Saturday, May 12, 2012

All-Inclusive Vacations for People Who Don't Do All-Inclusive Vacations

When I was in junior high and high school, my parents took me and my brother on several mass-market cruises.  I loved being on the water and in the sun, but those cruises often felt like I was trapped in a floating suburban shopping mall.  I never thought I'd go on a cruise as an adult for that reason, and since those cruises were all-inclusive, I also figured I would never take an "all-inclusive vacation" as an adult either.

Well, it's 2012 and we just went on an all-inclusive vacation with our 10-month old.  And liked it!

What can I say.  Babies change things.

Check out the top 10 reasons I think all-inclusive vacations are just the right kind of vacation for new parents with babies after the jump.  Also read the three cons of all-inclusives!

1.  No planning involved beyond a phone call:  We booked our flight with Jet Blue and vacation package at Cancun Palace of the Palace Resorts chain about a month before we left.  And that was it.  I didn't spend hours comparing hotel reviews, looking up restaurants, finding museums to check out or scope out shops to check out.  I didn't have even research all-inclusive destinations because we had friends who had been to Palace Resorts properties and we trusted their opinion.  When we went to Barcelona when Greyson was five months old, there was hours upon hours of research and planning.  I was more than happy to do it, but sometimes you just want the vacation to be easy, from start to finish.

2.  24-hour room service and many restaurant options:  When someone is making all the food and you don't even have to look up restaurants, that means more family time and less stress.  OK, the food wasn't amazing, but it was definitely fresh and definitely better than I expected.  There was plenty of variety and fruit and vegetables, too.  We loved the 24-hour room service because we could put Greyson down to sleep and order some dessert and wine and sit out on the balcony and enjoy the ocean view.  We didn't feel like we were missing out because our baby had to go to sleep at 8 pm.

3.  Get up, eat, walk on the beach, nap, swim, repeat!  All-inclusive means easy.  You don't realize how much time goes into preparation and planning until you do an all inclusive.  Each day is just relaxed and fun when you don't have to do any work.  The most work we had to do was deciding what drink to order next.  Hm, what's a Miami Vice?  (We wouldn't ever give up going on our usual vacations where we are on the go from morning til night, but there's a time and place for a super relaxed vacation.)

4.  You know what you're paying, which means no surprises.  For five nights and roundtrip airfare, we paid about $2,800.00, which is probably the least expensive real vacation we've ever taken when you average it out per day.  That total includes the cabs that we took to and from the airport in New York, a few souvenirs we bought, and some tips we chose to give (even though you didn't have to tip at the resort).

5.  There's nothing else to do!  Rob and I had no interest in going to Cancun per se (it's just a big, Americanized hotel zone on a strip of gorgeous beach), but it met our criteria:  beach, short and direct flight, easy.  I'm glad we didn't go somewhere that had anything to explore because we would have been busy doing those things.  Even though Rob and I like to be active all the time, we had no problem eating steak tacos each day by the pool.  There is something to be said about checking out like that. 

6.  You can read a book!
  I read David Remnick's biography about Obama during the trip.  I would get a stretch of an hour each day to read while Greyson was napping.  It was amazing!  Theoretically, I could read at home while Greyson's napping, but not in practice.  At home, there are always tasks that take precedence.  That was the biggest luxury of the vacation...diving into a 672-page book that you've been wanting to read for a year.

7.  Swim-up bars!  Rob and I tried every kind of alcoholic drink you can make in a blender...Blue Hawaiians, Banana Caribes, you name it.  Yeah, they might be a little weak (good, since we're taking care of a baby!), but who cares when they're all included.

8.  Baby-friendly:
  Every restaurant had high chairs and we didn't have to clean up a thing all week.  Well, except Greyson's face and hands.  It was nice not to wipe up a table for almost a whole week.

9. Baby Buffet:  In addition to the restaurants, there was a buffet where I could get food for Greyson at any time of the day.  I didn't have to bring any of his own food or milk because it was always set out for us.  Bananas?  Avocados?  Yogurt?  No problem!

10.  When you return home, you won't need a vacation from your vacation
.  This was the first vacation where we got home and felt relaxed.  We didn't come home and collapse on the floor from pure exhaustion. 

Now, here are the cons:

1.  Don't go for the people watching. 
Yeah, a lot of the people looked like they were airlifted from a suburban mall, but who cares.  Rob and I weren't there to check out the eye candy.

2.  You have to keep your standards in check. 
We had to wait for over 45 minutes in a line to check in and we heard people yelling about hidden charges as they were checking out.  We had to remind ourselves what we were paying for...not 5-star service!  More like 3-star...that's fine as long as you know that going in.

3.  Party people. 
(Yeah, it's still Cancun)  Only on our last night did we see any rowdy partying.  We saw one drunk woman fall on her face by the pool and we learned that her crew was staying in a room across from ours.  I was glad that we were leaving the next day and that we had visited the resort in the low season.

Rob and I went to Barcelona in November when Greyson was 5 months old.  It was a great time to travel with him and we had an amazing time...but there was zero relaxation involved.  Also, Rob had been looking forward to the trip so he could spend a whole week with Greyson, but since we were on the go all day, it didn't feel like we were spending time with Greyson.  He was strapped into a stroller and we were just wheeling him around.  They didn't have the extra bonding time we thought there'd be. 

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