It’s very rare these days that I wish I was a teenager again. The challenges of lockdowns, combined with the relentless pressures of school and social media, make the teen years tougher than ever.
For two weeks this summer, however, I actually wanted to be fourteen. My teenage son was lucky enough to experience the Indy Club at Mark Warner Paleros Beach resort, and I found myself watching him with envy. Carefree… giggling… phone-free… It was a joy to see teenagers living their best summer lives.
If you have struggled with motivating your teen to even have a sunny conversation, it may seem like a recipe for disaster to throw them in at the deep end — literally — and ask them fly away and hang out in a swimming pool with people they have never met before.
AlI I can tell you is that it works. Of course it’s not for every teen; but my two completely different teenage boys have tried a few activity holidays with Mark Warner now, and, at each phase, they have loved it just a little bit more.
And they are not alone. Time and time again, I’ve seen packs of surly self-conscious teens at the airport morph into smiley happy beach creatures after a week of activities and making new friends. Activity holidays offer more than sun, sea and sand. The fourth 's' is social interaction – and this is what makes the Mark Warner difference for teenage travellers.
At Paleros Beach resort, the formula works wonderfully for parents too. We all know the well-trodden family travel equation: happy kids = happy parents. But all too often this means compromising on grown-up gorgeousness and you end up somewhere too bright, too noisy and with, frankly, too many kids.
Here, kids play their days out in wide open spaces under palm trees and mums and dads get to feel like they are cheating at parenting. Kids activities are spread out across the waterfront, beach bar, main pool, tennis courts and lush green gardens. There are even trips to the nearby town for ice creams. Meanwhile, we sip coffee frappés by the adult pool and float around like we are at a spa. There's masses of room, and you never have to battle for a sunlounger. It's without doubt one of the most relaxing and beautiful hotels I have ever stayed in – with or without kids.
For the less horizontal among us, there is no shortage of adult activities either. Tennis; road and mountain bike tours; yoga; Pliates; HIIT classes; sailing; stand up paddle boarding; kayaking; and windsurfing are on offer seven days a week and all included in price of the holiday. There are also optional extras such as waterskiing, 1:2:1 strength and conditioning, and deep tissue massages.
Mark Warner childcare runs for babies (Baby Club) in their Peppa Pig water wings and teeny Crocs up to teens of 17 years (Indy Club) clutching Love Island water bottles and — as they are now are back in fashion — also wearing Crocs. The activity programmes are tailored to suit each specific age group. And if you think it’s pushing it to take a 17-year-old away from their mates at home and sign them into a kids club; think again. The older Indys (16 and 17) possibly have the best time of all.
1 Freedom From Phones
Days in the Indy Club (14-17 years) drift by largely screen-free — and you can tell. Activities range from the sporty (stand up paddle boarding; beach volleyball) to silly (UNO or sea frisbee), and they are grouped with other teens from the same school year group. At every age, phones are really only for selfies. Sunshine is bagged and moods improve.
2 Boost Confidence
I see a real shift in confidence levels with the teens that comes through meeting new people; handling different conversations; and developing new friendships. After so much missing out during lockdowns, stepping into a social scene that allows them to rediscover these vital skills feels like an important part of their education. The teenage brain is hardwired to seek out new experiences and trying new activities is crucial to brain development. Most teens will feel a million times better for giving ‘give it a go’ a go.
3 Gets Teens Up and Active
It’s been reported that children can lose around 50% of the physical fitness they build up over the busy school year during “lazy” time off. Stealth PE under the sun is the perfect way to beat the summer fitness slide. A big plus in motivating teens to get involved are the activity leaders. Many are on a gap year or summer break from university and they are walking adverts for the way simply having fun in the sun can keep you fit. With activities starting at 9am or 10am, it also means you don’t have battles about getting your teen out of bed. Most mornings they are up and out before you can say ‘Nutella pancakes at the buffet breakfast’.
We visited Mark Warner Paleros but the award-winning childcare packages are available for babies to teens at all their Mark Warner resorts in Greece and Turkey.
During school holidays, the clubs are divided into sub-groups to make sure children of the same age are grouped together. There is a huge difference between what a 14-year old in Indy Club wants to do compared to a 17-year old and this is factored in.
Clubs generally run from 9am (or 10am for teens) to 12.30, and then again from 2.30-5.30. There are evening activities too including Indy Dinner for the teens where they go to the hotel restaurant with their group.
Baby Club — 4 to 11 months
Soft play, sand foot prints, seaside walks and paddling
Toddler Club — 1 to 2 years
Bikes & trikes, songs & stories, building sandcastles, pool fun
Mini Club — 3 to 5 years
Pirate trips in sailing boats, wave jumping, kayaking and dance practice
Junior Club — 6 to 9 years
Rounders, circus tricks, beach volleyball, learning to sail and windsurf, giant Jenga, kayaking, dodge ball and putting on a show
Kidz Club — 10 to 13 years
Sea frisbee, kite flying, pool gladiators, show rehearsal, team games & learning to sail or windsurf
Indy Club — 14 to 17 years
Ice breakers to make new friends, sea frisbee, sailing, windsurfing, kite flying, pool gladiators, cricket and team games
Family rooms – Sleep 4
One double bedroom plus a second room with two single beds, separated by a sliding door. Family rooms have an en-suite bathroom off the main bedroom plus a garden view with either a balcony or a terrace area.
Suites – Sleep 5
One bedroom (separated by a door) plus living area with two sofa beds (suitable for teenagers) and an additional armchair that can also be used as a third single bed. There is one bathroom off the main living room with double sinks, bath and shower.
Interconnecting rooms – Sleep 6
Rooms connected via an internal door and each room can be made up as twin or double. Both rooms have a shower & WC and a garden view with either a balcony or a terrace area. These rooms also have a sofa bed (suitable for teenagers) and can also take a cot.
Mark Warner charters two flights a week during the school holidays from London Gatwick to Preveza. Sunday flights with British Airways and a mid-week flight on a Wednesday (perfect for 10-day holidays) with Enter Air. It's an easy 30-minute transfer from the airport to the resort and flight times offer families the opportunity to wake up in the UK and be on the beach in Paleros by lunchtime. Visit Mark Warner Holidays, email [email protected] or call Mark Warner's friendly travel experts on 0330 3114 989 for latest offers and discounts.
Mark Warner Holidays are currently offering £100 off infant and child prices for remaining places for 2022 and early booking deals for 2023. Half board holidays in their activity resorts start from £729 per person/week.