1. Kid Concierge
Want to know the closest spot where you can get chicken fingers pronto? Need recommendations for where a teen girl should shop while visiting the big city? Look no further than a kid-friendly concierge. The Ritz London has a "Teen Concierge" who can offer the lowdown on the coolest things to do around town, while on peak weekends during winter season, Four Seasons Resort Vail features a "Teen Concierge" who can give groups the 411 on the best runs, offer snowboarding tips and instruct adventurers on getting choice helmet cam footage, which can be converted into a keepsake CD.
At Boston Marriott Long Wharf, a "Kids Concierge" provides one-on-one lemonade consultations, along with custom maps and family-friendly itineraries for a day of exploring. A "Baby Attache" at Trump Hotels serves as your personal shopper, stocker and local baby expert, furnishing and child-proofing your baby's room, reserving babysitters and offering tips on baby-friendly sights and activities. LEGOLAND Windsor Resort Hotel presents its own staff of six "Junior Concierges" ages 9 to 11, who, during school holidays, provide local tips and insider theme park information.
2. Turndown Services and Sweet Deliveries
Beyond milk and cookies, a number of hotel and resort properties deliver sweet dreams along with memorable bedtime treats. At Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, a "Bedtime Stories Butler" will help lull your little ones to sleep with soothing nighttime tales, from classic to contemporary, while at Four Seasons Hualalai, children's program counselors will deliver a Hawaiian story along with a goodnight snack. At TradeWinds Island Grand Resort in Florida, guests can schedule a special tuck-in visit with fun-loving resort mascot "Beaker the Pelican," who also delivers a plush animal souvenir.
Want to take your stay to the next delicious level? Order up a "house call" by "The Hot Chocolate Doc" (The Ritz-Carlton Chicago -- a Four Seasons Hotel) or "The Ice Cream Man" (Four Seasons hotels in Boston and Chicago). At The Ritz-Carlton Chicago -- a Four Seasons Hotel and Four Seasons Hotel New York, "The Candy Man" delivers sweet dreams via a traveling candy cart.
3. Borrowed Fun
Buy yourself some extra time to unwind before dinner, or keep the kids occupied during your stay when you check out instant entertainment from a hotel or resort-maintained collection. Loews' Kids Closet toy lending program provides guests with Fisher Price brand toys to borrow during their stay, from Little People airplanes to interactive Smart Cycles. For older kids, Game Boys, DVD players and board games are available. Walt Disney World Resort Vacation Club Villa properties offer DVD libraries (nominal fee for non-members) and activity rooms that families can visit for free. Through the chain's "Read it and Return" Lending Library program, guests of Country Inn & Suites by Carlson can check out a book and return it later at one of over 400 locations.
Meanwhile, at the upscale Four Seasons Hotel Boston, family visitors can enjoy some old-fashioned fun when they check out kid-friendly indoor and outdoor "Play Packs" containing entertaining activities like snowman-making kits, soccer balls, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, yo-yos and Frisbees. At Fairmont Copley Plaza, kids who pine for their pooches while on vacation can sign up to walk Catie Copley, the hotel's canine ambassador. For those desiring less hands-on effort, the "Guppy Love" program at Kimpton hotels throughout the U.S. invites guests to borrow a goldfish for the night -- no walking, feeding or clean-up required.
4. Stroller Delivery
Do you ever feel like an octopus, wishing you had even more appendages to assist in negotiating all the gear required to get you and your crew to, from and around your vacation destination? Are you contemplating what to do about transportation when visiting a major theme park, considering that rental strollers are not typically permitted beyond the theme park gates? A number of hotel properties and private companies present a solution to the kid-moving dilemma, delivering a set of wheels directly to you and/or your vacation accommodation. Four Seasons and Loews properties maintain an inventory of complimentary strollers for use by parents of younger children. Kimpton hotels, in conjunction with the Kimpton Kids program, will order a set of borrowed wheels for you for a fee. Through a partnership with Babies Travel Lite, Hyatt Resorts offer parents the ability to purchase umbrella strollers in advance for direct hotel room delivery.
For families visiting central Florida's theme parks, where strategy and maneuverability are key, Orlando Stroller Rentals and Magic Strollers consistently provide quality service and delivery of quick-fold, easy-to-navigate Baby Jogger brand City Mini single and double strollers for a fraction of the cost of theme park stroller rentals. In California, City Stroller Rentals is an option for a range of stroller makes and models. Delivery options include airports, car rental counters, hotels, vacation homes, rental properties or private residences (like grandma's house).
5. Resort Airline Check-in Service
Want to skip the lines at the airport and lighten your luggage load, leaving space and time to tend to more important considerations -- like your little ones and souvenir shopping? Resort Airline Check-in Service is an invaluable benefit, which allows you to check into your domestic flight, receive your boarding pass and check your bags right at your vacation accommodation.
The service, offered in conjunction with specific airlines, is available free of charge to guests of Walt Disney World Resort hotels, from value-priced to luxury. Cruise lines offering Onboard Check-in Service, a similar perk, include Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean International.
6. Special Kids' Activities
From scavenger hunts and S'mores-roasting to poolside bingo and spirited sing-a-longs, free and low-cost activities for the kids rank among the top value-added hotel offerings for traveling families. At Marriott's Cypress Harbour and Marriott's Harbour Lake in Orlando, both TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice award winners in the "Hotels for Familiies" category, kids enjoy a wide array of planned daily activities, in addition to complimentary use of extensive amenities, from themed pools to playgrounds. At Disney's Wilderness Lodge, also a Travelers' Choice "Family Travel" award winner, kids can enjoy complimentary cookie decorating along with bingo, trivia contests, pool games and prizes. For families on a more limited budget, Walt Disney World Value category properties deliver great deals on lodging along with free activities poolside, from movie screenings to hula-hoop contests.
