Monday, 21 May 2018

Planning Our Family Holiday to Venice, Italy with Al Fresco Holidays

Europe features so many wonderful countries and for the past few years, we have enjoyed visiting numerous places including France, Germany, Spain and Ireland to name just a few. We have stayed in all kinds of accommodation ranging from tents to luxury hotels, but we have found that one of the most cost effective ways for us to stay abroad is through Al Fresco Holidays who have over 70 holidays parks in some of Europe's finest locations.

Their parks range from small and tranquil, to large and lively which offer the ultimate fun for families. We have previously stayed at Sanguli in Salou as well as La Croix du Vieux Pont in Berny Riviere and had a fantastic experience at both parks. However, my husband and I have both wanted to return to Italy for quite some time, having visited both Rome and Genoa as a couple quite a few years ago. I was therefore excited to see what parks Al Fresco Holidays had in Italy and whether there were any situated near one of my bucket list destinations of Venice!

Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

When we visited La Croix du Vieux Pont last year, we had a good chat with one of the Al Fresco representatives, who had previously worked on a site called Union Lido and highly recommended the area. I therefore knew that there was at least one park that may be suitable for us, but was pleasantly surprised to find that Al Fresco Holidays actually have five parks based along the Venetian Riviera. One of the parks that really stood out to us was Portofelice Camping Village in Eraclea Mare. This was because it is in a prime location with its own beach access, as well as offering plenty of activities for younger children. It is just over an hour away from Venice, which means that we can relax and enjoy the activities on the park, but also be within easy reach of one of my must-visit destinations. We therefore began to research the area and began planning for a family holiday to Italy. We are so excited to be visiting Portofelice in the very near future!

Getting to Portofelice

We are flying from our nearest main airport which is Manchester and we have an early morning flight booked for us all. Airlines can have different rules and regulations when it comes to seat allocation, luggage and checking in, so it is important to always check everything in plenty of time before you travel. Some airlines allow you to check in online up to 28 days before departure, where as others have much shorter time frames, so it is best to be aware of your airlines policies in advance of your travel dates. Our airline has already allowed us to check in, so we have confirmed our seating and baggage allowance and printed off our boarding passes ready for the journey. This means that it is simply a case of dropping off our suitcases on arrival at the airport which is usually quite straightforward.

The flight operator we are travelling with, also gave us the opportunity to use mobile boarding passes, however we have done this previously when returning from Dublin to Manchester and had a huge panic when the battery on my phone suddenly rapidly decreased. We managed to board the plane with only 1% battery remaining on my phone, so I have decided to stick to paper boarding passes for the foreseeable future.

On arrival in Venice airport we have a private transfer booked to get to Portofelice. We had debated hiring a car, but after reading reviews from previous guests, we discovered that a lot of people hired cars and then didn't use them for the remainder of the holiday, so we felt a transfer and using public transport would be more cost effective. Our transfer will take approximately 40 minutes by car, but I always find that this time goes quite quickly when you are excitedly taking in your new surroundings on the journey.

The Holiday Park of Portofelice

I love to do plenty of research before travelling and will read past reviews to help gain some valuable tips and advice. I will also make sure that there is public transport available nearby so that we can enjoy some off site visits as well as everything on the park. It is nice to get a change of scenery whilst on holiday, so it is important to us as a family that there is plenty to do both on site and also in the local area.

I was pleased to find many excellent reviews of the park, which reassures me that we have made a great decision in choosing to visit this site. One interesting point which came to light, was the fact that you have to pay for sun loungers at the pool. This was something completely new to us, that I haven't heard of before, however personally I actually think it is a great idea. I absolutely loathe having to get up extremely early whilst on holiday. just to join the masses in reserving sun loungers, so I am more than happy to pay to ensure we get a prime location by the pool without the need for any early morning starts. For seven days this has cost me approximately £35 for two sun loungers & a table and involves a quick and simple online booking process through Portofelice's own website. I believe that the sun loungers can also be booked on site in their reception area, but will be subject to availability.

