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Planning the Ultimate Family Vacation: Part 2

By: Beach Bum Lisa

In Planning the Ultimate Family Vacation: Part 1 we shared steps 1-4. Beach Bum Lisa breaks it down step by step and walks you through the rest of the journey.

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Step 5 – Evaluating Recommendations

Your Beach Bum will provide 3 top recommendations based on your wants and needs. You will want to look at your options based on their quality, value, inclusions, experiences they offer, and then of course, budget. Do not just look at the number, as you may not be comparing apples with apples. All- inclusive resorts are not created equal. Many resorts offer so many amenities: Sesame Street characters, surf simulators, water slides, game rooms, catamaran cruises, toys, teen clubs, kids clubs, monitors, 24 hour room service, changing tables, and more! It is so much fun to look through this information and think of the possibilities! I know when I chose the resort for my personal family vacation, we made sure to think about our kids’ ages AND what we, as parents, wanted. This is a vacation for the entire family, not just the kids.

Look for quality inclusions. The resort may offer an amenity, but is it good? Look for trusted brands such as: Fisher Price, Crayola, National Geographic, Sesame Street, Golf pros, Nike, Xbox, and the list goes on! For younger kids meeting the Sesame Street characters is an incredible experience. My kids are super pumped for our next vacation to Beaches Resorts, because Super Grover is going to be there!

If you have three children, be prepared that not all hotels will accommodate you in one room. I know this can be quite frustrating. However, trust your Beach Bum to recommend the best resort/room scenario for your family.  You may have to book at  least two rooms or you may have to get a higher room category. Note that even if you book two rooms, you can reconfigure your sleeping arrangements however you would like while are on property.  You’ve heard it before- size does matter. Take a close look at the room size. A common mistake families make is thinking they won’t spend any time in the room. YES YOU WILL! So unless you want to be living on top of each other, pay attention to size and what your Beach Bum recommends. The extra money is worth its weight in gold.

Budget-wise, all inclusive is the way to go. All inclusive resorts have so many activities and amenities included that make it the best value. My best advice is to spend your money where your priorities are. If you want to do a lot of activities; pick a resort that has a lot of inclusions and is located in an area where you can easily get off the resort and experience local culture, tours and excursions. If you know your kids will be spending their time at the beach; pick the hotel with the great beach and the other amenities will just be bonuses.

Step 6 –  Booking your vacation

Your Beach Bum will walk you through the stress-free process and send over a secure reservation link for you to submit. Your Beach Bum Travel Concierge will receive the information, put a reservation on hold, and then call or email you to get your approval on the itinerary/price before a deposit is charged. A low deposit is required upfront, making it easy to secure your vacation, and final payment is usually duel 45 days prior to departure! Beats paying everything up front!

Step 7 – Preparing for the trip

This is equally as exciting as planning, but can be stressful as well. Refer to Part 1 for ideas on ways to prepare for the trip with little ones. Plan when you are going to tell the kids if you haven’t already. This is like Christmas for you. I was so anxious to tell my kids; I could barely sleep the night before.

The best advice for preparing to travel is to plan with the same philosophy as any other trip: anything can happen. Flexibility is key. Moms probably know what I’m talking about.  Should you take pajamas for every night? Probably not, but you need more than one.  Should you take more than 1 swim suit? Yes, as one will inevitably end up destroyed somehow. Ladies, on a family vacation try not to bring a ton of shoes. These will weigh you down, and your kids will do that enough! 😉  Make sure to check airline websites for baggage fees. This is the place to check for most up-to-date information. Rolling clothes helps save space as opposed to folding them.  Younger kids often like to travel with their own bag.  I encourage you to let them do this as it is exciting to have your own bag. Make sure they know up front though that the bag is their responsibility.  Do you need a medicine cabinet in your suitcase? No, but some helps. What is your favorite tip when preparing for a family vacation? Leave a comment below and be entered to win a Cheeseburger in Paradise gift card. We will randomly select a winner on April 5th! 

