At the end of the spring we were lucky enough to be invited to take our families to the luxury Martinhal Cascais resort in Lisbon, Portugal. Set in a pretty village on the edge of the cosmopolitan city, the luxury hotel is geared towards holidaying with little ones. They’ve really made the family holiday of dreams! Find out more about our stay, what we packed and what we got up to below.
HOW WE GOT THERE
Dominique: We both live in and near to Tunbridge Wells, which is only 30 miles from Gatwick airport. The kids are all used to flying as we both have family living abroad, still, five very excitable children versus three adults kept us on our toes. The transfer time from the airport was around 30 minutes, but we were all taking in the sights on the journey so it flew by even quicker. I always chat to the children about the different vegetation and types of buildings en route to our destination, it is a good time killer and hopefully educational.
Rebecca: Martinhal Cascais is perfectly situated for a holiday with culture and relaxation and the weather is amazing. A fantastic mix of both traditional and cosmopolitan Portuguese architecture, the super-cool city of Lisbon is just half an hour’s drive away from the resort, so it’s easy to get to for day trips.
As we were staying at Martinhal for three nights we decided to spend our time in the beautiful town of Cascais where the hotel is based. It’s a 45-minute walk away or alternatively you can get shuttle buses, which are a 10-minute ride from the resort to the town and beach. They run all day, making it really easy to get around. Cascais is known for its beautiful sandy beaches, picturesque costal walks, and busy marina. The old town is home to the medieval Senhora da Luz Fort and the Citadel Palace – made famous by the Portugese royals who used to take their holidays there.
We hired the bikes available from Martinhal one evening and cycled into the town for dinner. We found a lovely walled market, which we went back to the next day, full of local craftsmen selling Portuguese wares. On the sea facing side of the market was a row of gorgeous restaurants with beautiful sea views. We enjoyed some delicious seafood watching the sun go down.
Dominique: We stayed in two of the stylish villas next to the Kids’ Clubhouse and heated pool. We loved the contemporary architecture and the spaces were light, bright and perfectly designed for families. In each villa there are two bedrooms upstairs with their own ensuite bathrooms with shower rooms. The comfy beds are all super king size with soft white sheets. Each villa also has a well-equipped kitchen, which is handy for making snacks / bottles etc for the kids, even if you don’t want to eat in all the time. We made good use of the large terraces on the ground floor, which we enjoyed sitting out on (glass of wine in hand!).
Rebecca: Breakfast is included in your stay and there’s plenty to choose from – with a hot and continental buffet, offering fresh fruit, waffles, pancakes and eggs to-order as well as freshly baked traditional Portuguese custard tarts. Special diets are not a problem, and the hotel is very happy to cater to any requests you might have.
There are three restaurants to choose from for lunch and dinner. The main one, O Terraco, serves delicious local seafood dishes and also offers an a la carte menu. There is also an Italian-style ‘trattoria’, Os Gambozinos, and the M-Bar at the Kids’ Clubhouse, which overlooks the large heated pool. All three restaurants are child-friendly (they all have kids’ menus and even puree menus for babies) and the M-Bar is great for drinks and coffee.
A godsend for parents is the kids’ corner, a supervised play area where one of the resort’s babysitters can entertain your little ones, so you can relax and enjoy your dinner. We also loved the little camper van next to M-Bar. The kids had lots of fun pretending to drive it and we could sit in there and have a drink.
FACILITIES FOR FAMILIES
Dominique: Martinhal do everything they can to make travelling with kids easier. There’s no need to lug all the usual gear with you – as you can pre-book bottle sterilisers and warmers, cots, baby baths, safety gates, potties and door protectors with their baby concierge service, at no extra cost.
The resort is unique in that it provides a complimentary kids’ club and crèche (for ages six months all the way up to 17 years) – which is great for giving you a bit of time out. You can also get a babysitter (for an extra cost). There is also a Kids’ Clubhouse and over 2,300 square metres of safely enclosed kids’ playground. There are trampolines, zip wires, swings and a big castle, among many other things – plenty to keep the kids entertained.
There are also three outdoor pools (one of which is heated) and one indoor pool, which is next to the spa.
My son particularly loved the astroturf mini football pitch and basketball hoop. He kept Simon fit by asking him to play football before and after every meal. The girls made really good friends with the staff in the kids’ club. They had an organised activity each morning and afternoon from treasure hunts to face painting. They chose to do extra time in the kids’ club rather than spend the afternoon with us which was great as we could really kick back and relax!
HIGHLIGHTS / LOWLIGHTS
Rebecca: Highlights included our spa treatments at the Finisterra spa, which were heavenly! We both had a back massage. They also offer new mum and mother-to-be treatments, which would be a real treat for expecting mamas. We loved watching the children having the best time playing together outside in the totally secure playground while we sipped cold rosé on the balcony above. We also had lots of fun hiring bikes to go out to dinner in the town. The lowlight was cycling back up hill after a huge dinner…!
WHAT WE PACKED
Dominique: We knew the weather was going to be warm so we packed lots of light outfits for the kids including a cute all-in-one for Margot from Piupia, cotton t-shirt from The bonnie mob for Alfie, Main Story cotton print dress for Lola and mini-me outfits from our favourite holidaywear brand, Pampelone for Jemima and Beatrice so they could twin with us.
Margot is on the move but can’t walk long distances yet, so we also brought a Bugaboo Bee⁵ pushchair which folds up really neatly to go on the plane and was nice and lightweight for pushing around the local village.
We both travelled with our Jem + Bea Edie Weekender Bags, which have plenty of packing room for a three-day trip, but are still compact enough to be checked in as hand luggage on the plane. The Edie comes with a matching zipped pouch, which is perfect for toiletries. We also took our Jamie Backpacks – really useful for days out and about on holiday, and a MAMA clutch each, the perfect day-to-evening bag. We also always attach a personalised Jem + Bea Oversized Luggage Tag to any bag we’re travelling with and our wipe-clean BABA pouches are an absolute essential for holidaying with little ones.
OUR FIVE TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELLING WITH KIDS
1. Always ensure you have plenty of snacks – taking into account delays and travelling to your final destination. Water needs to be bought on the other side of security but dry food and snacks are far cheaper from the supermarket than the airport
2. Wet wipes! Plenty of wet wipes...and a spare t-shirt/shorts for the kids is always needed if you don’t pack it!
3. Fully charged iPhones and iPads. Even if, like me, you are pretty strict on technology... a delayed flight and time at the airport might be the time to break the rules
4. Time out bags full of things for little ones to do while travelling/magazines full of stories and puzzles
5. A Jem + Bea BABA pouch, containing all our essentials including tickets, passports and travel documents. It’s so useful having them all in one place!