Today is Travel Tips Tuesday!! Link up your travel tips below and share what you've learned as you have traveled near and far.
With all the options available today, it’s hard to believe that there was a time that the concept of family friendly travel was unheard of. Travel was for grownups and kids could either tag along or stay behind, but there certainly wouldn’t be any catering to the needs of the younger set. Fortunately, things have changed, and family friendly travel is such a booming business that places are going out of their way to create amenities that will appeal to families. One such amenity that has sprung to life in resorts and cruise ships and hotels is the Kids Club.
I’m just going to be perfectly honest right from the start, I never have liked the concept of Kids Clubs on vacation and I am not likely to be persuaded to change my mind. My major concern about Kids Clubs is safety. Although I am reasonably confident that the vast majority of kids clubs are perfectly safe, I am just leery of leaving my children with strangers.
My second objection is more philosophical. When we are on vacation, we are there primarily to make family memories and carve out all too precious family time. That means that I want to spend as much time as possible with my kids, and most of the time I enjoy each moment. That doesn’t mean that I am some kind of saint and it certainly doesn’t mean that my kids are saintly either. I just know that the time that I have with my kids is relatively short in the grand scheme of life and I jealously protect the time that is mine.
Still, we have had an opportunity to take advantage of some kids club experiences and I was hopeful that maybe it would be such a great addition to our family traveling that I would be forced to change my tune.
~Carnival Kids Club~Photo Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines~
Unfortunately, in the two cases where we used kids clubs, the experiences weren’t great enough to be game changers. Our first kids club experience was onboard the Carnival Magic. The facilities and activities planned in the kids club were certainly impressive and the staff convinced me that safety was of the upmost importance. As a skeptic, I had also been carefully watching the staff as they moved around the boat with groups of kids and I was impressed that they seemed engaged and excited about their job.
It seemed like a recipe for a couple of hours of kid free dining, so we dropped off the kids and headed off for some steak. When we returned to pick up the kids, they practically bolted for the door. Some of my kids jump into to new situations easily and some are more reserved, but they overwhelming agreed that they did not want to return to the kids club. The problem wasn’t the activities or the staff or the facilities-it was the other kids. All three of my older boys commented that the kids in their groups were out of control and the teachers spent a lot of time trying to regain control and not enough time leading activities. One of my sons even remarked, “There were kids literally climbing the walls, mom!”
~ An Indoor Playground is Just Part of the Kids Club at The Houstonian~
Not a great first Kids Club experience, but it was fantastic compared to our second experience which was a total disaster. Our second experience was leaving our two year old at the Kids Club at the Houstonian Resort and Spa. Again, the facilities were spacious and clean and the workers were friendly, so everything looked good for a positive experience. When we returned after an hour at dinner, though, we were greeted with a baby who was sobbing uncontrollably with tears running down his face and standing in a corner by himself. Enter one unhappy and guilt ridden momma.
The worker that was dealing with him seemed to think he had a fever (he did not) and was obviously miffed that I had uncaringly left a sick baby in child care. When I insisted that he did not have a fever, but his head was sweaty from crying, she then suggested that he had been left there too long and was bored and lonely. Knowing that he had only been in child care for an hour, it was obvious to me that she was mad about having to care for a crying baby for an hour and there wasn’t anything more for me to do, but take my baby out for some ice cream and find a place to regroup.
Most likely, these two experiences are enough to put the nail in the coffin for any future kids club visits for us, but that doesn’t mean that kids clubs can’t be positive places for both parents and kids. If anything, I learned some valuable lessons for next time.
Lessons Learned at the Kids’ Club
- Ask about safety concerns and be sure that you are comfortable with the procedure.
- Ask about discipline policies and be sure you are comfortable with what is in place.
- Ask if there are times when the Kids Clubs are calmer, if you have kids that appreciate a lower key environment. (In the case of our Carnival Magic experience, many of the kids had been in the club all day while their parents were in port and being cooped up all day created a hyper energized environment.)
- Ask about a sick policy and how it is enforced. (At the second kids club, if they really believed my son was sick, they should have called me and not subjected his germs to all the other kids.)
- Ask about crying policies and if the workers will contact the parent if the child is inconsolable. (Often, kids clubs will do everything in their power to avoid contacting the parents. If you want to be contacted, make that known)
- Listen to your kids: If they are not having fun, find out why and see if there is a way to fix the problem.
- Jen Miner of The Vacation Gals suggests that just because the kids are having a good time, it doesn’t mean that it is a good club. Kids may be thrilled to watch a movie for hours, but parents may have a different idea about what the kids club should provide.