Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: What's a good destination for a family of five that's keen on independent travel?
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Wednesday 28 August 2013
Q I’m currently perusing holidays suitable for a
family of five in mid-September: two adults, twins aged two and an eight-month-old
We are looking to travel independently to somewhere quiet and picturesque. A nice little beach is most important to us with safe accommodation close by. We went to Scarborough and loved it, but there no guarantee we will get good weather. We want a flight no more than two hours with a short transfer.
Name withheld, Sheffield
A Could you be persuaded to be a little less independent? The location that looks just right for you is Menorca, but the island is most easily experienced on a package holiday with an operator such as Thomas Cook or Thomson. They have plenty of simple beachside accommodation options and hotels on this beautiful and tranquil island. For example, Thomson is offering a self-catering week in an apartment at the Son Bou Gardens in the middle of Menorca’s south coast for a total of £1,339 for your family group. The price includes flights from your nearest airport, Doncaster, on 13 September, and transfers (likely to take around half-an-hour). This works out at £267 for each member of your group, which looks reasonable.
If you insist on the independent approach, then southern France looks good. Fly into Biarritz, whose airport is only 3km from the resort - walking distance, though possibly not with three very young children. Ryanair is quoting £101 return from Stansted on 14 September for a week, though of course the cost will increase rapidly if you start taking luggage, etc. In September you should find plenty of good accommodation deals around, since the main French holidays have ended.
For somewhere quieter, consider taking the train from Biarritz station (also walking distance from the airport) to the resorts of St-Jean-de-Luz or Hendaye, both of which have wide, sandy beaches.
Whatever you choose, your infant should travel for just a nominal price, while the two-year-olds will be classed as adults for the purposes of flying.
One final option: travelling by train from Sheffield to London St Pancras, where you transfer to Lille on Eurostar with onward connections to a range of Mediterranean destinations; Montpellier is an excellent choice. Your children will travel free, but this is likely to be a day-long journey so may not appeal.
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