All-Inclusive Family Resorts Might Be The Way To Go This Winter

In another life before kids, my husband and I loved to travel to exotic places. We’ve trekked to Machu Picchu, camped in a hut deep in the Amazon jungle, hiked through miles of lava rock on the Big Island and backpacked across the Channel Islands. We’ve also pampered ourselves at luxury hotels and dined at the finest restaurants in the world. Now with kids, traveling is hardly a vacation. Forget about luxury or adventure, it’s enough just to survive a cross-country flight with two toddlers. When our trip is over, we usually need a vacation to decompress from the vacation.

When thinking of where to go for vacation this winter, all I wanted was some place warm with a beach. Our friends with kids suggested going to an all-inclusive family resort. We were skeptical. All-inclusive resorts were never our thing. They seemed a bit cheesy and for unadventurous travelers who didn’t want to plan a trip themselves. But this kind of no-brainer vacation was exactly what I was looking for.

I booked a week-long trip at the El Cid Marina Beach Resort in Puerto Morelos, about 25 minutes south of the Cancun airport. When we checked into the hotel, my first impression was better than what I imagined. I pictured Roman columns and a bride with arms spread wide, spinning around in circles in the middle of the lobby. I was pleasantly surprised to find a tastefully decorated Mediterranean-style hotel without a single fake Michelangelo statue in sight. It was nice but not so nice that we felt nervous our kids would mess up everything and disturb other guests.

The first concern about an all-inclusive resort is usually the food. Since food is included, you pretty much eat all your meals on location. This might sound limiting, but the resort had four restaurants, and we were never bored. Staying in a foreign country, it can be hard to please picky eaters. Most all-inclusives cater to Americans, so there were always hot dogs, pizza, burgers and fries available, which is easy for kids. Room service was also included which was great for eating breakfast in your suite when it’s impossible to get the kids out of the hotel room. Another perk? Alcohol was included in the package. (Everything’s more fun when there’s an open bar!) One night we ordered two glasses of wine from room service, and they brought us two entire bottles to skip themselves the trouble of bringing us more.

At an all-inclusive vacation, the entertainment is also built in and you never have to leave the resort. Normally this doesn’t appeal to me. I like to explore and see the local sights, but it was challenging to find tours that could accommodate small children. The resort offered a daily schedule of different activities and there was always something to do. They had a pirate show one night and on New Year’s Eve, the resort hosted a show with fire dancers and set up an outdoor lounge on the beach, complete with white sofas, strobe lights, and a DJ. It was like going to an exclusive New Year’s Eve party at a swanky Miami pool bar but with your kids.

Spa services such as massages and manicures were additional costs, but the gym, yoga, pilates and spin classes were included. I attended a yoga class, sometimes two, each day. The yoga and pilates classes were in a palapa right on the water and I’ve never exercised in a more beautiful setting.

The most enticing aspect of an all-inclusive vacation is that childcare is included. There was a kids’ club for ages four and up which included cooking classes, playtime, beach time, and games and sports for the little ones without their parents. You could drop off your kids anytime between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to enjoy pampering at the spa or a romantic dinner for two.

Talk about a real vacation–a vacation from your kids! Unfortunately ours were both under four and we couldn’t take advantage of this service. But we saw the children in the club happily playing together, and they didn’t seem to miss their parents.

At the end of our trip, we all came home happy and well-rested. My first taste of all-inclusive vacationing made me a believer. I’m already looking forward to our next vacation and taking full advantage of that kids’ club.

Other all-inclusive family resorts to try: 

Beaches Resort, Negril
Curtain Bluff, Antigua
Spice Island Beach Resort, Grenada
Buccament Bay Resort, St. Vincent
Dreams Resorts in Los Cabos  or Nueva Vallarta
Grand Velas Resorts in Riviera Maya or Riviera Nayarit