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Big Fun for Little Ones
Many hotels and resorts say they welcome babies and toddlers, but few truly give young families the support they need to relax on vacation. We highlight the cream of the crop in vacation providers that get it right.
From all-inclusive resorts with plenty of activities to laid-back beach vacations, we've found some amazing places where the whole family can enjoy a vacation.
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Tyler Place Family Resort: Highgate Springs, VT
On the shores of Lake Champlain in northwest Vermont, the award-winning summer all-inclusive Tyler Place Family Resort goes above and beyond for families with kids under three. The secret is the exceptional staff of college-age and professional counselors, who provide a counselor-to-child ratio of nearly 1:1.
Bringing a baby to Tyler Place means you'll be given a parents' helper who provides one-on-one baby care and companionship for the entire week. During the day, your baby and parents' helper can attend an infant-friendly activity group. In the evenings, your helper will give your child dinner and quiet playtime or take your child back to your accommodations for an early bedtime while you enjoy dinner at the inn. This is flexible care designed to give parents a caring support system while also offering plenty of together time with their babies.
Tyler Place is on our shortlist of America's best all-inclusive resorts for families. The Tyler Place is full of families that return year after year, and your baby's first vacation may lead to a summer family tradition.
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Franklyn D. Resort: Runaway Bay, Jamaica
While many family resorts in the Caribbean offer terrific children's programs clubs and non-stop activities, Franklyn D. Resort offers something unbeatable for families with babies and little ones: your very own, exclusive vacation nanny. For more than seven hours every day, your nanny is available to look after your children and be your personal guide at the resort. You can also hire her to babysit in the evening for a nominal charge.
You'll appreciate the all-inclusive pricing and accommodations in one to three bedroom suites that are considerably larger than you'll find at many Caribbean all-inclusive resorts. Another benefit when you have small children is the resort's compact size, which means it's always a short walk to get to the pool, restaurant, or children’s center.
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Disney Cruise Line
For babies and toddlers ages six months to 35 months, Disney Cruise Line has the best childcare program afloat for the littlest cruisers. There are baby swings, toys, books, Disney movies played on a TV, as well as a soft play areas and a separate quiet area with cribs. Counselors will change diapers provided by parents.
For a Disney cruise, your child needs to be at least six months of age on the day of sailing for most itineraries. The minimum age for Transatlantic and Panama Canal itineraries is one year of age on the day of sailing.
There's plenty to do for little ones. They will be greeted by Disney characters when they board. Once under way, there are clubs with activities for all ages. And they'll splash away in freshwater pools, aqua play areas, and waterslides.Continue to 5 of 13 below.
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Club Med: Florida, Mexico & Dominican Republic
Kids under age 4 stay free at all-inclusive Club Med Resorts, whose kid-friendly properties include: Sandpiper Bay in Florida; Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; Cancun Yucatan and Ixtapa Pacific, both in Mexico. (Club Med Sandpiper Bay makes our shortlist of America's best all-inclusive resorts for families.)
Babies ages 4 months to 23 months can take part in Baby Club Med, whose program follows a set schedule including stimulating activities indoors and out, well-balanced meals and an afternoon nap. In addition, parents get 24-hour access to baby care rooms equipped with bottle warmers, a microwave, fridge, mixer, sterilizer, and more. The resort can also loan strollers and other baby items to families.
For toddlers ages 2 to 3 years, Petit Club Med offers age-appropriate activities and entertainment, meals and downtimes for rest. There's a mix of stimulating games to arouse curiosity, Baby Gym in the open air, nursery rhymes, quiet time, and more.
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Smugglers' Notch: Jeffersonville, VT
Ski lessons and learn-to-ski camps typically start at age 3 at the most kid-friendly ski resorts, which leaves snow-loving families in need of childcare options for their babies and toddlers. Voted Number 1 for family programming by Ski magazine readers for more than 15 years in a row, Smugglers' Notch gets kids as young as 2-1/2 up on skis (even if they’re not yet potty trained) and kids as young as 4 up on snowboards.
For little ones not quite ready for slope time, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more impressive childcare center than Treasures, the state-of-the-art, 5,400-square-foot childcare center at Smuggs.
Kids are divided by age into three rooms (6 to 16 months; 17 months to 2-1/2 years; and 2-1/2 to 3 years), with a myriad of age-appropriate toys, mats, climbing equipment, and playhouses for everybody. Playrooms have a giant fish tank, little cots, and blankets, bathrooms with tiny toilets and small sinks, and there are over 4,000 square feet of an outdoor playground, too.
