Parenting: Traveling With Kids - Resorts

If you can afford them, family resorts aim to please.
July 7, 2010 8:50:36 AM PDT
If you've got the money, resort living is a pretty sweet way to pamper your family for six or seven days.

At any decent vacation resort, the extra money you spend pays for extra staff, better chefs and food, better beds, and better service. Everybody's human, but it's rare to find waiters, bellhops or concierge personal at a pricey resort who will let on that he or she is having a bad day. The name of the game at these places is keeping you happy and it's usually accomplished ably and with a pleasant smile.

Some resorts are geared for kids better than others, however, so I'd steer clear of places that don't specifically list themselves as "family-friendly". The properties making this declaration will more than likely have a kid's swimming area and activities for youngsters, if desired. Plus, you'll likely find yourself sharing the property with at least some other families, which is going to make you more comfortable when little brother gets into that brief shouting match with little sister at the dinner table.

Extra, Extra!

When budgeting for this sort of experience, it's worth considering more than just the room rate. Unless you book an all-inclusive location (where food and some drink is included), you'll find that most resort restaurants are usually pricey and sometimes dressy, and you'll do well to explore the dining options carefully before you book. A family with very young children may not have much interest in eating at a five-star restaurant with a waiter named Garcon every night, for example, and a good family resort will also offer a less-expensive, more casual option, as well as a snack bar sort of thing where an informal lunch can be had. There may even be a breakfast and/or lunch bar, which is a lot easier on everybody when you're dealing with youngsters. Some resorts also throw in some kids' activities with the price of the stay, while others do not. In addition, be sure to find-out the cost of any excursions booked from the hotel and work that into the budget. There's nothing worse than arriving at one of these places with a certain financial ceiling in mind, only to find that there are extras available that are disappointingly out-of-reach.

Most resort staffers will expect to be tipped. Personally, I prefer a place where the staff doesn't accept tips during the stay, but gratuities are added on at the end. In this way, you can give a general staff gratuity, but steer a little larger portion toward the specific employees who gave you the best service.

No Guarentees

We do not always go this route, but we've done it often enough to know that not all resorts are created equal. Like any other hotel, motel, or B&B stay, it's well worth hunting down some online reviews of properties before you choose. My favorite site is TripAdvisor.com, but there are others. Pay attention to the dates the reviews were filed, and rely mainly on the more recent guest opinions. A resort with several bad reviews (particularly if the same complaints keep coming up) is probably not worth the expense. Never, never base your selection on a resort website's photos alone; these are useful only as a starting point as to what a hotel has to offer. Reviews will tell you if the staff, the level of cleanliness, the food, and the location are up to speed. There are some resorts out there that have been around a while and are living on their reputation rather than the current level of service. You don't want to find out about this too late.

Here's a tip: if you're into National Parks, always check out the Park's website for lodging. Several parks own resorts within the park boundaries. Usually, these are older, historic properties run by a contracted management company. While the aging buildings sometimes leave something to be desired in terms of upkeep, in general, they are often very cool hotels in amazing locations. Some are underpriced, given what you're getting in return. Some of our favorites include the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park, which sits just a short walk from the famous geyser. The hotel was the model for Disney's Wilderness Lodge and the main building is one of the largest structures ever made primarily with logs. While you may end up in the newer annex, the rooms are clean and the price is not outrageous. Another more expensive choice is the Ahwahnee Hotel on the canyon floor of Yosemite National Park. It's vast, historic, has some great outdoor tables where you can have a drink and a sandwich under the stars, and a great concierge who will book Park Ranger tours and activities for you. The Grand Canyon also has a historic hotel on the South Rim which looks great, but I have not stayed there. It's wise to book these hotels early, as they fill up months in advance.

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