The New Family Vacation

From glamping in Montana to easy mansion living in Jamaica, today’s first-rate family vacation destinations are like your easy, relaxing summers at the Shore, but with way more amenities—and much bluer water. Here, some spots worth exploring together.

The resort at Paws Up in Montana is a great new family vacation.

Booking five hotel rooms and making sure everyone knows what time to meet at the breakfast buffet—these are the things that suck the fun out of family vacations. Unlocking your three-bedroom cottage with ocean views? Lounging in the private pool off your mini-manse? Firing up a movie on your flat-screen? Telling the chefs what time you want dinner? Now we’re talking. Maximize bonding time by taking advantage of all the first-rate multi-room vacation accommodations that resorts are offering these days. It’s just like your easy, relaxing summers at the Jersey Shore, but with way more amenities (and much bluer water). Here, some places worth exploring … together.

Take your family to:

>>A Ranch in Montana: Paws Up
>>A Manse on Mustique: The Mustique Company
>>A Villa in California: Pelican Hill
>>A Cottage in Upstate New York: Mohonk Mountain House
>>A Village in Tuscany: Monteverdi
>>A Manor in Jamaica: Moon Dance Cliffs

Cliffside Camp tents at Paws Up resort in Montana as part of a family vacation.

As I sat munching my farm-to-table BLT, gazing at rolling Rocky Mountains and a sky as big and blue as the ocean, I pondered the portmanteau “glamping.” The mash-up of “glamorous” and “camping” conjures an image of Khloe Kardashian reluctantly perched on a horse, pretending to be one with nature. Don’t get me wrong—the Paws Up resort in Montana is the epitome of luxury. After all, I was sitting in Trough, one of the well-appointed on-site restaurants, which for the summer was being helmed by a former Top Chef contestant. But Paws Up isn’t overblown—it’s 37,000 acres of memorable, action-packed experiences surrounded by understated pampering.

The resort is divided into multiple camps, each with a gorgeous dining pavilion (get the huckleberry pancakes for breakfast), a family-gathering fire pit with lounge-y chairs, and groups of one- and two-bedroom tents sleeping from two to four people. Although “tent” isn’t a fair descriptor—think all-slate rain showers, wide-plank porches, Navajo-print throws on plush beds, and leather lounge chairs. Most of the camps, like the newest, Cliffside, where I was staying, line the Blackfoot River. There are also decked-out homes on the property that can sleep up to eight, and an option to spend half the time in a home and half in a tent.

In fact, Paws Up manages to pack just about everything into a tent—including the spa. “Spa Town” is a group of white tents, connected by a boardwalk, that house massage rooms, fitness equipment and yoga. I skipped the spin bike in lieu of the mountain bike, and embarked on a 15-mile group ride almost straight down on a single track, for a modern cowboy rush.

There is an insane amount of things to do here—whether your family members are faint of heart or fearless, athletes or seekers of peace and quiet. The staff will help you plot age-appropriate adventures, many of which will be as appealing to you as to the little ones. There’s summer-lake and classic camp stuff like archery, hiking, fly-fishing, river-rafting, kayaking and horseback riding. There’s offbeat stuff like disc golf, paintball, hot-air ballooning, geocaching and ATV rides. Or rappel down 167-foot-high Lookout Rock, atop which Meriwether Lewis stood to map the area. Less Amazing Race-esque activities include workshops on yarn bombing (seriously!) and drum circles. However, no activity is more reflective of the true Western experience than the cattle drive. You get the full-on experience, complete with galloping and sorting. My horse, Coaly, a natural leader, made me look just the tiniest bit like John Wayne.

Of course, you could also do nothing but eat and drink. Pomp is the fine-dining restaurant, offering seared goose breast alongside local morel mushrooms. At Tank, bartender Allen’s stable of homemade sangrias served as perfect nightcaps before I headed back to Cliffside for campfire s’mores and stories.

It was around that campfire that I realized: Despite the luxe trappings, the soul of camping remains intact at Paws Up. Personal connections, unplugging, group experiences, recharging, fun—these are the reasons people venture so far from the comforts of home and out into nature. Or rather, in this case, far from home, comforts intact.

