These days, when traveling with the kiddos in tow it’s not just about calling ahead to request a cot. With so many hotels and resorts around the world catering to kids like never before with services unheard of just a few years ago (free babysitting? kids clubs? tween spas services?), it can really pay off to do your research.
And when you’re planning a trip half way across the planet, doing your research couldn’t be more important. So for those thinking of taking a big family trip to the US, Mexico or Caribbean this year, we’ve asked Carrie Harrison-Ell, SVP of Hotel Programs for Kiwi Collection and busy mother of three to give us her top 10 family-friendly getaways.
Top 10 Family-Friendly Luxury Getaways
Today most hotels consider themselves family-friendly, but what does that really mean? In some cases, it simply means tolerating kids on the property. In other cases, it means much more than that.
When I travel with my family, which includes three children, I want to ensure we will all have a great time. Aside from kids clubs full of exciting activities, I always look for a trustworthy babysitting service in case we parents want to enjoy an evening out for dinner. A kids’ pool is also key, along with water toys or slides that take the swimming experience to a whole new level for wee ones. It’s also ideal for our hotel to have kid-friendly menus and, even better, a store where we can buy one-off items like milk, snacks and maybe even a treat here and there (after all it is a vacation).
Here’s my list of 10 truly fantastic family getaways, one’s with above-and-beyond programs and amenities.
WALDORF ASTORIA ORLANDO, FLORIDA
Aside from endless activities at Walt Disney World, this hotel offers tons of on-property kids activities that change seasonally as well as their “Astoria After Dark” program, which includes dinner so mom and dad can have some alone time.
FAIRMONT MAYAKOBA, RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO
Their Discovery Club & Adventure Camp not only offers unique activities, but ones rich in education about the culture of the Riviera Maya. There are five swimming pools on property, including one for adults only, so no matter what your swimming needs might be, there is a pool that will suit them.
If you call ahead and let the hotel know the age of your children, they’ll prepare a special welcome kit based on age and gender. The resort’s Kids Club, which is free for the first two hours and staffed by energetic and caring counselors, is a great place for kids to hang out while mom and dad indulge at the spa. Each private treatment room has a brilliant view of the ocean.
GRACY BAY CLUB, TURKS AND CAICOS
In addition to the hotel’s amazing on-site programs and activities, Grace Bay has various VIK (Very Important Kids) packages that offer exclusive amenities for 17 and under. Upon arrival, kids feel extra special when they are personally greeted by a hotel exec and handed fruit punch. The resort will also arrange a private picnic on a nearby, uninhabited island that’s perfect for the entire family.
HALF MOON, A ROCKRESORT, JAMAICA
The resort’s charming Anancy Childrens’ Village features a model “Caribbean village” and for teens, The Hype Zone features everything from tennis clinics to horseback riding. And mom and dad will discover a whole new level of relaxation after a visit to Fern Tree, the resort’s 68,000 square-foot indoor/outdoor spa.
ROUND HILL HOTEL & VILLAS, JAMAICA
Located in a newly renovated house adjacent to the lobby and beach, the Pineapple Kids’ Club and 7-Up Club promote fun while offering a lot of educational activities including talent shows and reggae lessons. Access to fun cultural activities simply begins at the resort and isn’t just for the little ones! The concierge is ready to plan endless activities ranging from exploring Plantations to river tubing and zip-lining.
FOUR SEASONS LANA’I AT MANELE BAY, HAWAII
Although designed with teens in mind, the Surf Shack Teen Center is a place where adults won’t mind hanging out. Open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., it provides a welcome haven for children and you’ll appreciate that most planned activities highlight Hawaiian life and culture. However, for much needed “adult time,” there’s plenty to do from golf to tennis to the wonderfully refreshing drinks at the Pool Bar.
Every year the beach of the resort becomes a sanctuary where marine turtles come ashore, and lay their eggs. After they hatch, guests are offered a chance to help the resort’s volunteers release the hatchlings into the sea. This activity is only offered from July to November, but it’s certainly worth planning a trip around.
For a fun mother-daughter activity, most of the treatments at the hotel’s spa are available for teens 13 and up, including The Teen Spa Sundae, which involves an Ice Cream Float bath. Looking for fun for the whole family? The resort offers a variety of options, but watching a movie from an inner tube at sunset is a great treat.
MONTAGE LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA
For lasting memories, you can plan a “Montage Family Day” where a Family Assistant will lead you on a variety of custom activities while caring for children’s needs, driving, taking pictures and attending to other details. Activities include everything from kayaking and family yoga classes, to a cake decorating contest and exploring the tide pools on the beach.
Carrie Harrison-Ell, Senior Vice President of Hotel Programs for Kiwi Collection and mother of three; she is an expert on family travel. Carrie’s not-so-secret pleasures include: romantic trips to Siena, wine and cheese pairings and everything about the Mayan Riviera.