Working in travel has its advantages and one of the greatest is occasionally coming across amazing airfares that scream out for you to just go ahead and book. Whilst looking for somewhere to holiday this summer, I saw an Emirates fare to Bali that did just that. After a quick conversation with my wife, we abandoned our search for a villa in Europe and pressed ahead in planning a family holiday to Bali - our first trip to Asia as a family, in the August break.
What we aimed to get from the holiday was a gentle introduction to Asia for our 12 year old daughter and 10 year old son, plus a much-needed relaxing break for me and my wife; no cooking, no cleaning, no chores. And we wanted to do this in as much comfort as our budget would allow, with all hotels pre-booked, plus car and boat transfers.
So we set off in mid-August from Gatwick to Dubai on Emirates arriving in Dubai at about 8pm. We had enough time to check in to our airport hotel (a convenient Premier Inn) before meeting friends for dinner in the Dubai Creek area. The following morning we flew directly to Denpasar airport on Bali, which takes about 9.5 hours. The service and inflight entertainment on both Emirates flights were exceptional, as was the food. Both of my children loved the child meals; well thought out and ideal for their age.
On arrival in Bali we were met by a driver and taken to our first hotel, the Hilton Resort in Nusa Dua. Bali has so many family-friendly resorts and as our sole intention for the first five nights was to unwind in comfort, we booked the 2 bedroom suite with a huge living area and sweeping sea views. It also has the added benefit of Executive Lounge access, giving you access to soft drinks and snacks throughout the day and canapés and cocktails for a couple of hours in the evening – just what we were looking for!
With 4 pools, a 40 foot water slide for the children and several restaurants, we were able to totally relax here. There is a lovely beach but there are often strong currents, so frequently it is not safe to swim in the sea here.
Much to the annoyance of our children, the holiday was also set to include some sightseeing, so for that we headed inland to Ubud, about a 70 minute drive from Nusa Dua. Ubud is full of art galleries, jewellery shops and lots of great little restaurants – if you wander for a few minutes and you will stumble across numerous choices.
We chose to stay slightly out of town at the Kori Ubud resort, in a 2 bedroom villa with a private plunge pool. It felt so tropical and far removed from the packed little streets of central Ubud and the jungle noises were a total contrast to the sounds of the ocean we’d experienced for the first few days of our trip by the beach.
As we only had a couple of days in Ubud, we decided the easiest way to sightsee would be by hiring a driver for the day, which worked perfectly as we could take in as little or as much as we fancied. In the end saw five or six sights - mainly temples dating back many hundreds of years, but also drove through lush rice padi fields and the stunning volcanic landscape.
Two nights in Ubud was just right for us but you could easily spend more time there. Before we knew it though, we were on to our next stop and making our way across to Gili Trawangan, the largest of the 3 Gili Islands. These are located off the coast of Lombok, about a 90 minute speed boat ride from Bali.
Gili Trawangan has a reputation for being a bit of party island for young backpackers, but it also has some beautiful little boutique-style hotels that are ideal for families. These are located well away from party central!
We opted to stay in the Gili Eco Resort which is a selection of nine individual villas on the northern coast. I can't rate the Eco Resort highly enough, it is so comfortable, the service is charming and the location is stunning - I will return at the first opportunity!
There are no motorised vehicles in the Gili islands so your "taxi" is a horse and cart, with plenty waiting to take you to the hotel when the boat docks on arrival.
The Gili islands are superb for diving, with several local companies offering PADI courses, plus you will find stacks of boats offering snorkelling trips. We opted to do a couple of the snorkelling trips privately, giving us the flexibility to stop where we pleased and to go at our own pace, including stops at the other two Gili islands, Gili Meno and Gili Air. The highlight was undoubtedly spotting turtles - what a sight!
From our hotel in Gili Trawangan, we could walk easily to a handful of restaurants on sandy beaches. All offered great food and all reasonably priced (on average we spent about £5 to £7 per person on main courses) but, in our humble opinion, the best food was to be found at the Eco Villas, with a choice of local or western dishes.
After five nights of beach living on Gili Trawangan we returned to Bali for a final two nights, staying at the Novotel on Benoa beach. We chose this hotel as it is fairly close to the airport (about 40 minutes’ drive) and they offer family rooms with a separate children's room with bunk beds. There is a great pool area by the beach and loads of water sports available locally in the form of jet skis, banana boats and parasailing.
After this, reluctantly we were heading for home, this time with a 3 hour stop to change plane in Dubai. Once again Emirates were superb and with flights from all over the UK (Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow) and Ireland (Dublin) they are a great choice for stacks of long haul destinations.
August is the peak season to visit Bali in terms of tourist numbers and that is reflected in the hotel rates. But the huge benefit is the near-perfect climate at this time of year; clear, sunny days with temperatures in the high 20's and in both Nusa Dua and Gili Trawangan we were blessed with lovely sea breezes. To our great surprise, we were almost completely mosquito free too. If there is a down side to Bali, it is the amount of traffic, with what looks like a short journey taking an age, but don't let that put you off – just plan in extra time!
In 2 weeks here we barely scratched the surface of this stunning destination. We constantly reflected on how it felt like we’d been away for weeks and weeks – a testament to the lazy days and the benefit of completely unwinding. I highly recommend a family holiday to Bali and the surrounding islands.
If you’d like to visit Indonesia with your family, Travel Nation can help. A huge number of our team have visited Bali recently, and many with their families, so we can help you plan the perfect trip or tailor-made holiday. We can arrange family-friendly flights with stopovers and transfers and find the best accommodation to suit you. We can also recommend local tours and book you a car and driver, so you can sightsee at your own pace.
To start planning your family trip, call us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote by email.