An African mum living, learning, and documenting the process.

Marcy Madzikanda: On stress free family travel

I’m not going to lie, planning trips can be stressful. The anxiety of where and when to go, what to do once there, whether to go inclusive or self catering can be over whelming. If you go all inclusive will people snub your holiday choice?

Thankfully I couldn’t careless about what people say about inclusive packages or my holiday choices. I travel where and when I want and don’t compromise my finances in the process.

The choice of being able to travel often comes down to ones ability to finance it. Some say privilege. Whether you decide to travel economy and stay in apartments over hotels and eating out for every meal or flying economy and staying in a five star hotel or deciding to go all inclusive in an effort to manage what you spend and stay in a nice place. Let’s not snub people’s ability to travel. Everyone has a story they are not sharing on the ‘gram or blogging about.

I acknowledge making these decisions is easier when traveling alone but when planning for a partner and children whilst ensuring everyone gets the holiday they’d dreamed, can soon become overwhelming.

We’ve done our fair share of ‘off the beaten track’ trips before we had our child and after. You do feel like you need another vacation after returning from some of these trips especially when you add a child to the mix or decide to go multi city.
Our first holiday last year was driven by the desire to relax and be ‘stress free’. I’d signed up to Travelzoo using a different email and looked at advertised deals. I was enticed by a particular resort in Rhodes. I’d researched the tour operator (JetLine) and read mixed reviews. 
I chose to take a chance based on the location I wanted to visit, the proximity of the hotel from the airport (under 30 minutes), the fact it was a beach front property, and we could get into town easily with public transport or taxi if necessary. There were also shops just outside the hotel if we needed anything. It met my requirements of deciding which hotel to stay in. 
I can’t fault the service we received from JetLine, questions were answered promptly and all booking information was provided swiftly.
Tip: Research your hotel choice on multiple platforms. Don’t rely on adverts. 
Inclusive or Self catering?
It’s important you know what makes your dream holiday a success or not. My partner ‘hated’ the idea of ‘all inclusive’, but had never booked one. His ideal holiday is a multi city trip connected by local trains and buses, staying in apartments (space) not using any guide books, and having the freedom to meet locals, avoid tourists (funny right considering we are tourists in the scenario) and find all the places locals eat and ‘off the beaten track’. His worst case scenario is lying on a beach all day. My ideal scenario. 
The first time this happened for him was in Split when we left our apartment in the morning, found the beach recommended by our host that locals went to which was barely populated and before we knew it, it was late afternoon and a perfect day spent. We didn’t get to see the Old Town as this was a short stop before heading to Zagreb and onto Slovenia (do try and visit before the secrets out) but we spent quality time relaxing in the heat and cooling off in the sea. 
Compromise is the most important thing to remember when you are traveling with another person. The above scenario was my version of a ‘good holiday’, great would be a beach scenario, with private transfers between airport, hotel and excursions, limitless cocktails by the beach, in a great hotel. I found a close match at Grecotel Lux Me Rhodos. From arrival to departure the staff were friendly, they were professional and helpful. I believe the resort is being refurbished (change of ownership) as some people report modern rooms whereas others report dated rooms in need of TLC. Our bathroom could have been updated but nothing to complain about. 
Greece has been on a list for many years and after my trip to Rhodes I’m certain this may very well be another regular destination. There was a hotel a few doors down from this resort with a water park and I’d love to visit when my child is older. There are many islands to visit, each with a different vibe. One thing to be said about Greece is it’s expensive. All my research indicated with its precarious economy, the tourism industry is one of the countries highest earners and a popular destination. You pay a premium for this especially during peak seasons.
I decided to visit and do so in a financially savvy way, the option to go all inclusive met this criteria. I’d done this previously in Cancun and had the very best holiday. I’ll say a week at an all inclusive is all you need. Beyond that I’d imagine you’d get bored with the food and routine. 
When to go:
We went during shoulder season early May. The resort had just opened, I believe there were between 200-300 guests and the staff we spoke to said that was the best time to visit. The staff were still ‘fresh’ and you could easily get a spot by the beach or pool. Meal times weren’t packed and the food was good (it could have been hotter) with a different main dish in the main restaurant (buffet style) or reservations at the two onsite restaurants, in summer there is a taverna with authentic Greek food by the beach / pool this was closed during our stay though we could get pancakes, ice cream and drinks at the bar. 
The weather was just right meaning we could go out with a light cardigan in the morning and evenings. We spent most days by the beach and would move to the pool in the afternoon. We checked the same resort a month later and prices had more than doubled for a five night trip.

We paid under £500 per person for seven nights, 8 days including flights, hotel, all meals, all drinks until (11pm I think we were back in our room by that time) in Cancun this was 24 hours with top shelf alcohol (children stay free, I think we paid between £100 – 150 return flights for our child – I’ll get better at keeping track of our actual spend). We also paid for a late checkout as we left the hotel around 4pm.

