I'm just back from a trip to Italy and like every long adventure with toddlers, it was a schizophrenic mix of life-could-never-be-better moments and how-am-I-going-to-get-through-this hell. There was Sebastian's meltdown at Heathrow because I wouldn't buy him the really big Paddington bear (thank god for the Terminal 5 play area); the relentless "I want milk" requests while driving through the milkless rolling hills of Tuscany; and the constant sticky faces and stained shirts from twice-daily gelato injections (Italian napkins just don't do the job). In anticipation of my next family excursion, I reached out to the pros for some tips on how to make the journey smoother. Here, my favorites:
New York's legendary Plaza Hotel has always inspired grand story-telling. There was the little girl named Eloise who lived on the "tippy-top floor" of the hotel. Then the great Jay Gatsby checked in to battle it out with Tom Buchanan. And years later, came the big bad movie Home Alone 2, which was filmed at the property in the 90s.
Throngs of people young and old gathered, many in full wizard robes, in 100-degree Orlando humidity. The Wizarding World’s much-anticipated expansion, Diagon Alley, was greeted with much sweat and even more tears of happiness when it opened its doors to fans earlier this month.
If you bring your family to a top luxury resort, it's only natural to expect the finest culinary offerings. But while you feast on organic grass-fed filet mignon, your baby is usually stuck with the glass jar purees you brought from home. Esperanza, an Auberge Resort, in Cabo San Lucas, aims to change that. The property recently rolled out a farm-to-table menu just for little ones with ingredients sourced from local farms and the resort's gardens. Among the highlights: pear with banana and cinnamon, baby carrots and zucchini, and baked sweet corn and parsnip carrot. I wonder if they deliver?
Clara Ogden-Sedlak is Special Projects Editor at Travel + Leisure.
Cool off with your family at one of these top affordable water parks.
Texas Schlitterbahn, on Galveston Island, Texas, opened in 1966 and calls itself the world’s first “water resort”—but don’t write it off as old fashioned. The park opens new rides almost every year, and with more than 35 water attractions, family adventures, and thrill slides, there’s something for everyone. Teenagers will love the Cliffhanger, with drops of 81 feet and speeds approaching 40 mph, while younger visitors prefer the Treasure Island kids area, a shallow pool designed to entertain the smallest Schlitterbahn guests. Tickets for the park are $46 adults, $36 kids. Stay at the nearby historic property, The Tremont House, A Wyndham Grand Hotel, where rates start at $139 on weekdays and $199 on weekends.
People are feeling good. Job numbers are up today; consumer confidence is rebounding. That means more people spending on travel. AAA Travel projects that 41 million Americans travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday weekend. That's a 1.9 percent increase from last year. The majority are hitting the road, with more 34.8 million driving. But if you’re flying, the goods news is that you probably paid five percent less for your ticket than last year, according to AAA.
Some advice for drivers: A lot of people start heading out right about now so expect heavier traffic from about 6pm tonight through tomorrow.
You've read the headlines: Uber is being valued at $18 billion. And as a mom of two toddlers living in New York, I think that sounds about right. Why, you ask? The popular car-sharing service just launched UberFamily, which means getting around the city just became a lot easier (anything to avoid a schlep on the subway). For a $10 surcharge, your vehicle will pick you up with fully-installed car seats. This is a major game-changer, especially for city parents without wheels, and the company plans to roll out to other US destinations later this year. For info on downloading the app, go here.
Harald Hansen, spokesperson for Visit Norway, told the AP that U.S. tourism to the country that inspired the film’s settings have increased substantially. Hotel bookings in the first quarter of the year were up 37% from 2013, and tour operators have experienced a 40% sales increase.
Sometimes the best trips are the most laid back; the lesiurely afternoons where random wandering yields the stuff of scrapbooks (or, Pinterest boards). Having hustled my kids to every landmark last year, I decided to ditch the psychotic sightseeing and spend our week in London exploring the city with minimal structure.
Renting an apartment when travelling with a family makes sense on many levels. It provides increased space and the opportunity to dine in quietly after exhausting days. But, lack of amenities can be a challenge. When I heard about Grosvenor House Apartments by Jumeirah Living, a Park Lane property which offers apartments accompanied by 5 star services, I felt as if I had struck lodging gold.
The next time I want a stress-free family vacation, I'm going all inclusive. We all know the perks—kids clubs, babysitters, easy access to restaurants, powdery beaches within walking distance. But culture? Not so much. Now Club Med is attempting to change that by reinventing the city stopover. Launching this summer, its City Stops program is perfect for families seeking an urban adventure, along with downtime at a resort. So far, the company has rolled out to 9 cities (Hong Kong, Bangkok, New York, Miami, Dubai, to name a few), partnering with top hotels such as Mandarin Oriental, Shangri-La and Tribeca Grand. Guests have everything taken care of, from hotel bookings to transfers and flights, and can customize the length of their stay to either before or after their beach visit.
Top photo by Christina Conrado; bottom photo courtesy of Club Med.