Happy August! Now that summer is winding down, we’re thinking about back-to-school—and specifically, to college. This month, we’re talking about a new trend we’ve been seeing lately: Families taking special trips with their college-bound kids. And speaking of bonding travel, we’re also highlighting our recent retreat in Puerto Rico—including our top hosting tips. And finally, rounding out this edition is a great Q&A with Qatar Airways, which was recently honored with the distinction of “World’s Best Airline.” We hope the rest of your summer is fun and relaxing!
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
If you live in an area where it’s currently winter, you’re likely counting down the days until spring—and have probably been doing so since at least the end of February. Between the consistent possibility of snow, the still-chilly temperatures and the ever-present need to layer up, it’s exhausting, making the sight of (warm) sun a welcome one.
For this reason, my husband and I decided to head to Aruba with our 4-year-old and 19-month old. And while family vacations are wonderful—all the quality time, all the cute photos to be taken—there’s something about traveling with young children (let’s say, under 5 years old), that can feel particularly intimidating and anxiety-inducing. How will they do at the airport? Would there be age-appropriate activities? What if they refuse to eat/sleep/stop whining?
I can safely say, though, that Aruba is an ideal choice to consider—and that they don’t call it “one happy island” for nothing. Here are a few of the reasons we found it a great place to visit with young kids.
It was family-friendly from the moment we landed. After a (thankfully) uneventful 4.5-hour flight from New York City where the 4-year-old got his fill of iPad time and the 19-month-old said hello to everyone she met, we landed in Oranjestad—and saw right away how welcoming the island was. There was a separate customs line for families, which made the whole process both easier and faster. (I confirmed with a friend who arrived the following day that it wasn’t, in fact, a fluke—she experienced the same.) Then, as we waited in line for a taxi, an attendant pulled us off the long-ish line and quickly called over a cab. When we asked why, the attendant seemed shocked, pointing out that we had kids! With a tired preschooler and toddler, it was a perk we were beyond grateful for.
Beach, pool, repeat. If you’re looking for a surefire way to win over a little kid’s heart, the words “pool” and “sandcastle” are sure to work. And there’s no shortage of either in Aruba. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino, which is right on popular Palm Beach. The property has direct beach access, with the pool close by as well, making it easy to go back and forth. We mostly split our days between the beach in the morning and the pool in the afternoon, or vice versa. While most kiddie pools are small, the one at the Hyatt was wide enough where my active 19-month-old could run around without immediately bee-lining for the deep end. And the water slide, which loops and turns, was perfect my son, who was up and down dozens of times. Palm Beach is busy, to be sure, but never felt super crowded while we were there, and the water was calm. And for parents? Order a drink or food and have it brought right to your chair—perfect.
There are activities for young kids. There are tons of things to do in Aruba—from water sports to hiking in Arikok National Park. These are definitely things my husband and I would do if we were traveling alone and hope to do once our kids are a bit older. But that didn’t mean there weren’t things to do with little ones in mind: One morning, we visited The Butterfly Farm, where you could see tons of beautiful butterflies flying around in a garden setting. We took a tour and were there for about two hours—an ideal kid amount of time—and it was small and contained enough that it didn’t feel overwhelming. While we didn’t visit, we also heard that Philip’s Animal Garden, home to animals like an ocelot and alpaca, was a good choice for little kids as well.
It’s super walkable. The Hyatt is in the high-rise hotel area, and from there you can easily walk to restaurants, shops and more. Since young kids are notorious for early dinner times (hello, 6pm reservations!), it was nice to not feel like we had to simply eat and then head back to our room. We would have dinner and then stroll around, have ice cream, walk into some of the shops, and eventually our little one would nod off in the stroller, making bedtime that much easier.
There are plenty of kid-friendly dining options. Speaking of food, we opted to eat at the resort often and everything was wonderful—and one of the reasons using a travel advisor was so helpful. We had breakfast included and being able to head downstairs in cover ups and bathing suits and let the kids pick out whatever they wanted from the buffet was ideal. And while outside of the resort you’ll find lots of American mainstays and places that cater to tourists, the Instagram hotspot, Eduardo’s Beach Shack, had great acai bowls, and between the live music and fun atmosphere at the popular Madame Janette restaurant (where the kids were totally welcome), we couldn’t have been happier.
This was Marisa Iallonardo first time in Aruba. For a perfect vacation contact our specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org.