By: Beach Bum Lisa, Mom of two toddlers, ages 2 and 4
So you have decided you want to take a vacation, and…. you want to bring your toddlers. Your parents are questioning your sanity. Your friends think it’s a great idea. And you are excited but wonder, “how in the world am I going to plan this trip and then get through it?”
First off – DO NOT pick a hotel off of a website. Contact your favorite Beach Bum, they have been there and can tell you firsthand about the best all inclusive family resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico. Everywhere looks good on a website but do you really want to chance being in a hotel that is sub-par and lo and behold your room is a mouse house and dirty. You don’t even feel comfortable letting your kids walk on the floor. Do you want to take the chance that you have to deal with service issues or food issues (or even worse – food poisoning – ick!!) while you’re trying to make this a once-in-a-lifetime vacation? It would be once-in-a-lifetime that’s for sure. There are so many all inclusive resorts that cater to families with toddlers.It’s not worth it to go unless you choose the right hotel. Beaches Resorts offer amazing water parks, Sesame Street characters, fabulous beaches, inviting pools, toddler slides, big kid slides for the parents, great food, drinks, milk in the room, refrigerators, kids’ menus, daily and nightly shows, parades, crafts, kids club, dance parties both for adults and kids, the list just keeps going. It’s amazing! Beaches has partnered with the best of the best when it comes to kids’ activities: Sesame Street, Crayola, Xbox, and more! They went to the experts to find out what needs to be done for a successful family vacation, and they implemented it! My other favorite – Azul Hotels have kids clubs, all rooms are Jr. Suites and/or connecting rooms, Fisher Price toys you can borrow, Pack N Plays, baby food, strollers, stools in the bathroom so kids can reach the sink, kids’ menus, and more. They have all those little “luxuries” you have at home that make your life a bit easier and don’t realize what an impact they have on your day not to mention the great beaches, pools, amazing food, and drinks!
Beach Bum Lisa's son, Connor, with Grover at Beaches Boscobel in Jamaica
When you pick the right hotel, everything is easier: packing, preparing, and then the vacation itself. You WILL spend more time in the room than you think. Kids are out of their routines and will need downtime to relax so they don’t lose it. A nice size and comfortable room makes all the difference in the world. Equal to that is having a great staff at the hotel who speak your language and are willing to get what you need…”Yes my kids drank that half gallon of milk today, can we get more?” (yes that was me in August). “Yes, could we get some more Red Stripe in the room” (yes that was me in August as well).
Beach Bum Lisa's daughter, Allie, with Ernie at Beaches Boscobel in Jamaica
Setting your expectations is also equally as important. Will everything go picture perfect? Most certainly not. What happens at home can and will happen on vacation AND things could be even worse because normal routines are not followed. Kids skip naps, they are confused about what is going on, their ears start popping on the plane, they want to run on the plane – it can happen so be prepared for that. If you’re prepared for that – then it won’t be as big of a deal if it happens.
I HIGHLY recommend practicing airport etiquette and flying on a plane prior to traveling. We did this, and our kids did absolutely fantastic. At home, we had “tickets” and I would take the tickets from them as they were pulling their suitcases. I asked to look in their suitcases and called it security.mI had them take off their shoes, etc. etc. the whole bit. We didn’t run in the airport and we had to make sure to walk to our terminal. I do recommend using the real words as they will hear you guys discuss it at the airport. This way the kids know what is going on. It eases their potential fear. We had to wait in chairs before getting on the plane and pretended it took a long time. Then we boarded the plane and put our suitcases to the side. And then we got to hold our fruit snacks! Yay! When the plane took off, we were able to eat our fruit snacks and pretended our ears hurt so we took some drinks, etc. etc. You get the picture. I tell you what – our kids loved practicing, and they were pros at the airport. They even commented that their ears didn’t hurt as they were prepared for that to be the case. When we experienced turbulence on the plane, my son, Connor, age 4, said Mom this plane moves just like we did at home. I’m excited!! He was so pumped about it.
Beach Bum Lisa with kiddos Connor and Allie
I would also explain that you get to ride on the bus or van to the hotel from the airport. Kids think that you will land at the hotel so if they know it’s going to be a little bit longer that helps them. For our trip to Beaches Boscobel, we got to ride a couple planes, a train (monorail at Atlanta airport), and a bus! We were very excited. It actually made the transfer easier for me because the kids were so excited.
Take lots of snacks – lots!! I would also take a variety of snacks – small, lightweight, easy to eat, non-sticky, you know what I’m talking about. Drinks – take cups of water. No milk unless you have to. If water spills, no big deal, and you can easily fill up with water at the airport.
