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10 Vacations with Baby

Vacationing with Baby

Amy Mikler

To state the obvious, you need a vacation. We know it. So, to help you, we've scouted for the most baby-welcoming destinations to suit every parent's predilections -- near a beach, surrounded by mountains, in a cute town, at a theme park, and on the sea. We chose only resorts where no one gets bent out of shape about some squalling or thrown peas, where rooms are welcoming and comfy if you happen to be up all night, and where there are plenty of other young families, so you'll fit right in. All you need to do is book your tickets and pack your bags. Fun in the sun, here you come!

Loews Royal Pacific
Loews Royal Pacific

Courtesy of Loews Royal Pacific

ORLANDO, FLORIDA

This mellow, palm-fringed resort with a South Seas accent is within giggling distance of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, where a Dr. Seuss area brings your baby's board books to life. The 1,000-room hotel welcomes everyone, even your pooch!

Pack light! Almost all baby gear is available for you to borrow -- a feature at many Loews hotels. Thanks to the chain's Fisher-Price program, you can request toys, a crib, a stroller, or a baby swing for your room, gratis. At the hotel's restaurants, staff will puree menu items for tiny diners, and Universal characters, such as Spiderman and Cat in the Hat, cavort with kids at dinner; ask their whereabouts when you check in. At the lagoon-style swimming pool and beach, babies can splash in the Royal Bali water-play area.

If you want to slip out and ride roller coasters with your guy, Kids' Nite Out (kidsniteout.com) works with Loews to provide babysitting service. Rather stay on the property? You'll be dazzled by the hula dancing during the nightly Torch Lighting Ceremony at the Wantilan Luau Pavilion. You can give croquet, Ping-Pong, or volleyball a try. Then, at the 5,000-square-foot fitness center, rejoice in the warm, inviting whirlpool.

Rooms start at $269 per night and include perks such as water-taxi rides to Universal Studios, the Universal Express pass (which lets you zip ahead of the regular lines at rides and attractions), and priority seating at restaurants.

 
Smugglers' Notch
Smugglers? Notch

Courtesy of Smugglers' Notch Resort

JEFFERSONVILLE, VERMONT

This 3,000-acre hideaway, tucked in by maples, offers 300 condos a stroll away from a charming village.

Take your tyke to playgrounds, the gradual-entry wading pool, and the petting zoo. Craving adult time? Treasures Child Care Center welcomes babies as young as 6 weeks. Peek through one-way windows to be sure your little one is enjoying himself. In summer, babies can bask on a screened porch with infant swings situated to enjoy the breeze. If you'd rather your tot stay in your condo, babysitters work for hire.

Relish a massage, hot-stone reflexology, or a yoga class at the Wellness Center. You can also canoe and kayak, walk woodland trails, and slip into an outdoor hot tub!

Studios start at $130 per night, and every condo has a kitchen. A one-bedroom starts at $238; two- and three-bedroom units are available too.

 
Franklyn D. Resort and Spa
Franklyn D. Resort and Spa

Courtesy of Franklyn D. Resort

RUNAWAY BAY, JAMAICA

This all-inclusive slice of island heaven coddles both parents and babies like no other place on Earth. It's the only resort we've found with a Vacation Nanny program: You get a Jamaican Mary Poppins, trained in CPR, who dotes exclusively on your family. She'll nurture your baby, clean and stock your suite, and arrange special requests, such as a birthday party. Rooms are one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites near a stretch of soft sand. It's hard to return to reality after a stay here!

The kids' beach boasts plenty of pails and shovels. The main pool has a shallow end plus a little slide. Toddlers get their own separate pool as well as a playroom with a ball pit and riding toys. The Kidz Buffet is perfect for picky palates. After dinner, bounce your baby at the Kiddies Disco party.

So much to see and do -- on tennis courts, at the fitness center (which offers aquacize classes), and on the turquoise sea (don't miss the glass-bottom-boat rides). Rather relax? Hit the Sea Grape Spa, which uses Jamaican spices in treatments.

Rates start at $280 per adult per night; children under 6 are free. Food, beverages (including alcohol), sports, and daytime nanny services included; evenings are extra.

 
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line

Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

PORT CANAVERAL, FLORIDA

Disney's third ship, the Dream (like its sister ships, Magic and Wonder), features top-tier restaurants, Broadway-caliber shows, and lots of face time with favorite characters as it cruises the Bahamas on three-, four-, and five-night runs. You can bring home baby's first picture with Mickey!

Order diapers and wipes to be delivered to your room before you arrive, and borrow a changing pad and other gear. On deck, a shaded area, Nemo's Reef, mists tots. While docked at Castaway Cay, Disney's own island, borrow a wagon and roll over to the family-friendly beach. At the Small World Nursery, babies as young as 12 weeks play with caregivers, rock in swings, or nap in cribs while parents get "me time."

