Familyfriendly spas? It’s child’s play
The spa world is divided over what to do about children. Those who head off regularly to detox, lose weight or regain their marbles would rather share a sauna with Saddam Hussein than spend time surrounded by bouncing four-year-olds or bored 10-year-olds. But canny and successful hotel owners know that fraught parents need a break with a good dollop of pampering, which is one reason why Calcot Manor (calcot.co) – close to Prince Charles’s HQ at Tetbury, Gloucestershire – consistently tops the list of best hotel spas in Britain.
Very early on, its management realised that locals popping in for a massage or a facial during school hours were as important a market as short-break weekenders. School holidays posed a problem, though, which is why the pool and its surrounds were opened to children at certain hours of the afternoon, if they were accompanied by an adult.
This became a blueprint for many hotel spas, but resort spas had to try harder. After all, they were housing whole families for up to 14 nights. But it isn’t rocket science to realise that a happy child means a happy parent. Lots of resorts went into overdrive on kids’ clubs and activities, such as the award-winning Forte Village (fortevillageresort.com) in Sardinia. Its staff and facilities keep children so enthralled and occupied that the resort has become a summer must, with groups of friends reuniting there summer after summer.
Football and face-painting were first to appear on the menu, followed by nail-painting, hair-braiding and shoulder massages for both teenagers and smaller children – always in the presence of an adult.
The French, of course, were decades ahead. At Évian- les-Bains (evian.com) in the Haute-Savoie region, mothers were encouraged to take to the thermal waters with their babies. Programmes were introduced teaching new mums how to massage their offspring in the water.
Gradually, spa resorts recognised the importance of the family market and began to spend time, imagination and money on this new sector. One of the most imaginative results emerged just a couple of years ago at Stanglwirt (stanglwirt.com) in Austria. It features a waterworld with pools of different depths for different ages, plus a magnificent water slide that is 40ft high and 10 times as long. Another attraction is a pool cinema showing children’s classic movies.
Less sportif are the spa treatments offered at the Princess Yaiza resort (princesayaiza.com) in Lanzarote, where children can share a 40-minute chocolate head and body massage with a parent, using chocolate-infused lotions and oils that smell just like the real thing.
At the Fontaverde spa (fonteverdespa.com) in Italy, visiting children are given towelling robes and slippers and treated to yogurt face masks and candy-scented massage oil treatments. Taking it one step further, older children with nutritional queries or problems such as teenage acne have access to a specially trained dietitian.
My Spa at Sani Beach (sani-resort.
Youth is no bar to spa benefits