In the two years since my little girl was born, I’ve travelled many times; but thinking about it nearly all of them had been to visit family or friends, or to go to events like weddings, and I was ready for a real family holiday, just the three of us. I have always loved the Tirolean Alps, and I have an enduring fascination with mountains, snow and crisp cold weather; so I jumped at the chance when an invitation to the Kids Hotel Lowe in Serfaus, Austria, dropped into my lap.
Motherhood for me has been a process of constantly recalibrating my life and how I live it; a journey of learning the little hacks and tricks that suddenly dissolve away all the stress from what seemed previously like impossible situations. Like the moment you realise that going to the supermarket is actually really easy as long as you always get a trolley immediately and seat your toddler in it. Those little, obvious changes that you never considered before which as soon as you apply them just make your whole life a billion times easier.
Going to a family-focused hotel – in fact, one specifically designed for kids aged 0-8 years old – for the first time was, for me, one of these moments. A major one. Sure, I’ve travelled with Maya lots, often solo, and we’d been to hotels before – one of these being a 5-Star resort located on the Bosphorus, Istanbul – but we had never been to one which was designed specifically with families and small children in mind – and it was a real revelation. After checking out TripAdvisor reviews for the hotel I was pretty excited, as previous guests raved about the service and facilities.
We arrived later than planned after a day full of unlucky delays and missed connections due to heavy snowfall, but all the stress of the day’s journey melted away as soon as we got to our suite, which was huge and spotlessly clean, with cosy but modern design, a beautiful rain shower and a balcony with breathtaking views of the mountains. All the rooms at Hotel Lowe have a separate kids’ room; and whilst Maya still sleeps in a cot next to us, it was great to have a place to put all her toys and books – a little oasis of mess and chaos that we could just close the door on. This was the first indication I had that this was going to be a seriously stress-free holiday – and below are 5 more of the top reason why Hotel Lowe is so great for parents and little ones…
1) The Kids Club
As I’m coming to discover, a good kids’ club is pretty important for any family holiday that’s going to be fun for baby and relaxing for parents. It needs to be colourful, welcoming, full of cool toys and staffed by consummate professionals; the Kinderwelt at Hotel Lowe is all of this and more. There’s a smaller room for babies under a year old, a big soft play area complete with slides that finish up in a big ball pit, a huge room full of toys, a kids-only craft and activity centre, and a serene, darkened sleeping area full of stuffed animals.
I was anxious about leaving Maya with new people as one always is, but I needn’t have worried; she barely looked up when I said goodbye and greeted me cheerfully and excitedly when I returned. There are plenty of staff on hand to take care of the little ones, and they have the no-nonsense air of seasoned pros. When I was very little, on Alpine holidays I used to get packed off to ski school for the week, and being an uncoordinated child who felt the cold badly, I was always freezing, wet and miserable; how I would have loved to have spent the days in a warm, bright place like this, reading, playing and making crafts!
2) Family-friendly fine dining
Okay. The food was a major part of the enjoyment for me on this trip! Hotel Lowe provides a delicious buffet for breakfast, one for lunch, plus an afternoon snack buffet full of pretzels and pickles and cheeses, as well as a cake assortment. Then dinner is a much more fancy affair, with a set menu that you pick four courses from: starter, soup, main and dessert. The portions and style of cuisine are very much what you’d find in a high-end restaurant; small, rich and delicate, with lots of flavours packed into one tiny, artistic plate.
Pretty much everything was utterly delicious, although I had to abandon my attempts continue the vegan lifestyle I pursue at home during this trip – something I had been prepared for (it is the Tirol region, after all) and be content with vegetarianism/pescatarianism. However I never asked for a vegan alternative – the hotel does provide soya milk, plus lactose-free and gluten-free options, so just ask – they have such a can-do attitude and such skilled kitchen staff that I’m sure many options that I never fully explored (due to a lack of willpower and dedication) are possible. For the children, there is always a kids’ buffet available, full of the sort of simple classics that small children love such as pasta with tomato sauce, and there’s also a special area for preparing baby meals, with complimentary jars of Hipp baby food and formula.
3) Water world!
It’s not often that you visit a hotel with such incredible pool facilities. I mean, actually, I’ve never been to a hotel with pool facilities like this; it was like being in a mini Center Parcs. There is an actual, bona fide water park in the lower floor of the hotel. I’m talking water cannons, slides, an aquatic assault course – and a huge 75 m long water slide, complete with disco lights and inflatable doughnuts to sit on, with a design that someone has logistically perfected so precisely that you don’t even splash your face when you reach the bottom. The little one was too small to go on this but I visited it ahem, let’s say once or twice. Purely for research purposes of course.
