Planning a family vacation can be stressful. Most resorts have so much to offer, but lots fall short when it comes to entertaining the kids. Kids want to have fun just like mom and dad, but mom and dad do not necessarily want to do what the kids want to do all day. Sipping mojitos by the pool sounds like a blast to us adults, but swimming in the pool can only last so long for active, energetic kiddos.
Kids' programs vary by resort, by destination and even by time of year, but having a list of some of the good ones makes the planning process a little smoother. The programs highlighted are some of the most popular kid and parent-approved programs that are worth taking a second look at.
Program Details: This summer the Boca Raton Resort & Camp; Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort in South Florida, invites families to join in on the summer fun with unique and educational weekly themed kids camps. Weekly themes include Galactic Gurus, Get Your Game Face On, Wacky Weather Wonderland, Animal Adventures, The Great Outdoors, Wet ‘N’ Wild and more.
In addition, each week includes a field trip and guest entertainment corresponding with that week’s theme. The Mad Science and Amazing Magic themed week in August includes a field trip to the nearby Fort Lauderdale Museum of Science and Discovery with a mad scientist guest where kids will be able to learn about the cool side of science through a variety of hands-on activities.
Availability: June - August 2016
Cost: $55 per day per child plus a $15 registration fee (includes a souvenir backpack and camp t-shirt). Additional costs apply for field trips and lunch.
Ages: 3 - 12 years
Why We Like This Program: We love that this program includes a field trip. This is great for the older kids to help them learn more about the local area.
About the Resort: Spread over 356 acres, the Boca Raton Resort & Club offers families over a dozen restaurants and bars, 50,000 sq. ft. luxury spa, championship golf and tennis, six pools, half-mile stretch of private beach, and FlowRider the resort’s dual-sided wave simulator, among other offerings. May 1 through September 30, families also enjoy the resort’s Kids Eat Free summer promotion. Nightly rates from $249. For more information, visit www.bocaresort.com.
Program Details: Directly located along miles of uninterrupted Atlantic beachfront, the AAA Five Diamond Ponte Vedra Inn & Club continues to be a summer family favorite with its Kids Summer Camps featuring rotating themed weeks.
Each themed camp week features a flexible program of fun activities for children four to 12 years of age directed by a trained staff of recreational counselors. Weekly themes include Little Historians, Sports Fans, Foodies, Games Shows and more.
In addition to traditional summer camp fun, each day will have a special activity showcasing that week’s theme; the Animal Lovers week includes a birdhouse making activity on Monday, sea turtle tutorial with a sea turtle rescue on Tuesday, Jacksonville Zoo field trip on Wednesday, make your own aquarium activity on Thursday and ocean animals on Friday.
Availability: June - August 2016
Cost: Full day sessions include two snacks and lunch and cost $65/day or $275/week. AM sessions include a snack and lunch and cost $50/day or $225/week. PM sessions include a snack and cost $45/day or $200/week.
Ages: 4 - 12 years
Why We Like This Program: You can choose the best program for your child depending on their likes and dislikes. Tailor your vacation dates to the specific weekly program.
About the Resort: Ponte Vedra Inn & Club also offers families two picturesque 18-hole golf courses, 15 Har-Tru hydro tennis courts, three oceanfront pools, various water sports, 30,000 sq. ft. luxury spa and nine restaurants, bars and lounges, most with oceanfront views. A variety of family-oriented packages are also available. Nightly rates from $299. For more information, visit www.pontevedra.com.
Program Details: Camp Coqui at El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort in Puerto Rico, is a specially designed program offering a variety of fun activities for children to keep entertained this summer. Named due to the island’s beloved Coqui frog, Camp Coqui features daily themes including Sports Day, His and Her Day (boys at the arcade & girls at the spa), Fun in the Sun, Coqui Kids in the Kitchen and Nature Day.
For example, during the "Coqui Kids in the Kitchen Day," kids can enjoy food-themed activities such as making piraguas, which are popular pyramid-shaped Puerto Rican snow cones, while on the "Fun in the Sun Day," kids can enjoy beach activities such as sand sculpting on the resort’s 100-acre private island, Palomino Island.
Availability: May - August 2016
Cost: $75+ for a full day from 9am - 4pm (includes lunch); $45+ for a half day from 9am - 12:30pm or 1pm - 4pm. All activities take place under expert supervision.
Ages: 4 - 12 years
Why We Like This Program: Not only do kids get to enjoy themselves at the beach and in the kitchen, but they get to learn about the history of Puerto Rico and it's natural surroundings.
