When you have young children is it really possible to have a relaxing holiday and be able to enjoy some much needed ‘me’ time? Many parents would categorically state that it is impossible. In part, I would agree with them to some degree, but it very much depends on what you are doing and where you are staying. It also helps if you have the option of childcare and, as every mum and dad knows, just a few hours to yourself is sacred. Simpson Travel’s Periyali Villas on the Greek island of Zakynthos is one resort that really does offer visitors the chance to unwind, as we discovered after we spent a week there.
As someone who usually shies away from using a travel company to organise my trips, it came as a pleasant surprise that Simpson Travel and their team were there to support from the beginning right through to the end of the holiday. I was impressed with their pre-departure service which included all our holiday information stored in one place online, sending us out luggage tags, the children’s creche backpacks and water bottles, to a personal email from the Periyali Villa’s resort manager Phillipa the day before we travelled.
On arrival at the airport after a pretty uneventful flight, it made such a change to be greeted by friendly faces from the Simpson team and to be escorted straight outside to our hire car with all the car seats fitted and secured, the engine running and our luggage put into the boot for us. From getting our bags to being on the road took no more than 10 minutes, which was just outstanding, and contributed to helping us begin to relax almost immediately. After all, there is nothing more stressful than hangry and tired kids, not finding your rental car or being able to fit the booster seats, then having to navigate your way to your accommodation in the dark – and believe me, I know…
After arriving at Periyali Villas, it was also fantastic to find a well-stocked fridge with cold milk, water and more importantly wine and beer. As well as breakfast staples such as eggs, yoghurts, cheese and bread. Just knowing we didn’t have to make an immediate journey to the shops, meant we could dive straight into the pool!
Throughout our time at Periyali Villas, resort manager Phillipa was always on hand to help with any queries, villa requests and recommendations. What shone, however, was her personable and genuine love of her job. It was lovely chatting to her as she’s lived on Zakynthos for 16 years and really knows the area. Other guests also raved about her willingness to go above and beyond – she even went to out of her way to buy some spaghetti hoops for a family, because their children wanted some.
So it’s easy for me to understand now why Simpson Travel is renowned for their award-winning personal service and that desire to go the extra mile because we’ve encountered it for ourselves.
Set in the picturesque peninsula of Vasilikos, Periyali Villas really does have a breathtaking vantage point of the azure blue Ionian sea. Driving down a small dirt track off the main road, you’re greeted with sweeping views over the sparkling ocean which never ceased to wow. Once you’re past the electric gates, the resort is set in charming grounds, full of wonderfully scented, brightly flowering shrubs, plants and trees, as well as rustic colourfully painted properties – there are 11 detached villas on site all with their own private pools.
Meanwhile, the communal pool and snack bar at the epicentre of the resort means there is a ‘hotel’ element to Periyali Villas, and this was a great option when the children wanted to play with their friends, we wanted some other adult conversation, to grab an ice cream or some lunch.
Our villa, Cleo – which was cleaned daily – had one main bedroom, while the kids’ room was above the lounge/dining area. And for its compact size, we felt it was bright and well-stocked with plenty of child-friendly accessories from changing mats to toys. Luckily, the baby was with us in the main bedroom, so this meant Monkey was able to sleep in the mezzanine as he stayed up as late as us – we weren’t affected by any noise restrictions had we’d put the children to bed up there any earlier.
What we loved the most though was the outside space and our own private pool. It was just such a novelty for Monkey, in particular, because he wanted to be in it constantly. And this wasn’t a problem! We also had a few barbecues – and enjoyed playing card games, and sipping cool drinks in the shade of our porch.
From our villa, it was just a short walk to the communal pool and the kids’ club and while other villas were close by, it never felt overcrowded or claustrophobic. In fact, it felt very much like we were part of the Periyali Villas’ community, all sharing a small peaceful piece of this idyllic island.
