We’re three-quarters of the way through a Thanksgiving weekend visit to the Four Seasons Hampshire, a luxury resort about one hour southwest of London, in a town called Dogmersfield. To put it simply, this place is the most family-friendly luxury resort we’ve ever experienced, hands down.
What makes it so perfect for adults traveling with young kids? What sorts of stuff should other resorts incorporate into their family-friendly programs? Here, in no particular order, is a rundown.
- On-site playground. Yes, you read that right. This is a Four Seasons resort. AND IT HAS A PLAYGROUND. A new-ish one at that. With tunnels. And rock walls. And slides. And swings. Before this trip, we’ve spent portions of just about every vacation searching for play structures close to our respective hotels. At this place, we haven’t even have to think about finding a place to let the kids climb and jump – the playground is a short walk from just about any room at the property.
- Resort pet. A growing number of resorts have adopted dogs and/or cats as unofficial mascots, and this resort is one of the bunch. The Dog of the Hour here is a 2-year-old black lab named Oliver. He’s great with kids—he has let mine tug and pull on him and hasn’t really barked or gotten nervous like other doggies might. He also has a cushy doggie bed in the main lobby near the check-in desk, meaning it’s almost impossible to enter or leave the property without at least saying hello. (Also, out back, there are chickens. Lots of chickens.)
- Open space. This property comprises 500 acres. To put that in perspective, my family of four could be hiking for the entire time we’re slated to be here and we STILL wouldn’t or couldn’t cover all that space. To this point in the visit, we have taken full advantage of this resource. We’ve hiked (even at night). We’ve biked. We’ve just wandered. Some of the girls’ favorite places to visit have been the equestrian stables, the pond and the canal on the edge of the property. As I write this, they are itching to head out and feed some ducks.
- Kid-specific menus. When you’re a kid, grown-up food is boring. That’s why kid-specific menus, with items such as PB&J, penne pasta with butter, and grilled cheese sandwiches are such a hit among the pint-sized set. They have one of those kid-only menus here, and the girls are obsessed. Every meal off the kids’ menu has been served on a special tray with images of Oliver and other resort critters. An added bonus: At least at this resort, kids under the age of 5 eat free.
- Kids’ club. Despite what people might tell you, some kids’ clubs definitively are better than others. In the one at Hampshire (named Kids for all Seasons), Powerwoman and I were able to linger and watch as L and R painted and made Christmas ornaments with a special bead set. The teachers were kind, friendly and (most important) patient. We didn’t take advantage of the facility as a childcare option, but I’m sure the kids’ club is a great place to drop the kids for a few hours while you get in a workout or a spa treatment, too. (It also likely is a good option for distracting the kids while Mom and Dad take care of some other business.)
- Stuff to make kids feel special. When we checked in on Thursday, the girls got to pick presents out of a treasure chest. When we got to the room, there was a special amenity (in this case, cake pops) waiting for them (literally) with their names on it. These are the kinds of tiny steps that go a long way to making kids feel like rock-stars in a fancy place. Two other treats I have loved seeing here at the resort: kid-sized robes and kid-sized slippers.
There have been other amenities that have made this place great for youngsters: Kid-friendly silverware, child-oriented activities (such as egg-harvesting from that on-site chicken coop), a reliable babysitting service, and eco-conscious soaps and shampoos designed specifically for use in the tub. None of these made my Top 6, but, together, they are perks that have not gone unnoticed.
Next time you’re traveling with the kids, demand this kind of excellence from your resort. If Four Seasons can offer these types of kid-friendly extras, anyone can. And they enhance the experience for everyone involved.
What are some of the most family-friendly resort amenities you’ve experienced over the years?