This June seen us off to Vilamoura on our family holiday for the second year running. It was exactly a year since we had last made off to Vilamoura so my girls were then nearly 3 and 7 months. Believe me, travelling with smaller babies I do find a lot easier than toddlers. This year would see the girls at nearly 4 and 20 months…yes 20 months is, well lets face it eventful for travelling but we did it!! I really had no concern at travelling with Holly at 4 as she is very independent and easy to travel with. She even wants to carry her own bag at times. This year has brought remarkable changes in that she really wants to participate in the organisation of even packing the bag, getting the snacks you name it. I really had very little to worry about travelling with her. Harper on the other hand doesn’t want to sit for a minute! She wants to explore and if she wants to do something she will let you know both vocally and physically. Yes, you got it, she throws a mean tantrum. When your that size and can’t verbalise your thoughts, surely your entitled to tantrum, right!? She also is the happiest little thing and shows off the biggest grin when she is excited and to experience a new adventure with them both is an absolute pleasure. So off we went to Vilamoura.
We saved a lot of money by booking the holiday ourselves. Everything from the flight to car hire we arranged ourselves and was very little hassle so if you have the time compare before you jump for a ‘deal’ and work out if it really is a deal.
Living in the Northwest our closest airport is Knock Ireland West Airport. It is by far my favourite airport within Ireland to travel from with kids. The convenience of the carpark located directly beside departures makes for easy travelling. The queue is rarely ever chaotic at security and I really do find staff very friendly there. The only downside for me is that there is by no means a vast array of Beauty brands to rummage through pre boarding but with a toddler in tow there are very few opportunities for that sort of luxury right now (hence the reason I’ve my shopping apps currently opened on my phone!)
The flight from Knock to Faro is approximately two hours so ideal for imaptient smallies. The flight time to Faro was also at a reasonable hour (although not so reasonable on the way back!). At least one way kept routine in sync! On the way back Ryanair changed our flight time to an earlier time so it did mean we had to get the girls up at 4am but all worked out ok!
For the flight itself, I pretty much now know exactly what we will need to keep the girls entertained.
The snacks I bring are some of the girls favourites from Organix. I tend to bring dry snacks to prevent mess although the girls are quite tidy little eaters it still makes it a little easier. Also as there is no dairy/meat involved it means I am not worrying about correct storage temperatures.
I also found these little colouring books a great distraction and just a few colour of crayons easily stored within the one casing. Not only that we actually managed to save all of these to carry along in the changing bags for the evenings we were eating out. I also packed some small toys the girls hadn’t seen before as a distraction. Holly is now into the LOL doll craze so this was a big treat for her. The unwrapping and assembling of the LOL surprise really was a novelty and took up a substantial amount of time to avoid all boredom!
Personally I like to book a transfer from the airport to our accommodation and settle in for a day before hiring a car. My reason for this is to get the kids to accomodation quickly post flight rather than facing a possible long queue at the car hire desk. This is our third year booking our transfer with Yellowfish. After a previous bad experience with another transfer company I am so pleased with our experiences with Yellowfish. They are extremely efficient and what really stands out for me is that they have always supplied us with the correct category car seat for the girls. This is a strong selling point for me as I am passionate about car seat safety. All this and the fact that they simply update you with details for pick up times make them the choice for me.
I knew exactly what I wanted in needed in terms of accomodation. I was preprared to go a little outside of Vilamoura as we were hiring a car. This way it meant we could opt for something a little more comfotable without paying over the top. Staying close to the Marina in Vilamoura does mean high prices without the frills. Therefore we went a little outside and bagged ourselves a really nice apartment. We searched Triavgo amd marked our favourites. We compared prices for over a week and got the best deal. I have in the past booked on sites with a no fee cancellation policy so that if something better became available we weren’t tied and it works out really well. In the end we stayed in Pine Hills Vialmoura.
Pine Hills is a beautiful exclusive resort exhibiting elegant architectural design. Terracotta tiles, ornate chimney stacks, local stone and perfectly manicured lawns with winding paths are what meet you on arrival and I really was blown away on first impressions. The 24 hour concierge service went way beyond my expectations especially when our little Harper was sick with a vomitting bug for two days the staff assisted by bringing us water and anything else we needed.
On arrival to the apartment we were met with a beautifully spacious minimalistic design. The apartment I have to say ticked all of the boxes. We had everything we needed and the highlight for me was a washing machine which I was even more grateful for after Harpers sickness!
A real treat was the welcome basket of essentials when we arrived of crackers, milk, tea, juice, wine and other little snacks to get us by a few hours without having to rush out to a convenience store. This allowed us settle into the apartment and really was such a nice touch when arriving with small children.
The girls were also delighted when they realised some of their favourite channels were accessible on the TV such as Disney Junior!
The kitchen had everything we needed included dishwasher and coffee machine and the washing machine had its one small but convenient washroom with ironboard, clothes airer, first aid box.
Both bedrooms were ensuite, one room with a bath which I couldn’t do without for the girls. There was an extra supply of linen and towels. The furniture is all new and comfortable and we were also provided with a highchair and cot for Harper.
Other amenities at the resort which were of benefit to us were wifi, closed gate security, pool, childrens pool. The children really loved the pool and as there were many other young families staying there each morning they were so excited to go see their new friends down by the pool. Since we have been there the resort has since opened a small shop and poolside snack bar which we did feel was missing from the resort.
What we did
As the girls are still small and obsessed with the pool we spent most of our days there. In the evenings we drove into Vilamoura Marina to eat and it really is lovely to stroll the marina. Other evenings we would drive out to Vale do Lobo to eat which has a really nice square. In the evenings there is music there where the children can dance and do the limbo, a bouncy castle, face painting and a wonderful atmosphere if you want to choose a quiter option to the Marina.
Other days were spent on the beach and we also took a day trip to the well know aqua park Zoo Marine which the girls adored. It really is a full day you need to appoint to Zoo Marine as there is quite a lot to do there as the theme park itself is large. If you have older children there are many fun slides, dolphin shows, seal shows and there are many birds, animals and fish that the children loved viewing.
Vilamoura really is a lovely place to holiday with young families. With many clean Atlantic beaches, high quality affordable restaurants, a vast choice of golf courses there really is something for everyone. It is clean and friendly and I have no doubt we will make a return in the near future.