Living in England, somewhere over the winter period I feel the need to get away for some much-needed sunshine and warmth. We’ve been to several winter sun destinations over the past few years including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Tenerife and Egypt . My main requirement for a winter sun holiday is that it is hassle-free and have guaranteed sunshine. Of these places, my favourite winter sun destination with the children is Dubai. Here are my five reasons you should take a family holiday to Dubai if you are chasing winter sunshine.
Why you should consider Dubai beach holidays for winter sun
An Easy Destination
First and foremost, the weather is guaranteed sunshine. In addition, there are many flights to Dubai from all over the world. Dubai is served by two Emirati airlines, Emirates and Etihad, who are both on a push to increase their range of flights. Getting around Dubai is easy, too because taxis are plentiful and cheap.
The Dubai marina is full of expensive boats.
Choice of Accommodation
Accommodation in Dubai ranges from the extraordinary 7 star Burj al-Arab to your standard range of hotels on the 1-5 star range. You also have holiday apartments, suites hotels, Airbnb etc. It’s easy to find something that suits all sorts of visitors from celebrities who want their every whim satisfied to people looking for cheap holidays in the sun.
The sail-shaped Burj Al-Arab, the world’s only 7 star hotel, is an architectural marvel.
If you are not a planner, this extensive range of accommodation, means that you can leave booking until late and still have a good range of options. Dubai’s popularity means it is also popular with tour operators. You can get some great deals to Dubai if you look around.
You have a choice of water parks to keep you cool, including Atlantis Aquaventure and Wild Wadi Water Park. We stayed at the Atlantis Hotel and so we were able to nip and out of Aquaventure every day. Staying at the Burj Al-Arab gives you free entry into the Wild Wadi Water Park.
Similar to the Disney concept, Dubai Parks and Resorts has four theme parks and a hotel within it. Legoland, Motionland and Bollywood Park are already opened and the Legoland Water Park is under construction.
Dubai beach holidays wouldn’t be the same without time spent on the beach. Kite Beach and Jumeirah Beach are very user friendly. There are nearby food trucks to keep hunger at bay and you can rent water sports equipment like stand up paddle boards at the beach.
Hanging out on Jumeirah beach.
If you haven’t had your fill of sand, then head out into the desert for camel rides, dune bashing or even camping.
Many Restaurant Options
You can find pretty much any type of food in Dubai thanks to the city’s international population. If you are looking for cheap holiday options, you can eat in the food courts at one of the malls. As you would expect, the malls have an extensive choice of restaurants.
Friday and Saturday mornings are devoted to decadent brunches at the big hotels. These brunch spreads are extensive buffets heaped with food of all types. They make the famous Las Vegas hotel buffets look like a Denny’s spread. The variety also extends to the types of cuisine served – Indian, Sushi, Rotisserie, Seafood – all in one ginormous hotel buffet. The dessert buffet is likewise a diabetic’s delight. My children were big fans of the chocolate fountains where they could dip marshmallows and fruit.
The cheese selection at the Saturday brunch at Grosvenor House Hotel.
You also have lots of big-name chefs from all over the world opening restaurants in Dubai. On one trip, we stayed at the Grosvenor House Hotel which has a great choice of restaurants. The hotel’s restaurants included an outpost of the Buddha Bar, Indego by Michelin-starred British chef, Vineet Batia and Toro Toro by Latin American chef Richard Sandoval. One of the hotel restaurants at The Atlantis is Nobu. Like in Las Vegas, getting into one of these outposts of famous restaurants is much easier than trying to make a reservation at the main restaurant in London or elsewhere.
The terrace at the Siddhartha Lounge by Buddha Bar provides a relaxing hangout for sundowners.
Experiences Like Nothing Else
Dubai is full of superlatives. The amount of money in this little city is staggering. Some examples:
- Where else can you go skiing in the desert? Ski Dubai is an indoor ski park located in the Mall of the Emirates. Its got assorted ski runs, toboggan runs and sledding and even ski gear you can rent.
- The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world with so much going on that you may not even find the time to shop. Other than the 1000+ stores, you also have an indoor amusement park (Sega Republic) and the ever-popular kiddie city play area, KidZania. Did I mention there is also the Dubai Aquarium and an ice rink?
- The Dubai Miracle Garden is the world’s largest natural garden. Yes, in the desert, it truly is a miracle to have 45 million flowers blooming where plants should don’t occur in nature.
- The Palm Islands are a Dubai megaproject which just boggles the mind. The best way to see the scale of this man-made colossus is from the air – perhaps with Skydive Dubai.
- Check out the Burj Khalifa which is the tallest tower in the world. Every evening the tower and the surrounding fountains put on a magical light show.