Step 8: Traveling

Relax and enjoy! Let go of strict rules and normal inhibitions and just go with it! If you are going to the Caribbean and/or Mexico, this is the mecca for ultimate chill so take advantage! Beach Bum Lisa tip: I do recommend keeping routines for little ones though. If they normally take an afternoon nap, try to stick with it. But don’t force it to be at the same time and be prepared for them not to sleep. That quiet time still helps. Younger children do better with routine, especially on vacation when things are already different. Part 1 has some great tips to refer back on. Prepare your kids about what’s to come. Let your kids know that after you land at the airport, you will have to be transferred to the hotel. Otherwise they will expect the pool to be outside the airport. 🙂

This vacation is an opportunity to reconnect as a family. Don’t just go to the pool every day. Converse with each other and enjoy activities together. Create memories!  I can guarantee that teens will remember climbing a waterfall or swimming with dolphins but they may not remember lying out by the pool.  Don’t get me wrong, make time to get your Vitamin D on! Don’t be afraid to send your kids to the kids’ club. They have wonderful activities and staff for all ages: little ones on up to teens, and it will give parents a chance to be together. Take pictures. Have your kids take pictures. It’s so fun to look at the world through their eyes. We bought our kids digital cameras before we left. My son’s camera was full of pictures of the room and the view from the room. He still talks about sleeping in the bed that folded up (pull out sofa). I’m so excited for you! Family vacations are so much fun!  Now I’m ready for my own! We’re going to Beaches Turks & Caicos next, and I can’t wait!! Super Grover, here we come!

Now you’re fully prepared to plan your Beach Bum Vacation, and we’re here to guide you all the way to the beach! Get in contact with your favorite Beach Bum today!  Don’t forget to comment below for your chance to win! What is your favorite tip when preparing for a family vacation?

Planning The Ultimate Family Vacation: Part 1

By: Beach Bum Lisa

Are you packed & ready to go? We hope so because it’s time to go on a little journey with the Beach Bums – today, we’re guiding your family all the way to the beach!

No matter what, a family vacation done right, will bring you closer together and create memories that will last a lifetime. Experiencing a destination through the eyes of your children is absolutely amazing. For younger children, all the little things like the hotel’s mini toiletries and beverage service on an airplane are so cool. For grade school kids, it is a combination of awe-inspiring moments and lots of energy! Be prepared to keep them busy! Teens are definitely the hardest to please, but they still bring a unique perspective to the table. You might have to try a little harder to impress them, but when they are “wowed,” the relationship that you share with each other is strengthened by having experienced that moment together. 

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Step 1 – Making the decision to go

This is harder than it sounds. But make the commitment to go no matter what. Things may come up, timing may not be right but pick the best week or long weekend and put it on your calendar.  By writing it down, you are making the commitment. This may seem silly but once you make the commitment to go it actually becomes a reality and the decision turns into where do we go? Stress-free tip: make one decision at a time to keep from getting overwhelmed.

Do you tell the kids at this point or should you wait? You have the choice to include the children in on the planning or not. If you have toddlers or young grade school children, Beach Bum Vacation recommends not including them on the initial planning. For pre-teens and teens it can be beneficial to include them on the planning at this point. Showing them that you value their opinion will go a long way. Letting them in on the family decision making process is a big responsibility.  Whatever you do, approach them in discussion mode without any distractions. By making it a real conversation, they realize the importance of it. By approaching them in this manner, your family bonding time has already begun – what a great way to connect with your kids!

Step 2 – Deciding what you’d like to experience

Set aside time for a family discussion to envision WHAT YOU WANT.  Stress-free tip: Note that I did not say where you want to go yet. Places may come up as you are having this initial discussion, because if what you want is a theme park with mouse ears, then obviously that narrows down places pretty quickly.  But the initial discussion should be what you want to do/what you like to do. All points of view should be taken into consideration here. If you have included your children, you must include them in the rest of the planning process as well. (Side note, by including older children there is less of a chance they will say they are bored. There is a greater chance that they will absolutely find the vacation thrilling because they helped make it happen.)  Write these thoughts down – the experience you envision having while on vacation, the activities each family member wants to do, etc. No budget thinking yet. Don’t worry, that will come. Even better than writing them down is typing them so your Beach Bum can see your initial thoughts. At the end of this discussion, highlight commonalities between each other. Mom wants to lay out. Dad and Ben want to surf in the ocean. Okay well there you go – you know you want to go somewhere tropical and warm.

