Text by Joyell Nevins
Vacation: the word alone conjures up relaxation, joy, and reinvigoration. However, “relaxation” and “kids” aren’t always words that go together. What follows is our compilation of places that provide both terrific supervised activities for kids, so adults can enjoy downtime, and opportunities for the whole family to play together.
We’ve scouted around the globe and found hotels, safaris, and even a farm where the sole goal is to provide an experience that leaves everyone reinvigorated.
Bringing the Babies
Franklyn D. Resort in St. Ann, Jamaica, offers something hardly any other resort does: a free vacation nanny. When a family checks in, they are greeted by a personal nanny, who will stay with them from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. The Vacation Nannies are trained in housekeeping and child care for infants to tweens.
Your nanny can take the kids to daily resort activities, the playground, pool, or the beach. She keeps the suite clean and the fridge stocked with snacks. She assists with family special events like birthday and anniversary celebrations. And many guests have commented that by the end of their stay, they felt like their nanny was part of the family!
Another vacation that has what some travel sites call the best childcare program afloat for the little ones is Disney Cruise Line. For kids from six to 35 months, the “It’s A Small World” nursery has baby swings and toys, soft play areas, separate quiet areas with cribs, all manned by trained staff.
Disney Cruises don’t leave the older children out, either. Kids from three to 12 years old have special youth clubs fueled by Disney storytelling and themed activities. Tweens aged 11 to 14 get their own club, with video games, music, movies, karaoke, and even scavenger hunts. Outside of the clubs, Disney characters roam the ship and greet cruise-goers on deck, while dining, and during special events.
Club Med, with locations throughout the Caribbean, the Americas, Europe, and Asia, has facilities geared towards families with children from four month olds and up. You can pre-book a baby welcome pack, which comes with essentials such as a cot, baby bathtub, bottle warmer, and stroller. The restaurants feature a “baby corner,” with choices of sweet or savory baby food, along with tools to prepare the meal such as a blender, bottle warmer, and sterilizer. A separate baby feeding room, like a baby corner times two, is open 24 hours a day to meet those needs. For an extra charge, parents can arrange for their infant to be part of the “pyjamas club,” where early childhood specialists organise grouped babysitting and lullaby the babies to sleep.
If your kids dig Nickelodeon, they may love the Nickelodeon Experience at Azul Beach Resorts in Riviera Maya and Riviera Cancun. It starts when the kids are greeted with a green Slime smoothie, while adults get a glass of complimentary champagne.
It continues with character meet-and-greets and daily activities in the Azulitos Playhouse. You can even schedule a “personal sliming.” The Playhouse also holds a “My Gym Center,” designed for four to 12 year olds. The young gymnast’s dream comes with ropes, parallel bars, trampolines, springboards, and giant floor pads.
For the mothers and daughters, the Vassa Spa at Azul serves both adults and children ages five to 17. Girls can be glammed with manicures and pedicures, and teens receive facials geared towards their adolescent complexions. Young ones can also receive age-appropriate makeup and hair styling lessons.
Eight years old and up can learn to scuba dive at Beaches Resorts in Jamaica, Curacao, and the Turks. Programs range from pretending in a pool to adventures in the ocean. One of the unique factors to Beaches is that its the first resort in the world to have its children’s staff complete the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) training, and is now a Certified Autism Center.
Families can request a one-on-one Beaches Buddy to be with their special-needs child for the entire stay or just a few hours. The Buddy can assist the child in the regular Kids Camp or after hours in sensory-friendly locations. Other accommodations for sensory needs can be made during activities and dining services.
The Teen Scene
Several of these resorts have special areas for teens only. Disney Cruises and Beaches have teen “night” clubs for the under-21 crowd, with the alcohol put away and the music turned up.
Club Med offers Passworld, a place too cool to be called “teens club.” It’s only open during the day on school holidays, and features activities like film design, mixing, a DJ booth, and of course, gaming.
For the Nature Lovers
Does your family enjoy more wildlife than beach life? Take them to the Acacia Mara Bush House in the Masai Mara, Kenya. This three-bedroom woodsy house overlooks the Ol Chorno waterhole, situated within the 70,000 acre Mara North Conservancy. It has a baby pool, toy-filled “schoolroom” and a special loft-style bedroom that was designed with the younger set in mind.
The house comes with its own chef, wildlife guide, and house manager. You can tour the area on your own, or take a planned safari. The plains are home to rhinos, elephants, zebras, and other game that come to graze on the grass around the house. To get even closer to nature, families can fly camp at the nearby Naboisho Camp and spend a private night in a tent-camping on the game-filled plains.
For a more hands-on nature experience, your family can visit Hull-O Farm, a farm-stay bed-and-breakfast in Durham, New York. The place is a real working farm, and Hull-O envelops its guests into the family.
Adults and kids alike can help milk cows, gather eggs, feed the baby animals, mend fences, and sometimes, even help deliver a calf. Ride on a tractor or learn how to use the hay mower. You can romp with rabbits, cuddle with kittens, and fish in the pond. At the end of the day, enjoy a bonfire, and in the summer, get lost in the corn maze. Remember those eggs you gathered? The whole farmhouse eats breakfast together with farm-style meals that feature grass-fed meats and the farm’s own eggs and milk.
So whether you’ve got infants, teenagers or an age in between, whether you want sand and sun, exotic animals, or a tractor ride, there are experiences available to meet your family’s call to adventure. Parents can relax, kids can play, and the whole family can enjoy a true vacation – in every sense of the word.