How to Make a Hotel Stay for Children More Fun (and Easier)
Your little ones will appreciate the small touches that make a big difference. A Ritz-Carlton concierge shares his tips for making the hotel stay the best part of vacation.
As the child of diplomats, I racked up more passport stamps as a kid than some people do in a lifetime. The experience helped shape my sense of the world’s diversity from a young age, and now as a parent myself, I’m determined to give my children a similarly wide-ranging experience — without forsaking my own travel goals.
The secret to a “fun for the whole family” experience, I’ve discovered, is as simple as choosing the right hotel. Sometimes that means a property that’s in the heart of a city, proximate to transportation and major attractions. Sometimes we prefer a resort that feels like our own world to explore when we’re not out sightseeing or enjoying nature. The specific features change — that’s part of the fun! — but a well-chosen hotel can be (and often is) the highlight of a trip. And I always keep my eyes peeled for an expert concierge who’s skilled at pleasing the pickiest families.
The Perfect Stay Starts at Check-In
At Penha Longa Resort — a historic retreat set within a 14th-century monastery in the rolling hills of Sintra, Portugal — Concierge and Guest Services Manager Nuno Diogo has been assisting guests for more than 15 years. That includes young families, for whom traveling can be a source of both enchantment and added stress. “Our philosophy is to provide our guests a genuine feeling of a ‘home away from home’,” he says.
Diogo recommends selecting a hotel that satisfies kids while allowing grownups some well-deserved private time. Look for an energetic, proactive staff that anticipates your needs — starting right at check-in — by crafting an itinerary that delivers the best of both worlds. In Sintra, that might mean arranging ice skating or a local bakery trip for children while parents visit the area’s historic sites and monuments. Invigorated, the family reunites afterward to tell each other all about their different experiences.
“We believe happy children are the key to parents being fully engaged,” Diogo says. “It is crucial to have a perfect kids’ check-in experience in order to collect all the important information and learn about their likes and dislikes. This is the best way to anticipate the wants and needs of the whole family.”
Look for a Range of Activities and Amenities
A fabulous pool and a kid-friendly menu are family travel essentials. But additional details — even small ones — can make a world of difference to a child. Ritz Kids encompasses family-friendly programming for kids ages 4-12, in partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society. Depending on the destination, you can find eco-adventures such as whale watching and sea turtle rescue alongside crowd-pleasers such as poolside movies, children’s spa treatments, board games and kid-friendly sports.
To help your little ones hone their skills, opt for classes with a pro. At The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, ski and snowboard lessons are available for children as young as 3, and can be tailored to their individual ability level. Families staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun can take advantage of the Junior Mexico Cooking Class, where kids ages 7-16 can spend the afternoon with a chef, learning how to make favorites like quesadillas and guacamole.
Babies and young toddlers require another level of attention. Beyond the requisite crib and high chair, your concierge can assist with delivery of changing tables, infant tubs, baby bath toys, or bottle warmers and sterilizers. A room in a less trafficked area, or a “baby sleeping” sign, might even stretch out naptime a little longer.
Special offers and packages are another way to get more mileage out of a family vacation. At Penha Longa Resort, Diogo notes, the “In-Room Camping” package is a guest favorite. Designed for children ages 4–8, it includes an in-room tent, a teddy bear, lights, an activity book, crayons and colored popcorn. Alternatively, Kids’ Night Out at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee gives older kids a chance to enjoy an evening of food and fun with their peers — and gives parents a chance to relax in the quiet of their hotel room.
And Always Have a Backup Plan
It’s happened to the best of us: Bad weather, illness or another setback derails your best-laid plans. When you’re traveling with kids, this can be a nightmare — unless you have a wily concierge on your side. Diogo remembers a family who came to visit during the rainy season. The parents were tired from their trip, and the damp weather meant their youngest son couldn’t go outside to play. During check-in, the team learned that the son loved mini golf. They soon prepared an indoor mini golf area for him to enjoy while the parents got some much-needed rest.
The family loved the surprise so much, it became one of the highlights of the trip. In fact, we often don’t know which experiences or activities will resonate with our kids when we travel. But with seasoned experts on our side, it can be a lot of fun finding out — especially when we’re rested enough to enjoy it.
Create Memories that Last a Lifetime
The Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts transport families to a place of renewed connection. With the immersive and adventurous Ritz Kids program, finely crafted luxury experiences for adults, and plenty of activities to enjoy together, family vacations become unforgettable. Explore our collection of family-friendly hotels.
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