The honeymoon is now a happy memory, and the baby making was a smashing success — now that your long-awaited bundle of joy has arrived, where can you go to break away from the daily grind?
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Now is just the right time to take advantage of portability and a free flight for infants, which is why we recommend these top-rated baby-friendly resorts, all of which provide plenty of pampering for new parents, and infants too.
1. Mexico: The Ritz-Carlton Cancun
It's no secret that many great ideas are born of motherly invention, but at The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, some inspired accommodations for the youngest of special guests were the brainchild of a father of three. At the luxurious AAA Five Diamond oceanfront resort, General Manager Hermann Elger introduced three special "Itzy Bitzy Baby" rooms — providing peace, pampering and a nursery full of supplies. From a sweetly outfitted crib and a changing table to a rocking chair, a "baby's sleeping" sign and a telephone programmed to light up instead of ring, the smart suites contain virtually every amenity to pacify infants and their caregivers.
With advance notice, the hotel Concierge will arrange for a private in-room babysitter ($14 to $17 per hour) and upon request, resort chefs will prepare vegetable, fruit or protein purees to your specifications. While baby is cradled in comfort, you and your partner can steal away for a guilt-free round of tennis or learn to cook with Mexican flair at the resort's new state-of-the-art Culinary Center ($115 per person includes food, beverages and two-hour class). For moms, a soothing leg and foot massage ($70) at Kayanta Spa will re-energize in short order, while the Fitness Center's five-hour Sunrise Boot Camp ($200/one day or $300/two days) is sure to get you on your way to a beach-ready body by the time sandcastle building season rolls around next year.
For couples, twice weekly Salsa Dancing lessons ($25 per person) on the resort's recently restored white-sand beach help revive relationships slowed down by diapers and fatigue, and if dancing's not in the plan, some downtime in a luxurious private Beach Villa (from $95), which comes complete with a Butler, should do the trick.
2. Jamaica: Franklyn D. Resort & Spa
At Franklyn D. Resort and Spa in Runaway Bay, Jamaica (as well as Pebbles, the resort's sister property near Montego Bay), parents are presented with a free gift they'll be reluctant to part with at holiday's end: a Mary Poppins who serves as Mom (and Dad's) right hand for the length of their vacation stay. From 9 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. daily (and for $6 per hour thereafter), your resort-issued Vacation Nanny will feed, bathe, entertain and cajole your baby while you're snorkeling, sailing or getting some shut-eye, and if you don't feel comfortable handing off any of these tasks, she'll pitch in wherever and whenever she's needed.
For $25 more per day, you can request a second nanny — a big help for families traveling with multiple children, particularly when one of them is an infant on a separate sleeping schedule.
Besides an all-day helper, all-inclusive rates cover meals, recreation and lodging in one of 78 spacious suites with staff-stocked kitchens. For families looking to preserve naptime, two-bedroom accommodations offer 1,080 square feet of sleep-friendly space. The resort is so family friendly they offer a variety of deals, including "Weebabymoons," where new moms and up to two kids stay free during a seven-night vacation when dad pays full price. The resort even picks up fees for baby's first passport! "Bring Your Own Grandparent (BYOG)" gives grandparents free stays when traveling with their children and grandchildren in January and February, and the family automatically is upgraded to a two-bedroom suite.
Spa services are reasonably priced (a 55-minute Sea Grape Massage is $90), fitness classes are complimentary, and nannies are welcome to accompany infants to the on-site kids' club (bring a stroller), where a range of baby equipment, from bouncers to outdoor swings, is on-hand.
While recreational and dining offerings aren't as extensive as at some other all-inclusive resorts, free perks (like Vacation Nannies and a free stay for kids under 6) and a friendly, easygoing vibe keep this boutique resort at the top of the family pack.
3.Hawaii: Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
A popular retreat for celebrities, Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea is an oceanfront haven for travelers with a taste for luxury. As you might expect, nightly rates reflect the property's prime location and exceptional service standards. However, when you factor in a host of value-added amenities — like resort-supplied baby gear, free fitness classes, no-cost cabanas and complimentary all-day programs for children ages five to 12 — the prospect of a star-studded Maui family getaway can shift from far-flung to feasible.
