I am Sun & Fun in Salou Mum

Well we ventured abroad for a week with the girls, and despite my fears and worries, it was fantastic. (So fantastic in fact that we are probably going to book the exact same hotel again for next summer!)

The girls in Atlantic Travel in Letterkenny were brilliant when I went in. I wanted short flights, short transfer, central location and good food. Within a few minutes, I was looking at Family Life Avenida Suites in Costa Dorada in Salou.

Atlantic were able to recommend it, having visited it and from customer reviews, so we booked it, trusting their recommendation.

And it was everything they said it would be.

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We flew from Belfast which is only 80 minutes from our home. Flights were 2.5 hours and transfer was only 20 minutes. We were the first stop for the bus and everything was so easy.

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Arriving at the hotel at 10am meant that rooms were not quite ready for most of the families in front of us. There was no problem with this as they were simply invited to leave cases and the hotel phoned them once their rooms were available. Now, here is where Atlantic Travel impressed me most. When I went to check in, at the end of the queue, our room was ready! Emma had requested “early check-in” on our booking. Ingrid at reception was so lovely and we were delighted to get in to our suite. We were at the poolside by 11am.

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The main foyer

This resort is beautiful. It’s clean, it’s well organised and it’s fully geared towards families. The suites are incredible. A double bed, kitchenette, wardrobe spaces and shelves. (Not one square inch is wasted…shelves everywhere!).

Then a huge bathroom with bath and shower and massive mirror area AND a separate twin bedroom for the girls. We had a double balcony and were on the first floor. Room service made beds and did a quick clean of bathroom each day and on 2 mornings, they changed full beds for us where a nappy incident had occurred. No problem at all.

Now, our room was directly above the bar and while it was noisy at night, the suites are quite well soundproofed. My girls sleep through anything, however if your kids are light sleepers, it might be an idea to request a quieter room, but you might lose the pool view. For us, it was perfect. And everything was quiet by midnight anyway.

Family Life Avenida has everything you could imagine for the kids. There are 2 kids’ clubs, a creche facility, just inside the pool door there was a huge baby changing room, a room with chairs for feeding and cots for napping babies with chairs next to each for parents. Mini-Me joined the @611 club which ran from 10-12 and from 2-4pm each day. She went for 3 of our 7 days and LOVED it.

The resort is exclusive to English and Irish families, and while I missed the lilt of different accents around me, it did mean that Mini-Me and Princess had no problem making friends. There is a huge pool area with a separate baby pool, a bar, a cafe terrace and loads of play areas for the kids. It was only a 5 minute walk from the centre of Salou, where the pier and the fountain are a must see.

The food was exceptional; The breakfast buffet was so impressive, fresh and varied each day. Fruit, breads, cereals, full fry-up, porridge… anything you wanted. (Even bubbles for Buck’s Fizz for Mammy!)

The dinner buffet was also impressive. Again, unlike some resorts I’ve stayed in where Tuesday night’s dinner was a mash up of Monday’s left overs, the spread here was brilliant. So fresh and very tasty. We had the option of booking the a la carte restaurant for one of our nights, but the food was so good in the buffet and the girls were so happy that we didn’t bother. There was a little mini hot plate area for children to get their own food, which the girls just loved.

We were half board so we bought lunch each day. 2 pizzas, 2 chips and some drinks and beers was usually around €32. Ice-creams and drinks were all we had to buy, but with a pint and a wine costing less than €5, we weren’t too badly hit. All inclusive however, would be cost effective if your kids are a bit older. Then, the soft drinks and icecreams are unlimited.

What really makes this hotel however, is the staff.

From the room maintenance, to the front desk, to the restaurant staff, they were second to none. A special mention must go to Ana, the lady who met us at the desk morning and night. She was an absolute lady and gave the girls a coloured straw every time we entered, Might sound silly, but it was one of the little touches which made our girls feel special.

But the TUI staff themselves, what can I say?

Those guys work, work, work, but at no point did we see any one of them without a smile. They remembered names. They high-fived. They stopped to have conversations and their energy was contagious. And their talent? Now, I am not easily starstruck. My ‘theatre’ background means I am critical enough of “talent”, but these guys were phenomenal.

Our first night was a Magic of the Musicals night. We could have been sitting in the West End for some of the scenes. Francis in particular was exceptional. This guy could transform from clown, to chimney sweep to Jean Valjean in the blink of an eye. His voice, his acting and his dancing were superb. Izzy and Taylor were equally as talented. They did the Musicals show, a cabaret show of all TUI staff, and a Disney night which was fantastic.

The schedule of entertainment was varied and fun. At 7.20pm, a few episodes of Paw Patrol are shown on the screen. (Cue every parent sighing as they sup on a glass and breath!) Then the team entertainment starts with ‘Download’, a virtual interactive gameshow where the kids and parents get competitive. Other various pieces were mixed up throughout the week, with outside acts coming in on alternate nights; acrobats, Michael Jackson tributes etc.

