Q My daughter lives in Australia with her two daughters, who will be six and nearly four next March. She is keen to meet me in Japan then, just before the busy blossom season, for a two-week holiday to include time in the countryside and experiencing the culture. I don’t know where to start, but would it be better to go when the children are a bit older? Can you help?
Clare Halsted, via email
A Japan is a fantastic option for families with young children and, flying from Australia, they won’t have jet lag. It’s one of the safest (and cleanest) countries in the world — the worst thing that’s likely to happen is you’ll get lost — with wonderful food and relatively stress-free travel.
I would recommend a specialist tour operator such as Inside Japan (0117 370 9751, insidejapantours.com). It has a 12-night Mountains & Culture Family Activity Holiday that includes plenty of visits that would be great for your granddaughters, including the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo and the Osaka Aquarium. The children should also enjoy cycling in the countryside, bashing taiko drums and becoming a ninja stuntman for an afternoon.
There’s plenty of scope to tailor the itinerary to include sightseeing in the morning and child-friendly activities in the afternoon without feeling too rushed. The trip costs from £7,350 for four, excluding international flights. Audley Travel (01993 838210, audleytravel.com) could also organise a family trip.
Q We have been looking for a villa near Bologna or Parma or farther south in Tuscany in June or July, but haven’t been able to find anything suitable because I use a wheelchair and need a bedroom and shower on the ground floor. We want a private pool, at least four bedrooms (with the same number of bathrooms) and would like to be near a village or town. Budget isn’t too much of an issue.
Isabell Turnbull, via email
A If budget isn’t a problem Villa Gonzola, a five-bedroom property that is part of the beautiful La Foce estate near Montepulciano in southern Tuscany, ticks your boxes. One of the en suite bedrooms is on the ground floor and has wheelchair access. There’s a separate pool house, pergola terrace, antique furniture and a superb kitchen. La Foce has a restaurant, and the hill town of Contignano, ten minutes away, has a few more trattorias and a supermarket, plus a pecorino factory. A week next June starts at £4,465 through Real Holidays (020 7359 3938, realholidays.co.uk).
Alternatively there are two villas, each with four bedrooms, in the pretty village of Iano, near Montaione, in Tuscany that would also suit you. Villa Torre Sassa, which has cracking views across the Val d’Elsa, will cost about £3,500 for a week in June, while Villa La Sassolina (on the ground floor of an old school) should be about £3,300 (2018 prices have not been fixed) through Essential Italy (01223 460100, essentialitaly.co.uk), which could also organise cooks and cookery lessons.
Q I am a 62-year-old woman who has never been on a holiday alone. I want to see the Greek islands, especially Santorini. Can you recommend a tour?
Carole Davis, via email
A Travelling on your own can seem daunting, but companies such as Friendship Travel (friendshiptravel.com) specialise in relaxed and friendly house party-style trips for more mature solo holidaymakers that ensure no one gets left out. It has a seven-night trip to Paros, one of the Cyclades islands, in June or September next year that starts at £1,180pp and can be extended with a few days in Santorini. The price includes flights, double room for single use, daily breakfast and four dinners, plus the services of a Friendship host.
Don’t put up with this: Room description changed after booking
In February I booked a holiday at the Nana Beach Hotel in Crete with First Choice, with accommodation that was advertised as a two-bedroom family room. Before booking I had double-checked on the phone and in the shop that it was definitely two bedrooms and was reassured that it was.
In June I received an email stating that the two-bedroom family room was actually one bedroom with twin beds in the lounge. There was no offer of compensation or an apology.
I have spent hours on the phone trying to sort this out and have written again stating that I am travelling under protest (as advised by Abta). I have now had to pay £550 to upgrade to a suitable hotel. First Choice has told me that no compensation, refund or gesture of goodwill is appropriate on this occasion. Can you help?
Dalhia Campbell, via email
What makes your situation particularly galling is that you checked with First Choice more than once that you were booking two proper bedrooms for your family. After my intervention you have been offered a refund of the difference in price between the two rooms. A First Choice spokesman apologised for your “booking experience” and added: “We are also reviewing the hotel room description on our website to update the information available to customers.”