Travelling for the first time with a toddler can be a bit of a daunting experience. Our Senior Travel Consultant, Shefali tells us about her recent trip, travelling with her husband and two-year-old daughter, Koko to Crete.
We were looking for a destination for a long-awaited family holiday and we immediately thought of Crete. Having been there before baby, we were dreaming of getting back to the turquoise ocean, brilliantly blue skies and wonderful Cretan food and culture. I've always had fantastic feedback from clients who have travelled to Crete as a family over the last decade or so, so we had complete confidence, especially since we knew the Powder Byrne resort team would be on hand to assist.
So off we set on Koko's first beach holiday...
Getting to Heraklion airport with British Airways was seamless and the four-hour flight went very quickly. I have to confess, the Amazon Fire for kids helped to keep Koko entertained throughout the flight and I would definitely recommend bringing something similar along.
Once we landed, we had a scenic 40-minute journey by road and then we arrived in paradise! If you're after more independence, there is also the option to hire a car at the airport.
As we arrived at the resort, we were greeted by the very professional Powder Byrne Resort Manager who assisted us with our check-in and made sure we were all settled in our accommodation.
We stayed at a truly magnificent hotel Elounda Peninsula in the most ideal accommodation: the Peninsula Grand Villa. It had two bedrooms with a living area, kitchen, two bathrooms, and a spacious private garden with a large pool. Located near the water's edge with stunning views, I never wanted to leave!
Since the beach was just in front of the villa, it couldn't have been more convenient. We could just walk down a few steps and onto the beach and if we needed anything for Koko during our time on the beach it was so quick to nip back to the villa.
The hotel is so well-equipped to welcome families with young children. Koko’s cot was beautifully decorated for our arrival and they made it very special by providing lovely baby toiletries, little baby slippers and a soft toy that she fell in love with at first sight. She named it 'Cre-tee' and carried it with her everywhere we went. When I see it in her room, I always remember our wonderful holiday.
Waking up to breathtaking sea views each morning was a dream come true and breakfast was laid out on our deck each morning, including an amazing choice of healthy and delicious options. It was wonderful to see Koko devour the local delicacies and she absolutely loved the variety of Greek yoghurts that were served.
There are so many options for activities and the Powder Byrne staff were always on hand to offer recommendations and make bookings for activities or restaurant reservations.
The Client Concierge team had already pre-booked most of our activites as we knew which activities we were interested in ahead of time but the Resort Manager was very happy to amend any of our bookings and make new ones if need be. It meant we didn't need to spend any time researching and organising so we could just relaxing and cherish our special time together.
Most days we headed to the beach and enjoyed swimming in crystal clear sea, watching the little fish swim along in the shallow water and making sand castles with Koko. Other days we hired a boat and took a picturesque ride along Spina Longa and stopped over in Plaka for a delicious meal. I highly recommend Taverna Paliria Plaka in Plaka.
Elounda Village is about 5 minutes drive from the hotel but it is also within walkable distance for the energetic. There are lots of shops and restaurants and we were spoilt for choice, but our favourite restaurants were Kanali (where you can eat right next to the water's edge and enjoy excellent food and brilliant service) and Ferryman (with its amazing waterfront location). Both restaurants are very popular and I would recommend pre-booking to avoid disappointment.
One of the things I love most about the hotel is their amazing children's entertainment area called Kids' Ark, which is designed around the theme of an animal park. They have indoor and outdoor playgrounds, a vegetable garden, shallow pools and an exciting water slide. It is the perfect base for the pb crèche, and Koko had the most amazing time swimming, painting, doing treasure hunts, enjoying beach time, arts and crafts, ball games, puzzle time and lots more. She enjoyed every bit and I loved the fact that the lunches were fully supervised and baby's needs were always taken care of. Koko fell in love with the staff and suddenly she didn't want to say goodbye in the evening - mummy and daddy were quite boring by comparison!
It was wonderful knowing that she was being so expertly cared for, happy and safe because it pushed us to use the opportunity to do things that we really love. We took scuba diving lessons with a professional instructor, using the best equipment. It was so convenient to get to the scuba centre as it was just a 2-minute boat ride away. Swimming with so many brightly-coloured little fish, and a shoal of big ones too, was mesmerising. The dive was the highlight of our holiday – it was truly divine!
The hotel has an incredible Six Senses spa and I relaxed one morning with a pearl-infused remineralizing body mask while my husband, Jatin played Tennis. There are also fantastic golf facilities at the resort.
We spent most afternoons in Agios Nikolaos, which is a nearby town that has so much to offer. It’s a very unique town as it has three faces to the sea: The Lake and Port, Kitroplatia beach and the Marina. We strolled up and down the cobbled roads, enjoying the shopping, which is authentically Cretan. We enjoyed picking up local food products and delicacies and Koko stayed busy enjoying the delicious ice cream. There are lots of cafes and tavernas and walking around the Marina viewing the boats is great fun! While in Agios Nikolaos, we absolutely loved eating at Chrisofyllis, which has a great location, serves traditional Greek food with a twist and has super friendly staff. It is a 15-20 minute drive to Agios Nikolaos and it is well worth a visit.
Some afternoons we spent eating at Alio e Olio, which is one of the hotel's restaurants. It serves a great a variety of Italian and Greek delicacies. It was a lovely experience with great views.
We squeezed in one more swim in the pool as the sun was setting most evenings before heading for dinner, which was definitely the favourite part of our day. The hotel offers a complimentary buffet dinner with a variety of choices, and they also give you a credit to use it at six other restaurants in the resort. It's great to have the option of more variety!
Nafsika is their main half board restaurant, which we tried the very first day, which was great. The following night we chose by Alio e Olio, where we had a very special Greek night with lots of delicious food, drinks and dancing. Koko was brave enough to join the Greek dancers and learn a few steps and she had so much fun. It was definitely an evening to remember.
On a couple of evenings, we arranged a babysitter and went to Calypso, a French Gourmet restaurant with amazing sea-views. This restaurant has received multiple awards and is considered one of the finest restaurants in Greece. It is well worth a visit for a romantic dinner.
On our last evening, we went to the Old Mill restaurant, which took us back in time with its traditional Greek menu and its setting near an ancient millstone. This restaurant has also received multiple awards and we truly enjoyed every bit of the experience.
Crete is truly captivating with its impressive landscapes, rich culture, traditional food and genuine hospitality, which made this an unforgettable holiday for the three of us. Our first beach holiday with Koko couldn't have gone any smoother and we can't wait to return soon!
To find out more about booking a trip to incredible Crete, call 020 8246 5300 or click here.