Family Resort Camps
I left the competition to my husband and son, who spent hours swimming and racing. Meanwhile, I snuck in a little mom time at a yoga class and discovered a free meditation class I also wanted to try.
By the time we all were back in the room, it was 4:55 p.m. We only had 5 minutes before my son's tennis lesson. I looked across the room and realized he wasn't going to make it. Surf camp splurge: $110. Kid happily exhausted and asleep by 5 p.m.: Priceless.
Choosing a Kids Club or Camp
To get the most out of a kids' club or camp, it pays to plan ahead and ask the right questions, says Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, co-founder and Editor-in Chief of the family travel website www.WeJustGotBack.com.
Some hotels and resorts offer programs that take a unique and in-depth look at the region where they are located, such as the desert scavenger hunt offered at Camp Hyatt in Scottsdale, Ariz., or the estuary adventure in the tidal mud flats at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla. Other children's programs function more like babysitting services with arts and crafts or movies and games.
Parents should know before they choose what type of experience they are looking for, both for themselves and for their kids, Kelleher says. "Are they just dropping the kids off for two hours so they can get a break and go to the spa or read a book by the pool, or are they looking for a one-of-a-kind experience for their child?"
All kids' programs are not created equal, even within the same resort chain, Kelleher notes."People think they know what they're getting with a brand, but individual kids clubs and camps can differ from destination to destination," she says. "The resorts doing it best tend not to be the chains. If you're looking for an exceptional kids club, look beyond the chains. The chains want to cater to families, but that's not all they are trying to do."
Factors to consider when planning to use a kid's camp or club include:
- Price and policies: Rates can vary dramatically. For example, some resorts may charge up to $20 per hour per child, for a kids club, while others, like the Four Seasons Kids for All Seasons program, are free. If the resort offers special sports clinics or adventures, prices may be even higher.That's why it's important to be very clear about pricing and policies. What happens if your child gets upset and wants to leave early? Will you be charged for the whole day? What if you need to cancel at the last minute? These clubs can get very pricey for families with more than one child, so find out if they offer discounts for a second or third child that you enroll.
- Staying in touch: How will counselors contact you in case of an emergency? Do they give you a pager or take down your cell number?
- Age and stage: Are kids divided into smaller age groups or lumped together? The best kids' camps divide campers into smaller groups by age to better engage the kids.
- Counselors: Find out the staff-to-child ratio. Are the counselors CPR-certified? What experience have they had working with children?