When it comes to family mountain holidays, I’ve got a secret to tell. Only to a few of you, not to everyone. I don’t want everyone knowing this and making it impossible to book but I do want some recognition for finding the best thing since sliced bread for families!
They don’t advertise in the UK, so most are in the dark about what really is on offer for summer mountain holidays with children – especially very young ones. We accept that we have to suffer; that ‘holidays’ as we know them don’t exist when you have children.
On the continent they aren’t telling us something. They have a trick up their sleeves. They have mastered the art of the obvious, where we in the UK struggle. Kinderhotels are independent, family-owned hotels, part of a franchise that offers a real holiday for young families.
Every hotel is unique. No mass market feel here. Just family run hotels that offer exceptional facilities for families; following a hugely successful, tried and tested formula. Kids buffets, day-long childcare for young babies and bigger kids alike, a Hipp Organic bar with free milk (formula), baby food, bibs, high chairs, baby rockers, pushchairs with day long childcare to standards many could only aspire to.
I have only ever been to a Kinderhotel in the winter. Look back at my many reviews. They often offer free ski lessons from age three, sometimes younger. I’m mad about skiing, my late father gave us all the ski bug and I fully intend to pass it on to both my little boys. My 5 year old can already ski an easy black run and I’m the proudest Mummy ever. This year, as we will return to The Kinderhotel Post in Unken, I’m getting Gabey, my two year old on skis in the hotel’s very own baby ski run complete with magic carpet (conveyor belt) and carousel. More of that later because here we are in the summer.
Driving from Munich, Salzburg is 30 minutes from the hotel but the Munich flight was cheaper and departed from Heathrow – literally 20 from our house, we drove through green landscapes of the Salzburgerland, past castles and other holiday-makers all on their way to destinations other than the seaside.
Mountains in summer are glorious. I have fond memories of walking in St Moritz, back-pack filled with chocolate, cows with cowbells, lovely lunches in mountains restaurants and walks along ice cold glacier-filled rivers. The real outdoors, fresh air and plenty of space.
No cramming onto packed beaches and somehow, less sunburn. I’m as paleskinned as it gets so the thought of sunning myself for hours has never been really of interest or a viable option.
That said, don’t think that a holidays in the mountains isn’t a summer one. Most days we were hitting 30 degrees plus, plenty of time for swimming in the warm bathing lake or the stunning, state of the art thermal outdoor pool that emptied each night and refilled in the morning. The hotel’s owner goes twice a week to the neighbouring village to collect healing thermal water for it (it has a 10% concentration because by law in Austria, anything stronger has to be used for medicinal purposes only).
The minute we arrived at the Kinderhotel Post I fell in love. The hotel is typical, traditional Austrian in feel but with an updated contemporary edge. Cosy, yet clean. I love the traditional interior, especially for winter but more and more hotels, as time progresses have needed to refurbish and this hotel has taken advantage of that to really make a positive aesthetic difference.
As we drove in, past the hotels own ‘ranch’ and into the car park excitement was mounting as ponies and horses, mini golf and archery come into view. Once inside, we unpacked. Our home for the week a two bedroom famiy suite, the kid’s room with a bunkbed (bottom bunk a cotbed) and an extra single bed, a built-in changing table, night lights and blackout blinds. Our bedroom was huge with a massive seating area for table and chairs plus a sofa all leading onto our balcony with views out to the pool, lake, tennis court, park and beyond.
The hotel offers rooms and apartments with configurations and facilities to suit every family size – again something that is expected at a Kinderhotel but alien to us Brits. One really clever addition in the bathroom, a pull-out step, like a drawer, for the little ones to reach the sink. A first for us. Small things make all the difference.
Unpacking was easy – More storage space than I’ve ever before seen. Half of it went unused and I pack for a week what you need in a year. However, this time I did reign things in a bit as all the Kinderhotels offer free access to washing machines and dryers. With young children, you either take 3 changes of clothes a day or you wash them. Now, I never would expect to enjoy washing but there’s a sense of achievement about getting kids clothes washed and clean on holiday – perhaps I’m a bit weird. The hotel is very laid back too which means that you don’t need to show off, stand on ceremony or dress up, just comfortable and casual works well and means less fuss and more time to relax and focus on more important issues like actually enjoying the facilities, the food and the spa!
