Luxury family holidays Sirocco style

Image above: Bali, Indonesia

Sirocco travel, based in Grove Park, launch their 2024 family brochure

How do you approach planning a holiday? Are you someone who enjoys doing the research, reading up on where you fancy going and hunting down comparative prices? Or would you prefer that someone else just did all that, you said what you were looking for and just picked up the tickets and went?

Maybe you are by nature group A, but with a busy work and family life you now find yourself in group B? You might assume that getting someone else to do all the donkey work would add too much to the price of a holiday to contemplate it, but that is where you would be wrong.

Temple World, recently rebranded as Sirocco travel, based in Chiswick, make their money in payments from hoteliers and accommodation owners; they make no charge to holidaymakers for their services. They specialise in luxury travel (four-star accommodation and above) and have just brought out their 2024 family brochure.

We talked to Alice Burns, the owner, about what is available for families looking for an adventure, or just a special break.

Image above: South Africa; photograph Tourism South Africa

Q: What are the kind of questions you are asked routinely about family travel?

A: The kind of questions we get most often are: ‘Are my children too young for this type of holiday?’ And: ‘How can we avoid being hassled?’

Q: What advice do you give?

All the places in the brochure are places we have been to, except Japan (but we have successfully sent many families there). All of our small team are very experienced in the travel business, and we have children ourselves, so we have been able to gauge for ourselves what is suitable for what age. We offer as much or as little advice as you want – on accommodation and flights, day trips, places to visit and things to do while you’re there.

The main thing with family travel is to look at the pace of the trip, not to overdo it and try and pack too much in. If you’re going to a museum in the morning, then make the afternoon a pool or a beach session. Because we’ve been there ourselves, we know how long it’s likely to take to get somewhere, when is the best time to go, and how long you will need to spend there with children of different ages.

Images above: Jordan; Egypt; photographs Alice Burns

Q: Which locations do you offer?

We have 16 suggested itineraries, in addition to six beach destinations, depending on whether you are looking for culture (Vietnam, Japan, Rajastan, Jordan) or wildlife (Borneo, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Madagascar) or the ‘Best of Both Worlds’ – a mix of beach and wildlife or beach and culture. Or just beach (Maldives, Dubai, Mauritius, Greek islands and mainland).

Image above: Children on safari in South Africa; photograph Phinda Game Reserve

Q: What makes these trips special (apart from the obvious: scenery, luxury accommodation and good food)?

We look for things to do with children of all ages which will engage their interest.

There is a tour of the Acropolis in Athens which provides children with ipads, so they can stand and look at it and hold up the ipad to see a picture of what that same view would have looked like in ancient times.

We look for cookery classes on all our tours. Fussy kids who are a pain in the neck with foreign food are so much more likely to enjoy the food if they have made it themselves.

In Peru we arrange rafting trips. You do all the cultural stuff in the sacred valley, but you also get to go rafting on the river as well, which can be anything from scenic floating, to grade four or five (serious) rafting.

In Rome you can go to gladiator school; in Japan you can experience samurai and sushi.

Q: Where is the trendy place to go at the moment?

Japan is currently the top of the bucket list. But Japan is expensive. There are all sorts of activities on offer for children, from go-karting dressed as Mario for younger kids to specialist Matcha tea cafés for teenagers with Instagram accounts who want to post pictures of ‘cream art’ made with foam.

In Japan we offer a bare bones package of bullet train and accommodation bookings, leaving the rest to you as a more DIY approach, just supplying the information. Private guides are very expensive in Japan, whereas in most other places we go to, we are able to offer local guides. Sri Lanka for example, you are accompanied by a guide and a driver every step of the way.

Image above: Vietnam

Q: Which of these holidays have you done yourself?

There are four of us in the office and most of these places, one of us has either lived there or been to many times. My children Luke (14), Joe (12) and Zoe (9) have been with me to Egypt, Jordan, Thailand, Oman and Sri Lanka.

One of our team has just been to the Maldives with a new baby and stayed in a bungalow with an infinity pool and a sheer drop. It was all set up with baby gates and she said it was “epic”.

Image above: Maldives

Q: How much are you able to customise trips to the needs of individuals?

As much or as little as you want. The Maldives is a good example. Each island has a very different feel. Some are very glamorous and Instagrammable; some are more family friendly and really lean into it. There are a couple that are really loud, with a festival vibe, with stilt walkers and fire eaters, and others that are better for a peaceful stay, better for an eco holiday and seeing the marine life.

There are about 200 islands, and we find we can narrow the choice down to what would suit you best with just five or six questions.

Image above: Cambodia, Angkor

Q: What happens when things go wrong?

We are ATOL bonded, so if we closed down tomorrow, ATOL would give our clients 100% money back. We’ve been working with ATOL for decades.

Sirocco is a new brand, but we have been here a long time. The fact that we are all so experienced (I have been doing this now for several decades myself) helped a lot during Covid. Everyone had a cash refund, there were no credit notes.

We are local, in Grove Park. You can have my mobile number or knock on my door. The difference with a company like ours is that we absolutely rely on our reputation. We rely on referrals, and we pride ourselves on our level of service, whereas the big companies have a certain percentage they are prepared to lose.

What you want is someone who with one phone call will sort everything out for you. One of our clients rang me to cancel his trip to Thailand because his wife had pneumonia. When something like that happens, you don’t want to be hanging on the phone for hours trying to get through to the right person to cancel things. We had one two-minute call and we got the money back from the insurers for him within 24 hours.

Image above: Sirocco 2024 Family brochure

Have a look at Sirocco luxury travel 2024 family holiday brochure here: Sirocco family holidays 

Contact Alice and the team on 0208 940 4114

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