Vacations are not always really vacations. Traveling can take a lot out of you. Throw in a kid or two and it’s like running a marathon. Pacing is the key to success, especially when you’re on the type of trip I like to call an adventure. Walking the family along the Great Wall of China or listening to your kids plot how to play tag with sheep in Northern Ireland, fall into the adventure category. In bed late, moving and shaking early, and often exhausted enough to sleep for at least part of the plane flight home are just a few of the signs of a good adventure.
But vacations, true vacations are about doing nothing really. Relaxing on a beach, reading a book by the pool, pampering yourself in a spa and most importantly, having access to a great kids’ club so you can actually do everything I just mentioned.
The first time I went on vacation to a resort with a kids’ club, it took me a few days to even consider using it for my daughter. The whole idea almost made me feel guilty. About half way through the vacation I finally checked her in for a couple of hours. I spent more time spying on her than reading on the beach. When I finally decided to give it up and just pick her up, she didn’t want to come with me. Lesson learned. I relaxed, actually finished a book and she had a blast.
The good news is that countless resorts now offer options for traveling families. But all kids’ clubs are not created equal. Amie’s Secrets to a Guilt-Free Kids’ Club is a great place to start when planning a vacation and finding a kids’ club to meet your family’s needs.
After doing just a little research on-line, I was dazed and amazed by the incredible kids’ clubs I found. It’s great to be a kid on vacation these days.
Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment introduces kids to the ecological wonder and beauty of the Cayman Islands. There are a variety of amazing programs for kids to choose from at the Ritz-Carlton. I may not be a kid anymore, but I’d jump at the chance to go on the Sea Floor Submarine Adventure and the Shipwreck Exploration Snorkel. For parents (like me) who just can’t stay away, there are programs the whole family can enjoy.
National Geographic Explorers Camp | Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Arizona
National Geographic rolled into a kids’ club. How can you go wrong? The National Geographic Explorers Camp at the Fairmont Scottsdale is the only one of its kind in the United States. Kids ages 5-12 can go on a GPS treasure hunt, a photo or video safari and travel the world on some gigantic maps. Oh yeah, did I mention there’s also the Sonoran Splash water oasis, complete with waterslides and “Dive-In” movies. The teen “Hang-Out” gives kids 13 to 17 a special place to call their own.
Anancy Children’s Village at Half Moon | Half Moon, A Rock Resort, Jamaica
Jamaica, Mon! Kids age 3 to 12 are the center of attention at the Anancy Children’s Village at Half Moon. Named after Jamaica’s fabled children’s character Anancy the Spider, the kids centre has something for everyone. There’s a model “Caribbean village”, a wading pool, sand box, and lots of shaded outdoor play areas. The Hype Zone is just for teens. With organized entertainment, a game room and nightly entertainment, it’s a good place for teens to meet other teens on vacation. No matter how old your kids, I doubt they’ll say no to Half Moon’s Dolphin Lagoon. Kids (and parents) can swim with dolphins or even become a Trainer for a Day. When your done, reapply the sunscreen and head over to the Equestrian Centre where kids (and yes, parents too) can enjoy the Beach Ride. The horseback beach ride includes an ocean swim with the horses.
It’s all about the environment at the Nature’s Wonders center. Guests ages 5 and older will be hooked from the moment they see the 11 aquariums teeming with fish, crabs and alligators. Along with an assortment of daily nature-themed programs, there is a kid-friendly lab filled with microscopes, slides and Petri dishes. I love it when kids are having so much fun, they don’t realize they’re learning. Teens will love the vue, or visual user experience. Think flat screens, incredible sound systems and all of the incredible electronic toys you can imagine. The oldest kid in my family, my husband, would never want to leave.
If the incredible setting weren’t enough, the Four Seasons goes out of it way to help its younger guests discover the wonders of Costa Rica with it’s Kids For All Seasons club. Kids age 4-12 explore the lush landscape, hunting for local reptiles, plants and birds. Beach lovers can hit the sand in search of hermit crabs. The Tuanis Teen Center, complete with a teen-oriented Concierge, offers outdoor adventures like zip-lining through the treetops, white-water rafting and volcano hikes. Teens can also sign-up for scuba, cooking or Spanish lessons.
Hawaiian culture plays a huge role in day to day activities at Camp Grande. Kids 5 to 12 can learn the Hula and orchid lei making and play traditional island games. They get a taste of authentic Hawaii while having a blast. Facilities include a whale-shaped wading pool, foosball and ping pong tables and a movie theater. Maui’s Grand Wailea also sports nine pools with slides, rapids, and a Tarzan-style rope swing.
Tide Pool Kids Club |Terranea
Inspired by the incredible setting that surrounds it, Terranea intertwines science and creativity with outdoor-focused activities for kids including coastal strolls while playing nature bingo, sack races and glow-in-the-dark bocce ball. There are day and evening camp activities to choose from.
Camp Coyote let’s Sedona’s culture and environment set the stage for a kids’ club that educates and entertains. Each day has a theme: kids who get to go to Tipi Mondays won’t want to miss Canyon Creations Wednesdays. Highlights for kids age 4 to 12 include sculpting pottery, star gazing, designing arrowhead necklaces and Southwestern-inspired cooking classes.
Club Med is known around the world for their kids’ clubs. Why? They’ve got it down to a hassle-free science. Activities vary by age, but at Club Med Ixtapa, the flying trapeze is always a popular choice. Baby Club Med tends to little ones 4 months to under 2. Petit Club Med is where it’s at for kids until they turn 4. Mini Club Med entertains kids 4 to 11 and during certain times Juniors’ Club Med gives teens a place to be teens. Since it’s all-inclusive there no worrying whether the kids have money, and no end of vacation sticker shock.
Coconut Crew Camp | The Breakers, Palm Beach
Florida is a family vacation favorite, but it doesn’t always have to be about Mickey. Kids ages 3 to 12 can go on turtle walks, eco tours and have fun at bonfires on the beach. The Breakers Coconut Camp also includes many sporting activities like snorkeling, tennis and golf. An added perk: The Breakers offers complimentary childproofing for families with infants or children up to three. Electrical outlets are covered, table corners protected and plastic bags removed from garbage pails.
When you find a good kids’ club, don’t be surprised if you hardly ever see your kids during vacation. You’ll have plenty to talk about on the plane flight home, and maybe even be inspired to start planning the next vacation.
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