Adventure you can afford.
When it comes to traveling with the kids—and grandkids—it’s hard to beat an all-inclusive resort for variety, convenience, and value. Whether your family is looking to ski, swim, or saddle a horse, these five destinations offer just about anything you’d need to keep your brood happy. And with deals up to 45% off the à la carte price, your wallet will be smiling too.
North of Jackson Hole, Wyo. • goosewingranch.com
The majestic elk, sheep, and horses may start to feel like extended family after a few days at the 50-acre Goosewing Ranch. Nestled in the Gros Ventre River valley in the Grand Tetons, Goosewing is home to only 11 modernized log cabins that come complete with mini-fridges, wood-burning stoves, and spacious bathrooms. Horseback riding through wildflower meadows and mountain trails is the main pastime, but fishing, hatchet throwing, line dancing, and cookouts are full pard’ners in the Wild West adventure. Also, each cabin comes with an off-road vehicle for roaming the surrounding Bridger Teton National Forest.
Cost: $894 (per family per day)
YOU SAVE: 25% over a la carte prices (assumes 3 meals per day, 2 hotel rooms, and horseback riding for 4 people)
For the kids: Families can explore together or try the “kids wrangler,” who leads juniors (6 and older) in riding, hiking, target shooting, and Native American arts and crafts. Want to get back to nature in a big way? Spend a night in Goosewing’s family-size tepee.
Meals: Hearty fare such as prime rib and pork chops, along with children’s meals, served family style. The cherry on top of every dish: No cellphone service out here means teens have to talk during dinner instead of text.
Bottom line: This cozy resort books up quickly, so reserve far in advance. From $894 a night (June and September) to $1,406 (July and August) for two adults and two children; reservations require a three-day stay. Price includes lodging, meals, all activities, and a one-hour massage. While Goosewing is the most expensive spot on our list—and has the smallest savings vs. à la carte pricing—Kara Slater, who specializes in family travel for SmartFlyer, says it is the best dude ranch for the money. Not included: A 22% fee that covers both taxes and gratuity.
Money-saving tip: The ranch provides a kids wrangler only in July and August, but there’s plenty for the little ones in the off-season, including most of the horse-related activities—and at 36% below peak prices. Also, groups of 15 or more receive a 3% discount, which can add up to a savings of $700 for a three-night stay.
Hawley, Pa. • woodloch.com
The Kiesendahl family has been running Woodloch, set on 1,000 acres on Lake Teedyuskung, for more than 50 years. It’s got a delightfully old-fashioned vibe—the rooms, renovated in 2008, are done up in a traditional country style: pine dressers, leather armchairs, cheery floral drapes. This year the property was voted the No. 1 hotel for families in the U.S. as part of TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards, thanks in large part to its impressive range of activities: Waterskiing, biking, zip-lining, and river kayaking top the list in summer, with ice-skating, snow-tubing, snowshoeing, and more during the winter. Adults can also indulge in wine tasting, fly-fishing, and classes in mixology.
Cost: $609 (per family per day)
YOU SAVE: 39% over a la carte costs (assuming 3 meals a day, 2 hotel rooms, and zip-lining for 4 people)
For the kids: Woodloch offers babysitting ($10/hour) but designs its activities for the entire family, and there are plenty, including a Wii center, a mini-golf course, go-carts, and bumper boats.
Meals: Served family style with an emphasis on local food—”seed to fork,” the Kiesendahls call it. Even the little ones are encouraged to eat wholesome fare with its Kids Eat Well at WL menu, featuring fruit instead of fries, veggie-infused pasta sauces, and more.
Bottom line: From $140 per night for two adults and two children (November to early December, and February to April) to $300 a night for two adults and two children (July to October). Includes all meals, most activities, and daily housekeeping. Not included: A 7.5% tax and 15% service charge and some activities, including wine tasting ($20 per person) and fly-fishing ($250).
Money-saving tip: “Their rates are remarkably low if you can sneak off in November,” says TripAdvisor’s Wendy Perrin. The resort runs multiple promotions, including some in which kids under 13 stay free. You can also save up to 40% if you book six months in advance. And Hawley is driving distance from New York City (2½ hours), Philadelphia (three hours), and Boston (four hours), so East Coasters can get there for the price of gas and road-trip snacks.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico • melia.com
This resort on the Riviera Maya oceanfront is family-friendly down to its skivvies. Kids get their own pint-size plush bathrobes, and the evening turndown service comes not with a mint on the pillows but chocolate-chip cookies and a glass of milk. The beach obviously provides the big playroom for young and old, with activities ranging from beginner scuba diving to beach soccer. But there are plenty of indoor diversions as well, including spas for grownups and kids—for that must-have mini-manicure or styling. Lillian Avilés of the Journey Mexico tour company stayed here with her family and says the entertainment is also impressive. “Evening activities—such as live music with drummers—are exciting for all ages,” Avilés says. “And since the resort is close to downtown Playa del Carmen, adults can enjoy a date on charming Quinta Avenida without having to hire a babysitter—because it’s included.”
