For their 10th anniversary, Warren Clem decided to surprise his wife, Carole Ann, with a tropical resort vacation, complete with white sand beach and frozen drinks garnished with fresh pineapple at the swim-up pool bar. But romance wasn't on their agenda. The couple didn't even manage one candlelight dinner.
The Clems spent their week playing in the pool and on the beach with their 5-year-old son, Graydon, and 4-year-old daughter, Allison, eating their meals as a family. They weren't interested in using the resort's morning-till-night children's program to get some time alone. "We both work," said Carole Ann as the suntanned group prepared for their flight home to Maryland. "We came on vacation to be with the kids."
That sentiment is being heard loud and clear at big family resorts throughout the United States and the Caribbean.
Nearly 40% of travelers say they are likely to take a vacation with their children, the Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown/Yankelovich 2002 Leisure Travel Monitor reports. More than one-third of grandparents who travel have vacationed with grandchildren in the last year.
Andrew Jordan, the senior vice president of marketing for Wyndham Resorts, says that's why Wyndham's leisure reservations are up 25% this year. "People want to maximize their time for leisure, to get to know their families better," Jordan says. "They know how precious that time is."
Even when they're assigned a personal nanny, as they are at the Franklyn D. Resort in Jamaica, families keep their babies close. "They go to the beach together--mom, dad, the kids and the nanny," says Freddie DePass, general manager of the Franklyn D. Resort. "If the baby needs changing, the nanny can do it. She just makes it easier." Kids stay and eat free at the Franklyn D. Resort; call (888) FDR-KIDS (337-5437) or visit www.fdrholidays.com.
Some resorts are downplaying their kids' camps and touting family activities. Wyndham's Jordan, a dad with "overprogrammed kids," has spearheaded the chain's family retreat program, which offers family deals and programs such as cooking lessons, parent-child golf clinics and the chance to watch a movie after dinner while floating in giant rubber tubes at the Wyndham Rose Hall's water playground, the centerpiece of the chain's Montego Bay, Jamaica, resort. Programs vary at each resort and are designed to show off local culture. All-inclusive rates at Wyndham's Rose Hall start at $345 per room; call (800) WYNDHAM (996-3426) or visit www.wyndham.com.
If you're vacationing in Hawaii and have $600 to spare, your family can meet and greet the resident dolphin family at the Hilton Waikoloa Village as part of the hotel's new Dolphin Families Program. Call (808) 886-1234 or visit www.hiltonwaikoloavillage.com.
Vacationing in Miami? Join the Family Fitness Camp at Eden Roc Renaissance Resort, which has kickboxing and family nutrition sessions. Call (800) 468-3571 or visit www.edenrocresort.com.
Even Hyatt Resorts, which pioneered the kids' club concept, has jumped on the bandwagon. At the new Tamaya Resort in New Mexico, for example, there are family yoga classes, or an evening of Native American storytelling under the stars. Kids can golf for free at many Hyatt resorts; there are also packages that allow kids to stay and eat free. Call (800) 55-HYATT (554-9288) or visit www.hyatt.com.
Be forewarned that all of this togetherness may not be very relaxing--especially for those with young children. Theresa and Marty DeMonte of New Jersey, who recently spent a week at the Wyndham in Jamaica with their three kids, were initially disappointed by the lack of emphasis on the kids' camp activities.
But the disappointment didn't last. "At the end of the day," Marty says, "what counts is we all had a great time."
Eileen Ogintz welcomes questions and comments from readers. Send e-mail to email@example.com.