Fantastic if you like busy holidays full of fun activities and have plenty of lycra
We loved: Getting some October sun, the beach, the tennis, mountain biking, kids’ clubs, perfectly formed resort and accommodation
Downside: A week is definitely enough and I’m not sure we’d have enjoyed this in high season
Neilson: where the activity timetable rules
Just one day into our first family activity holiday Garry was a changed man; transforming instantly from someone who enjoys independence and spontaneity into a man who uses red and orange pens as well as different squiggles to plan our various activities for the week. Oh my. Travel really can work wonders.
DAY 2 | IT’S THE KIDS’ TURN TO GET ORGANISED
Today our surf squaddie, sharkster and surf buster met their nannies and fellow groupsters. They were also given a purple / blue / yellow rash vest, cap and bag. Much excitement all round.
It’s a slick operation, no doubt about it — we spent the day playing parent hide and seek as groups of children in rash vests and hats of many hues marched around the hotel chanting their group songs.
Garry and I were both slightly horrified to see our 7 year old sail off to sea apparently with a pair of only-just-teenagers so early in the week but reassured ourselves that a) the sea was very calm, b) the boat didn’t go very far out c) it was week 26 of this Neilson outfit’s season and d) despite racking our brains we couldn’t remember any reports of children on activity hols lost at sea.
DAY 3 | WEATHER IS SWEET …
By Tuesday we were in the Neilson groove: checking the kids’ activity boards and our planner over breakfast (buffet items of choice: pancakes, bacon, fruit) and deciding which of the 2 or 3 sessions the kids should do before putting our own choices in. We came to a family compromise on the kids’ club thing; asking the kids to do at least one session a day but no more than two; hopefully therefore striking a good balance of family holiday time with some time for me and Garry to do some tennis and cycling together.
So the morning of day 3 Isaac and Orla and I popped off to the beach while Annie went to her group (this was tiny and consisted mainly of boys who seemed to do mostly mooching – more of which anon) and Garry did a bike ride. Lovely.
DAY 4 | NEILSONTIME AND THE LIVING IS EASY
This morning I did a blue mountain bike ride — which I loved — while Garry took the kids to the beach.
In the afternoon, the kids joined their groups for some themed fun (Olympics for the Surfy Bs and army day for the Sharksters). The activities on offer were impressive: obstacle courses, kayaking, sailing, paddle boarding, rounders, cricket, body bingo (you randomly paint a body part of a member of the Neilson team), a game where in the course of the week you have to ‘kill’ a fellow groupster in a particular place with a particular thing (the pool, for example, with some ice). The kids really did seem to have ‘the time of their lives'(LJ, kids’ club team leader’s favourite saying).
Meanwhile, Garry and I sloped off to the tennis courts for the red/blue level tennis coaching with the delightful coaches Steven and Calum. He’s still way better than me, but I did improve. I think.
DAY 5 AND THE MOOCHING CONTINUES
The kids’ clubs and their brilliantly fun ideas generally proved a big hit: The themed days really worked – Olympics, army day, Disney day and mischief day were all popular for the younger two, and they loved the water games like diving off paddle board runways, racing assault courses, rounders, egg drop, splat and wink murder.
We’ve decided there’s a place for kids’ clubs and the joy of play with engaging leaders rather than occasionally lazy parents and often quarrelsome siblings. Unfortunately, the moochers didn’t quite reach the same levels of joyful play and chose to opt out of quite a few activities this week. They played manhunt. A lot.
Annie was still keen to go though which was great for Rachel the leader as otherwise it would have been 7 boys and her.
DAY 6 | THE DAY WE RAN AWAY
Being out in actual Greece felt good. Usually we’ll happily tootle round places on our own — it’s the norm for us in fact — so this felt much more familiar.
We all decided if we do another enclave based holiday we will top and tail with some independent travel as it just feels wrong otherwise and we were starting to feel the need to break free …
DAY 7 | ALL ABOUT HALLOWEEN
Final day proper — for our October week, but also for the entire Neilson team, as they were due to start packing up the next day. I felt this was a good week to come. Everyone knew exactly what they were doing because they’d been doing it all summer, but there was no sign of weariness or hint that they might want us on our way so that they could get on with the business of packing up and going home themselves.
Also, the weather was great — sunny most days, if cold at night (fine by us as we don’t tend to spend long evenings out on holiday anyway and are quite happy to go to bed early) — warm enough to swim in the sea but cool enough in the day to enjoy being active.
Finally, it was Halloween week so it felt like the season ended with a bang not a fizzle. The last day was all about dressing up, face paints, pumpkins and trick or treating, and preparing for the ghoulish battle of the bands. The kids had a blast.
Eating, sleeping and all the essential stuff
We stayed at Messini beach resort, near Kalamata airport which really was lovely. Food was almost all buffet-style and there was just about enough of a range to last us the week. We stayed at October half term and the weather was mostly sunny, but chilly in the evenings.