Published: March 24, 2023 | By: Fortune
Planning a vacation that appeases everyone in the family is a tall order. Does the resort have enough dining options for your toddler? Are there activities your teen will consider cool enough? Will there be adequate entertainment options for the grandparents?
A 2022 survey on U.S. family travel found that travel for large family groups remains strong, with 47% of respondents saying they planned to take a multigenerational trip last year and 46% planning a trip with family members beyond their parents and in-laws.
But people are hesitant to take time off. In 2021, the average unused paid time off was 4.6 days. In 2020, that number was 5.6 days, according to the U.S. Travel Association; however, we know that unplugging from work has numerous health benefits and taking a vacation actually makes you better at work. Need further convincing? The World Health Organization has linked working long hours to an increased risk of stroke and a higher risk of death from heart disease.
If you need some inspiration on where to take your next trip with toddlers, teens and grandparents in tow, read on for some expert recommendations.
“If there is a better California resort for kids out there, please come find me,” says Jacqui Gifford, editor in chief of Travel + Leisure, of Montage Laguna Beach in Laguna Beach, California.
The beachfront resort spans 30 acres and boasts a 20,000-square-foot spa, three restaurants all with scenic views of the California coast and two outdoor pool decks, one of which Gifford describes as an “Instagram fantasy come to life.”
“The Mosaic Pool is truly so huge, you can play Marco Polo and other guests won’t bat an eye,” she says. It also features a children’s pool and play area where guests can enjoy s’mores at sunset, virtual reality snorkeling and a mermaid meet-and-greet.
Upon check-in, children have the opportunity to collect Montage Merit Badges for completing various activities throughout the resort, such as building a sand castle or riding the Laguna Beach trolley. While the kids are busy collecting badges, adults can enjoy complimentary fitness classes or pamper themselves at the seaside spa and salon.
Situated on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa was recently named one of Southern Living’s South’s Best Hotels and it also happens to be one of the country’s best family-friendly resorts.
“From the incredible resort-style pools—complete with a slide, splash pad, and waterfall—to the private sand beach, I spent most of my visit in a swimsuit and wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Tara Massouleh McCay, travel and culture editor at Southern Living. “Take the entire family out on free-to-borrow paddleboards, kayaks, or hydrobikes—since you’re on bay water, you won’t have to worry about undertow or strong currents. After, take a long lunch break with street tacos and frozen daiquiris delivered poolside to your private cabana.”
In addition to two championship golf courses, the acclaimed “Queen of Southern Resorts” also includes bike rentals, croquet, tennis and beach volleyball. Meanwhile, The Grand’s Fun Camp provides daily kid-centric sessions for children between the ages of 5 and 12. Activities include fishing, duck feeding, arts and crafts and more. Plus, the whole family will love s’mores during the nightly beach bonfire.
Also voted one of Southern Living’s South’s Best Hotels, Sea Island Resort located on Georgia’s scenic Golden Isles is known for its commitment to connecting visitors to the gorgeous natural surroundings.
Whether you prefer a boutique hotel experience or a private cottage for your family’s needs, Sea Island Resort has something for everyone. Kids between the ages of 7 and 14 can sign up for a Junior Naturalist Class, where they’ll learn all about Sea Island’s wildlife and ecosystems in a hands-on environment. The entire family can meet the resort’s resident falcons and owls, head out on an early morning Sea Turtle Dawn Patrol, go crabbing and fishing off Cloister Dock, try horseback riding, or just kick it at the pool or beach.
“No trip to Sea Island would be complete without several visits to Wonderland,” says Massouleh McCay. “Part candy shop, part ice cream parlor, this place gives Willy Wonka a run for his money.”
Billed as a “living-history museum,” Colonial Williamsburg offers something for everyone from history buffs to garden enthusiasts. After a long day of sightseeing, riding the roller coasters at Busch Gardens or catching waves at Water Country USA, families can cozy up at Kingsmill Resort, Williamsburg’s only AAA Four-Diamond Condominium Golf Rest.
In addition to championship golf courses and luxurious spa accommodations, Kingsmill is a relaxing escape situated on the James River. Jet skis, pontoon boats, kayaks and fishing poles are available for rent. Or, if you prefer more chill fun in the sun, you can enjoy the resort’s lazy river pool.
Whether you’re in town for the National Cherry Blossom Festival in the spring or treating the family to a winter wonderland at ICE!, the Gaylord National Resort at Maryland’s National Harbor offers memorable fun for all.
Younger kids will enjoy a live interactive show featuring pirates and princesses, while the whole family can participate in a seasonal scavenger hunt. When you’re ready to venture offsite, you can ride the Capital Wheel at National Harbor or venture over to the Smithsonian museums and zoo or national monuments in nearby Washington, D.C.
It’s not every day you get to swim with dolphins. Unless, of course, you happen to be staying at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas. The family-friendly resort has activities for kids of every age—from the Atlantis Kids Adventures for guests between the ages of 3 and 12 and a 14,000-square-foot nightclub for teens with a live DJ (and they’ll love that no parents are allowed!).
