Many resorts worldwide cater to families these days. Spacious suites, on-site babysitters, kids' clubs and activities, buffet meals and early evening shows are only some of the many amenities that please children and adults alike.
So how do you choose among all the family vacation resorts out there? Here is a checklist of questions to answer as you narrow down a resort for your next family vacation:
- Does the resort hotel offer suites? Sharing a standard hotel room with two small children is doable, but certainly not that comfortable for a weeklong vacation. For family trips, a spacious one-bedroom suite with a mini-fridge to store favorite snacks and drinks is ideal. If it's got a kitchenette with a microwave, even better; then it's ultra-convenient to serve up hot oatmeal or instant soup when the kids need something filling in their bellies. And a condominium with a full kitchen is wonderful, too. But even connecting standard hotel rooms will give your family a bit more room to spread out.
- Does the resort offer child care? Some hotels have babysitters on call if Mom and Dad would like a grown-up night out on the town. But resort hotels that truly cater to families have full-on kids' clubs, where children can go to to daylong "camp" (or drop in for part of the time) and are supervised by trained counselors or activities' staff. You'll find these "kids camps" at most all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean, Club Med and other hotels in popular family-vacation destinations. Kids' activities might range from relay races and sandcastle building to arts & crafts and snorkeling. At family-friendly resorts in wintry destinations, they'll build snowmen, sled and drink hot cocoa with newfound friends.
For kids under the age of 4 or 5 (check your resort's kids' club minimum age), find out what sort of child care is available before you book. Few resorts do offer organized infant care, but at the Franklyn D. Resort in Jamaica, the price of your vacation includes a Vacation Nanny, who will care for your children (of all ages) from 9 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. every day of your stay. And in the evenings, you only pay $4/hour for care.
- Is the food family friendly? Buffets are great for families with young children-or those who are picky eaters. (Don't like that bite of eggs you chose? No problem. Go back to the buffet line for pancakes.) Nearly every all-inclusive resort offers buffet meals, with some "specialty restaurants" that have a la carte menus. If the resort you're considering doesn't do buffets, find out if the on-site restaurants' menus have kid-friendly fare.
- What's the swimming situation? It's rare to find a kid who doesn't like splashing around in a pool. If you have a toddler, confirm that your resort hotel has a small wading pool for the smallest swimmers. School-age kids will be entertained for hours on water slides and with waterfalls.
- What's the scene for teens? Teenagers can be incredibly hard to please on vacation. Odds are they'll appreciate a "teen club" or teen disco where they can meet other like-minded kids their age who also want to spend some time away from their parents. You might also choose a resort that is within walking distance of a safe town or close to a shopping center they can access by themselves-exercising their need for independence while freeing you from worry.
- What's the evening entertainment? Many all-inclusive resorts offer some sort of musical entertainment after dinner. Sometimes it's a bit bawdy and targeted to grown-ups (such as an R-rated "Newlywed Game" for guests). But often there's a pre-show where kids can get up on stage and play games or learn dance routines to impress the parents in the audience. See if the resort hotel you're considering offers such G-rated entertainment-then everyone in your family can end the day on a high note.