 Photo courtesy of Al Fresco Holidays

A lot of reviews also mentioned that the prices in the supermarket are quite varied, with some items being very reasonably priced and others slightly expensive. This sounds very similar to most places we have visited in Europe and so we are planning on taking some basic store cupboard essentials out with us such as biscuits, pasta and snacks. We also usually take some cleaning items with us such as a travel sized bottle of washing up liquid, bin bags and dish cloths as these can quickly cut into your budget if you need to purchase them abroad.

The on site restaurant has received many recommendations and I was pleased to find a copy of their menu online. I try and budget as best I can when travelling, so it is always handy to find out the average cost of meals so that I can factor in a couple of meals out during our stay. Having looked at their menu, I think it offers a great deal of variety and I am definitely looking forward to trying out some of the pasta dishes. The prices seem to offer really good value, with childrens meals costing between 5-7 euros and my favourite pasta dish of Spaghetti alla Carbonara being only 6.90 euros. We are hoping to eat out on at least two occasions so it is great to have an idea of cost so that we can plan ahead.

There seems to be a wide variety of children's activities on offer as well as family entertainment in the evening, which my kids are already really looking forward to. I have found out that there are bouncy castles, go karts and trampolines also available, so this will give us plenty to enjoy at night.

The beach is a short distance away from the park and you can also reserve sun loungers on here too. I have decided not to do this at the moment as usually we would just place towels on the sand, however I believe these can be booked whilst on site, so may consider this at some point during our stay. Riley absolutely loves the beach, so again it is great to have choice of things to do for the days we stay on site at Portofelice.

Photo courtesy of Al Fresco Holidays

The Accommodation

We will be staying in one of Al Fresco Holidays newest accommodations which is the Da Vinci Lounge. This is a three bedroom mobile home with a nice outdoor decking area and dining furniture. It has one double room and two twin rooms which will provide us all with plenty of space. I love the fact that there is decking, as this will provide my husband and I somewhere to sit and have a drink in the evening once the children are in bed, meaning that we can also have some time as a couple as well as a family.

It will also give us the opportunity to eat outdoors or simply relax during the sites siesta time, which is in between 1pm & 3pm. I actually quite like the idea of returning to the accommodation during this period so that we can enjoy some lunch and drinks together, whilst also keeping the children out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. I am going to take some small games and activities with us such as dominoes, cards, colouring pencils and books, so that the kids can also have some fun together at this time.

We have pre-booked the linen packs for the duration our stay, which will give us a lot more suitcase space. When we visited both Sanguli and La Croix du Vieux Pont, we chose to take our own linen and towels with us, but it will be nice to know that everything is already there waiting for us on this occasion instead.

We have also pre-booked the air conditioning in the mobile home as we have found that during hot days, it is very refreshing to be able to have somewhere to cool down and relax. Temperatures are currently expected to be around 28 degrees celsius during our stay, so I am sure that the air conditioning will come in very useful.

I have also read carefully through the booking confirmation and found that we will need to pay a security deposit of 60 euros in cash on arrival. We have paid deposits previously by cheque which has meant that it doesn't affect our budget as the cheque isn't cashed, but our booking specifically states cash on this occasion. You get this returned to you on departure, providing that the accommodation is left to the same standard as it was on arrival. We always clean everything thoroughly before leaving, so I have no issue in providing a deposit. I actually think it is a very good idea that will encourage guests to leave the accommodation clean and tidy, ready for the next visitors.

Days Out

I have had a good look at the local area and for some ideas on where to visit. Venice is an absolute must, so we will be catching the bus from outside the park into Venice on at least one day during our stay. Whilst there we have decided to visit St Mark's Basilica, The Bell Tower and Doge's Palace, which all look absolutely incredible.

Both my husband and I would love to enjoy a ride on a Gondola, however none of the children seem very keen on this idea, so I think that this will be something we decide to do once there, depending on both price and availability.

