Top tips for a great villa holiday
How to Feed Fussy Eaters
If you have fussy eaters in your family then enjoying mealtimes on holiday can be a challenge.
While staying in a villa you benefit from more catering freedom and flexibility than on most other holidays, but to make the experience even easier we’ve asked the author of My Fussy Eater blog, Ciara, to tell us her top tips for feeding children while on holiday.
From encouraging little ones to try new things to keeping a good routine, our guide should make dining together as a family a pleasant holiday experience rather than a chore.
Step by Step Guide to Feeding Fussy Eaters on Holiday…
Tip 1 – Preparation
Most children are creatures of habit and they enjoy eating the same kind of foods at the same sort of times every day. Have some fun in the lead up to your holiday by preparing some local dishes at home. You may then be surprised when it comes to your holiday that the children are actually excited to try the local cuisine.
Tip 2 – Bring favourites
Remember to pack any must have favourites. If your child eats peanut butter on toast every single day for breakfast, then on holiday is not the time to wean them off it. Take a couple of their most favourite, non-perishable, food items to keep something familiar and comforting about eating whilst on holiday. You may then find that for the rest of the day they are more open to trying new things.
Tip 3 – Keep routine
As adults our mealtimes and eating routines often change on holiday. Whilst it’s lovely to adopt a more European way of eating, including eating late in the evening, remember that children will get tired, hungry and grumpy at the same times every day. So try to stick (roughly) to their usual eating schedule, and if necessary feed them their evening meal a little earlier than you have yours.
Tip 4 – Healthy snacks
Self-catering usually offers the most flexibility when it comes to feeding kids abroad. As well as meals, it makes it super simple to whip up snacks for your hungry brood. Giant slices of watermelon in Lanzarote make a really great hydrating snack for kids, and delicious freshly picked olives in Cyprus make a great nibble just before dinner.
Tip 5 – Pack snacks
If you are heading out for the day, to the beach or on an activity, don’t forget to pack lots of snacks for the family. Healthy snacks such as popcorn, dried fruit, nuts, cheese, and of course fresh fruit and vegetables are all readily available in supermarkets abroad and will be a much healthier and cheaper choice than anything sold in a beachside café or at a water park.
Tip 6 – Eating out
If you do eat out at a restaurant then don’t feel limited by the children’s menu. Many starters from the regular menu will be a perfect size for children, or just ask the restaurant to create half a portion of a regular adult meal.
Above all, relax, have fun and don’t force the food issue too much. Happy parents equal happy kids, so lead by example and embrace the local cuisine yourself, and your family’s fussy eaters may surprise you.
How to Pack a suitcase
Packing for your villa holiday can be stress free, whether you are taking charge of packing for travel with adults, toddlers, or even a family of four.
Following our top tips will ensure you get organised, make the most of the suitcase space, stay within the weight limit for your baggage, and still bring everything you need for your holiday.
Step by Step Guide to Packing a Suitcase…
For all of you that suffer from the quandary of where to start and what to pack for your holiday we’ve teamed up with avid traveller Monica founder of The Travel Hack to help. Here are her fantastic quick wins and great advice for making packing a suitcase just that bit easier.
Always start with a packing list
A packing list is going to help you remember everything. It also means you can pack faster, and you’ll spot anything you need to buy before you go to avoid panic buying things before you leave, or paying extra for things at the airport.
Write your packing list on your phone so you’ve got a template for future trips that you can use every time you go away!
Realistically we don’t need any of those ‘just in case’ items that we always take along. That extra outfit, the extra bikini or pair of shoes – they never get worn, so just leave them at home and stick to the things that you really need.
If you are staying in one of our villas you’ll probably have a washing machine so you’ll be able to wash any clothes if you do run out.
Arrange your clothes into outfits
Laying out all of your clothes and arranging them into outfits will help you see what clothes go together, and spot if there are any items in your case that don’t match anything. Maybe you’ve got a top that doesn’t go with any bottoms, or a pair of shoes that just don’t match any jeans – leave this stand out item at home and avoid wasting space in your suitcase.
Use travel sized toiletries
Take travel sized toiletries rather than packing heavy bottles filled with products that you are not going to use. Most of us never use as much shampoo or conditioner as we think we will. A travel sized bottle should be more than enough shampoo for a two week holiday, even for long hair. Decant your favourite products into smaller pots.
