Kids’ Clubs and Activities: Top Tips and Summer Deals

Locations in this article:  Honolulu, HI

Family Travel iconOne of the things that make larger resorts appealing for families is well-managed and comprehensive kids’ clubs and activities.

With her 6-year-old son in tow, Amie O’Shaughnessy can’t imagine going to a resort for a week without one—having a fun place that is just for him is key to giving us the chance to have some adult downtime.

Kids’ programs vary widely and the challenge is not finding resorts that have them, but rather identifying the elements that work for you and your family.

Things to Consider:

Age minimums: There are few drop-off kids’ clubs for children under 3. In addition, many programs require kids to be potty trained regardless of age.

Scheduled Specific Activities versus Half/Full Day Programs: Some properties use the term “kids’ club” to describe structured events and activities that happen sporadically during the week. In this scenario, you choose an activity of interest and then show up at a specific time to participate. This is very different than a half or full-day programs where you can drop your child off for an extended period of time (multiple activities happen during this period).

Get more information on traveling with kids in our Family Travel section.

Fees: Kids’ club fees vary widely and need to be factored into the trip budget. At most all-inclusive properties the kids’ club and activities will be included in the daily rate. Otherwise, anything goes; some programs are free, while others can be from $75 per session.

Activities: There is a wide range of activities that may be offered. Some resorts have a designated “clubhouse” with TVs, video games, a play structure and toys. The good news about this set-up is that kids will see the infrastructure and get excited—this can make dropping kids off a lot easier. The downside is that your child may choose to play a Wii for hours versus spending any time outside and/or engaging in unique and interesting activities.

Family with childOn the other side of the spectrum, some properties have programs that involve seeing local sights and include driving. A friend of mine had an experience at a property where they took the kids offsite without notifying the parents. Not OK, obviously. Make sure you ask about the specific plan and program.

At beach and/or swimming focused properties, a visit to the pool may be part of the fun. Programs that take kids swimming should have a high caregiver-to-child ratio and use life jackets for younger children. We’ve opted out of a few kids clubs in the past when we were not comfortable with the swimming set-up.

Exceptional Programs:

Many of Ciao Bambino’s recommended resorts offer amazing kids’ activities. There are a number of properties offering exceptional programs this season.

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers aerial shotThe Breakers has an unbelievable array of kids-focused amenities and activities for every age group—a toddler’s playroom and craft area, a children’s movie room, a brand new family pool area, an arcade and game room, and a structured kids’ camp called Coconut Crew for ages 3-12 ($65-125 per session, although the club is free Monday through Thursday during the summer months).

In addition, The Breakers offers monitored free play for kids from ages 5-7 ($20 per hour) and a Junior Golf Academy. What differentiates their program is the sheer number of options available that are both structured and unstructured, not to mention the location on a fantastic, expansive beach. They also offer activities for the whole family including a Family Night Out themed party and Game Day, where children compete with parents in a featured game.

Get more information on great activities with our Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Palm Beach, Florida.

I struggle with properties that are “too” kid-friendly, meaning it’s all about the kids with nowhere for the parents to relax—not so here, the top-notch spa, pool, golf, and dining opportunities take care of that.

Current special offer: Book a stay in an oceanfront room Sunday through Thursday and receive daily breakfast, free kids meals and camp for kids under 12, spa and fitness admission, unlimited golf, and free Wi-Fi and local calls. No minimum stay is required.

Find more travel deals and special offers in our Travel Deals section.

Hanauma Bay HawaiiKona Village, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Kona Village is one of those properties that families visit year-after-year.  It is all-inclusive—meaning you pay a nightly rate that includes lodging, meals, and most activities. The kids’ program here is for ages 5-12 and the beauty is the flexibility—kids can come and go throughout the day and parents can join in the activities along with their children. This is a very different set-up than many other programs that require reservations with stringent start and end times. We’re all so scheduled at home that it’s nice to have the freedom to enjoy programs without structure when on vacation.

For more Hawaii travel information, check out Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Honolulu, Hawaii as well as Ask the Locals: Oahu, Hawaii.

Activities at Kona Village have a local element. Favorites include crab catching, seashell hunting, and Hawaiian crafts. They also offer special activities for teens from ages 13-17 including Laulaha weaving, Ribcraft excursions, and scuba diving lessons.

Current special offer: Book one hale (bungalow) at the published rate, mention “togethering” and a second hale is 50 percent off the room and meal portion of the rate.

Fairmont Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona

Family outingThe Fairmont Scottsdale has multiple swimming pools including options with slides that receive rave reviews from kids of all ages. This summer season, they launched a new National Geographic Explorer’s Camp in addition to their regular complimentary kids’ club for ages 5-12.

The new camp will run through September 6 and features educational programs, games, and activities like GPS scavenger hunts and photo safaris. A complete list of activities is available on the hotel’s Web site; Explorer Camp fees range from $61-89 per session. What a fun way to inspire adventure and exploration! The program also features an impressive speakers series that includes scientists, photographers and filmmakers during a few of the Saturday sessions.

Current special offer: Summer Package rates start at $199 per night and include a $100 per day food and beverage credit.

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California

One of the things that makes the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe compelling is the fact that the Camp Hyatt program is unique in this area—there are few hotels on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe offering a comprehensive kids’ club. Many families choose rental homes or condos when staying in and around the lake during summer months for space and value; the downside of rentals options is access to hotel amenities like Camp Hyatt. The session times—9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. -11 p.m.—are ideal for parents that want the freedom to engage in a full day or night out on their own. Potty-trained kids ages 3-12 ($75 per session) may participate.

Tahoe & the Squaw Valley is one of our 10 Springtime Ski Destinations (With Deals You Can’t Miss).

Being outdoors in a fundamental part of enjoying Lake Tahoe and Camp Hyatt activities include sandcastle building, nature walks, and crafts using natural, local materials.

Current special offer: Classic Family Vacation rates include daily breakfast, a 50 percent discount off a second room, a locally inspired in-room snack amenity, and a 15 percent discount off of dining and spa services.

Amie O’Shaughnessy is the Editor of Ciao Bambino!, a family travel blog and worldwide guide to top family-friendly hotels and resorts. Click on Extended Search to sort through programs by age minimums and cost.

Also by Amie O’Shaughnessy:  Seven Reasons to Choose a Family Ranch Vacation.