'Tis the season of holiday travel — whether to grandmother’s house for juicy turkey — or to the white sand beaches of the Caribbean. But, amid the rigors of all-night feeding and countless diaper changes, some parents find themselves so challenged and exhausted by baby maintenance that the very thought of family travel incites more pain than pleasure.
Families with children under the age of three have been a demographic least likely to travel predominantly due to the volume of supplies and equipment that baby requires. However, images of harried adults toting strollers and playpens alongside a screeching infant aren’t as common given that destinations now provide aid to parents in need of respite.
Cathy Keefe, media relations manager for the Travel Industry Association (TIA), said that family travel -- defined as a vacation 100 miles or more away from home with other members of the same household — is on the rise. “There has been a nearly 14 percent increase in travel with children between 2000 and 2006.” Estimates indicate that travel with children has gone from 183.1 million trips to more than 208 million in just under eight years.
Parents too may be getting braver as destination locations across the globe extend services to insure that families with children of all ages receive proper attention.
A glowing example is Loews Hotels, a chain of 18 properties based across the United States and Canada, which teamed up with Fisher-Price to create “Loews Loves Little Kids.” The program was designed to soothe, stimulate, and entertain Loews’ littlest guests, and ease challenges faced by parents traveling with children aged six-to-36 months.
Loews makes available a range of baby and toddler travel necessities such as cribs, child-proofing kits, mini-bars stocked with child-friendly snacks, and equipment including the Aquarium Play Yard™, the Aquarium Take-Along SwingÔ, and even the Royal PottyÔ, so toddlers “in training” can continue efforts while on vacation. Each child under 10 receives a complimentary gift bag and access to a Kids Kloset filled with Fisher Price games and books for use during their stay. The hotel also hosts 45-minute baby and toddler classes complete with story telling, creative arts, music and movement tailored to two age groups including Star Babies (infants from six-to-18 months) and Rising Stars (toddlers from 18-to-36 months). An added incentive for traveling families is that children under 18 always stay free when sharing a room with their parents.
The Omni Hotel this year debuted Kids Sensory Suites at its Texas-based properties featuring colorfully-designed rooms with beanbag chairs, art table, board games, books, cozy bath robes, aquatic-themed bath accessories, and a complimentary Kids’ Sensation Bar filled with toys, trinkets and snacks. Jim Snow, regional vice president for Omni Hotels said, “We know children can bore easily when traveling and Kids Sensory Suites provide unique entertainment many families are not used to finding at a luxury hotel.” The Omni Sensational Kids program—another element of child programming available at more than 40 Omni properties--incorporates special children’s menus, milk and cookies each night at turndown, and a complimentary gift bag of indulgent sensory items including a kaleidoscope for sight; a kazoo for sound; candy lightening bugs for taste; oversized jacks for touch, and a scented bracelet for smell.
For families seeking an international getaway, the Hotel Le Bristol in Paris recently launched a children’s program leveraging the hotel’s rabbit mascot, Hippolyte. Young guests staying at Le Bristol are welcomed by delicious rabbit-shaped cookies and strawberry water, a personalized greeting signed by Hippolyte, green apple and orange-scented shampoos, soaps, and shower gels, fluffy bathrobes, cozy slippers, and Hippolyte-themed linens by Porthault. In addition, the hotel has designed special children’s menu and unique treasure hunts on the property to keep younger guests entertained.
Club Med’s Baby Welcome™, available at nearly 10 resort locations across the globe, makes bringing babies on vacation child’s play. A complimentary perk to families with infants is a long list of amenities placed in-room prior to their arrival including a crib or child’s bed, changing table, baby bath, and bottle warmer. In restaurants, special children’s corners provide privacy while microwaves, blenders, high chairs, and booster seats are available. And, if something was left at home, the Club Med boutique keeps diapers, wipes, lotions, sunscreens, swimsuits, clothes and bottles in stock. For young guests a few months older Baby Club Med™ (4-23 months) is a destination camp complete with highly qualified, energetic staff to engage young guests with a variety of recreational programs including puppet shows, learning games, and indoor/outdoor play.
Parents not wanting to pack much more than a swimsuit, camera and cash can also leverage several services that deliver baby supplies and rent baby equipment to vacationing families. Baby's Away, Inc. maintains more than 70 locations run by stay-at-home moms or dads and provides cribs, high chairs, strollers, and car seats. Parents need only locate the nearest service facility to the destination where they are traveling and place an order for equipment, which will be delivered, and in-place upon arrival. JetSetBabies, operated by two mothers, ensures that a fresh slew of baby supplies are available when you arrive. Customers place orders online for food and formula to diapers and wipes two to four weeks in advance. The brainchild of a former Fortune 500 executive and her husband, Babies Travel Lite is another service available to traveling families allowing advance selection of baby supplies and shipment of those items to a destination prior to arrival. What’s more, Courtney Cox Arquette utilized the service and has placed a glowing testimonial on the company’s web site!
Thanks to services geared towards families traveling with younger children and destination properties attuned to the needs of more than the business traveler, family travel isn’t the challenge it once was. So, tasting a juicy turkey with mashed potatoes this season doesn’t have to be merely a vision—nor do the rolling waves of the aqua-blue ocean.
Keep your stroller for as long as you can. Strollers are a parent’s best friend in airports. Take it with you up to the gate and check at the bottom of the gangway. If your flight is delayed, strollers may help baby fall asleep and also give parents a place to pile on diaper bags, purses, etc.
When traveling abroad, consider packing one bag mainly with diapers. It will save money and hassle and you can use the emptied space for souvenirs or dirty laundry.
Consider leaving your child’s special ‘blanket’ or ‘woobie’ at home to avoid the threat of loss during travel. Or, if absolutely necessary, parents should consider purchasing an extra or very good replacement packed in a travel bag—just in case.
If visiting relatives in another city, consider using a baby gear rental company to make logistics easier.
By Wendy Bulawa
Parents and Kids
Mon Oct 22, 2007, 08:56 AM EDT