Don’t pack clothes that need ironing
You probably don’t want to spend your whole holiday ironing. There are some trips where packing clothes that do need ironing is completely unavoidable, especially for men who might like to take smart shirts. If this is the case then roll the shirt really gently instead of folding, and as soon as you arrive in your destination hang it up and place it in the bathroom where the steamy shower will help loosen the creases and make it easier to iron.
Put heavy items at the bottom of your case
Packing heavy items at the bottom of the case will balance it out and prevent it toppling over. This is particularly important if you have a light-weight suitcase that might be a little more unsteady on its feet.
Use packing cubes
Stuff sacks, packing pods, or packing cubes as they are sometimes called, will keep your suitcase nice and organised. If you are sharing a case with someone else it means you can have a packing cube each to keep your things separate. You could have one for your tops and one for your bottoms, one for underwear, and one for accessories – keeping your suitcase nice and organised.
Roll don’t fold
Rolling your clothes will help keep creases out of clothes and also saves space.
Only pack 2-3 pairs of shoes
Shoes are bulky and take up a lot of space, and more often than not you don’t wear half of the pairs of shoes you have taken on holiday. Take 2 or 3 pairs including the comfortable flat shoes that can also be worn on the aeroplane, one pair of evening shoes that are dressier, and one pair of flip-flops for everyday wear that hardly take up any space in the suitcase.
Use the gaps for electronics and gadgets
Squeeze everything electronical in the gaps between your packing cubes so it is nicely contained. The packing cubes will keep everything protected so you don’t have to worry about your items getting broken.
Weigh your suitcase
Weigh your suitcase before you leave the house. Avoid that embarrassing moment when you get to the check in desk and they tell you your bag is overweight so you either have to pay extra to check the bag in, or you have to take the bag aside to remove heavy items – especially with a queue of people watching you as you do it!
How to Make the Most of Spanish Culture on Your Holiday
When travelling to any new country it’s a great idea to get to know the local customs and goings on, so that when you arrive you can dive straight into local culture. We have teamed up with Molly, author of Piccavey – all about food, culture and travel in Spain, to bring you some great insights into Spanish way of life. Whether you want to dine like a Spaniard, watch local sports or you happen to see a street festival taking place, our guide will help you to make the most of Spanish culture on your holiday.
How to Make the Most of Spanish Culture on Your Holiday
Mixing with the locals
To help you while you’re in Spain, try to remember a few basic phrases:
- Por favor Please
- Gracias Thank you
- Perdona Excuse me
Other handy phrases include:
- La cuenta, por favor The bill, please
- ¿Cuánto cuesta? How much is it?
- ¿Habla inglés? Do you speak English?
- Tiene una carta en inglés Do you have an English menu available?
Mealtimes are later than other European countries, especially in summertime when the days are hotter. Lunchtime is generally around 2pm to 4.30pm, and dinner takes place from 9pm until 11.30pm. You’ll find that restaurants will be open later, so you can spend a little longer at the beach enjoying the sunset and still arrive in time for dinner.
After-dinner drinks usually begin after midnight, and at the weekend young Spanish people will meet around midnight to go out until the early hours. If you plan on going out to party while on holiday in Spain, it’s worth noting that most nightclubs won’t even open until midnight.
Spain has countless local traditions and customs. Every single village, town and city across the country have their own annual festivals. Many fiestas are connected to religious dates in the Spanish calendar, such as the Easter processions seen in Andalusia.
Every year Easter events attract huge crowds to the main cities, so if you’re travelling to Spain in the spring, try to catch one of these colourful proceedings.
The festival of San Fermín in Pamplona was born from the need to move bulls from one type of land to another. Today the ‘Running of the Bulls’ is one of Spain’s most famous taking place annually in July.
Others have their origins in the agricultural calendar and are linked to the harvest time of different crops.
Make sure you look up which vibrant and exciting celebrations are to taking place during your stay and go along to immerse yourself in the experience.
Sport in Spain
Football is an important sport in Spain, with world famous clubs Real Madrid and F.C Barcelona dominating European titles and leagues. Locals are big fans, so going to the stadium, watching the match with a few beers and then filling up on tapas at the local bar is deep rooted in routine.
Other popular spectator sports which are a must see for fans include Basketball and Motor GP. As good weather is almost always guaranteed, outdoor activities such as cycling, hiking and paddle tennis are popular too.
Cabo de Gata in Almeria is a perfect location for windsurfing and kayaking. A natural park with unspoilt scenery, Cabo de Gata is carefully managed to protect wildlife and the coastline.