There’s a family sauna and steam room too (as the main sauna facilities are very sensibly adults-only), a shallow baby pool that the very little ones can hop in and out of easily, plus a lovely relaxing heated indoor pool for floating around at a leisurely pace.
And then there is the gorgeous, serene, warm-as-a-bath outdoor rooftop pool, which looks out over a spectacular vista of snow-capped peaks. I’ve always had a thing for a hot outdoor pool in cold weather, and this one was a real showstopper. Although this pool is clearly aimed more at adults, Maya loved it too and gurgled with delight at being lifted out into the freezing air and plonked back into the warm water again. For me, the stillness and quiet of the mountains, the freshness of the air and the warm steam rising as I floated in perfect peace was simply magical, and the most relaxing thing I’ve experienced in a long time.
And the pool isn’t even the half of it – other facilities include a spa, sauna, a post-sauna relaxation deck with mountain view, and an entertainment room with arcade games. In fact I’m pretty sure you could not even leave the hotel once for your whole stay and still never run out of things to do…
4) Location, location, location
I’ve always loved the Alps; I adore snow-laden firs and mountains and have always found the Austrian Tirol region utterly magical. Serfaus was no exception – it’s a typical Alpine village, complete with a beautiful ancient church, hilly, winding streets and traditionally designed wood and plaster huts with huge pitched roofs and decorative balconies and balustrades. It’s not just a ski resort; there are tons of beautiful hiking trails that weave in and around the village, and on our walks we saw plenty of families out strolling with their kids or just playing in the snow. The ski resort, however, does deserve a big mention, because the sheer range and quality of pistes is pretty amazing.
There was to be no snowboarding for us on this trip sadly, mainly because I’m 6 months pregnant, but both Ryan and I seriously got the boarding itch when we took the cable car up to Komperdell Bahn for a day of hiking and playing with Maya. The pistes look incredible, and the snow crunched under our feet with the pleasant squeaking sound that signifies perfect powder conditions. We contented ourselves instead with a sledge run – there is a designated piste for sledging near the kids’ activity area, which even has a “lift” to save sledders from trudging back up the hill – and hiking around the pistes on some of the beautiful walking trails.
Our mountain buggy (buggies are available to borrow from the front desk of Hotel Lowe at no extra cost) wasn’t much good on the deep, loosely-packed snow so we locked it up and hired a sledge instead, tucking Maya into it so she could have a good snooze in the mountain air.
Serfaus itself is actually part of a wider ski resort called Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis. These three villages are easily accessible to one another by bus – the 4236 runs at regular intervals between them on its way to the bigger nearby town of Landeck, where you can take the train to and from Innsbruck. All three towns have an interlinked system of lifts and cable cars that join together across the mountains, so that the possibilities for different runs are endless. If you’re not skiing or boarding, however, you can still ride the cable cars up the mountains, or visit each little town; there’s not much in the way of shops (unless you’re looking for sports gear) but there are lots of places to eat traditional Tirolean fare and drink a steaming mug of gluhwein.
PS: The area is also gorgeous in the summer – read all about Kathi’s adventures in Ladis here.
5) The little touches
There are no sharp-cornered designer coffee tables for your little angel to bash their temples on. Wet wipes, baby toiletries and changing mats are provided as standard. Tiny bathrobes are provided for the smaller guests. The kids’ room even has a baby monitor built-in so that if you want to have dinner in peace, you can set the little ones down to sleep beforehand and head downstairs to eat your meal without sticky little fingers inserting squashed banana into your seared scallop with pea puree.
Crucially, the other occupants of the hotel understand that some noise is expected and doesn’t mean your child is a brat or that you are a bad parent. At meal times, you don’t need to worry about the mess on the tablecloth or be embarrassed that your toddler is attempting amateur gymnastics on her highchair. Everybody understands. You don’t stand out. And it’s wonderful – liberating, guilt-free, truly relaxing.
The real stand-out for me though, was the staff. Everyone we encountered was warm, patient and cheerful, with easy smiles and a willingness to help. The chambermaid made Maya’s bed differently every day, tucking her toy animals under the quilt or balancing them on the pillow. We were always seated at the same table, with the same server for breakfast and dinner, and we built up a lovely rapport with our waitress Melanie. She was very kind to Maya and so accommodating whenever we had any special requests. The concierge staff were similarly kind and helpful, providing us with swim nappies when we realised we’d forgotten Maya’s bathing suit, and even giving Maya a little toy lion as a gift upon our departure – which she now treasures.
After an experience like this, it’s going to be very hard from now on to stay in anything other than a family hotel – and the next one we visit is going to have a very high standard to live up to! If you love mountains, snow sports, luxury facilities and excellent, family-centred service, then I really can’t recommend Hotel Lowe highly enough.
Find out more about Hotel Lowe at their website and don’t forget to check out their facebook while you’re at it!