Hawaii has several options for large families. // © 2018 Getty Images
Feature image (above): Maui’s Honua Kai Resort & Spa offers suites with full kitchens. // © 2018 Honua Kai Resort & Spa
There was a time when every family travel outing centered around mom, dad and a couple of kids. But no longer is that the case. Today, families come in all shapes and sizes, and suppliers are working hard to make sure that their product offerings are following suit. Families with more than two children; kids spanning a large age range; a live-in grandparent who travels with the family; or combination families (as the result of remarriage) can drastically change what is needed — and expected — to make a great vacation.
Aging baby boomers have made multigenerational groups the new normal. Add to that the reunion events and milestones that gather the whole gang together, and it’s easy to see why resorts are making room for this new family dynamic.
“Multigenerational travel has become a major trend in recent years, but it comes with many challenges,” said Carolyne Doyon, senior vice president for Club Med. “Each individual has their own needs and expectations for the vacation.”
Club Med’s properties in Florida, the Dominican Republic and Mexico draw huge numbers of family travelers, thanks in part to options that appeal across age ranges and abilities. Doyon notes that the wide range of families who visit means that the resorts need to be on the cutting edge of entertainment choices.
“At Club Med, we ensure guests of every age have a wide selection of activities available to them so that families can have fun as individuals but also together — that’s what the vacation is all about,” she said. “All-inclusive vacations are a natural answer, as they present an easier and stress-free option, both in planning and execution.”
There is no question that family travel is an area where all-inclusive resorts can shine. The newly reopened Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa, for example, remains a popular family destination due largely to its variety of family-focused offerings, which range from Sesame Street partnerships to teen-only “nightclubs.”
But options for daytime fun are often less of a problem for larger families at resorts than the question of how to fit everyone into a room at night.
At Beaches, the problem is solved with more than two dozen room categories on property, including suites that can range in size from one to four bedrooms. Case in point: The French Village Three-Bedroom Concierge Suite can accommodate up to 14 people, and the Together Nest suites include villa offerings and personal butlers or concierge service.
Club Med offers deluxe and suite rooms that can fit up to six people, but it also offers options to create more space for families who prefer it.
“The key is to offer a range of environments that can cater to a family’s varying needs,” Doyon said. “Take our Punta Cana resort, for example. In a multigenerational group, the grandparents could stay at Zen Oasis — our adults-only section with a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere — while the family books a Tiara Family Suite in our exclusive Five Tridents luxury space that has a dedicated pool and services.”
The cruise industry has also seen an increase in demand for larger family accommodations, and newer ships are generally doing a better job of catering to these groups.
Royal Caribbean International now offers up to 37 cabin categories on several of its newest vessels and has some of the biggest family cabins in the industry. Connecting family suites with multiple bathrooms; loft suites with multiple bedrooms; and other accommodation options mean that families are not stuck shoehorning their brood into rooms that don’t work. Interior staterooms on Freedom and Oasis Class ships can accommodate up to six people, while Quantum Class ships offer passengers as many as 25 types of connecting cabins per deck.
Norwegian Cruise Line also provides some perks for larger families. Its “Freestyle” cruising philosophy means that the newest ships offer staterooms that fit five people and offer connecting cabins. Family suites fit up to eight on some ships and have the added perks of butler and concierge service. Other options include two-bedroom Family Suites on select ships and The Haven, an exclusive-access suite area that comes complete with a private pool and more. And because cruising is really less about the room and more about the ship, Norwegian’s family rooms are near the kids’ club and swimming pools, so children are always close to the action.
Hot Spots Closer to Home
At the Family Travel Association’s recent annual conference, attendees identified “affordable travel closer to home” as a trend with young families who are looking for resort-quality getaways that accommodate smaller budgets and limited time. The good news is that travelers don’t have to go far to find family-supported stays.
At Maui’s Honua Kai Resort & Spa, on Kaanapali Beach, suites with full kitchens offer a home-away-from-home feeling with the option to save money on meals. And with three pools that feature different vibes — whether family members enjoy an afternoon of splashing or sunning — the resort has a favorite spot for everyone.
Meanwhile, Legoland resorts in Florida and California are great picks for families with little ones. Standard rooms have plenty of space, with both a king-size bed and a bunk bed/trundle bed combination, making it easy to fit a family of five. VIP Premium suites in Orlando, Fla., have two-bedroom options with space for up to nine people. (California suites sleep seven.) All the rooms are themed — for instance, Adventure, Pirate, Ninjago or Kingdom — and stays include a buffet breakfast where guests are bound to run into their favorite Lego characters. Also, in both locations, the resort is next door to the park, which makes it easy to take breaks in your hotel room.
And just five minutes from Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, the 108-room Grove Resort & Spa is set to open in June. It will be the first phase of the resort’s two- and three-bedroom residential-style suite offerings. Each suite will have a full kitchen, a washer and dryer and multiple bathrooms — making it ideal for larger families.
International Challenges Remain
Though changes are happening in the industry, not every destination is well-suited for large families. In many parts of Asia, for example, big families aren’t the norm, and even finding a room that will fit a family with just two children can be tough.
The exception may be some of Japan’s ryokans (traditional inns), where accommodations for more than six people can be booked. The catch? Beds may not be what clients are expecting. In a ryokan, futon-style mattresses are laid out at night to transform rooms into sleeping areas. This style won’t work for every family, but if guests are up for it, many ryokans pair this sleeping option with access to on-site hot springs spas.
It’s important that travel agents stress that having a large family will not prevent a much-needed vacation. With some research and creativity — and probably a bit of flexibility — any family can make lifetime memories together.