Orlando

During our travels we’ve stayed in the cutest, quaintest, and tiniest of hotels. And while we love the intimate and peaceful vibe that many smaller properties can offer, sometimes staying near the action just isn’t enough. We want to be in the thick of it. That way we can to go into full-on relaxation (read: lazy) vacation mode and have everything we could ever want right at our fingertips. Why should you have to jump in a car (or even worse — on a bus) just to meet a few people, see a show, or dance the night away? Luckily, these 12 massive village-style properties don’t think you should; in fact, they are hoping you won’t! Packed to the brim with communal conveniences like multiple restaurants, several pools, nightclubs, theaters, tons of activities, kids programs — even grocery stores, pharmacies, and bowling alleys — some of these places are so big they have on-site shuttles and maps to get you where you want to go amid sprawling grounds. And with enough rooms to house populations in the hundreds and thousands, they promise to be teeming with tons of potential new pals. It may take a village to create your perfect vacation — but at these properties, it’s worth it!

Grand Paladium Bavaro Resort & Spa, Dominican Republic

Dominican

The 674-room Grand Palladium Bavaro is spread over spacious grounds (guests also have access to two sister properties) offering an incredible selection of 15 bars, five buffets, and eight restaurants. Walking shoes are recommended, but family-friendly amenities, lower prices than some neighboring properties, and renovated rooms are big draws. In 2014, the resort added 178 units — including a swim-up suite option overlooking the beach (a great pick for honeymooners). Kids and their parents will appreciate the outstanding kids’ club, but take note: the beach can get crowded.

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We’re always looking for an excuse to go on vacation, and thanks in large part to pregnant celebrities, “babymoons” are becoming a very real thing. Basically considered a rite of passage — much like a honeymoon or an anniversary getaway — babymoons are trips that couples take when expecting, and they usually involve plenty of time for relaxing on the beach, in the spa, and by the pool while sipping (virgin) cocktails. Most celebs make for the Caribbean to celebrate their incoming spawn, but some also stay stateside and even go somewhere their little nugget might eventually enjoy. (Holly Madison took her bump to Disney!) So if you’ve got a baby on board (or not!), here are six celebrity-approved babymoon hotels. And if you know anything about celebrities, you know these spots are downright gorgeous.

The Hotel: Jade Mountain Resort, St. Lucia

Jade Mountain

The Celebrity: Vanessa Lachey

Just last week, Vanessa announced that she and husband Nick Lachey are expecting baby number two — a sweet little girl to join older brother Camden. We wouldn’t be surprised if the duo celebrates the news by returning to Jade Mountain, where they escaped for their first babymoon back in 2012. Getting to the secluded St. Lucia resort can be tedious – especially for a pregnant person – but its organic cuisine doting service, unwavering silence (no TVs, radios, or children — sorry, Camden!), and extraordinary design (which means breathtaking views) make the long journey worthwhile.

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Okay, so one of the worst things ever is when you’re “enjoying” a spa treatment — but you’re not actually enjoying it because all you can think about is how much time it’s taking and how many things are piling up on your to-do list during your rubdown. Well, those behind the spas at JW Marriott, the Marriott’s top level of luxury hotels, have had the same experience, so they’ve dreamt up a whole new menu of mini spa treatments that last between 12 and 25 minutes. Of course, the new Spa by JW concept will also include traditional treatments, but those in a hurry — who still crave a little R&R — can indulge in brief treatments like the tense shoulders massage or the energy boost massage. And best of all, these treatments require no appointment and take place in express suites, fully-equipped with massage chairs, scent infusers, noise-canceling technology, and cell phone chargers. The first of these treatments will become available in September at the JW Marriott in Houston, and will soon roll out to all Spas by JW. [Hotel Chatter]

See more great pics of some of our favorite JW Marriott spas after the jump >>

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July is National Ice Cream Month (thank you, President Reagan!), and we think that calls for a celebration. And considering the fact that we’re hotel experts, our ideal way of commemorating the monthlong event is with a little getaway — plenty of ice cream included. Therefore, we rounded up 10 hotels that love ice cream, gelato, and frozen yogurt just as much as we do. The proof? They all have their own ice cream parlors on-site. So whether in Hawaii or Miami, you can cool off this summer and grab a scoop of mint chocolate chip at these yummy spots! (P.S. July may be National Ice Cream Month, but we think you can enjoy these parlors all year long.)

Loews Miami Beach Hotel

Loews Miami

The 790-room Loews Miami Beach Hotel is a luxurious mega-resort with attentive service and a big, freeform pool overlooking a beautiful stretch of beachfront. The hotel has a spa, gym, several upscale restaurants, and a convenient South Beach location. Families are drawn to the hotel for a list of supervised activities for kids and, of course the SoBe Scoops ice cream shop, with not only ice cream but also plenty of other sweet treats.

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During our travels this summer, we’ve visited some amazing urban destinations, where our days have been filled with the cacophony of cars, and live music pouring from local bars and clubs after dark. And while these urban adventures are almost always exciting, they’ve taught us better than anything else that sometimes you’ve just gotta get outta the concrete jungle and into the wild! Luckily, you don’t have to disappear into the African bush (unless you want to!) to interact with nature, or mingle with some of the spiny, furry or feathery locals. These six hotels can get you up-close and personal to some serious wildlife — without sacrificing your creature (we love a pun) comforts. So pack your camera and binoculars; it’s time to make your escape!

