A tropical, all-inclusive vacation should be refreshing, relaxing and just that – a vacation. So it’s no surprise that planning an all-inclusive trip with infants or children can seem like a challenge. Between nap and bedtime schedules, fussy eating and keeping little ones entertained, the whole travelling idea can sound like a tall order before you’ve even left home.
The good news is, some careful planning can make your dream family vacation a reality. The following tips, tricks and suggestions will ease complications and help ensure that you, your partner and your little ones not only get to go on a trip, but have the time of your lives doing it. (You might even get to finish the book that’s been sitting on your nightstand for months!)
START MAKING LISTS
The best way to figure out exactly what you’ll need is to write it all down. Make lists of items you’ll need for the plane. Items you’ll need in the hotel room. Items you’ll need for the beach or pool. Think strollers, high chairs, cribs, playpens and swimming flotation toys. Knowing what you need will help narrow down which resorts will work best for your family.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
It’s not as simple as reading a few generic TripAdvisor reviews and making your choice. While they’re helpful, you’ll also want to hit up the mommy blogs, talk to friends who have travelled with kids, watch YouTube videos and read reviews offered by various sites. Narrow your list down to a few ideal resorts and packages based on your needs, then contact each resort directly to confirm that the amenities offer everything you’re counting on. This is not the time to rely on websites alone.
Ideally you’ll want to find a resort that caters to families first. There’s no point in discovering a resort online that looks fabulous for adults, only to find that they don’t offer much for kids. Many all-inclusive packages make this step easy for you. For example, through Sunwing’s Smile Resorts, you’re guaranteed perks like up to two kids (2-12 years old) staying free, at least one kid pool available on site, beach towels in your room upon arrival and more.
All-inclusive trips typically provide travel between the airport and hotel but it’s worth finding out if you’ll need a car seat for infants. On a coach bus, car seats aren’t necessary, but you might want one in a smaller vehicle. A car seat would also be needed if you’re planning to take a taxi outside of the resort throughout your stay.
You’ll also want to consider getting around within the resort. How large are the resort grounds? How long will it take to walk between amenities? Are there shuttle services on site that accommodate small children? A stroller can be a limitation, so find out if amenities have easily-accessible ramps and elevators if you plan to use one.
There are a few things to consider with room location. With infants and younger children, rooms on the ground floor are the least complicated. Some resorts even offer walk-out rooms near the pool and provide baby monitors. Guests can be lounging poolside with the monitor, literally steps away from their room where the little ones are napping.
It’s also a good idea to request a room far from where late-night dancing, wedding receptions or other evening entertainment takes place. After all, your kid sleeping solidly gives you time to relax too.
If you’re one of those families with toddlers and children who’ll eat anything, rock on! (We’re scowling at you behind your back, FYI.) Most resorts offer buffet and a la carte restaurant options to satisfy any and all food preferences. If you’re like many of us, however, your kids won’t be easily satisfied with most available food options. Find out in advance if the resort offers anything special for kids. For example, some resorts have a “kid-friendly” section at the buffet that includes familiar items like chicken fingers, fries, pizza and macaroni and cheese. As a back-up, come prepared with your child’s favourite snacks (as many as you can squeeze into the suitcase!) for desperate times. Allow them to snack frequently between meals as well, so there isn’t so much pressure at designated sit-down meals.
Planning on taking advantage of the a la carte restaurants? Find out how strict the reservations are, or if reservations are required at all. At Royalton White Sands Montego Bay, for example, the a la carte restaurants are reservation-free, making it easier to take advantage of luxury dining. With young children, you are on their schedules more often than not, so dealing with specific meal times can be challenging.
AGE APPROPRIATE ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES
Poolside entertainment can be enjoyable for all ages, but you’ll want it to be appropriate, too. Finding out what kind of entertainment is offered at the resort can mean the difference between a beer-chugging competition and visits from your child’s favourite cartoon characters. In other words, it’s worth looking into. In the evening, many family-friendly resorts offer live, kid-focused performances first, followed by the adult show later on.
When it comes to activities, the more options, the better. At Jamaica’s Royalton Blue Waters, for instance, kids can play at the supervised, secure Kids Club or have a blast at the splash park. Teens can hang out at the Teen Lounge with game systems, charging stations and billiards or the whole family can spend time floating around the lazy river together. At Jamaica’s Jewel Runaway Bay Beach and Golf Resort, families have free access to the on-site Jewel Lagoon Water Park, complete with slides, a raft ride, family cabanas, waterfalls and more. Red Ruby Ranch is also a hit, offering laser tag, hay rides, obstacle courses and nighttime bonfires.
If the whole family is going on a trip, each family member deserves individual time for carefree relaxation. Maybe you’ve been dying to sit on the balcony and read, or get your nails done at the spa. Maybe your partner is itching to get in a workout at the state-of-the-art gym, or enjoy an uninterrupted beer at the sports lounge. The important thing here is arranging time for each parent to unwind. Alternate between spending time as a family, and taking turns savouring some much-needed alone time. After all – you deserve to be spoiled too!
Most family-oriented resorts also offer babysitting services. Take advantage by planning at least one outing with your partner. Think couple’s massage, dance lesson, tennis game or late-night dinner once the kids are asleep.
Be aware of the services that aren’t included when you book your trip. You might assume that a resort offering swimming toys and flotation devices means you can borrow them free of charge – when, in fact, you have to purchase them in the gift shop. Access to the kids club might be free, while personal babysitters are an additional cost. Don’t be afraid to ask how much everything costs in advance so that you can be best prepared.
INSIDE THE SUITE
The size or style of the room you stay in might not seem important – and if you’re just travelling with just your partner, it might not bed. But with kids, you need to think about logistics. If children are too young to shower and need to be bathed, for example, make sure the bathroom has a tub. A room with a balcony and separate living area is also helpful; parents can enjoy a nightcap outside after the little ones have gone to sleep, or kids can entertain themselves in the living space while parents prep for the day. Think about your daily routine at home, and be sure to double check in advance that the room meets your family’s needs.