About the Resort: Dramatically set atop a 300-foot bluff on the eastern tip of Puerto Rico, El Conquistador Resort spreads across 500 acres overlooking the converging waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. This summer, the resort is offering a “Fun in the Sun” package with free daily admission for a family of four to the resort’s Coqui Water Park and a $50 nightly resort credit. Package rates start from $240++ per night, based on a three-night minimum stay. For more information, visit http://www.elconresort.com/play/camp-coqui/.
Program Details: With the Nickelodeon Experience, parents will have the chance to be heroes to their kids, giving them a unique opportunity to see Nickelodeon characters including Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The journey will begin with custom kids’ check-ins complete with Slime Smoothies, Nickelodeon Concierges, a Nick Toy Lending Library, and special Nickelodeon themed amenities and will continue with character dining opportunities, character meet and greets, a chance to get Slimed and the themed Azulitos Playhouse by Nickelodeon.
Cost: No cost
Extras: $250 - Private Birthday Parties (up to 10 people), $49 - Nick Knack Packs for kids, $17 - Character Breakfast (price is per child).
Ages: All Ages
Why We Like This Program: The Nickelodeon Experience truly has something for every adult and kid alike. From an Orange Carpet event to unexpected meet and greets to slime sessions by the pool, there is never a dull moment around the resort. If you have really little ones, taking a break to play in the Azulitos Playhouse is a great idea, too. There are no bad days at these resorts thanks to your friends Dora, Spongebob and Patrick. The Ninja Turtles are a real hit, too!
About the Resort: Karisma Hotels and Resorts, an award-winning luxury hotel collection which owns and manages properties in Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe, comprises an impressive portfolio including El Dorado Spa Resorts and Hotels, Azul Hotels and Villa by Karisma, Generations Resorts by Karisma, Allure Hotels by Karisma and Karisma Hotels Adriatic. Properties have been honored with the industry's top accolades including Conde Nast Traveler's "Top 100 Hotels in the World." Conde Nast Traveler's "Top 30 Hotels in Cancun," TripAdvisor Traveler's Choice "Best Family Resort in the World." and "Best Hotels for Romance." and AAA's "Four Diamond Award." Karisma has received worldwide recognition for its creative approach to hospitality management and product innovations. For reservations and a full list of Karisma properties, please visit www.karismahotels.com.
Program Details: Grand Velas’ Kids’ Club offers a safe, fun and creative environment to explore interactive activities such as soccer, treasure hunting and cooking classes.
The resort’s Teens’ Club is a contemporary space where teens from 13-18 years old can enjoy their own mini vacation. The Teens’ Club will feature an extensive game room complete with an X-Box Kinect, pool table, air hockey, ping pong, foosball, karaoke set with vintage dance floor and more.
Availability: Opening in November 2016
Why We Like This Program: This program really caters to modern teens and gives them a chance to have some one-on-one time with other kids their age. They just might go home with some new friends to keep in touch with.
About the Resort: Grand Velas Los Cabos has been meticulously designed to exist harmoniously within its fragile environment. To create the site for the resort, several hundred trees and cacti that only grow a centimeter a year were dug up and will be transplanted so all are used, protecting the native flora and fauna of the region. Eliminating the need to rely upon local and regional natural resources, Grand Velas Los Cabos’ Reverse-Osmosis Desalting Plants operate self-sufficiently. For every liter of potable water, the resort will be able to re-use 2.54 cups for general purposes, while 1.69 cups are returned to the subsoil, aiding in the conservation of the environment. Saving 30% of all water used in the entire laundry process, the laundry facilities include a water treatment plant that efficiently filters soapy waters to then be used in the rinsing process. The residual water treatment facility receives and processes all the water from the entire resort, which is then used for the watering of all exterior gardens and surrounding mangroves and jungle.
For more reservations or more information on Grand Velas Los Cabos, call 1-888-407-4869 or visit www.velasresorts.com.
Program Details: Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit has upped the ante with three new teen’s spa treatments. Although adolescence can be a difficult time for some, The Spa at Grand Velas has introduced three new 50-minute spa treatments to help teens manage stress and discover their inner beauty: the Be Yourself Facial which provides the skin with a complete cleaning and hydration, leaving the face feeling fresh and smooth; the Boot Camp Facial which is specifically concocted for oily skin removes toxins and impurities for a cleansed and moisturizing result; and the Awesome Skin treatment (ages 16+) that is a full body wrap combined with a mask and relaxing massage that leaves the entire body refreshed and relaxed.
The resort also debuted a new $300,000 Teens’ Club, creating a contemporary space where teens from 13-18 years old can enjoy their own mini vacation. Similar to their other teen programs, this one features an extensive game room complete with an X-Box Kinect, pool table, air hockey, ping pong, foosball, karaoke set with vintage dance floor and more.
