A children's program and a few swimming pools are no longer enough to make a resort a top pick for families. Vying for your travel dollars, resorts are offering services virtually unheard of a few years ago, like automatic childproofing of guest rooms, fine dining for kids and parents, and complimentary use of child necessities such as stepstools and baby bathtubs. They're giving tennis lessons to toddlers, acrobat training to preschoolers, and facials to kindergartners.
How do we know all this? For six months, Child studied the family features at U.S. resorts that focus on warm-weather travel. We sent a questionnaire to 341 properties culled from a list of resorts from Smith Travel Research and our advisory board of travel experts to see what they offered. About 170 semi-finalists received a 129-question follow-up survey about the activities, staffing, and cost for kids' programs; the activities families can do together; the range of dining options; the range of water activities for young kids; safety issues like the presence of lifeguards and security patrols; room design and size; and value, such as lower rates on second rooms for large families.
In the end, our winners emerged because they offered a perfect package -- ideal locations, great programming, and first-rate accommodations. The 50 runners-up were so impressive, though, that we listed them at the end of this article.