It was during a recent stay at Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa that I realised how much my priorities as a traveller had changed since I’d become a mother. Don’t get me wrong – I’d made good use of the heated pool in my suite and steadily worked my way through the novella posing as the complimentary wine list, but the one little detail that left a lasting impression? The rolled up baby towels placed on the corner of baby Ivy’s cot. “They even placed a cake of baby soap on top,” I would whisper, incredulous, to anyone unfortunate enough to enquire about my holiday. “Wow,” came back the reply. “Things have really changed since we were kids haven’t they?”
And haven’t they just? While child-friendly resorts aren’t anything new, baby-friendly ones are an altogether recent development, with five-star properties across the globe rushing to welcome little ones with services that range from baby concierges to online baby goods ordering services. It makes sense of course; they’re finally catching on to what the rest of us have known for some time – you don’t just put in ten years of staying in luxury hotels only to start pining for cheap plywood in primary colours once you become a parent.
No, you’ve already lost enough of your identity and you wish to carry on just as you started – travelling in a manner to which you have become accustomed. Fortunately, the world is listening.
“Catering to babies is an important part of our service,” declares Ryan White, Guest Service Manager at Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, California. “Not only do we want to alleviate the parents’ stress and give them a relaxing vacation, we’re also very aware that these babies are the future travellers of tomorrow,” he says, demonstrating aYoda-like ability to tap into the core of what parents want.
It’s not surprising really, for he’s the man in charge of Hyatt’s innovative Babies Travel Lite program, an online service that allows guests with mini plus-ones to visit their website and choose from over 1500 baby products (including a large range of organics) and have those items ready and waiting for you when you check into the hotel. “The service does away with having to carry bulky nappies and baby goods around with you, and by offering these small comforts of home, we can allow our guests to focus on what’s really important to them.”
It’s a sentiment Adriana Milea, Executive Housekeeper for The Ritz, London, agrees with. “We’re aware that travelling with children – particularly small babies can be stressful for parents and our services are geared to make their stay as comfortable as possible.” She’s talking of course, about the hugely popular Kidz@TheRitz program which although is targeted towards older kids, also features a welcome basket for babies containing essentials such as nappies, wipes and a small pink or blue teddy bear, as well as a long list of baby items parents can request be available such as bottle warmers and sterilisers.
Having spent five years at the hotel, it’s an area Milea says has seen serious growth recently. “We’ve always offered the basics for baby, but due to popular demand, it’s really only in the last couple of years that we’ve introduced new items such as baby towels (embroidered with baby’s name for VIP guests) to make the service more personal.”
Personalisation, it seems, is key, and it’s something The Mandarin Oriental, New York, is taking seriously. Sure, they provide all the essentials such as cots, childproofing accessories, baby equipment and strollers for hire, but long before you check in you are also asked to provide your little one’s name and age so they can prepare them an age-appropriate welcome package.
“Our guest relations team provides each mini-guest with a selection of baby bath products by Lady Primrose, a special Good Night New York book and a small stuffed animal to cuddle,” says Public Relations and Marketing Manager Allison Vajda. And although we’re convinced babies seem to prefer playing with boxes and packaging, stuffed toys seem to be a thing that’s popular with many hotels in this category.
In fact, the notoriously chic Parisian hotel Le Bristol, has taken the concept one notch further with the introduction of Hippolyte, a mischievous bunny who is also the hotel’s mascot. At Le Bristol, his charming likeness will be found on the baby linen, baby toiletries, and there will even be his doppelganger for bub to enjoy a freshly whipped puree in the hotel restaurant with (or maybe just take home).
And if the odd baby concierge isn’t enough for your holiday, you could always think about visiting an establishment that isn’t so much about offering a few dignified services, but about making catering to bubs their life’s work (without erring into horrors of primary plywood-ville, that is). The award-winning Chia Laguna Resort in Sardinia is such one hotel.
Now, the resort consists of three hotels from the five-star Hotel Laguna to the four-star Chia Village but regardless of your choice, The Chia Baby Welcome is available for all bubs from four to 35 months. It includes a ‘baby kit’ which includes all essential baby items, baby furniture, baby bath complete with bath toys, and a ‘no risk room’ which means not only has the room been baby-proofed for you (even sockets have been plugged to stop tiny fingers from coming into contact with them), all items come already sterilised.
Still not impressed? They also have a baby corner in the restaurant where bubs can throw homegenised food and tip mineral water, not to mention a Mini Club for those who are interested in activities. But hands down our favourite? The on-site paediatric services and pharmacy. See what I mean about priorities?
So, babies and luxury hotels, what is it really all about? I ask Wolgan Valley General Manager Joost Heymeijer as I load the kids into the car at the end of our stay. He smiles as he waves us down the drive. “Because at the end of the day we know that a happy baby equals a happy mother.” Truer words have never been spoken.