More adventurous teens enjoy the new outdoors activities program which includes kayak tours, snorkeling, and a variety of other outdoor experiences where they are able to enjoy the natural beauty of Riviera Nayarit. After enjoying the Club’s engaging activities, the Chill Out zone offers teens soft drinks and favorite deli snacks to enjoy while hanging-out with their newly made friends.
Ages: 13 - 18
Why We Like This Program: This program offers teens many options; from indoor activities to a teen-only social scene to outdoor activities. They can take a break from the "family fun" to be themselves.
Extras: The Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit also has something for tiny tots. Stimulating the baby's senses and central nervous system, the Sunrise Massage (25 min/$65 USD) promotes sensory and cognitive development. For babies 1-3 years old, the treatment encourages babies to differentiate textures and sounds to the tunes of Mozart. The resort also offers baby’s first haircut, which comes with special pampering and a certificate celebrating the milestone, and a Baby Concierge who can coordinate everything from a crib, Mexican toys, baby floats, and baby clothes to nanny service and gentle bath and shampoo gels prior to arrival. In addition, the hotel will prepare organic foods and beverages on request.
About the Resort: Offering unparalleled all-inclusive experiences, the four Velas Resorts in Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit have earned more than 43 AAA Diamonds, including the prestigious Five Diamond Award. Other esteemed international awards for their services and facilities include Virtuoso's "Best Spa", Conde Nast Johansens' "Most Excellent Resort" and "Most Excellent Spa Hotel" and the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences' 5 Star Diamond Award. Properties include Casa Velas named the 8th Best Hotel in the World on The Expedia® 2013 Insiders' Select List, a boutique adults-only hotel and ocean club located on the Marina Vallarta Golf Course, and Velas Vallarta a family-friendly all suites resort and spa located on Banderas Bay, both in Puerto Vallarta; and the AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit located inRiviera Nayarit. Completing the group is Grand Velas Riviera Maya, located five minutes from Playa del Carmen, offering the most sophisticated, ultra luxury all-inclusive resort experience in the Caribbean with jungle and beach settings. Velas Resorts feature spacious accommodations, spas, a unique culinary experience at a selection of restaurants, 24-hour in-suite service, fitness centers, Butler service, state of the art conference centers, extensive family programs, fully stocked mini bar and more. Velas Resorts are operated by Eduardo Vela Ruiz, majority owner, founder and president of Velas Resorts, with brother Juan Vela by his side, vice president of Velas Resorts.
Program Details: Young vacationers can explore, learn, play, create and imagine at our famous Grand Velas Kids Club. Children can enjoy this innovative program with daily activities, including beach and pool games, cultural programs, nature discovery walks and arts and crafts. Kids can paint, draw, play board games and bingo, watch movies and enjoy storytelling. Young minds learn how to make kites, masks, jewelry and piñatas, and discover the natural landscapes and wildlife of Puerto Vallarta. While the parents bask in the sun, the kids enjoy the vacation experience of a lifetime.
Availability: The Kids Club is open year-round, 7 days a week from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm.
Ages: 5 - 12
Why We Like This Program: We like that kids get to explore the grounds with nature discovery walks and cultural programs. This resort goes beyond basic arts and crafts and takes kids to a whole different level of creativity.
About the Resort: Velas Vallarta is an all-inclusive family resort located on 10 acres of oceanfront with lush gardens in Puerto Vallarta, walking distance of Marina Vallarta Golf Course and just minutes from downtown Puerto Vallarta. Situated on the emerald waters of Banderas Bay, Velas Vallarta features 345 suites in three eight-story buildings, a high-tech Convention Center that can accommodate up to 700 people, three swimming pools, a rejuvenating spa along with spa cabins seaside, fitness center, multiple restaurants, and an inviting lounge with live music. Nightly theme dinners and local specialties are sure to please even the most discerning palate, and room service is available around the clock. When it comes to daytime and evening entertainment, guests can choose from an exciting and original array of activities and events, from making piñatas and jewelry, yoga on the jetty to Mexican fiestas and casino nights. The recently renovated Kids' Club also welcomes children under 13 with supervised activities like treasure hunt, face painting, sand castles to crafting with beads, allowing parents to indulge in a choice of exciting or relaxing pursuits like a game of golf, a variety of excursions or pampering at the spa. In addition, the resort was one of the first in the destination with a Green Globe certification, dating back to 2008. PuertoVallarta features championship golf courses, world-class spas and magnificent beaches, not to mention various sports and activities up in the Sierra Madre Mountains. The possibilities for rest and relaxation, or fun and excitement, are endless.Velas Vallarta was built and is operated by Eduardo Vela Ruiz, majority owner, founder and president of Velas Resorts, with brother Juan Vela by his side, vice president of Velas Resorts. Visit www.velasvallarta.com to learn more.
