Azul Fives HotelHow many of you are over winter already? If you've already gulped copious amounts of hot cocoa, sledded more than not, and worn out the snow-shoes, it might be time to head to a warmer climate. Or an indoor option with water slides. Either/or. Toddlers can only take so much of your four walls, so if you've ever thought about taking a winter vacation, here are five fantastic options that will make you wonder why you never thought of doing this before.
Whether you prefer an all-inclusive with unlimited booze and a spa, or a fantasy land for the kids, these five winter getaways have been thoroughly tested by The Stir, or The Stir associates (aka, friends/consultants). Get the heck out of dodge now, and fly away to a toddler (and parent) wonderland.
Luxury coupled with kid-friendly? That rare combination is seriously tricky, but Azul Fives, a resort by Karisma, seems to have thought of every detail down to the last changing table, bottle warmer, and miniature robes for your toddler and big kid while still managing turn-down service complete with truffles and champagne. With their newest kid-friendly property near Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya, we knew this was the way to go since my husband and I have been dying to get back to Playa del Carmen since we went pre-kids. Now a family-friendly resort that can be an all-inclusive, or a la carte, opened up 10 minutes away from the eclectic beach town near Cancun -- but far away from the crowds. My daughter took a gymnastics class this morning in the Kid's Club, and my son hung out in the Fisher-Price room while the rest of us had lunch. Every meal has been far beyond our expectations, and it's especially exciting having top-notch Mexican cuisine as an option in addition to their Mediterranean and sushi restaurants on the property. At night you can choose an adult activity like salsa dancing lessons, or take the family to see a magician or circus show. I'm currently sitting here looking over the pool with a swim-up bar as my baby naps, and my husband and daughter are playing in the ocean. I could get used to working like this. But if you're looking for a one-time visit, asap, Azul Fives is currently offering 40% off a Gourmet All-Inclusive package for this newest property near Playa del Carmen. If you book by January 23, you'll get the 40% deal, 50% off children 3 - 12, and children under 3 are free from now until April 30, 2011.
Avoid the summer crowd and head to SoCal this winter to make your kid's dreams come true. But make your own dreams come true by staying right on the property at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. Seriously, you'll walk outside and already be in the happiest place on earth. What makes it even happier is you're avoiding all those local kids who are busy in school who aren't depressed over the winter weather because they eat lunch outside in Southern California. And let's face it, toddlers will adore about 40% of the park, so you should make sure your hotel offers something for everyone. That will also help mom and dad not lose it with long lines and blazing sun. But they still should take advantage of the spa and evening childcare. You deserve it after so many spins on the Tea Cup.
Hotel rates only start at $231 per night. But don't forget the tickets to the park.
Say you’ve given up trying to please everyone, and you know the goal is to keep the kids happy so you can also enjoy some non-screaming time. The ultimate kid vacation for the Sesame Street fan, Beaches takes parents' needs into consideration as well. A fantastic spa, golf course, and scuba excursions are available to keep the adults relaxed and/or stimulated with one all-inclusive price that covers everything you'll need while at the resort. But let's face it, any resort where the nightly entertainment stars Elmo has a very specific focus -- and it's not on you. When we went, we loved watching our 2-year-old become mesmerized by meeting her favorite characters. And we really loved the babysitting that was included in the price that included story time with Zoe. If your ideal vacation offers kid entertainment, and you being able to sit by the pool with unlimited frozen drinks at your disposal -- Beaches is for you. One note, the food is just okay. While one restaurant was a cut above the rest, it was still tough to get excited about mealtime every day. The unlimited cocktails help.
Rates start at $158 per night.
Okay, maybe you've got some more skiing in you, but you really want to pair it with some indoor water sports. Hope Lake Lodge in upstate New York gives your family every single thing they need. Yes, there is a spa for mom and dad. Located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, you won't have to travel far for a mountain or two to enjoy. If you're a parent who needs to keep the kitchen fully stocked in order to have a happy crew, the lodge offers kitchens in the units. But you also have the option of dining on site in case you're like me and declare that vacation means mom doesn't cook. The best endorsement I've heard of Hope Lake Lodge came from a family of four who were on there way somewhere else and randomly stopped for the night at the lodge. They never made it to their final destination when they realized how amazing it was to be staying at a hotel WITH AN INDOOR WATER PARK. I'm sure you can feel the excitement from your couch as well.
In case you're in another location, the Great Wolf Lodge offers similar services that I hear are fantastic.
Rates start at $199 per night
If you’re already sold on the Club Med, it makes sense to find a location that offers Baby Cub Med. Which is simply babysitting and kid activities coupled with the services, food, and multiple locations you already enjoy. The original all-inclusive, Club Med is all about handing you a plastic card when you check in, and letting you just throw that at people whenever you need a steak frite or some floaties. With so many locations all around the globe, there's no way you won't find a dream vacation for your brood. A family interviewed said the Club Med experience was thrilling since they felt no need to leave the resort, and they didn't have to sacrifice good food for for staying put while getting some much-needed babysitting. Additionally, Club Med is surprisingly affordable since kids stay free, and some locations are what you would pay for a local high-end hotel, without the all-inclusive bonuses. I know a couple who swear by the Club Med service, food, quality, and reliability. Which means they're now regulars and probably get more than just the icy cocktail upon arrival. Nice.
Rates start at $159 per night, but locations and prices vary drastically.
The author received partial compensation in services from Karisma and Beaches in working on this story.