Beach holidays to Dubai involve more than the beach!
Dubai does have its share of criticism, for example, that it is soulless and lacking in culture. The opening of the Dubai Opera House near the Burj Khalifa addressed some of the criticism about missing cultural pursuits. I think if you are looking for these things, there are other places in the world that are better suited to you. On the other hand, if you want an easy sun, fun and beach vacation, a family holiday to Dubai is one of the best options available to you.
If you have been to Dubai, do you have any other reasons you can add to this list?
Practical Info To Know Before You Go
We have stayed at both the Atlantis Resort and Grosvenor House Hotel in Dubai. Although both are 5 star hotels, they are quite different from each other. If you would like to look at other hotels that members of the Just Go Places community have recommended, you will find them on our Favourite Hotels List.
Atlantis Resort versus Grosvenor House Hotel
Atlantis Resort is obviously more family friendly. Grosvenor House does have an arrangement with its sister property Royal Meridien nearby which has pools for the family. There is a regular shuttle bus that runs between the two hotels. I would classify the pool at the Royal Meridien as fine.
The Atlantis Resort has more traditional decor and larger. Situated on the Palm Island, you are a bit stuck out at Atlantis. It does have lots of kids’ facilities and a beach. Grosvenor House is more contemporary in style and is located in Dubai Marina. You can walk around the Marina in the evening and there are restaurants close to hand as well as a wider array of restaurants in the hotel itself.
I would choose Atlantis with younger children because you really don’t want to drag them on a shuttle bus to get to the pool. If you have kids you will know that invariably someone has forgotten something back in the room!
Grosvenor House does have suite facilities so it’s quite easy to make food in your kitchenette. I can truthfully say that we never did. With the ease of taxis and the plethora of restaurants chances are that cooking in the suite is the last thing on your mind.
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Today we have a review from our occasional contributor/expat at large, Dianna, on the Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi that she experienced last month. Read on and see if you agree with her that it’s the best brunch in Abu Dhabi.
My review in a word: Amazing. I’ve done a lot of awesome things in my time living in the Middle East, but Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi took the brunch concept to a whole another level. After years of hardcore brunching, I can totally say with complete expertise that Brunch in the Clouds is the best brunch in Abu Dhabi.
You could have fed a small army at this brunch.
Where is the Brunch in the Clouds?
Brunch in the Clouds is held in the suspended suite between the two towers that make up the St. Regis Abu Dhabi. The St. Regis Abu Dhabi is located on the Corniche with fabulous views overlooking the gulf. The suite is a duplex on the 48th and 49th floors. It’s the highest suspended suite in the world at 220 metres at sea level. With a total capacity for 50 people, it is held on the last Friday of each month.
The view from the Brunch in the Clouds
Why Is It The Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi?
The luxe experience starts when your very own butler whisks you up your private elevator up to the suite. You get a quick tour so you know where things are.
You can continue to explore the 12,000 s.f. suite during the brunch. Wow! The suite is 3 bedrooms and 4 and 1/2 bathrooms and staff quarters. The pace was so big I realised I never got around to seeing the master bedroom. What I didn’t expect? The cinema, the bar, the spa, the jazz band serenade etc.
The cinema room also doubled as the candy room – multitasking at is best.
You could stop off for a romantic bath mid-brunch if you so wished.
The table is exquisitely set with fresh flowers, crystal, china and silverware. Delicious food and champagne. And, the views over the city and the Gulf are to die for! The whole thing is a delightful extravagance which can only happen in the Middle East.
I didn’t even know where to start with all these desserts to pick from.
During the brunch, you have chef stations serving up food, a cocktail bar, candy in the cinema room, a cheese and desert room, a caviar bar and an oyster room. If you are feeling too content to get up and go to the buffet, there is also waiter service that brings around other (different) main courses to you at your table. It’s the best of both worlds – a buffet where no one is judging how much you take and the lazy person’s beautifully plated dishes.
Please sir… may I have some more?
Obviously you need great food to make Brunch in the Clouds the best brunch in Abu Dhabi. I felt though the fabulous spread was just an additional bonus to all the extras provided. I mean, of course, the food was great.
The stairs up to the master bedroom suite. Can you believe I didn’t even make it up there?
A gin trolley because … why not?
Spa Treatments and Other Extras
In between courses, you can step out for a manicure and a massage in the private spa room. The therapists are from the St. Regis Spa downstairs.
The brunch massages were conducted by the St. Regis spa staff.
This room is where we had our manicures during brunch.
Practical Information For Brunch in the Clouds
Brunch in the Clouds started in April 2016 and has been so popular it already has a 6 month waiting list. I never plan anything that far in advance but I got lucky on the Friday before Christmas. It’s always worth a try if you are in Abu Dhabi.