Step 3 – Initial budget planning

After this discussion, parents should start thinking about budget.  The children do not have to be included in this discussion, but they should be told that this discussion is going on so they remember that it is not free. Kids tend to think that. Everything is all inclusive to them! 🙂 If you are going to fly somewhere, airfare is expensive.  If you want the Caribbean or Mexico, it will cost you approximately $400 – $1000 per person for flights.  This airfare greatly ranges for what city you are flying out of, what island and destination you are going to, but it’s good to keep this in the back of your mind so you know initially your base cost is going to be this much without even including your resort stay.

Step 4 – Contact your Beach Bum  

One of Beach Bum Vacation’s specialties is family vacations. We go on them, we experience them, we know the destinations and the resorts, and more importantly we also know the staff who work at the resorts, ensuring your vacation is as seamless as possible. Yes, this is the “hard” part about our job – our tropical travels. 🙂 But we actually take it much more seriously than one might think. Of course we have a great time while we’re there (that’s just what Beach Bums do), but we spend most of our time meeting with resort management, touring properties, and asking questions with our clients’ point of view in mind. This makes us a unique travel agency as we are not just looking at a brochure saying “Hmmm….this looks like a great place.”

Your Beach Bum will interview you and ask you the right questions to determine what you want out of your vacation. Share your initial thoughts with them. We want to know if you have any goals for this trip: to reconnect, to just spend time together that you don’t get at home, to celebrate a special occasion, etc.

Beach Bums are honest… sometimes brutally honest. We want you to know what you are getting and the pros & cons of each destination/resort. The last thing you want on your vacation are surprises of the unpleasant variety, and we do our best to not let that happen. We want you to know that not everywhere looks as great as it does in those Photoshopped or airbrushed photos online. If the beach is great, then we’ll tell you. If it’s not, then we’ll tell you that too. We do not match you up with a resort that we think is not worth it. No matter what your budget is, we’ll find the best match for you. We are extremely picky because our clients are our extended Beach Bum family, and we want to make sure they are treated well! After all, it is a reflection on us as well!  We want to ensure your hard-earned money and precious vacation time is well spent. It’s important to us to create a lifelong relationship with you; sending you on amazing Beach Bum Vacations year after year!

Planning a vacation takes time, but when you partner with a Beach Bum it is time spent efficiently and effectively. We are working behind the scenes for you; saving you hours upon hours of research and taking the guesswork out of planning your vacation. We vow to always lead you down the best path, taking all of your wants and wishes into consideration and pointing out the pros and cons to you. Our honesty is what you will get. Remember YOUR Beach Bum has been to the destinations – we are the experts.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series – steps 5 through 8! We’re guiding you all the way to the beach!

What to Pack for Your Beach Bum Vacation

The Beach Bums are fortunate enough to frequently visit some amazing destinations throughout the Caribbean & Mexico, staying at some of the best all inclusive resorts you’ll find anywhere. We’ve learned through our own trials & errors some things that work well to pack for vacations and other things that are better left at home. Here’s a quick look at our packing tips to keep in mind for your next Beach Bum Vacation!

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Pack It:

  1. Your Passport booklet– don’t just “consider” taking this. It is a must for most destinations in the Caribbean and anywhere in Mexico. Leave home without it and you won’t be gone long- you will not be boarding that plane without presenting your passport booklet to TSA officials. Take a look a few months ahead of time and make sure it isn’t about to expire too! Remember, passport cards are NOT valid for air travel. You must have a passport booklet.
  2. Plenty of sunscreen– The closer you are the to the Equator, the more intense the sun’s rays are. Don’t spend your vacation looking like a lobster, pack plenty of sunscreen and re-apply often. If you run out, resort gift shops will sell it, but it’s usually a little pricey.
  3. Aloe vera gel – just in case you have a few too many frozen concoctions at the swim-up bar and forget to reapply your sunscreen! If you’re staying at Sandals or Beaches Resorts, you’ll have a complimentary bottle in your bathroom, so don’t worry about packing it!
  4. Pepto Bismol or another tummy remedy – nobody likes to talk about it, but many travelers experience upset stomachs, indigestion or diarrhea from overindulging, eating unfamiliar foods and drinking  alcohol. Be prepared for it!
  5. Tylenol, Advil, Excedrin or your choice of pain reliever – for that inevitable hangover-induced headache. Or just try the “hair of the dog” trick and visit the Bloody Mary & mimosa bar the next morning for breakfast!
  6. A copy of your marriage license – if you are traveling for your honeymoon or anniversary, some resorts will require you to present this in order to receive complimentary honeymoon/anniversary amenities, so make sure you take it with you! If you cannot get a copy of your license in time for your honeymoon, take something else that proves that you were just married, such as a wedding invitation, ceremony program or a newspaper clipping announcing your wedding.
  7. An insulated mug – keep those frozen drinks, cocktails & beers cold when you’re at the swim-up bar!
  8. A Beach Bum Vacation tote bag – to carry all your gear to the pool or beach!
  9. Appropriate clothing for dinner – you’ll probably live in a swimsuit, cover-up and flip flops most days, but you’ll likely need to get a little dressed up for dinner. Most resorts have restaurants that have a dinner dress code, which generally asks for men to wear long pants and collared shirts and for women to wear nice capris, skirts or dresses. Guys should take lightweight khakis or linen pants and breathable button-down or polo shirts, plus nicer-looking sandals. Flip flops are generally not acceptable for dinner. Ladies, we do suggest considering taking a lightweight jacket, sweater or wrap with you as the ocean breezes can leave you feeling a little chilly in the evening, especially if you have a sunburn!
  10. Beach Bum CARES donation items for a local school or orphanage – if you are interested in visiting children at a local school or orphanage on your next vacation, delivering school supplies, sporting goods, clothing, food, toiletries, toys and other essentials, get in touch with Beach Bum CARES a month or two before your vacation and we will get everything set up for you! Email: info@beachbumcares.org

