In an age of solo and YOLO travel, and hashtags like #couplegoals, #familygoals, #wanderinggoals, family vacays have become a recipe for anxiety. Planning dilemmas aside, parents want more from the holiday pie. Did the vacay serve us well? What did we all learn together this week? Is there more for the kids than just watching the parents sip martinis and stay in the pool? All valid questions that millennial parents ask themselves every summer.
But the Family by JW Program has made vacations for multi-generational groups easy. The new initiative offers enriching, novel, and bespoke ways for families to bond and create memories. And I got a taste of this experience at the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa recently with my six-year-old daughter. A hectic worker-bee mom in need of a break with a curiosity-driven enthusiastic child – it was the right recipe for a journey like this. Plus, it was our first mother-daughter trip.
But first things first: What makes Family by JW a wonder drug for families today? For starters, the planning and execution is great, so it’s ideal for working parents or large families. Every experience they provide is a bridge to connect the family together. “It has been created specifically to cater to families traveling together, adding an extra dimension of fun and enriching experiences during their stay with us,” explains Bruce Ryde, vice president, Luxury Brands and Brand Marketing Asia Pacific, Marriott International.
Inspired by the legacy of JW Marriott founders, J Willard and Alice Marriott, Family by JW started as a global initiative for children between the ages of 5 -12, when they are doubly curious and hard to keep productively engaged. “Across our luxury portfolio of 43 beautiful properties in the Asia Pacific, we have seen an increased interest in family-oriented travel, and JW Marriott hotels are responding to this trend with great series of curated experiences unique to each destination. By engaging children and parents through meaningful activities, Family by JW lets each family create their own wonderful holiday memories,” adds Ryde.
The concept runs on three core pillars: Be Mindful and Present, Come Together, and Nourish the Soul. And there are many dimensions to how this works. My room check-ins were prioritised, the room was bigger with a beautiful extra bed near the window for my daughter, and a platter of scrumptious desserts welcomed us.
There were babysitting services for moms who need that extra minute to rest or just me-time at the spa. Older kids like mine are in need of wanting to be engaged in stimulating activities, and that meant a trip to the Kids Club, which included a fun games room, story-telling sessions, and kitchen sets for role-play. We we were informed that the JW Marriott Hotel Mumbai Sahar gives kids fun and educational behind-the-scenes hotel tours, and JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai Changfeng Park arranges kids-only weekend stays with Legoland Discovery Center. Not to forget the in-room tents at JW Marriott hotels in Macau, Surabaya, and the soon to be opened JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Shanghai Pudong, where the vacation turns out to be one big glamping experience. Every hotel has its own way of how to utilising their surroundings and incorporating kid-friendly features.
And, of course, there are other family activities – brunches with live music, cycling tours, informative city tours, yoga classes, and heritage walks. At the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa, there was a visit to the Gibbon Centre (the kids got to release a crab into the waters, which was met with squeals of joy), a hike near a spectacular waterfall (trainers and guides educated them on the species and plant growth), and a mangrove walk alongside an afternoon of kayaking, during which my daughter got to row – a delightful experience for her.
Food was a great big part of the experience, from sundowners by the beach to the open-air grills with dance and music. The farm to plate garden was a beauty, and the kids learnt about local produce by planting a seed, watering it, and going through the garden. The menus were extensive, especially the breakfast counters that came loaded with goodies so the kids could choose what they ate, themselves. Everything had a mini version – pancakes, waffles, and cookies.
Nourishing fare, local flavours and ingredients, and new cooking experiences – it was all there. My daughter loved the Teppanyaki chef’s musical antics and chopping sessions. On similar lines is the ‘Picnic on the lawn’ at JW Marriott Macau; a ‘Travel Through Time’ family high tea at JW Marriott Hotel Qufu; and ‘Kukas ki Chaupar’ evening high tea with elephant rides at JW Marriott Jaipur Resort & Spa.
The Asia Pacific launch of the Family by JW program gave us a view of everything on offer – there was a VIP Insider’s Tour of the resort, a ‘Come Together’ dinner featuring 200-year-old ancient family recipes, ‘Mindfulness Mornings’ featuring bike rides and walks , a live cooking demonstration at the Andaman Grill, “Make your own perfume” and “How to make Mango and Sticky rice” class for the kids. There was also a mini spa session for parents alongside a martial arts class by the sea for the kids – the girls worked their way to a hearty breakfast.
Perhaps the most iconic moment of the trip was a meeting and masterclass with Australian Swimmer & Triple Olympic Gold medalist Stephanie Rice, where she coached the kids and shared her inspirational path to a positive life. The trip ended with a closing feast. A farm-to-table dinner was held by the Lotus Pond featuring sustainable, locally-sourced fresh ingredients, local music, and dance, and a craft pop-up showcasing some great Thai wares and an unforgettable meal under the stars. My daughter sent out a wish to the stars by letting go of a lamp in the waters.
The smallest details made us smile – backpacks filled with surprises, paints, a waterproof camera for kids to capture their best moments, alongside goodies and delectable desserts. For me, it was the sheer sights at the resort that gave me a break – pool time, a bit of me-time when my daughter was out to play, the mother-daughter lunches, our walks in the garden and the games we played – it was a trip like no other with a side of exquisite hospitality and charm. And, as we each carried home a life-size gibbon stuffed doll, my daughter and me made a promise to revisit the space again – to renew a new chapter, do more fun things and well, get more out of our holiday.
For more information on JW Marriott’s Family by JW programming, please visit www.jwmarriott.com/family . The summer campaign packages are available at www.jwmarriottfamily.com