While on vacation – take advantage of the resort’s activities they have for kids. Use the toys they have there. Only pack the toys you need for the airport – leave the rest at home. The kids will want to play with the “new” toys. This is a question you should ask your Beach Bum – are there sand toys at the resort…the airport toys will be fine for the room. Do bring swimmies so the kids can swim on their own. Do not bring towels – the hotel has them. Take LOTS of sunscreen especially if you are taking spray bottles – those run out a lot faster than you think. Be prepared but try not to over pack too much as it’s just more stuff you have to haul around. Don’t expect to lay out and relax in the sun yourself. It may or may not happen. Traveling with toddlers is a different fun than an adult vacation, but worth every moment. I didn’t get as much of a tan as I wanted, but got something much more!
Playground on the beach at Azul Beach Hotel in Mexico
Make sure to monitor the kids’ moods. If they are wearing down, make it exciting to go back to the room and hang out. Even if they don’t take a nap, turn out the lights and have quiet time. Don’t try to go out to eat after a long day and the kids are exhausted – that makes for a long dinner. Order the kids’ meals first so they can start eating while you wait on yours. Take lots of pictures, and if the kids are old enough – have them take pictures so you can see the vacation through their eyes. Go exploring…kids get excited about crab holes, shells, plants, a popcorn machine, and all the other little things. Turn it into a learning experience – let’s count the crab holes, what color is the ocean – the kids will be pumped!! See and experience the vacation through their eyes, and your vacation will infinitely be better, and your memories will be priceless!
Water slides and lazy river at Beaches Negril in Jamaica
My personal favorites for families with toddlers: Beaches Turks & Caicos, Beaches Negril, Beaches Boscobel, Azul Beach, and Azul Fives. These resorts offer kids programs so if you do want to experience a bit of an adult vacation while you are traveling with your kids, you can! And they’ll love all the activities the kids club offers while you are basking in the sun enjoying a pina colada in solitude.
When I tell people I am a certified travel concierge with Beach Bum Vacation, I often get a puzzled look followed by the question, “why would anyone want to work with a travel agent when it’s so easy to book your own vacation online?” I could go on and on with a laundry list of reasons why it’s a great idea to work with a Beach Bum, but we’ll save that for another post.
Instead, I would like to focus on one main reason: we know the best all inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico. Yes, anyone can easily book their own vacation online. You’ll end up having a headache trying to weed through all the different promotional offers, trying to understand what exactly is included and seeking out trustworthy, firsthand reviews. You’re not going to end up saving yourself any money going this route (we don’t charge any fees for our services) and you run a huge risk that you have just spent your hard-earned money booking a mediocre vacation instead of an amazing one. A Beach Bum will interview you, find out what’s important to you and your travel companions and recommend resorts based on your personalities and travel interests. You don’t get that booking online and you don’t have any assurance that the resort you just booked is going to be the resort of YOUR dreams. Working with the best travel agency eliminates the guesswork.
Beach Bum Jenny in St. Lucia
Over the years, we have visited hundreds of resorts throughout many tropical destinations. We’ve swam in the ocean, slept in the beds, relaxed in the Jacuzzis, sipped one too many frozen drinks at the swim-up bar and dined in all the restaurants. Yes, it is a rough life we lead! 😉 Throughout the years, we have learned which resort lines offer guests an exceptional vacation experience, which ones are mediocre and which ones are just plain horrendous. Guess what? Our trials and errors benefit YOU. We aren’t ever going to recommend that you vacation at a mediocre or horrendous resort. Instead, we have partnered with resorts that we consider to be “the best of the best.” We consider these resorts to be our “preferred partners.”
Beach Bums Melissa, Nanda, Hayley and Lisa enjoying a Sunset Cruise
Our preferred partners offer more than just an exceptional vacation experience. We have developed relationships with the management at these resorts and consider them friends; we are on a first name basis with these trusted partners. Each and every time our valued clients travel to one of these resorts, we get in touch with the management ahead of time to ensure that they have all special requests noted, they know of any celebrations such as a honeymoon, anniversary or birthday, and that they know that these aren’t just any guests – they are on a Beach Bum Vacation! Our proactive approach is designed to ensure that you have a “no worries mon,” time-of-your-life vacation!
Beach Bum Steve in Bora Bora
Of course, minor issues are bound to happen on vacations. The preferred partners that we have carefully selected are there not only for the exceptional vacations they offer & our personal relationship with them, but also because we know that it is unlikely that our clients will encounter any issues, big or small, while on vacation. Sometimes issues happen when our clients are at preferred resorts; we can ensure that these are few and far between, and our partner resorts are known for correcting any snafus very quickly to ensure that your vacation is as smooth and enjoyable as possible. But if you are on vacation and run into a snag that isn’t resolved immediately, please reach out to your Beach Bum. Since we are on a first name basis with the resort management, we can easily get in touch with upper level management right away to smooth out the situation so you can get back to enjoying your Beach Bum Vacation!
Our preferred partnerships are tried, tested and true! Get in touch with one of our certified travel concierges today to plan your very own Beach Bum Vacation! No worries mon, just pack your bags- it’s time to travel the world with us!
