Child-friendly luxury travel easy to come by this summer

There was a time when a toddler dressed head-to-toe in designer labels would have raised eyebrows, but walk around the streets of Europe’s capitals nowadays and you’ll see it’s become almost
de rigeur.

Perhaps then, as the popularity of dressing and feeding every member of the modern luxury-loving family in the same way grows, it’s no surprise that hotels are becoming ever more creative when it comes to conceiving classy new services which can keep both parents and their pint-sized progeny amused.

The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin was the first in the German capital to introduce a "Very Important Kids" program aimed at satisfying the needs of its younger clientele, and relaunched it earlier this year with an even wider selection of activities - and the promise that it's the "ultimate luxury hotel experience for children."

In this property, screaming toddlers are charmed into little princes and princesses, who whizz around the lobby in miniature Mercedes-Benz vehicles, take high tea using child-friendly china and petite gold furniture, and step up at the front desk using a mahogany set of "children’s check-in" stairs, all designed to offer the same sense of luxury to children that their parents enjoy.

At the Rocco Forte-owned Brown’s Hotel in London (appropriately enough, the place where Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book), the experience has even been extended to the spa, with specialized treatments such as "twinkle toes" and "teen glow" added specifically to cater for children.

Further south at the Plaza Athe?ne?e in Paris, entire rooms have been decked out to meet the exacting demands of kids this summer, with brightly-decorated Barbie-themed rooms for the girls and gadget-filled Hot Wheels rooms for boys.

Book a vacation at the Plaza Athe?ne?e through August and an adult room connecting with these private children’s suites will set you back a mere €1,700 a night – a small price to pay for what the hotel describes as the "pinnacle of luxury."

All very well for those with toddlers, but for those with the – arguably more demanding – needs of babies, a more specialized level of service is being offered by a growing cadre of so-called "baby butlers."

Need someone to warm the milk? Change the diapers? Rock the crib? Head to US resorts such as the Marriott Marco Island in Florida or the Keswick Hall hotel in Virginia this year, and with the tinkle of the proverbial bell, a personal assistant assigned purely to childcare will be there to cater for the requirements of baby.

While critics may castigate some of today’s options as pointlessly extravagent, there is no doubt that treating traveling minors with extra-silky kid gloves is more popular than ever.

The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin’s popular program has inspired other luxury hotels in the city to set up similar experiences, a spokesperson for the Potsdamer Platz property told Relaxnews, while the Plaza Athe?ne?e’s rooms have been significantly upgraded and expanded for 2011, the second summer the program has been offered.

At this month’s International Luxury Travel Market in Shanghai, China, researchers said they were seeing strong growth in multi-generational family travel among luxury lovers, noting the "one of the most important aspirations for holidays today is spending time with family."

With emerging markets now providing wealthy travelers almost on tap, and a generation of children becoming used to high standards from an early age, the lavish playthings offered by hotels today look set to be the start of something very big indeed.

Jeremy Clarkson
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