Leave it at home:

  1. Ridiculous amounts of cash – take some cash with you for tipping purposes. Even if you are staying at a resort like Sandals or Beaches with a “no tipping” policy, you should have cash with you to tip the driver as he is not employed by the resort and does work for tips. And, have some cash with you if you would like to do any shopping with local vendors. US dollars are generally accepted throughout the Caribbean & Mexico, so do not worry about exchanging your money to local currency. However, we do not recommend traveling with obnoxiously large amounts of cash as you do not want to be worried about losing it!
  2. Other valuables – ladies, is it really necessary to take your gorgeous pair of 2 carat diamond earrings with you on vacation? Probably not! Traveling with costume jewelry is a smart route to go and you will not worry about it all week. If you are taking valuables with you (such as your passports & wallets), remember to lock everything up in your in-room safe! Housekeeping and maintenance staff at most resorts are honest and will not bother your belongings, but you are better to be safe rather than sorry!
  3. 10 pairs of stiletto heels – ladies, we are sure that you look super hot in them, but you’re probably not going to want to walk around many resorts in high heels. Take a pair or two of high heels, but bring some cute & comfy shoes for the evenings too! You’re going to be in lots of pain if you’re swimming with blistered feet in salt water or chlorine!

 

Anything you would add to either list? What do you consider to be a “must-have” for your own Beach Bum Vacations? We’d love to hear your tips! We’ll pick one person who leaves a tip before March 1 to win a Starbucks gift card!

Jeff & Rachel’s Gourmet Inclusive Getaway to Paradise

Last week, to celebrate Valentine’s Day, we asked our Facebook fans to share stories with accompanying photos/videos of their most romantic vacations. We loved the winning entry from Jeff Dillow Photography so much, we had to share it here! Check out Jeff & Rachel’s Gourmet Inclusive getaway to the luxurious El Dorado Casitas Royale. Thanks again for sharing Jeff & congratulations!

Family Vacation – Riviera Maya – El Dorado Resort, Casitas Royale

Beach Bum Vacation’s Top 10 Most Romantic Resorts

The Beach Bums are passionate about creating romantic escapes! We’ve experienced these amazing resorts firsthand and have tested them time and time again. They always pass the test! We’re proud to present Beach Bum Vacation’s Top 10 Most Romantic Resorts scattered throughout the Caribbean and Mexico!

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El Dorado Maroma – Riviera Maya, Mexico
Located on the world famous Maroma Beach, this intimate, adult-only boutique resort boasts amazing personalized service. Their Gourmet Inclusive cuisine is to die for! Relax on a beach bed with attentive butler service. Enjoy your suite’s “agua del amor,” a private open-air shower with amazing views of the moon & stars. You may even be tempted to cozy up all day & night in your Infinity Pool Suite and order room service (available 24/7) to keep the romance going.

