Luxury hotels and resorts have stepped up their family offerings in recent years. From exclusive experiences to kid-friendly amenities, it can be hard to narrow so many fabulous choices. Over time, I’ve developed a list of things I consider when selecting a hotel or resort for a family vacation that I’m sharing with you now, featuring brands I love who are members of the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection.
(Check your Visa cards to see if they bear the Visa Signature logo. If so, you are entitled to a variety of benefits that make family travel even easier.)
1. Room Size
Over the years, I’ve starting paying very close attention to the square footage (or meters) of a room. In cities like London and Paris, standard rooms can be under 250 square feet which is quite small for a family of three like mine.
If we’re flying long haul, we need a suite since my husband needs so much less sleep than my daughter and I. The door between us during those first few nights allows everyone to acclimate much faster than if we were all in the same room.
And, the price difference between a standard room and a junior suite isn’t always drastic. Some are designed for families, like the 2-bedroom family suites at Omni La Costa Resort and Spa that are on ground level with a terrace for kids to play on and come with a few other fun amenities. The extra space of a suite just might come at a price you are comfortable with so it doesn’t hurt to take a look.
2. Kids’ Clubs
Supervised kids’ clubs add a fantastic level of convenience to family vacations because parents can hit the golf course or spa while youngsters have a great time with various activities around the hotel, art projects, and more. Montage Beverly Hills has Paintbox, which is one of my daughter’s favorite kids’ club experiences of all time. Not only did they hang a huge welcome poster in our room, entertain her with fun activities while I ate dinner at Scarpetta, and feed her dinner (ordered via in-room dining), they still send her birthday cards every year.
Hotels and resorts are also enhancing activity offerings for teens and tweens, as not to leave out these age groups.
3. Unique Cultural and VIP Experiences
In addition to kids clubs, look for extraordinary experiences for all ages. The Peninsula Tokyo’s Peninsula Academy offers kids the opportunity to immerse in special cultural activities such as origami folding and wind chime making in between visits to Tokyo Disneyland and other attractions.
Not to mention, VIP experiences for parents including a sake brewery tour, a day of pampering with the city’s best stylists, kimono dressings and much more.
4. The When, Where and How of Breakfast
With an early riser on my hands, it’s important for me to figure out breakfast logistics in advance like what time the hotel restaurant opens or if there in-room dining available should she wake before 7:00 a.m. or so. I used to bring instant oatmeal, but she loves hotel breakfast buffet and will leg it out in a fuss (not fun for anyone) until its available. Breakfast is often bundled in some room packages so investigate whether it means cost savings to you. Is it continental or a buffet? Room service only or in the restaurant? Sometimes, breakfast also only valid for two people.
Visa Signature cardholders who book through the Visa Luxury Hotel Collection receive a daily continental breakfast credit and a $25 resort credit. If you’re staying at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa as a Visa Signature cardholder, you’ll receive a full breakfast. We loved our stay there last summer, especially time spent at the awesome pool with 2-story waterslide, resort wildlife and breakfast with the swans. This Maui resort is total heaven for kids.
5. Provided Essential Gear
These days, there is no need to pack all of baby’s essentials. For example Mandarin Oriental, Macau (all Mandarin Oriental Hotels that I’ve been to offer a variation of this) has essential baby gear on hand, ranging from strollers to high chairs to baby bottle warmers. You just need to request the gear in advance.
I’ve found that these offerings aren’t always listed on hotel websites so it wouldn’t hurt to call the concierge desk to see what kind of baby gear they can arrange in your room in advance. And, if you book MO Macau, let me tell you that the spa is fantastic.
6. Hotel Club Lounges
While it may seem that club lounges are for business use—and they certainly are—I have found them extremely valuable for family travel. A typical Executive Club or Club Level room comes with all-day access to the VIP facility which usually includes a lovely breakfast buffet, all-day drinks, and light snacks as well as some sort of evening light supper and cocktail offerings. Some even offer a British-style afternoon tea, depending on where you are.
You never know when hunger is going to strike a kid and it’s nice to be able to quickly duck into a club to immediately satisfy whatever the craving is. And, depending on how much you’ll use it, they can even save you money.
