Resorts pioneering programs for 'familymoons'

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ust when it seemed that family travel couldn't stretch any more to accommodate yet another configuration, it did.

Enter "the familymoon."

This is either a great example of an imaginative travel industry coming up with product to combat woeful economic times or, as some experts say, it's a bona fide travel trend indicative of just how elastic (and strong) the family travel market is.

A familymoon is, as the name implies, a honeymoon for newlyweds that includes his kids and her kids, sort of a "Brady Bunch" experience.

Samantha Oehl of New York-based public relations firm Quinn and Co. believes her company coined the term familymoon for its client, the Westin Resort in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, a year or so ago.

"Lots of people are finding love later in life," Oehl said. "They've done the big, formal wedding once, and now they want something different. They want to include their children in the beginning of their new lives as a family. So, familymoons are a natural."

And it was only natural that Oehl and the Westin create a package for this market. Seems like a smart move.

According to Dr. Margorie Engel, board member at the Stepfamily Association of America, there now are as many stepfamilies as "intact" families.

The association said 65% of remarriages bring children into the relationship, which, from a travel marketing perspective, has to make bells ring -- and destinations take notice.

But how many newlyweds actually bring their kids on a trip long regarded as the height of intimacy and the symbol of a new beginning?

Apparently quite a few.

Andee Oleno, director of public relations for the two Pointe Hilton Resorts in Phoenix -- Tapatio Cliffs and Squaw Peak -- said they've had at least 25 familymoons at their properties since September, and she expects many more in 2004.

"Really, it's quite adorable," Oleno said. "You've got the kids taking part in the ceremony. You have, say, a daughter discussing with her mom or step-mom-to-be how they should walk down the aisle. Things like that. The familymoon definitely eases the transition into a new family.

"And, from a marketing point of view, we are seeing these families combine the wedding with a family reunion or vacation, so it's really very good for business," she added.

Julie Mendonca wed Thomas Ross at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs last September and stayed to enjoy a familymoon, a three-day celebration of their new beginning as a family.

Ross' three sons were on hand to experience the event, and Mendonca's son was a groomsman.

"I also had my parents with us, and Thomas had his brothers," Mendonca said. "We spent a lot time together and it was wonderful."

Mendonca said she chose the Hilton first and foremost because it was an "exceptional vacation" place.

"You have to find a place that's elegant because it is your wedding, and it has to be romantic," she said. "But it also has to have the kinds of activities all of the family can enjoy."

Her advice for would-be familymooners?

"Have plenty of patience, good humor and find a great vacation place."

To contact reporter Kaleel Sakakeeny, send e-mail to [email protected] .

Family packages for familymooners

The Westin Resort St. John
Address: Box 8310, Great Cruz Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands 00831
Phone: (888) 627-7206
Web:www.westinresortstjohn.com
Accommodations for three nights cost $4,077, a savings of $1,000 over rack rates, and include:

• Two gardenview rooms. Rate covers the bridal room and up to three adults in the second room (two double beds), with a $45-per-person charge per night for an additional adult. If the room is designated as a kids' room, up to four children age 17 and under can stay at no extra charge. Cots are available.

• Participation for two children in Westin's Kids Klub for one night.

Pointe Hilton Resorts
Address: 7600 N. 16th St., Phoenix, Ariz. 85020
Phone: (800) 876-4683
Web:www.pointehilton.com
Accommodations for three nights cost $3,500 and include:

• Two connecting suites with one bedroom and one living room in each, with either a king- or two queen-size beds. A pullout sofa can be requested. Standard suite occupancy is four people (any family configuration) per suite.

• Wedding ceremony with choice of courtyard or ballroom setting.

• Daylong stay for two children at the Coyote Kids Camp, a $120 value.

Both packages include the ceremony and official's fee; a wedding cake, the bride's bouquet and groom's boutonniere; a bottle of champagne and two flutes; and music, photographer and videographer. Commission is 10% on each.

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