You and your significant other have enjoyed luxury travel experiences for years. As a couple, you’ve trekked the jungles of Africa, toured the wine country in Paris and explored the ancient ruins of Egypt. And then baby made three, and you started spending your vacations at home or a theme park. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s just not the level of experience you’ve become accustomed to. You long for luxury travel. The good news? You don’t have to compromise your luxury experience when traveling with children. Hotels, airlines and attractions—even luxury destinations—increasingly are inviting the littlest travelers along. Many catering to kids and families with perks that range from baby-sized bathrobes to theme night at the kids’ club.
Is Your Child Ready for Luxury Travel?
“Rather than give up on the idea of luxury travel, we taught our children to embrace and appreciate it,” says L. Nicole Williams, founder and chief strategist of the luxury travel community Blu and the mom of three under the age of 8.
Teaching your kids travel-quette is the key to a successful luxury travel experience with little ones—an experience that works for the kids, works for the parents and works for fellow travelers who are sharing that luxury travel experience with you and your kids.
Teaching Luxury Travel Etiquette
Most children are ready for – and can benefit from – luxury travel. Like every other new experience your kids encounter, they need some lessons in how to handle the unfamiliar situations and people.
Peggy M. Goldman, president of Friendly Planet Travel, recalls a particular trip she took with her two sons, who were 7 and 10 at the time.
“We were staying in a very lovely hotel, but my boys were fascinated by the expanse of the lobby,” Goldman recalls. “They were very energetic and wanted to enjoy the wide open space. They were also overwhelmed by the buffet choices. They were just too young for that particular experience.”
Parents Know Best
Parents are the best judges of when their children are mature enough to act appropriately in any given situation. As always, these are lessons best learned at home, long before the travel experience is booked. One simple test of travel-readiness is the use of basic manners, such as saying “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me” when necessary.
“In raising my 2- and 4-year-old, we treat fast food and fine dining the same when it comes to behavior from our children,” says T.C. Clements, CEO and President of QuickPick Travel. “No yelling, no toys at the table, you don’t get excused until everyone is done eating…..If the rules are not consistent, there is no way to expect good behavior when you want it or need it.”
“Explaining in advance what to expect is very important,” agrees Helen Maffini, director of Family Travel Scoop. Role-playing at home or in a local restaurant will give the child an idea of what behavior is expected from him in similar situations while traveling.
“I think the keys are teaching your children to have good manners and to respond politely to questions and comments from the staff at these resorts,” Maffini adds.
When to Bring in the Professionals
Sometimes kids respond better to people who are not their parents. That certainly can be true if you’re trying to teach them something.
For that reason, if you are on an active vacation, like a ski trip, let the professionals teach them what they need to know. Not only are the children likely to be more receptive to the ski lessens, the whole process can be easier on you.
For example, private ski school instructors often meet you at the hotel, taking the fuss out of schlepping the gear around for yourselves and your children. Look for hotels that offer ski valet services to help make getting in and out the door easy for everyone.
Babies and Luxury Travel
Infants and toddlers are a bit young to practice social niceties. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck at home until they’re old enough to learn. Taking the baby along from the first is the best way to prepare her for travel as she grows. She’ll get used to different places, foreign languages, unusual experiences and exotic foods. An added bonus: Traveling with a baby usually doesn’t cost much more than traveling without your child—especially if leaving the baby at home means paying a full-time sitter.
One caveat, though. Traveling with a little one means you have to give special attention to the child’s schedule. If your baby still naps regularly at home, he may not be happy sleeping in the stroller. Try moving naps to the stroller before you travel. If that doesn’t work, plan for nap time back in the room.
The same is true of bed time. The younger the child, the more important it is to stick to your already-established routine to assure both of you have a more enjoyable time when the child is awake and engaged. Look for a resort with balconies so you and your significant other can share a glass of wine and quiet conversation while the baby slumbers inside.
And never underestimate the power of the child care. Most luxury hotels catering to families will have on-site care, or will be able to link you with approved, accredited caregivers in the area. If you’re not sure where to start, ask the concierge. Having a dinner or some “grown up time” with your spouse and the other adults is the ultimate luxury for new parents.
Look for Kid-Friendly Luxury
Where you stay matters. Look for a luxury resort that caters to kids. This would include an indoor and outdoor pool and a well-stocked game room for down time, and a buffet breakfast so you don’t risk a total meltdown while waiting for a server to bring the corn flakes.
Then plan a day that accommodates the needs of the children.
“Have part of the day that’s sightseeing, part that’s active, and also have time at the hotel or the beach for relaxing,” Goldman says. This mix will give children the variety and the down time they will need to remain engaged during a luxury experience.
Nothing bonds a family quite like traveling together. You won’t just be passing on your love of luxury travel; you’ll be sharing experiences that will become the stuff of family legend, making memories that will be recalled through the years, and filling your child’s life with a world of adventure.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by RockResorts, a collection of luxury mountain and Caribbean resorts.