Between packing, adjusting to new sleep routines and trying to find a restaurant everyone agrees on, sometimes I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation. I’d heard my friends rave about their awesome all-inclusive vacations in the Caribbean but I was skeptical that one resort could be fun and relaxing for my entire family. Boy, was I wrong.
What I thought: My trip to Jamaica would entail all the same mommy duties for me, just in a nicer locale. Whether it’s two days at the cottage with a newborn or a week exploring Disney World with our three school-agers, our family vacations so far have all had one thing in common – a very tired mama.
What I got: From the moment I squished my lily-white toes into that floury sand, I could feel the tension in my shoulders liquefy. I honestly didn’t worry about anything for one whole, delicious week.
What I thought: That “all-inclusive” would be more a figure of speech than a reality.
What I got: I was surprised to learn it isn’t a misnomer – and I’m not just talking about food and drinks. Water sports, glass bottom boat rides, even scuba diving (if you’re certified,) are all included. Plus, tipping is a big no-no, so there’s really no need to carry cash. The only extra charges we saw were from obvious extras, such as spa treatments and souvenirs.
What I thought: That the weather in Jamaica would be similar to the weather in Florida and our fun was sure to be thwarted by at least one crummy day.
What I got: Mid-March was lovely and the weather was sunny, with temperatures in the mid-30s every day. I had no idea that climates like Jamaica’s really existed.
What I thought: We would all come down with an exotic stomach bug. “It was great at first but then we all got sick!” I’ve heard this vacation description so many times, I was terrified I’d spend the whole time nursing sick kids – or worse, worshipping the porcelain god myself.
What I got: I followed the government of Canada’s travel recommendations to the letter and made sure my family was inoculated against everything remotely tropical six weeks before we left. Paranoid girl that I am, I also packed a suitcase full of stomach remedies and diarrhea medicine. But after two exhausting days of washing every piece of fruit with bottled water, I noticed I was the only one doing it. The more seasoned travellers I spoke with pooh-poohed my worries and assured me that we were safe at a luxury resort in a touristy country like Jamaica. We drank tap water and slushy drinks for the rest of my trip and were just fine.
What I thought: That eating would be an ordeal, because – kids.
What I got: Not having to shop, chop or plan meals for an entire week was a huge break. And, since everything was already paid for, I didn’t begrudge by daughter the meals she ordered but didn’t touch (i.e. all of them.) Of the resort’s nine restaurants, my children liked The Mill best because it’s a buffet and featured lots of kid friendly options, such as pizza and French fries. I liked the traditional Jamaican fare at Stewfish restaurant and I particularly enjoyed watching my kids playing on the beach while they waited for their food – instead of whining which is what usually happens when we eat out.
What I thought: My children would think the kids’ activities were lame and I’d feel too protective to leave them.
What I got: With a water park, two pools, fitness classes and kids’ club activities to keep the crew entertained, they were plenty entertained. On day three of our trip, we met Sophia, 10, a four-time Beaches veteran. She encouraged my kids, 10, 8 and 7, to ditch the ‘rents and hang out at the Xbox lounge. She also urged my introverted bookworm, Charlotte, to check out the all-ages nightclub and tweens-only bonfire. My children blossomed as they tried out new experiences and pushed for more independence. The resort is quite small, with just 186 rooms and I felt comfortable letting them roam a bit.
What I thought: That I’d feel nervous with my kids around the water. What if the current was too strong for their little legs or what if there are sharks? (Hey, I saw Jaws!)
What I got: The surf in Negril is very calm, especially in the morning. The water in the swimming area only went up to my waist and there were certified lifeguards at the beach and the pools. Beaches and its sister resorts, Sandals, have the largest watersports operation in the Caribbean; all resorts operate top-of-the line equipment and conduct regular safety and maintenance checks.
What I thought: The effect of this vacation on my marriage would be minimal. On vacations past, my husband and I have taken turns entertaining the kids in an effort to get in a little relaxation: he’d take them to the beach so I could read, I’d take them to a museum so he could nap.
What I got: The couple time that came with having three fully-entertained children was wonderful. While our children lolled around in the lazy river, we chatted and canoodled and generally strengthened our relationship. One evening we enjoyed a private dinner on the beach ($180US). The magic of watching the sunset together, in paradise, is something I’ll remember forever.