Vicki Notaro used to dread the thoughts of spending a week horizontal in the sun, but now she lives for it.
I’ll hold my hands up – for a long time, I was a holiday snob. I only wanted to travel to “cool” and different places, and see “worthwhile” sights, refusing to simply spend a week in the sun sipping cheap cocktails and getting freckly. This attitude led to me missing out on the rite of passage Leaving Cert Holiday, instead spending a fortnight with my then-boyfriend bored out of my tree in rural Eastern Europe. I also spent a fortune in both time and money booking that and subsequent trips, relying on dial-up internet (I’m er, the older end of Millennial) and endless searches to get what turned out to be pretty crappy deals.
All that changed last year, when I won a week-long holiday to Portugal (lucky wagon, I know). My husband and I rolled up to the TUI Sensimar Lagos exhausted from work, life and decorating, and just wanted to lie in the sun and chill out. I was nervous all the same; package holidays to me in the past usually involved badly timed charter flights, screaming kids, crap food and chavvy resorts. In fact, the only sun holiday we’d taken together before had turned out not to be a package at all, but a shitty resort booked with Ryanair flights and the requisite baggage woes. Just goes to show that booking with a travel agent sometimes means diddly squat.
But the Sensimar changed my mind; the resorts are adults only (a big win in my book), nice enough to attract a nicer clientele without being too dear or elitist, and absolutely fabulous. After a week of bliss, we swore that we’d make time to get away for a week’s package holiday every year, if they were all as nice as that. Reader, I am now a true convert. This summer, we stayed in Sensimar Pioneer Beach in the area of Paphos on a half board basis, and this is what I learned…
Once you book your package (usually with a small deposit), you can just forget about it. No need to worry about online check-in, paying for extra baggage or booking transfers. You get a checked bag up to 20kg, so no faffing with toiletries less than 100ml either.
Once you get off the plane, you get on a coach and you’re dropped at the door of your hotel. Once you work out where you’ll eat breakfast and where you’ll sunbathe, your brain can be switched off.
In Sensimars, you can just sign for everything whether it’s lunch, a drink or an ice-cream. If you chose half board, you get your buffet breakfast and dinner. Our resort had three other restaurants as well, for lunch and a la carte dinners you pay for separately.
We quickly figured out that going all inclusive at €46 each a day was a no brainer; you get your brekkie, whatever lunch you want, a four course a la carte dinner and drinks all day and night included, as well as a stocked minibar. Once we realised Paphos town didn’t have much to offer us besides a few themed bars, we upgraded straightaway for two days. It was deadly that we could just choose to do it then and there, and we weren’t bored with the food either cos there was lots of choice – and LOTS of gin cocktails.
I would have always been especially snobby in the past about entertainment, thinking that it was unbearably cheesy or only for kids or old people, but I absolutely adored the performers in these resorts. Perhaps that’s a sign of old age, but you just have to get over yourself and go with the holiday mentality. Get involved with the cheese, people. There was a magic act and everything!
Sensimars also have a sundowners evening once a week where the management organises drinks and canapes, and you can do activities during the day like fitness classes and wine tasting. At the same time though, you don’t have to get involved with any of this stuff if you don’t want to.
Look, it’s not exactly the most culturally stimulating of holidays but if you need a week to relax, switch off and just laze in the sun in a beautiful resort, a package like this is ideal; in fact, it was an absolute tonic. I read all the books I’ve been meaning to get around to, got a nice tan and just chilled out with my husband in a way we don’t at home with all the trappings of life. My advice is to choose as nice a resort as you can afford, choose a package to suit you (like if you’re a fussy eater, just go B&B) and take advantage of all the perks of booking a package – helpful customer service in advance, reps while you’re there, and not having to lift a finger on your break.
Maybe I’ll see you next year in Greece!