When the setting is this fabulous, even the best brunch spread takes second place.
Unfortunately, no kids are allowed in the Brunch in the Clouds experience. The prices are pretty reasonable for all that you get – AED 500 (approximately $136) or AED 750 (approximately $200). The brunch lasts a leisurely 5 hours from noon until 5 pm. Where else can you take a nap in the middle of your brunch??
I loved the suite so much that I bought a night in the suite at an auction 😂 Yikes. I have 6 months to use it and might throw a party for my birthday. The suite typically costs $30,000 per night. I paid a lot less and the money goes to charity (UNICEF). I consider that a win/win. Besides, I’ve got to get back to see that master suite! I’ve heard the walk-in closet is amazing.
Brunch in the Clouds is available at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi. Make sure it is the one at the Corniche and not the one at Saadiyat Island because there are 2 St. Regis hotels in Abu Dhabi.
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Ever since I saw Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade at an impressionable age, I have wanted to go to visit Petra in Jordan. Of course, there is more to Jordan than Petra. My friend Dianna, who will become an occasional contributor for this blog, had the chance to visit Jordan for a few days this May. We plan on visiting Jordan ourselves in April as part of a longer trip to Israel. As is the case with many people, Dianna only had a limited time to visit. She picked the must-see places to visit in Jordan as well as a fewer lesser known sights. I know that my family and I will have a minimum of three days to visit but I am hoping to extend our visit to at least five days. Here’s a three day itinerary which creates a brief but memorable jaunt to Jordan.
What you must see in the country of Jordan if you have only 3 days
A 3 Day Jordan Itinerary
This itinerary takes in the three must see places in Jordan that everyone recommends – Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea. It also adds some cool places that will give you an insight into Jordan, both historical and contemporary.
Day 1 Petra
The distance from Amman to Petra is 210 km (130 miles). The driver stopped off at Al-Beidha, known as Little Petra, where the Nabateans established a trading post in the 1st Century AD.
Wadi Musa is at the main entrance to Petra.
Petra, the capitol of the Nabatean kingdom from about 600 B.C., is a UNESCO world heritage site. Many people don’t spend the night at Petra which is probably a mistake. If you stay the night, you can also take the 2 hour candle-lit night tour of Petra which sets off from the Petra Visitor’s Center three times a week.
The Petra treasury all lit up night.
The candle lit glow of Petra at night.
Places to Visit in Petra
- You need to enter Petra through a crevice in the rocks called the Siq. You have a choice of walking or on horseback. Obviously it’s cooler to go on horseback!
- Monuments include the Treasury, the Temple of the Winged Lions, the Palace Tomb and smaller tombs.
Day 2 Dead Sea
The distance from Petra to the Dead Sea is 275 km (171 miles). I spent the morning checking out Petra by daylight as well. Unless you want to go hiking, you probably only need a few hours to visit Petra. By staying overnight though, you avoid the day-trippers who flock to the site by the early afternoon.
Along the way to the Dead Sea, you pass Bethany Beyond The Jordan where John the Baptist lived and baptised people. This place is also where Jesus was also supposed to have been baptised.
Bethany where John the Baptist baptised people including Jesus
The Wadi Rum is about an hour and a half from Petra on the way to the Dead Sea. It is a beautiful desert valley famous as the setting for the classic movie, [easyazon_link identifier=”B008Y1YK0I” locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Lawrence of Arabia[/easyazon_link].
Note from Shobha: You can arrange for Wadi Rum tours that last for several days. For our trip to Jordan in April, we would like to arrange an overnight in the desert and are planning on using Bedouins of Wadi Rum).
Although the Movenpick Resort at the Dead Sea was beautiful, Dianna wasn’t entirely convinced by the whole floating in the Dead Sea experience though. As she said, it’s something to cross off the bucket list.
The Dead Sea on the Jordan side is the lowest place on Earth at 420 metres below sea level.
From the Jordan side of the Dead Sea, you can see Israel across the way.
The Movenpick Resort at the Dead Sea is perfect for relaxation.
Day 3 Amman
The distance from the Dead Sea to Amman is 135 km (84 miles).
On the way to Amman, the driver stopped at Jerash. Even though the area has been settled since Neolithic times, Jerash was supposedly founded by Alexander the Great. Today it is known for its well-preserved Roman ruins.
Amman is a young city with an ancient history. Although it became the capitol of Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan only in 1946, it was once the capitol of the Iron Age kingdom of Ammon. The city definitely has a few places worth visiting.
Places to visit in Amman
A 3 day itinerary for Jordan
Tips for Visiting Jordan
You can rent a car at Queen Alia International Airport. Driving in Jordan is pretty easy with well-maintained highways. Dianna arranged for a private driver.