1. andBeyond Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp, Botswana

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This ultra-remote, luxurious safari lodge on an island in Botswana‘s Okavango Delta isn’t a hotel, it’s an experience, where everything — including the excellent food and the guided excursions (game drives, bush walks, river cruises) — is included in the price of the stay. andBeyond Xaranna guests can get up close to exotic wildlife on both land and water (think: lions and hippos), and even arriving to the property is an adventure, requiring transport by small plane, safari vehicle, and a boat. The nine safari “tents” are fully screened in and thoroughly high-end, with huge soaking tubs, four-poster beds, lots of wood, and private pools. The decor blends rustic charm with bright, contemporary style — not an obvious combination, but it mostly works. And don’t be surprised if you spot an unannounced guest hanging around the dining areas!

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Luxury resorts serve up more than just swanky guest rooms and exceptional customer service — they are also home to some of the best restaurants in the world. But with young kids in tow, chowing down white-tablecloth-style can be a challenge. While grownups attempt to enjoy fine wines and decadent fruits de mer platters, fidgety toddlers may clank silverware in protest. But with so many gourmet meals at your fingertips when staying at a posh spot, you hate to put the brakes on dinner plans just for fear of “making a scene” — I mean, we’ve all been there…right? Luckily, the restaurants at these family-friendly resorts manage to keep frazzled parents stress-free (and their kids content) with restaurant features such as kiddie menus and more.

JW Marriott Chicago

Don’t let the marble fool you, this chandelier-crazed Chicago hotel rolls out the red carpet for junior jetsetters. The JW paired up with renowned nutritionists to create a yummy (and healthy!) menu in its restaurant that will appeal to both kids and adults. From turkey meatballs to ‘mini’ adult offerings for teens, these comfort meals are sure to please mom. While parents enjoy selections from the dinner menu, kids can chomp on low-fat yogurt ranch dip paired with fresh cucumber and carrot sticks while exploring activity books provided by the staff.

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If you want to plan a family vacation with wow factor, look no further: Picking a hotel with one of the following kid-friendly attractions will earn you major points with your kids. And with activities this fun, you just may end up acting like a kid yourself.

Water Parks

Water park at the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa

Water park at the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa

Hundreds of resorts around the world feature a water slide or two in their pool complex, but a few exceptional properties take it to a whole new level. For example, the Aquaventure water park at the Atlantis features two slides with vertical drops over 50 feet, a mile-long lazy-river pool, a tube that gushes past sharks, and a plethora of other scenic slides. The Grand Wailea water park in Hawaii includes four waterslides, whitewater rapids, caves, a lazy-river pool, rope swings, and a “water elevator” inside a man-made volcano.

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We're ready to zip down this slide!

Who doesn’t feel like a kid again when at a water park? Whether you’re visiting with your own kids, or are just trying to revive your inner kid, a water park can be just what you need for a little fun this summer. We’ve visited tons and tons of water parks during our travels, and have seen all kinds of slides, waterfalls, pirate ships, lazy rivers — you name it! But we whittled them down to the best of the best to show you. So check out our slideshow of the best water parks in the world!

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Getting fit doesn’t have to be on your to-do list after you travel. While many hotels offer state-of-the-art cardio and strength training equipment, we know that treadmills can get downright boring after a while. So we’ve found the hotels that have one-of-a-kind fitness amenities that will add a little spice to your workouts while you travel and below we’ll tell you where to find them.

The Fitness Feature: Kayaking and Canoeing

Kayaks at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes

The Hotel: The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes

Plenty of beach and lakeside hotels offer kayak and canoe rentals, but few offer as many options for your paddling session. For those who prefer a trained professional to accompany them, guided tours at this Ritz include two-hour eco-tours along Shingle Creek ($60 for adults; $30 for children) and excursions on Grande Lake where paddlers can watch the sun rise and set ($20/hour for adults; $10/hour for children).

Other hotels with similar offerings: Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

The upscale Terranea Resort offers myriad activities, including two-hour ocean kayaking tours along the Catalina Channel, where paddlers can spot bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, leopard sharks, and bat rays ($89 per person). Or guests can opt for “kayorkle” — a two-hour excursion where guests snorkel and kayak, also for $89 per person.

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We can’t help but get a little nostalgic when thinking of Disney World; after all, it’s where dreams come true! And whether you’re six or sixty, a pair of Mickey Mouse ears never looked so good as when you’re spinning in a teacup or roaming the theme park grounds, cotton candy in hand. However, one thing that decades of Disney experience can change is where you want to stay on the massive property. A resort with a pool teeming with tots, waterslides, and floaties? Great for families, not so fab for couples looking for a bit of romance — you catch our drift. So we’ve done some digging into Disney’s digs and have found the resorts that’ll best suit all types of Disney-bound Disney fanatics. Whether you’re planning a girls’ getaway or a family vacation, Disney World can be just the spot to relax, reconnect — and most importantly – have the time of your life. So without further adieu, first up: Disney for families.

 Disney Digs Best Suited for the Fam: Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge

Kids love the long, winding slide at the pool at the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Kids love the long, winding slide at the pool at the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Have some rambunctious kids on your hands? Twenty minutes at the playground will wear them out.

Have some rambunctious kids on your hands? Twenty minutes at the playground will wear them out.

Modeled after an East African safari lodge, with giraffes and gazelles that freely roam the grounds, the 762-room Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of Disney’s most unique resorts — and is arguably the best option for families looking to have highly-entertained tots. Though it’s a bit more removed from Epcot and the Magic Kingdom than other properties, the resort is adjacent to the Animal Kingdom theme park and features a massive pool, a playground, a great kids’ club, and numerous free activities — such as cookie decorating and African drumming — throughout the day. Older children can enjoy the on-site arcade.

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