Beach Bums Hayley and Robert horseback riding on the beach in Jamaica
Let’s be honest! Having a destination wedding and getting outside the traditional norm for weddings is hard! It takes a special breed of bride and groom and sometimes a lot of nerve to tell your friends and family that they have to travel to a foreign land to see you walk down the aisle. These couples run the risk of alienating the people who they love the most, ticking off their religious leader and/or being caught in a hurricane! But you know what we love is that they throw their veil in the air and go for it! Beach Bum Vacation’s team of certified travel concierges are among the best professional destination wedding planners and have helped over 300 couples get married in the Caribbean and Mexico! We are back to back The Wedding Channel’s top vendor for destination weddings and we are so blessed that this special group of the wedding market exists!
Destination wedding couples are laid back, 100% in love, and can be caught playing touch football (together) two hours before they say their vows at sunset. They don’t stress about the exact color of ribbon on the invites (because they might not send out traditional invitations) or what shoes will work (so many beach brides decide to go barefoot) or which music they walk down the aisle to (for many couples, nothing beats the soothing sound of ocean waves crashing). Eliminating these detail decisions really does take out so much stress (and money) from their lives. Easy, lovely, romantic. The destination wedding couple gets it right every time no matter how big or small their group, because there is just something so genuinely sweet about an intimate moment in the sun, holding hands, saying “I do.”
Beach Bum Marcie and husband Erich
Destination weddings can be as over-the-top elaborate as you’d like or as carefree, easy breezy as you are. You have the option to custom tailor every detail or pick a standard package – whatever your style may be!
I was a destination wedding bride myself with Beach Bum Vacation before I became a Beach Bum, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that this is not an event I would want to plan on my own, but Beach Bum Hayley showed me how to easily plan a destination wedding. From the hundreds of properties to choose from to the legalities of each country to not knowing who has the best beach, I was overwhelmed with the choices! Thank goodness a friend recommended me to Beach Bum Hayley in early 2006, because there is so much (mis)information out there when one googles, “destination wedding” or “Caribbean weddings.” I will never forget printing off dozens of pieces of paper from multiple sources that claimed to be experts on a wedding abroad and was flooded with pop ups, advertisements, and cheap resort deals left and right! This was not the best way to go about this process, I could tell that immediately, and lucky for me, I was able to shred all that online “expertise” as soon as I spoke to Hayley in person. She eased my mind, helped us make the best decision and guided us to our unforgettable beach wedding in Negril with no strings attached. We never looked back!
Getting outside your comfort zone and planning a wedding event from thousands of miles away is special, exciting and intriguing, but you may also run the risk of royally screwing it up! Beach Bum Vacation specializes in the expertise of matching couples and their families to a destination and resort that will provide EVERYTHING they are looking for in their dream wedding location. Essentially, it is our goal to offer couples stress-free destination wedding planning. We plan with you and walk our brides and grooms through a step by step process, essentially guiding you through a list of preferred wedding resorts, where we have maintained personal relationships with managers and wedding coordinators to ensure that you are well taken care of on the wedding side, as well as, match you up based on your vision on the resort side. Why risk the most important day of your life booking through an online “expert” or discount website that claims to know what you want, when you can talk to your very own Beach Bum Wedding Concierge on the phone or through email 24/7? It seems like a no brainer to use a Beach Bum!
And, it was for me. Beach Bum Hayley took my now husband and me through all the reasons she felt Beaches Negril in Jamaica was a perfect “match” for us when she spoke with us. Looking back, based on everything we told her, it would STILL be the perfect match even today! That is what I love. The many choices out there can be easily narrowed down once you speak to a Beach Bum, get down to the nitty gritty of what it is you may envision, because we have been there, seen that and know everyone who can help make your planning experience smooth and as stress-free as possible!
Beach Bum Marcie's Destination Wedding Ceremony at Beaches Negril in Jamaica
We are so happy that in 2012, the “norm” is changing and brides and grooms are choosing a destination wedding over traditional weddings now more than ever! It’s not such a rarity to ask your guests to pack their bathing suit and flip flops and join you on the beach! We are passionate about making dreams come true and sending you off to paradise to be married. It’s such an amazing time in your life and should be something that is nurtured and well taken care of for the duration of the planning, while you are traveling and once you return!
Trust me, it’s normal and reasonable to worry on occasion and have stressful moments, but at the end of the day, there is this amazing calmness that I associate with these couples, and they handle it with grace because they have Beach Bum Vacation on their side! It’s incredible! When it really comes down to it, as long as the bride and groom both show up, the sun is shining and the water is blue, what more do you need? Just love (and the brilliant sunset)! It’s a perfect recipe for the wedding of your dreams.
Mr. & Mrs. Muensterman
Choosing a destination wedding is the risky part, so make getting married away the easy part by choosing a Beach Bum Vacation wedding experience!