Paws Up at a Glance:

Ages: Mobile family members and children aged eight and up.
Kid stuff: Super-outdoorsy activities abound, while river lounging and arty workshops are also options.
Grown-up stuff: Cattle drives, or any Western activity you’ve always wanted to try. Limp over to Spa Town to soothe sore muscles.
Together time: Chuck-wagon rides, water activities, and the special clay shooting course, which makes for some friendly family competition.
Eats: Trough has kid-friendly food. In nearby Missoula, the Big Dipper ice-cream parlor has creative flavors.
Quiet time: Nanny services are available. The day-camp-like Kids Corp of Discovery is full of outdoor activities.
Getting there: Fly to Missoula, then it’s a 30-minute drive to Paws Up.
Stay details: Two-bedroom tents run from $1,860 per night. That includes meals for two people. The estate homes sleep up to eight and start at $2,150 a night.

Take your family to:

>>A Manse on Mustique: The Mustique Company
>>A Villa in California: Pelican Hill
>>A Cottage in Upstate New York: Mohonk Mountain House
>>A Village in Tuscany: Monteverdi
>>A Manor in Jamaica: Moon Dance Cliffs

At first I suspect the sunglasses are someone’s idea of a Caribbean joke. The statue at Mustique’s one-landing-strip airport of Colin Tennant—the English noble who bought the island in 1958 and cultivated it into a private retreat for the wellborn—is wearing a pair of sunglasses around his neck. But no, the shades are actually part of the bronze likeness of Tennant, who once said, “In an age when everything about well-known people is public, Mustique is a place where they can behave naturally.”

The ability to “behave naturally” is still a draw for such island visitors as William and Kate, Beyoncé, Carla Bruni and Kate Moss. For those of us who aren’t hiding from the paparazzi, the exclusivity, casual elegance and clubbiness make this unlike any other Caribbean destination.

The Mustique Company operates the 74 for-rent villas on the island like mini-hotels, meaning the cleaning and activity-arranging is taken care of. The fridge is stocked by your butler prior to arrival, and the always-on-call chef will whip up your meals when and how you like them, even if all the kids want is another turkey sandwich. Each villa is different (although most have pools), and the website and staff can help you sleuth out the ideal one: Teenagers will flip over the plush home theater in Coccoloba; Dad will read the morning paper in the swinging hammock at Moana (which also has a sun deck with a million-dollar view); everyone will post photos of the Italianate hillside, five-bedroom Hibiscus manse, which was Will and Kate’s choice. All are spacious, for together-with-breathing-room quality time.

Tearing the family away from “home” isn’t easy. Pools feel like they’re floating above the Earth, green-covered hills slope down to white sand coves, and outdoor rooms seem to harness the tropical breeze. But try to rally the crew. Tricked-out golf-cart “mules” come with every villa, to scoot you around. The Mustique Company has turned the island into one big resort, with bike rentals, yoga classes, kids’ camps, boating, diving and a full-service spa. In the dot of an island village is Basil’s Bar, a.k.a. the Parc of Mustique, which serves fruity cocktails and ginger-flecked tuna tartare while you take in glamorous guests and just-for-you sunsets.

The Cotton House (the one full-service hotel) has a weekly cocktail party to which all island-dwellers are cordially invited. I met four Brits, and within an hour was invited to their villa for lunch the next day. Maybe there’s just something born of putting all those villas on an island that’s barely three miles long and a half-mile wide that makes people want to gather and enjoy the company of those around them. (I didn’t see one single cell phone during the cocktail party.) Two Canadian honeymooners went so far as to invite their family to join them on the island after a week of alone-time.

True, with two layovers and a flight on a puddle jumper, Mustique is about as hard to reach from Philadelphia as your house in Avalon is easy. But then, you don’t have to carry beach tags to prove you belong. If you’re on Mustique, you’re in.

Mustique at a Glance:

Ages: Everyone from newborns to Grandma. Stellar service staff makes dealing with large groups especially easy.
Kid stuff: Equestrian center, tennis clubs (for ages three and up), soccer camp, kids’ club and a pretty playground.
Grown-up stuff: Scuba-diving and the small but excellent Cotton House spa.
Together time: Enjoy the pool, ocean and house amenities, charter a sailboat, participate in group activities like the “Night Snorkel Pizza Party” and family movie nights at the Cotton House.
Eats: The real celebs on the island are the villa chefs, who turn out delicious meals to your tastes at a table or on the beach. Villa owners like Le Bernardin’s Maguy Le Coze mean standards are high. Don’t miss Basil’s on Wednesday nights for the weekly BBQ “Jump Up” with live music and strong drinks.
Quiet time: Book a babysitter for the evening, or a nanny for the week, in advance of your stay. There’s also a day camp for kids.
So you know: There are no ATMs or banks on Mustique.
Getting there: Get to St. Lucia or Barbados, and hop a quick flight to the island.
Stay details: Villas range from two to nine bedrooms, with weekly rates from $5,000 to $50,000 depending on season and size.

