Holidays with children in tow
Writing this carries me back to so many past holidays with my own family, starting with our first disastrous outing to Val d’Isère some 18 years ago, when Alex was four
and Laura, strictly speaking, was nought, but going on one. We rarely do family holidays these days, now that the kids are, in theory, independent adults of 22 and 19. But we had one last season, as it happens, and very nice it was too. The kids found the end-of season conditions (towards the end of the Easter vac) a bit testing, mainly because they are nowhere near as fit as their [cough]-year-old dad, but in all other respects we had a great time. We greatly enjoyed staying in Le Ski’s excellent chalet Rikiki in Courchevel 1650 – pleasantly free of children, of course. It was the first chalet holiday we had taken together for ages – in fact, the first for a decade, I think – and it introduced me to a whole new set of family-holiday-hazards. Not the least of these was that I remained oblivious, until the fateful last night reckoning, of the magnitude of the kids’ bar bill, which was roughly five times what I would have guessed. There’s something for you to look forward to in a few years’ time.
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there are two forms of childcare in ski resorts – the kindergarten or whatever run by the resort and possibly the ski school, and the facilities run by UK tour operators. But of course there are other possibilities.
One that has come to our attention this year via a very enthusiastic report filed on our website forum is Snowlittle, based in Bourg-St-Maurice and operating in all the villages of Les Arcs, Montchavin/Les Coches on the fringes of La Plagne, and La Rosière. It is a small team of British nannies who provide ‘a completely flexible childcare service for individual families’. It seems to work. ‘We would have no hesitation in using Lucie again,’ says our satisfied reporter. Go to: www.snowlittle.moonfruit.com
We’re generally keen on skiing in North America, and getting keener every year as major Alpine resorts continue to install more beds at the foot of mountains that can’t comfortably or safely accommodate even half of the people who stay there. But with young kids we made only one foray across the pond, and that was a relatively modest trip to New England when Laura and Alex were, umm … four and seven years old. So I was mightily impressed this year to get a bulletin from a regular reporter of many years’ standing, Stuart McWilliam, on a trip to Canada with his wife Jill, encumbered by not only their three-year-old son but also a brand new four-month-old daughter.
‘It was always going to be a tough assignment,’ says Stuart. Oh really? ‘This was by far our most expensive Canadian road trip,’ he continues – not surprising with childcare at Lake Louise costing C$190 a day for the pair of them – ‘but it was also a memorable one. Travelling with two young children is hard work but with plenty of planning, and knowing that you will always get quality kindercare in the resorts, it is not too daunting.’ Well, Stuart, you’re entitled to your point of view.
Lake Louise, of course, was only the first stop. The trip took in Revelstoke and Red Mountain, among other places. (Basically, Stuart doesn’t cross the Atlantic without doing Red, and his reports on the place always leave me hankering for a return visit.) Stuart, Jill: you are an example to us all.
Paying the price
As I may have mentioned, we haven’t done a family trip for a few years, and on most of my trips I am ultimately responsible for only my own expenses. It was interesting, therefore, to be eating out in April in Courchevel and be facing bills for four adult appetites. It changes your perspective a bit. I had particular reasons for going to Courchevel – no longer quite the most expensive resort in the Alps, but not far off it – but in other circumstances I would have chosen a resort with some regard to the results of our now famous Resort Price Index survey. Among the most striking results of comparing the RPI figures across resorts is that there are lots of excellent, large Austrian ski areas where you can save something like 30% of the cost of meals, compared with most major French areas (and I mean places like La Plagne, not Courchevel). That’s quite a saving, when you are buying meals four at a time.