By: Brandy Black
Recently we went on an incredibly lavish little get away to Ritz Carlton in Laguna Beach. This resort is a family gift, a real treat, and spoiled us from start to finish. The hotel overlooks the ocean and the beach is your backyard. . They really don’t miss a beat from the color-coordinated flowers that are bunched in oversized vases throughout the hotel to the impeccable service to the greatly appreciated kid friendly experience. I even overheard an 8 year-old at the pool explaining to his parents how “kid friendly” the hotel was and I had to agree. With a toddler, changing venues is a necessity and the Ritz provides just that with 2 pools, the beach, a mini playground for kids accompanied by ping-pong for the adults, and large vast halls decorated with sparkling chandeliers and plush velvety chairs.
I must also mention the dining experience because oftentimes when you have a young one you can’t always sit at a lovely ocean view table in a stunning restaurant among the masses (although my wife and I often try). We were thrilled with the cozy marketplace restaurant that offers casual dining. Sitting on the comfy couch by the fire with our daughter between us eating an array of sushi, mac-n-cheese, paninis and steamed broccoli we were able to relax and watch the news on the flat screen while Sophia nibbled and scribbled on the paper the server provided for her entertainment. We saved the fabulous Oceanside restaurant for our special date that night once the babysitter arrived and let me tell you, it was amazing. Our 3-hour dinner then led us into a lovely glass of wine at Eno- the wine, cheese and chocolate restaurant a few steps away. We were surrounded by delicious bottles of vino and provided international cheese and gourmet chocolate.
Our days were spent going from beach to pool to playground to nap and back again.
It was a lovely vacation for all and a truly amazing getaway.
To club or not to club? The real question is whether club level with a child at a place like this is truly worth it. There were some real perks to being a club guest. When we slipped our specially programmed key into the elevator slot, we were delighted when the doors opened to a friendly greeting from our club hostess and our daughter gleamed at the shelves with jar after jar of colorful candy just beyond her reach. Penni, our lovely concierge for the weekend, showed us around the club lounge explaining that the complimentary food and top shelf alcohol would be available to us from 7AM to 10:30PM daily. Our eyes sparkled at the delicious treats that lay before us: luscious fruit and cheese spreads, dainty sandwiches, miniature bowls of couscous, eclairs, cookies, coffees and wines of all flavors, and a view of the ocean from the balcony windows. We sat by the fire on that chilly afternoon –Sophia sipping milk, Susan with a bloody mary, and me a margarita and magazine. It was perfect.
Throughout the weekend the club lounge was our landing spot between activities; it was a chance to rejuvenate before going out to play again. We met many other couples in the lounge and a few kids as well. Sophia was in heaven with all the attention from the concierge, kids to play with, and non-stop food throughout the day. I must mention that I was curious to see if our being gay would be well received. I was pleasantly surprised that not only were all the staff and people we met truly wonderful and embracing, but there was also another gay couple (without a kid) there as well. Maybe in this day and age in California this is not even worth mentioning, but I always find it affirming as one of two moms to hear that again and again.
My final analysis of being a part of the Ritz Carlton club level is that if you can afford it, it’s worth it. I especially found it nice with a toddler. We were steps away from milk in the morning and food throughout the day, which is important with a little one that snacks every two hours.
The cappuccinos in the morning, cookies in the afternoon, wine at sunset, and cognac at night were hard to leave at the end of the trip.
The rooms are the same –club or no club –so you are paying for the wonderful staff, delicious food, drinks o’ plenty, privacy, luxury, and utter convenience (not to mention that it feels pretty fabulous to be doted on and pampered for the weekend). If you have traveled with a toddler you must know by now that at the end of a vacation you are ready for another vacation and I must say at the end of this one, I was revitalized.
Make Your Life Easier…
- When traveling with a kid, since you are already getting up insanely early, take advantage of it and claim your place at the pool by setting up your stuff at the best shady location.
- If there are two sunny locations such as the pool and the beach, be greedy and set up camp in both spots. Eeverybody else does it and you have an excuse; you’ve got kids.
- Always ask the concierge or hotel staff what is available for children. We got umbrellas, chairs, beach toys, and a ball provided by the hotel. Get your facts straight before you start your day.
- Get a room with a balcony if possible so that once your child is down, you can step out on the balcony and have a romantic dinner for two.
- Vacation in your own city– it’s so much easier with kids.