August 25, 2009

New and Cool for Kids

2009 brings some cool new parks and programs for kids of all ages!


”The Del,” Southern California’s only oceanfront hotel, recently opened two new activity centers. KIDTOPIA, for ages 4-12, features bright and fun colors, underwater murals and separate beach-themed rooms for crafts and playtime. The playroom’s center stage is perfect for talent shows, dance-offs and performances, and a separate diner-style area allows for supervised cooking activities. There’s also a cool climbing unit, a crazy funhouse mirror and high-tech entertainment stations.

VIBZ is a contemporary lounge dedicated to teens. It offers billiards, foosball, darts, karaoke, computers, movie-time media, Dance Dance Revolution and, most importantly, the opportunity for teens to meet others their own age.
Hotel del Coronado is a Virtuoso member hotel, which means my clients receive exclusive amenities: an upgrade on arrival (subject to availability), daily buffet breakfast for two, VIP services, and a $100 daily spa credit if they are staying in the Beach Village.

RiuLand, a children's entertainment program, has been launched at some all-inclusive RIU resorts in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico. The programs provide entertainment and activities for kids ages 4 to 7 and 8 to 12, revolving around a series of 12 themed days. Themes include Aqualand Day with games in the pool, Riu Olympic with group sports, Piratesland with pirate contests and treasure hunts, and Ecoland with
environmental activities.


The Carnival Dream will debut in November, featuring a water park with a 303-foot-long, four-deck-high corkscrew water slide (the longest on a cruise ship), and twin 80-foot-long racing slides. Carnival is offering an online contest for children ages 7-12, where they can win a trip to NYC to christen the WaterWorks aqua park. To enter the Virtual Book of Dreams contest, children must complete the thought, "I’m always dreaming up fun stuff. Wouldn’t it be awesome if…" in 250 words or less, from now until Sept. 18. Go to
www.carnivalbookofdreams.com/ to enter.

Breezes Curacao, the only all-inclusive on the island, has been undergoing renovations throughout the year. The property’s three swimming pools now include a misting pool, a children’s pool and an adults’ pool with swim-up bar. A new playground for kids has also been added just outside the expansive Kids’ Club. In addition to SuperClubs' trademark Breezes feature, a professional circus workshop with a swinging trapeze, Breezes CuraƧao also has the island's first ice-skating rink, as well as a 30-foot rock-climbing wall.


Beaches Turks & Caicos opened Pirate’s Island Waterpark this past spring. This 10 times bigger waterpark features a lazy river, a surf simulator, seven new waterslides, water cannons, pop up jets, and a zero-entry pool for little travelers. Other features to keep the kids happy are an ice cream machine, disco, game room, 50’s style diner, and swim-up “bar.”

Beaches also unveiled the all-suite Italian Village, featuring five new restaurants, a 7,000-square-foot retail area, the island’s largest freshwater pool and the Caribbean’s largest Jacuzzi. Spacious two-bedroom suites have a bunk bedroom for kids with a play area and XBox 360, a master bedroom and sitting area for parents, and a balcony or patio. Flexible configurations allow various size suites to be connected together, and some are large enough to accommodate a family of 12!


Black Pearl Skate Park, located on Grand Cayman, opened this summer with 60,000 square feet of challenging, multilevel concrete skateboard terrain. Beginning in June, an 11-week Skate Cayman day camp program was offered, the first skateboarding camp of its kind in the Caribbean. The challenging but rider-friendly park offers three main courses -- expert, intermediate and beginner -- with concrete bowls, half- and quarter-pipes and flow and street courses for each level. Adjacent to the skateboard park is Black Pearl's surf park, a self-contained wave machine that generates 11-foot waves in a 16,000-gallon wave pool. For more information visit
For more information about planning the family vacation of your dreams, contact Suzette Mack, Family Travel Specialist, at suzette@family-treks.com.

August 20, 2009

A Home Away From Home in Europe

Families planning a trip to Europe are often challenged finding suitable, and economical, accommodations. As most hotel rooms sleep only two people, and connecting rooms are usually not guaranteed, I often recommend apartments or private home rentals for families traveling with children. They not only provide more space and many of the conveniences of home, but they are often comparable in price to booking two hotel rooms. And travelers need not worry that that they will be foregoing any luxury, either! There are exceptional apartments that are beautifully decorated, and in the best locations, if you know how to find them.

