Before children (always a good start to a family friendly travel blog entry!), my husband and I enjoyed an annual ski holiday (definitely a holiday and not a trip!). Since the arrival of our daughter in 2013 we’ve only managed one ski holiday – we ventured to Val Thorens with our then 1 year old for a week (with my parents in tow!). The last two years we’ve been lucky (spoilt!) to spend a week in Dubai in lue of the annual ski week. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t tempted by this again (there’s not an awful lot in the price!). The thought of some warm middle eastern sun and incredible service was oh so tempting. That said, we felt that if we didn’t go back to skiing this year we probably wouldn’t go back at all.
We quickly settled on flying to Geneva, Switzerland. The flights were really cheap and it gave us plenty of ski options within a 2-3 hour drive. Having flown into the airport before (on our previous trip to Val Thorens) we also knew it had a fab children’s play room and wonderful baby changing facilities. Planning to hire a car – we could have driven to any number of French ski resorts/towns but we settled on staying in Switzerland – neither of us had been for a number of years and they do say variety is the spice of life! Ok so we knew Switzerland would be expensive but we figured that we’d be mostly self-catering so how bad could it be! (more about that below!). I should add that although we hired a car train connections in Switzerland are unsurprisingly brilliant and you can, I believe, easily travel to ski resorts by train.
In resort or down the mountain?
The usual dilemma when it comes to planning ski trips with children… As we were traveling with my parents we wanted to have plenty of non-ski activities available. We were also conscious that our youngest (18months) would need to be kept occupied whilst we galavanted off skiing. Balancing this with the price difference etc we settled on staying in Berne (the capital) and driving up to a resort for the odd day/lesson etc. Berne seemed well placed – there were a number of resorts within 2 hours and plenty of non-ski activities as well. Accomodation prices meant we’d have plenty of space and parking was straight forward.
As usual we settled on an Airbnb. This time choosing Oliver’s beautiful apartment on the outskirts of the city. Recently renovated it was of a very high standard. 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms meant that we were all comfortable and it had the added bonus of having the most wonderful childrens play areas (and bbq’s!) in the complex. It was well placed for supermarkets (with an Aldi just a 5 min stroll) and had a lovely bakery on its doorstep. Two gorgeous balconies would make this a wonderful spot in warmer months – we’d certainly return if we found ourselves back in the area.
*Top Tip: Live like a local, book an apartment through, this link for £25 travel credit with Airbnb and we get a little something off our next booking too, enjoy!
The apartment was an easy 15 minute drive from the centre of Berne (although we gather it is also on a tram route). We drove (easier and cheaper with 4 adults and two children). Parking in the city was easy – check out the Berne parking website (it gives full details of all the parking options as well as up to date space numbers etc). Most seem to have ‘mummy and baby’ spaces and they all seemed to have lifts (I can vouch for the Rathaus parking and parking Casino). In all the ones we used you could pay by card. Ok so once you’ve parked (always a challenge with little people in a foreign city!) you can easily explore Berne on foot.
The clock tower is a big hit. Make sure you’re there on the hour when it does it’s thing! The chocolate shops are yummy and the views from the river divine (although you will need to lug a pram down some steps – It’s worth it). Also worth noting that there is plenty of scooter potential for children down by the river (on flat and well enclosed walkways). As we were there in the winter months we enjoyed an early evening ice skating session but I gather that summer months see visitors and locals swimming in the river!
Eating out in Switzerland is really not cheap. Given that it can be a stressful experience with little people in tow we opted for a ‘picnic’. We stumbled across the Migros supermarket takeaway area (Marktgasse). We had some delicious pizza and some more traditional flammerkeuche all followed off with some delicious chocolate.
Slightly out of the centre but very close to our apartment was Gurten Park. Accessible via a cable car it’s an exciting option for the whole family (there’s a multi-storey carpark at the base of the hill). The cable car is all very child/baby friendly – you can easily take prams (in the fact the day we went there were more families going up then anyone else!). At the top, you’ll discover a huge park – plenty of open space for even the most adventurous toddler! There are various marked walkways (including some down the mountain). The highlights for us were the little motorised cars, the giant marble run, the mini train and the various play parks. We had hoped to give our daughter the chance to ski (it is sometimes possible) – sadly not whilst we were there.
If you’re in need of a drink or a loo stop (and when aren’t you with little people in tow!) head to the cafe, Tapis Rouge. You’ll find a fab children’s play area at the back with plenty of seating. The lunches looked lovely but you’d definitely need to book. It was clearly popular with families.
Thun and lake Thun
When too much snow prevented skiing (!!) we decided to explore Lake Thun and the town of Thun itself. It was an easy 35 min drive from our apartment. The lakeside views were wonderful. We stopped first in Oberhofen. There’s a children’s play park on the edge of the lake and a little cafe – Pier 17 (although check opening times because it wasn’t open when we were there off season). The play park was slightly too advanced for our two children but they still found things to enjoy. You can also take the Thun cruise boat here. Sadly for us it runs only sporadically in the winter months so we couldn’t do this. So after some time here, soaking up the spectacular views we jumped back in the car and returned to Thun itself. As you drive to Thun you pass a number of lakeside play areas and parks. Plenty of places to explore in warmer months.
Thun itself is a thriving, bustling city with an imposing castle overlooking the town (again only open sporadically during the off season). Parking was easy and we quickly stumbled across a lovely riverside play area and a nearby cafe (serving delicious gluwein and apple strudel!).
Without a doubt the highlight of our trip! An easy 1hr 20 from our Airbnb with plenty of parking. The children’s ski area at Bodmi was the ideal place for our eldest to find her ski legs (cue proud parenting moment!). Stunning views for us adults and plenty of sunny spots! There’s an honesty box cafe by the ski school and you can book classes at Bodmi – all very convenient. The ski bus runs from the centre but we were able to park (perks of going off season!). Ski lessons were of a really high standard. A full ski school programme operates with arts and crafts in the afternoon (so mummy and daddy can enjoy the slopes!). Grindelwald itself was lovely – small enough to walk around, fab swimming pool (with a slide!), children’s play park and lots of cafes and restaurants and wonderfully stocked supermarkets. You can take the train from Grindelwald up to Jungfrau (the top of Europe!) but sadly, bad weather prevented us from doing this on two occasions. All in all a fab family ski resort. You could stay in Interlarken and it would be a much more manageable 40 minutes to resort (and accessible by train!) – perhaps next time!
All in all a fab week away, with yet more family memories made. Whilst Dubai remains a tempting winter break option I’ve been reminded of the joys of skiing and the children loved it! Roll on next year.