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Guide to Planning an All-Inclusive Vacation with Children

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My newsfeed right now is all families getting ready to head south for a quick tropical escape to one of the many resorts in Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic or beyond. Travelling to an all-inclusive resort can be a wonderful, easy way to vacation as a family. If you’ve never travelled with small children before it can also be a perfect way to ease into travel as a family- there’s very little stress when planing a AI vacation. Your transportation, food, actives and accommodations are all included in one ticket price. We’ve done it a dozen times with our family and have a few ideas of how to make the most of your vacation.

Here our are top 15 tips when planning an all-inclusive holiday with kids.

1. Read Trip Advisor reports before booking your vacation. These can be invaluable for gaining insight about what a’la carte restaurants to book right away, where the “best” rooms are located and any advice unique to each resort. Seek out what’s important to you- kids clubs, water parks, activities, food…. but read it all with a grain of salt… most people who are inclined to sit down and write a review are usually those who have a complaint or are over-the-top thrilled. However,  I still feel like sitting down and spending an evening before you leave just mulling over reviews can really enhance your travel experience. I use Trip Advisor to choose a resort based on overall experiences, but I use it even more for the random traveller advice.  I have found resort maps and schedules of weekly activities,  tips about best dishes to try, staff and servers to seek out,  “secret bars”….it’s worth the time going through the reviews.

2. Email the resort directly about 2 weeks before you leave. If you’ve booked with a travel agent, they generally ask for “requests” but I have better luck directly emailing the resort. In my experience hotels start assigning rooms about 2 weeks prior to arrival, so it’s a good time to message them.  I start off  letting them now how happy we are to be visiting and then requesting certain things like room locations (as read about on Trip Advisor), the floor level we’d like (ground level if we are travelling with a stroller to make life easier), and any in-room amenities like a crib or bottle warmer. I usually let them know I’m an avid Trip Advisor reviewer (not sure if that helps) but we always seem to get our requests and sometimes even end up with upgrades like Ocean view and fruit trays upon our arrival. It never hurts to ask and it’s great to make that connection with a personal touch.

3. Pull out your suitcase out 2 weeks prior and keep them out with easy access to start packing (I usually start much earlier then that- I love packing for trips and enjoying the anticipation).  Any time you think of something you need, you can just throw it in the suitcase and organize it later. Keep a notepad on top for making notes of everything as you go. Gradually adding things to your bag is a lot less stressful then sitting down the night before and trying to remember everything you could need.

4. There’s a few extra things you need to pack beyond the clothes and swimsuits we like to bring when heading to an all-inclusive. Some things that always make our list are sand buckets and shovels, water bottles, beach bag or foldable beach basket for hauling stuff to the beach, small purse for evening to carry your room card & camera,  cards or games to play when the kids are sleeping at night, and ziploc bags (the extra large ones for transporting smelly or dirty clothes home, smaller snack size bags for taking food from the buffet). Also pack some favourite snacks from home in case your kiddo needs something something familiar or if they’re extra picky.  I also have a post on what to pack when travelling-HERE.

5. Don’t forget the sunscreen, lots of sunscreen. In the morning before we leave the room I lotion every inch of them up with the highest SPF cream we have. I will do this again after lunch or after naps.  Then I bring spray sunscreen to do quick reapplies after each swim. We bring the stick sunscreen for faces and use it often (I “paint” their faces into fun animals each time- this makes it a game instead of a fight). Suncreen purchased at the resort can be $20+ per bottle, so I usually bring more then I think we will need (3 large bottles of creams, 3 sprays, 3 face sticks for a week- all waterproof).

6. Debate bringing a stroller for younger children. If your kid is the kind that falls asleep anywhere, bring along the stroller to make naptime easier. You can stay at the beach or go for a walk for naps, instead of headed back to the room. We also loved our kids falling asleep in the stroller in the evenings so we could enjoy a bit of “nightlife” (aka playing cards in the lobby bar).

7. Consider doing family pictures on the beach. Most of the resorts have a resident photographer who will schedule a quick family portrait session. Last November we paid $15 USD per picture for  casual pictures on the beach.  Bonus, I was actually in a vacation picture!!!

8. Grab some bananas from the buffet to add a banana to your kids smoothies at the bars. If you’re going to let them drink virgin pina coladas, there might as well be something healthy in there 😉

9. Get to know your wait staff right away, ask about their life and give them a small tip. You’ll find after you meet the servers they might seek you out every time you enter the buffet.  The next time you arrive you may be greeted by name and  personalized service can make your trip so much better. Our last server had Violet’s chocolate milk ready before she even asked for it.

10. Don’t forget some pool floaties! Leave your expensive ones at home, but a few cheap floats can make that pool that much more enticing.  You can leave them for the next family if you need more room in your suitcase on the way home.

11. Bring a dollar store kite for the beach. It doesn’t take up much space, it’s lightweight and it be easily passed along. Flying a kite on a beach in the sunset is my kind of family vacation perfection.

12. Book your A’la Carte restaurants right away. If you are at a resort that takes reservations for dining, do so on your first night to ensure you get your top selections.  At the massive  chain resorts we’ve visited  if you haven’t booked your dining upon your arrival you can miss out on the popular restaurants all together or have to eat at weird times.

13. Try to take advantage of the programming and different activities the resorts offer. Try the waterspouts, kids club, aquasize… make the most of your vacation, whatever that means to you.  Also try to leave the resort at least once to show your kids a bit of the countryside or a local town. Trip Advisor can be a great resource in finding activities and excursions that are close, including safe local beaches and unique places to explore. You can also find out if there is a local school you can bring supplies for or other organizations that you can support like animal rescue projects that have wish lists from visitors.

14. Make a video on the beach or at the pool of your kiddo saying all the things they love about their resort and their family vacation. They can watch the video when they’re back home and all those memories will keep a lot longer.

15. Laugh and enjoy- remember rarely a vacation is perfect. Remember that those are things that make it “yours”. Swim in the rain, take big family naps as needed and enjoy the little things.

 

Here’s a few quick pics from our last vacation in the Mayan Rivera. Questions? Just ask!

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  • March 19, 2017 - 1:47 pm

    Kim - Thank you so much for posting this. My family and I will be travelling to an all inclusive soon and I’ve been looking for tips/tricks on what to pack and how to prepare for an all inclusive with kids. This was super helpful! Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • March 22, 2017 - 7:27 pm

      Kelsy - I hope the tips help! Have the best trip!ReplyCancel

  • May 31, 2017 - 9:17 am

    Julia Clarke - Thanks so much for these great tips! I am taking my two kids ages 4 and 7 to a large all inclusive. My 4 year old has tons of energy, but can only take so much walking, I was thinking a stroller would get in the way because I’m going solo with them(wish me luck)😬. After reading your post I decided I’m going to buy a small umbrella stroller. I think it will be a little life saver to bring one!ReplyCancel

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