I asked my favorite source for Europe apartments, Small and Elegant Hotels, about their top picks for families. Small and Elegant specializes in luxury boutique hotels and apartments throughout Europe, including Italy, France, and Spain, as well as charming villas in areas like Tuscany and the Loire Valley. Bonnie, the owner, visits the properties regularly to ensure they meet her high standards, and she knows London and Paris like the back of her hand!

The Collingham (London) – This fine period building is located in fashionable South Kensington near Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, overlooking a tranquil garden square. The superb shopping areas of Knightsbridge and Chelsea are close by. Well furnished apartments ranging from 1-3 bedrooms each have a fully equipped kitchen and satellite TV. Maid and laundry service is available as well as 24 hour reception and security.

Hotel Residence du Roy (Paris) - Just a few steps from Champs-Elysees, and Plaza Athenee, this tastefully decorated 4 star hotel is equipped with all the comforts of a prestigious hotel: bar, satellite TV, in-house movies, air-conditioning, internet access, concierge, room service. personal safe, and parking. They offer standard rooms, split level duplexes with full kitchens, and suites with kitchenettes. And their restaurant is rated in the top 20 in Paris!

Domus (Rome)
– This is a wonderful 18th century building of prestigious flats located in the famous Palazzo Pierret in Piazza di Spagna in the heart of Rome, with an incredible view over the Spanish Steps. The spacious apartments, which sleep 2- 10, have sitting rooms, kitchens, elegant bathrooms, and are equipped with air conditioning, satellite TV, direct telephone lines, and internet access. Suites which sleep up to 3 guests are also available with kitchenettes. I am confident that my clients are in good hands when I book their accommodations through Small and Elegant Hotels. They not only have some of the best rates, but their expertise and personal connections are priceless. In fact, they can still guarantee 2009 rates for next year, but soon that option will go away, as 2010 is predicted to be a busier travel season.

So if you are planning a family vacation to Europe, contact Suzette Mack, Family Travel Specialist at suzette@family-treks.com. I have arranged a special amenity with Small and Elegant Hotels exclusively for my clients!

August 12, 2009

Things to Know When Booking a Family Vacation to Europe

Most European hotels accommodate only two guests, which can be challenging and expensive for families planning a trip overseas. Many hotels have “triple” rooms that will accommodate three, and some even have “family rooms” or suites that sleep four. But families need to be very careful when booking these rooms, especially if trying to make their travel arrangements online.

There are two problems travelers can run into. First, the hotel may appear to have no rooms available, when that is not the case. Because these types of rooms are limited, hotels often require that the rooms be reserved directly with them, so they can block them off immediately and ensure they are not overbooked. Thus triple and quad rooms may not be offered online. The second is especially problematic because it is invisible to the traveler. Sometimes the booking engines are either not properly designed, or their database is incorrect, and they will allow a reservation to be made in a room even if there are too many occupants.

This happened to one of my clients, who booked two triple rooms with a well known internet travel company at what appeared to be a great price. I was working on other parts of her trip, so as a favor (and because I was suspicious), I called the hotel to confirm their reservation. I was informed that the family's reservation was for the wrong room type! Apparently the travel supplier was supposed to call the hotel and request the triple rooms before confirming reservations to make sure they were available, which they obviously did not do. My clients would have shown up in Rome, during high season, to find out that two of them had no place to sleep. Fortunately our agency had a good relationship with this hotel, and they corrected the reservation at my request.

So the moral of the story is: confirm, confirm, confirm! Or better yet, call a travel professional who is knowledgeable in booking Europe hotels. They can not only find the right hotel at the best price, but will have connections locally to ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises when you arrive, and may even be able to obtain complimentary amenities or upgrades.

Instead of booking two hotel rooms, another option for families is an apartment or villa rental. This provides more space, privacy for the parents, and many of the conveniences of home such as a kitchen and laundry facilities. And often a two or three bedroom rental is no more expensive than two hotel rooms, and sometimes even cheaper. In my next post, I will give some specific recommendations from my favorite source for Europe apartment rentals.

For more information about planning a family vacation that exceeds your expectations, contact Suzette Mack, Family Travel Specialist at