A few weeks ago, I was at a neighborhood birthday party and I said to one of the dads, “I’m pretty excited. We’re going to Lake Geneva next weekend on a little vacation.”
“That sounds nice,” the neighborhood dad said. But as he was about to walk away, he turned and asked, “Wait. You’re not taking the baby with you, right?”
“Sure, why?” As a new dad, I was already nervous about the baby’s first trip.
My neighbor grinned from ear to ear. “That’s no vacation, my friend.” I pleaded for more information, but my neighbor refused. “You’ll see,” he said.
Despite my neighbor’s haunting smirk, my wife and I packed up every baby-related item in the house and set out for the 4-star Grand Geneva Resort and Spa.
For some reason, when you Google family hotels or family vacations, you get a list of hotel websites with kids plastered from end to end. That’s great, if you want to get your picture taken with a guy in a giant Penguin suit or spend time on some sort of animal-themed water park.
But my wife and I were determined to blaze a trail, charting a new path for family vacationers everywhere. Call us the Lewis & Clark of the diaper set. Privately, I worried that one of us would come down with lockjaw.
The following Sunday, the three of us drove home, satisfied that we had completed the elusive 4-star baby vacation. Even the baby wore a Lake Geneva onesie.
Driving home, my wife and I recounted the tips and tricks we picked up along the way:
Plan for Zombieland: Imagine zombies surrounded the resort and cut off every road to town. Despite the zombie apocalypse, could you still eat and enjoy your weekend with the baby? If the answer’s no, you picked the wrong resort. The more restaurants, the better. Gelato bar? Perfect. Baby pool? Book it. One night, my wife was too tired to go downtown after dinner, but we both wanted dessert. I walked down to the lobby in my socks, grabbed a cup of chocolate from the gelato bar and walked back to the room.
Draft an Exit Strategy: Before you even book the reservation, call and ask if the hotel has an elevator. If they don’t, hang up. If they do, make sure you can make a direct path from the room to the lobby. If the baby’s sleeping in a stroller, you’re not going to want to wake her up because you forgot to call ahead.
Inspect First, Unpack Second: Resist the urge to ooh and ahh when that hotel door swings open. Before the bellhop even takes a bag off the cart, give the room a thorough inspection. In our case, we were on the first floor and couldn’t take in the resort’s golf course and fountain. I called down to the front desk and asked if we could move to a room with a better view. The hotel checked availability and shortly afterwards, we had a spectacular scene outside our window.
Think Like a Baby: Friday night, my wife and I ate at the resort’s Italian restaurant. After a few minutes, our baby grew bored and frustrated with the fine dining scene. My wife and I took turns eating and walking out with our crying son. But the next night, we asked the hotel if the restaurant could deliver our dinner to the lobby. The staff happily agreed. After all, it was basically a room service order without the room. That night, our baby played on his playmat while we sat and enjoyed our salmon.
Next time you’re shopping for a vacation, treat the whole family (including yourselves) to a 4-star vacation. Plan a Midwest getaway a few hours from Chicago at the 4-star Osthoff Lake Resort. From poolside dining to multiple restaurants, this place was made for baby.
Or, head to Boston an upscale at the AAA 4-Diamond Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. It’s easy to schedule short excursions around baby’s naptime when you’re staying in a centrally-located hotel.
On the other coast, book a room at the 4-star Hotel Shattuck Plaza in Berkeley. For $54 more, you get a three-course dinner with wine for two at the Michelin Guide-rated restaurant, FIVE.
So, next time, plan ahead and treat yourselves to a 4-star getaway.
Remember: just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you have to cry like one.