Luxury Family Travel Rules from Our Pro, Mia

This hotel-critic mom figured out how to travel as a happy, stylish family

How Mia Worked Mom Status into Her Luxury Travel Life

TripSavvy's Denmark-born freelance contributor, Mia Ljungberg Nevado, is a gadabout global traveler who has lived in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Quito in E​cuador, and now The Hamptons near New York City. Mia's footloose lifestyle was transformed in 2010 with the arrival of son JohnJohn. Brother BoBo joined the party three years later. Find out more about our great Danish writer Mia. And here, her rules for upscale, upbeat family travel.

  • 01 of 06

    Mia: "Being a Mom Wasn't Going to Keep Me from the Travel Beat"

    Soneva-Fushi-Resort-Maldives-Kids.jpg
    ••• Your kids' pirate fantasy: achieved at Soneva Fushi Maldives resort. ©Soneva Fushi

    Becoming a Mom: Time to Mothball the Carryon Bag?

    "With a toddler and an infant, I absolutely took some time off," says Mia. "I knew there would be a way for a young family to live the jet-set travel life together, because modern families have fun together, including upscale vacations."

    "Whether you do city, country, beach, or cruise, everyone in the family must be happy. Otherwise, there's tension," Mia believes.  

    Sophisticated family hotels are out there! "So I started seeking out upscale resorts with a fierce commitment to parents and to kids," she says. "I found out there are plenty of chic family hotels," says Mia. "And there are also plenty that leave either kids or parents wanting more."

    "The hotel must do a balancing act, without seeming like an amusement park or a nightclub," she has learned. "You need to find out."

  • 02 of 06

    How Do You Know If a Place Is Truly Welcoming to Kids?

    ••• St. Regis Mexico City is a five-star hotel that truly welcomes kids. Kids' Club at ©St Regis Mexico City

    Look Before You Book

    "Here's what you need," says Mia. "A principled, well-managed hotel that works hard to perfect the guest experience -- for young guests, too."

    How Can You Tell? "Get onto the hotel's website and look at all its info on the kids' club and activities. See which restaurants serve kids. Look at the room service menu if you can, and read about the resort's pool and beach," Mia urges.

    "And this is important: read some guest reviews of the hotel, and look at guest photos. The average-rating reviews are usually more candid than the raves."

    But...it ain't necessarily so! "So many resorts will call themselves 'family resorts,'" says Mia. "But it's really a stretch for some. You'll find out that their beach is tiny, or the hotel isn't even on the beach. Or that there's no kids' pool, club, or menus. And as a result, few families actually stay there."

    "On the other hand, the hotel...MORE may be all kids, all the time, and not an interesting getaway for their parents," Mia says. "One tip-off: a lazy river that's basically for kids is the resort's centerpiece. Or there's no section of adult-only rooms or an adult pool. Or the website mentions 'free cribs,' and every photo on the site shows kids. This kind of resort will be all families. And you may want more of a balance."

    Do the homework! "So you really have to check hotels out before booking," says Mia. "And if your kids are school-age, you can involve them in the online research and listen to their impressions."

    Bottom line: it's a balancing act. "If the hotel has put a lot of thought into what it does for kids, and their kids' offerings are as sophisticated as the rest of the property, you and your youngsters may just fall in love with it."

  • 03 of 06

    Examples of Hotels that Sophisticated Parents & Their Kids Love

    ••• Family fave: The Maidstone in East Hampton, New York. ©c/o Hotels

    Hotels that All Ages Adore

    According to Mia, these hotels meet the standards of discerning luxury travelers -- and their children.

    The Greenwich Hotel in Manhattan's Tribeca: Like the Tribeca neighborhood itself, The Greenwich is full of stylish young families, with an excellent in-house restaurant. It's co-owned by Robert De Niro (the kids won't care, but they'll notice the urban buzz). Check out The Greenwich Hotel site.

     Soneva Fushi in the Maldives: trust me, no one in your brood will ever want to leave this paradise. The only problem: Soneva Fushi raises the bar for future resort stays! Ogle the  Soneva Fushi website.

    Marbella Club in Spain is on Spain's sunniest beach. It offers a designer kids' club in its landmark villa...how child-respectful is that? For you, the resort offers elegant grownup pursuits like a Champagne Room. See my story about Marbella Club.

    La Posta Vecchia near Rome: this is a seafront estate hotel, with gorgeous sunsets. IIt creates the...MORE perfect blend of beach and city chic. Your family can explore Rome and nearby Tarquinia, the haunting capital of the vanished Etruscans. Here's La Posta Vecchia's site.

    The Maidstone Hotel in New York's legendary weekend destination, East Hampton. It's near where I live, with inviting brunches that my kids love. This is a small boutique hotel, but one with enough going on for kids. The hotel adores pets, too; don't be surprised if your little ones start running around with the canine guests. Check out The Maidstone Hotel's site.

  • 04 of 06

    How to Let The Little Ones Grow on Vacation

    ••• ©Grad Velas Riviera Nayarit

    Let Your Social Butterflies Spread Their Wings

    Regardless of the message that some Hollywood moms put out: your child's job is not to make you look good. Nor is your kid your "second time around" chance to do what you may have missed. Let your kids follow their own interests, and help them have their own experience on your family vacation.

    Vacations are a chance for your kids to grow. At a resort, especially one with an international clientele, your child will encounter all sorts of new people.

    Teach them by example: how to walk up to and join a group of other kids, say hello to strangers, ask people about themselves... in other words, how to be friendly. Encourage them to introduce themselves to other children, even if they're a little older or younger. If your kid doesn't want to go to the kids' club, make a deal: he or she must go for one activity and then make a decision.

    Important: put your kids' media devices in your room safe, and don't share the...MORE combination. Let them reconnect with being kids.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    A True Challenge: Keeping Your Kids Quiet & Comfy Inflight

    ••• This Air Tahiti passenger has the right attitude. ©Karen Tina Harrison

    Kids + Long Flights = Stress (Unless...)

    "This is a tough one," says Mia. "You want to be the parent whom other passengers compliment, not the one they hate. But you have to win your kids over first."

    Comfort is key. To minimize crankiness, make sure the kids are warm and cozy on long-haul flights, and can get to the bathroom easily
    • Planes are drafty. A hoodie or little cap is a good idea, and so are fuzzy socks for when kids take their shoes off
    • "I love cashmere blankets or throws," says Mia. "They're toasty and like a security blanket. For me, too"
    • If you have the space, you can make a "kid cave" on the floor between your seats, with blankets, pillows and a "safari tent" on top

    Bring some inflight entertainment. Give your kids a phone to capture their inflight experience on camera; they will have so much fun taking videos and playing them back (quietly) Pre-flight, download iPhone and iPad apps (we love TocaBoca apps), and...MORE of course pack headphones.

    Put "toys without noise" in your carryon bag, such as classic sticker books, puzzles, drawing books with no-mess markers. Gift-wrap them for an extra treat, especially for the home stretch of the flight

    Pack your snacks. Trust me, absolutely no sugar before and during flight -- it provides energy of the wrong kind. Instead, I bring small bites of what I call “behavior bribery.” Dried ginger is perfect -- it's naturally sweet and acts as an organic anti-airsick medication.

  • 06 of 06

    More Insider Travel Tips Here on Luxury Travel

    ••• Road trip, early 1960s (pre-seat belts!). ©Lionel M. Harrison

    More on Comfortable Travel for All

    • How to pack carryon only and look good anywhere (even Paris and Milan)
    12 things that luxury travelers never, ever do