Interview with Wendy Shand, founder of Tots To Travel for Parents News
Wendy Shand, founder of villa holiday company Tots To Travel, which specialises in holidays for families with babies and toddlers, is not only a businesswoman but is also a busy mum to three children.
In fact, the inspiration for Tots To Travel came from a “near disaster” experience Wendy had whilst on holiday with her first child when he was a toddler. “We were on holiday in France in 2005, when my 2 year old fell into an unenclosed pool. We were lucky, he was OK, but it was a wake-up call for me and my husband, and that was the birth of what has turned into Tots To Travel,” says Wendy.
“A safre and relaxing holiday, with quality family time at its core is what Tots To Travel is all about. Holidays are precious things, and the last thing anyone wants to do is spend a week or two weeks fretting about warming bottles, rigging up black out blinds, finding a high chair or, indeed, pool safety. In fact, we’ve handpicked the very best destinations and accommodation and done all the worrying, so our families don’t have to.”
We have been speaking to Wendy, and asked her three questions to make sure families with small children and babies can have the very best holiday possible.
The thought of cooking and cleaning on holiday fills many parents with dread, why give up the luxury of a hotel? However, it is true that a villa will offer the children much more flexibility. What do you recommend – a hotel or a villa?
Whilst the thought of a hotel room, or even a hotel suite, may seem like the height of luxury it can be very limiting and become incredibly stressful. Having one bedroom (or even two adjoining ones), no kitchen, the thought of strangers sleeping just next door, changing nappies in the dark to avoid waking other children, even prowling the corridors in search of a microwave for a midnight bottle, are all sure-fire ways to turn the dream of a hotel stay into a nightmare.
However, we also understand that the thought of a self-catering villa holiday, particularly if that villa is in a remote location (no matter how beautiful) can be daunting for parents with small children. Even if all the “baby friendliness” is taken care off, the thought of cooking, cleaning, lack of other people around you, may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect escape.
We have started to address this issue, as demand for a villa break with hotel facilities is on the rise. We now have a number of resort based villas in our portfolio. These are still handpicked by us (we visit every villa we recommend, and in a resort will only include those suitable for families with small children), and have all the kit and caboodle you need (our Essential Kit List) on site (no overloaded baggage for our families!).
Here you’ll have a choice of pools, a host of restaurants, sporting facilities, kids clubs, spas, etc. All the amenities you will find in a hotel, but with the flexibility of your own front door and home away from home.
We now have a number of these “hybrid villas” in resorts in Cyprus, Portugal, Tenerife and Spain.
Most people today book their breaks very last minute, opting for the best deal around at the time. Is that the same once you have children, particularly when they are small?
Don’t leave booking a baby or toddler-focused holiday until the last minute. Family-friendly villas, especially for young families, are in great demand and become booked up well in advance. We recommend that the last date to book a summer holiday is the Valentine’s Day before travel.
The bonus of planning ahead means you can really choose the break to fit you and your family. You can choose a destination with the sort of weather you want, a property which caters to all your needs, as well as your extended family’s (so many people now take grandparents with them on holiday as well), and you can choose a destination with the right flight time (we recommend no more than 4-hours with children under-5).
Planning ahead means you can also find locations available from your own local airport. Flying from a local airport is one of the best tips we pass on at Tots To Travel. Cutting down on drive times, the speed you can negotiate through a small regional airport and the ease of boarding are all massive pluses when it comes to a family on the move.
What would you say are the must haves for parents booking a holiday with young children and babies?
First of all, do choose somewhere that has been designed with young children’s safety in mind. Checking on swimming pool barriers, balcony railings, stairs and low windows are all of particular importance. Quiz the villa owner on these areas prior to arrival, and work out what is and is not there. Alternatively, book a villa via a baby-friendly specialist, like Tots To Travel, who go through all the safety “pain” so you don’t have to.
Having said be wary of pools, we would also thoroughly recommend a villa with a pool. It is a great focal point for a holiday and makes for an easy and relaxing experience. It’s also a great chance to build up a baby’s water confidence. Smaller children also tend to prefer the relative calm of a pool to the beach or swimming in the sea. It also means everything that might be needed throughout the day (suncream, cold drinks, nap times, baby food) is on hand at a moment’s notice.
Also, choose somewhere with places to walk to. A young child’s day is broken up into small chunks of time between naps and meals so choose somewhere that has places to walk to. These could be pram-friendly, scenic walks from the door, a stroll down to the beach or to a café around the corner. Often resort-based villas offer lots of walking options, plus the pram-friendly paths needed to push a small child around. Rural locations can be trickier and are perhaps best saved for when children are out of the pram.
Make sure you choose a location which means you don’t have to cook every night. Choose a location with lots of restaurant options nearby, or one with a chef (or even a takeaway) option available.
Finally, avoid places that say they only provide a cot and high chair – this is simply a drop in the ocean of what babies and toddlers actually need. We have worked out that families with babies and toddlers need to take an additional 37kg of kit with them on holiday (from travel cot to baby wipes). That is 5kgs more than most airline baggage allowances. Villas which provide all the kit save hassle and money.
For more information on Holiday Parent Traps, things to watch out for and more, check out Tots To Travel’s inforgraphic