We are always on the lookout for the best travel destinations to explore, boutique family-friendly resorts, and places to escape to that offer great experiences for both children and parents. Usually, this means a lot of research but now we have access to an expert. Tamara Heber-Percy is the co-founder of the unique hotel booking service Mr & Mrs Smith.
What started as a hotlist of romantic getaways for couples has now grown, alongside Tamara’s own family, to form the Smith & Family collection. With two children in tow, Tamara is now seeking out fun child-friendly hotels with grown-up appeal and we chatted to her about her global favourites.
Hi Tamara! Tell us how Smith and Family got started.
When we started Mr & Mrs Smith, we wanted to find the perfect boutique boltholes for romantic weekends away. Our needs as a family may have evolved with the arrival of our two children, but we still want stylish getaways with great food and service. Smith & Family has grown from this experience: it’s a collection of hotels that work for the whole family, without compromising on style.
What are your favourite family holiday destinations with babies, toddlers, school agers, tweens?
You are never too old to learn to surf. Portugal’s surf beaches are great as they’re not too crowded. I’d recommend Sagres; two of the best family-friendly hotels there are the luxurious Martinhal Beach Resort and the more laid-back Memmo Baleeira. I also like the desert adventures and cultural experience that Morocco offers; at Jnane Tamsna, young guests can try their hands at Arabic calligraphy. And if you have an infant, you’re in luck as babies are small enough to take just about anywhere!
Soneva Fushi Resort & Residences Maldives
As parents and seasoned travellers, what do you never leave home without?
I always take my much-loved weekend bag from Bottletop on the plane. It’s huge but beautiful and fits everything I need, from essential wet wipes to snacks, sticker books, sweets to ease ear ache and extra clothing. Layers are best as you never know what the temperature will be like on a train or plane. I also have a Lily & Lionel scarf that comes everywhere with me – it’s so comfortable and beautifully printed.
Help! Please share your tips on streamlining packing for the whole family?
Trunki’s Paddlepaks are our current favourite travel bags for the kids; they’re just the right size for their soft toys, a few sticker books and games for the plane. And I never forget a four-gang plug, so we don’t fight over who gets to charge their iPad!
Any favourite travel apps?
Travelmath is a great little tool that calculates travel distances and time zone differences; it makes travel planning so easy. Pindrop is useful for keeping track of those great little café and bar finds you stumble upon. Google Goggles is fantastic for children: take a photo of a famous painting or landmark, and the app will tell you all about its history. Leisure and learning all at once!
Bovey Castle, Devon
What are the best travel products you’ve come across?
The Little Concierge Company is very clever: it delivers hand-packed boxes of baby essentials to any destination in the world so you don’t need to carry them with you. My Travel Surprise puts together packs of lightweight reusable games and activities for children to take on holiday. I would invest in toddler headphones and try the Putumayo Kids world music CDs as a sanity-saving alternative to The Wheels on the Bus. Gro Anywhere Blinds are brilliant portable black-out blinds for babies.
Getting an upgrade is nigh on impossible when travelling en masse. Next best thing: which airlines cater well for families?
Most airlines are quite savvy when it comes to child-paraphernalia. I find the budget airlines are often more accommodating than the business airlines: budget European airline EasyJet lets you take two items on board for free.
Do you have a jet-lag cure?
Time long-haul trips to land when it’s still light, so your toddlers can run around after being cooped up for so long. Sunshine can help your family adjust: get out there and make the most of it.
Martinhal Beach Resort
Do you have a list of favourite family Asian hotels/resorts?
We stayed at the incredible Alila Villas Uluwatu last year as a family and it was simply jaw-dropping – I’ve never been so impressed when walking into a property. The Upper House in Hong Kong is fantastic too: its level of service and attention to detail is second to none. Soneva Kiri in Thailand was voted Best for Families in our Smith Hotel Awards last year. Voting for this year’s awards is happening now (September) so stay-tuned for the results!
What’s your take on planning travel – use a travel agent or do it yourself?
I recommend getting helps where you can: it’s always useful to talk to someone who has visited the destination you’re considering. Using a knowledgeable travel agent will save you time, which is the one thing most mums need more of!
Best family travel story?
We bought a seven-seat car recently. We had a vision: we imagined our best friends and their kids hopping into our happy bus and joining us on merry jaunts to the countryside. This happened precisely once – one of Alex’s epic tantrums has ensured our friends will never get into the ‘Torture Bus’ again.
Rebali Riads, Morocco
Rank your must-do family destinations.
If I were to pick three I’d go for Italy, which makes children feel so welcome, then Cornwall in the UK because sometimes a staycation is the perfect antidote to the hassle of getting on a plane. My next choice would be Hong Kong. We went as a family last year and the children loved it: there was so much to see and do and they found the new culture fascinating.
Where are you headed to next?
We’re off to the south of Spain to check in on our family-friendly property Puente Romano, and catch the last of the summer sunshine. It has such a wonderful village feel, with all the entertainment you need (including three pools), but without that soulless resort atmosphere. It’s right on the beach and I can’t wait to feel the sand between my toes!
Top image: Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Jamaica