The Senses Spa & Salon pampers you from head to toe in a sweeping ocean-view oasis. On date night, hit The District, an adults-only area. Slide into a cozy banquette at swanky champagne bar Pink for an uninterrupted conversation (remember those?).

Rates vary widely, depending on the date that you sail and the cabin you choose, but an inside cabin on the Dream for two adults and an infant starts at $1,089 for a three-night Bahamian cruise (not including taxes and gratuities). Food, most nonalcoholic drinks, and entertainment are all included.

 
Beaches Resort and Spa
Beaches Resort and Spa

Courtesy of Beaches Resort and Spa

TURKS AND CAICOS

This sprawling property sits on a long white beach, and the combination of the Caribbean's blue waters and the property's lush landscaping is breathtaking. The all-inclusive enclave (run by Sandals) has 453 units, including spacious family suites. A huge selling point, aside from the natural beauty? Delish cuisine prepared in 16 restaurants -- from steak au poivre to wood-oven pizza, crepes to cupcakes. It's easy to overindulge, because everything you eat and drink is included in the price. But isn't that what vacations are for?

Got an Elmo fan in your house? He'll go nuts for breakfast, storytime, and dance parties with his red furry friend and other characters through the Caribbean Adventures with Sesame Street series. Zoe, Cookie Monster, and their buddies stroll the grounds and put on a stage show. The elaborate Pirate Island Water Park has a quiet splash area for tiny ones as well as a wet-and-wild pirate ship with slippery slides for rambunctious toddlers and a meandering lazy river. The largest of the many swimming pools offers very shallow areas for babies and their parents. When you're ready for some adult time, you'll appreciate that the peaceful nursery welcomes babies of any age. Your little one can nap or play near windows that look out on gorgeous gardens full of flowers.

Laze on a floatie in a pool with a swim-up bar. Windsurf and kayak, play tennis, ride horses on the beach, or experience nirvana during a treatment at the Red Lane Spa. For snorkelers and scuba divers, the island boasts world-class coral reefs, brimming with brilliant sea life.

Room rates start at $515 per adult per night. And this is truly all-inclusive: Food, beverages (including alcohol), child care, tips, and even sports such as scuba diving are all part of the deal. Only in-room babysitting after 9 p.m. is extra ($15 per hour). Kids 2 and younger stay free. This summer, ask about a promo offering discounts up to 65 percent.

 
La Costa Resort and Spa
La Costa Resort and Spa

Courtesy of La Costa Resort and Spa

CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA

Exhale! Recharge. This stylish 610-room Spanish colonial oasis near San Diego spoils parents and babies alike. While you relax at the Chopra Center spa (run by Dr. Deepak), your cutie (6 months or older) will be in good hands at the Baby Camp nursery ($16 per hour), a children's center with a huge exotic-fish tank.

It's all in the details! Fish-themed mobiles hang over cribs in the nursery. You can order, on loan for your room, a Diaper Genie and babyproofing supplies. The restaurants will puree their offerings into baby food (just ask!). And Splash Landing, a water-play area, has bubbling fountains where babies and toddlers can cool off, plus a stretch of sand next to a special kids' pool. Traveling with grandparents and want to spread out -- but also stay close? Consider a family suite, which includes a sitting room, two bathrooms, a bedroom with king bed, and a connecting room with either two queen beds or a king, plus a patio.

Tee off on two championship golf courses, hit the tennis courts, perfect your Downward Dog in yoga class, take a water aerobics class (there are six pools here), or sign up for nutritional counseling. You'll sure have a head start on shedding the baby weight!

Room rates start at $209, plus a $22 daily resort fee per room. The website has many package deals.

 
Keystone Resort
Keystone Resort

Courtesy of Keystone Resort

SUMMIT COUNTY, COLORADO

It's a family-centric ski sensation in winter; come summertime, Keystone morphs into a laid-back funfest, with music, arts and crafts, and food and wine festivals. Put your baby in a carrier and explore Alpine meadows blanketed with wildflowers, catch an outdoor concert, or have a picnic. Call one central reservation office to find accommodations among more than 1,200 hotel and condo options, giving you flexibility if you need a kitchen, an extra bedroom, or just want to hunt down a bargain.

You can rent cribs, high chairs, and other baby gear on the reservation line, for drop-off at any of the lodgings. Take your little one on the safe Scenic Lift Ride, which whisks you smoothly up to the top of 11,640-foot Keystone Mountain for a jaw-dropping panorama of the Continental Divide, Lake Dillon, and Ten Mile Range. Stroll the three pedestrian-only shopping villages for delicious chocolates, snuggly sweaters, and adorable baby outfits.

If you take your family in the winter, the Keystone Children's Center cares for babies as young as 2 months old, keeping them amused with bouncy seats, Exersaucers, swings, and a cozy play corner with soft toys. (It's open during ski season, which is roughly November to April.)

