5 Foolproof Strategies to Quickly Make Yourself and Your Children Miserable

Hvar is a dream for kids and parents. It’s affordable, super safe, and full of fun activities. But! Much of the island is still a little bit off the beaten path, and it’s easy for visitors to confuse or overlook important details. Hvar Away is here to help you dodge the tourist traps and save you from some common pitfalls that families encounter here. At the end of the day, so long as you get to Hvar and stay here, you are more or less guaranteed a delightful experience. Our goal is to help you make that happen as painlessly as possible!

1. The Most Common Culprit: Doing Too Much

If you come from the “10 cities in 10 days” school of vacation planning, it’s time to Marie Kondo your vision. What is your goal? What do you and your kids really enjoy the most? Usually great family experiences fall into one of three categories:

Quality time to unwind and reconnect with each other in a beautiful, peaceful location.

Adrenaline activities that build upon family values of teamwork and self-confidence.

Cultural enrichment for kids and parents who are curious about the world.

Try blocking out your holiday from this perspective, as chunks of meaningful time. On a given day, you might have time for three or four “memories,” if you will. You know best what mix of high energy and quiet activities makes your family happy, and you can use that template to think about how you want to compose each day. Maybe breakfast at the beach, then a caving expedition, browsing through art galleries in the afternoon, and cooking and eating a meal together at night. Thinking about your precious time away from school and work in this way underscores what a waste it is to be constantly in transit, because sitting in a rental car or unpacking a suitcase for the third time rarely fulfills any of the goals outlined above. To what degree do “must-see” destinations actually align with what you and your family need?

Very often, tourists visiting Hvar island only see Hvar Town, which is not even the most historic town on the island. They are coming from the most crowded parts of Split and heading to the most crowded parts of Dubrovnik. While they are on Hvar, they want to go to Blue Cave, which is a long boat ride to another island, followed by a long line, leading to a short swim in a pretty, but crowded little pool. Then, because they didn’t know that they need to call a day ahead to order a traditional Dalmatian roast (called peka), they get a burger and fries for dinner. What a shame!

The island catchphrase is pomalo: “bit by bit” or “slowly”. You’ll also hear laganini: “take it easy”. It is a necessary mindset here, where most things take patience and consistent effort to accomplish. But it’s a great philosophy for visitors as well. The real pleasures of this place can’t be rushed. There’s no such thing as a fast-paced day on the beach or an accelerated wine tasting. If you are spending less than a week on the island, in an effort to “fit more in,” you are short-changing yourself.

2. Messing Up the Ferry

It’s easy to do. Even people who live here do it. But messing up the ferry will absolutely kill the mood of your family vacation. To travel to the islands that make Croatia’s coastline the world-famous destination that it is, you are pretty much obliged to travel by boat. Okay – a few islands do have airstrips for small private planes – but let’s assume that you are not one of the hundred or so people who make their entrance to the island in that way. That leaves you with the choice between a private boat or the ferry.

Our Beloved Jadrolinija

Our Beloved Jadrolinija

Google is not your friend when you are figuring out how to get to Hvar. When you search “ferry to Hvar,” you will see a lot of inaccurate travel aggregators or private ferry companies.

Instead, you want Jadrolinija. It is the main ferry company in coastal Croatia. There are other ferry providers, but we can’t vouch for them. Locals only use Jadrolinija. And why not? It is cheap, nice enough, and punctual. Most voyages take at least an hour and most boats have a snack bar – a perfect pause to relax or make dinner reservations. While Jadrolinija’s website may not be state of the art, it is accurate. Here are three points to be aware of:

1. Do not confuse your days and months (most relevant for Americans)

2. Don’t misread the “military” departure and arrival times (14:30 is easy to read as 4:30!)

3. Double-check where you're going. A LOT of people take a ferry to Hvar Town, for example, when they mean to take the ferry to Stari Grad. If you are bringing a car, you need to go to Stari Grad. It is the largest port on the island. There are also ferries to Jelsa and to Sućuraj, other towns on the island, which may be closer to where you're staying.