Take your family to:

>>A Ranch in Montana: Paws Up
>>A Villa in California: Pelican Hill
>>A Cottage in Upstate New York: Mohonk Mountain House
>>A Village in Tuscany: Monteverdi
>>A Manor in Jamaica: Moon Dance Cliffs
Pelican Hill in California is a great family vacation destination

Anyone can vacation in Southern California. But living there for a week? Pulling your car into the driveway of your stucco villa lined with olive trees? Pretending that hiking down to the ocean through the rocky terrain of Crystal Cove State Park is your usual morning routine? That it’s not a big deal to see Kobe Bryant on a coffee run? (Okay, the Kobe thing didn’t happen, but he does live nearby.)

Immaculately landscaped Pelican Hill sits high up in the canyon of Newport Coast, and was designed to make you feel just like that. It’s an un-resort resort. Don’t get me wrong; it has all the amenities—glinting saltwater pools, a to-die-for spa, 36 holes, first-rate eateries—but without the imposing hotel tower. It was smartly planned out like a country-club community, so in place of stodgy lobbies and dark halls are winding neighborhood-like streets whose abodes (be they multi-bedroom villas or bungalows) have ocean, golf-course or garden views, plus privacy.

Louis, our butler for the week, waved us into our garage after we checked in at the Villa Clubhouse. He had already stocked our fridge with the essentials (milk and beer); now he gave us a quick tour and left us with his direct line and instructions to call anytime—seriously, he emphasized. He’s around to help with anything from food-sh­o­pping runs to dinner reservations, and though “Let’s call Louis!” became a thing we liked to exclaim all week, we only wound up calling him once, when I needed a few more pots, pans, wineglasses and plates for an impromptu dinner party. Like Louis, everyone we encountered at Pelican Hill had that perfect SoCal aura—well aware that the clientele expects the best of everything, but also polite, casual, and quick to laugh. Pomp and circumstance were left back East.

The villa itself was both comfortable and child-friendly, and included a plush den with a fireplace, a sound system and a flat-screen. Louis had made sure a crib and high chair were there for the little ones. The three bedrooms all had huge bathrooms and closets, and were done up in Mediterranean style. The family room opened up to a large terrace from which we could see Catalina Island floating in the Pacific, and those famed California sunsets. We wound up spending most of our time in the outdoor living room—imagine kids eschewing the TV in favor of humidity-free sunshine.

You’ll think to yourself, “I’ve never seen such a thing” when you first see Pelican Hill’s perfectly round, infinity-edged saltwater pool. And that would be correct—it’s one of the largest circular pools in the world. Getting there—actually, getting anywhere on the property, whether for a house-made gelato at the deli, down to the beach, or to the nearby high-end Fashion Island shopping center—takes zero coordination. By that I mean you only have to press “zero” on your phone and request transport. Before you can say “presidential motorcade,” a black SUV arrives at your door. Since being shuttled around in such a vehicle makes you feel like a badass, it almost doesn’t matter where you’re going.

A rental car gets you everywhere else. To name a few: There’s walking through the bougainvillea-covered beach cottages of Corona del Mar, repeat visits to Bear Flag Fish Co. for tacos and burritos, shopping the art galleries of Laguna Beach, cooling down with a chocolate-covered frozen banana bar (made famous by Arrested Development) on Balboa Island, and watching the surfers wrestle the waves at the Point in Newport Beach. Getting off-property during the day and still logging plenty of pool time is easy. So easy, in fact, that you may be rather incredulous when Louis swings by to say goodbye. Wait, I don’t live here? Sigh. In denial, I told myself I was just closing up the house for the season. See you next year.

Pelican Hill at a Glance

Ages: Thanks to easy accommodations, this trip is great for everyone.
Kid stuff: Amazing pools, kayak tours that get you close to sea lions, boating, hiking and golf.
Grown-up stuff: Condé Nast Traveler rated the spa as the best in California.
Together time: Hikes, water and beach activities, games, and exploring all the Orange County towns made famous by MTV and Bravo.
Eats: Meals at all of the resort eateries are great. The villa’s kitchens are well supplied for at-home dining. Fish tacos at Bear Flag Fish Co. are a must.
Quiet time: Camp Pelican has its own pool and clubhouse.
So you know: A supermarket that sells wine and beer is just minutes away.
Getting there: Virgin America has well-priced direct flights to LAX, which is about a 45-minute drive away. Or connect to get to Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, just 15 minutes away.
Stay details: The starting rate for a two-bedroom villa is $795 per night; prices vary by villa and season.