Program Details: Parents looking for a little personal time and kids looking for a lot of fun will delight in our Sheraton Adventure Club. Kids can come spend an hour, a half day, or a full day making friends and expanding their horizons with supervised indoor and outdoor activities. Their professionally trained staff members are Red Cross- and CPR-certified, and all share a passion for caring for and entertaining children.
Whether playing board and video games, making crafts, learning Spanish, or just splashing around in the kids’ pool, your children will have the time of their lives while you relax and enjoy your well-deserved time off.
Ages: 4 - 12
Extras: We're happy to organize special events like birthday parties for your children. Please call the Kids Club at least 24 hours in advance to start planning.
Why we like this program: The kids don't have to be stuck inside all day during this program. They have an enormous pool area for the kids complete with a splash pad and water slide. The staff is really friendly and speaks multiple languages.
About the Resort: The Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Golf & Spa Resort offers a variety of options for guests to enjoy a romantic getaway. The resort can help create romantic memories to last a lifetime, from breathtaking wedding venues, to peaceful honeymoon retreats to romantic anniversary celebrations.
For more information on the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Golf & Spa Resort, or to make reservations, please call 52-624-145-8000 or visit www.sheratonloscabos.com.
Program Details: Skully’s Family Interactive Center, located at the North Pointe at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island, is home to the Activities Galley, Little Matey’s Discovery Center, Skully’s Arcade and ScoutAbout Headquarters. The center offers a wide range of family and kids’ activities such as turtle tot programs, the creative corner, family and social programs, kite making, crab racing, lawn games, kids’ night out, and more.
Turtle Tot Programs
Together, parents and toddlers learn and create themed crafts and activities guided by the resort’s creative Recreation staff. Programs are ideal for ages 12 months to 4 years. Parents must accompany children to these activities. Cost is free and is open daily at 9:00a.m.
All ages are welcome to participate in the featured craft of the day. In the Activities Galley, kids can create a masterpiece every day, painting coconuts, tye-dye T-shirts, nature pals, mosaics, and more! Guests may check the Activities Calendar for times and fees.
Family and Social Programs
Families can enjoy fun activities throughout the day. Lawn Games, Poolside BINGO, Kite Making, Crab Racing, Log Rolling and more! The Go! Fish program is a catch and release program taught by resident fishing experts. Go! Fish teaches participants to respect the water and fish that live within it. This activity is a popular family program. Guests may check Activities Calendar for times and fees.
Kids' Night Out
This night out is designed for kids ages 4 – 11 and is supervised by seasoned recreation professionals. Enjoy fun themed nights filled with crafts and games. Dinner & dessert is included. Guests may check Activities Calendar for times and fees.
The arcade features a wide variety of coin-operated machines including virtual reality games, racing games, air hockey and more. Children under 12 years old should be accompanied by an adult 16 years of age or older.
Wii Tournaments, Scavengoogle, Game Nights and more are a great way to meet new friends and have fun doing interactive activities.
Ages: 12 mo - 16 years+
Why We Like This Program: This program has something for every age. If you need to take some time to play with your tiny tots, the Turtle Tot program is perfect. We also love the Kids' Night Out for ages 4 - 11.
About the Resort: A 330-acre destination beach resort and wildlife preserve, South Seas Island Resort is located on Captiva Island, just off the Florida Gulf Coast. With two and a half miles of exclusive white-sand beaches, the resort is designed to take advantage of its renowned location, offering a destination rich in recreation and surrounding native wildlife. The resort boasts 471 accommodations ranging from guestrooms and suites, one to three bedroom condominiums, and private home rentals, all featuring balconies or lanais to enjoy water views and wildlife. The resort features an array of activities for guests of all ages with 20 swimming pools, beachfront golf, tennis, full service spa, waterfront dining options, children’s programs, watersports and boutique shopping. In addition, guests delight in world-class shelling, eco-cruises and nature tours, epic fishing, fitness center and yoga studio, an on-site photography studio, painting classes and special event and meeting space.
For more information, please visit www.southseas.com.
Program Details: At the all-inclusive Beaches properties, they offer tailor-made fun for kids of all ages. Each age-appropriate activity is supervised by a caring staff that feels just like family.