Go tubing or spin a mountain bike along 60 miles of trails, then go Zen at the peaceful spa. River Run Village and Lakeside Village offer more than a dozen restaurants (casual to swanky) for a great date night. Ask the Children's Center for a list of local independent babysitters.

Rates vary widely depending on lodging but start at $99 per night at the Inn at Keystone. Most condo studios start at $129 per night.

 
Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge

Courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge

12 Locations in 9 states (KS, MI, NC, OH, PA, TX, VA, WA, WI)

Splash-happy older kids race through the towering indoor water park, but babies and toddlers have their pick of fountain-filled places to play too. The imaginatively decorated, woodsy suites all come with kitchenettes, so it's easy to prepare bottles or baby food at any hour.

Great Wolf properties all feature a play area where babies can giggle under softly spraying water. Most also have a Cub Paw Pool, a gently sloping indoor place where babies can dip their toes. When your tot gets up the nerve, she can take a ride down a short water slide, perfect for first-timers. Before it's time for the little ones to turn in, many parents carry them to the lobby's Great Clock Tower, where animatronic animals sing about forest life.

If you take turns playing with baby (there's no nursery service), you and your partner can both grab time at the Elements Spa. Bring microwave popcorn and rent a movie to watch on the big-screen TV in your room at night after your cutie conks out in the separate kid area. In the morning, a Starbucks in the lobby will help you wake up.

Room rates at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington, for example, start at $199 per night. That includes unlimited use of the water park (even on the day you check in and the day you check out) but not food or drinks.

 
Rocking Horse Ranch
Rocking Horse Ranch

Courtesy of Rocking Horse Ranch

HIGHLAND, NEW YORK

Corralled in the Shawangunk Mountains of the Catskills and owned by the Turk family for generations, this 120-room, 500-acre place is a haven for horse lovers. Rocking Horse offers a whoop-it-up array of activities, even if your baby's only going to meet (not ride!) some four-legged friends. The timbered lobby's cowboy decor and totem poles set a Wild West tone. You'll eat family-style meals around big tables and forge new friendships.

The whole family is bound to enjoy a wagon ride, and you can take your baby to see the zoo's dromedary camel, plains zebras, and miniature donkeys. Toddlers have their own pool outdoors; at the indoor Big Splash Water Park, there's a special area for babies with slides and bubbling fountains. Looking for some grown-up time? Children of any age are dearly tended at the Tiny Troops Tykes program, in the rustic-looking Fort Tiny Headquarters ($8 an hour for children younger than 3).

You'll get a kick out of joining trivia and archery contests, laughing at comedy shows, or climbing a rock wall. You can go waterskiing or rollicking atop a banana boat on the lake. Ride horseback along picturesque trails with the help of a guide. At night, line dance to country songs or enjoy gazing at the stars.

Room rates start at $170 per adult; kids younger than 4 are free; includes meals and drinks (except alcohol), horseback riding, and sports.

 
Club Med Ixtapa
Club Med Ixtapa

Courtesy of Club Med Ixtapa

ZIHUATANEJO, MEXICO

How do you say "very relaxing" in Spanish? Muy relajante! And that's what this 298-room, hacienda-style, all-inclusive hideaway, verdant with tropical gardens, is all about. Situated on a gorgeous crescent-shaped ribbon of Pacific Coast, with the Sierra Madre Mountains as backdrop, Club Med Ixtapa totally caters to young families in need of a real vacation.

Simply lounging around together is a pleasure here. Sip a pi?a colada while you watch baby explore the sand or gaze at the waves. Chefs at two open-air French-influenced restaurants puree fresh baby food daily. At the baby-care center, which is open 24/7, you can sterilize and warm bottles or pick up yogurt, fruit, and teething biscuits. If you want to hit the spa, the award-winning infant program (Club Med Baby, for children 4 to 23 months) will take special care of your infant. You'll fill out a detailed "get-to-know-my-child" questionnaire, looping the staff in on baby's naptime, favorite foods, and more. Caregivers play peekaboo, sing songs, and read books to their charges.

Sail, snorkel, and scuba dive in the emerald sea. For a real thrill, try out the flying trapeze at the Circus Academy! Or, if life as a new parent is enough of a circus for you, veg out on the chaise longues, with lapping waves as your only sound.

Rates start at $190 per person per night (based on a seven-night stay); that includes all food and beverages (alcohol too), nightly entertainment, and sports. Babies stay free, but there is a small charge to use the nursery services.

Bonus: If you're closer to the East Coast (or would rather not get baby a passport), Club Med just reopened its Sandpiper Bay resort in Port St. Lucie, Florida, after a $25 million renovation. It's just as spectacular and family-focused as Ixtapa.

 

Originally published in the April 2011 issue of American Baby magazine.

Travel disclaimer
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.