There’s something magical about attending a wedding and, this week, Emma from Emma’s Thoughts reminisces about her first trip abroad with her young son earlier this year – to celebrate her sister’s nuptials in the stunning Greek island of Zante. Emma’s first initial worries about taking a toddler abroad soon vanished when she realised just how much her boy enjoyed the different scenery.
Over to you, Emma…
What do you look for in a holiday?
Prior to having my son, I had always chosen a holiday abroad. I loved laying on sun soaked beaches, escaping into a book and enjoying trips to see more of that country.
After I had my son we chose to holiday in the UK because we didn’t fancy taking a baby abroad. At first I was a little disappointed that I was missing out on getting my usual holiday but I was really surprised how much I enjoyed staying in a caravan and exploring Cornwall.
We had such a fantastic time that first year that we decided to return to the same holiday home the following year. I always holidayed in the UK as a child and it has so many hidden treasures but I think we sometimes forget this simply because it is so easy to hop on a plane to another country. I can now see that future holidays are going to be a mixture of staying in the UK and venturing abroad with the destinations varying as my son grows up.
What Snapshot would you like to share?
This year we did end up taking him abroad for the first and we visited the Greek island of Zante because my sister chose this island as the venue for her wedding. We had already visited Zante previously back in 2011, and it is where my other half proposed to me – so it already held some very special memories for us.
An entire wedding party! My husband, son, sister, now brother-in-law, my father, half-sister plus many old and new friends. Once everybody arrived there were 28 of us in total!
Where did you stay?
We stayed in an absolutely stunning villa in Tragaki which is just outside Tsilivi. As it was our first family holiday abroad, we decided that we needed accommodation that gave us the option to make our own meals, where we had space to be able to chill and that also had a separate room for our son. We thought that with a hotel we may have felt constrained by meal times and worried that if he became over-tired he may have been a little noisy for other guests!
Tell us about the villa…
The set of villas are called Lofos Soilis and are a friendly, family run accommodation which we found online. It is set in the countryside away from the hustle and bustle of the towns which is perfect if you have children who cannot sleep through noise. We hired a car due to the location and to enable us to be able to visit more of the island. It also saved on having to wait for taxi’s to arrive and was much safer as they provided us with a car seat in the hire car.
Every villa has a kitchen, separate bedrooms, a large bathroom and a terrace area. The grounds have a swimming pool at which they provide inflatables and sun loungers. There is a bar and restaurant which are open in the evenings and they offer a good range of meals on their menu. On certain Saturday’s in the month they also put on a traditional Greek BBQ night. The views from here are stunning overlooking olive trees, mountains and the sea. In the distance you can easily see the next island of Kefalonia.
Were there plenty of activities for the kids?
The best activity for my son was visiting the beach at every opportunity. We worried so much about how he would cope with the heat, whether he would become exhausted from doing so much, whether he would get home sick but it turns out we wasted our time on our worry because he loved it! Sand and water are the perfect mix to keep a two-year-old very, very happy.
The beaches also provide plenty of pedalos, boats and other activities to keep any age occupied. There are so many beautiful beaches to be visited and many of them have turtle nests; if you holiday at the right time of year you may even be lucky enough to see some hatch. We did visit a water park which was five minutes away but we felt that it was more suited to children slightly older than him due to the water spraying out and the size of the slides.
Your most memorable moment/s of the trip?
The most memorable day was of course my sister’s wedding day. She chose the idyllic Cameo Island as her venue and I was completely blown away by it. The day was like being on a movie set and I cried more than I did at my own wedding! After a stunning ceremony down on the beach, which was closed off to the general public, we had photos taken in the sea, on the pier and back across the bridge to the mainland. A coach took us all to a nearby restaurant for the meal. This looked out to the sea and over to Cameo Island which was a lovely touch. It will be a day I will always treasure.
Any sights, activities you want to shout about?
The best day out was when we hired a boat and took it around Turtle Island, over to Cameo to take another look at the wedding venue and down the coast. The most amazing moment for me was when we anchored the boat to swim over to a cave. Taking a toddler on a boat may seem a bit of a mad idea but my little lad really surprised me that day. He was so eager to jump off the boat and swim with me that I could not believe how fearless he was. The second he swam inside the cave he was absolutely blown away by it all.
When you begin to see the world through a child’s eyes you really do see it all in a very different light. This was the first time he had jumped off a boat, the first time he had been in such deep water and the first time he had been inside a cave. He was mesmerised by it all and I couldn’t get him to come out! He still talks about this day even now.
Was it good value for money?
We went in August which is of course one of the most expensive times of year but there was no question about going when it was for such an important event. I am sure it is most probably cheaper during other months but money is no object when you make such great memories.
In terms of dining out we found that the food was all well priced. The food in the supermarkets was very cheap so we did save by being able to prepare some of our own meals in our villa.
Your top tip/s for the area?
If you want to see more of the island, hire a car. We didn’t do very much the first time we visited Zante, but this time we saw about four different beaches and great scenery. Having your own car also means that you can stop to take photos wherever you like. Just be very aware that the highway rules we have here don’t always apply over there!
Which photo is your favourite and why?
My favourite photo is this one of me, my husband and my son on the beach where we got engaged. We couldn’t quite remember the location of the beach and just happened to stumble upon it one day when looking for a friend’s hotel. When we realised we had found it we were so overwhelmed to be able to show our son where daddy asked mummy to marry him.
Would you recommend to a friend?
I would definitely recommend the island to a friend and, even though I don’t usually like to go to the same place abroad, I would go back to Zante simply because we have made so many more memories there.
What are the five holiday essentials you couldn’t live without?
• A camera to capture all those magical moments
• The toddler survival kit I made for the flight. You can read all about it in my Top Tips for Flying with Your Child
• Lovely dresses for the evening meals, going on holiday is always a great excuse to get glammed up!
• The bucket and spade set to keep the toddler very happy on the beach.
• Sun cream, sunglasses, mosquito spray and Calpol.
What is your most favourite place in the whole world and why?
That’s a tough question because I am a sentimental soul and love places that remind me of something or someone. In the UK, I would have to say Hayling Island. We holidayed here when I was a child and it was one of my mum’s favourite places – she absolutely loved the sea. I always feel close to her here.
Abroad – I would have to say the Greek island of Rhodes because we got married on a beach there in 2012 and it was the best holiday I have ever had.