I would say up at the top of the list of Reader FAQs, maybe after “What can I make with chicken breasts?” but before “Can you recommend a good book for my kid?” is this: “Where should I vacation with my family?” It’s an excellent question, and one we’ve tried to answer over the past seven years in travel posts here and there. But today, I’m pleased to launch a new series called “My Favorite Vacations,” in which parents I know and love guest-post about five hotels, resorts, or rentals that were the launching pads for memorable family vacations. First up in the series is my travel writer friend and former Jetsetter editor, Nikki Ridgway who lives in Westchester with her husband and two sons, Marlow, 3, and Francis, 1 (shown above in Cornwall). Here is a collection of places she’s had successful family trips in the last three years, with “successful” being defined simply: It felt like a break. Take it away, Nikki.
St. Moritz Hotel & Villas
Where: Cornwall, UK. 280 miles from London.
Why: Yep, a beach vacation in England. Brits flock to this southwestern corner of the UK in the summer for its miles of sandy beaches, surf breaks, and standout seafood restaurants. We were here for a family wedding and loved St. Moritz’s plum location overlooking the craggy Cornish coastline and mix of hotel rooms, self-catering apartments and older but more affordable villas. Under blue skies, it’s all about the huge outdoor pool, retro “beach huts,” two-person hammocks and sea views, but there’s also an indoor pool, gym, and posh Cowshed Spa.
Food Moment: A walk along the coastal path to the ferry to Padstow (10 minutes) for fish ‘n’ chips at Rick Stein’s Fish & Chips.
Cost: From $170 a night
Airbnb Colonial Cottage
Where: Canaan, CT, 100 miles north of NYC
Why: All exposed beams, wooden floors and artfully mismatched furnishings, the owners of this sweet rental have spotless taste, but they also have two young kids and all the baby stuff: A crib, pack ‘n’ play, high chair, toys galore, and pint-sized cups, plates and cutlery. We made use of the working fireplace during our winter visit, but in warmer weather, there’s an indoor/outdoor sun room, a deck with a Big Green Egg grill, and a huge back yard with lots of toys. Just know that the house fronts a main road. Head to Great Barrington (20 mins away) for good eats and antiques, and in the winter months, Catamount, Butternut, and Mohawk Mountains are all within driving distance.
Food Moment: Splurge-worthy meats and cheeses from Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, the farm-to-table brunch (especially the scones) at The Prairie Whale in Great Barrington, MA, and delicious English pub grub at the White Hart Inn in Salisbury.
Cost: From $200 a night (minimum 2 nights), sleeps five
The Briarcliff Motel
Where: Great Barrington, MA, 140 miles north of NYC (Berkshires)
Why: Classic motel digs given a splashy Ikea-tinted update, this is a fun alternative to all the chain hotels nearby but costs around the same. We loved the breakfast spread of homemade granola, muffins, scones and eggs, and there’s a cozy lounge area and big outdoor fire pit for early-evening hangs. Frill-free but lovingly maintained, you stay here for a comfy, clean and affordable place to crash between exploring the best of the Berkshires. Plan on hikes on Monument Mountain (across the street), skiing at Butternut Mountain in winter, summer concerts at Tanglewood, and wherever else the in-the-know owners recommend.
Food Moment: The best coffee in town at Rubi’s
Cost: $90 – $250 a night
Nizuc Resort & Spa
Where: Cancun, Mexico (3.5-hour flight from NYC)
Why: For the beach bliss and travel convenience of Cancun without the spring break vibe. Nizuc is 10 minutes from the airport, but tucked around a headland away from the big all-inclusives and beachfront bars. Rooms in the main hotel are reserved for adults (over-16s) only, so most families go for the Residence Suites a short walk away. Our son wasn’t old enough for the complimentary kids’ club (for ages 4 – 12) and its kids-only pool and Spanish and music classes, but know this is a big draw for parents! Restaurants are a mix of Mexican, Italian, Peruvian and more, but all are expensive, so the meal plan might work out cheaper when traveling with hungry teens or picky eaters.
Food Moment: With just a long weekend to play with, we stuck to the hotel restaurants and loved the rice dishes (fish, duck, veggies) in the indoor/outdoor Peruvian restaurant, Ni.
Cost: From $500 a night
Beach House Inn (Act fast — it’s becoming adults-only in December 2017)
Where: Turks & Caicos, nonstop flights from NYC in 3 hours 40 mins.
Why: We chose this beachfront sleep for its boutique size (just 21 suites), excellent French/Caribbean restaurant, and location away from the sprawling mega resorts farther east along Grace Bay Beach. Our two-bedroom suite overlooked the sand and Caribbean Sea and had two family-travel essentials— a kitchenette for the morning milk demands and a balcony for post-bedtime sundowners. Breakfast is included in the rate, so we ate early and then hit our assigned bank of beach chairs and snagged the best toys from the watersports chest. There’s also a shaded pool to escape to in the heat of the day. The beachside cafe is a bit hit and miss, but the resortside Kitchen 218 produced one of the best meals of the trip (ceviche all the way) and has healthy kids’ meals like red snapper with seasonal veggies.
Food Moment: The raw bar at Grace Bay Club’s Infiniti Restaurant and happy hour bites at the unfussy, beachfront Somewhere Cafe & Lounge.
Cost: From $530 a night
One Fine Stay
Where: Properties in NY, LA, Paris, London, Rome, Miami
Why: A more general shout-out for this home rental company we’ve used for stays in Brooklyn (shown) and London with both sets of grandparents. Like Airbnb with benefits, you get the pick of fully-vetted properties, concierge and housekeeping services, and neighborhood tips from owners in a personalized app. My in-laws loved living like locals in Carroll Gardens when they visited us one Christmas (and not being crammed in our tiny apartment!); likewise, we got to be tourists in London (where my parents live) then head “home” each afternoon for family dinners and shared downtime after the kids were in bed. More expensive than most home rental sites but cheaper than booking a bunch of hotel rooms, it made our multi-gen trips feel like a break for everyone. (For family-to-family rentals I’ve heard great things about Kid & Coe, but haven’t had any luck with availability yet.)
Food Moment: The turkey leg sandwich at Henry Public in Brooklyn, and a proper Sunday lunch at The Windsor Castle pub in London’s Notting Hill.
Cost: Starting at $250/night
For more Nikki, follow her on instagram.
Related: Family Travel: A Three-Point Plan.
Credits: First Cornwall photo and Mother-Son beach shot, courtesy of Nikki. All others credit to respective hotel/rental websites.