The woman at the pool was my parental doppelgänger; we both had four-year-old singletons and two-year-old twins. Our accommodations were managed by the same company and shared grounds, only I was staying at the family-friendly water park lodge and she was staying at the luxury resort down the road. She got the beautiful room with lush hotel beds and amazing coffee, I got a dated suite with a synthetic blanket and automatic drip. Once we compared notes she decided that I had the better set-up, and maybe she was right. Although there wasn't a huge differential in the price and we got to take advantage of the same amenities, there were a few things that made our stay easier than hers.
Our suite had a kitchenette and dining table that seated six. The other family's room had a wet bar and they had to take all of their meals at one of the resort's restaurants. It got expensive and they felt like child-free guests weren't so thrilled to take their meals alongside their spirited posse. We had all of those same restaurant options but our kids were happy to eat their meals in their bathing suits and hustle downstairs to splash around some more.
Although the spectacular pools, decks and recreation areas on the grown-up side were stunning (the gorgeous Prairie Style design had met Hef's standards when the facility originally opened as the Lake Geneva Playboy resort in the 1960s, which explains the airport, stables, endless golf course and other over-the-top amenities), there were no lifeguards. There might have been a LEGO moose greeting us at the entry to the faux rustic lodgings on the family-friendly side, but it was a fine tradeoff for plenty of lifeguards at the pools and slides designed for all ages and abilities.
I realize that family vacations mean redefining my idea of relaxation. At the end of the day, we didn't take advantage of the on-site childcare to duck out for spa services and cocktails, we chilled on our balcony and read while our kids napped. Our wardrobe options were predicated by the driest swim suits and the closest pair of flip flops. By my fiftieth trip down the lazy river I had enough, but the kids had an incredible time and we can always go back for a swankier adults-only weekend. That doesn't mean that I didn't look down the road longingly once or twice. At home we go for aesthetics and functionality, but on a family vacation with three little ones, practicality came first.
(Images: Timber Ridge Resort and Grand Geneva Resort & Spa)