If you have more than three days, there are many more places in Jordan to visit. For example, a lot of visitors head to Aqaba which is great for snorkelling and diving.
Like we are planning on doing, Jordan is a popular place to visit in combination with another country in the Middle East, whether Israel or Egypt. I hope this 3 day itinerary shows you that even a short visit to Jordan will be a worthwhile experience.
Practical Info To Know Before You Go
In Petra, Dianna stayed at the Movenpick Resort Petra. At the Dead Sea, she stayed at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea. Dianna’s final hotel in Jordan was the Le Meridien Amman. The Wagar family who visited Aqaba in Jordan recommend the Radisson Blu Tala Bay Resort.
[easyazon_link identifier=”1401359485″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]A Leap of Faith: A Memoir of An Unexpected Life[/easyazon_link] by Queen Noor
[easyazon_link identifier=”B00OROAG5Y” locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Living With Arabs: Nine Years with the Petra Bedouin[/easyazon_link] by Joan Ward
[easyazon_link identifier=”0393249093″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Life Without A Recipe: A Memoir of Food and Family[/easyazon_link]by Diana Abu-Jaber
[easyazon_link identifier=”1844082202″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Married to A Bedouin[/easyazon_link] by Marguerite van Geldermalsen
[easyazon_image align=”none” height=”160″ identifier=”1401359485″ locale=”US” src=”http://www.justgoplacesblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/51NEK61362L.SL160.jpg” tag=”jg20-20″ width=”106”][easyazon_image align=”none” height=”160″ identifier=”1502564912″ locale=”US” src=”http://www.justgoplacesblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/41rw3Z9HiiL.SL160.jpg” tag=”jg20-20″ width=”104”][easyazon_image align=”none” height=”160″ identifier=”0393249093″ locale=”US” src=”http://www.justgoplacesblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/614jnhKYcnL.SL160.jpg” tag=”jg20-20″ width=”106”][easyazon_image align=”none” height=”160″ identifier=”1844082202″ locale=”US” src=”http://www.justgoplacesblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/51fqvAxhwnL.SL160.jpg” tag=”jg20-20″ width=”102″]
Are you looking for a more adventurous family trip with your children? In this first part of this series, we looked at family-friendly hotels in North America that were chosen by the children of 15 family travel bloggers. In this part, we look at 10 family getaways recommended by kids outside of North America. These family getaways are a more varied type including hotels in theme parks, a luxury family-friendly tree house and a luxury family safari lodge. According to travel industry reports, 85% of family travellers are influenced by their children in making a decision about where to travel. Going by the list below, I’d say our kids know what they want and have excellent taste.
Navigating the tiny side streets of an Italian town (Photo credit: Alessandra Granata)
The Resort With The Water Park Next Door
The Palm, Dubai
“My kids loved The Atlantis in Dubai but not for the reason you would expect. Sure, they loved having easy access to the Atlantis Water Park next door. We could nip in for an hour or two and then return to our uncrowded hotel pools to lounge.
Their absolute favourite bit though were the chocolate fountains at breakfast. There was even a choice of white chocolate and milk chocolate. It was the first time they’d seen chocolate fountains and they were smitten. I didn’t have the heart to say no to chocolate for breakfast (after all, they successfully argued hot chocolate is a European breakfast drink). I did make them dip fruit in the chocolate fountain instead of marshmallows. Strawberries in chocolate for breakfast – the hardship! “
– Shobha George at Just Go Places
The water park next door to the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai meant we could nip in and out as we liked.
The Hotel For Thomas The Tank Engine Fans
The Drayton Manor Hotel
“My son fell in love with Thomas the Tank engine when he was one year old, so when we discovered that in the UK there is a park entirely dedicated to his hero, we knew we had to go. We made a weekend out of the expedition and went all out booking a family room in the on-site accommodation, the Drayton Manor Hotel: to say it was a hit, with the kids, would be a gross understatement.
The hotel is all themed out with characters from the Thomas series and as soon as we walked into the lobby, the children caught a glimpse of two massive moulds of Thomas and Rosie, attached to the walls. They dashed to them and plastered themselves against the big trains, giving them a hug and kisses. You would have thought they were long lost parents or siblings they hadn’t seen in years: a display of love I had never witnessed before! My daughter in particular, until that moment quite brazen about trains, started cooing and stroking Rosie’s plastic face. It took us 40 minutes to peel them away from the lobby and,to this day, what they remember most about the Drayton Manor experience was the hotel and that they could sleep while their heroes guarded the hotel door!”