Tip: For anything over a £100 pay using a credit card. Remember to pay it back in full.
We’ve learnt to travel light meaning one suitcase for all three of us and a back pack or wheelie each (even when we have checked luggage allowance). With these packages you don’t have much option of which airline or when you fly or you pay extra to do so, we left the UK at 2pm and left Rhodes at 9pm (an hour delay having changed for a later departure). We had reserved airport parking and could have driven home but had reserved a room at at a hotel across from arrivals. 
Tip: Book a room at an airport hotel if you are leaving early in the morning or arriving late at night this is a game changer. 
We paid for hotel transfers to and from the resort. This meant there was a man with a card with our name at arrivals and we didn’t have to navigate (taxi or public transport to our resort). From the airport a coach was provided with other people going to different resorts.
Our hotel was the second drop off. On the return leg we had a private car pick us up from the hotel. We arrived as most guests were settling in for the evening entertainment and the receptionist told us to leave our luggage and get some food before the kitchen closed. We checked in after dinner and were escorted to our room after 10:30/11pm. We had a welcome pack including fruit and wine, and there was a mini fridge which was replenished daily.

The next day we requested a room with a single mattress & they put a mattress topper over these.

View from the balcony

My child dragged me here one afternoon to have a drink looking at the view

Pros:
I’ve heard people say they don’t like inclusive packages but honestly if you are traveling with children or keeping to a strict budget, this is a cost effective way to travel and my ideal holiday. If you pick a good resort they will often have activities for everyone (these will be limited off season). Do check the age they can be left alone (we’ve never used this facility and am reluctant to do so). Most are from the age of four though you are able to go in with your child so they can take part in activities if they are younger. You may have to pay more for a baby sitting service.
Most resorts will usually have an online area for guests to log in and see the program. The balance at this resort was just right and we enjoyed many cocktails whilst being entertained (I never quite made it to any exercise classes). I’d also check if there is an indoor pool incase it rains. 
Tip: You know I’d never advise using  ‘credit’ to pay for a holiday. You can however make a deposit for a holiday now and pay instalments. Meaning you’ve paid for your holiday before you go. I’ve seen plenty of offers already. 
Cons:
Not so common in Europe but if booking in the US be wary of ‘resort fees’. If I see this anywhere on my chosen hotel I’ll not book out of principle as this includes items I expect to receive complementary (think WiFi, bottled water, pool towels etc.) These fees are usually between $20-30 which adds up for a product that should be standard (I detest paying for WiFi) be patient and look for other hotels that do not include this fee. With the expectation of tipping for everything in the US – it adds up! I needn’t be penalised for taking a vacation.
Location, location, location: 
In a previous post I mentioned not driving on holiday, we always take our time to research the distance from the airport to where we are staying, to ‘tourist attractions’. There was a bus stop right outside the hotel that went into the old town in about 20 minutes. A ticket cost about €2.50 and ran every twenty minutes or so. You can also catch a bus to Lindos for under €5 in the opposite direction but we didn’t make it on the day we planned as we chose to stay at the resort. We took one taxi back to the Old Town the following morning to catch the boat tour to Simi Island I think it was less than €20.
Tip: Check the proximity of your hotel to places you may want to visit. Some inclusive resorts can be quite isolated and far from airports. Not a bad thing if your intention is not to explore the area you are visiting. 
No one forces you to stay in your resort for the duration of your trip. I realise you maybe more inclined to stay as you’ve already paid for your meals so why pay twice? But why not ask for a lunch bag the day before if you plan to be away for a long day? We did and were able to pick it up after breakfast before our day out. (We ultimately didn’t eat it as we decided to eat at a tavern next to the sea Simi).
I know some worry about their money not going into the local economy particularly if they stay in larger resorts, again you can do your research and find a local resort. What I know is: my being in that country means I am contributing to that economy. The reality is when I am on a holiday I want to relax. I don’t go to burden myself with things out of my sphere of control.
Old Town
We went to the tourist office first and planned a few trips to Lindos and Simi island. We walked around the town, went to the harbour and booked two tours one in a ‘submarine’ for about an hour (I’d never have done this before I had my child but it was actually really enjoyable) at the end they played the yellow submarine song and we sang along (to my child’s amusement). My child got to pick which one we went on, there were about two or three different coloured ones in the harbour and to this day she still talks about it.

Well worth the money for this experience €20 for two adults

Totally mesmerised
We went on another guided ride around the town on a ‘mini train’ another one of her requests which was pleasant. We had lunch near the harbour and there was a play area at the back of the tavern making it very family friendly with a great salad.

A lovely way to see the town and decide where to visit

Didn’t note the name, but opposite the harbour where tours are sold

Rhodes is a popular destination for good reasons. From spas with ‘medicinal waters’, beaches, history, architecture and a thriving nightlife there is something for everyone. 

We enjoyed our grub

How we spent most days!
I think this was the day we were meant to go to Lindos
Evening entertainment
The tavern we had lunch, wrong footing would land you in the water
Simi Island
Simi Island
After a hair raising bus ride to other side of Simi Island exploring a monastery
On a boat to picture post card perfection Simi Island
I regularly check the temperature of a number of destinations on my wish list and during December it was above 24 degrees! Perfect if you are looking for a winter escape. 
Finally this was the stress free travel I’d hoped for and despite his reluctance he actually had a really good trip. I hope this inspires you to book that trip! As mentioned above there are many offers at this time.
If for any reason you aren’t able to travel don’t limit your mind to the current situation. Write up a list of where you’d like to visit when the situation is resolved, research the countries, learn the language explore the cuisine, go to the restaurants or try some recipes at home in preparation for that one day you will finally go on that dream vacation. Trust me I lived this existence for several years and held on to my ‘one day’.
Happy planning!
Mx

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