Perhaps I have a few smug friends, but more than once I have heard, “all-inclusive vacations are for boring people who don’t like to take adventures.” Not true. You know what? Sometimes you want to go on vacation and not make decisions. Sometimes this is the BEST part of the vacation! So, excuse me if I want to get my passport stamped only to get a cab to a resort and consume all my meals there and spend 95% of my vacation time at the same resort. The joy of an all-inclusive vacation is simply that: you know what to expect and your mind can relax. If you have kids, it’s easy to say yes and to keep them occupied. They are safe. I always say that an all-inclusive resort is simply a cruise vacation … that is on land.

I have only booked two all-inclusive vacations, one at Club Med and one at Beaches, and both were exactly what I needed at that time and both fit what I was looking for: a guaranteed fun family vacation. I wouldn’t trade either vacation for anything else. Here’s where I went and what you can expect from an all-inclusive vacation at these two resorts.

CLUB MED SANDPIPER BAY

For Club Med Sandpiper Bay, they take babies as young as 4 months old. Yes, that means that they have babysitting and camp activities for all kids, including those who are 4 months of age. My third child was born on February 19. We checked into Club Med on June 19. Yep, the day he turned 4 months old! And, for the rest of the week, we checked him into the professional babysitting room, Baby Club Med, where they loved on him all day long, and my husband and I spent the rest of the day with our older two (ages 2.5  and 5 at the time) giving them the attention that they had been missing since our son was born. Sometimes we checked our older two into camps for their age group and then went back to our room, our kid-free room, or we went to the adults-only pool and never had to be bothered with a cannonball or squirt gun. Every night there were shows after dinner that my kids were either in (talent shows, circuses with them dressed up as tigers or swinging on a trapeze!) or that were completely entertaining to them. And, as parents know, when your kids are happy — and tired enough to fall asleep with ease by 9 p.m. — you are happy.

Club Med Sandpiper is on water, but it is not at the beach. We found all the water activities (sailing, kayaking, swimming) available to be more than sufficient. For one day, we did take a ride to the beach as it’s only about 20 minutes away. Image: Club Med

As for why we picked Club Med Sandpiper Bay? We had had one particularly bad airplane flight about 12 months prior with our kids. It was so bad, that we got home and basically drew a 12-hour drive time around our home city, Nashville. “That’s it,” we proclaimed. For the next few years, no more flying. And Sandpiper Bay is exactly a 12-hour drive from our home in Nashville.

For families wanting a lot of activity, Club Med Sandpiper has tennis, sailing, kayaking, golf and beach volleyball. They are known for their circus program, where you can learn to trapeze, with different programs for most ages. Again, you choose vacations based on wants and needs. Club Med was just what we needed and the location fit where we needed.

TURKS AND CAICOS BEACHES RESORT

We went to the Turks and Caicos Beaches resort over Christmas a few years ago. I was exhausted from work, and my husband was also working around the clock. We looked at each other pretty late in the year — I think it was November — and we said the best gift we could give our kids, and each other, would be to get away for Christmas and reconnect. We knew we had been working too hard and not giving them the time they deserved. We booked it, and we were right — we all needed it so badly, and the vacation was just so easy. There were several restaurants to choose from for each meal. The kids loved swimming up to the pool bar to get a smoothie. The waterslides were a hit. I’m sure if my son had been a little older, the Xbox 360 room would have been his favorite! While my oldest and my husband got SCUBA certified (that took four or five days), I sat in a pool chair and read and watched our other kids have a fabulous time. We brought Santa hats and took photos on the beach on Christmas day. When we arrived home, stockings awaited along with a couple gifts under the tree, as Santa still visited during this time, but the gift was the trip, and they knew it. And, I had my sanity back as my brain had been able to relax.

The waterslides were a big favorite for my kids. We went when they were ages 6-11 years old. Image: Beaches

One thing I took note of when we were at Beaches was the amount of teens having fun. A friend just took her two teens to this same resort a couple of months ago and had a fabulous time. Again, it’s a confined area that is set up specifically to cater to different ages and to ensure that everyone has fun. This makes it easy as parents to let your kids explore and be safe (but still have a few family rules!).

The things that both all-inclusive vacations had that I enjoyed were:

  • I knew exactly what our vacation would cost.
  • There was no worrying about tipping anyone throughout the day.
  • It was easy to say yes. “Can we go to the water slide pool?” Yes. “Can we go to the show after dinner?” Yes. “Can we eat at the Jamaican place again on the beach?” Yes. “Can I have my third smoothie for the day?” No.
  • No one asked me to describe where were going to eat dinner that night.
  • No one asked me what the plan was that day.
  • I didn’t need to research anything besides the actual resort, and truth-be-told, my travel agent did that. I just asked what it cost and was happy that it was within budget.
  • The staff are super nice and know your names by the end of the week.
  • They have great camps for kids.
  • They offer great family-friendly nightly entertainment.
  • They had pretty good food, but I don’t go to an all-inclusive thinking I will have the most amazing meals. That’s not why I choose them. I choose them because I don’t want to think about where to eat or what to eat. I choose an all-inclusive resort when my brain is oh-so-tired and I want to make sure the vacation is one where everyone ends up happy and relaxed.

Tips for your all-inclusive resort vacation:

  • Be friendly. You are with a lot of the guests, and the whole staff, all week.
  • Set limits on food as your kids could likely eat cookies and smoothies all day long.
  • Set limits on alcohol or you might be passed out by 3 p.m.
  • Do all the activities you can, even if they sound cheesy. Get your nose out of the air and just decide to have fun!
  • You are not at the Ritz, and you are not on an adventure quest. Thus, don’t compare this vacation to these things. This is about relaxing and having most decisions made for you.

If after reading this, you can’t even fathom enjoying an all-inclusive resort, don’t go! But, please stop proclaiming that you don’t understand why anyone else would want to. They are fun. They are easy. And they keep you on budget. That’s enough for me!

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