Couples often wonder if a vacation will ever be a vacation again! Watching little ones, even on the warmest beaches, can still be exhausting work. Vacation destinations, including some of the hottest resorts and cruises, offer fun activities that keep children occupied (so parents can enjoy some couple time), as well as family events to bring everyone together again.
I wrote an article for the Toronto Star recently about a concierge service that not only provides kids-only vacation perks, but a family butler to provide that extra pair of hands. Here’s the article.
PLAYA DEL CARMEN—Monica and Everett Skrypnyk’s vacation plans include dinner for two, lounging on the beach and spending time at the spa. They also include a Caribbean-themed pool party, a treasure hunt with balloon animals and watching their kids Isabella, 10 and Beckam, 4 rock climb next to palm trees. Making it all happen seamlessly is their dedicated butler.
The Skrypnyks aren’t wealthy touring royals, but, for the week that they occupy one of the 122 Family Concierge rooms at the Paradisus La Esmeralda resort, they’ll feel that way. The special family upgrade package provides a wide range of additional service options that enable parents to have their family and their vacation, too.
“We’ve done things just the two of us and we’ve been together as a family,” says Monica. “We’re really making the most of both.”
It’s not without cost. Opting to be a part of the Family Concierge plan at the resort can cost you anywhere from $80-$140 more per night, depending on the room size and season. But, in turn, the Skrypnyks are benefitting from the kind of perqs that can turn an okay vacation into the kind they’ll all be talking about long after they’ve returned home to Vancouver.
Alongside the benefits they share with all resort guests — access to the kids zone activities, the pirate ship pool and nightly entertainment — Family Concierge guests don’t have to worry about the little things. Their butler can set up their dinner reservations, secure a lounger by the pool or walk the kids over to the kids zone, so they don’t miss their massage appointment.
“We absolutely love it,” says Monica. “They’ve gone above and beyond.”
Family concierge service also means that the Skrypnyks have exclusive access to specific areas of the resort for dining, access to a heated pool and special events just for them.
Everett says he’s glad they splurged.
“There’ve been a couple little special spots. The beach has some nicer beds and this (Family Concierge) area has been fantastic,” he notes. “It also seems like they allot a certain amount of tables at restaurants for the family concierge, because we haven’t had any trouble. We’ve reserved wherever we want, whenever we want every night.”
The trend towards superstar service for family travel clientele is growing.
A TripAdvisor survey of American family travel released earlier this year notes that 92 per cent of the 2,700 U.S. respondents expected to travel as a family, and about 71 per cent planned to stay at a hotel.
While the study didn’t specifically speak about Canadian travellers, a recent report by Development Counsellors International noted that “Canadians tend to see more of the world” than Americans and that “despite the fact that America’s population is nearly 10 times that of Canada, Canadians travel outside the country for leisure purposes at more than two times the rate per capita.”
With more and more families working to squeeze out time together, the quest is on to capture some of those family dollars.
And what a resort can offer at a destination is weighing heavily on the booking process as families are willing to put in the time and effort to find the best deal.
The butlers who make up the Family Concierge staff are well aware that guests come expecting bang for their buck.
“You have just a few days to try to come into their world and make an impression,” says Aldo Espino, assistant family concierge.
It means that the family that asked for a decorated Christmas tree in their room got it. And the couple with twins under a year old who needed a microwave, double highchairs and help with bottle washing twice a day got that. Birthdays are recognized with special balloons or certificates along with tiaras or pirate costumes so your child can be recognized as a prince or princess by staff all that day.
“The goal is to create a memorable experience that meets and exceeds expectations,” says Espino.
Some parts of the package are common to other resorts in the area; kids get a backpack with hat and t-shirt on arrival and will find special child toiletries along with pint-sized robes and slippers in their room.
Parents are spoiled, too. Kids might come home to an in-room treasure hunt complete with a chocolate coin prize, and parents might find their own hunt waiting with clues leading to . . . a bottle of Tequila.
In the same complex that houses the family concierge rooms, there are also spa treatment rooms, a gym and a business centre, all to enable parents to benefit from these services without having to stray too far from their room.
It might explain why the property, although less than three years old, already counts repeat Family Concierge guests among its top sellers.
The parental pampering has won Everett over.
“Yesterday, we went to Xel-ha . . . ,” recalls Monica, mentioning a popular tourist spot off-site. “We had a great day, but I had to drag him off the property.”
Parts of this post were originally published on the Toronto Star.
Photo Credit: travnikovstudio / 123RF Stock Photo