Take your family to:

>>A Ranch in Montana: Paws Up
>>A Manse on Mustique: The Mustique Company
>>A Cottage in Upstate New York: Mohonk Mountain House
>>A Village in Tuscany: Monteverdi
>>A Manor in Jamaica: Moon Dance Cliffs

Mohonk Mountain House is a great new family vacation destination.

When I was a child, my parents would talk wistfully about taking a family trip to Hudson Valley’s Mohonk Mountain House. Friends of theirs had spent time at the grand resort, and my parents had this image of it being the ideal place for family bonding. The main house is like a castle out of Game of Thrones, regally beetling on a cliff above crisp Mohonk Lake, and appealing to anyone who is looking for a change of pace.

It’s taken me a few decades, but I finally made it to Mohonk, with my own wife and children, and I can report that the family-bonding aspect is alive and well. Mohonk is a pretty easy three-hour drive, and I allowed the kids (six and seven years old) to flip on a DVD in the backseat, in what I hoped would be their last glimpse of technology for a few days. Unplugging is easy once you’re at the resort, with its slew of outdoor activities, and TVs are sparse.

There are two options for accommodations at Mohonk. You can stay in the historic main building, which has a cavernous old-school dining room, along with two smaller dining venues, a luxe spa, and comfortable rooms with incredible views of the nearby tree-topped mountains or the lake. Despite the vast footprint, the B&B-ish decor and lodge vibe make the individual rooms feel like part of one big house. (Those with balconies are ideal for watching the sunrise and sunset.) Or you can opt for one of the just-renovated cottages, a series of five cabins dotted around Mohonk’s many acres. They sleep anywhere from four to six people and vary in style and layout; the cabins are mostly open year-round. They have small kitchens, cricket-chirping quietness, and enough woodsy charm to make you forget about wherever it is you came from. But know that they’re on the rustic end of things. Think nice upstate cabin, not trendy eco-resort digs.

Six miles away is the town of New Paltz, where you can stock up on groceries or order stuff to pick up from the Mountain House, which has prepared foods (hummus platters) as well as meats (steak, burgers, chicken) that are ready to sizzle away on your cottage grill. Still, you’ll probably wind up spending some time in the main house’s dining room. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style, which is a blessing when you’re feeding a gang. Normally I loathe buffets, but the ones here are better than most. Anyway, eating is just the thing you need to do to refuel for your next adventure, since the real appeal of Mohonk is the 40,000 acres of surrounding wilderness and plentiful outdoor activities.

There are miles of hiking paths for all ­abilities—including tour-led hikes—boats for fishing or paddling along the lovely lake (which you can also swim in, if you want a more natural experience than the resort’s indoor heated pool), horse rides (pulled behind in a carriage or perched atop on a saddle), golf, tennis, lawn games, and the plush Mohonk gardens, which are worthy of a stroll.

There’s also a kids’ camp, which means the grown-ups can hit up the spa, just named by Condé Nast Traveler’s readers as the best resort spa in the country. I was the thankful recipient of a terrific Swedish massage, but the soak in the heated outdoor mineral pool was where I really found my sense of unplugged calm. (My first-ever yoga class, inside the resort’s studio, was more excruciating than relaxing.)

We regrouped as a family for a glide around the incredible covered ice rink—one of the most picturesque in the country. (It opens for the season in November.) In retrospect, I should have taken a lesson, since I had never before strapped on a pair of ice skates. I somehow managed to dance around on the ice for an hour or so. And if being the stereotypical clumsy dad for my kids, who laughed till they snorted, isn’t the measure of a good vacation, I don’t know what is.

Mohonk Mountain House at a Glance:

Ages: Given Mohonk’s decidedly rustic feel, this trip is best suited to flexible kids.
Kid stuff: Get Junior moving—up on a horse, out on a bike, or hitting tennis or golf balls.
Grown-up stuff: There’s rock climbing and mountain biking. Tennis buffs will love the century-old red clay courts. The spa, with its heated mineral pool, is fantastic.
Together time: Take a visit off-property to nearby West Point.
Eats: The three on-site dining rooms have surprisingly tasty, varied eats. Off-property, there’s high tea at the Village TeaRoom and great Italian at A Tavola.
quiet time: The kids’ camp is action-packed; the game room is blessedly screen-free, with activities like air hockey and ping-pong.
So you know: Cottages are rustic—which isn’t always a bad thing. There’s a grocery store nearby for stocking the fridge.
Getting there: Three-hour drive from Philly.
Stay details: Cottages start at $525 a night, with a discount for longer stays.

