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Europe, Family StyleAugust 31, 2009 By: Ruthanne Terrero Travel Agent
At Hôtel Le Meurice in Paris, children get a plush canine mascot named Pistache and a basket of sweets, puzzles and colored pencils
Let’s face it. Traveling to Europe with kids in tow can be tough unless you have an itinerary that includes family-friendly hotels, and tours that have the desires and attention spans of youngsters in mind. Here are some that don’t shy away from hosting families:
The Rome Cavalieri, which is set on a 15-acre park overlooking the city, has embraced the family-travel segment. The hotel, a member of the Waldorf-Astoria Collection, has four swimming pools—one of them just for kids.
There is also an in-room program for families wanting to hunker down after a day at the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon or the Coliseum. If it’s ordered in advance, and the clan is spending at least four nights, the hotel will rustle up a Roman Sweets Feast for free.
Here’s what’s on the menu: hazelnut-spread bread rolls, crepes with jam, mini chocolate mousse, a cake in the form of a favorite cartoon character, fresh fruit shakes and a selection of ice creams and candies.
Other children’s programs include treasure hunts in the park, easel painting, pasta-jewelry making, animal origami and facemask painting. Parents in the meantime can chill out at The Chalet pool, with full bar service, food and a plasma TV. Sunday Brunch, Cavalieri’s famous weekly music brunch, provides for children’s entertainment and a play area. Children’s bathrobes, diapers, a coloring book and crayons, wooden Pinocchio giveaways and a rubber bath animal are available on request.
In the posh heart of Paris, Hôtel Le Meurice is an experience for little ones to remember. Upon arrival, children get sweets in their rooms as well as two tickets for carousel rides in the Tuileries Garden. Le Meurice also has a large selection of gifts for children, including a miniature version of the hotel’s terry bathrobe and slippers, a plush canine hotel mascot named Pistache, and a gift basket with sweets, puzzles and colored pencils.
A ride on Rue Saint-Honoré’s Nain Bleu custom-made wooden toy boats for the Tuileries boat pond and a hotel treasure hunt ensure a memorable stay for the younger set. Kids are also issued a Children’s Passport, which they can use to take their families out on a (re)discovery of Paris’ little-known delights. Contact General Manager Franka Holtmann at 011-331-4458-1000.
Another classic Paris property, Hotel Le Bristol Paris, has a program that provides young guests with amenities and activities themed on Le Bristol’s mascot, Hippolyte, a garden rabbit named after the hotel’s founder Hippolyte Jammet. The package, for parents traveling with two children, includes two connecting rooms and buffet breakfast for four served in-room or at the Gastronomic Restaurant. The kids are greeted by Hippolyte upon arrival, besides being presented with customized welcome packets; in-room toys, snacks, toiletries and bathrobes; a special children’s menu, treasure hunt maps and suggestions for fun, educational walking tours in Paris. Pricing begins at $1,670 per night, for a minimum two-night stay. Agents should contact Gabrielle Hirn, North America sales director, at [email protected].
At its sister Paris property, the Hotel Plaza Athénée, the children are the stars. From the teddy bear and cozy bathrobes to the special smaller Room Service table in the Royal Suite and special kid-sized umbrellas, coddled young VIPs are expertly catered to. In winter, a private ice rink is built in La Cour Jardin and in autumn it houses a vintage carousel, both for its young guests.
A Special Family package lets guests book a connecting room or suite, feed the kids breakfast free of charge, keep them busy with the hotel’s playing cards and disposable camera, let them gorge on cookies, and pick a gift from the Red Collection, which provides red mittens and scarves among others. And if requested, the housekeeper will arrange for babysitters. Contact Florence Bureau, director of reservations, at 011-331-5367-6667.
Resources for Families Traveling to Europe
Amie O’Shaughnessy, founder of Ciao Bambino, launched her website in 2003 after she realized that traveling to Europe with a baby would change the way she traveled. Where would she get diapers? How would she know which hotel rooms would be configured for three people? Today, Ciao Bambino has a wealth of information that rates hotels and apartments in Europe, the U.S. and the Caribbean, based on their family-friendliness. It also suggests the hotels suitable for different age groups. Read O’Shaughnessy’s recently posted blog, “Italy Travel 101: How to Create a Family-Friendly Itinerary.”
If your client is seeking an on-the-ground company that can arrange a personal encounter with la dolce vita in Italy, try Italian Connection. This tour operator customizes programs for families with activities from mountain climbing to cheese-making and picking wildflowers for herbal teas. Contact founder Anita Iaconangelo at [email protected] for details.
A Taste of Spain has been specializing in culinary tours and services in all regions of the country since 1999. Miguel Ullibarri, a food marketing specialist with the company, tells us its “Ibérico Ham, the Secret Unveiled” tour in the woodlands of southwest Spain works particularly well for families with kids. “They love spotting the free-range ibérico pigs in the beautiful Mediterranean woodlands; besides, kids love ibérico ham, I can tell you,” he says. Half-day Guided Tapas tours also work well because children usually end up meeting and playing with the local kids, whose parents may also be enjoying tapas at the bars in squares or pedestrian areas. “We also make it easy for both parents and kids to enjoy our cooking classes, which may focus on traditional, avant-garde or vegan Spanish cuisine,” says Ullibarri.