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Los Angeles-based Kara Slater is no stranger to the trials and joys that come along with traveling as a family — she’s often trekking with 4-year-old twin boys beside her, plus her husband, Brad.
A travel agent affiliate with SmartFlyer, Slater specializes in luxury family and honeymoon travel. Her hard work has earned her numerous accolades, including a spot on the 2014 Travel + Leisure A-List, an annual bible of top-notch agents across the U.S.
Slater sat down with TravelAge West to discuss how she turns ordinary family vacations into trips fit for celebrities.
Traveling with twins might sound daunting to some clients. How does vacationing with a pair of young twins inform your work?There is no better way to learn how to make travel with children seamless than to do it yourself. I learn a lot just by watching what my kids respond to. For example, we were at Montage Kapalua Bay on Maui last summer, and I was stunned that something as simple as a daily koi fish feeding at 9 a.m. could get them so excited.
Traveling with my boys also helps me relate to why some parents are so particular about amenities in a hotel, such as a crib versus a Pack ‘n Play and restaurants that cater to dietary restrictions. I know to pay attention to these details and to work with hotels that are able to make the necessary accommodations.
I also love to organize personalized amenities for families whenever possible — I’ve seen how my kids respond to an in-room tent upon arrival or having their names written with stickers in the bathtub.
When clients traveling with children are looking for a high-end vacation, what types of perks do you include in their travel plans?Luxury travel family bookings begin before the clients have even left their house. I often arrange private transfers (with car seats as needed); a VIP airport greeter if the trip involves flying; dinner reservations in advance; and activities set up in advance.
In Los Angeles, I often book airport greeters with Avalon or KLS Limousine Service. There are so many added benefits to this service. Parents have extra helping hands; someone at the airport anticipating their arrival with boarding passes in hand; and someone that can go work on a seat change for you while you take care of the kids.
Selecting the right hotel is also critical. Families willing to spend their hard-earned money on a five-star hotel want in-room amenities and excellent services tailored toward children. An accommodating concierge is vital. Kids’ clubs are often requested, and kids’ menus that rise to a certain standard are an added bonus. But, the hotels I work with also cater to the parents at the same time.
Hawaii is a classic family destination, especially for clients on the West Coast. What percentage of your clients opt for Hawaii, and when they do, where do you send them and why?Approximately 50 percent of my California families travel to Hawaii — and travel there often. For those traveling with small children, I recommend Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. The resort is easy to navigate, and it offers an excellent toddler pool with a waterslide, complimentary Pack ’n Plays (they can even be used in the poolside cabanas), complimentary baby-proofing services and a no-cost kids’ club.
Additionally, children under the age of 5 eat free with a paying adult when ordering in a restaurant off a kids’ menu. The hotel also makes adults feel welcome — there’s a Spago on site, which may offer the best “adult” meal in all of Hawaii, plus a heavenly adults-only infinity pool and bar as well as customer service that is second to none.
I also love the sprawling Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on Hawaii Island. With seven different pools on property, there is something for everyone. Families can enjoy a “keiki” pool for the little ones with kid-sized chaise lounges and a treasure chest of water toys. And everyone loves King’s Pond pool, which is perfect for snorkeling as it is filled with fish.
The property has a kids’ club for 5 to 12 year olds as well as a program for 12 to 18 year olds. And during certain months, there’s a promotion that offers 50 percent off a second room. My clients love that.
Beyond Hawaii, where do you like to send families and why?I find myself booking more and more Europe vacations with families. London seems to be particularly popular for traveling with little ones at the moment.
For accommodations in the city, the Corinthia Hotel London has been very popular with my affluent families. It has rooms and suites in all sizes, contemporary yet comfortable decor and excellent service.
Is the staycation trend popular with your family clients?“Staycation-ing” is certainly popular, especially for busy or overworked parents who want an easy escape. I tend to recommend families from Los Angeles to stay at The Grand Del Mar in San Diego, Montage Laguna Beach, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, The Resort at Pelican Hill near Newport Beach and Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, which are all in California and nearby. They are excellent for adults while being fun and accommodating for children as well.
When families are ready to travel internationally and get more off the beaten path, where do you suggest they go? Bora Bora is great for families, if they are brave enough to do the flight. Once there, they will find endless activities, many beach villas appropriate for small children and the calmest of warm waters to enjoy.
In Mexico, I’m a fan of the villa products at Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos. There are two- and three-bedroom villas that sit right on the beach with private pools.
Rosewood Mayakoba in the Riviera Maya is also great for families, as the property has rooms with 1.5 baths, private plunge pools and a kids’ club.