These clubs are particularly popular in Asia (and dare I say reasonably priced for what you get in my experience), and I recently read that the incredible InterContinental Bali Resort has one of the best in Asia. You can book their Club Level rooms through the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection.
7. The WiFi Situation
If I’m in an exotic, secluded locale like the Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort and Spa, you’d better believe I’d be Facebooking photos of turquoise water and gorgeous beaches. I’ve heard amazing things about this family-friendly property and I want to go, plus I adore Shangri-la Hotels and Resorts.
My 8-year-old increasingly needs WiFi, too, when traveling. It helps entertain her while chilling in the hotel room but during our last trip to Asia, we needed to do some online research to complete a few homework assignments. I always like to know if WiFi is included in my rate—it is when you book with VISA Signature Luxury Hotel Collection—because if it’s not, I’m sometimes better off bringing an international MiFi.
8. Easy Hotel or Resort Location
Location matters when on a family vacation and I like to make sure that I know where to grab snacks nearby on the fly (if not in a club level room) as well as what we can do within walking distance of the hotel.
I know that Mandarin Oriental, London’s Knightsbridge location is not only in the heart of my favorite fashionable district in London, but that within steps of the hotel are things my daughter would like to do such as visit Harrod’s and Harvey Nick’s (where there is also tons of lovely convenience foods) and Hyde Park. Pretty much anything I forget to pack can be sourced within steps of the hotel.
9. Concierge Accessibility Prior to a Stay
Get the concierge desk’s email address prior to your visit in order to arrange your itinerary before arrival. Not only does having each day outlined in advance cut down stress, but I find that they are often able to purchase attraction tickets in advance and have special relationships with certain, otherwise busy restaurants they can get you in to. I cut the queue to the Big Buddha in Hong Kong last time I was there because our concierge made us a reservation that sent us through the VIP line. It is their job to know what you don’t!
We’re considering a stay at the Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara in the fall and will be sure to tap the concierge in advance for restaurant recommendations and wine tasting itineraries.
Plus, in addition to the hotel’s concierge, Visa Signature cardholders have access to 24/7 concierge service which can certainly come in handy in the event of trip disruptions like flight delays through. They can also help plan recreation.
10. Arrivals Service
Arrivals services take the chaos out of juggling luggage, kids gear and then some on public transportation to a hotel. I can not emphasize to you how valuable it is.
The Raffles Hotel Singapore, one of my favorite historic hotels, offers limousine service with a fleet of beautiful cars that include a Bentley. They can meet you at the incredibly family-friendly Changi International Airport, help collect your luggage and whisk you away to your first Singapore Sling (the hotel is the very place where the drink was invented and I have the recipe). There are just so many things to do in Singapore with kids that I highly recommend it for a family vacation. We try to return every other year.
Get Even More Perks with a Visa Signature Card
Visa Signature cardholders who book through the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection can access hotels and resorts with the conveniences mentioned above in addition to:
- Best available rate guarantee
- Automatic room upgrade upon arrival, when available
- Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi, when available
- Complimentary continental breakfast daily
- $25 USD food or beverage credit
- VIP Guest status
- 3:00 p.m. check-out upon request, when available
The Visa Signature logo is in the corner of your card, if you have one. Many people have Visa Signature cards and don’t realize that they do. These can include mileage cards issued by United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines and British Airways as well as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa Signature card (and there are many more). It pays to double check before booking your next dream vacation, because why miss out on perks if you don’t have to?
What are your best tips for booking family-friendly luxury hotels?
Photo credits: (in order of appearance) Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort and Spa, Omni La Costa, Montage Beverly Hills, The Peninsula Tokyo, Katie Dillon, Mandarin Oriental Macau, Intercontinental Bali, Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort and Spa, Mandarin Oriental London, Bacara, Flickr/andrewngai, Creative Commons 2.0; Raffles Hotel, Flickr/mobilestreetlife, Creative Commons 2.0
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
13 Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals on Travel, Gear, Theme Parks & Airfare
How to Book on Virtuoso.com for VIP Benefits at Luxury Hotels Worldwide
Medjet Review: Is There Value in Emergency Evacuation Coverage?
15 Best Travel Cribs for Babies & Toddlers That Are Portable, Easy, & Safe