– Marta Correale at Learning Escapes
Kids love Thomas the Tank Engine (Photo credit: Marta Correale)
The Hotel That is an Irish Castle
The Clontarf Castle Hotel
“In April I took two of my boys, ages 10 and 12, on their first visit to Europe. One of the things that they were the most excited about was to explore some castles. This was a big draw since they had already been studying them in school and pretended to be knights for years. When I was looking for places to stay in Dublin, I found The Clontarf Castle Hotel. Not only did my kids get to go into a castle, they got to sleep and eat in one! The luxury hotel made the whole family happy. I loved the location slightly outside of the city, but close to the waterfront and Howth, as well as a bus line.
The kids loved the decorations and food. It is one of the parts of the trip that they still talk about and wrote about in papers when we returned to school.”
– Jamie Italiane at The Daily Adventures of Me
The Clontarf Castle is a family-friendly hotel in Dublin, Ireland
The Hidden Gem in the Cinque Terre
B&B Il Tulipano
Cinque Terre, Italy
“The Cinque Terre is an enchanted place, known all over the world for the five tiny villages sheltered behind mountain and sea. We adore going there!! It’s quite close to Milano (2 hours drive) and it’s the ideal escape from the city, no matter the season. But Cinque Terre can be very crowded and expensive too… so that’s why the accommodation we love the most is not properly there, but just a few km from Riomaggiore, the biggest village of Cinque Terre. Let us introduce you B&B Il Tulipano (The Tulip) because the owner is a Dutch girl who settled there and welcomes guests from all over the world!!
This cosy B&B is just behind the hill of Riomaggiore, close to the sea, but it’s completely surrounded by silence, enchanted nature and a familiar atmosphere. You can even admire fireflies at night! You’ll love this place and your kids too. Federico (our eldest son) never wants to go back home and always asks to plan a new adventure there, guess why?? Because he can play free and have fun with a kids-tractor in unspoilt nature! Mariette is a superb host for a great place to stay: you’ll remember breakfast served under wisteria, the deepest sleep ever and the feel of freedom!!”
– Alessandra Granata at Tips 4 Italian Trips
The beloved tractor that got driven around for hours (Photo credit: Alessandra Granata)
The Red Sea Resort With the Great Food
The Radisson Blu Tala Bay Resort
“During our visit to Jordan we experienced countless gorgeous desert landscapes. Hot and dry were the norm during our visit. That is until we visited the Red Sea resort town of Aqaba and checked into the Radisson Blu Tala Bay Resort.
With sweeping views of the Red Sea and large, bright and sunny rooms, the Radisson Blu offered all the luxury that was promised. The kids loved the countless swimming pools available. The food was incredible as well. The boys favourite was the Aziab buffet which featured a very plentiful desert bar that had my kid’s attention the moment they walked in.
We booked the boys in to the hotels Kid’s Club while we joined a dive, and when we returned we could barely pull the boys away. Their faces had been painted in superhero themes and they were sporting toys they had won at the camp. The boys still talk about what a great experience they had at this hotel, and without a doubt, we would return.”
– Kevin Wagar at Wandering Wagars
A family getaway at the Radisson Blu Aqaba has everything (Photo credit: Kevin Wagar)
The Resort With All Complimentary Activities
The Hilton Mauritius Resort and Spa
“When it comes to staying at a family-friendly resort, my kids’ can be tough critics. Hilton Mauritius Resort and Spa exceeded their kid-tough expectations and more! Located on an idyllic island in the Indian Ocean and surrounded by stunning crystalline waters, steep volcanic mountains frame the backdrop of this family-friendly resort which features lush landscaping, koi ponds and waterfall pools.
What makes Hilton Mauritius Resort and Spa stand out are all of the complimentary activities offered to guests. In fact, it can be very difficult to decide what to do! You will find in your room a list of daily activities offered such as morning yoga, pool exercise classes, tennis lessons and bike rides. Evening entertainment is also provided and the kids will definitely enjoy the torch lightening ceremony! Best of all, numerous water activities such as water-skiing, snorkeling, and dolphin watching are also complimentary.
When the parents need some adult-time, kids will love spending time in the complimentary Kidz Paradise club. Because there are so many fun family activities at Hilton Mauritius Resort and Spa, your family will have the vacation of a lifetime!”
– Lara Dorman at 2 Moms Travel
The Hilton Mauritius is a good value hotel among the super-expensive resorts on this island (Photo credit: Lara Dorman)
The Resort Where You Make A Grand Entrance
The Six Senses Zighy Bay
“The Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman, just two hours from Dubai, is one of the kid-friendliest places we’ve stayed anywhere. In fact, my 10-year-old has already voted to return there next year as part of her annual trip with me.
What made it kid-friendly?
