As part of my #markwarnermum role, one of the things that I was most keen to learn more about and report back on was the childcare facilities. A good kids club can make or break a holiday. You want to have the confidence that your little ones are being well looked after and are having fun so that you can kick back and relax and have a bit of time to yourself. It was also something that I was personally really nervous about because my littlest is a devoted mama's boy and not overly used to being with other people. In fact, I was so worried about him settling that I decided not to book myself in to ski school as I didn't want to be stuck in the mountains for three/four hours at a time and not contactable if anything went wrong. It turned out to be quite a wise decision.
Firstly, let me tell you that the children's area at the Chalet Hotel L'Ecrin is a joy to behold. The room is large, light, in keeping with the Savoie style of the hotel and filled with colourful toys and artwork. Both of my boys ran in on the first day, eyes-wide, and couldn't wait to play with everything. The littlest was booked in to the Toddler Club (ages 1 - 2 years) and my eldest was in the Mini Club (ages 3 - 5 years). Childcare is an extra cost on top of the standard Mark Warner holiday price - £285 for Toddler Club and £180 for Mini Club, which includes six days of childcare from 9am until 5.30pm (with lunch and high tea) and an evening listening service from 7.30pm until 11pm. For the quality of the crèche, the childcare and the flexibility of being able to spend your days skiing and your evenings dining or drinking cocktails, I think this is a fantastic price.
You don't have to leave your child for the full day (but you can and they will be very well looked after). An itinerary for the day is pinned up on the board so that you can see what the nannies have planned for their particular groups. My eldest enjoyed trips in to the town for pancakes and hot chocolate (an additional €5 for each activity) and loved playing new board games, creating a dinosaur land and drawing and colouring his own pair of skies. We signed him out a few times so we could take him for lunch and swimming in the hotel pool but, to be honest, he loved the kids club so much that he kept asking to go back. His absolute favourite part was the evening listening service though. After high tea, he would have a bath and put his pyjamas on and then head down to the crèche to watch a film with all of his new friends. His normal bedtime is 7pm so he couldn't believe his luck. Sweet little thing.
The girls working there were thoroughly lovely and couldn't have been more helpful. They were amazingly calm in the midst of all the chaos of getting lots of young children armed and ready for ski school. No mean feat when thermals, snow suits, gloves, helmets, goggles and skis are involved (and sometimes a few nervous tears).
If you want to book ski lessons for your little ones, the nannies will take them to and from the ski school. This is super handy if you've also booked lessons for yourself as they all seem to start at the same time. Come 8.50am, you can see hordes of hopeful skiers heading to the town square to meet up with their instructors for a 9am start. It was really quite fun to watch them all waddling in their ski boots with their skies slung over their shoulders. The little ones at the Chalet Hotel L'Ecrin, however, get to arrive in style in the Mark Warner mini-bus so you don't have to worry about them carrying all their kit or being tired before their lesson has even begun.
TOP TIP: If you order a Mark Warner brochure, you'll find a list of all the things that you need to bring for your child to the crèche ... e.g., suncream, sunglasses, pocket money, cream, bibs. It's really helpful when it comes to packing for your holiday.
With regards to mealtimes, I popped along to a couple and was amazed at how the nannies kept a whole table of children fed, watered and in their seats (I sometimes don't manage that with just two). The menu choice for the children was great. They had three main courses to choose from (bookable a day in advance) each lunchtime and teatime (lasagne, pizza, fish pie, roast chicken, pasta carbonara, chicken nuggets, to name but a few, and mostly served with vegetables) followed by a special pudding (apple crumble, chocolate sponge, for example) or a choice of fresh fruit, yogurt or ice cream. My eldest can be a bit of a picky eater but there wasn't one mealtime where he didn't like something. I even spotted him eating green beans which he steadfastly refuses to do so at home. Result!
But as I alluded to earlier, we did face one problem. One small but very, very feisty problem. That problem being my littlest dude and his refusal to be parted from his mama for any length of time. I hadn't expected him to spend full days at Toddler Club. I knew that would be a bit too much for him. However, after a great first day in the club and watching him run down there to watch a film in the evening, it was a bit of a shock when he didn't want to go back on the second day. It was of no fault of the Mark Warner crèche or the wonderful girls working there, he just doesn't like to be too far apart from me. He did go back for an hour here and there and towards the end of the week I think he really liked being there but had decided to feign indignance at being 'abandoned' by his mama (you know what I mean, the foot stamp that's accompanied by a smirk when they think you're not looking). Both Paul and I agreed that give him another year, and he would have loved it. He's just at the awkward toddler age. Good excuse to go back next year, right?
But, while I may not have been able to escape to the slopes as much as I'd expected, we did get time to work on mastering our mama/son selfies. Always a silver lining!
I know that the quality of the childcare is hugely important when booking a holiday and can result in you choosing one travel company or hotel over another. If you have any questions or concerns about the Mark Warner childcare facilities, please do ask. We really couldn't fault them but if you want to know anything specific, I'd be happy to elaborate.
Disclaimer: We visited Tignes and Chalet Hotel L'Ecrin as guests of Mark Warner but all opinions are honest.