Most people think the Caribbean when it comes to an overseas vacation with the kids -- it's relatively close, it's warm and there are usually plenty of activities for the kids. So it may surprise you to know that some of the most family friendly resorts are located in Europe, and in particular, the Kinder Hotel (www.kinderhotels.com) group of hotels, is almost exclusively geared towards family travel.
Located predominantly in the Alpine regions of Austria (plus just over the border in Bavaria, Germany), Kinder Hotels, as the name suggests (Kinder means children in German) are all about the kids and offer unparalleled services, staff, dining options, and fun for all ages. You don't need to lug your children's equipment with you as everything is supplied. English is spoken at all Kinder Hotels, but it's also the perfect opportunity for your kids to be immersed in a foreign culture and maybe even pick up a bit of German.
With mild sunny summer weather, facilities for children of all ages, fresh mountain air, plenty of outdoor activities and the chance for parents to also have some R and R, perhaps a European family vacation may be something to consider this year.
The Hotel Post (tel. +43/6589-4226; www.kinderhotel-zurpost.at), located in the town of Unken in Salzburgerland (just outside of Salzburg, Austria) offers activity-packed vacations for families year round, but is particularly popular in summer. Their all-inclusive pampering package includes organic breakfast, lunch buffet, cake and snack buffet (children's ice cream buffet), selection of four- and five-course dinner menus, alcohol-free beverages; a buffet of organic baby foods; a children's restaurant; a 7,500 square foot indoor play area; a children's farm with goats, rabbits, ducks, a donkey, horses, hens and guinea pigs; and free baby and childcare facilities with seven certified child-care providers..
As for activities, in summer there is a giant water slide, edible berry garden; adventure playground; archery range; tennis courts; bikes with helmets for the whole family; a large swimming lake with separate kids' area, baby beach and giant water slide; and a golf driving range. Accommodation ranges from one-room apartments with balconies where children sleep in their parents' rooms, to three bedroom suites. If in doubt about what type of rooms to choose, their website offers photos and floor plans to help with the decision making. Summer prices start from €92 per adult per day all-inclusive and €37 per child six and under, €47 for children aged six to 12 and €57 for those 12 to 15 years. Older kids and additional adults are priced at €80 per day. For €1,540, a family of two adults and one child under 12 can get a week's all-inclusive package with seven nights' accommodations, all of the above activities and meals, plus one children's swimming course (five lessons), a golf lesson for the parents and a back massage. Alternatively you can go for the "Feel Good" package which offers the all inclusive features plus one facial massage with eye treatment, one massage, one peat pack and neck massage, and a moisturizing body pack also priced at €1,540.
The Neubichler Alm Hotel (tel. +49/8656-70090; www.neubichler-alm.com/en/hotel) is within 15 minutes drive on Salzburg Airport, but is located in the Alps of Bavaria, Germany. Free airport shuttle transfer is included with any seven night stay here or if you fly in on RyanAir. This four-star property offers plethora of services for those traveling with babies including bottle warmers and humidifiers in your room; specialized baby food; cribs; bassinets, bouncers, high chairs, baby baths, strollers, and wireless baby monitors with signal throughout the hotel. For slightly older children, meals are served in a fairy tale theme restaurant and menus are designed to satisfy even the fussiest of kids' palates. Childcare is available daily until 8pm (7pm on weekends) at no extra charge (minimum age four months) and junior guests can have fun with arts and crafts, outdoor painting, playing with building blocks, scaling a climbing wall, feeding the many farm animals, learning magic tricks, performing in plays, running around in the playground and, of course, enjoying pony rides.
The hotel also features Fred's Swim Academy, where kids of all ages can participate is one-on-one classes from €12 for 30 minutes to Advanced swimming certificates for groups of three for €70. For the parents, there is a beauty and wellness center offering facials, massage, and body treatments, with 60-minute intensive full body massages priced at €49. There are also twice-weekly pottery classes (costs are for materials used only), access to nearby golf courses, tennis for a nominal fee of €5 per hour, archery, hiking and mountain biking. The "Smiley Smart" packages are weekly stays (seven nights) with all meals, childcare, children's and adults activities; plus five 30-minute swim classes. Prices for two adults and one child (up to 6 years) in a double room start from €879, in a small apartment for two adults and two children (up to 6 years) from €1,239, or a single guest with a child under 6 years in double room from €529. Additional children under three pay €32, €35 for under six, €38 for under 12 and €45 for those aged 12 to 16 years.
Set high in the Austrian Alps surrounded by snow capped mountains throughout the year, the five-star Hagleitner Family Balance Hotel and Spa (tel. +43/6542-57187; www.hotelhagleitner.at) specializes in providing families with wellness and what it refers to as "balance." Its "Mini and Maxi" package is for seven nights for two adults and two children. Priced from €1,667 during summer, the package features the "all-inclusive-land of milk and honey-pension" with breakfast buffet, lunch-and snack buffet, afternoon cake and snacks, dinner, ice-cream buffet, and non alcoholic drinks and fruit 24 hours a day; and 72 hours of baby and child care seven days a week.
You can also do shorter three and four day packages to suit with accommodation in one and two bedroom suites. Catering to adults only, the Mavida Spa at the sister hotel next door offers parents a chance to rejuvenate and relax knowing that their children are being well taken care of. With services from massage to yoga and kinesiology to acupuncture, you can choose individual services or indulge in multi day packages to suit. Their 50-minute massages start from €65 and the three day intensive Flowing Energy package with six services is priced at €202. And the children can also get a bit of balance and relaxation with the "Mental Balance" package for your family which includes one treatment for an adult and one for one child. The package price is €111. For the children there is a baby club, mini club and kids' club, Fred's Swim Academy (indoor and outdoor pools) and Pongo's Adventure Land playground with a dragon tooth cave, spider web climbing net, cable car, ball pool, theatre and jungle, full of creepers, flowers, cliffs and butterflies, along with some wild animals.
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