- You paraglide in to check in. This may be the only hotel in the world with a paragliding entrance? My daughter loved it.
- The beach is perfect and the water is warm.
- There’s a fort at each villa. Technically it’s an Omani Summer House, a small-shaded room in the courtyard, but my daughter took it over as her own personal fort.
- There’s a private plunge pool at each villa. Enough said!
- The food was excellent. Even the pickiest eaters should be able to find food they like.
- There’s a kid’s club and a teen club with legitimately cool activities. The teen club has a bungee trampoline!
- The ocean tubing was a blast – we could have stayed out there all day.
- You get around the resort on bicycles, and there are bikes sized perfectly for every age.”
– Eric Stoen at Travel Babbo
The Six Senses Zighy Bay is a unique destination in Oman.
The Game Reserve With the Great Animal Views
Mala Mala Game Reserve
Kruger National Park, South Africa
“Mala Mala Game Reserve outside of Kruger National Park in South Africa is my 6 year old’s favourite hotel in the world. Sitting in our private deck overlooking a river where animals come to drink from morning to night was all the entertainment he needed. Watching as elephants, giraffe, leopards, exotic birds and hippos appeared on our doorstep all within minutes was out of this world.
With morning and afternoon game drives through the reserve observing the worlds most fantastic animals in their native habitats, followed by kids club activities like fishing, animal tracking and bush walks.
My 6 year old’s days were filled with what he loves most – animals. Families looking for a once in a lifetime experience up close and personal with the wilds of Africa will be in heaven at the Mala Mala Game Reserve. All you need is to arrive with a desire to experience the world in its most natural form and you will leave aching to return again.”
– Karilyn Owen at No Back Home
Kids will love the luxury safari at Mala Mala Game Reserve at the Kruger National Park in South Africa
The Luxury Private Hotel Set In the Rainforest
Tsala Treetop Lodge
Harkerville, near Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
“Our children loved the Tsala Treetop Lodge because our villa was a separate little tree house with it’s own privacy wall overlooking an ancient rain forest. They had their own bedroom, en-suite bathroom and (very importantly) flat-screen television.
The best part though was the inside-outside shower. My son thought it was the coolest thing to have a hot shower outside overlooking the forest (with the mist and rain surrounding him). I fear we may have a future naturist on our hands. The little villa also had it’s own private hot tub which was also a big hit for the kids.”
– Shobha George at Just Go Places
The Tsala Treetop Lodge overlooks an ancient rain forest in South Africa
The Resort With For The Active Family in Thailand
Sunwing Kamala Beach Resort
“Our kids (6, 4, 3 months) LOVE the Sunwing Kamala Beach Resort in Phuket, Thailand. It’s very kid focused so it suited them perfectly.
The first thing that attracted them to this resort is the fact that it has 8 pools. 7 of which are big with beach entry points. They loved trying them all out. There are also three waterslides which are very popular.
Next, they loved the kids’ club. It has great staff who would play with them and some good activities like ceramic painting and party times which they enjoyed.
They loved meal times as there is always a buffet (they’re favourite thing in the world). In fact, the only thing that would have made this resort better is if we had been there in peak season where they have a special kids’ buffet at meal times.
They also loved that there is a massage place on the hotel grounds that serves tons of kids so they were able to get massages and have their nails done, etc by people who are used to dealing with kids.
Finally they loved the crazy amount of kid equipment that came with our room. Our baby was happy that he had a bouncer, bumbo, changing mat, pram etc. My 4 year old son was super happy that there was a stool so he could reach the sink, and a mat with roads on it so he could use it to play with his cars.”
– Sharon Gourlay at Where’s Sharon
One of the many pools at Sunning Kamala Resort (Photo credit: Sharon Gourlay)
10 Family Getaways Recommended by Kids
I love the diversity of these recommendations by kids. It shows that kids are more interested in enjoying a place than just hanging out in the pool or at the kids club.
Family getaways chosen by children ensure that everyone has a good time
Which of these hotels, resorts and lodges would you consider? I personally would love to do the paragliding experience into the Six Senses Zighy Bay because it’s something I would not do otherwise. Do you have any other family-friendly accommodation you would like to add to the list?
We got into the taxi and my husband realised he had forgotten the name of the restaurant where we were dining. For someone who is super-organised at work, he is remarkably forgetful as soon as he leaves the office. It was up to me to explain where we needed to go while he was trying to get a signal on his phone to find the address. My explanation of sail-shaped tower building seemed to make no impression on the Pakistani taxi driver. Luckily, his taxi meter had a photo of the Burj Al-Arab and we were able to tell him to take us there. Good thing then that we were having dinner at the Burj Al-Arab in Dubai and that a photo of the building is splattered everywhere in the city.
