Resorts have long been an ideal option for family vacations. They let you eat, sleep and play in one place.
And these days, resort operators are going all out to meet the needs of families with kids. In many places, children are no longer stuck with just a cot in the corner and mac and cheese on the menu. The activities, amenities and conveniences these days are designed to appeal to everyone in the family.
And that's the goal: finding a resort that's a treat for you and a delight for your kids. A family vacation is a special time, and you're looking for the place that will make your trip an easy, memorable experience for all.
In this article, we'll share some of the things to keep your eye out for while hunting down a resort that's truly family-friendly.
Peace of Mind
When choosing a vacation destination, you want to know the place is safe for your whole family. A spot with steep cliffs and soaring surf can be fun for adults and teens, but it's not the best option for young kids. As for the resort itself, look for a place that will childproof your room on request -- it's a sign they're serious about accommodating families. You don't want to spend your time worrying about the little ones falling off the balcony.
A pool is a summertime must, but make sure it's one your children can enjoy safely. Graded pools -- or separate kiddie pools -- that give toddlers a chance to splash are a bonus.
And since accidents do happen, you'll want to ask whether there's a good medical facility close by.
Room for All
Although you're on a trip for togetherness, you sure don't want to be tripping over one another, so suites that have separate living areas and kitchens can be a great option. So can cabins. Connecting rooms are often perfect for large families.
While you're working out space issues, don't forget the sleeping arrangements. A pull-out sofa can fold back in to give you more room during the day.
And if you don't have the heart to leave that canine or feline family member behind, check about pet accommodations. For example, the Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, Colo., offers pet bedding, food bowls and a complimentary treat.
The Bare Necessities
A family-friendly resort shouldn't overlook the little things. Without them, you're looking at major-league hassles. Cribs should be readily available for little ones, and an infant tub or convenient changing areas are an added bonus. Strollers are another must, but the resort may even be willing to lend you toys and rain gear. And it's great to have different-sized bikes available.
When it comes to keeping clean, nobody wants to do laundry on vacation, but a washer/dryer unit in your suite can make life with small kids a whole lot easier. And it means you can pack fewer clothes -- leaving more suitcase space for souvenirs!
More for Less
Now, let's talk discounts. Many resorts go out of their way to attract families, but some offer better deals than others. Look for a package where kids stay for free in their parents' suite. If not, at least try to find a lower rate for kids. Resorts often charge half the adult rate for children.
You can also save at those resorts that offer a second room or cabin for half price. Find out which programs and amenities will be included in the price. Childcare for infants and toddlers or private babysitters is likely to cost extra.
If you're paying a package price, check what it covers. A plan that includes gratuities and local transportation might save you money.
An all-inclusive vacation package that includes meals in the overall price can be handy -- no searching for restaurants. The resort should offer kid-sized portions and nutritious snack options as well.
Also, ask about dining logistics. Some resorts bring the kids' main courses with adults' appetizers. That way, kids finish first and can run off to a nearby play area -- in sight, of course -- while Mom and Dad enjoy a leisurely dinner.
A Chance to Get Away
The advantage of a resort is that it has everything in one spot. The drawback? Sometimes you just want a change of scenery. You may welcome a chance to pick up souvenirs and local crafts, too. A good family-friendly resort should offer a chance to explore the surrounding area and opportunities for inveterate shoppers, young and old.
Some things to consider: How convenient is the nearest town? What kind of shopping does it offer? Are there activities for kids nearby, such as an aquarium or nature center?
Check about the availability of shuttle buses or other transportation options your resort may offer. You might even find that there are on-site guides who can take your family on an interesting tour of the area.
Programs and Playgroups
On the trip, kids should have ample opportunities to have fun away from Mom and Dad -- and vice versa. Resorts have become increasingly creative in the types of programs and playgroups they offer. Some of the best ones get kids outside and let them interact with nature -- activities may include snorkeling, playing sports or exploring.
Programs should be fun, encourage independence and provide a chance for kids and teens to meet others their own age. Some resorts teach kids circus arts. Others offer video-editing classes for teens. Time just to hang out and do nothing is important, too -- this is a vacation, after all!
Check on the age limits for activities. Some resorts offer stimulating programs even for babies.
While programming offers time for each person to go off on his or her own, having fun together is what a family vacation is all about. What kind of inclusive activities does the resort offer? Miniature and par-3 golf are usually popular. So are beach volleyball, kickball, paddle boats, dancing or giant outdoor chessboards.
A chance for daughters to accompany Mom for a spa treatment can be a real treat. Also, see whether the resort offers classes where the whole family can learn together. For example, guests as the Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa in San Diego, Calif., can take a baking class with the resort's pastry chef.
In-room videos and rainy-day games provided by the resort's store can also help give your family some quiet time together when you need a break from the great outdoors.
Time to Be Adults
Though the point of a family vacation is to spend quality time together, sometimes it's still nice for the grown-ups to have a little alone time. Those of you with toddlers will know what we're talking about.
Does the resort offer childcare options that are easy and reliable? You should be able to drop your children off and pick them up when you're ready (within reason) and feel confident that they're in safe hands. The adults in charge should be mature, well-trained and thoroughly screened. Some resorts hire only counselors who have completed at least two years of college.
Check, too, to see whether the resort has parents' helpers available for one-on-one care. This can be especially helpful if you're traveling with a baby.
A Welcoming Staff
One of the hardest things to judge in advance about a resort, and one of the most important, is what the employees are like. To be truly family-friendly, a resort has to have a staff that's competent, polite, engaged and enthusiastic.
A great staff provides a casual, welcoming atmosphere from the start. They make friends with your kids. They offer little touches like a warm cookie, a personalized toy and a smile.
Talk with family or friends who've been to resorts you're considering. Online reviews, guidebooks and travel agents can also give you an idea of how friendly and accommodating the resort's employees are.
Even if your summer spot is short a few of these must-haves, at the end of the day (or the trip, if you will) all that really matters is getting to savor the time spent with your family.
Summer travel destinations for families are a fun way to spend time together. Learn about the top 10 summer travel destinations for families.
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