One thing that did concern me, was how expensive it would be to eat out whilst in Venice. A lot of reviews online mentioned that prices could be quite extortionate in the main tourist areas such as St Mark's Square, however I have found that there is a Hard Rock Cafe located nearby, so we will be eating there during our day out. Although the menu prices weren't displayed on their website, I sent them a quick email and their sales manager very quickly responded with copies of both the main menu and the children's menu which both seem to offer some tasty dishes at great value. We know the Hard Rock Cafe brand well and have visited plenty of their establishments all around the world. We therefore know exactly what we will be getting for our money and the kids always enjoy the experience too, so I feel that this will be a geat decision, that will suit our family.

Another place we have decided to visit is the Aqualandia water park located approximately 40 minutes away. It looks so much fun and is also home to Europe's tallest waterslide, Captain Spacemaker. It stands at 42 metres high and can reach speeds of up to 100km/h. My husband is very keen to try this ride out and if action cameras are permitted then he will be sure to record this too!

We have also discovered that you can hire bikes from Portofelice, so we are looking at taking a bike ride through the woodland and into the nearby town of Eraclea Mare, where we can visit a local pizzeria for lunch. I also believe that there is an open air market in this town on a Tuesday evening, so this is something we will also consider visiting depending on the weather.

Photo Credit: AussieActive on Unsplash

Budget

At the moment I have budgeted approximately 350 euros for activities & excursions, 100 euros for a food shop on arrival and 300 euros for meals and drinks based on the research I have done so far. It will be interesting to see just how well we can stick to our budget of 750 euros which is approximately £656 based on the current exchange rate. The children also have 30 euros each to spend on the arcade and on gifts for friends.

I always think it is good to have a rough idea of your expenditure so that you can enjoy all the things that you have planned, whilst also being aware of what you are spending. We always take a credit card or a travel card with us as a back up just in case, but we try not to go over budget when possible.

Insurance 

I often get surprised by how often I hear friends and family say that they don't purchase travel insurance. To me this is a MUST especially when travelling as a family. An accident or illness can strike anyone at anytime and the financial implications of this when abroad can be huge. I find that travel insurance is a relatively small price to pay for that added reassurance that if something was to go wrong, then you would be covered. It is also important to ensure that you disclose any illnesses or existing condition and provide accurate information to the insurer. Usually we pay around £12-£15 for single trip family insurance, but on this occasion it has cost us £22 with the Post Office. This is because my husband is currently undergoing physiotheraphy treatment for achilles tendonitis and whilst I cannot see any reason why this would cause a problem on holiday, it is an ongoing issue that the insurers need to be made aware of just in case. I still think that £22 is very reasonable though and is certainly worth paying for that added piece of mind.

Clothing

Whilst it can be tempting to simply pack a bundle of shorts and t-shirts, it can be sensible to prepare for all weathers. We therefore usually take a lightweight coat for each of the children as well as some jeans and joggers, just for cooler evenings or rainy days. I always check the pool guidelines as well, as some European parks will only allow men to wear swimming trunks as opposed to shorts and similarly some sites require the use of swimming caps. I haven't found any information that suggests either of these are required at Portofelice, but I will check with them prior to travelling just in case.

Whilst researching places to visit, I also became aware that Basilica di San Marco has a dress code due to being a place of worship. Their guidelines require that guests have no shoulders or knees visible and so I will make sure that we dress respectfully during our visit and pack something suitable.

The Al Fresco Holidays Experience

The whole booking process and build up to our holiday with Al Fresco Holidays has been fantastic so far. They have kept me fully informed with all of our booking details and made me aware when we could check in for our flight. If I have had any questions about our stay then I have found their online support to be brilliant, with any queries answered really efficiently.

We are so excited for our trip to Portofelice and I look forward to updating you all on our adventure when we get back!

Photo courtesy of Al Fresco Holidays

Disclaimer: We are visiting Portofelice holiday park as guests of Al Fresco Holidays. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post does not contain affiliate links at present.

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