From the smallest newborn to those up to 24 months, your baby is in the very best hands at Beaches. Luxurious, climate-controlled nurseries-filled with cribs, strollers, high chairs, rocking chairs and everything your little one could ever need await to cradle them in the very lap of luxury. Our Certified Nannies love nothing better than to coddle, care for and bring smiles of delight to their little faces.
Operating Hours: 9am to 9pm (Hours vary at each resort)
Some camps open an hour earlier to accommodate parents going on the early scuba-diving trip.
At Kids Camp, three to five year-olds can truly have a blast with their very own set of activities, supervised by Certified Nannies. There's energy to burn and we'll make sure that your tyke has ample opportunities to have fun and play happy; toddler pools, shell collecting, face painting, treasure hunts, puppets, costume time, magic shows, sand castle building just to name a few. Children must be potty-trained to participate in this age group.
Operating Hours: 9am to 9pm (Hours vary at each resort)
Some camps open an hour earlier to accommodate parents going on the early scuba-diving trip.
Not yet a tween or teen, sometimes it can be hard to contain all the exuberance of youthful spirits. At Beaches, we celebrate this energy and channel it into an unending slew of fun-filled activities for this ever-active age group. Sailing, snorkeling (ages 8-10), swimming, beach volleyball, beach soccer, scavenger hunts, glass bottom boat rides, pizza making, reggae jam sessions and an unbelievable array of incredible options abound! At Beaches, we're dedicated to making sure that, from morning until sunset, your children have a blast.
Operating Hours: 9am to 9pm (Closed from 5pm to 6pm)
Teens definitely talk their own talk and walk a different walk. So we make sure that they have their own special spaces and places to play it their way. From pizza bars to soda bars, to their own "nightclub" with karaoke, we give teens their own scene all day and places to hang each evening. Teens will enjoy group watersports, boat cruises, pool olympics, tennis clinics, karaoke, discos, dance parties, talent shows and much more...
After Camp Care Program
After Kids Camp closes, professional nanny care is offered to guests at a charge.
Rates cover 1-3 children. A second nanny is required for larger groups. Payments can be made with cash or by room charge. Rates posted are for reference and subject to change without notice.
Special Needs Program
Children with special needs may require a one to one nanny. This service is offered so that they can actively participate in all activities with the special care and support they need.
There is a fee of US$8/hour for this service.
Operating Hours: 9am to 9pm (Hours vary at each resort)
Some Camps open an hour earlier to accommodate parents going on the early scuba-diving trip.
Ages: Newborn - 18+
Cost: Varies per location - mostly all-inclusive
Why We Like This Program: Beaches offer the most detailed kids' program we've ever experienced. The entire Turks and Caicos resort is kid-centric and is an ideal family-friendly Caribbean destination. The staff is some of the friendliest we have ever met and truly makes the resort feel like a home away from home for the kiddos. Upon arrival, the concierge gives you an itinerary of activities going on at the resort, sort of like a cruise. This is super helpful and ensures that you don't miss a beat.
About the Resort: When you're looking for the best family vacations in the Caribbean, there's no place better than Beaches, where their all-inclusive family vacations offer something for everyone, from unlimited land and water sports to gourmet dining choices for every palate. Grown-ups will enjoy up to 13 bars serving premium brand liquors and varietals Mondavi wine. Kids and teens will get a variety of fun activities, with sprawling water parks, Xbox Play Lounge and the Caribbean Adventure with Sesame Street®. Best of all, everything is included at our family all-inclusive resorts. Visit www.beaches.com to learn more.
Something that I have learned over the years of traveling with my kids is that you should plan ahead with the kids' programs. Most of the time, we arrive at a resort and completely forget about the schedule of activities planned for kids. We end up jumping into the activities at the last minute, completely unprepared. Check out the kids' programs online before your trip and ask the concierge for a schedule for the duration of your trip.
Sometimes smaller kids have trouble going into the childrens' programs, but once they are in the program without mom and dad, they seem to do okay. Start small by signing them into the program during one dinner or lunch and see how it goes.
The week before your trip, sit down at the computer with your kids to show them the fun activities that they will have access to. This almost always helps my four-year-old. She doesn't like to be unprepared and thrown into things on vacation, so watching YouTube videos from guests or browsing the resort's gallery is a great way to introduce her to the kids' program and activities.
Cristen Casados is the founder and editor of The Bucket List Mom - a family travel blog; and The Naptime Reviewer - a parenting resource blog. She is a mom to two little girls under the age of five who love explore the world. Cristen has been blogging since 2012. She has a passion for travel, great products and word-of-mouth marketing. She loves to help others find products and travel destinations that are a good fit for their family, in a variety of price ranges.
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