This Year's Best Family-Friendly Hotel Chains
Once upon a time going on vacation meant spending your days lounging by the pool with a frilly umbrella drink in hand or exploring the city's chic cafes and museums. Just because you're now traveling with kids doesn't mean the good times have come to an end. Indeed, hotels around the world are so eager to welcome you and your brood that they've designed camps and clubs to keep your progeny entertained while the adults go off on their own. Read on to see the best family-friendly hotels to check into next.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess; Fairmont Hotels
Worldwide: Ritz Kids offers full or half-day options of supervised physical (beach volleyball, swimming) and creative (scrapbooking, face painting) activities for children aged 5 and older. Depending on the property and destination, kids can get their hands dirty in an organic garden, go on a shark tooth hunt or test their vocal range during karaoke sessions. Programs start at $80 per child.
What to Love: Guests traveling with kids under 5 are given a special POLO (Protect Our Little Ones) travel kit that includes a night light, tub spout cover, electric outlet plugs, first aid kit, emergency safety card with list of local numbers and a stuffed animal.
Must Visit Property:The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua in Maui, where Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment program gives kids (and adults) the chance to learn about Hawaii's unique environment through environmental and educational activities. Expert naturalists take guests on hikes through the Hawaiian rainforest, snorkeling among Maui's coral reefs, and lead craft classes to create artworks and jewelry using native plants. Each three-hour Ambassadors session costs at least $59.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess; Fairmont Hotels
Worldwide: Each property features a unique kid's activity center that offers storytelling, creative arts and crafts, and games inspired by the destination's culture or environment. Children five and younger eat free when dining with their parents and choosing from the Kids Menu. Kids under 12 can enjoy items from the regular menu at 50% off. A full day program costs $85 per child.
What to Love: The complimentary R U Ready fitness program for kids aged 7-17 fuses a web based experience with outdoor play to sharpen athletic skills needed for baseball, basketball, football, skateboarding, snowboarding and more. Training continues at home via email updates and customized web pages.
Must Visit Property: The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, in Scottsdale Ariz., is launching a new children's program, National Geographic Explorers Camp, this May. Kids ages 5-12 will get to go on Photo and Video Safaris, go on GPS treasure hunts, enjoy arts and crafts, watch "Dive-In" movies, and slide down a 200-foot waterslide. A complimentary Teen Hang out room features X-Box stations, music room, a 42' plasma TV and a DVD movie library and a snack area. Pricing is a la carte for Explorers Camp activities.
Four Seasons Hampshire; Four Seasons Hotels
FOUR SEASONS HOTELS
Worldwide: Designed locally at each property, the Kids for All Seasons program strives to expose children aged 5-12 to the local culture and language. Activities combine learning experiences with pure fun–think explorations in search of local insects and plants in Costa Rica, kids' yoga in Bali and traditional Polynesian water sports in Bora Bora.
What to Love: Guest rooms are childproofed upon request with electric outlet plugs, tub spout cover and night light. Bathrooms are outfitted with complimentary diapers, wipes, children's toiletries, first-aid kits and child-size robes. High chairs, cribs, playpens and other infant furniture is also available at no charge.
Must Visit Property:Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, in Hampshire, England, gives kids a taste of the quintessential English countryside life: they learn how to handle magnificent birds of prey; enjoy a game of croquet on the hotel's lawn; and practice their serve and volley during private tennis lessons. For an additional fee, they can even learn to take care of and ride their own pony for a day.
Westin Riverfront; Starwood Hotels
Worldwide: Kids ages 4-12 years old who check in at the Kids Club Discovery Room to watch movies, play ping pong, Legos or Playstation also receive a Discovery Pack filled with goodies: a compass, membership bracelet, disposable camera, canteen and collectible travel passport to explore that destination. In the evening, kids enjoy fireside storytelling, stargazing and movies while mom and dad enjoy Parents' Night Off. A full day of supervised activities at the Kids Club starts at $70.
What to Love: Parents of infants and toddlers receive essentials including socket covers, nightlight and Band-Aids. Need a crib, potty, booster seat or diapers? Coming right up, and it won't cost you a dime. Kids under 5 eat free and kids under 12 get 50% off on food and beverages.
Must Visit Property: Kids staying at the Westin Riverfront in Beaver Creek learn about the natural environment during Colorado Safari day; about Native Americans, miners and mountain men on Colorado Explorers day; and discover ways to care for the planet's resources on Go Green day. During ski season, the Ski School Carpool service escorts kids ages 4-12 to their ski lessons in the morning and brings them back to the Kids Club in the afternoon.
Hyatt Regency Tamaya; Hyatt Hotels
Worldwide: Available only in North America, Camp Hyatt focuses on culture, history and environment surrounding each destination. Kids as young as 3 and up to 12 get to go on photo safaris, create animal crafts and arts, and go on scavenger hunts.
What to Love: A dedicated Kids Concierge at Hyatt resorts helps parents figure out where to go and what to do in the destination. Forgot to bring enough diapers and wipes? No worries, the hotel has a partnership with Babies Travel Lite, an online retailer that delivers baby products directly to the hotel. The Toy Box program frees up space in your luggage by letting kids choose and check out fun toys from their wide selection. Kids under 18 stay free at most properties.
Must Visit Property: Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, in Santa Ana Pueblo, N. M.,offers handcrafted activities-native pottery with a Pueblo artisan, horseback rides to view petroglyphs, Native American storytelling under the starts-to immerse kids in New Mexico's vibrant culture.