Getting the Most Out of a Family-Friendly Resort Vacation

ghogan August 9, 2010 1 Comment

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Memorable vacations are a treasure and an important part of a happy childhood. 

Whether it is summer vacation or Spring and Winter school breaks, spending your getaway at a family-friendly resort can be a wonderful bonding experience.  Many resorts are now designed specifically for families and children.  This includes destinations you would least expect like the Caribbean (it isn’t just for honeymooners anymore) and Thailand (International adventure is no longer limited to solo adventurers).

When shopping around for a “family-friendly” resort, make sure they are fully-equipped to handle your kids’ needs as well as your own.  Hotels and resorts that you may want to avoid are those that don’t allow children in some areas of the grounds.   Entertainment and activities for children are a must!

Packaged vacation deals can actually save you money!  Despite the struggling economy, 76% of families surveyed by the Travel Industry Association statistics report families are making the most of their time and budget by taking packaged vacations.  While all-inclusive deals formerly suffered from a negative image of limiting your freedom, many families are rediscovering all-inclusive resort vacations for many reasons.  Among these are affordability, convenience (especially when traveling with kids) and luxury, with many upscale resorts now targeting the “family-friendly” market.

So where to go?

The Hogan clan always takes a vote on three ideas annually for summer vacation. The two kids and two grown-ups alike enthusiastically cheer when Walt Disney World Resort is mentioned. Why not? Right after landing at Orlando International Airport, the Disney spell is immediately cast.  The aptly named Disney’s Magical Express Transportation takes us free of charge to the Walt Disney World Resort Hotel.  We don’t even have to worry about our luggage, which is delivered direct to the hotel.  You can’t count on my family to pack light so this makes the trip totally carefree.  There is even free transportation around Walt Disney World Resort during our stay.

The option of traveling by bus, monorail, and boat was exciting in itself.  After all, the park is almost 30,080 acres and includes four theme parks (the original Magic Kingdom theme park, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studio, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom) and two water parks.  To make sure we make the most of our time, we always use the “Extra Magic Hours”.  These are extended theme park hours just for hotel guests and at no extra charge.  It’s great to have this kind of advantage over the masses!

Make sure your family also checks out the Disney Dining Plans for hotel guests.  You can choose from over 100 dining facilities resort-wide and get up to 30% off on meals.

Finally, the kids were thrilled when they got a welcome voice mail from the Big Cheese himself.  Yes, Mickey Mouse is only one of the in-room character calls you can get for special occasions.  My wife, Dora, arranged it for the girls at the Online Check-In Service.

So Disney is a no-brainer.

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific in Mexico is snug-as-a bug between the Pacific Ocean and the legendary Sierra Madre mountains.  Families with babies like our six-month old Lenore will appreciate the “Baby Med” option. Our room had everything to make a fussy infant feel at home, like bottle warmers, fully-stocked diapers, and even her own “getaway” crib! Meanwhile, our equally fussy and easily bored four year-old, Holly, attended Circus Camp where she lived out her Big Tent dreams learning how to work the trapeze (safely), juggle like a clown, and more. As for the grown-ups, the Mexican-style hacienda had a fully-featured spa for Dora and an empty lounge chair with my name on it facing another breathtaking part of the never-ending Pacific Ocean.

15 of the 298 large rooms are family suites (for an extra charge of course), and include breakfast room service.  Our package included our classic room (choose from classic, deluxe, or suite), childcare and kids activities from four months old and up (Lenore thankfully made the cut).  Club Med Baby also includes baby food for tots up to 23 months, sports from group to individual activities, meals and unlimited anytime snacks (including sodas, cocktails, juices, and exclusive Club Med signature drinks—refreshing companions for my beach chair activities). There’s even live music at night.  In addition, tots under two, like our baby Lenore stay FREE!

During our stay, we all got everything we needed in what turned out to be a great vacation.  Holly couldn’t stop chattering about joining the Circus, Dora was relaxed and refreshed (and even more beautiful than usual), and Lenore was clean and well-fed, therefore happy.  I got my uninterrupted lounge chair time with a fruity concoction that put me in a mucho tropical mood!

What’s up for our next vacation? Can you believe Jamaica or Thailand?

Yes, these places aren’t just for the lone adventurer or newlywed couples. Beaches Resort in Jamaica is an all-inclusive holiday in a gorgeous white-sand beach setting where wallets are optional since it would include all our meals, snacks, beverages, accommodations, sports (like scuba diving), kid’s activities (including a Kid’s Camp).  Butler service too?  Well, butler service is available and only comes in the upper strata of rooms (beyond our budget), but a guy can dream.

Rose Hall Resort and Spa Jamaica
Rose Hall Resort and Spa Jamaica

Another option is the Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego, Jamaica, which sprawls over 1,000 square feet of private beach paradise and includes a Kid’s Retreat and Teen Zone (keeping this one in mind for when Holly hits her teens still a decade down the road).  Rose Hall even includes a water park called Sugar Mills where kids and grown-ups can spend quality-time floating in the lazy lagoon, exploring a jungle garden with suspension bridges (undoubtedly a fast favorite),  and getting a peek at the historic Rose Hall Plantation via replica aqueducts harkening back to a lost era. Live music and Drive-in movies made our family getaway complete!

Now butlers are nice, but having our own Vacation Nanny sounds even better!  They have just that at the all-inclusive Franklin D. Resort and Spa in Jamaica.   All-inclusive covers food, drinks, accommodations, and even activities.  The “Wee Baby Moon” is more than a clever play on words; it really shows FDR’s commitment to being a family-friendly establishment.  Mom and all children under 16 stay for FREE (There is a maximum of two children per family plus a baby of 3 months and under).  It’s the perfect package for new moms and dads!

Now when you think Thailand—you probably think of crowded streets that aren’t very kid-friendly. Go a little further and you’ll be in family-friendly territory with pristine beaches surrounded by mountain peaks and tropical islands. What a dream vacation Dolphin Bay Resort would be!

Pink Dolphin
Pink Dolphins are real!

Shallow waters and gentle waves make it a safe and enjoyable beach holiday for the kids. There are even actual dolphins in Dolphin Bay of the gray and pink variety (I think Holly just screamed at the top of her lungs at the mention of PINK DOLPHINS!!!!!).

Moreover, a night at Dolphin Bay is only $46 a night (double occupancy).  Of course, you will need to budget in airfare to Thailand but accommodations are budget-friendly once there.

All in all, here’s a rundown of what to look for in a family-friendly resort vacation:

- Fun activities to occupy the kids and adults alike (IMPORTANT!)
- A friendly staff that accommodates kids. (note staff to kid ratio especially at the resort’s “camps”).
 Accommodate special needs for infants if you have one (diaper service, infant food/formula, etc.)
- Rest and relaxation for yourself! (It’s your holiday too!)

Finally, discuss plans with the kids to see if the activities mentioned will indeed be fun, engaging, and most of all, turn into a happy childhood memory (PINK DOLPHINS included).

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avatarAbout the Author:

Garrett Hogan lives in Burbank California and is a proud husband and father of two young daughters. He and his family love to travel and explore new places.

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One Comments to “Getting the Most Out of a Family-Friendly Resort Vacation”
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