Holidaying with teenagers can be challenging – but at Club Med’s Algarve outpost, the Da Balaia resort, there’s something for everyone
Words by Pendle Harte
What makes a good holiday? A straw poll in my family brings up the following: a beach; a pool; things to do; good food. Everyone seems to agree, but on closer interrogation it becomes clear that definitions of ‘things to do’ and ‘good food’ vary. Holidaying with teenagers is a risky prospect, because nobody wants to put up with sulking on their long-awaited holiday, yet teens are easily displeased. So what’s the solution?
At Club Med, they have the solution. More than 60 years of holidaying history have left the French organisation with all the knowledge and experience to offer the magic formula. The idea is simple: everything is included, everyone is catered to, no pressure to join in. A Club Med Village is a utopian society in microcosm, with its leader, the Chef de Village, mingling amicably with guests, as staff – GOs, as they are known, for Gentils Organisateurs – share duties and socialise enthusiastically and universally. No money changes hands and everything is bottomless, from the ice cream to the Aperol to the clean towels. Notice boards advertise such uncontroversial happenings as beach volleyball and tennis tournaments. Bougainvilla is permanently in bloom. It’s a highly functioning slice of escapism and clearly it’s universally appreciated, because everyone here is happy.
Including us, of course. We are in the Algarve’s Da Balaia resort, where surroundings are beautiful, food and drink is good and plentiful, and space and comfort are seamless. At first, our daughters, age 12 and 15, have predictable reservations about joining in. They respond with calculated indifference to the invitation to join the kids’ group – but this attitude is short-lived: by day two they are congregating with other teens for the 11am trapeze lesson, where friendships are formed for the week. Yes, that’s trapeze, a Club Med tradition: a huge rig plays host to lessons for all levels, and the teachers double as circus performers in the evenings to entertain the entire village. The teen group roams the resort at their own pace all week, moving between the pool, the ping pong tables and the beach, leaving us adults to our own similar if lazier roaming. Smaller children march from activity to activity in their more supervised groups, playing minigolf, experimenting with archery and spending time in their designated shady play area, located at a discreet distance from the hub of the resort.
We all settle into a holiday routine prioritising mealtimes, because food at Da Balaia is beyond impressive. Daily banquets are vast and impressive. For me, the beauty of having three meals a day that require no personal input or even any thought is a fundamental source of Club Med joy. There’s no time to feel hungry and no need to fill up because mealtimes come round fast. The trick, we learn, is to not to eat too much, and not to worry about missing out. There is always tomorrow. The spread looks as appealing as it tastes and options suit all tastes, so if we adults choose grilled sardines for lunch, the teens can have pizza. If we have octopus, they can have burgers. Highlights of the week’s menu include oysters, tuna carpaccio, grilled prawns, clam linguini and lots of fish, while daily staples span salad, cheese and lots of fruit. Dessert is fit for a special occasion every day, while breakfast choices include everything you can think of, from pancakes to chia pots via a full fry up. For families, all of this means that adults can enjoy sardines and salad for lunch without children complaining, which is a holiday in itself.
Between meals, we fit in tennis lessons (no shame in being an adult beginner here – there’s a class for that) and blissful swims at the adults-only Zen pool, a dreamy freshwater lake complete with lilypads and sea views. Steps lead down to a beautiful beach with gentle Atlantic waves and dreams sand. There’s no shortage of beautiful views and places to lounge at Da Balaia.
For me, the definition of a holiday is a break from making decisions and planning. Not having to think about meals, or timetables, makes a blissful escape from the daily and weekly grind.
And spending time together as a family is more successful when time is also spent apart. Older children do not want to be apart from their peers for the entire duration of your trip, and they are entirely capable of retreating to their rooms for wifi if bored, which no adult can bear. So give them some friends and some activities, and family mealtimes are likely to be harmonious. Especially when they’re by the pool.
International travel: PCR testing
Anyone travelling anywhere this summer is going to have to accept organising and paying for multiple PCR tests. With so many providers offering tests, it’s important to find one that supplies the necessary documents and will get your results in time. Paddington’s (med)24 provides immediate access to world-class GPs and specialist treatments. The clinic offers rapid response COVID-19 Testing services from PCR Testing to Antibody Tests and Fit To Fly Certificates in-clinic and via postal and visiting services. And they’ll even offer you a sweet after you swab.
10 Eastbourne Terrace, Paddington, W2.