Sailing is also widely popular across Spanish resorts, and you can find some of the larger marinas in Palma de Mallorca, Costa Blanca and Ibiza, although most costal locations have a marina of some kind. The small port of Marina del Este in La Herradura is a charming place to dine, while looking over the boats as the sun sets.
The Spanish Way of Life
Spanish locals often spend their weekends at the beach or in the countryside, where it’s common to have relatives or even a second home. Finishing work on Friday, locals leave town for the peace of the countryside or for a couple of beach days with family.
Although it is considered to be a Spanish tradition the siesta is not a regular activity for everyone. However, in the heat of summer, when days are longer with more hours of sunshine a siesta is a good way to pass the midday heat. Some simply choose to stay indoors at siesta time without sleeping, just to have some rest from the heat, reading or watching TV until the temperature wanes a little between around 3 – 4pm.
Usually in the summertime, Spanish families can spend the whole day at the beach. Arriving mid-morning, families often choose an area to rest for the whole day, and come well-equipped with food, chairs and parasols.
Some of the best beaches in Spain can be found in Andalusia, particularly in Cadiz and Almeria. Two favourites are Bolonia Beach, in Tarifa, and la Barrosa, in Chiclana de la Frontera. These beautiful wide beaches boast fine sand and gorgeous natural landscapes.
How to Protect Your Hair and Skin on Holiday
Holiday season is right around the corner! Along with switching boots for flip flops and jumpers for swimsuits – it’s also time to start thinking about changing your hair and skincare routines to keep them looking their best – especially before and during exposure to hot sun, chlorine and salt water. Making changes to your skin and hair routine doesn’t have to start when you land in your holiday destination, it’s never too early to prepare! Which makes this the perfect time to share our holiday hair and holiday skin tips in partnership with Jen, author of A Beauty Junkie in London, to make sure you stay protected and look fabulous all Summer long.
Holiday Skin Tips…
Prepare your skin before your holiday
- Take a supplement to help prepare your skin for sun exposure. It doesn’t replace sun protection, but it helps skin to develop its own natural protection and coping mechanism. Every little bit of extra helps keep skin at its best whilst you enjoy the Summer.
- Before you go, give your body a thorough pre-holiday scrub. Follow with daily application of a rich hydrating moisturiser or body oil for a couple of weeks ahead of your holiday. Apply at night so it can hydrate whilst you sleep. Letting your skin get into the best possible condition ahead of the sea/sun/pool drying it out.
Protecting your skin in the sun
- When on holiday always apply sun cream before you go outside. If you do it when you’re already at the pool or beach you’re already risking sun exposure and are less likely to be concentrating on applying it properly, so areas are likely to be missed like around straps, right up to hairline or close to your swimsuit/shorts.
- Make sure the sun cream products and other lotions you use have sun protection that is described as ‘broad spectrum’, so it protects from both UVA and UVB. It’s UVB that burns but UVA that causes the long term ‘deeper’ damage that might not be visible, but it’s just as dangerous!
- Re-hydrate at night with an intensive after-sun treatment for both your face and body. Go for a ‘triple threat’ by using a moisturising bath or shower product plus a body after-sun and one for the face. Make sure you also top up from the inside by drinking lots of water (in between the mojitos…).
Holiday Hair Tips…
Hair preparation before you arrive
- Get started with the hair TLC pre-holiday with regular hydrating masks and treatments to make sure it’s in the best condition possible ahead of the damage happening. Use a protein based treatment to ensure the structure of your hair is as solid as possible.
Looking after your hair on holiday
- When on your holiday, use a product to protect both your hair and scalp. One of the areas most prone to damage and burning is the scalp, so double up your hair protection with a UV spray and even go as far as applying your SPF directly to the parting and scalp.
- Wet your hair before you go into the sea or pool to try and avoid any green-hair chlorine moments! Hair is very porous, especially if coloured, so if you wet it with clean water before you swim it is less likely to absorb the sea or pool water.
- When away, it’s worth swapping your regular conditioner for a deep conditioner to give it some extra love after days of sea water and sunshine, keeping hair hydrated and silky.
- Pair the conditioner with a special shampoo designed to remove chlorine and salt water. It’s worth following with a leave in oil care product to help keep it supple and smooth – this can help avoid any humidity frizz too. If you can, let hair dry naturally to give it a breather from the heated tools!
