If you read my blog regularly, you know that I’m a traveling mom. Just because you have kids does not mean that your traveling life should end. On the contrary, our travel life has taken off since the kids were born. We’ve gone around Europe with the kids via the Eurail, taken them across Iceland by car, journeyed around the French Riviera, explored the wine country in Italy, hit the ski slopes in Lake Tahoe and Park City, to name only a few of our family vacations.
What you may not know is something that I haven’t written a lot about: I thoroughly enjoy all-inclusive vacations, especially since having kids. When you’re working and raising kids, there is simply no time to relax, yet alone plan a trip. I was one of those people who never thought that I’d like this kind of holiday. I’ve always loved independent travel – discovering, exploring, and going off the beaten path. I even enjoy the trip planning. But after having two kids, I’ve come to realize that a trip is no longer about me. It’s important to choose destinations, and the types of vacations, that every member of my family enjoys.
My love for all-inclusive resorts started while my husband and I were dating. We were two years into our relationship, both living and working in New York City. We decided we wanted to go away for a week for a romantic get-a-way but had no clear vision of what type of trip we wanted. After a visit to our local Liberty Travel office and sitting down with a travel agent, we decided to venture off to Barbados. I had never stayed in an all-inclusive and didn’t know what to expect. The price was right, $1,200 each for seven nights. Within a week, we were off. We were greeted with cocktails which instantly made us feel like we were on holiday. Since then, we’ve been on a few all-inclusive vacations with the kids in tow, and each one has been very successful.
Here are ten reasons I recommend an all-inclusive resort as a great destination for families:
1. Easier trip planning:
Booking a trip is easy – you can do all your research online on web sites like Liberty Travel which has whole section dedicated to all-inclusive and family vacations, or you can get in touch with their online specialists. They’ll find the least expensive, convenient flights for your family and the best package to suit your family’s needs. All you have to really know is where you want to go and how much you want to spend. A package generally includes flights, room, food, snacks, drinks, tips (sometimes), airport transfers, flights as well as most on-site activities. Depending on where you are going, you may want to take additional day trips, which requires a little leg work and extra spending. However, you can be sure that the resort is taking care of you from start to finish and everything you need is waiting for you. I still recommend taking a guide book or two, and knowing about the area you’re going to.
2. Easier on the wallet:
Since pre-paying means that you know exactly how much you’re paying ahead of time, you don’t have to worry about going over-budget. It’s a relief not to have to carry money around the resort. The last two all-inclusive resorts we traveled to, Jamaica’s Starfish Resort Trelawny and Mexico’s Grand Parnassus Hotel in Cancun (read about why Mexico should be your next destination here) charged us relatively the same amount for everything: $2,500 all-inclusive. We did have to pay extra for babysitting and day trips (to see Mexican ruins), but in both cases, the total amount was small compared to the amount we knew were saving. Feeding a family of four, five, or six can be enormously expensive; it helps when the trip payment is behind you.
3. Kid’s Clubs:
One of the most important considerations for us is whether the resort has a kid’s club. If they do, you can be rest assured that there will be enough activities and entertainment for your children, and you’ll manage to get some time to yourselves, too. My husband and I tend to need some time alone while on holiday. You can have breakfast with them and then them drop for their own day of fun, which consists of activities catered to their interests.
Thankfully, my kids have (knock on wood) always loved the experience. Kid’s Clubs offer a plethora of wonderful activities in a social setting: movies, water slides, swimming, games, art, snacks, treasure hunts and more. The facilities we’ve seen are clean and safe and the babysitters reliable and trust-worthy. There’s plenty for them to do and keep them occupied, and there’s generally an agenda full of activities.
Most clubs take children into the kid’s clubs after age 3. The Starfish Resort actually took my son at age 2, which is unusual. Usually you can choose a half or full day program. When my kids were very young, ages 2-4, we typically left them in kid’s club until after lunch until about 3pm. Kid’s clubs range in price, so it’s important to check how much they are before you go. Sometimes they’re included. At the Starfish, we only paid $5 a day. My husband and I spent the day lounging by the pool reading books, riding kayaks, speed boats and sailboats, drinking cocktails by the pool side. Our kids went swimming, went on water slides, had lunch, and watched movies in the afternoon…my son even napped inside the club. A lot of the kids were children of the hotel’s staff so they were truly immersed in Jamaican culture.