Take your family to:

>>A Ranch in Montana: Paws Up
>>A Manse on Mustique: The Mustique Company
>>A Villa in California: Pelican Hill
>>A Village in Tuscany: Monteverdi
>>A Manor in Jamaica: Moon Dance Cliffs
Monteverdi in Tuscany makes for a great new family vacation destination.

Rome was full of tourists. Americans, Germans, Australians—I didn’t even get to practice my high-school Italian. It felt like everyone in the Eternal City was speaking English. Which is why our trip didn’t really feel like a vacation until we pulled off the Autostrada and drove through the lone town square of tiny Sarteano, then onto a dirt road that switchbacked through vineyards, olive trees and clouds to the even smaller town of Castiglioncello del Trinoro.

At that point, the directions became vague. “The concierge will be on your left,” they read. But there was no hotel lobby, no glittery sign, no capped b­ellhop—only a path that passed a modest church, a tiny outdoor cafe, and what I could only imagine was an ancient stone wall, dotted with wild red poppies. No concierge. And suddenly, since there was only one road, we were heading out of town. We looped back around, and this time—since, clearly, a car that passes through and doesn’t stop is the equivalent of big news here—the well-dressed staff was standing outside the cafe. They flagged us down, popped prosecco, and said, “Si. Tu sei qui.” We had arrived at Monteverdi.

Everyone dreams of buying a house in Tuscany, but Cincinnati lawyer Michael Cioffi did one better. He bought a series of beautiful but dilapidated buildings in a hilltop Tuscan town with a population that you could count on two hands. Meticulous, historically accurate renovations turned this forgotten village, with views straight out of a travel ad, into a true Italian experience (with only a few fellow foreigners).

The entire town becomes yours while you’re there. The staff is always ready with a glass of perfectly temped local wine, a nibble of local cheese (they’ll point out where in the valley the cows are from), and fresh, delicious, simple, real Italian food. We’ve never had eggplant parm this good. The finer-dining restaurant, the only one in town, is helmed by Chef Paolo. If you reserve one of the villas with a kitchen, Chef Paolo comes to you.

One must-do: finding new places to lounge, like on the grassy terraces that overlook the Val d’Orcia, or near the dipping pool, or on the lower patio with shade from the pergola—you won’t want to leave any medieval stone undiscovered. It’s so peaceful that at night, we sat outside just listening to the silence. Above the building that serves as a small hotel is an actual excavation, financed by the owner. The ruins being unearthed date to the 12th century.

The villas themselves are something out of Architectural Digest. Designed by Rome’s Ilaria Miani, they manage to be both understated and highly styled. A single tawny wooden shelf lines three walls of a room and serves as bench, desk and side table; the antique wooden door is painted bright green; a stainless villa kitchen has reclaimed stools; and a step-down travertine soaking tub is also a shower. The rooms are so harmoniously designed that the flat-screen actually seems out of place.

While your hamlet is hard to leave, this is Italy, and you should explore. Little neighboring towns come with their own histories, eateries and attractions. There are hikes, wineries and natural hot springs. You’re halfway between Rome and Florence and an hour from Siena, which makes this a worthy home base. After you see all the musts—the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Duomo, the Pantheon—with all the other people, all you’ll think about is getting back to your small mountain town.

Monteverdi at a Glance:

Ages: Monteverdi is classy but casual. Babies are welcome; otherwise, it’s best for kids who are mature enough to appreciate the experience.
Kid stuff: There are cooking lessons, a pool, TVs and wi-fi. The staff will help arrange hikes, bikes and horseback riding.
Grown-up stuff: Try winery visits, outlet-mall shopping (hello, Prada), and Fonte Verdi, a day spa built around a natural hot spring.
Together time: Exploring Tuscany’s many small villages.
Eats: The two property eateries are accommodating and delicious.
Quiet time: With some notice, babysitting can easily be arranged.
Getting there: Monteverdi is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Rome, which has direct flights from PHL.
Stay details: Two-bedroom villas start at 5,500 euros a week (about $7,300). Breakfast (with local yogurt, of course) is included.