Not Just Paella – Top Spanish Dishes You Need to Try
The fun opportunity to sample lots of different dishes, from fresh seafood to delicious cured meat, makes tapas incredibly popular with locals and Spanish holidaymakers alike. Tapas is the traditional (and best) way to dine, as Spain’s culinary delights are so varied and delicious. So don’t just order the Paella – we’ve partnered with blogger and Spanish enthusiast Molly, author of Piccavey, to bring you ten unmissable Spanish foods to sample from the menu on your villa holiday. What’s more, each dish can also be found in non-tapas restaurants and bars, and you’ll find them for sale in local food markets.
Not Just Paella – Top Spanish Dishes You Need To Try
1. Tortilla Espanola
Spanish omelette is made using potato, eggs and olive oil. Many variations add plenty of onion too. Its deliciousness lies in its simplicity, with no chorizo, red peppers or other additions. Other kinds of omelettes include tortilla francesa and tortilla de espinacas, but the traditional Spanish omelette can’t be beat. Tortilla Espanola can be enjoyed hot or cold, and it’s said that the dish originated in Bilbao, although you can find it all across the bars and restaurants of Spain.
2. Patatas Bravas
These Spanish potato wedges are served with a fiery red tomato sauce. Similar to thick-cut chips, they are a great accompaniment to other dishes and perfect for sharing as part of your tapas meal. Each bar has its own recipe, with some spicier than others, so try as many different types as you can and see which you prefer.
3. Gazpacho, Salmorejo and Ajoblanco
These are three typical cold soups, which are served in the summer months. Although cold soup many not sound enticing at first, these dishes are delicious when temperatures reach 30°C (or even higher). The soups are a fresh alternative to salad and will hydrate you on a Spanish summer day. Gazpacho is usually made from tomato and cucumber, but has several regional variations. Ajoblanco is rather different, consisting of a creamy mixture of garlic and locally-sourced almonds, typically from the regions of Granada and Malaga.
4. Churros (with chocolate)
Delicious thick drinking chocolate and crispy fried dough (churro) is a typical sweet breakfast in Spain. It’s also great for an afternoon snack on cooler or rainy days. Churros are a treat when meeting up with friends and the perfect comfort food. Locals tend to save this sweet breakfast for weekends, but when visiting Spain, many people enjoy churros with chocolate and a cup of coffee.
5. Jamon iberico
The best ham available in Spain, jamón ibérico is produced with 100% Iberian-bred pigs, fed exclusively on acorns. Usually from the Extremadura and Andalusia regions, this ham is a must for any foodie visiting Spain. You can also buy flat vacuum-packed slices to take home with you after your holiday, as a gift for friends and family.
Often served as part of a montadito (a type of tapas-sized sandwich), this Navarra sausage is delicious with white bread. Look out for this when you are any local bar or restaurant in Spain. Especially popular in the Basque Pintxo bars in northern and north-western Spain, you can try buying chistorra from a local food market and making your own version of montadito back at your villa.
Fried, golden croquetas or ‘croquettes’ are usually filled with a creamy sauce and often with ham. However, there are lots of variations, including fillings of cheese, mushrooms, vegetables or meats. Croquetas are a favourite with families, too, as they are easy to eat and enjoyed by everyone.
8. Spanish cheese
There are hundreds of varieties of Spanish cheese. Look out for the 23 varieties with protected origin (PO) for the best quality. Some of the more well-known ones include Manchego, from La Mancha in Central Spain. Try Manchego cheese with quince paste (Membrillo) as a delicious tapas. Also worth looking out for are Payoya, from Andalusia, which is made from Goats cheese in Cadiz, and Torta de Casar, which is a rich creamy cheese made from sheep’s milk in Extremadura.
9. Empanada gallega
A type of Cornish pasty, empanada gallega is a pastry stuffed with meat, fish and vegetables. One of the most popular combinations is tuna with red peppers, or empanada de atun, in Spanish.
Arguably the most well-known Spanish dish, you may well have tasted paella before. That said, we just had to include it, as tasting paella in Spain is an experience that’s hard to beat. The regions of Valencia, around the Levante, are most famous for their paella, which is generally eaten at lunchtime by the locals, who rarely eat rice in the evening.
The name “paella” is not actually the after the food, but the word for the flat pan used to make it. There are many variations of paella; some contain fish, seafood, meat and vegetables, or any combination of these ingredients. Other typical Spanish rice dishes are Arroz Negro, which is made with squid.