It always surprises me when I hear about families who visit these resorts and don’t take advantage of these facilities, feeling guilty about not spending enough time with their kids. My kids have so much fun going off with other kids and being taken from activity to activity that it makes our trips easier. Of course, I have heard stories about kids who refuse to be dropped off at the kid’s club. That’s a situation I haven’t had to deal with.
I’ve never had a bad meal at an all-inclusive resort. At Club Med in Turks and Caicos and the Crystal Cove in Barbados, where my husband and I went before we were married, the food was exceptional. The chefs put special care into the menu and the kitchens are especially good at making large amounts of food. We were also able to go eat at its sister hotels, which ranged from casual to fancy, with varying options.
Generally, there are buffets based on a theme that changes nightly. Sometimes, you may have many options to choose from, which makes pleasing your kids easier. In Cancun, our resort had a variety of restaurants to choose from of all types of cuisine: Japanese, NY deli style, Italian, French. We were able to choose a different theme nightly or go back to a place
we all agreed on. It’s definitely a head ache saver not to have to take your wallet with you to every meal. Another good thing about buffets is that there’s no wait and there’s a wide selection. That leads to less child angst.
Games, water sports, exercise classes, scavenger hunts for the kids, discos, late night swimming – there’s something for everyone. Most places offer nightly entertainment too, ranging from amateur to professional. The Grand Parnassus had weekly kids’ club show staged in a real theater and nightly family movies. The Starfish had a different program for adults every night. Given that and the fact that the hotel offered an open bar, we eagerly booked a babysitter for every night that we were there. They charged us $10 an hour and we decided that since we rarely went out at home, it was worth the money. What a treat to go to a luau on the beach one night on our own. On another night, we took our children to the circus.
6. Grown up stuff:
I won’t deny that given the opportunity and time to get a spa treatment that I do. We never forget the importance of pampering ourselves while away, and all-inclusive resorts do give you the opportunity to do so. They generally have really nice spas and you can book your appointments once you’re there. We have also taken the time to go speed boating, sailing and had many a cocktail by the pool.
The few experiences I’ve had at all-inclusive resorts all share one thing in common: good service. The resorts really seem to invest time and energy in their staff and teach them how to cater to their guests. At the Starfish, we got to know several of the staff by name and they even called us by our names by the end of the week.
8. New friends and experiences:
A perk to staying in a resort where they offer varied activities for people of all ages and sizes is that your child will be exposed to all types of activities. At the Starfish, our kids were exposed to Circus School which includes trapeze, trampoline class, juggling, and rock-climbing wall. My kids were too young to experience it but they watched their first cousins in their daily performances after a lesson. They were introduced to pools of all shapes and sizes and water slides. They always mak new friends in the kid’s clubs. My daughter has made friends from England, Jamaica, Ohio and New York. We’ve even brought back email addresses so they can keep in touch. They develop bonds in the kid’s clubs after spending full days together. In Cancun, my daughter’s play date with another little girl from Ohio continued in our hotel room.
9. Staying disconnected:
Generally speaking, at an all-inclusive resort, you are very cut off. You may have a TV in your room, but there won’t be much to watch. Internet is available in the business center or lobby, usually for a fee, and probably limited WIFI, if any. You’ll be so busy; you may not even think about your life back at home — bills, work, and obligations. Let it all go. If you’re on vacation, it’s better to disconnect.
10. Going where you won’t see your neighbors:
I don’t know about where you live, but up here people go to Cape Cod, the Jersey Shore or Long Island for their summer holidays. When we’ve told them we were going to these exotic destinations, they’re always shocked…and impressed. When we started venturing off to far away destinations, the kids were just a few months old. No one can ever understand why a sane adult would spend so much money to go somewhere far away to deal with their own children. Think again. It’s less money then they’re spending to go an hour away; and your children will enjoy the trip as much as you will.
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive vacation for your family this summer, go to Liberty Travel’s web site or to a local office. They have specialists who are dedicated to both family and all-inclusive vacations.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, however the views and opinions expressed here are strictly my own.