It may seem an unoriginal choice, but Dubai is one of my favourite holiday destinations – it’s clean, safe, always sunny and a paradise for children.
Eye-wateringly expensive it may be, but the Jumeirah chain of hotels, ranging from the more affordable Jumeirah Beach Hotel to the blow-the-budget Burj Al Arab are brilliant.
We stayed at the Al Qasr, part of the Madinat Jumeirah group, for a week during the Easter holidays. The hotel’s design is not subtle, but then neither is Dubai. It’s flash and full of tall botoxed Russians but don’t let that put you off because the facilities are fabulous.
Sinbad’s kids club, with its own mini water park, is positioned right by the ginormous swimming pool, allowing me to drop off Magnus for a couple of hours at any time throughout the day. There are activities such as football, kite making and feeding the turtles, although they didn’t always run to schedule.
The biggest attraction for Magnus was the Wild Wadi water park. Admission is free for all Jumeirah residents and there’s even a separate entrance – a God-send in peak times (Friday and Saturday). Younger children can swim in the beach style pool, complete with wave machine, or explore the smaller slides and play area.
We didn’t bother with the larger slides (appropriate for 6/7 years and over) but I was told there was about an hour wait to get on – so it’s worth getting there early to beat the queues. Be prepared for some interesting sights; if you have an aversion to back hair you’ll be in for a treat.
It’s very easy to succumb to room-service when you are holidaying as a single parent but the Madinat Souk makes dining out easy. After a stroll around the shops and stalls there are plenty of options. If you have a fussy-eater like mine, then Italian is always a winner.
Toscana became our evening hang out, Magnus delighted in its pizza and ice cream whilst I was more partial to an Aperol spritz. For more adventurous palates Anar offering Persian cuisine received a lot of positive reviews, as did Pai Thai and beach-side restaurant Shimmers.
This was my fifth visit to Dubai and in all those holidays I had never once had a bad day of weather, so I was in disbelief waking one morning to open the curtains to a sandstorm. Shock horror and panic set in, what would we do?
Then I remembered the wonder that is the Mall of the Emirates. A shuttle bus service runs from the hotel making life even easier. No substandard affair, this is a shopping haven to get lost in; it even boasts a fake ski slope, Kidzania and Harvey Nicks. Bored children can wile away the hours at The Toy Store, but leaving empty handed requires a will of iron; trust me, there will be tears.
Another mall worth a visit is the unimaginatively named Dubai Mall. Along with a plethora of shops and restaurants it houses the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, it kept us occupied for a good hour. For something a little more authentic, the fruit bats and geckos of the UAE’s Night Creatures exhibition went down well with Magnus. Trying to escape without purchasing a souvenir bat was virtually impossible.
The next day, the sandstorm was a distant memory and normal service was resumed; Magnus engaged in extensive swimming pool activity whilst I managed to bury myself in a good book. Dubai may not be for everyone, but if you’re after a hassle-free holiday it’s a no-brainer.
Best time to go: September-May
Rooms at the Madinat Jumeirah start from AED700