Shipwrecks, sports, swag bags, and sweets at bedtime: These kid-friendly vacations are rated G for got-it-all-covered.
Go To: Grand Palladium Bavaro’s Mini Club
This kid’s haven is the largest out of all of Mexico and the whole Caribbean! The pirate themed club offers tons of activities for babes through tweens including a rock wall, zipline, miniture sports field, trampoline, cooking classes, art classes, bean bag theater, and more!
Home Away From Home: Reserve a loft bedroom suite and let the kids turn in early, the separate sleeping areas mean you can watch your favorite late show without having the volume turned on mute. Tell the staff the little ones will be coming and they’ll set up a play tent and table set for the mini guests. Pack a little lighter, because the resort will supply you with diapers, formula of your choice, wipes, and other baby care products for the duration of your trip if requested. Another huge perk in our book is the 24-hour on-site doctor’s office, stress less when taking off knowing that you have all your bases covered.
All Aboard: Hop on the Resort’s train themed trolley service to explore the many amenities the grounds have to offer. Take a dip in one of the four pools, our personal favorite? The kiddie pool fully equipped with a pirate ship water slide and sprinkler pad. In the mood for some exercise? Take the kids to play some soccer, basketball, tennis, archery, mini golf, or volleyball (they have mini sandpits for the kids!) at the expansive outdoor sports arena. Refuel at one of the resort’s 13 restaurants, which boast both buffet and a la carte options serving food from around the world. The kids will love the mini pizzas and self serve frozen yogurt!
Going Green: Palladium Hotels and Resorts have made a commitment to the environment by equipping rooms with eco-friendly features, maintaining expansive on-site gardens, and by holding the highly coveted blue flag certification for the resort’s private beach.
Go To: Ritz Kids
Whether geocaching in the Arizona desert, casting for catfish in Georgia, or—our fave—getting face to face with ocean critters in Florida, the thrills keep coming.
Name-Dropping: Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment (he’s the son of marine royalty Jacques) transformed Ritz locales into outdoor classrooms. The flagship program in Grand Cayman boasts a reef- and shipwreck-exploring submarine. It’s expanded to resorts in Kapalua in Maui and Laguna Niguel in California.
Sea Here: In Naples, FL, kids follow naturalist “Ranger Randy” Sarton as if he were the Pied Piper, says Arlin Schmidt of Basking Ridge, NJ, whose 8-year-old son, Jake, attended the Nature’s Wonders camp twice. Kids can get up close and personal with sea creatures in the camp’s 11 aquariums or don pint-size lab coats to view specimens under a microscope. Marine Encounters, the most popular program, takes kids to the shore, where they take turns hauling in a net, then study the bounty together. “There are always squeals of delight and a mad scramble when we bring the net in,” says Sarton. “They march their amazed parents around saying, ‘That’s a lionfish! This is a grouper! That’s an alligator, not a crocodile.’”
Culture Cast Away
Go To: Camp Hyatt
Each outpost has its own itinerary. Children channel their inner buckaroo at Lost Pines near Austin, TX, or hunt for real Indian arrowheads after Cowboy Storytime in San Antonio.
Local Flavor: Kids make maracas and adobe bricks, then horseback-ride through sacred forests at Camp Tamaya in Santa Ana Pueblo, NM. Another option: baking cornbread with a member of an indigenous tribe. At the Waikiki Beach resort, “keiki” go to the Waikiki Aquarium to learn about jellyfish, sea lions, and seahorses, and design and fly their own kites at Kapiolani Park.
Stroller-Set Time-Saver: Use their Babies Travel Lite Program and fly through security. Preorder everything from formula to diapers. It’ll all be in your room when you arrive.
Go To: Fairmont Families
No need to nag your kid to eat right or get a little exercise. Well, at least not on vacation. Fairmont has mastered both, starting with the nutrition-packed children’s faves at their clubs: whole-wheat spaghetti and lean meatballs, low-fat pizza, and reduced-sugar chocolate mousse, all washed down with unsweetened juices and smoothies.
Join the Club: At the Scottsdale Princess, kids in Bobcat Billy’s Clubhouse go lagoon fishing and play filmmaker on a video safari in the McDowell Mountains. Scamper to the zero-entry pool with pop jets that spurt out unpredictably, to toddlers’ delight.
Fit for Kids: Ride BMW cruise bikes or take on any of seven sports-themed obstacle courses.
Kiddie Swag: A stuffed otter, bubble bath, and baby shampoo are in the free essentials kit.
Go To: Omni Sensational Kids
Li’l guests snag a gratis backpack with a hacky sack, magnifying glass, Twizzlers, and a mini-Frisbee. Milk and gooey-warm cookies are waiting at bedtime.
Decisions, Decisions: At the Amelia Island Plantation in Florida, campers comb the beach for shark’s teeth and taste edible plants like saltwort pulled from the marsh. They soar above canyons during the zip-line Canopy Tour in Bretton Woods, NH, or pan for gold in Bedford Springs, PA.
Tots Swoon: Kids can talk back to Buddy, the macaw at the Plantation’s center. Tanner the Turtle leads storytime and delivers free frozen treats.