In the same way people promise themselves they’ll never buy a minivan before they have kids, I vowed to never stay at kid-centric resorts once I had children.
Now I have two little ones. One is 2 years old and the other 3 months old (I like a challenge). So far, there’s no minivan in my household, and all the hotels I’ve frequented with the fam have been cool, but as a parent I’ve learned to never say never.
I’m going to admit upfront that of 30 trips my husband and I have taken with our firstborn—the perks of being a travel writer—we’ve only dabbled in one “kid-centric” getaway: A Disney Cruise. And, wow, it crushed my tentativeness toward family travel with A+++ everything for every age—think: rooms with space for cribs and pull-down bunks, kids programs from 6 months up, and age-appropriate pool areas, plus a ton of spaces exclusively for adults from bars, to pool decks, to restaurants to the spa (all of which was incredible when we wanted some couple time).
This experience was our exception. As a rule, we’ve steered clear of hotels strewn with twisty water slides that list “family friendliness” as the main attraction, and have stuck to stays we would have frequented before we gave the majority of our income to Pampers and Fisher-Price.
Viewfinder Tip: Before booking your room at a hip hotel, call and confirm cribs, cots, and other family travel gear will be available for your stay.
Here’s our rational: Typically, hip hotels have a built-in scene, complete with du moment eateries, hipster-helmed coffee shops, and lounges that allow kids to drink lemonade while their parents sip craft cocktails. Since it’s tough to even get out the door with little ones, having something close and cool is a win with kiddos. It’s this “one-stop-shop” concept that keeps me loyal to lodging options that create a go-to not only for guests, but for the destination as a whole.
Eat well, sip well, pool well
I can think of a few on-trend stays that worked well for us and our little traveler. They say you never forget “your first,” and this rings true for our first family trip, too. Following our “though shalt stay cool” edict, we took our son to California when he was 7 weeks old. Because he was at the spitting-up-everywhere and pooping-up-the-back stage of his infancy, our foray into family travel could have been comical. However, the getaway was better than we imagined, aided by our sejour at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, a hotspot where we could eat well, sip well, pool well, and retreat to our room’s outdoor fireplace at night once baby went down.
After our initial success, we stayed at many other Ace properties as a fam-jam, as well as other spot-on stays like The Goodland in Santa Barbara and the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Gaining confidence on the go, we set our sights on Italy where we found a hotel so heavenly, I’d like to start frequenting it yearly.
La dolce vita
Here, at the Terme Manzi Hotel & Spa in Ischia (an island one hour by boat from Amalfi or Capri), we were reminded why some accommodations that are great for adults, also appeal to families. The place had it all: a gorgeous rooftop pool, beautiful bars, a chic alfresco restaurant, as well as a spring-fed spa circuit and boozy breakfast both included in the room cost. Best of all, the staff (like most Italians) were baby-obsessed, so the sum of the experience was very la dolce vita.
The essence of a vacation
While we did explore the island of Ischia (which I minted as a 2016 destination to watch), the it hotel had more than enough to make life easy, relaxing, and memory-making for our whole crew. And isn’t that the essence of a vacation, anyway?
It’s easy to say “I’ll never,” but life with littles has taught me to hold my tongue on the “never” front. One day you may find me braving a wacky water slide with my kids, but until then, I’ll stick to sipping prosecco (while they “sippy-cup” milk) at stays with style.