Hotel Villa Maria
*So just to be transparent, we were asked to go away by Jet 2 Holidays to a villa holiday at Hotel Villa Maria. The hotel, flights and car hire, as well as half board were gifted to us in return for exposure on Instagram and this blog was my choice to write.*
The clock struck 2am and after approximately 1 hour and 30 mins sleep, Charlotte and I were up and dressed not really knowing what was going on. Henry shot out of bed and was the most excited little boy I have ever seen. I turned the car heaters on and we lifted the girls out of bed one at a time and placed them in the car, we dressed them the night before so that they wouldn’t wake up during the 'operation' but that failed miserably as when I looked at the clock in the car it said 2.38am and all the children were awake and messing around!
We tried to pack light, Henry was easy; football kits, nice shorts and t-shirts/shirts mainly from Next, lots of swimming trunks and his usual sunglasses, caps etc. The girls we made light work of the packing, we chose 6 day outfits for them with jelly sandals, and 6 nice evening outfits for our holiday, 5 vests as they can be used more than once, 4 nappies a day each so around 80 including spares and some Huggies swim nappies!
We had some nice shoes for the evening, plenty of factor 50 suncream and hats, sunglasses, their prescribed milk, medication (usual calpol etc) and then swim float suits etc.
We got them all a unicorn reins set from mothercare that includes a little bag which we put their favourite toys, some crayons, cuddly toy and dummy in so that all had a few little home comforts.
We managed to get this and our own stuff in 3 large suitcases and we also had some hand luggage, which contained mainly food as we thought if we could keep them fed, watered and happy on a 4 and half hour flight to Tenerife, we'd be fine!
I think there is a tendency to over think what you take on holiday. I said to Charlotte as long as we have medication, passports, airline tickets and some sort of access to money then everything else can be bought, borrowed or stolen from somewhere no matter where you are.
Anyhow, we parked at short stay at Stanstead which was about 10 mins walk from the terminal and cost £90 for a week which was great. I dropped Charlotte and the kids at the drop off point with all the bags and the pushchairs and that cost about £4 to stop for 10 mins which worked well, I then parked the car and walked back!
Check in was fine although the girls hate being in the buggy at the moment and they were clearly tired but a lot of people where in the same boat and before we knew it we boarded our 6am flight! We had two sets of 3 seats next to each other, I looked after Annabella and Florence and Charlotte had Henry and Lottie. It worked well; they didn’t want to sit in the seats for take-off, but with some chocolate, some bagels, crisps and distractions we managed to take off as well as have a reasonably calm flight, they even fell asleep for an hour which was very welcome!
When we arrived we had a car hired – I would 100% recommend this as we were able to walk out of the airport and into the car hire and then drive off within half an hour - no waiting around, no hot buses and given the size of our tribe a taxi can be difficult!
The villa was around 25 min drive from the airport and despite having to think which way to go around the roundabouts it was pleasant as the roads aren’t like our ones, they are big and spacious and people aren’t genuinely in the hurry that they are in the UK.
I don’t want this to come across as an advert because it's not and I want to focus more on how we managed and coped than the amenities so I will just say the villa was incredible, like something out of MTV cribs; lots of space, its own pool, beautiful bedrooms and bathrooms, kitchen, lots of small touches like water in the fridge, hairdryers, lots of towels, bowls of fruit and was spotlessly clean, but above all it had a glorious view of the skyline and the sea as well as being one of the quietest spots I've ever been to. There are little golf buggies that the staff take you around on, there are only 78 villas so despite being at full capacity it's quiet. The food is fantastic, especially breakfast and even though it’s a villa there are communal pools, bars, a gym, child play park, child indoor nursery and activities as well as the usual, golf, pool table and table tennis, you basically don’t need to leave. The staff were amazing and the other guests were very friendly.
So how was it ….Charlotte was 24/25 weeks pregnant when we went away, so she is getting more tired and the girls are now well into the 'terrible twos'. Henry is a typical 5 year old and acts like he is constantly at a football match, but because the place was like its own little city, the girls had freedom, we changed their bedtimes to 9/10pm which worked great as they didn’t wake up until 8am, they still had a nap in the day and we based the holiday around that as we knew that it meant we got a little peace and quiet to play with Henry or even read a book or for me to go to the gym.
It was hard work as Charlotte isn’t as mobile and has less energy, but we tried to just base it all around the children and spending time together. On most holidays we do boat trips and see the local sites, but we decided to just visit the park for hours at a time, to let them go swimming, to let them do arts and crafts and hit the mini disco (dad dancing alert) in hope of wearing them out, and it worked … unfortunately it wore us out as well. Henry is at the perfect age where he is happy to do what the girls are doing as well, he is like a fish in the water and he loves the park.
Food ….. we tried to take a relaxed approach to the girls' food, they were great at meal times, we tried to get them to eat at the same time as we did and it worked, plenty of colouring and crayons, plenty of toys at the dinner table and they ate mainly bread, chips and ice cream but to me that’s fine as it's holiday and high fat and carbohydrate foods are fine as they need bulking up (Lottie can still fit in 9-12 month clothes). Henry ate like we did he enjoyed pizzas, curry, fish and chips and around 50 strawberry ice creams. A wider and posher menu was on offer which was great because Charlotte enjoys her seafood and I'm a steak and pizza man (on holiday).
We were half board so we purchased, ham, yogurts, crisps etc so we could make the kids lunch before they had a nap and save ourselves some money as well as making life easier for everyone and it worked great.
In the evenings we would have a meal and then let the kids just run around and play in the square of the hotel until they were worn out. We would then sit and have a tea and chocolate in our villa and chat once we had them all in bed which was bliss, we didn’t turn the TV on once which was amazing!
Coming home were were gutted to leave, the journey home was smooth as coming out and very similar.
In summary I would say to people don’t fear the holiday and what could go wrong, make sure you have good insurance, make sure you stick together and don’t just go for the first holiday you find, look for things like parks, space to run around, distance from the airport, local car hire, making sure you can hire a nice cot etc.
We had an amazing time and bonded as a family … roll on the next one.