With the February holidays behind us, and first hints of Spring amongst us, the minds of us Northern-Europe based Babyccino girls quickly wander to sunnier days to come, and to our next holiday! Yours too? Dreaming of beaches, adventure and city destinations often leads us to i-escape — their Kids Collection offers a hand-picked collection of stylish family hideaways across more than 50 destinations, each one personally tested and reviewed by i-escape’s team of passionate travellers. Surely there must be a wealth of information to be tapped there, we thought. So we asked Nadine, the Kids Collection editor, to share some family travel tips with us (and you!) – as the latest entry in our series of 5 Questions with our boutiques.
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live and about your family.
I was born and raised in London, and still live in Islington just a mile from where I was born. Although I have lived abroad for many years, in Sydney, and most recently San Francisco (where my two children were born), I always boomerang back to Islington! My husband is from Dublin; we met in London 15 years ago, and our beautiful multi-national children are Esme, 9, and Cormac, 5. My first career was in the media, and it was a natural progression to move into the travel sector and join i-escape, given my love of seeing the world.
2. You work for i-escape identifying fabulous places to stay with children throughout the world. That sounds like a pretty great job to us! Please tell us about it.
My work fits in brilliantly with both my wanderlust and having a family — I’m very lucky. However, my job does involve a lot of emailing and internet research so I’m at my desk most of the time! We find stylish family-friendly hideaways in several ways: hotels and rentals apply to join our 900-strong Kids Collection and we only select the ones which make the grade in terms of facilities and amenities for families, have a real flair to their design/decor, are in the right setting/location, and are at the ideal price point. In every destination we aim to offer a good mix of boutique hotels, guesthouses and villas or apartments with a range of prices, so there’s something for everybody. We also identify areas where we’d like to find more properties and research these, then approach the hotels to see if they’d like to form a partnership. All of our featured places are visited by our staff or freelancers and reviewed in depth; I set up those review trips (and sometimes get to be the reviewer, which is wonderful!).
3. You must be very well travelled. What are your absolute favourite travel destinations?
We love North California’s knock-out scenery – plunging coastal cliffs, old growth forests, dramatic gorges and stunning national parks, as well as vibrant San Francisco. Our best trip in the US was to Yellowstone – out of this world. On our way back to London we took 2 months to travel around Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, which I really enjoyed. My time in Australia was also very special; I visited every state and capital, camped out under the stars in the Red Centre, danced on a float at Mardi Gras, and swam with horses off the shores of Far North Queensland. In recent years we had a terrific family holiday discovering Myanmar (Burma), and we’ve been to Portugal three times (it has one of i-escape’s strongest collections of family-friendly hotels). My kids loved our holiday in Languedoc a year ago, and we go to Cornwall for a magical week every summer. I am a great advocate for having an adventure every month, however small; I think it is important to break up the routine and make time for the family to do things together. For example, over half-term we had a great time staying at a gorgeous cottage in Oxfordshire for a couple of nights; our day trip to Margate last summer was a big success. Our next trip is to visit family and friends in Sydney this Easter – I haven’t been for a decade and am looking forward to revisiting i-escape properties and showing Sydney to my children!
4. You’re surely a great source of tips for travel with children too! Can you share some with us?
There’s a great temptation to bring everything you could possibly need when travelling with the family, but I’m learning to pack more lightly. Nearly every destination will have shops, restaurants, washing machines or a laundry service, so there’s no actual requirement for tons of clothes/snacks/every conceivable entertainment device for the children. Mine have small backpacks with books/colouring books and crayons, plus a couple of card games, and that frees up my hand luggage for my books, some snacks, travel documents etc. In my experience, children don’t get as bored as you fear –there’s so much to see. I’d advise you to instantly make friends with your neighbours on the plane/train, and to walk your toddler/small child up and down the aisle if they are wriggly rather than use electronics at all times. It is better for them to get some exercise and they will sleep better later on, rather than have a meltdown from tiredness and an over-fried brain. For babies, take a carrier rather than a stroller – it makes for much better manoeuvrability. And remember to approach family travel as being fun and enlightening, rather a burden or something to be fearful of!
5. Can you tell us something exciting that i-escape has planned for this year?
We are launching Budapest as a new destination this spring. We are adding more properties you can book instantly though the site, which is exciting. And we are also expanding our selection of family-friendly boutique hotels in Greece, South Africa, Goa, Spain and the UK.