About the Burj Al-Arab
The Burj Al-Arab stands on an artificial island connected by a bridge to the mainland. A guard has to check that your name is on the list before you are even allowed onto the bridge. The better to keep the plebs away.
It likes to think of itself as a 7-star hotel although technically there is no such thing. Even the Emirates Palace in nearby Abu Dhabi doesn’t try to beat such rankings. Frankly, the last time I was blinded by so much bling and opulence was at the Emirates Palace. The Burj Al Arab’s been voted tops in the world’s luxurious hotel stakes by the Daily Telegraph, Travel & Leisure and others.
The hotel was designed to become a symbol of modern Dubai in the same way that the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty or other well-known architecture symbolises their cities.
I think the interior is as interesting architecturally as the famous exterior. It has a vast atrium and buttresses that soar to the ceiling.
The interior architecture is visually stunning.
This hotel has been criticised for being more style over substance. Unfortunately, that could be said for all of Dubai. And, it’s done just fine.
The hotel is shaped like the spinnaker sail of a yacht . On the top there is a helipad. Because you know every sailing yacht needs a helipad. The law of physics shouldn’t stand in the way of dreams.
When the Burj Al-Arab is lit at night, the architecture is thrown into sharper relief.
The whole hotel is speckled in gold leaf and marble. If you want total over-the-top opulence, then this hotel is for you. There are butlers, in-room check-in, a pillow menu and free Wi-Fi (yeah!). The two Royal Suites are the peak of extravagance and meant for those guests only used to the best. Costing over $20,000 a night, each Royal Suite takes up one half of the 25th floor. Take a look via Architectural Digest because we definitely can’t afford it. Not unless this blogging gig kicks it up several notches.
Some impressive facts about the Burj al Arab in Dubai:
- The atrium is 590 ft tall.
- The hotel has 28 duplex floors with 202 suites. The smallest suite is a little less than 2000 square feet and the biggest is more than 8000 square feet.
- There are 4 swimming pools and a private beach.
- Almost 30% of the hotel is non-usable space.
- It took 5 years to build and 2000 immigrant construction workers toiling in the sun.
And, don’t let anyone tell you that this hotel doesn’t give freebies. You get free access to the Wild Wadi Water Park (owned by the same Jumeirah Group) and located down the road from the gates. You could probably get yourself driven there in one of the chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce.
It doesn’t get more Dubai than this photo. A flock of Rolls Royces in front of the Jumeirah Beach hotel shaped like a wave coming towards the Burj Al-Arab Hotel which is shaped like the sail of a yacht. Surreal.
Dining at the Burj Al-Arab
There are nine restaurants in the building all of them trying to outdo each other (it would seem). The Skyview Bar is located 660 feet above the Persian gulf with panoramic views. Gold on 27 is a nightclub decked out in (what else?) more gold leaf. Sahn Eddar is where you can have afternoon tea. The Al Mahara is a seafood restaurant located inside an aquarium. Junsui is Japanese food in a setting drowned in Swarovski crystals. These restaurants have half-price menus available for children – very handy because these places are NOT cheap.
A portion of the aquarium can be seen from the lobby.
What I thought was really cool (if you want to see more than one restaurant) and have a half-day free to spend just eating is the Culinary Flight Restaurant Experience. You get to try the different restaurants for either lunch or dinner. For example, pre-dinner drinks at the Skyview Bar, appetisers at one restaurant and then two different courses and dessert at three of the other restaurants. During low season (summer), it runs 875 AED (US$ 238) for lunch without drinks. Obviously the price only rises from this base figure.
Al Iwan Restaurant
We opted to try the Al Iwan which serves Middle Eastern fare because you figure you have to get the best Arabic food in this place. Al Iwan means ‘Royal Hall’ in Arabic and it’s definitely sumptuous. It is a buffet so that you can try a variety of different dishes. There is a small corner serving non-Arabic food such as pasta.
The Al Iwan Restaurant is a restaurant located on the lobby floor.
The theme of the restaurant was red and gold and ornate. Really ornate. It was about this time when the gold glare got to me that I envied my husband who is colour-blind.
Red and gold, red and gold. The theme was consistent.
Red and gold reflected in arches and mirrors. And, this is in a dimly lit restaurant.
From top: bread basket, camel milk pudding and baby lamb ouzi
Photo Gallery of Burj Al-Arab
This place has got to be seen to be believed.
The reception desk
The lobby with its intricate rug all specially made for this hotel.
A gold-plated elevator. Why not?
If you would like to see more photos of the inside, please check out my Steller Story on the Burj Al-Arab.
I hope you enjoyed this tour inside the Burj Al-Arab. We satisfied our curiosity of what the inside of such a symbolic building could look like. I’m not sure we’ll be rushing back but it was good to see how the 0.001% live.
