When holidaying with kids the resort you choose is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Here’s our top 10 for selecting the best resort for a happy, fun family holiday - cause if the kids are happy then mum and dad are too.
1. Swimming pools and slides.
Family focused resorts offer multiple pools, waterslides and water play areas - and the best also have adult only pools. Look for resorts that have lots of water play for children…it will keep them happy for hours and they’ll meet other kids to play with too.
Six year old Emmie rates the Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo as having the best kids pool and water play - with three waterslides, a water bomb game, water play area and tipping buckets there’s lots of fun water activities for kids, as well as kite-flying, giant chess and an ice-cream bar. The separate waterfront pool has a sectioned shallow area for toddlers and babies and a shade-cloth covered wading area leading to a waist high area with volleyball net.
Swimming under the curved bridge you’ll reach waterfalls, a frangipani covered island and curved edges for reclining on. There is a separate adults only pool area with bar service and a coconut trolley, trained lifesavers watching all the pools and lifejackets for use. Read our review of the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru here.
The Beringgis Beach Resort & Spa in Malaysian Borneo is on the beach and also has an awesome slide and pool, and the Disneyland Grand Californian in Anaheim has three pools, a huge slide, and offers disabled pool access and complimentary swimming nappies.
2. A safe beach.
A safe, swimable beach is always a bonus, and it's even better when it's decked out for kids. The beach at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort & Spa is perfect for families. There's lovely snorkelling in the marine sanctuary - it's filled with fish and starfish and giant clams, and calm enough for smaller children to enjoy snorkelling or playing in the shallow water. Snorkelling gear is available for hire for a very small amount, and free fish food is available every other day - it's incredible how many fish swim up for a feed, Emmie was surrounded.
Another thoughtful touch is the complimentary beachside toys like buckets, spades and shapes for guests to use - and there's a lot to go around. The beachside bar is shaded and serves kids meals...everything is designed to deliver a perfect family holiday.
The Coco Grove Resort on Siquijor Island in the Philippines also boasts its own beautiful white sand beach and house-reef - the Tubod Marine Sanctuary - with incredible snorkelling over blue starfish, families of Clown Fish, Angel Fish and abundant marine life.
3. Kids Club.
When it’s raining or you want some alone time, Kids Club will be your saviour. Most resorts have Kids Clubs these days, following in the footsteps of the incredible resorts of Fiji, like the Radisson Blu Resort Fiji in Denarau where children can play in a pirate ship, take language lessons, collect shells and hunt frogs. They also have a lovely nightly procession where the children dress in traditional outfits for the torch-lighting ceremony and an excellent - now heated - pool with shade cloth and a water slide. You can read our review of the Radisson Blu here.
The Shangri-La's Mactan Resort & Spa in Cebu, Philippines offers two separate indoor Kids Club areas - one for toddlers with soft play and a ball pit and the amazing Adventure Zone for bigger children featuring a huge three story maze with a climbing, jumping and sliding play area and a huge slide into a ball pit, all manned by vigilant staff. They also offer craft activities, a games room and kids cafe, and will give you a mobile phone to take with you in case they need to reach you. You can find our review of the Shangri-La Mactan here.
Check the minimum age before your book - some resorts also have nannies on hand to accompany smaller children into Kids Club if they are under age, and for minding when you are out to dinner or at the spa.
4. Kids meals - and kids eat free.
Many resorts offer meal packages and at some, like the Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa and Novotel Phuket Karon Resort & Spa, children to a certain age (generally around 10 -12) will eat for free when accompanying an adult at mealtimes. The Shangri-La's Mactan Resort & Spa has a special children’s buffet at mealtimes with kids food and at breakfast, a dedicated kids pancake maker who can make almost any shape your child asks for - believe me, Em challenged them every day requesting pancakes shaped like turtles, Spongebob Squarepants and Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Every breakfast and throughout the day at the Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa kids will meet a different character - from Nemo to Captain Hook - giving them lots of laughs and fun.
5. Help with children at check-in.
Check in can be a stressful time for parents, especially if you’ve travelled long distances and you arrive the evening with tired, grumpy children. The Shangri-La's Mactan Resort & Spa has a children’s colouring table and self-serve popcorn machine in the lobby to occupy the kids, and the staff will even help take care of the children while you while you get all the paperwork completed. The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa offers children a colouring activity book and Faber Castell pencils on check-in.
6. Kids activities
The Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa offers fun activities for kids in addition to its excellent Kid’s World where children can take part in swimming lessons, fan painting, nail decoration and plaster craft. If your kids still want more, sign them up for lunchtime pizza making, boxing classes or Thai cooking lessons.
Along with its jaw-dropping view of Sydney Harbour, the Hilton Sydney offers a delicious High Tea for children in its Lobby Lounge, and the Shangri-La's Mactan Resort & Spa has fish feeding at its beach front every other day and complimentary beach toys for kids to enjoy.
7. Outdoor activities.
The Mulu Marriott Resort, by virtue of its location in the incredible Gunung Mulu National Park in Malaysian Borneo, is the ultimate destination for adventurous children. Walk the paths through the jungle spotting lizards, butterflies, birds and all manner of oversized, prehistoric looking insects. Explore the world’s largest underground cave system, and watch the nightly bat exodus at sunset when millions of bats fly out from Deer Cave in twirling ribbons of seemingly choreographed movement as they hunt for their dinner of mosquitos.
The Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa has its own Star Marina that can whisk you 10 minutes across the sea to beautiful islands surrounded by aqua water for snorkelling, jungle trekking, zip-lining and spotting monitor lizards. You can also banana boat and try parasailing.
8. Kid friendly rooms & baby equipment.
When Emmie was smaller and especially when she was in her climbing phase I would request ground floor rooms on booking. Check if your resort can also child-proof your room. This may include fitting plugs into sockets and ensuring everything is kept on high shelves. Making children feel welcome and special is an extra touch practiced by many resorts. When we arrived at the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa there was a welcome sign for Emmie on our door, a Hello Kitty bed and tent, soft toys and a treasure hunt where she found chocolates hidden in the safe! What a welcome.
Check what your resort can provide to help you carry less - most resorts will provide cots and highchairs will be available at all restaurants. We visited The Warwick Fiji on the Fiji coral coast when Emmie was four months old and used one of their baby cots while we were there. Make sure you request on booking.
9. In-house cultural shows.
If you have small children and will be spending most of your time on property, a cultural show will give you a taste of your destination without take the kids out and about. Twice a week the Shangri-La's Mactan Resort & Spa showcases traditional food and dance from around the Philippines at its fabulous outdoor cultural show. The dances are fascinating and so much fun, and the audience is invited up at the end to try their skills at bamboo dancing. So much fun for everyone and the kids absolutely love it. Em was spellbound the whole time. The Nexus Resort & Spa Karambunai in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo also features a cultural show with singing, dancing and the bamboo dance for all guests to enjoy - as well as an awesome Kids Club, activities and water slides.
10. Family activities.
Holidays are all about spending time together and while you can have so much fun together around the pool and share mealtimes, family activities add a little more excitement to your trip. Try water volleyball, coconut bowling or a mummy and me spa session at the Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa or crab races, beach cricket or croquet at the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa. You can usually find the list of activities on your resort's website.
Have a great trip! And let me know what your must haves for resort bookings are - I’d love to know.
NOTE: Some links are affiliate links in this story which means if you book through them I get a small commission - it doesn't cost you any extra but puts a few dollars into our pocket so we can keep traveling xoxo