Keeping the Luxury in Travel Once You Have Kids
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Airport lounges, first-class flights, five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants ... Are any of these even remotely possible when you’re traveling with kids in tow? When first I had my son (now a toddler), I enjoyed luxury travel, but feared it was but a distant memory, only to be rediscovered in 18 years when he left for college. But ... maybe not! While enjoying a luxury experience when traveling with kids requires quite a bit more navigation, it is possible. Here are a few ways to do it:
Lean on the American Express Platinum Card
I always travel with my Platinum Card® from American Express because it gives me benefits such as access to the Centurion Lounges (enrollment required). Of course, the lounge is a great place to eat, work and relax, but these days, the real appeal for us is the children’s playroom. Inside a glass enclosure, the kids’ space is bright and colorful and full of toys and books to keep little ones quiet and occupied. Every time I’ve visited, there’s been no one else in there, so my son has had unlimited access to all the toys. But remember: Kids must be supervised in the playroom and you can’t eat in there. Here's how to get a family of four or more into an Amex Centurion Lounge.
Another benefit of the American Express Platinum Card: It gives me elite status at Marriott and Hilton hotels so I don’t have to wait in long check-in lines with a cranky, jet-lagged toddler clinging to my ankle. Plus, we get free breakfast and late checkout at some hotels — perks that became increasingly valuable to me once I became a parent.
Family rooms can be found at these Amex Centurion Lounge locations:
- Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport
- Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport
- Miami International Airport
- Houston’s George Bush International Airport
- Philadelphia International Airport
- San Francisco International Airport
- Los Angeles International Airport (coming in 2019)
- Denver International Airport (coming in 2019)
There are other premium credit cards you may want to consider for the perks, especially one with a Priority Pass membership that will get you into lounges across the world and also offers a credit at many airport restaurants. Here's a look at which premium card is the best and the best credit cards for luxury hotel stays. Enrollment required for select benefits.
Know Your Hotel
When it comes to hotels, the truth is, they’re not all created equal when welcoming the apple of your eye. And the last thing you want to do is check in to a hotel that isn’t family-friendly. In fact, a number of hotels are specifically not tailored to a family experience and make it clear that there’s a minimum age requirement for guests.
My husband and I celebrated an unforgettable babymoon at the exclusive and truly luxurious Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to return with our little one; guests must be at least 18 years old. If you'd like to plan a babymoon, here are destinations that are ideal for every month of the year.
On the other hand, The Mark Hotel in New York City is a luxury property that goes the extra mile to extend luxury amenities to the little ones. (And, Mommy Points had an excellent experience at The St. Regis New York with her children.)
From The Mark's fleet of custom-designed strollers to a selection of amenities from toy emporium Zittles, the hotel makes family travelers feel welcome. Likewise, book a suite at one of 10 select Peninsula hotels, and it will come with a nursery outfitted in luxury Stokke baby furniture. Upon arrival, you’ll be picked up with a Stokke car seat waiting for your child and a Stokke stroller will be available for your use throughout your stay.
Many hotels offer neat amenities for children. Here are eight of the coolest hotel perks for kids. And some hotels are just more family-friendly than others. Here are the best hotel chains for families.
Hotel stays with kids can be tons of fun, but I sometimes find them stressful, too. A claustrophobic room can lead to boredom for little ones (and boredom can be an even more fearsome foe than fatigue or hunger) and not having access to a kitchen can make snacks and mealtimes a challenge. If you’ve got elite status with a hotel, use it to gain access to its club lounge so that you’ve got easy access to drinks, meals and snacks throughout the day. Or use additional points to upgrade to a suite or room with lounge access that will give everyone more room to spread out and relax, or in the case of the kids, run off some of that energy.
Rent a Luxury Apartment
Because hotel stays have their limitations when you’re traveling with kids, I prefer booking family stays at residence hotels like Ritz-Carlton Residences or Marriott Executive Apartments, which offer travelers small (and sometimes not-so-small) apartments that come with a full kitchen and dining area, and usually separate sleeping and working areas. Or even better: Rent a luxury apartment.
In Europe, I’ve booked with Paris Perfect and London Perfect. Both offer gorgeous, luxury apartments in the city’s best neighborhoods. The apartments aren’t cheap, but can be well worth the expense for the comfort and the feeling of living like a local. These are also a great option if you’re traveling with other families and can offset the cost by splitting it. My family and I recently stayed at a spacious, three-bedroom London Perfect apartment in tony Kensington and enjoyed a home-away-from-home experience that we just couldn’t have had at a hotel. Kid & Coe is another option for luxury apartment rentals with more than 1,000 kid-friendly private homes available for rent in 50 destinations.
While traditional hotel points won't help you with these sort of rentals, you could pay with a card that awards fixed-value points and use those points to offset the charge. Examples of these cards include: Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.
Here's the truth, the easiest way to enjoy a luxury flight when traveling with kids is to upgrade to business or first class. But let’s be honest: There are lots of opinions about when babies and small children should be allowed in premium class cabins. And if your child is less than perfectly behaved, glares and stares from nearby passengers might make the experience more stressful for you.
A cheaper alternative? When my husband and I are traveling with our 2-year-old son, we book the first bulkhead row to give us all more room. We would also purchase the entire row of three seats even when our son was younger than 2 and could fly for free as a lap child. This gave us space and didn’t put a poor, unsuspecting passenger in the midst of our potential chaos. Air New Zealand's Skycouch would also be a great way to get a slice of luxury with a dose of pragmatism.
Now that our boy is bigger, we never fly without the FlyTot, an inflatable cushion that fits at the end of his seat, turning an economy seat into a lie-flat business class-like seat. It’s luxurious for him and since it allows him to sleep, often for the better part of a flight, the journey feels more luxurious for us as well. Do note that not all airlines (or flight crews) permit the use of the FlyTot, but in my experience, many have.
If you do decide to book a premium cabin with your child, here are tips for flying with kids in business class and first class as well as the best business class seats for families.
Rent Baby Gear at Your Destination
One of the least luxurious things about traveling with kids is schlepping ALL … THAT … GEAR. My husband and I went from streamlined, carry-on only packers to a traveling circus once we had a child. But then we learned about BabyQuip, and it was a game changer. This service, available in 300 locations across the United States and Canada, allows you to rent the gear you need and will have it all waiting at your hotel upon your arrival. So there’s no need to pack a car seat, a stroller, packs of diapers, games or food. They can deliver all of this, as well as cribs, high chairs and Pack 'n Plays.
When we used this service, it was the first time since having a child that we were able to travel with just carry-on luggage, since all the big stuff we needed was waiting for us at our hotel. It was a big stress-relief.
But if you leave your car seat at home, how do you get to and from the airport without it? You can order an Uber with a car seat via UberFamily in New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Orlando but outside of those locations, you’re out of luck. We use Blacklane instead for a luxury airport transfer experience, and you can always count on a car seat being available, if requested. If you rent a car, Silvercar is top dog for providing high-quality, included, Peg Perego car seats (just be sure and request they save one for you in advance).
Traveling with kids definitely has its challenges, but is always worth it to show them the world, expand their frame of reference and create family memories that last a lifetime. And with a little bit of research and planning, you can still do it all in style.