The half-hour drive from the airport to Shangri La Hotel on the outskirts of Muscat takes you through a dusty sandy-coloured landscape of mountains and valleys. Although the Middle East that I pictured had sand, this land looked completely different with its winding mountain paths through sand. After a tunnel takes you through the last mountain, you find yourself in a veritable oasis. Really. It’s all green and lush with palm trees, traditional Dhofori architecture and the sparkling sapphire of the Arabian Sea under a cloudless sky. My family and I were more than ready for some winter sun at the Shangri La Muscat!
The Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort
The Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa in Muscat is deceptively big because there are actually 3 hotels in one location. The hotel does have a mini-bus that takes you into Muscat which we did use one day. It’s really not practical though to go into Muscat every day. If you go to Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah resort, be prepared to spend most of your time at the resort itself. Not that it’s a hardship!!
Al Husn, the most-exclusive hotel, is reserved for adults. We were told later that children can technically stay there but they are not allowed to use any of the facilities. We were joined on this trip by a friend who had stayed at Al Husn previously. She thought it was exceptional with its own private beach and pools. We couldn’t even take a peek at Al Husn because it is perched on a cliff overlooking us mere mortals who had the temerity to bring children on holiday.
Al Husn perched on its cliff-top location.
The other two hotels are walking distance of each other. We stayed at the Al Bandar Hotel which is the hotel in the middle-location. The Al Bandr Hotel has most of the restaurants. The rooms are spacious and the hotel itself is well-laid out. The architecture is traditional Omani and the hotel encircles a courtyard area with restaurants.
The grand traditional architecture at Al Bandr.
The bedrooms are spacious and can accommodate another bed.
In the evenings, we sat outside in the balmy night air and listened to the live traditional music. Many people were hanging around smoking shisha pipes. The sweet smell wafted through the air around us. When the night air got too chilly, we’d go inside and listen to Pamela, the resident piano bar singer. A fellow American, Pamela even took us out during her free time to go shopping at the big mall in the area.
The beach has gentle waves thanks to the sheltering rocks.
The third hotel, the Al Waha, is the largest of the three hotels. The Al Waha is billed as the most ‘family-friendly’ because it has a lot of suites and interconnecting family rooms. We did notice that most of the families staying at the resort stayed at the Al Waha. As you can expect, this part of the resort was the least quiet.
Family Fun at the Shangri La Muscat
The Shangri La Muscat has a lot of facilities in two of its hotels for children. First and foremost, the beautiful beach is in a sheltered location with gentle waves. My kids can play for hours in the sand and waves.
The pleasant little beach at the hotel.
Each of the Al Waha and the Al Bandr Hotels have a selection of pools. The lazy river runs between the pools. In the ocean, the hotel has a bouncy castle-type of thing that lets you jump into the water. My children played at the cute little mini-golf every single day.
The beautiful landscaped grounds at Al Bandr
The restaurants have a children’s menu which is excellent. Even without a children’s menu, you do have a choice of places to eat, including an outdoor buffet option. We thought the buffet breakfast was extensive and delicious. There was a choice of traditional as well as a full-Western repertoire of food at the breakfast buffet. The choice of restaurants at the resort includes Moroccan, Lebanese, Italian and Asian. We found ourselves drawn to the Spanish tapas place a couple of times. Not only was the food great and everyone could find something they liked, we could sit outside in a casual atmosphere.
We had a children’s pack waiting in our room which had a cute stuffed toy camel and a colouring book and pencils. The colouring book had an excellent overview of the culture of Oman.
A welcome package of fruits and nuts is a nice touch.
My son went snorkelling with his father and had a grand time. My daughter and I had some quality spa time because my daughter refused to snorkel because she considers fish swimming near her face ‘creepy’. She had her first mani-pedi and felt like a princess.
My daughter’s first mani-pedi. Of course, she choose purple.
The therapy rooms are all built like little houses with a seating area, double massage beds etc. She hung out on her massage bed while I had a very relaxing massage next to her.
My daughter loved hanging out in her own tented bed.
Our Opinion of the Shangri La Muscat
The Shangri La Bar Al Jissah Resort (well the Al Bandr and Al Waha specifically) is great with young children. My children enjoyed it tremendously. It was definitely a different atmosphere from the adult sophistication of The Chedi Muscat. After all the running around playing and late nights they had at the Shangri La, even my children were ready for a few days of quiet time in the sunshine. We went in December and the weather was near perfect. It wasn’t too hot in the daytimes and there were not pesky mosquitoes bothering us. We had some great winter sun before we went back all refreshed and geared up for the end of year festivities.
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