Sandals Emerald Bay – Great Exuma, Bahamas
Set in the outer islands of the Bahamas, and known for it’s crystal clear blue water and stunning beach, you can have a taste of the South Pacific in the “Tahiti of the Caribbean” (with a much shorter flight). One of the most exclusive and elegant all-inclusive, couples-only resorts, it oozes luxury and the refined traveler feels at home here. This exotic escape will ease your body into relaxation and romance the moment you enter. Your personal Butler will tend to your every need – from unpacking your luggage upon arrival, to drawing a bubble bath and adorning the tub with rose petals, or bringing you a savory snack just when you need it; he’s always just a call away to ensure you don’t have to lift a finger on your romantic getaway.

Jade Mountain, St. Lucia
A true tropical paradise for couples! Every enormous suite is an open-air “sanctuary” with an immaculate view of the Piton mountains & a private infinity pool. When it comes to a luxury getaway, you cannot beat Jade Mountain!

El Dorado Seaside Suites  – Riviera Maya, Mexico
This adult only, Gourmet Inclusive resort has been voted one of the most romantic resorts in the world by Forbes.com. A quiet and charming resort, with a laid-back atmosphere lends its hand to romance. The Swim Up Suites offer direct access from your patio to the lagoon pool with swim-up bar, making for an especially unique experience. Their signature Beachfront Sky Massage for couples is the ultimate spa-ahhh experience. The sounds of the ocean are the most natural form of relaxation. Heavenly!

Couples Swept Away – Negril, Jamaica
A casual, laid-back retreat, this mature, couples-only resort is set along Negril’s famous 7 mile beach. The meandering sidewalks and 300+ different types of trees and plants offer a lush tropical garden setting perfect for a walk with your true love. Attention to detail reigns supreme at this all-inclusive resort. With unique suites, and a true beach house feel,  relax in your hammock from your Beachfront Verandah Suite and feel the cool ocean breeze. If the two of you enjoy being active together, you’ll love the resort’s 10-acre  fitness complex, featuring state-of-the-art facilities for tennis, squash, Pilates, racquetball, aerobic, cardiovascular exercise, swimming, basketball and more!

Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa, Antigua
Set on the most famous of Antigua’s 365 beaches, Dickenson Bay, this resort is a beach lover’s paradise. This couples-only, Luxury Included resort has been voted “World’s Most Romantic Resort” 14 years in a row. The Mediterranean Village boasts luxurious-over sized suites with inviting whirlpool tubs,  plush king beds with soft, high thread count  linens, and stunning views from your private balcony. Dine Barefoot by the Sea under the moonlit sky, enjoy a Scents of Love Couples Massage, or set sail on a romantic Sunset Catamaran Cruise.

Ti Kaye Village Resort & Spa, St. Lucia
A Caribbean retreat set atop a bluff with dramatic ocean views from every room. If you and your significant other love to relax in nature, you will be in heaven with TiKaye’s beautiful tropical gardens, outdoor showers and private pools. The wine cellar is second to none, one of the very best you’ll find anywhere in the Caribbean. Plus, the views from the spa are awe inspiring!

Le Blanc Spa Resort, Cancun
This adults-only haven is not the Cancun you thought you knew! It’s a little slice of heaven directly in Cancun’s hotel zone. Le Blanc has one of the most amazing spas, the haute cuisine is decadently delicious and spa-like rooms are sexy, with oversized Jacuzzis, gorgeous panoramic ocean views, luxury BVLGARI bath amenities, butler service and super-soft sheets!

Sandals Halcyon Beach, St. Lucia
This Luxury Inclusive resort is set amongst tropical gardens on a beautiful stretch of white sand beach. Couples love to unwind and relax in the peace and quiet at this low-rise, tranquil resort. One of the highlights for many guests is dining at the resort’s famed Caribbean cuisine restaurant, The Pier, which sits out over the water.

Marival Residences & World Spa – Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
This resort is just north of Puerto Vallarta, with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean! The suites are spacious, featuring modern décor. Guests enjoy tapas for dinner from a rooftop which offers some of the most amazing sunset views on Earth! You can even journey around the world at Marival’s spa, featuring uniquely decorated treatment rooms with corresponding spa services. For example, get a pedicure or body scrub in the Italian room, where you’ll stomp grapes and sip wine!

We’re dying to know…  Have you experienced the romance at one of these resorts? What was the most romantic part of your stay?

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