Interview With Martinhal Founder - Chitra Stern - Family Travel Tips!
This week we were fortunate enough to interview (right in time for half-term I might add) the owner and founder of the wonderful family hotels & resorts, Martinhal - Chitra Stern - who has answered some family travel related questions to help you plan your next trip away with the kids!
How do you keep your children entertained on long journeys?
It’s been varied over the years as our oldest is now 15! We went through the non-digital entertainment things to digital and now going back to non-digital (obviously because of the negative impact of the blue screen and over stimulation!)
Books, UNO, a pack of cards, chess, colouring, iPad, iPhones, Netflix would be a good summary!
Your KeepEmQuiet packs didn’t exist in my day but they look fabulous! They give the child a sense of “ownership” with their own little bags and they’ve got a good range of items to keep them entertained during different lengths of journeys. It has gender specific, unisex options as well as age-specific packs.
What three items could you not live without when traveling with the kids?
- Actually, I always travel with nasal decongestant! It’s so useful to help with ear pressure no matter what the age of the child.
- I always take a tube of antiseptic.
- Saline solution in little tubes.
The rest of your essentials, you're able to buy locally pretty much anywhere you travel!
With regards to baby items, Martinhal has a Baby Concierge service where you can ask for most items you might want to travel with. Like bottle sterilizers, and other baby equipment – from small items like door protectors, thermometers, potties, bottle warmers, to bigger items like safety gates, baby cots etc
What would your perfect family holiday look like?
The perfect family holiday is where we parents get to spend quality time with the kids, quality time with each other and where the kids have a fabulous time too. I always want to have access to local culture and art, as well as fun stuff to do in the city. I love good restaurants with interesting food. I do love city-holidays – which was the inspiration for our Martinhal Chiado hotel – “The World’s First City-Centre Elegant Family Hotel”.
Tell us about your first trip away as a family. Did it go smoothly?
The first trip abroad on a plane with our first baby boy is unforgettable! Of course, we packed far too much, dressed him up far too warmly and suffered from classic problems on board the long-haul flight! You learn from experience and now traveling with 4 children has never been easier!
Do you have any packing tips for family holidays?
Pack light. Roll your clothes. Don’t over pack meds if you’re going to cities where you know getting the basics like anti-inflammatories will be easy. Don’t over pack shoes! Do try to identify wash-and-fold laundry places before-hand if you’re not staying in a Martinhal hotel where we have washing machines or very family-friendly laundry prices!
Have you ever had a bad experience traveling with little ones? What happened?
We were traveling with our 2 children at the time (aged 2 and 6 months) and the air hostess on the flight was really rude about our kids and was complaining to other passengers about my breastfeeding the little one. We were really upset and it was experiences like these which really gave us the motivation to create Martinhal. We set about “taking away the pain points” for parents who wanted a luxury holiday WITH their kids, as well as creating unforgettable moments – which led to the creation of “Martinhal Memories”!
How do you find the experience of traveling with children generally?
Gets easier as time goes on and as you learn more about how your children take it. It’s about learning about each other – what the triggers are for good or bad behaviour, understanding that it is stressful for them and that they behave very well if they’re fed well, their nappies are changed, they don’t feel pain with takeoffs and landings and if they’re entertained!
Tell us a bit about Martinhal. What made you launch in the first place?
I talked a little bit about this earlier. It was really the fact that once we had children, we became “pariahs of society”! You’re suddenly not welcome anymore in so many places – with older people showing no tolerance and patience. And where you can spot the couples next to you in restaurants or the waiting staff rolling their eyes at you for having committed the sin of bringing kids into their sacred spaces!
The good thing about Portugal is that people love babies and children. We were just inspired to take it all one step further to create an elegant experience for the whole family.
Martinhal is a brand which gives a sophisticated holiday experience for each member of the family. The parents are having a great time because they don’t have to compromise on elements of luxury such as design, food, art, wine, spa, culture etc. Kids have a great time because we provide them with good food and interesting environments to spend their time. We have worked hard on menus, play equipment, spaces, childcare, toys, staff training, art, architecture, the sleep experience – all to ensure that the family has a wonderful luxury experience.
What makes Portugal such a family-friendly destination?
Portugal has great all-year round weather – in the Algarve, we have over 300 days of sunshine! It makes outdoor activities fun throughout the year. The Portuguese have a strong family-centre in their culture and they love babies and children. They are always kind to babies in public and mothers who are pregnant always get treated extremely well. They value the contribution of children to the future.
As I said previously, Martinhal has just gone the extra mile to make a luxury holiday fantastic for each member of the family in this great family-oriented environment.