I have divided my top tips for a Mark Warner summer holiday into two sections – booking tips and practical tips. I hope you find them useful for making the most of your family holiday!
Booking tips for a Mark Warner summer holiday
Consider the off-peak periods – Mark Warner offer some great deals at the beginning and end of the holiday season. We stayed at Lakitira Beach Resort near Kos, Greece from the 11th May – 18th May. (The resort had only reopened for the season on the 4th May). The holiday for the four of us should have been £1,477 on a half board basis including flights, transfers and kids club for my eldest son, Charlie. The same holiday in July during the first week of the school holidays would cost £4,300 – I would therefore definitely recommend booking in May, June or after the kids go back to school in September!
Another benefit of travelling outside of the peak season was that the resort was quiet. This meant we had the choice of best seats in the restaurants; picking kids up/dropping off at kids club was an absolute breeze; there was no problems getting a sun lounger and we had unlimited access to water sports, tennis courts, mountain bikes etc.
Booking courses – Choose which courses you wish to sign up for (RYA sailing, windsurfing, tennis courses etc) and then book your kids club times to fit in – either morning 9am – 12pm or afternoon 2.30pm – 5.30pm. My husband signed up for the RYA level 3 sailing course which took place over four afternoons – 2.30pm – 5.30pm so fit in perfectly around kids club (I did the pick up and drop off).
Childcare – My number one tip is make the most of the kids clubs and free evening listening service! It was our first time properly using kids clubs for our boys and we were understandably apprehensive. (Click here to read our full review of the childcare services at Lakitira Beach Resort). We were seriously impressed with the fully qualified childcare staff and the facilities were fab too! Knowing that both boys were going to kids club for a few hours in the afternoons and evenings meant that my husband and I were more relaxed and fun parents in the mornings!
Book your kids club sessions in advance whilst in the UK. It cost £180 for 6 sessions of three hours for kids under the age of 2 (free for 2+). In resort the fee is 55 euros per session if you book on an ad hoc basis. Also by booking in the UK you can better guarantee that you get your choice of am or pm sessions.
Half board v’s full board – Similarly, it is worth upgrading to full board in advance and not paying for it in the resort. It costs £76 per adult and £67 per child over 3 when booked in the UK for a week. In resort it cost 14 euros per adult per day (98 euros a week) and 11 euros per child under 12 per day (77 euros a week).
To be honest I am not sure we would book full board when we travel with Mark Warner again. (I say ‘when’ because we most definitely will return, we were very much impressed!) As our boys were going to bed late due to kids club, they were getting up late and having a late breakfast. Kids tea takes place 5.15pm – 6pm so our boys did not really need a full buffet lunch, a quick sandwich from the beach snack bar would have been enough. Although I have to say every dish on the buffet for lunch was very tasty!
Take full advantage of the water sports courses. I took part in the intro to sailing, a three-hour course which ran through the basics of sailing boat terminology and gave me the chance to practice tacking. Richard did a similar intro course for windsurfing. We found both courses to be very helpful & the three hour sessions enabled us to get out on the water as quickly and safely as possible.
The RYA level 3 sailing course that Richard signed up for in advance cost just £70 for four afternoons of three hours. There could have been up to three students on the course but as he was the only person to sign up, he received one to one tuition, which was exceptional value for money. (A similar course in the UK costs £350).
Practical tips for a Mark Warner summer holiday
Book on the first water sports course of the week – This way if the weather does not cooperate, (no wind, not enough wind, too choppy etc) you can attend and do the beach side theory and then return during the next planned session to put your theory into practice. (Or independently at any suitable time during your holiday). This avoids going home disappointed that you did not get to try out a new water sport!
If visiting during shoulder months consider investing in wet suits for your kids – As we visited Greece at the beginning of May the pool and ocean was rather chilly! The kids pool did warm up to a more pleasant temperature by mid afternoon but neither of my boys did more than paddle at waist depth all holiday. I’m certain they would have had more fun if they were wearing a kids wet suit. (I have updated our essential packing list for a summer holiday with kids, you can find it here).
If planning on taking part in water sports pack water shoes. I bought some for my boys and Richard but failed to buy myself any (typical!) They would have been really handy for clambering over the stones to get onto the kayaks, sailing boat etc. I also missed having a windproof top (aka dinghy smock) as on a couple of days it was rather chilly out on the water when being hit by sea spray constantly.
Pack enough beach bags/ruck sacks for each member of your family. You will need them for each child to take to kids club and when going your separate ways for water sports courses etc. Likewise, you will also need a bottle of sun cream each. The kids club require that each child has a sun hat, sun cream, water shoes, beach towel, full body swimming costume (or a t-shirt to cover shoulders) and bottle of water. When dropping our boys off at night for the evening listening service, we were taking them in their PJ’s and packed their favourite teddy bears etc in a bag.
Don’t over pack for your kids! I packed a weeks worth of day time outfits and evening outfits for both Charlie and Harry. It was completely unnecessary, as they spent all week wearing swimming outfits and PJ’s. (We picked them up from kids club daily at 5.30pm and went straight for kids tea without changing clothes. They would then have a bath and wear PJ’s to attend the evening kids club).
Whilst on the topic of evening kids club, expect a chaotic first night and don’t be put off! All the kids need to get used to being in a strange place to go to sleep. It was pretty noisy the first night and as with every other parent we spoke to, we were understandably apprehensive about leaving our boys. By the second night the kids were all so exhausted from a day around the pool/beach that it was a much calmer environment:)
Don’t take up valuable space in your suitcase packing beach towels or black out blinds. Mark Warner provide beach towels and at Lakitira Beach Resort our room had thick black out curtains! (It makes such a massive difference when kids sleep through doesn’t it?! I was so pleased when I saw them as we checked out our room upon arrival!)
Consider taking a fold up mattress if you intend to use a travel cot – I was disappointed with the mattress provided for Harry’s travel cot, it was very uncomfortable. I mentioned it to reception and within ten minutes housekeeping brought a thick blanket to our room for him to sleep on. The blanket did help but I wish I had taken our portable travel cot mattress.
Dress code – The dress code at Lakitira Beach Resort was smart, casual. Ladies were wearing maxi dresses, tops and skirts, linen trousers etc. I took a couple of pencil skirts and high-heeled shoes me but they did not get worn. Men were wearing polo shirts, short sleeve shirts, mainly shorts but some trousers too. Certainly not the place for a suit or tie:)
Kos Airport – There was only one part of our holiday that was not enjoyable – the lack of facilities and the queues we experienced at Kos Airport. (Both out of Mark Warner’s control obviously). Apparently the airport is known for being particularly slow. The transfer service from Lakitira was well organised. Three coaches departed from Lakitira, ten minutes apart to stagger the times of everyone arriving at the airport. Unfortunately, this did little to reduce the queues at check in. We waited an hour to check in and then struggled to carry our push chair up the stairs to our departure gate as there was no lift. A few minutes later our gate changed and we had to carry Harry in his push chair down the stairs again!
I could not find baby changing facilities at Kos airport and had to change Harry in the waiting area. The food from the airport snack bar was also pretty poor. The only advice I can give for your departure from Kos airport is expect lengthy waits and poor food but be prepared with snacks, drinks, toys etc to entertain your little ones.
I hope you have found my top tips handy. Click here to read my full review of Lakitira Beach Resort in Greece. If you have any questions about making the most of a Mark Warner summer holiday please do not hesitate to comment below. I would love to help:)
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