In each issue of Days Like This, three Scott Dunn experts will craft three very different tailor-made solutions to a real travel brief

The Challenge

“We’ve never taken a big family holiday over Christmas before, but this year we thought we’d make the most of the time off and book a trip somewhere special. It needs to be just as much fun for our youngest child, who is six years old, as for our two older children, who are 15 and 17. We’re not fixed on any particular destination, and can be flexible with how long we’re away, but we need to be somewhere with plenty of activities without anyone feeling left out! We’d also like to enjoy some real downtime and luxury for some of the trip. Where would you suggest?”

1. France
A luxury catered chalet in Val d’Isère

we’ll arrange for someone to come to the chalet, measure you all up, and drop off your skis and pre-warmed boots the next morning

When it comes to travelling at Christmas, what you really want is the typical alpine scene – pretty chalet with a roaring log fire, fir trees in the distance, and of course, plenty of snow. Val d’Isère is the perfect resort for a family ski holiday, but you do need to book well in advance.

People often shy away from skiing with young children, thinking that there’s just too much fuss for it to feel relaxing, but that needn’t be the case. With Scott Dunn, your chalet and resort staff do everything possible to make the trip completely stress-free.

You’d fly straight into Geneva, then take the coach to Val d’Isère. This is nothing like the skiing coaches of old – it’s really comfortable and spacious, rarely more than 75 per cent full, and you’d be greeted with a large picnic and a welcoming glass of wine or beer for the parents.

Chalet Le Lièvre Blanc or Chalet Jupiter are ideal for families. They have large open living rooms and they’re a five-minute walk from town, though your Scott Dunn driver would be on hand from 8am to 8pm.

Instead of faffing around at the hire shop, someone will come to the chalet, measure you all up, and drop off your skis and pre-warmed boots the next morning. With plenty of blue and green runs, Val d’Isère is perfect for skiers of all ages and abilities – we’d suggest that the parents set off in the morning with the teens while the youngest child goes off to ski school, and then your nanny will reunite you all for lunch at the top of the mountain.

Val d’Isère offers plenty in terms of après-ski activities too – tackle the climbing wall at the sports center or enjoy a little healthy competition with go-karting on ice. You can take a husky ride through town, which is a lovely, peaceful thing to do together, or try a toboggan race. Your chalet hosts can pre-book anything before you arrive, so there’s no hassle with queuing or buying tickets.

Then, of course, it’s Christmas. Spend an afternoon dressing the tree together, and on the big day itself, enjoy a lazy morning knowing that a turkey with all the trimmings is already in the oven. You can send all your presents ahead, so that they’re there to unwrap on the day, and we can arrange a visit to see Father Christmas. Sit down to Christmas lunch with a selection of well-matched French wines, and for a spectacular finale to the holiday, you can even have your own personal fireworks display. It’s hard to think of a more magical setting to enjoy the festive celebrations.

2. Thailand
Luxury resorts and elephant adventures in Thailand

You’d have your own private villa looking right out on to the beautiful sandy beaches… with a calm, clear sea that's perfect for young children

Thailand is incredibly well set up for families – they really do know how to cater for those with young children, and it’s a destination where parents can relax in real luxury, too. Around Christmas-time you’ll be guaranteed sun, but it’s not sweltering hot, and there are very few mosquitoes around, so it’s a great time to visit.

You’d fly straight into Bangkok and then take a connecting flight up to Chiang Mai to stay at the Dhara Dhevi. It’s an extraordinary palace of a hotel with huge, colonial-style family suites, set in 60 acres of rice paddies with cricket grounds, a fantastic kids club and a luxurious spa – they even have buffalo grazing on the front lawn. You could happily spend four days here because there’s just so much to do, from archery and cookery classes to exploring temples and markets in the city.

An absolute must is a trip to the Patara Elephant Farm up in the hills. There are lots of places offering elephant experiences in Thailand, and they’re not all of the highest standards when it comes to welfare, but the elephants at Patara are really happy and the farm is clean and well run. You’d spend the morning learning how to look after elephants, feed them and instruct them, and then enjoy lunch by the waterfront. In the afternoon you’d all swim with the elephants and play with them – the mahouts at the farm are so charismatic and fun, and you even get your own mahout shirts to take home.

From here you’d make the trip down to Krabi on the west coast of southern Thailand, and then take a short boat ride to the Pimalai Resort & Spa on the island of Koh Lanta. You’d have your own private villa looking right out on to the sea and the beautiful sandy beach. It’s a very safe, and relaxed environment with a calm, clear sea. Staff love taking children exploring on buggies, and the food options are ideal for families. There are eight restaurants and bars to choose from, including a Thai buffet on the beach that serves fresh seafood, with plenty of non-spicy options for younger palates, as well as a family-run Italian if you fancy pasta and pizza. In terms of activities, the teens will love the dance classes and watersports.

Christmas is particularly special. There’s an annual gala dinner down on the beach and on New Year’s Eve there’s usually a magical fireworks display on the seafront. You could even spend Christmas Day as a family on your own private boat – it doesn’t get much better than that.



3. South Africa
Wildlife and winelands in majestic South Africa


A trip to South Africa is the perfect family break, combining relaxation and adventure. It’s effectively a non-malarial country, so you don’t need to worry about medication before you go.

You’d start off in Johannesburg and spend a few hours at Fireblade Aviation when you first arrive. This is a private centre where you can grab a bite to eat, freshen up and even take a trip to the spa, before taking a 45-minute flight to Tswalu Kalahari. Belonging to the Oppenheimer family, this is the largest privately owned luxury game reserve in the country, and has won multiple awards for its commitment to preserving the environment.

There’s so much to do here for families with children of all ages, from traditional game drives where you can see the magnificent Kalahari black-maned lions, to walking safaris and sleep-outs under the stars. A highlight is getting up early to walk with the meerkats – local guides have spent years around the burrows, so the meerkats are completely comfortable around humans, and once it gets warmer they start foraging for food. The reserve is brilliantly set up for younger children in terms of facilities, with lots of family rooms and nannies on site. And when it comes to food, the staff are exceptionally accommodating – you could have a seven-course tasting menu or simply cheese on toast, and all in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

After four nights there you’d then fly straight to Cape Town and drive on to Franschhoek in the winelands, where your own villa up at La Clé de Montagnes would give you plenty of space and privacy as a family, and although it’s just a three-minute walk to the local high street, you feel completely away from it all. The rooms are stunning, and you’d have your own butler to do everything from preparing your breakfast in the morning to sundowners at night.

As far as celebrating Christmas goes, it’s such a foodie hotspot here that they take any opportunity for a celebratory meal. People tend to have a big party on Christmas eve, followed by a relaxed Christmas day, with a lazy lunch somewhere or a picnic on the beach. If you still fancy a proper feast then try the Butler’s Braai, a traditional South African barbecue. If you wanted to sing carols, there are plenty of places to go, and although there aren’t many fir trees around, you could decorate a palm tree instead. There’s a really great spirit here over the festive period.


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The Challenge

Issue 1 · Winter 2014/15

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