Each year, our Family Vacation Advisor team stays at a vast number of hotels and resorts all over the world, both to scout them for our clients and to enjoy them with our own families. It’s safe to say 2018 was a banner year for accommodations — not only did we discover new favorites in well-loved destinations such as Italy and Switzerland, we found gems in far-flung hotspots like Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. From urban luxury hotels and tropical beach resorts to mountaintop chalets and rural estates, here are the properties that blew us away.
This is one of Berlin‘s grand dames brought to a modern standard, with many configurations of connecting rooms. And at breakfast there’s a buffet like nowhere else in town — food for every taste and ethnicity. Located close to public transportation, with a memorial out the back entrance and the Tiergarten (the city’s largest park) just steps away, the Adlon Kempinski is ideally placed to explore both East and West Berlin. — Barbara Weindling
My favorite hotel this year was the Four Seasons Sydney. It could not be in a better location in The Rocks area of Sydney Harbour; the view from the hotel of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House is stunning. We were able to walk to all the major highlights and catch a ferry to the Taronga Zoo, Manly Beach and many other day trip destinations. The rooms were spacious, the pool was great and they offer babysitting services as well if parents want to do some shopping nearby. My kids especially enjoyed their own child-size bathrobes and slippers. — Megan Norris
I’ve stayed at luxury properties throughout Italy, but the experience at Forte Village Resort is truly one of a kind. While many resort properties boast about extensive amenities for families, Forte Village takes hotel services for different age groups — including parents and grandparents! — to an entirely new level. From the sports academy programs where professional instructors offer daily lessons in things like football (soccer) and tennis, to a pint-size kids’ club paradise with a coveted Barbie Doll House of Dreams, to an award-winning full thalassotherapy spa, there aren’t enough hours in the day to cover it all, not to mention that Sardinia is a fascinating island to explore. Extensive direct flights from throughout Europe make for easy access. — Amie O’Shaughnessy
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New Zealand lodges are small, intimate accommodations that highlight beautiful destinations, local foods and Kiwi hospitality. Hapuku Lodge + Treehouses on the South Island is a standout among them and envelops families in relaxed luxury. The treehouses offer sea-to-mountain views with separate sleeping areas for the adults and kids. The bonus is the convenient location for Kaikoura’s marine life adventures, including whale watching, swimming with wild dolphins and lots of furry seals. — Kristi Marcelle
Villa d’Este in northern Italy was one of my favorite hotels that we visited this past year. It is a stunning, luxe property overlooking Lake Como with beautiful mosaics and unique gardens that offer tons of green space. There were lots of water activities to entertain children as well as a kids’ club. The staff at Villa d’Este went above and beyond to please all their guests, especially the youngest ones. — Mandy Cecchetto
This past fall, I did a lot of college tours with my daughter, Gioia. She wanted to look at a few different schools around Boston and its surrounding suburbs. We decided to stay at the Kimpton Marlowe in Cambridge and were pleasantly surprised by the superb service from the moment we pulled up. The front desk staff was warm, friendly and knowledgeable. Our room’s beautiful views overlooking Boston made it hard to close our eyes. And we woke up in the morning to one of the prettiest sunrises we have ever seen. — Jen Donati
This is my favorite pick because it oozes Swiss coziness and charm. The exterior is quite modest, but the interior is incredibly well done with some themed rooms and lots of great options for families. I was particularly impressed with the Murphy beds, which allow for more space during the day. Kids will surely enjoy the indoor swimming pool and adults will benefit from the Champagne breakfast offered each morning. — Cary Walker
It’s not a traditional hotel, but for something completely off the beaten path and truly immersive for your family, book a riverboat trip through Our Whole Village to the Brazilian rainforest. We enjoyed the relaxation of our floating home base while stopping in remote locations along the way. We hiked through the Amazon rainforest with an experienced local guide, visited a small community that benefits from the cost of the trip, jumped off the boat into the river for a refreshing swim, observed fascinating wildlife in action, enjoyed true local cuisine and ended it all at a splendid 5-star resort on the water. This isn’t your everyday family vacation! — Laurel Perry
This property has Ciao Bambino families written all over it! Fig, pear, lemon and olive trees; grapes, plums, tomatoes, fresh herbs, almonds and other nuts; goats and chicken all are grown and raised on the grounds. And all of these foods make up the amazing dining menu — we did not leave the property to eat. Add a beautiful zero-entry pool and adorable shabby chic accommodations, and Masseria Montenapoleone really is an incredible find for families. We were the only U.S. family there and also the oldest … it’s perfect for young kids. It is really special. — Amy Annis
One of my favorite family hotels from the past year is Outrigger Castaway Island, Fiji, a beautiful, relaxing resort that never feels crowded. Castaway Island is part of the Mamanuca group of islands, and the resort is the only property with a small number of bures (the Fijian word for cabins). The island is accessible by boat, seaplane or helicopter, and once you arrive, you will never want to leave — my daughter fittingly named it paradise!
They have a fun kids’ club, babysitting service and a children’s pool with a breakfast/lunch bistro specifically created to tickle the taste buds of little connoisseurs. Older kids can get their feet wet, metaphorically and figuratively, at an introductory diving course (minimum 8 years); and kids over 12 can obtain their scuba diving certificate. Adults will also think that they are in paradise, with incredible crystal-clear-blue water around them as well as happy and playful children. — Nicole Schick
You can only be impressed by the brightness, cleanliness and amount of space at this property. The hotel takes design very seriously, and any parents who are into art and antiques will be in their element. The hotel is classy but not pretentious; hospitality has been elevated and guests are made to feel special. The kids loved the fact that they were asked how they were before the adults! Of special note is the food, a very high standard. Being British, the afternoon teas were a big hit with the kids. — Linda Considine
What stood out for me more than anything else about this resort were the amenities for babies and young kids. The whole culture is family-friendly and never before had I seen a hotel that catered so well to the well-being of the little ones by offering door protectors, thermometers, safety gates, etc. Five kids’ clubs ensure that children in any age group have things to do, and equally important, parents get some downtime while the kids are busy. For those families who want to be on the go, the activities are boundless; for those who want a less stressful option, the spa offers many relaxing treatments. I was blown away by the service and the friendliness of the staff and the Portuguese people in general. — Brendan Considine
Editor’s Note: Photos courtesy of the individual properties featured.
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This is a challenging time for our clients given the uncertainty around the spread of coronavirus, particularly for those with near-term travel plans in impacted areas. We’re working with our suppliers on being flexible with their booking conditions, and enabling families to postpone travel to a later date without a penalty, when possible. Likewise, given the unpredictability around destinations that may be impacted in the future, we’re helping clients planning new trips and understand ways that they can protect themselves until the situation improves. We are ready to help our clients work through questions and concerns.