So much to do it’s difficult to know where to start. The hotel is small but perfectly formed. Never feeling crowded anywhere. A couple of minutes walk to anywhere you wanted to go. My absolute favourite was the natural swimming lake. Pedalos for the kids, an inflatable ‘iceberg’ to climb, a swim-up trampoline and even a baby water slide.
There’s a cordoned off, shallow and shaded areas for the very young and there’s even sand. All the fun of the beach but much cleaner!
Loads of sun loungers and umbrellas, a bar where high tea is served every day and just up the hill, a big waterslide and a massive climbing wall. All of this without ruining the natural beauty of the outdoors.
We chopped and changed between the indoor pool (there’s a baby pool too), the outdoor, thermal pool and the lake. Otherwise, it was a question of sitting in the park whilst the kids took their pick of the many options, climbing, sandpit, cars, bikes, trikes, zipwire, diggers.
A real outdoor paradise with a mountain backdrop. The hotel also has loads of bicycles with attachments at the back for babies to sit in or baby seats. We cycled en famille to Unken – a ten minute easy ride. So refreshing from the usual summer heat of the coast.
Kid’s club is split into three age groups. All with age appropriate activities throughout the day. From 9am until 8pm there is childcare. Including meals if you so desire. Evenings they put on is well thought out and twice a day the hotel mascots, Unki and Smiley come out to dance. Older kids can learn new activities, riding, swimming, golf, tennis, climbing whilst there’s plenty to do inside with a huge softplay on two levels and age appropriate playrooms with all the toys imaginable. A lot of thought goes into the activities here and I was really impressed. One evening Alexander made a herb pillow from chamomile and straw – the ‘herb lady’ came in to talk to the kids about the plants and they all got a pillow to take home. The Kinderhotel Post has 5 Smileys which means that it offers the best facilities you can have for a Kinderhotel and that is very clear from the minute you walk in.
Value is also key for families and the all-inclusive nature of the offering is a godsend. Drinks all day from the state of the art coffee machines, teas and tisanes to suite every taste and of course soft drinks. My particular favourite was the fresh ginger and lemon water. Food is regional with an emphasis on quality. Eggs and milk come from local farms and the kitchen is run by the son of the family.
Every day fresh salads at the buffet, groaning breakfast buffets with fruits, meats, cheeses, a dozen types of breads and of course waffles and all the egg dishes you could wish for. Lunches always offer a variety of hot dishes, always loads for the children and we mustn’t forget the ice-cream bar. We visited one too many times for my liking but it’s a no-brainer and the children are on holiday. Lunchtimes we ate outside.
We put the kids in kids club for dinner. Too nice not to have the time to really enjoy food that wouldn’t be out of place in a Michelin starred restaurant. Each night the dishes would delight. Always something new and exciting to try. The kitchen really goes out of it’s way to make the food eye-catching, original and delicious.
One day we took the cable car from Unken up the mountain. A lunch and a play for the kids in a mountain playground was all the break we needed. We also walked around the chocolate-box perfect village. Another day a trip to Salzburg. Just wonderful and so near. Other days we relaxed. I had a brilliant massage at the spa. Austrians take spas very seriously so expect top quality treatments and facilities.
Prices aren’t too bad either. We packed a huge amount into our week and I vow to go back next summer. The kids had a ball and we relaxed and enjoyed the wonderful facilities and surrounding. The hotel runs smoothly with staff at the ready to make your experience truly wonderful. It’s a massive winner. I can’t wait for winter to see it in the snow.
One last recommendation. Give Blacklane a go for transfers. They offer an unrivalled chauffeur service, worldwide, through their own app, where changes can be made up to one hour before pick-up. Their vehicles and drivers are top-notch, assuring that you arrive on time and unruffled – something not easy when travelling with children!