Generally, when you announce to the world you’re pregnant with your third child the same statements seem to echo from person to person. Was it planned? You’ll need a bigger car. You’ll never be able to go on holiday abroad again.
As a family, we love to travel. My kids have more stamps in their passports by the time they were 6 than I did in my mid-twenties and each trip away is a breath of fresh air- stepping away from the norm and really enjoying spending quality time as a family.
Our daughter was born early August, so we were aware getting away the summer whilst the schools were off wasn’t going to happen, but knew there was a window open to travel in the October half term. We always check the school half term dates way in advance and plan ahead, and for us travelling in the May and October half term is perfect. The August prices aren’t as high, it’s not as hot, and not as packed!
Travelling with kids is stressful – this is a given, especially when children still need naps times plus all the paraphernalia that comes when travelling with a baby. It’s imperative (and a marriage saviour) to make your family trip as seamless as possible. With this in mind, we did our research to find the perfect place for our first holiday abroad as a family of 5!
Basil is 7, Sonny is 4 and Inca is 2 months old so there would need to be a lot of boxes to tick to make our holiday not only one to remember, but also one that fits in our beautifully chaotic life.
Location is key – geographically and metaphorically. We’ve done long haul, we’ve done connecting flight and although these are all doable – it does take out a lot of time chilling around the pool and it’s a lot for the kids to take on board.
So where did we go and why?
For 6 days and 7 nights we checked into a self-catering villa with Jacuzzi at the Four Seasons Fairways, The Algarve Portugal. To say it reached our expectations and more is an understatement.
This resort must have been designed by parents who appreciate some time out for themselves as well as giving the kids a great time.
Everything a parent needs in already at the resort. And I’m not talking high chairs and a baby pool (they had these too), I’m talking about kid’s club, babysitters and wait for it… a convenience store a stone’s throw away from where we were staying with an ATM machine. Necessary essentials that you would buy at home were at this store… from Birdseye fish fingers to Pampers nappies, to Nivea sun screen to newspapers to wine and beer, this little shop had it all. And just to make your experience there even more seamless, you could pay for your items by adding them to your room number. Small move, massive effect. This was just one of the many brilliant facilities that us parents need when away with kids.
The spacious and modern villa was literally home from home. We felt at ease the moment we arrived and went back into our usual daily routine immediately. This is what’s great about flying to Portugal – the flight time was 2.5 hours and there is no time difference. With great flight times with British Airways and Easy Jet, the travelling didn’t feel as torturous as it could have been.
Our villa was so comfortable, cosy, and I know this may sound controversial (to my mother perhaps anyway) but the TV’s in the villa were all the same channels you get at home. So once again when the kids are exhausted from swimming all day but we’re getting ready to go out for dinner, they can have some down time watching their favourite TV show whilst I can get ready, feed the baby and have some ‘me time’ whilst the kids are entertained. Also, my husband got to watch Match Of The Day in the evenings.
Talking of being entertained – the kids club there is one of the best I’ve seen. My 7 and 4-year-old actually asked me on many occasions if they could go to kid’s club. Errr yes. With a new born that slept most of the day, and the boys happily keeping themselves busy at kid’s club, this was the perfect time for my husband and I to relax, unwind and remind ourselves that we made the right choice to get married and procreate… let’s face it, there are times when we question this in the height of stressful parenting.
The icing on the cake for me was having a date with my husband Jesse for the very first time since our daughter was born. The resort has on site babysitters and 2 restaurants and bars within the resort – so should anything happen with the kids, we were literally seconds away from coming back to the villa. The babysitter was fab. She was a mum herself so knew exactly what to expect from looking after 2 active boys and an 8-week-old baby. She made me feel very relaxed about leaving the villa to spend some quality time with Jesse.
Our date night was perfect – at the on site restaurant called Amara. Very decadent, delicious food and the perfect tonic for a woman who needed to step away from motherhood for a few hours and connect with herself and her husband again. I asked the babysitter to WhatsApp me to let me know if everything was ok and just after our starter and a glass of wine was being poured by our waiter, I got a text saying, ‘all kids are asleep – enjoy your night off’. Gold. Utter gold.
