A new wave of design-focused properties recognizes that just because you have tots in tow doesn’t mean you want cheesy interiors, chicken fingers and character breakfasts.
Carlisle Bay (Antigua)
No need to worry about getting side-eye or exasperated sighs from childless vacationers at this small-but-mighty resort situated on its own beach and bay in Antigua.
The hotel is set up in two zones – one for couples and another for families. Everyone gets the same access to the calm, white-sand private beach, free water sport rentals and the spa favored by beauty mogul Gwyneth Paltrow.
The kids’ club is free for ages 2 and up ($15 an hour for smaller tykes), and offers adventurous excursions for the older set.
The entire place, including its 82 rooms (all of which face the water), is decorated in crisp whites and cool blues and benefits from Antigua’s famously hospitable culture.
From $575; carlisle-bay.com
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Fellah Hotel (Marrakech, Morocco)
This 21-acre desert village shows off Morocco’s rich culture, at a slightly slower pace than its Marrakech setting.
Everything about this retreat, set against the Atlas Mountains and hosting a UNESCO-approved library, works to inspire young minds.
Aside from leisure pursuits like collaging and campfire storytelling, there’s also real-world training like farm work (gathering eggs, grooming animals, milking cows) and boxing (don’t worry, it’s friendly) for the little ones.
Parents can partake, but they’ll probably be more comfortable taking in the garden views from the pool or sweating stress away in the hammam.
From $145; fellah-hotel.com
Grande Lakes (Orlando, Florida)
There’s another way to do Disney.
This mega-resort made up of two luxury giants (Ritz and JW Marriott), offers a totally different (read: more restorative) Orlando experience.
The rooms and interior spaces are big and posh, but the familial highlight is outside. This spring, Grand Lakes debuts an eco-adventure sports center ideal for wearing out energetic travelers, with cycling, fly-fishing, kayaking and sunrise safaris through the Everglades.
Mom and dad will appreciate tours and tastings at the on-site brewery, and the whole gang can get their hands dirty working in the 18,000-square-foot garden that supplies farm-fresh fare to two new restaurants (or a picnic for four).
From $199; grandelakes.com
Angama Mara (Maasai Mara, Kenya)
Is there anything more thrilling for a kid than venturing to the African countryside to see lions, giraffes, zebras and elephants in the wild? Kenya’s two-year-old Angama Mara luxury lodge makes those animal-filled dreams a reality.
Opened by a South African husband-wife duo, the camp consists of 30 modern, glass-fronted tents that seem to float over the Maasai Mara plains. Several of the tents have interconnected layouts for families wanting extra space.
Although there’s no set children’s program, Angama shapes itineraries around guest needs (including babysitting) and welcomes ages six and up. It’s not uncommon for a staffer to take young explorers on a nature hike or to a beading class with Maasai women, while the grown-ups cruise over the Great Rift Valley in a hot air balloon.
From $825; angama.com
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Chablé Resort & Spa (Chocholá, Mexico)
If Mies van der Rohe designed a 5-star destination spa in the middle of the Mayan jungle, it might look something like Chablé.
Located 25 minutes from Merida, this new Mexican-owned 750-acre property – a 19th-century hemp estancia dotted with bougainvillea-draped arches and modern sculptures – takes luxury and privacy to a whole different level.
Guests stay in glass-walled standalone villas, and each one has its own pool – half of which is given over to a shallow wading area perfect for toddlers.
Each stay is totally customized, so if your kids want to pick zucchini-blossoms in the on-site organic farm or learn how to make chocolate, just say the word.
Or they want to practice yoga alongside a cenote, mountain bike around the property, design a custom scent for their toiletries, or chill in a outdoor bed alongside a zero-entry pool, it will happen.
Every staffer knows each guest’s name, and after dinner at the dazzling restaurant helmed by Mexican chef (and Noma alum) Jorge Vallejo – featuring the world’s largest private tequila collection – a driver will happily take you on a moonlit golf cart ride around the property until the kids fall fast asleep.
From $1200; chableresort.com
Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel (Sagres, Portugal)
The brainchild of a mother of four who was underwhelmed with chic family friendly places to travel (and who quit her London finance job in order to make it happen on the Southern coast of Portugal), Martinhal truly meets all the needs of parents determined to unwind.
Four pools – surrounded by beanbags – welcome toddlers and swimmers; the restaurants have staffed play areas so kids can eat and run, and the nursery and kids club accommodate little ones 6 months and up.
Set within a national park and designed by Conran and Partners, the 5-star resort has an end-of-the-earth quality – not to mention great surfing and hiking trails, too.
From $169 martinhal.com
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Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France (St. Bart’s)
You wouldn’t think a LVMH-owned hotel on a celeb-studded isle would be the place to take a toddler, but more than a chic seaside getaway, Cheval Blanc aims to be home – a sentiment confirmed by the roster of repeat guests.