“Last year my husband and I took our son to Atlantis for the first time, and it was an action-packed long weekend full of surprises,” says Gifford. “We all loved plunging down the iconic Mayan Temple slide and looping around the Rapids River (there are drops of up to seven feet), but had just as much fun at slower paced activities.”
If your family is into fine dining, Gifford recommends “the expertly-fried lionfish at Nobu, the excellent Bahamian-flavored ice cream at Sun and Ice; and beautiful spiny lobster at Fish by Jose Andres.”
When it comes to cruising, you can’t go wrong with any of the options from Disney Cruises. With five state-of-the-art ships to choose from and destinations throughout the world, Disney is designed to keep the entire family entertained and offer parents and caregivers the peace of mind they need to actually enjoy themselves in the process.
“Planning a trip for your whole family is stressful, even the preparation phrase is stressful,” says travel content creator Jess Darrington of the popular Instagram account, @whereisbriggs. “Honestly, the most stress-free vacation we had with our toddler was taking him on a Disney Cruise. Everything was taken care of from our food down to our activities.”
Youth clubs for kids 3 through 17 offer opportunities for children to meet Disney-Pixar characters and enjoy video games, arts and crafts, and larger-than-life play areas inspired by Disney storytelling, while family venues, such as D Lounge, encourage families to sing, dance and play together. For the 18 and older crew, there are plenty of nightclubs and lounges to explore—and that’s just what’s available onboard.
With seven freshwater swimming pools and luscious gardens and outdoor spaces, it’s no wonder Lopesan Costa Bávaro Resort Spa & Casino has earned its five-star ranking. Two buffets included international, national and regional cuisine, such as Mexican, Mediterranean or Asian food, plus a steakhouse, Italian trattoria and a sports bar.
“The variety of food really stuck out to us as parents traveling with a toddler who is a picky eater,” Darrington says of the experience. “The staff really stood out because they treated our toddler exceptionally,” Darrington continues. “It may have been the best customer service we’ve ever received going to a resort.”
The Beaches all-inclusive resort in Turks & Caicos features multiple resorts in one with villages themed after the architecture and ambiance of Italy, France, Key West and the Caribbean. Tots will enjoy mingling with Sesame Street characters while tweens and teens will love the Xbox Play Lounge and teen disco. Plus, the whole family will enjoy the 45,000-square-foot waterpark, 21 restaurants, 10 pools and 12-mile beach that was voted World’s #1 Best Beach by TripAdvisor Travelers.
“One day, you got to go and make cookies with Cookie Monster and that was a really fun activity for my little one,” recalls Darrington. “Another cool part about the resort is the size. There’s plenty of space to spread out, so you never feel like there’s too many people. And the best part is the beach—it’s clear and warm. It’s really one of the best beaches we’ve ever been to.”
What was once the private home of an Italian duchess is now a 50-acre oasis for family fun situated between Tulum and Playa del Carmen in Mexico. Every room at Hotel Esencia includes a private terrace and a relaxing view of the garden canopy or the expansive Caribbean sea.
“I loved how easy it was for my son to make new friends at the ‘kids club,’ which really just consisted of fun, informal, supervised arts and crafts projects, just off the main house,” shares Gifford. “One of the two ocean-facing pools was dedicated for families, but still felt impossibly chic and grown-up. Babysitting was also easy to arrange when my husband and I needed a night out at Taiyo, the intimate sushi bar, or wanted to see the spa.”
Thrill-seekers will love the reef sanctuary just steps from the hotel’s private beach or, if you’re in the mood to explore, you can visit Mayan ruins or an adventure park full of cenotes, zip lines and underground rafting.
With tennis, golf and a luxurious spa onsite, you’ll hardly want to leave Royal Lahaina Resort on Hawaii’s majestic Maui island. But nearby zip lining, snorkeling and scuba diving may convince you otherwise. The entire family can also gather for hula and ukulele lessons, visit the popular Maui Ocean Center or take a hike through scenic ʻĪao Valley.
The resort’s oceanfront luau, The Myths of Maui Luau, is a destination in and of itself with a spectacular fire dance, local cuisine and traditional songs and hula dances set against the backdrop of a stunning sunset.
If your family is more of the outdoorsy type, then a trip to The Resort at Paws Up is in order. Accommodations include everything from luxury homes to glamping in safari-style tents and secluded tree houses for a one-of-a-kind vacation experience. The family-owned resort also has 37,000 acres of wilderness, 100 miles of trails and 10 miles of the Blackfoot River and offers everything from horseback riding to fly fishing and river rafting to paintball.
The Kids Corps of Discovery is an adventure club for kids ages 3 to 12 and activities include swimming, painting, archery, go-karting and more. Looking for some quality kid-free time for the adults? The resort also offers nanny services for children six months and older, as well as after-hours babysitting.
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