Babies and toddlers are cooed over by a team of nannies, who lead their groups in interactive games, stories, circle time, and bubble-blowing fun. There’s also radiant floor heating, a one-way viewing window for parents, and ski-in/ski-out convenience. And once kids get a bit older, Smuggs has one of the very best learn-to-ski programs in the land.
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Beaches Resorts: The Caribbean
Beaches Resorts are a trio of all-inclusive Caribbean resorts—two in Jamaica and one in Turks and Caicos. For families with babies and toddlers, the chain gives you certified nannies on the job every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (and an infant to staff ratio of 3:1). Nannies are also available for babysitting in the evenings for an additional fee.
Beaches Resorts offers Sesame Street programming with daily activities, weekly stage shows, and chances to meet the characters.
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Grand Palladium Resorts: Caribbean & Mexico
The collection of all-inclusive Grand Palladium resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico include locations in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and both the Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico.
The resorts offer "Play at Palladium with Raggs," a program that features the five colorful pups from the Emmy award-winning TV series, Raggs. Activities include character meet-and-greets, dining experiences, and live musical stage shows at the resorts' on-site theaters.
Palladium offers programs for babies through teens, including the Raggs Baby Club for infants and toddlers up to age 3.Continue to 9 of 13 below.
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Winnetu Oceanside Resort: Martha's Vineyard, MA
The upscale Winnetu resort on Martha's Vineyard is wonderfully family-friendly, offering spacious accommodations, family-friendly dining, babysitting, and children's activity programs for kids ages 3 to 12 as well as for teens.
The two weeks at the bookends of summer—mid-May through Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day through mid-September—are particularly special times for families with babies and toddlers. Not only are prices lower during these weeks, but Winnetu also offers a complimentary Parent-Toddler program with morning play sessions built around age-appropriate activities at different play stations to keep little ones busy and engaged.
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Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort: Hilton Head, SC
There's nothing easier than a beach vacation with a baby or toddler, especially if you're staying in easy-peasy accommodations with room to spread out, separate living and sleeping areas, a kitchen and a washer/dryer.
Named one of the "top 25 world's best family resorts" by Travel+Leisure magazine, Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort on gorgeous Hilton Head Island combines the convenience of staying in your own villa with top-rate resort amenities such as championship golf courses, tennis courts, bike and kayak rentals, jogging and biking paths, and a variety of restaurants and eateries.
Palmetto Dunes brings you family fun on beautiful, wide beaches, endless bicycle paths and, for the adults, world-class golf and tennis. There's plenty to do on Hilton Head Island with fun things like dolphin cruises, lighthouses, and ice cream shops.
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Azul Beach Hotel: Riviera Maya, Mexico
On Mexico's spectacular Riviera Maya, a great choice for families with little ones is the all-inclusive Azul Beach Hotel, a beautiful beachfront property located just 20 minutes from the Cancun airport.
This resort stands out by offering a ton of support for families with little ones. You can borrow baby gear (strollers, cribs, sterilizers, and so on) during your stay and leave the little ones at the supervised Azulitos Play House for kids 6 months and up. Azulitos Playhouse by Nickelodeon is a colorful environment with toys for imaginative play, Nickelodeon characters to hang out with, and Nickelodeon-themed activities.
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Omni La Costa Resort: Carlsbad, CA
At first, you might think that the plush Omni La Costa Resort was created just for grown-ups. After all, it has two PGA championship golf courses, 21 tennis courts, a world-famous spa, and the Chopra Center, a yoga and wellness center founded by Deepak Chopra.
Yet this resort caters to little ones, too, with its excellent supervised children’s program (for kids 6 months and up) in a 4,000-square-foot activity center called Kidtopia.
There are three pools in family-friendly playground called Splash Landing, including the Sandy Beach Family Pool, whose zero-depth entry makes it ideal for those with small children who can build a sandcastle and safely dip their toes in inches of water. There's also an interactive water play zone that's fantastic for the toddler set.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
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Disney World: Orlando, FL
As you might expect, Disney rolls out the red carpet for families with little ones. Since theme park admission is free for kids under age three, many families try to come at least once before a child's third birthday. There are plenty of rides and shows that are age-appropriate for kids under three.
Each of Disney World's four theme parks has a Baby Care Center where you'll find changing and feeding stations and private nursing rooms with rockers. There are more benefits for traveling to Disney World when your child is little including off-season savings.