When I think of luxury, I usually think of shiny things and quiet spaces – neither of which are typically conducive to small children. Perhaps that’s why many families shy away from luxury hotels when planning their getaways. After all, there’s nothing less relaxing than spending a week (or even a long weekend) trying to make sure your kids aren’t breaking something expensive. And so, adults relegate themselves to the hotels with primary colored walls and scratchy bedcovers and meals with costumed characters. The pools are child-friendly, but they’re also loud and either dangerously large and overcrowded or painfully small and neglected, depending on the price point of your “family friendly” accommodations. This, my friends, is no way for anyone to enjoy a vacation.
Fortunately, there are luxury hotels that would actually make great headquarters for a family vacation – even normal families with normal kids who do normal kid things, like run when they aren’t supposed to. The trick is to find a hotel that genuinely caters to families, not just one that throws “and families” at the end tail end of their marketing materials.
The Ritz-Carlton resort in Amelia Island, Florida, for example, plays host to families and children in more than just name. One of their outdoor pools has a zero-entry splash pad; the list of activities offered by their recreation department includes family activities and an extensive children’s program. Guests aren’t expected to be romping through the lobby in their swimsuits, but sandals and shorts are seen all over the property. The Kiawah Island Golf Resort near Charleston offers its youngest guests admission to naturalist camp, and Tamarind in Barbardos invites kids to an after-hour “mocktail” party.
While luxury hotels that welcome – and even embrace – the entire family are available, it can be tricky to know where your booking dollars are best spent, especially because you can’t rely on a family-friendly policy to spread across an entire brand’s properties. The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island may boast a talking parrot in the lobby, but the Pentagon City location doesn’t even have a pool that’s open all day (an immediate no-go for families traveling with kids). The luxury name is the same in DC and Florida – and the thread count on the sheets should be similar – but the beachside resort clearly caters to family vacations, while the DC metro property is best suited for business travelers who appreciate a Metro station next door and hip first-floor lounge.
With so much on the line when you’re planning a family vacation, why bother with a luxury hotel at all?
Let’s not forget who’s paying for this party. Mom and Dad (or maybe Grandma and Grandpa) have worked and saved for a chance to take a break with the ones they love. Isn’t it only fair that they get to enjoy soft towels, luxury linens, and the kind of service adults usually give their own children? You’ll certainly pay more for a stay in a luxury hotel than you would at a dive motel that doesn’t mind screaming in the hallways, but you also won’t have screaming in the hallways. With a little shopping around, perhaps a brand credit card or other rewards program, you can often book a luxury hotel for a price that rivals the cost of a condo – which families routinely book without thinking twice about cost based on the “family friendly” credentials. When you use those dollars to book at a family-friendly luxury resort, you don’t even have to make your own bed.
Or argue with anyone else to make theirs.