Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts
Sunday 07 June 1998
Any ideas for holidays with children aged two and four, with plenty for the latter to do?
Pioneer of the children's clubs, Thomson Holidays in its Superfamily programme (tel: 0990 143503) offers several hours of activities every day along with Disney type "characters", supervised meals, some evening entertaining and babysitting in its free "Little T" clubs for the three to seven year olds (Big T clubs for eight to twelves). These are run by qualified nurses, nannies and teachers in Spain, the Balearic Islands, the Canaries, Algarve, Cyprus and Greece.
This year there is no club for under-threes, but on each holiday a "Tiny T" play area is provided for them with toys and Wendy Houses - but parents are required to supervise themselves.
If you want a Superfamily holiday for this year, you may not get your first choice destination, but there are pockets of availability particularly in the Algarve and Tenerife. More or less a suburb of Albufeira, Sao Jao isn't the most picturesque resort on the Algarve. But it does have an excellent sandy beach, low prices, and safe, relaxed, friendly and courteous Portuguese lifestyle. A week's self-catering holiday in a one-bedroom apartment at the Vilanova Villas, with two adults and two children under 17 costs a total of pounds 1100 including flights.
A self-catering week at the Atlanta apartments in Tenerife's Los Cristianos, the slightly quieter neighbour of raucous Playa de las Americas, costs pounds 1073 for a family of four one the same dates. And if you're determined to squeeze into Mallorca, you could spend a week's half-board at the Continental Park Hotel in lively Alcudia where there's a nine-mile beach, waterpark and a nature reserve nearby. The cost of pounds 1277 for a family of two adults and two children up to 12.
For next year, under a new scheme, creches are to be provided in Superfamily hotels for the under threes in May, June, September and October. NNEB and NVQ qualified staff will look after children aged between six months and a year for morning and afternoon sessions costing pounds 10 each. Good news for parents too in Skytours programme; next year, there will be a free child place guaranteed for every family booking a holiday, providing the child is under 16 and sharing with two full-fare paying adults.
On rather more expensive holidays in Sardinia, Corsica, Greece and Turkey, Club Mark Warner (0171 761 7200) runs free children's clubs for kids from two upwards. The Toddlers Club operates with a ratio of one nanny to three children and the Mini Club for three to six-year-olds. For adults the emphasis is on watersports. A two-week family holiday for four costs about pounds 2500.
Family holiday specialist Sun Esprit (01252 616789) arranges supervision and activities for children of all ages on its Alpine holidays in Morzine and Chamonix in the Haute Savoie. The nursery staffed by British nannies for children aged between four months and three years costs pounds 63 for three full days a week, operating between 9.30 am until 5 pm. The Alpine Club for four to six- year-olds with picnics, treasure hunts and nature trails also operates three days - both clubs costing pounds 63 a week.
In Morzine where the holidays are based at the Pension Les Gourmets, adults pay between pounds 460 and pounds 550 for two weeks, children under two pay approx pounds 120, and children under 18 get a 50 per cent reduction. These prices are for a self-drive holiday and include the Channel crossing for car, four meals each week and barbecues with wine and three nights' babysitting.
Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.
Trouble over visas
I am a schoolteacher in charge of arranging tours for pupils overseas. We decided recently to arrange a tour of Egypt for pupils from my school and from schools in France and Germany. For price reasons, all holidays were booked through a UK travel agent. It now seems that some of the students need visas. We are two weeks away from departure and there may not be time to arrange visas. Do I have a claim against the travel agents?
Ian Skuse replies: Regulation 7 of the Package Travel Regulations 1992 made it compulsory for the travel company to pass on information about passport and visa requirements to those buying package holidays, including information about the length of time it is likely to take to obtain visas. The organiser of the holiday is under an obligation to give this information but only in respect of United Kingdom nationals and it is a criminal offence if the information is not given, or given incorrectly. The information will however be confined to UK passport holders.
From 1 October 1998, laws will make travel agents liable for providing visa advice to all European Nationals and accordingly visa requirements for those from any of the 15 member states are entitled to have this advice where holidays are booked in the United Kingdom.
Leaving aside the Package Travel Regulations you have a good claim against the travel agent for negligently dealing with this matter. After all, you prepared a carefully written schedule setting out each pupils' nationality and passport details. You relied upon the travel agent's expertise. If they got it wrong, then they have been negligent and any pupil unable to travel is entitled to bring a claim for compensation.
Ian Skuse is the senior litigation partner with Piper Smith & Basham, which has specialised in advising the travel industry for over 20 years (tel: 0171 828 8685).
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