There’s more… as mentioned we had a self-catering villa, but if we didn’t want to cook (couldn’t be bothered I mean) we could order food using the telephone inside our villa to the restaurants. The food was either picked up by husband (I think he just liked the idea of waiting for the food with a pint) or one day we had it delivered. Again, taking ease to the next level.
What about other evening out without the kids I hear you ask. We had a Jacuzzi in our spacious outside area that we would sneak into after the kids were asleep. Under the starry skies, we would pop open the prosecco, relax and be able to hear the kids if they woke up.
One day we hired bikes and ventured out and visited The Campus where the kids did a tennis lesson with Judy Murray (wow) and look in the stunning vast golf courses in the surrounding areas where my husband causally bumped into Chris Evans!
I would recommend hiring a car – the team at Four Seasons Fairways can help you with this too and they deliver the car to your villa (again the ease of it is ten to none), but this gives you the freedom to venture out and visit the local shop, beaches and restaurants.
I would recommend these beaches and restaurants to visit –
This beach is there BJ’s Oceanside beach bar is situated (see below). Beautiful sandy beaches and clear water beach – lots of space. When we went in October there weren’t any parasols or sun loungers but we’ve been told they have them in peak season.
This is the beach where Julia’s restaurant is (see below). Beautiful beach with sun loungers and parasols for €20 – but cash only. Jesse spent about 30 mins looking for a cash point to pay. Should have used our ATM at the resort!
This place is awesome. Brilliant and stunning terrace to eat and drink, or there is more intimate seating indoors. Fab food! Whether you’re there for a meal or plan on staying for drinks and live music late into the night, you will be greeted with the warm welcome and friendly atmosphere.
Located on the beach at Praia do Garrao, (commonly known as Julia’s Beach) Julia’s gives all of it’s clients’ a wonderful time whether a full meal or a snack in our beach bar or lounge. Live music is performed every Sunday afternoon from 1:30 pm and twice weekly (evenings) from June.
This place is a breath of fresh air. The elegant menu boasts fresh fish, seafood and seasonal ingredients to make delightful, tasty dishes. Lift your eyes from the plate and you’ll be mesmerised by the stunning surroundings that sit right outside. The gorgeous blue water, enjoyed by the local seabirds and pedalo riders alike, truly compliment the fresh and natural ingredients served at your table.
As mentioned above, this restaurant is within the Four Seasons Fairways resort – fantastic food and so easy to get home!
BJ’s is the ultimate beach bar – with fantastic vibes, food and location, this is the perfect spot. Live music entertainment makes the experience even more special. Make sure you have a reservation!! This place is usually full. We went there twice in a row it was that good!
With laid-back, rustic charm, The Shack is the lakeside hangout where you can enjoy afternoon drinks and tasty food in a relaxed summertime atmosphere. Standing on the shoreline of the lake, overlooking the nature reserve and sea beyond, the bar and grill embraces the authenticity of an Algarve fisherman’s shack.
To find Gigi’s, cross the wooden bridge that overlooks the tidal lagoon. Located on the sand dunes, the wooden house sits on a stretch of white sand and boasts idyllic views of Ria Formosa National Park. This place is insane. The fish is so fresh and delicious! A true find!
Weather wise – perfect! I heard from the locals that it was good weather almost all year round and it didn’t disappoint at all. October was weather I like to call ‘Goldilocks’… not too hot and not too cold. It was just right and perfect for the kids.
I’ve never been to Portugal before and was absolutely gobsmacked at the beauty of it. The beaches, the restaurants, the architecture and of course the resort we were staying at.
I highly recommend Four Seasons Fairways for your family time away…we actually came home recharged, relaxed and ready to get back to the chaos.
Thank you for reading, happy new year, and happy holiday shopping!