Take your family to:

>>A Ranch in Montana: Paws Up
>>A Manse on Mustique: The Mustique Company
>>A Villa in California: Pelican Hill
>>A Cottage in Upstate New York: Mohonk Mountain House
>>A Manor in Jamaica: Moon Dance Cliffs

Moon Dance Cliffs in Jamaica serves as a perfect family vacation destination

I’m standing on a craggy ledge overlooking the Caribbean and debating whether to take a leap. As do most things, the waters tend to run easy here at Moon Dance Cliffs, a luxury resort in Negril that’s usually as serene as its name implies. The 10-foot plunge into pastel-blue surf is inviting—it’s the churning waves slapping against the rocks that make me wonder if I should reconsider.

It’s taking some effort to summon an adrenaline rush after we’ve spent four days moving in blissful slow motion. Moon Dance Cliffs reflects the vacation attitude one should adopt if considering a trip to Jamaica—laid-back. When you arrive at the front desk, you’re greeted with a cold glass of rum punch and a postcard-perfect view through the open lobby, framed by palm trees. The centerpiece of the property is the winding pool that offers plenty of room for kids to frolic while the adults keep a watchful eye from the swim-up bar. If you need sand between your toes, Negril’s Seven Mile Beach is a 15-minute car ride away. But after a few lazy hours of lounging, going anywhere else seems like a lot of unnecessary work.

Families should consider a stay in one of the four villas at Moon Dance Cliffs, the biggest and best of which is Midnight Cove, a five-bedroom palace overlooking the cliffs. Each room has bright walls, teak furniture, and its own veranda with views of the sea. The large first-floor living area offers plenty to do—a flat-screen television with a DVD player, a billiards table, a collection of old-school board games and a stocked wet bar. The hotel is just a few steps away and offers several options for larger groups, including a two-bedroom Prime Minister Suite with a full living room and an outdoor Jacuzzi. (For the young and old who can’t tear themselves away from their i-stuff, free wireless Internet is accessible from poolside to bedside.) Since maximum occupancy here is all of 66, you’ll quickly get to know both the staff (all smiles, fist-bumps and “yah mons”) and your fellow guests (the most entertaining was a guy we nicknamed Captain America, for his tendency to talk loudly about health care and the snow in upstate New York).

After a couple days of rotating between the pool and the Sports Bar, we got the itch for a little off-site exploration. We opted for a quick car ride to Rick’s Café, where tourists line up to take a 35-foot jump into the cove below and locals backflip off a sto­mach-knotting makeshift platform 75 feet in the air. The more sane folks grab a table and watch the action with a bucket of Red Stripe and a plate of jerk chicken and waffles; get there before six for a good view of the action and the sunset. The next afternoon, we boarded a catamaran for a lively day trip that was fully endorsed by my new buddy Nasir, a second-grader from Connecticut on vacation with his family, who showed off some impressive “Gangnam Style” dance moves. The tour began with snorkeling and ended with water-slide runs from the top deck and a breathtaking view of the Negril coast as the sun disappeared from view.

Before my last breakfast of fresh fruit, blueberry pancakes and crispy bacon at Annie’s, it’s do-or-die time (literally?) at the water’s edge. I already wussed out on cliff-jumping at Rick’s, and soon we’ll be on a flight back home. My girlfriend wisely stays on dry land, offering to play the role of photographer and first responder. With a momentary break in the waves, I launch into the blue, trusting that everything’s gonna be alright.

Moon Dance Cliffs at a Glance:

Ages: Family-friendly for all, but know that you have to sign a waiver for kids 12 and under.
Kid stuff: The pool is where most of the action goes down, with volleyball and basketball. The open-air sports bar offers billiards and Nintendo Wii; lawn games include cornhole and croquet.
Grown-up stuff: Catch a ride to Alfred’s on the beach for live reggae on most Sunday nights. Book an outdoor massage at the Kamala spa.
Together time: Grab snorkeling gear from the concierge and explore the cliffs at the resort’s edge. Adventures like river tubing and zip-lining can be arranged by the concierge.
Eats: The Sports Bar offers the most kid-friendly menu.
Quiet time: Nanny service can be arranged ahead of time.
Getting there: Direct flights run from Philadelphia International to Montego Bay. You’ll need 90 minutes for the drive to Moon Dance Cliffs, along the island’s narrow coastal roads.
Stay details: A night in the four- or five-bedroom villas ranges from $615 to $1,700. Children five and under stay and eat for free.

Take your family to:

>>A Ranch in Montana: Paws Up
>>A Manse on Mustique: The Mustique Company
>>A Villa in California: Pelican Hill
>>A Cottage in Upstate New York: Mohonk Mountain House
>>A Village in Tuscany: Monteverdi

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