Rachael Harding began her career in travel at Flight Centre in London during a post-university backpacking trip more than two decades ago, and has lived in Japan, New York and in a kibbutz in Israel. She has been in her current role as CEO – East, South Asia & Pacific (ESAP) Markets at Club Med for the past year, and loves road-testing its resorts with her husband Justin and five-year-old son James
Hi Rachael Harding, what is your ideal family holiday?
My ideal family holiday is a combination of ‘we time’ and ‘me time’. Let’s face it, holidaying with kids can sometimes be even more tiring than parenting at home and, believe me, the kids also want some time out. That’s why I love an all-inclusive resort holiday like Club Med (and I am not just saying that because I work for the company). Whether it be a beach or ski resort, it allows us to enjoy an abundance of activities together, but also gives us all time to re-energise individually, meet new friends and learn something new.
What is your best family holiday?
My fondest family holiday memory is Club Med Kani (Maldives) – the daily routine of strolling from our bungalow into the crystal blue water, finding the most colourful of fish, eating and drinking what we wanted when we wanted and watching the sun go down with the most perfect backdrop, was bliss. I have never felt so disconnected to the everyday and so connected with my loved ones. But I must also mention, in compete contrast, our holiday last year to Lapland and the home of Santa Claus in Rovaniemi, Finland. Nothing can ever beat a Christmas Day that starts with a reindeer ride through a fairytale forest, and ends with Santa delivering our son’s presents to our cottage door!
Rachael, according to you, what is the main benefit of travelling for kids?
Travelling increases kids’ tolerance for discomfort. Many anomalies are experienced when travelling, both good and bad, and this will bring a level of discomfort, but it also allows kids to problem-solve, practise patience, and express gratitude in new ways.
What should travelling families experience?
Every family should experience an element of giving back on their holiday. Choose an amazing adventure while also supporting people, animals, and the planet. It’s the best way to ensure your travels are meaningful to the people and places you visit. At Club Med, we offer a range of programs from coral restoration in the Maldives and protecting wildlife at our turtle sanctuaries in Indonesia and Malaysia, to ecological walks to learn about the local wildlife and surroundings. Our Kids’ Clubs have a dedicated sustainability program, encouraging both multicultural exchanges and learning about plants, nature and nutrition.
What is your top tip for parents travelling with their kids?
My top tip for travelling with kids is to get them involved in the planning. OK, you can guide them, but let them think they have a hand in choosing some, or all, of the trip. The anticipation then becomes much more exciting for everyone, and extremely rewarding when they arrive and see first-hand all that they have been working on. Also, accept things will go wrong – it’s all part of it, and often the part of the holiday you end up reminiscing about for years.