Currency: Kuna (approx. 8.5 Kuna to the Pound at time of writing)
Package Holiday? No
My husband was in charge of booking this holiday and was alarmingly well prepared, as he booked the flights about four weeks in advance!
Our nearest airport is Leeds Bradford, but we have driven to other airports (and paid for parking) in order to save ourselves from overpaying for flights by a few hundred pounds. This time it wasn’t necessary, as Jet2 were the cheapest option. The booking process was simple enough. They wanted to charge £8 to reserve a seat per person, which adds up to a lot of money, so we decided not to bother, assuming that they wouldn’t seat a three-year-old on his own away from his parents.
We were proved correct and were seated across the aisle from one another. Airlines can’t let two adults, a child and two infants sit on the same row of three seats, as there is only four overhead oxygen masks available, meaning someone would be without. Therefore, we are normally separated when travelling with two infants.
After an hour’s delay, we were off. The flight was fine. The cabin crew have already been slated in a previous post, so no need to lay into them again! All luggage turned up and away we went.
Given that we need three bedrooms, staying in Old Town Dubrovnik would have been very expensive. We decided to stay out of the hustle and bustle and settled on a three bedroom apartment in Zaton, which is a small coastal town with a few restaurants and shingle beaches. It was advertised as having air con (with temperatures well into the 30s, we needed it) and a sea view, so we paid our £500 for the week thinking it seemed to be good value for money for a largish apartment rated 9.3 out of 10 from traveller reviews.
This was booked through Booking.com, which has a wealth of options and a review system that one can have confidence in, as all of the reviews are collected from people who have stayed at the apartment after booking through their site. We were greeted by the owner, who gave us a full run down of the local area and the amenities at the apartment. He was very friendly and set the tone for the rest of the Croatians that we met, as they are a very friendly bunch.
Booking.com also has a system that allows you to contact the owner, meaning that you can iron out any potential issues prior to arrival e.g. whether they have enough cots, whether there is a washing machine. We managed to move the contact method to WhatsApp after a couple of messages.
If you have a flight that departs in the evening, it’s also worth establishing what your check out obligations are. A 10am check out and a 21:00 flight can mean being stuck with your luggage for a whole day, which is hard enough without having to occupy your children too.
I do not intend to give you a blow by blow account of our holiday, but to summarise some of the more practical concerns that we addressed prior to arriving.
We established that there was a washing machine. Dull, I know. However, when you have three children, luggage can be an unnecessary hassle, especially if you didn’t need to bring it all. Having a washing machine cut our luggage load in half, so was extremely useful and saved us money, as we could avail of the hand luggage allowance.
We established whether the apartment could provide cots. They could provide one, so we took a travel cot for our one-year-old to sleep in. A potentially awkward situation was avoided in a couple of Whatsapp messages.
Jet2’s hand luggage allowance is stingy, so we paid for a suitcase, assuming that we would make the £46 back in not having to buy toiletries etc when out there. It’s always worth checking the allowances prior to booking, as airlines like Ryanair are reasonably generous with theirs, meaning that we always travel with hand luggage only when flying with them.
Will you be eating at the apartment regularly? If so, it’s possibly worth taking a high chair. I’m not talking about squeezing an Ikea 4’ high one into your cabin case, but there are plenty of travel options on the market. We have a Phil & Ted’s lobster chair (https://www.amazon.co.uk/
Nappies. We took them to Rhodes, for example, as we were staying in a remote part of the island and were glad that we did, as the cost was extortionate and choice very limited. My husband did the supermarket run on the first day (short walk down the road) and came back with prices and options, as he’s supportive in my ventures and wanted to contribute to the site. Bottom (ho ho ho) line is that 74 size 3 Pampers nappies were £17 in what was a reasonably priced shop. Or 23p per nappy. Compare that to the usual price of 10p a nappy for Pampers (for those that shop around) and taking your own suddenly seems a lot more appealing. Wipes were about £1 per pack for own brand ones, so not worth taking those really.
Footwear! We did our research and established that the beaches were mainly stone/shingle, so invested in some water shoes for the boys, as we didn’t want them to hurt their feet. We also wanted them to go into the water as much as possible, so that they were tired out at bedtime! Much of Dubrovnik Old Town is cobbled, so we travelled in trainers and Clark’s Doodles to make sure that we were prepared for all terrains, as we also intended to get the boat to Lokrum and possibly visit other places slightly off the beaten track.
Sometimes car hire is very cheap (Spain & Italy being examples). Sometimes it is much less so (Barbados, for example). In other places, foreign nationals are not allowed to drive e.g. Bermuda. With that in mind, we always check out the public transport options and go from there.
While car hire is not particularly expensive in Croatia, we generally need a 7 seater vehicle, which pushes the price up considerably. Thankfully, the bus service was cheap and reliable. Most buses have disabled/pushchair access doors, making embarking and disembarking the bus easy. The timetables are available online and we found that the buses generally turned up on time, were safe and comfortable.
To travel from Zaton to the Old Town, we needed to catch a bus to the main bus station and then get a connecting bus to the Old Town. All of this cost just under £6 for the five of us, which represented great value considering the miles that we covered. The total journey time was around half an hour if you could sync your connections nicely, which we got reasonably good at doing. The main bus station also has an information point for any queries, with the agents fluent in several languages.
We were really glad that we didn’t bother with a car, as it would have been unnecessary for us. We did treat ourselves to a private transfer to and from the airport. The cost of this was around £85 for the return journey and the driver provided car seats for each of our three children. This was primarily to avoid taking large amounts of luggage on public buses that are not equipped for it, but also as our flight times were in the evening, when the bus service becomes a little less frequent. It was arranged through our host, but companies such as Suntransfers (insert link?) provide them for roughly the same cost, albeit with fairly steep charges for car seats if they are required.
Last but not least, transport for the children also had to be considered. We took our trusty Maclaren double pushchair for the boys (a slightly older version of this: https://www.amazon.co.uk/
Will We Return?
Yes. While we only saw a small part of Croatia, the people were friendly, everywhere seemed incredibly safe and we all had a great time. There is lots to do and the cost of living is cheaper than the UK, even in tourist hotspots such as Dubrovnik.
If you have any questions or comments on any of the above, I’d be delighted to hear from you.