Where kids stay, play and eat (healthily) free

There is great joy to be had in staying at resorts designed specifically for children. I know that sounds like Special Subject: The Bleeding Obvious, but often, we drag them along to wherever we want to stay then berate them for behaving like – well – children!

At the Holiday Inn, you don't have to worry about how loud they are, whether there's anything they'll eat, or if they'll utter the phrase, "This is BORING".

The founder, Kemmons Wilson, created the company back in 1952, after discovering few hotel options for his family; it was the first to use the slogan, "Kids Stay & Eat Free".

Now, Nutrition Australia has created a revamped kids' menu for Holiday Inn hotels and resorts across Asia, the Middle East and Africa, to provide "a wider variety of healthy options for kids – much more than just the standard burgers, pastas and chips", says Phil Broad, vice-president of food and beverage for the InterContinental Hotels Group.

We got a taste of this recently (pun intended!) at two of their properties in Phuket, Thailand. The buffet in Patong was one of the best I've ever seen, with a low bench for young children to get their own breakfast, and a cool room full of fresh fruit, veggie sticks, and sushi.

In Mai Khao, kids can tick boxes on the menu to design their own pizza, sandwich, or salad – perfect for fussy eaters. We also did a mum-and-kids cooking class, creating tom yum goong, green chicken curry and green papaya salad.

Each property was a water wonderland, with a plethora of pools, fountains and waterslides. Activities ranged from animal balloon making for the littlies, to table tennis comps for tweens, and Thai kickboxing for teens.

Oh wait. Apparently, I forgot the most important point. "They had free Wi-fi!" the kids squealed. Not so they could incessantly play their iPods: so they could face-time dada. With hubby working, I thought these resorts would be handy in proving extra sets of – er – hands.

Indeed they were. 


My full-time-working-mother guilt only allowed for short spurts in the kids' clubs, but those moments were precious. Mum got a massage! Mum drank a pina colada! Mum read a book! (I hasten to add that mum also played 157 games of Capture the President in the pool; 321 rounds of table tennis on the lawn; and 34 games of chess in the room.)

We also had our first family spa treatment, which led to this from my 10-year-old son: "That massage was great. But why did I have to wear crazy see-through underwear? They could see my butt!"

Being in Thailand, everything was cheap, especially the shopping. However, if you have small children, make sure you avoid Bangla Road. 

"Mum, can we go and see the Ping Pong Show?" Grace asked, after spying some of the signs. It's kinda hard to explain that it's got nothing to do with table tennis!

Our last day was spent at Karon beach, being dragged along on an inflatable doughnut behind a speedboat. Despite concerns about dislocation, we were soon whooping with delight. You could also hop on a jet-ski, go parasailing, or ride a paddleboard.

Everything about this holiday was easy: for kids, both big and small. 

The writer was a guest of Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao Beach and Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Patong.