Cost: $502 (per family per day)
YOU SAVE: 27% off a la carte prices (assuming 3 meals a day, 2 hotel rooms, and snorkeling for 4 people)
For the kids: A “family concierge” can do anything from deliver baby gear to your room to book the kids’ day of activities. The hotel also provides walkie-talkies to make it easy to keep track of your brood and a private room for family check-ins. There’s even a free, kid-friendly minibar, stocked with candy. (Keep your eyes on it, parents.)
Meals: There are 14 restaurants, six for adults only. Also available: free room service. “Kids love ordering room service,” says Avilés.
Bottom line: From $399 (May to December) to $450 (January to April) for a junior suite for two adults and two kids. Everything is included—liquor too.
Money-saving tip: La Esmeralda runs regular promotions, some offering up to 35% off and no charge for up to two kids. Book through the resort’s website and receive a free upgrade to the next room category (subject to availability) and a discount at the Grand Coral Golf Course.
Mittersill, Austria • felben.at/en
Set in the heart of the Austrian Alps in the picturesque Salzachtal Valley, the Kinderhotel Felben has been drawing loyal German and Swiss families for years. The Alpine complex features airy rooms and suites done in the knotty-pine vein of an old-school ski chalet. You can hit the slopes via just about any means of snowy transport: downhill and cross-country skiing, tobogganing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and hiking. In the summer months the Kinderhotel takes on an almost camplike vibe, with swimming, horseback riding, archery, golf, and more. For grownups, there’s also a host of on-site spa treatments, including mud baths, facials, saunas, and massages.
Cost: $439 (per family per day)
YOU SAVE: 29% over a la carte costs (assumes 3 meals a day, 2 hotel rooms, and skiing for 4 people)
For the kids: Child care is available for children as young as 3 months, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. For older kids, there are more than 70 hours of scheduled activities a week, including pony and toboggan riding, swimming in one of two dedicated children’s pools, and numerous games. Want to really spoil them? There are children’s massages available too.
Meals: Mostly hearty Alpine fare, such as schnitzel with mushroom soup, rustic potatoes, and pretzels. Of course, there’s plenty of Austrian pastries too. Children can eat with their parents or in the kids’ section for any meal of the day.
Bottom line: A weeklong stay for two adults and two children costs from $3,074 (January, June, and November) to $5,185 (mid-December and July to August). Price includes all meals, activities, the children’s program, and taxes. Not included: Riding lessons ($22 per person for a half-hour group lesson) and spa treatments (from $33 to $167).
Money-saving tip: Shop around for hidden flight deals. Munich and Salzburg are the most convenient airports to Mittersill, and a host of carriers fly to them, including low-cost European airlines Ryanair and EasyJet, says Melisse Hinkle, editor of Cheapflight.com. Turkish Airlines also recently announced plans to fly direct from Miami to Munich. That said, don’t fall for a cheap sticker price. Low-cost European airlines are notorious for their additional fees. If you’re traveling with a lot of gear, especially in the winter, a full-service airline may offer the cheapest option. For instance, Ryanair charges a special $44 fee to check skis; Lufthansa considers them to be part of your regular baggage allowance.
Port St. Lucie, Fla. • clubmed.us
Club Med created the all-inclusive concept in 1950, but Sandpiper Bay is the French company’s only American property. Set on 216 acres along the St. Lucie River, the resort received a $28 million renovation in 2010 and features five pools (including an adults-only infinity pool) and several fitness academies. This is the chain’s largest sports resort, with group lessons offered for almost everything. There are 20 tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course, volleyball, stand-up paddleboarding, sailing, water polo, dance classes, a big dodgeball tournament, and, perhaps best of all, a 6,000-square-foot L’Occitane Spa where you can work out the day’s sore muscles.
Cost: $361 (per family per day)
YOU SAVE: 45% over a la carte costs (assumes 3 meals per day, 2 hotel rooms, and kayaking for 4 people)
For the kids: In addition to the sports programs, there’s bingo, a junior cooking program, arts classes staffed with a full-time teacher, and a circus school. There are also four age-related clubs (babies, toddlers, kids, and teens) where the younger set can enjoy the day without you—and vice versa.
Meals: Four on-site restaurants, including the Market, which features both an adults-only section and the Baby Corner, which is kid-friendly down to its scaled-down utensils.
Bottom line: From $129 per adult per night in all seasons. Children under 4 stay free while older kids stay for up to 50% off (priced on a sliding scale, with older kids costing a bit more). Not included: spa treatments (massages start at $125), golf ($12 to $25 a round), and private sports lessons.
Money-saving tip: Sign up for alerts on the ClubMed.us website for discounts of up to 40%, air credits, and complimentary room upgrades. Also, check out several airports. Orlando and Miami are each a little over two hours away, while Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach are even closer. Depending on your length of stay, it may be more economical to pay for Club Med’s airport transfers rather than rent a car. The price is $234 for a family of four to and from Fort Lauderdale airport and slightly higher to the others.