bedroom villas, each with its own pool. Exclusive Escapes (020-8605 3500; exclusiveescapes.co.uk) offers seven nights for a family of four from £2,500, including flights and B&B.
In Crete, the luxurious Daios Cove (00 30 284 106 2600; daioscovecrete.com) has introduced new two- and three-bedroom family villas near Agios Nikolaos. Two-bedroom villas start at €960 (£804) per night, for a family of four, B&B.
Built to resemble a traditional Puglian village, Borgo Egnazia is a swanky resort hotel that offers rooms and townhouses in its white-washed "borgo". Scott Dunn (020-8682 5040; scottdunn.com) offers seven nights for four from £8,300, half-board in a townhouse, including flights.
Aphrodite Hills Resort (00 357 26 82 8000; aphroditehills.com) overlooking Paphos Bay in Cyprus has a large choice of apartments and villas from €190 (£159).
And Aquapura (00 351 256 66 0600; aquapurahotels.com), in Portugal's Douro Valley, is a historic mansion turned luxury hotel with 21 villas. A three-night B&B break in a one-bedroom villa starts at €585 (£490) per adult, €430 per child.
Who said that?
"The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things" – Plato.
"The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted toremain children all our lives" – Albert Einstein
"The best way to make children good is to make them happy" – Oscar Wilde
"Find out if a hotel is genuinely family-friendly by asking if it offers any of the following: family rooms or suites, children's menus and meal times, childcare and babysitting, family activities or kids' clubs. Assess safety issues, such as proximity to busy roads and whether pools are fenced off." William Gray, author of 'Travel with Kids' (Footprint guides; £19.99) and 101familyholidays.co.uk.