In the brief months since President Obama was elected, his daughters, Malia and Sasha, have visited the Eiffel Tower and the Kremlin, strolled the beaches of Hawaii with their dad, curtseyed to Queen Elizabeth, and had an audience with the Pope. Why not take a cue from the First Family and plan a vacation that’ll go down in history?
The key, of course, is picking the right hotel, which is why each year, Travel + Leisure asks our readers to choose their favorite family hotels, resorts, and cruise lines—ones that truly excel at pleasing the whole clan.
Judging by the stellar properties that made the 2009 cut, two things are changing in the competitive world of family-friendly hotels: resorts are becoming even savvier about designing activities to engage young guests, and they’re going back to fundamentals in pleasing parents.
To be considered a great hotel for families, it’s not enough to offer a kids’ club or a warm cookie at check-in. The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, for example, hosts bubblegum teas—complete with PB&J finger sandwiches and an appearance by the hotel’s two yellow Labradors—for the under-10 set. To appeal to older kids, the Ritz-Carlton Naples designed Vue, a sleek lounge with multiple flat-screen HDTVs, computer stations, and gaming areas with xBox, Playstation, and Wii set-ups.
“Family-friendly,” of course, isn’t all about the kids. Reaching beyond the spa and golf course, these hotels are also getting creative with grown-up perks. The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea spent $9 million creating a gorgeous adults-only infinity pool, complete with underwater sound system, bubble loungers, and 360-degree views of mountains and beach. You can even get a massage in an overwater cabana. Mellow has never felt so thrilling.
Families will also appreciate the attention that hotels are paying to their palates. Resort restaurants are recruiting big-name chefs, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten at The Phoenician, in Scottsdale, and Iron Chef’s Cat Cora at Disney World’s Boardwalk Inn and Resort, to meet the demanding standards of sophisticated travelers. Children’s menus are evolving, too: the Four Seasons George V in Paris, for example, offers kid-friendly options with a Parisian accent—kids will never whine for toaster waffles after they’ve said bonjour to sugared crepes.
You won’t be able to settle for the ordinary, either—not after experiencing the food, spas, local culture, and great service at these standout hotels. Like Malia and Sasha Obama and their parents, your family will look forward to the next opportunity to learn about a new place and a new culture—in style. Here’s to taking a trip that will go down in (family) history.