This Family Visited 21 Resorts in 2021 — Here's What They Learned
The traveling Sognonvis — Carmen, Serge, 12-year-old Sean, and nine-year-old Ella — also known as Top Flight Family on social media, explore the world and share it with their hundreds of thousands of followers. The New York City-based family has given their followers the inside scoop on luxury family travel for several years through their jet-setting adventures.
In 2021, they set a goal to visit 21 resorts around the world, staying in properties ranging from ski resorts to safari lodges to all-inclusives and everything in between. With all 21 resorts checked off the list (and documented on their social media accounts), Carmen shared what she and her family learned from the experience.
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Why visit 21 resorts in 2021? As we all know, last year posed plenty of travel challenges, and Carmen told Travel + Leisure that they wanted to take on this project in 2021 because they wanted to show that resort vacations are a great option for families looking to dip their toes back into travel in a safe way.
Carmen pointed out that resorts have clear COVID-19 safety protocols and offer a controlled environment, so guests know what they're going to get. Those protocols — including clearly marked health and safety measures, reduced capacity across the resort, social distancing requirements, cleaning and sanitation practices, and outdoor activities — also impacted their resort and destination choices, particularly before they were vaccinated, Carmen said.
Throughout their adventures, the Sognonvis enjoyed and featured the "tremendous diversity of experiences that families can have just through resort travel," visiting everything from western ranches to tropical all-inclusives to safari lodges and more. It's hard for them to pick a favorite property from their 2021 project, but a few places stuck out. The Four Seasons Resort Oahu in Hawaii, Andaz Mayakoba in Mexico, and Angama Mara in Kenya were standouts, according to Carmen. Their Kenya safari trip was the entire family's top pick, followed by Hawaii. "We definitely all agree that the Kenya and Hawaii portions of this project were the most memorable," said Carmen.
Wherever you go, Carmen has several tips for family travelers to keep in mind when they're picking a resort for their next vacation. "We uncovered certain considerations that I think are not as commonly thought about by travelers," said Carmen. For example, do you prefer a resort that's spread out, with lots of open space, or would you rather have a more compact property that's walkable? Large resorts can be spacious and feel grand, but you may have to factor in distances and transportation between activities, and a more compact spot might feel like less of a hassle.
She also told us that staying at an all-inclusive resort has benefits that some family travelers might not realize, including building a sense of independence for kids. Carmen said her daughters loved the feeling of independence at an all-inclusive resort, where they could order their own food without asking their parents and interact with other kids and adults on their own at the kids clubs. "Sometimes, what parents don't realize is that kids actually grow tremendously from that experience," she said.
When it comes to luxury add-ons and upgrades, some are worth it more than others, according to Carmen. Butler service might sound cool, but it can be hit or miss, for example. Carmen said it's great when they act as a personal concierge that helps you get the most out of your vacation (she mentioned Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi as properties where butler service was truly top-notch), but it wasn't all that helpful at other properties, so do a lot of research beforehand if that's a service you're interested in.
One upgrade that Carmen thinks is always worth it is a swim-up suite, especially if you're traveling with kids. And after staying at 21 resorts, she also found there was one area for improvement across the board: Concierge services should be streamlined with technology to save guests valuable vacation time and make their experience easier.
So what's next for Top Flight Family? They'll be heading to 22 cities in 2022 and documenting it all on their social media pages, so be sure to check out their Youtube, Instagram, TikTok, or website to stay tuned to this year's adventures. First up? A deep dive into London's street art scene.
Elizabeth Rhodes is an associate digital editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her adventures at @elizabetheverywhere on Instagram.