Periyali Villas is well situated to several family-friendly tavernas and restaurants – many within walking distance – small supermarkets and shops. One of our favourite go-to’s for breakfast was a bakery in the village called Tranakas which served strong, fragrant coffee plus pain au chocolate and spanakopitas to die for.
There are also several beaches nearby – the closest being Gerakas Beach, an expansive stretch of soft sand and gentle lapping waters, as well as home to hundreds of turtle nests. If you’re lucky enough to visit between the months of May to October, like we were, you’ll see hatchings emerging and taking their first steps into the sea. It was magical.
By car, you are only 45 minutes from the airport, around 30 minutes from Zakynthos Town and other attractions around the island. But with so much to explore nearby, you really don’t have to travel far in order to find an adventure.
Zakynthos island is spectacular in parts. Away from the main towns, you can easily find rural villages, rugged landscapes and the most turquoise waters you’ll ever set your eyes on. And that’s exactly what you’re treated to at Periyali Villas. The bay in which the resort sits is breathtaking – the type of view that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck; makes you feel lucky to be alive and to experience it.
My favourite spot was through a little wooden gate near to the main pool which leads you down to a secluded cove. The water is so clear and so shallow, that it’s perfect for paddling – as long as the kids have beach shoes. There was often no one there, so I would go snorkelling and just sit and drink in the surroundings and watch the ridiculously palatial yachts and boats that would moor in the sea.
Turtles Children’s Club and Hatchlings Creche
Before we even travelled, we were advised by the Simpson team that it would be better to book the sessions we wanted, and then see if we needed all of them on arrival. And this was good advice. While I knew that there we wouldn’t put the children into the club all day every day, as we do like to explore, it was reassuring to know we could drop in whenever we needed to do and this flexibility proved helpful.
Run by childcare manager Karen, all the highly-qualified English nannies were fantastic with the children. Although I didn’t have to worry so much about how Monkey fares in these situations, I was concerned that the baby, who is rather attached to me, would not take too kindly to be left with them. But he did really well and I was told he settled quickly after my departure.
The club itself has two main rooms, full of books and toys, as well as a sleeping room for children’s nap times. What struck me straight away was how clean everything was and ordered, much like a private nursery back in the UK. There is also outside space as well as a mini-golf course – although it was too hot during our stay for the kids to spend any length of time outside. From making lemonade to arts and crafts, as well as a pizza party – Monkey certainly took part in lots of activities with his new pals. Peanut also enjoyed playing with the raft of new toys at his disposable.
Where we appreciated it the childcare the most was the one evening where both children were being looked after until 10.30pm. It meant my husband and I could have an evening meal by ourselves and not have to worry about them. Although I’ll admit, we ended talking about the boys for half the time! Monkey had a blast, though, watching lots of movies and eating popcorn, while the baby was none the wiser, having been asleep in his pram when we dropped him off.
Our Relaxing Holiday
Normally when you have a week’s holiday you spend around two days adjusting to your new routine. It often takes that long to trick your mind and body to relax, and then it takes a few more days for you to actually enjoy yourself. Then, before you know it, it’s time to come home. Sound all too familiar?
For once, because the Simpson team took so much of that travel stress away from me, I actually felt my mood lighten as soon as we arrived at Periyali Villas. And the rest of the holiday was much the same. I felt we really had a good mix of exploring Zakynthos as well as having fun by the pool. And with the kids club on hand, too, to muck in with childcare, I even managed to get that elusive ‘me’ time and it’s amazing how restorative a few hours a day can do for you.
Periyali Villas is a great choice if you’re looking to fall in love with a Greek island that is so utterly charming, that even someone like me – who always looks to travel to new destinations – would happily return to. It’s like having your own secret club nestled in the southeastern part of Zakynthos and with it, comes excellent childcare, fantastic restaurants and beaches nearby which, if you’ll agree, combines the key elements of relaxing family holiday…
* I was chosen as a Simpson Travel blog ambassador and was given £5,000 towards the cost of this holiday to Periyali Villas. As always, all opinions are my own.