7 Things A Fancy Resort Taught Me About Traveling with A Toddler
When I had my daughter in the winter of 2017—an entire decade after having twin sons—I pretty much assumed my traveling days would be put on hold for a long, long while.
When we’d had our boys, my husband and I declared we wouldn’t take them on any trips until they were a.) out of diapers and b.) able to retain long-term memories. “Why bring kids someplace when they won’t even remember having been there?” we rationalized. We know that there are people out there who bring their 3-year-olds to Italy and take amazing Instagram pics with little Sloane cavorting in a piazza. We are not those people.
But with two 12-year-old boys excited about summer vacation, and a two-year-old who was at least approaching the “no diapers” requirement, the husband and I realized we couldn’t fairly deprive our older kids of a trip simply because our youngest wouldn’t even realize we’d left the state.
And so the search for a hotel that would have something for everyone—and I do mean everyone, since in addition to the pre-teen boys, toddler, husband and me, we’d also be bringing Grandma and Grandpa along—began in earnest.
I had a few criteria: it had to be easily reached from the East Coast via direct flights, it had to have real cribs—not creaky old collapsible play-yards, and it had to be near the ocean.
When I came across The Breakers, the legendary resort in Palm Beach, Florida, I almost immediately dismissed it. The Breakers is an icon— a grande dame dating back to 1926 and inspired by the Villa Medici in Rome, the rambling hotel wears its sophistication and charm as easily as its guests don Lilly Pulitzer shift dresses and whale-embroidered golf shorts. The Breakers, I believed, was a place for children who had taken an etiquette class or two and knew how to play croquet by age four. My children excel at armpit farts and know how to play Fortnite.
But looking more closely at the website revealed a few surprises. For starters, Florida is a jackpot for bargain hunters in the summertime. Away from spring break and holiday peak prices, heading down South during the summer months means really good deals— during our stay at the end of June, rooms at this four-star resort began at $349 per night. And not just any rooms: we’re talking billion-thread-count sheets on cloud-like mattresses, ocean views, plush carpets, fantastic toiletries, and a television in the bathroom that magically appears within the mirror (yes, that was probably my sons’ favorite feature.) And yes: the rooms had REAL cribs. But that was just the beginning of what I later learned The Breakers will do to make their smallest guests feel welcome. Here’s how the hotel made my baby’s first getaway such a success, and what I hope more properties will do in my future travels—because now that my daughter has one trip under her belt, there are probably going to be many more to come!
It’s Not Just About a Crib: Strollers Are Key
Waiting for us in our room when we arrived, was not just a full-sized crib (no dollhouse-scaled “hotel cribs” here) outfitted with Pottery Barn Kids sheets, but also a quart of whole milk in the fridge for her sippy cup needs, and best of all: an excellent, fully-reclining, easily-folding stroller! Not having to schlep our stroller from home had been a huge plus on our flight, and not having to worry about carrying a tired toddler to and from the beach was an even bigger bonus. All of this had been arranged simply by telling the front desk at the time of booking what we would need once we arrived. Speaking of needs….
Find Restaurants that Will Work with You
We ate exclusively at restaurants within The Breakers, and with four to choose from over our three night stay, that was hardly a sacrifice. When we booked our tables, we always let them know we’d have a two year-old in tow, and when we arrived at each— even the rather swanky Flagler Steakhouse overlooking the golf course, and the stunning Seafood Bar perched right on the ocean— we always found we had a corner table, ideal for both parking a stroller nearby and for minimizing our kiddo’s ability to hurl a roll at a neighboring table.
Every restaurant within the resort had a kids’ menu (along with crayons and bendable wax Wicky Stix that my child now demands at every eatery we enter) that went beyond the standard chicken-nugget fare, though the biggest hit was probably the “hot dog octopus” created by cutting the bottom of a weiner into strips and cooking it until each “tentacle” curled up. We’ve tried recreating this at home. Our daughter is not impressed.
Playgrounds Are Not Just for Parks
Even with an ocean and a stunning stretch of Atlantic as The Breaker’s backyard, the resort is realistic about what little kids really want to do. And so we found our nightly ritual involved not a long romantic walk on the beach, but rather a stroll to the state-of-the-art playground, with sensory games, countless swings and monkey bars galore. The playground is heavily cushioned and not too daunting for even the youngest walkers, so hubs and I were at least able to have a moment sitting on a bench, reminiscing about our day while our daughter shrieked her way down the slides.
You Can Still Manage A Date Night
Added bonus to that awesome playground: our daughter was so exhausted after her 30 minutes nightly playtime that she’d happily collapse in her crib… at which point, while her grandparents stayed in the adjoining room, husband and I were able to sneak away for a nightcap. Again, leaving the property wasn’t necessary: the resort’s bar, HMF, named for founder Henry Flagler, is a throwback to a Gatsby-like era of excess, complete with appropriately attired waitstaff and killer cocktails.
Remember Your Elders
Having brought my in-laws along for the trip, it was important that they got some downtime too (after all, we needed them to be well-rested when we’d try to get them to watch all three kids for a few hours.) Though the Atlantic was remarkably warm and tame during our stay, we were also happy to find three different family-friendly pools (lifeguards stationed at each) within the resort, all of which featured row after row of empty chairs, where it was easy to park for a few hours and just relax while dipping in and out of the perfectly heated water. It’s possible this was another boon to visiting during the off-season, but whatever the reason, having ample room to swim and lounge was especially valued by our older guests.
Teens Are Children Too
Lest you think this trip was solely about my little girl, one of the main reasons we’d embarked on this journey was so that my boys could finally “go somewhere” since the arrival of their little sister. And for every perk that awaited my toddler, there was one for my 12 year olds—the biggest one being a video game room and arcade that allowed us to preload a game card with cash and turn the boys loose. Between playing on the X-boxes and then challenging each other to racing games, the boys would vanish for whole hours before we’d drag them back into the sunlight. Once we did, they were thrilled to be able to splash in one pool, all on their own, while the grandparents and toddler were in another (and while the husband hit the gym and I snuck off to the spa.)
The Breakers provided just enough distractions for everyone in our party — ranging in age from two to seventy-two — without veering towards sensory overload. And each night at dinner, we’d assemble to go over our day, highlighting our favorite moments. We’re still talking about it. And yes, the boys are still saying the TV-within-the-mirror was the very best part.