Book your ticket online. This is a must if you are travelling with a car, because spots for cars do run out. But it is a good idea for pedestrian travellers, too. In the hot summer months, the line at the ticket window in Split can stretch down the Riva.

Arrive a little bit early if you are travelling by foot. The ferries usually open their doors half an hour or so before departure, so you can grab a good spot. Arrive even earlier if you are taking a car to ensure your spot in the car line, then relax with a coffee at one of the nearby cafes.

Jadrolinija has two types of boat: catamarans are only for pedestrians; ferries take both cars and pedestrians. All boats have working bathrooms, although they are not all very nice (check to make sure your stall has toilet paper). When you see that most other passengers are heading downstairs to leave the boat, try to be at the end of that large group. You don't want to stand longer than you have to in the exhaust-filled hull, but you also don't want to miss the pedestrian exit and have to wait for all the cars and trucks to leave.

People usually leave their luggage in the main hull, but if you have concerns with doing that, just ask for the elevator or *dizalo.*

When to Hire a Private Boat in Croatia

Hiring a private boat is expensive. A journey from Split to one of its closest islands will set you back several hundred euros. The experience is pleasant, if usually a bit bouncy, and certainly faster than the ferry, but we really only think it’s mandatory for visitors who are arriving from long flights into Split. Americans, Australians, and visitors from East Asia, for example, have had 12+ hour journeys just to get to the mainland airport. To then have to kill a few hours in Split while hauling around luggage is a recipe for misery – and in any case, the ferry schedule may force these visitors to spend the night in the city anyway, a waste of precious vacation time and quite a bit of cash, because Split hotel prices in the high season are astronomical.

Under those circumstances, it is cost competitive and much less stressful to simply book a transfer with a reputable operator. If you are a guest with Hvar Away, we will be happy to arrange an airport transfer for you, or you can book it independently with outfits such as Stari Grad Adventures or Faros Boats. A driver will meet you at the airport, help carry your luggage to the dock a few minutes away, and whisk you to your destination city or even straight to your accommodations, if it has a dock.

3. Overpaying for a Cramped Hotel

Hvar has some incredible resorts, but generally you do not need to be a guest to enjoy their best features. Wowed by the buffet? Or the cute lounge area by the pool? Then splurge on a lazy brunch for the whole family, which will still cost less than a single night’s stay.

Meanwhile, you can reserve an entire house, with plenty of private space for adults and common space for family time, as well as your own kitchen, laundry, and terrace for the same price as a pair of rooms at a comparable resort. Hotels can quickly gobble up an entire vacation budget, and the cost per square metre just can’t compete with villa rentals. Rental houses offer so much more flexibility for family holidays, and a much better value for your cash.

Better still, Hvar Away can arrange services at your private villa that would be the envy of any resort on the coast. Massage, a Michelin-starred private chef, yoga classes – if you can dream it, we can probably make it a reality.

4. Forgetting to Buy Insurance

Hvar is by no means a dangerous place, but every year a few unlucky tourists wind up in the hospital. When the dog bites, when the bee stings…. traveller’s insurance will be one of your favourite things. There is an emergency room in Jelsa, and serious cases are whisked to the mainland by helicopter. It is a lifesaver (literally), but if you are not insured, these procedures will cost you.

Visitors from other EU countries have reciprocity in Croatia, so their care is covered under existing insurance. Everyone else should buy traveller’s insurance if they are not already covered in case of emergency by their domestic provider.

5. All Work and No Play

Vacation can feel more like a business trip when parents are responsible for 24/7 childcare. Parents need time to relax, not only for their own well-being, but also for their children’s. Quality child-minding help is more affordable than you may think in Croatia, and it buys priceless hours of true relaxation for moms and dads.

For guests who stay in Hvar Away’s villas, we can recommend a superb nanny who will keep little ones safe, entertained, and screen-free while you explore the island, treat yourself to a special dinner, or just relax by the beach. As they say, you cannot pour from an empty cup, and a vacation should help parents recharge, too.

Parents need time to relax

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