The magic of this 40-room inn is in the details: rattan high chairs, seahorse-printed linens, hand-sewn bibs and mini bath robes. Plus a tribe of seersucker-clad Ambassadeurs ready to make your perfect day a reality.
Lobster lunch on a boat? Done. A tour of the Caribbean in a yellow submarine? Easy. Painting lessons and family snorkeling? You betcha.
Plus, the pièce de résistance: taking your kids swimming in the ocean with the resort’s very own mermaid, who is available for photo-ops.
From $640; chevalblanc.com
Finest Playa Mujeres (Playa Mujeres, Mexico)
This is not your typical all-inclusive resort. Every room of this ultra-contemporary all-suite property, which opened in 2015, features a balcony with an outdoor daybed and tub – so you can stargaze while you soak.
The three kids clubs, run by doting staffers, feature programming from 9 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.: pony rides on the beach, mask-making, mommy and me yoga.
And every night can be date night for mom and dad, because there’s a different kids dinner and show (magicians, pinatas, dance parties, plus appearances from Elsa and Anna) the little ones will actually beg to attend.
Meanwhile, the 17 bars and restaurants go all out – think grilled lobster, Champagne, and fresh ceviches – not to mention an ice cream parlor that whips up both frozen espresso drinks and Mudslides. Plus, it’s just 20 minutes from the Cancun airport and there’s an on-site doctor available 24/7.
From $208 per adult/night; finestresorts.com
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina (Oahu, Hawaii)
Close to Honolulu in the exclusive neighborhood where Hawaiian royalty used to get away, this Four Seasons – which opened in 2016 – has all the comforts you expect from the brand, laced with tropical charm.
While the basic parental amenities are accounted for (gear ranging from baby monitors to car seats, specialized kid and teen centers, beachside family pool, all-ages spa treatments, kids’ menus), you’ll get the most out of the culturally conscious resort by tapping into its only-in-Oahu experiences.
The family can take diving and surf lessons with local pros, hop into an outrigger canoe or experience the rotating lineup of artisan-led workshops from bamboo-carving to sarong-dying to making leis.
Most of the 371 suites in the 17-story resort face the water with floor-to-ceiling windows.
From $525; fourseasons.com/oahu/
Palace Hotel (San Francisco, California)
Voted the best indoor pool in San Francisco, measuring 60-feet-long and covered by a glass ceiling, the Palace’s atrium, which serves poolside snacks, serves as the perfect hedge against the city’s foggy weather.
The historic circa-1875 hotel – within walking distance of the San Francisco Museum of Art (which is free for anyone under 18) and the Children’s Creativity Museum and Carousel at the Yerba Buena Gardens – unveiled a multi-million dollar refresh in 2015.
So while you and the kids can still experience afternoon tea in the opulent Garden Court, upstairs all 556 rooms strike a fully contemporary note, with rainfall showers, tufted leather headboards and a calming blue-gray palette.
From $225; sfpalace.com
Gleneagles Hotel (Auchterarder, Scotland)
The motto at this 850-acre estate – built in the 1920s by the royal railway to promote train travel within Europe’s high society – is: “Whatever an adult can do, a child can do, too.”
The outdoorsy, all-ages offerings include falconry, mountain biking, Segway rides, polo lessons, archery, gun dog-training, wildlife photography and own-a-pony-for-a-day.
And toddlers can explore the costumes and castles, sand pit and water table and vast array of toys in the playroom.
The resort, an hour from Edinburgh and Glasgow or a five-hour train from London, has its own railway station, three pro golf courses (one of which hosted the 2014 Ryder Cup), and a quarterly magazine.
Despite its “Riviera in the Highlands” pedigree, the vibe throughout the grounds and all eight bars and restaurants is thoroughly unstuffy. And no clan member gets left out: Dogs stay free, and there’s room-and-board for your horse and hawk, too.
From $635; gleneagles.com
Niyama Private Islands (Maldives)
Just because kids enter the picture, doesn’t mean parents kiss the Maldives’ sultry, zen vibe goodbye.
Niyama Private Islands is an entire isle tailored for families. The waterfront bungalows, none smaller than 1,250 square feet, are just as sleek as its adult counterparts, but also have popcorn machines, free ice cream and beach toys.
The resort stocks the basic baby gear (changing pads, baths, sand-equipped strollers) to relieve packing woes; and the kids’ club, run by trusted family operator Scott Dunn, educates little ones on the art of island life.
When mom and dad want to escape to the underground night club next door, take a speedboat to the nearby reefs or retreat to the upcoming jungle sanctuaries, a sitter is just as easy (if not easier!) to book as it is back home.
From $845; niyama.com/en
Katy McColl has written for The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Budget Travel and Lonely Planet. Her kids are fascinated by room service.