Sometimes, too much holiday research can be a bad thing: rather than helping you to make the right choice, it can leave you feeling bamboozled and paralyse you (“this seems good but maybe there’s somewhere better…?”). New mum Kerry McIlhatton found exactly this when trying to sort her first family holiday abroad. Intent on Italy, she ended up in a quiet corner of Croatia. In her own words, here’s how she fared.
We found it really hard trying to find a destination for our first trip abroad as a family as we didn’t know what to expect (clearly hadn’t been reading The Trunki Files – Ed). We wanted to go somewhere warm where we could all be out in the sun; but we didn’t want to worry about our 7-month old, Daniel, burning. We were initially set on Italy but couldn’t find anything reasonably priced (even in September) and the hotels we could afford looked shabby. So, after months of searching and reading hundreds of reviews on TripAdvisor, we sat down one night with a few glasses of wine, looked on the British Airways Holidays website and just booked the first one in our price range without reading any more reviews. Ooops…
Surprise! You’re in Croatia!
We ended up in a village in Croatia called Slano, about an hour’s drive from Dubrovnik on some lovely winding roads. Slano was like something out of a film set and had the most stunning views of the Adriatic sea. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought we were on a lake as the sea was so calm.
We stayed in the Admiral Grand Hotel which was (apparently) a 5-star hotel. It was very new and clean, and the accommodation was lovely. Irritatingly, though, we didn’t have a kettle in the room and we weren’t allowed to buy one for health and safety reasons. This was a bit of a pain when it came to sterilising bottles and weaning Daniel. That said, the staff were very kind and would wash Daniel’s bowls and warm his porridge as often as we needed.
The hotel had two lovely big pools, one indoor and one out, and its own private beach. The beach was small and pebbly and, whilst it was nice not to be covered in sand, it was painful to walk on! The sea also had a deep drop about 2 metres down. It worked fine for us as Daniel was always in our arms but it was not suitable for toddlers. The sea was very fresh so Daniel had to be in a wetsuit at all times and we wore shoes in the water due to the stones and sea urchins (you could buy the sea shoes in town for £5).
The Admiral Grand attracted lots of older people doing tours of Dubrovnik and Montenegro and there were some grumpy people not happy with a baby lying next to them on the beach. But for the most part, everyone was very friendly. Our day would start with a yummy breakfast (although the chef couldn’t cook eggs, of any sort), then an hour’s stroll around the bay to another hotel where I’d take part in their 11.30am aqua aerobics class (sadly our hotel didn’t have one). We would have a swim, dry off, then walk back towards our hotel via a glorious little family-run restaurant on the seafront called Konoba Nono to enjoy a grilled or salt baked seabass (not cheap though: £80 for us both for our main course and drinks). Afternoons were spent round the pool, then it was time to give Daniel his dinner and bath and put him to bed.
What do you do when your child is in bed at 8pm and you have exhausted the room service menu? You send Daddy out with the pram to sneak in some takeaway pizza, which we would eat on our balcony with a glass of beer or wine. On occasion, we ate at the hotel restaurant which was nice but very noisy so not possible for Daniel to sleep through whilst we ate. If you do plan on eating on your balcony, I would advise making sure you have a sea view and not a car park view like we did! (A view costs £70 extra per night but the hotel was full).
We did get out and about a few times. We hired a car and went to visit Dubrovnik and also did a little bit of wine tasting. We also took a boat trip to a pretty town called Korcula where Marco Polo went in his travels and some say he was born there… A word of warning though: we took the pram round Korcula but ended up getting a bit stuck in the steep narrow streets. We could put Daniel in the Baby Bjorn but had nowhere to leave the pram so there was only so far we could go! The same went for walking round the walled city of Dubrovnik. My advice: take a cheap buggy that you can afford to loose or don’t mind bumping around.
As I had no expectations of Croatia, I really enjoyed this holiday. I guess on the negative side, we could have done with a greater choice of restaurants (I couldn’t even tell you what a traditional Croatian dish is as on most menus there was pizza and pasta!). There wasn’t a whole lot to do and, whilst this proved relaxing, I’d have liked a few more paths to walk along with the buggy. Finally, having a view of the car park was unfortunate but not Croatia’s fault!
On the plus side, the fresh fish was lovely, the people were friendly and I felt safe. For what we wanted it was fine and I would recommend it for parents with babies. However, given the beach, it’s definitely not the best option for families with toddlers or older children.
Take enough nappies as we spent hours trying to buy them in the city and no pharmacy seemed to sell them. They didn’t understand even when we pointed to them on Daniel! Or I guess you could do what we didn’t and buy a phrase book…