Like it or not, kids today do indeed rule the roost, and they are a huge target audience for anyone looking to sell something. Ever wonder why Kellogg’s is the largest sponsor of Saturday morning cartoons? Well, travel is no different, and if you have kids, you would be wise to make sure the vacation “you” select is also one they will enjoy.
This familial shift has not gone unnoticed by resorts and other travel suppliers. They want the kids (the “influencers,” as the marketers say) to have a great time and they want families to come back for more. Gone are the days of just having a swimming pool and pointing the way to the mini-golf down the road. To compete in today’s market, resorts looking to lure families had better provide such amenities as childproofed rooms, toddler tennis lessons, kindergarten facials, family bonfires and clambakes and, of course, a kid’s menu in a gourmet restaurant. Yes, you might see a PB&J listed right next to the chateaubriand.
Earlier this summer, Child magazine commissioned a survey and came up with its 10 Best Family-Friendly Resorts. Here are the top five, along with some selected amenities they offer.
The Breakers, Palm Beach, Fla. The Breakers lies on 140 oceanfront acres in the heart of Palm Beach. The resort offers some fantastic parent facilities, including a five-diamond restaurant, two championship golf courses, pool and spas. For the kids, it offers such services and activities as kids’ camp, baby-sitting with screened sitters, a junior golf academy, weekly bonfires on the beach and family kickball games.
Winnetu Oceanside Resort, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Overlooking the Vineyard’s south beach, this property consists of six studios and 48 one- to four-bedroom suites. For the grownups, personal trainers are available along with complimentary Pilates and yoga classes. For the young ones, the offerings include poolside “Dive-In Movies” and a peewee tennis club. Need to get around the property or the local area? The resort offers transportation in some of its classic autos, including a 1929 Model A “Woody,” a 1931 Model A open-air bus and a 1945 firetruck.
Kingsmill Resort & Spa, Williamsburg, Va. Any place near Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg gets my vote, and a place with three-story condos and a waterfront (James River) setting has to be a winner! For the parents, there are championship golf courses and a wonderful spa featuring a “Kingsmill Sampler” with Swedish and deep-tissue massage, hot stone aromatherapy, reflexology and more. On the family and kids’ side, the resort offers baby-sitting, pools, a marina with fishing equipment, kayaks, paddleboats and a sandy beach perfect for collecting shells. And for the pampered princess (my own daughter comes to mind): a 90-minute evening spa camp complete with plush robes, nail painting and a mini footbath.
Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa, San Diego, Calif. Four hundred and eight rooms on 15 acres on the Pacific Ocean. Don’t have to say much more. The spa is fantastic for the adults, but the family amenities really shine at the Coronado. The resort has a “Did-You-Forget?” closet stocked full of cameras, shampoo, baby swings and much more for harried parents when they arrive. All kids get a welcome bag on arrival, and the resort will childproof your room as requested. Some favorite kid activities are the kickboxing and yoga classes, the gondola cruises on San Diego Bay and kite flying in the brisk ocean breeze. The Coronado Bay Resort is also known for keeping kids front and center. While a lot of other hotels and resorts tuck their kids’ programs away in a corner, the Coronado has a different philosophy. According to Kathleen Cochran, the general manager, “Here, we want kids to be seen and heard.”
The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, Longboat Key, Fla. Tennis is the name of the game here at Colony Beach but, believe me, there is plenty more to do in this suite-only resort on 18 uncrowded acres near Sarasota, Fla. The resort offers a beachfront playground complete with a slide, walking bridge and many climbing opportunities. The tennis program is designed to get the kids hitting the ball, which to a kid is a lot more fun than getting it over the net. How about a family sailing clinic or a hunt for treasure on the beach? “Casual” is the mantra here, and kids don’t need to cover up inside as they do at other places. This is the most laid-back resort of the five, and the only true parent-only perk (in my opinion) is the spa.
As you plan your next family vacation — maybe for this holiday season, spring break or next summer — think past the cruises and Walt Disney World and consider something a little different. You get only one shot at family, and if you can experience life together, you all win! And, if you are able to book off-season, you just might save a few Jacksons!