Slideshow: Hawaiian paradise In the guest room, baby and company are welcomed to the Four Seasons family with a crib thoughtfully stocked with diapers and soft animal friends, and in the bathroom, baby's named is spelled out in sponges in the bathtub. Upon request, your accommodation will be childproofed prior to arrival, and if your little one isn't up to dinner out at one of the two on-site restaurants providing complimentary chow for children under five, a high chair can be provided for in-room feeding. Just say the word, and a slew of additional supplies, from a baby monitor to a humidifier, will be delivered to your guestroom free of charge, and with advance notice, babysitting can be arranged through The Nanny Connection ($18 to $21 per hour; three hour minimum).
While baby's happily occupied, it's time to steal away for a free Outrigger Canoe Class, or else sink your stresses in the new $9-million, adults-only Infinity pool. If you'd prefer to keep baby close, staff will help set up chairs, toys and baby gear, then pamper you with fresh fruit, ice pops and cold cloths, so you and your crew can enjoy a sweat-free family swim.
4. Turks & Caicos: Beaches Turks & Caicos
From free all-day infant care and a full-service spa to breakfasts, storytimes and rubber duck hunts with an entertaining parade of Sesame Street friends, Beaches Turks & Caicos caters to families with an affinity for action — and a need for some serious babying.
Situated on 12 miles of white sand in scenic Grace Bay, Providenciales, the baby-friendly property is the most luxurious in the Beaches chain of Caribbean family resorts. Extensive facilities include 16 restaurants and a host of opportunities to get wet, including a massive water park with zero entry and a surf simulator, free scuba, snorkeling and sailing, and a sea of swimming pools — including a dedicated toddler pool with a canopy.
Recent resort additions include a $25-million Italian Village, featuring posh family suites — the most lavish of which include the services of an English-trained Butler. For families on a smaller budget, even standard rooms are a luxury, considering all of the free amenities that accompany your stay. Kids under two stay free and cribs and strollers are complimentary, and at no extra cost, couples can enjoy hand-in-hand scuba dives, hammock naps and fruity cocktails on the beach. If that's not enough to make sparks fly, you and your partner can splurge on extras, like a botanical facial for mom ($95), or a side-by-side couples massage, delivered in a private "lovers sanctuary."
From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., a certified Ultra Nanny will coddle your little one in a well-outfitted climate-controlled nursery, and for parents who want to stay out late, private sitters are available. ($12 per hour; taxi fee after 11 p.m.).
5. Florida: Club Med Sandpiper
While not as beach-oriented as similarly baby-friendly Club Med outposts like Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) and the highly rated Club Med Ixtapa Pacific (Mexico), Club Med Sandpiper offers one magnetic family attraction that others in the chain can't beat: an easily accessible U.S. location. Situated on the St. Lucie River, halfway between Orlando and Miami, the Florida family playground features the usual amenities you'd find at a typical Club Med all-inclusive property — like a circus school, free meals and adult and children's programs overseen by a staff of enthusiastic GO's — as well as Baby Club Med, a dedicated program for little ones ages four to 23 months.
Upon request, new parents are provided with a "Baby Welcome," which includes infant gear from a stroller, crib and changing table to a bathtub and bottle warmer. Come feeding time, there are a number of infant-friendly options, from a special baby feeding room and a dedicated kids corner in the Main restaurant, to a pint-sized dining room where resort chefs whip up soft foods and fruit purees just for baby.
Kids under two stay free, and the Baby Club program (6 days/week; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; $75 per day) is optional as well as new-parent friendly. You can drop your infant off while you play golf, tennis or take a Zumba class, then pick them up so you can enjoy some cuddle time or a family swim. After hours, Pajamas Club staff will watch your little one while they slumber (7 p.m. to midnight; $20 per night or $45 for three nights), allowing you to enjoy a leisurely adults-only meal.
Accommodations are less impressive than when the resort debuted in 1987, but soon, a $25-million makeover is predicted to make the property even more appealing to families. When Club Med Sandpiper re-opens around mid-December 2010 (with a closing slated around late August), visitors will find deluxe family rooms designed to reflect a more modern vibe, as well as a new full-service spa and new children's facilities, including a tot-friendly mini-water park.
Family Vacation Critic is published by online travel specialist The Independent Traveler, Inc. — a subsidiary of TripAdvisor LLC and the creator of Cruise Critic, the leading cruise news and reviews Web site.