Great Getaways

Booking a vacation for a large family.

When traveling with more than one or two kids, not just any type of accommodations will do. Will there be enough room? Will everyone feel comfortable? How about privacy? Toss in a babysitter or a set of grandparents and the trip becomes even trickier.

As a travel writer, I make do with all types of accommodations. But I’ve discovered some that work particularly well for large families like mine. We’re a family of five that tends to travel with one or two grandparents. Here are a few of my favorite options for big clans.

Cruise Suites

Cruises suit large groups for many reasons, including limited packing and unpacking for the trip, a good balance of sightseeing and pool time and lots of activity choices. Booking a family suite turns the entire experience up a notch.

Last summer, six of us in my family stayed in a family suite on the Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas ship. The kids had bunk beds, my mother had a separate room, and my husband and I enjoyed a master bedroom with a private bathroom. There was a tub for bathing our baby and— best of all— our balcony was big enough to accommodate six of us for alfresco meals and at-sea sunbathing, while baby slept.

Before booking a cruise, ask if the ship has a family-friendly suite. While standard rooms can accommodate four people, larger families need extra space. Adjoining rooms suffice. However, separate bedrooms plus a community living area is priceless. Just consider the space for stroller parking, nap times and family card games. Learn more at www.royalcaribbean.com.

Upscale All-Inclusives

When booking a family vacation, your first thought may be to reserve rooms at a kid-centric resort like Beaches or Disney World. But why should your kids be the only ones catered to on vacation? I like to have the benefits of an all-inclusive resort, such as food for finicky eaters, activities to please everyone and wallet-free transactions, without the feeling of being overrun by little ones.

This winter I stayed at Club Med Cancun, which was sheer joy. We stayed at the resort’s new 5 Trident space, where the five-star service was friendly and personal. The food met our New York standards and the vibe was upscale, yet welcoming to families. It has all the “musts” for kids, like a top-notch children’s program, calm beaches for beginner swimmers, and ample beach lounges and umbrellas. The facility also has plenty of extras, like on-site strollers, restaurants stocked with baby food and lifeguards on duty. Perks such as the peaceful private pool, pool-side cocktail event that allows kids and evening performances à la Cirque du Soleil are ideal for parents.

A nice bonus of staying at Club Med: It’s international. As the headquarters are in Paris, many staff members speak French (I’m a sucker for exposing my kids to other languages). Club Med has locations across the globe. Next time you think a kid-suitable trip to the South of France is but a dream, book a stay at Club Med’s Opio en Provence. Learn more at www.clubmed.us.

Luxury Resorts That Welcome Kids

Many business travelers know that the smoothest trips include hotels that anticipate your every need. That’s why business travelers often stay at upscale hotels— if their employer agrees to foot the bill.

Last month, my immediate family of five people spent a week in Arizona. We stayed at two resorts that are favorites of luxury-seeking adults, the JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort & Spa and the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa. Learn more about both at www.marriott.com/jw.

The high-end hotel brand may not immediately come to mind when you are planning a family getaway. But many reasons make JW Marriott a great choice. Its stunning views, gorgeous architecture and luxury amenities, not to mention on-site Starbucks, made my husband and me very happy. And features like a lazy river pool with inflatable rafts, a baby splash pool and cactus-filled mountain trails kept my kids content. The resorts also have luxury suites with adjoining bedrooms, grassy terraces where kids spend hours playing catch with fellow vacationing kids, sprawling patios with fire pits for roasting s’mores and on-property roadrunners and rabbits. Keep in mind that JW Marriott offers a Nickelodeon Getaway Package with special activities, breakfast with Dora and SpongeBob, “slime time” and a TV-equipped minivan rental from Hertz.

Other Options

Additional options that work for extended families include doing a home swap or renting a villa, vacation home or timeshare. Each offers handy perks like big kitchens and private bedrooms and can make it easy and cost effective to immerse your family in a different culture or destination without all the luxury. Read more on this type of travel in an upcoming issue of PARENTGUIDE News.