If you're looking to keep the kids occupied for an extended period of time, resort kids' clubs can provide worry-free entertainment along with value. Luxury leader Four Seasons Resorts offers complimentary care and all-day programming for children through its Kids for All Seasons Program, while a number of independent properties join in on the free-flowing, free-of-charge fun. Among the front runners are Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa (ages 4 to 12), Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club (ages 5 to 12), The Sagamore (ages 4 to 12; seasonal) and Winnetu Oceanside Resort (ages 3 to 12; seasonal). For information on additional U.S. properties where children's activities and programming are included as part of the daily room rate, see 10 Best All-Inclusive Family Resorts in the U.S.
7. Welcome Gifts
Consider it a welcome to the property for the kids -- or a welcome dose of peace and quiet for travel-weary parents -- whatever you call it, everyone in your crew will likely agree that hotel welcome gifts are a pleasant perk for families. Upon arrival, kids visiting Kimpton properties receive a complimentary welcome gift like finger puppets, yo-yos, crayons or playing cards, while Loews Hotels and Resorts greet younger guests with travel-sized Fisher-Price brand toys to play with and take home. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts entertain young visitors with scavenger hunts and age-appropriate welcome amenities, many of which are customized to property locations, from a stuffed owl and a S'mores snack kit at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, to a pair of antlers at Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole. More personalized fun awaits in the bathroom, where the name of each visiting child is spelled out in alphabet bath sponges.
Trump Hotels spoil young visitors with a stylish "Trump Kids" bag of goodies like a T-shirt, crayons, a coloring book and a stuffed animal. Young "apprentices" even receive their own personalized Trump Kids "Biz" cards. At Ritz-Carlton properties, "Very Important Kids" are presented with directions for a prize-bearing scavenger hunt and the opportunity to "check-in" at a special pint-sized desk. Fairmont properties in North America dote on babies and toddlers with bubble bath, lotion, shampoo and a sweet stuffed animal. Teens aren't left out at Loews hotels and resorts. Upon check-in at many locations, 'tween and teen guests receive cards for downloadable music singles.
8. Free and Instant Food
Whether the goal is to stave off a toddler meltdown or to take the mealtime pressure off parents already drained from a day of touring, there's no better way to banish the low blood sugar blues and stretch a family travel budget than an instant supply of free and familiar food. Hampton Hotels offer guests a complimentary hot breakfast buffet along with optional "On the Run" Breakfast Bags, (available Monday through Friday). Members of the Holiday Inn Express chain present a hot buffet, complete with an automatic pancake maker. From Monday to Thursday, Homewood Suites locations expand their free offerings from complimentary breakfast to include a nighttime "Welcome Home" reception with dinner and free beverages. Embassy Suites provides a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast, including custom omelets, along with a nightly "Manager's Reception" with free light appetizers and drinks. Looking for something a bit more adventurous? Check into the Four Seasons Hotel Boston, where on Saturday nights, kids are invited to join staff in a free "Raid the Fridge" late-night, snack-finding mission.
If you're planning an extended stay, you might appreciate the complimentary grocery-shopping and provisioning services offered by a number of chains, which feature accommodations with cooking facilities, like Residence Inn and Homewood Suites. In the luxury category, Trump hotels feature a personal "Attache" who will shop and stock your kitchen for you. Though standard rooms lack cooking facilities, The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts feature a novel service called "Personal Pantry," delivering value-priced beverages and snacks directly to your in-room refrigerator. For more information on hotels with free food, see 10 Best Family Friendly Hotel Chains.
9. In-Room Babysitting
Sure, supervised group programs available at hotel kids' clubs are a great option for families with preschool and school-age children, but what if you're traveling with toddlers or kids whose daytime karma gets disrupted when the daily bedtime routine gets even slightly off-kilter? Most hotel and resort concierge desks maintain a list of agency-affiliated and independent local sitters who will watch your children in your hotel guestroom or vacation accommodation. Some hotel employees may even "moonlight" as sitters unofficially.
Be sure to inquire in advance about travel fees, minimum bookings, and sitter and agency qualifications. Offering services in the Orlando area, Tampa, Vero Beach and California, Kids Nite Out is a well-established and often recommended provider of in-room sitting services. For those visiting Disneyland, Fullerton Child Care Agency is a reliable option. For details on resorts that provide one-on-one sitter services for infants, see Best Resorts for New Parents.
10. Rocking Chairs and Rooms for Baby
As any parent who's spent a sleepless night on vacation can attest, trying to comfort a baby in an unfamiliar environment can be a particularly tricky travel challenge. At The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, moms and dads booking an "Itzy Bitzy Room" can rest easy and rock baby to bedtime bliss, thanks to a special suite outfitted with thoughtful baby-ready equipment, from a rocking chair to a sleep-friendly phone designed to light up instead of ring.
Through a "Baby Attache" program, the Trump Collection's seven luxury hotels set parents minds at ease by stocking their room in advance with everything they need for the baby, from a crib, diapers and a baby monitor to a rocking chair and a stylish Trump logo bib. Four Seasons properties provide star treatment to their youngest guests, too, with comfortably outfitted cribs and a range of baby care essentials, from shampoo and baby wipes to step stools, monitors and baby bathtubs. Upon request, some locations can even furnish a toddler bed.
More from Family Vacation Critic:
8 Best Resorts for Infants
9 Best Resorts for Toddlers