The hotel was full of young families, with most kids seemingly under 12. We travelled at the end of June. The hotel was comfortably busy for the first 4 days, but it did become very busy on our last 2 days. The pool and restaurants were much more crowded by the end of the week with the UK hoildays beginning, and there was suddenly a queue for loungers at 8am, which hadn’t been the case on our first days. This is not a complaint by any means, but an observation which has convinced us to travel earlier next year if we can.

We spent most of the holiday in the resort, visiting the main town and promenade a few times, venturing to the beach once, and going to PortAventura World on the Tuesday. This was great, but expensive and tiring for our little kids. They’ll enjoy it more as they get older, but it’s a great day out.

And then, it was suddenly time to start packing up to come home.

Our journey home was as easy as our journey there. Bus pick-up was at 8am for our 10.30am flight. Check in at Ruess airport was incredibly slow and we were worried we’d be late for the flight, but with very little to do and limited seating in the airport, it was fine. Again TUI staff were on hand to assist.

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We’ll be back

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable week of amazing family time. Our fear of sun holidays with the kids has been dispelled forever and I’m going to book our return trip to Avenida Suites as soon as I can.

5 stars from Mammy… a great spot for young families

The S-Mum is an Irish Mammy Blogger and writer. No compensation was received for this review. I write it simply because I was impressed by the Family Life Avenida Suites and the whole TUI experience. These are my own thoughts and I am obliged to nobody.

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I am Salou, Here we Come Mum

So anyone who has been reading my ramblings for a while now, knows that I have not yet been brave enough to venture into the great unknown and unpredictable world of holidaying abroad…with the girls.

In fact, I last year wrote a few posts on how and why staycation-ing was the only option for myself and my wee squad.

And yet, this year, I have decided to go for it. Why?

Maybe it’s an unqualified confidence in the fact that Princess is no longer technically a Baby and so we’ll be graaaaaaaaaaand.  Maybe it’s that I looked at my sister’s family holiday snaps and some hidden longing for family-fun in the sun took over.  Maybe I’m just getting brave in my old age.  Maybe I’m off my head.

But regardless of why I’ve finally decided to jump head first into the blue azure of sunkissed and suncreamed frolicking, I have.  And I have ACTUALLY convinced The Him that it’s a good idea.

Now.  I am one of those Book-it-all-by-myself-online gals usually.  However, because taking the two girls away is such new territory to us, we decided to do the safe and sensible thing and went through a travel agent.

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So off I popped to Atlantic Travel here in Letterkenny.  I arrived in with NOT flexible dates, a strict budget and 324 specific requirements and 127 questions.

“Hi.  I am your WORST nightmare Lovely Travel Agent…I want to go somewhere hot but not too busy, with a flight that isn’t too long, with as short as possible a transfer on the other end, to a 2 roomed apartment in a family suitable resort, with indoor options for soft play, a children’s pool area, a kids’ club that is safe and reputable, in an area which isn’t too loud but still with some atmosphere… And the quiet and safe area must have some nice restaurants, a supermarket nearby AND be near public transport. ON THIS EXACT DATE.  Out of Belfast if possible… Please.”

Yeah, so they could have laughed and scoffed at me and my demands, but they didn’t. Within 20 minutes, the amazing Donna had 5 options printed off for me for all types of holiday in a few different places, within my date, budget and ridiculous specifications. No bother at all.

She was able to offer her own opinion on 3 of the resorts and had customer testimonies on the others. She was very open and honest with her advice about the options.  There was no pressure or obligation to book.  Just polite service with educated opinion.

I took some brochures, the printouts and her email address and off I went to peruse my options.

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Salou it is so.

Being me, I had to research some more and in doing so, found another hotel on the TUI website that ticked all of my boxes. A few emails to Evelyn with more “Ria” questions and prompt answers were exchanged over the course of the next three days and when I finally made up my mind, one phonecall booked the holiday.

Within a few days, all of our details had been posted to us.

I really feel more comfortable going away for the first time with the kids as we have booked a package and so everything is thought of for us; Flights, Transfers, Insurance, Accommodation and Board. The fact that there will be a Holiday Rep there is also putting my mind at ease.

Now all I have to do is look forward to it. And pack for everyone. And plan.  And save. And worry and get there…

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They say that the first step is always the hardest, but for this family holiday newbie, the first step was probably the easiest thanks to the ladies in Atlantic Travel.

Check out Atlantic Travel on  Facebook for more updates before the big event:

Call (074) 912 6193 or visit Atlantic Travel’s offices at Oliver Plunkett Road, Letterkenny to enquire about your holiday.

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Mammy has collaborated with Atlantic Travel but as always, my review and opinions are my own and honest.