My husband and I “celebrated” our 14th wedding anniversary with leftovers and some Netflix, but we weren’t always this boring. Before our first child arrived in 2008, we’d traveled to Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, France, Canada, Hawaii, Alaska, Disney World, and numerous Caribbean islands. We had romantic meals in fine restaurants. We made time for each other.
Everything changed with the births of our boys in 2008 and 2011. The couples-only vacations were but a distant memory, and the romantic meals involved a babysitter and a lot of planning. Balancing a full-time job and motherhood was exhausting. I wanted a vacation, but mommy-guilt afflicted me. My children missed me when I was working. How could I possibly vacation without them?
My last vacation with my husband was in 2008 during my first pregnancy. On a luxury Alaskan cruise, we hiked a glacier, went sightseeing via helicopter and took thousands of photos of whales and other Alaskan wonders. Over the last seven years, my husband hasn’t been interested in travel, claiming it would be too stressful with two little boys.
I, on the other hand, love travel. As a child and teen, I traveled extensively with my parents. My early career was spent earning 100,000+ annual frequent flier miles while working at companies such as Travelocity and Expedia. Since my husband wasn’t willing to travel, I convinced my mother to join me and the boys on trips to Disney World and Disney Land as well as several Caribbean cruises. My boys have learned to love travel as much as I do, but I felt sad that their father was missing out on these memories.
I’m a huge Disney fan, so I love visiting the Disney Parks as much as my boys do. Since my husband has never been a theme-park lover, I could understand why he wasn’t willing to come with us. But I was baffled when he wasn’t interested in going on a family cruise. I’ve taken dozens of cruises, and I adore the convenience and the all-inclusive pricing. Cruises even have free childcare available! My husband had enjoyed the cruises we took together, so what was stopping him? The answer: cabin size. He didn’t want to be “trapped” in a small cabin for a week with two small children. I’ll admit that he has a point as there isn’t much “privacy” if you are sharing a cabin with your children.
I’ve been on a quest to find a family vacation destination that appeals to my husband, so I was excited to receive an invitation to attend the Social Media On The Sand Conference at Beaches: Turks and Caicos. I’ve been curious about Beaches Resorts for years. In 2008, I wrote a post about why I loved Sandals Resorts and wanted to visit Beaches Resorts now that I had children. At the time, I was a new mom and wrote that the “thought of leaving baby at home while I go off on a romantic getaway with my husband gives me a panic attack. I don’t think I’ll be ready to take a vacation sans baby for many years to come.”
Well, it’s been many years, and my husband and I haven’t taken a single weekend away. While we’ve both traveled for work, one of us has always been home with the boys. I knew we needed time to reconnect, so I jumped at the opportunity to attend #BeachesMoms. My parents volunteered to watch the boys while we spent three nights at the beautiful Beaches Resort in the Turks and Caicos.
I’ll confess that I had an ulterior motive. I was hoping to show my husband how relaxing an all-inclusive vacation at a Beaches Resort could be. I wanted to point out how spacious the rooms were and show him the great activities available in the childcare program (Camp Sesame). My ultimate goal was to convince him to return for a future vacation as a family, which would combine romance and family-time.
Our room, located in the Key West Luxury Village, passed his inspection. The “Key West Grand Luxe Concierge Room” category is located on the third floor of the “Veranda House.” With two bathrooms, a separate bedroom for parents and a trundle daybed in the sitting area, the room was spacious enough for a family of four. Our balcony overlooked the grounds of the resort.
Beaches Resorts has four villages (Key West, Caribbean, Italian and French) and 19 restaurants and bars. Since we were traveling without children, we chose the two adults-only restaurants for our dinners: Le Petit Chateau (French food) and Sapodilla’s (Caribbean food). At Sapodilla’s, our favorites were the Coconut Tiger Prawns and the Conch and King Crab Angallati with Parmesan Cream, Prosciutto and Brown Butter as an appetizer. Le Petit Chateau was my favorite restaurant, and we dined there twice. Everything was so delicious that it’s hard to narrow down my recommendations. For entrees, I highly recommend the Lobster Thermidor and the Filet Mignon. My husband enjoyed the Roasted Lamb Loin and the Molten Chocolate Cake.
Since we only stayed for three nights, we didn’t have a chance to try all of the restaurants although we certainly tried! Here are my other recommendations:
- Quick Service:
- Bella Napoli Pizzeria is the perfect lunch by the pool. This made-to-order wood-fired pizza was tasty. While we enjoyed the classic margherita pizza, the chef also pushed us to sample the Jamaican Style Jerked Chicken Pizza with Mango and the Local Conch Pizza with Red Onions, Island Peppers and Cherry Tomatoes. I’m so glad we did because they were fantastic!
- My husband made frequent trips to Cafe de Paris for iced and frozen espresso coffee drinks made with Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, and he also indulged in the delicious pastries. (Vacations are not for dieting!)
- A La Carte Dining: If I were traveling with children, I might have opted to visit the buffet restaurants for the speed and convenience. But I prefer a la carte dining because it is so relaxing to be served when I’m normally the one running around and serving everyone during meals at home.
- If you enjoy British ales and food, don’t miss The Cricketers Pub. The Shepherds Pie and Fish N Chips were excellent as was the Newcastle Ale, and I was happy to see that Cricketers offered chicken nuggets for couples dining with children.
- We had a relaxing lunch with an ocean view at Neptune’s Mediterranean Seafood. After I discovered that every restaurant has a “specialty cocktail,” I was on a mission to sample as many as possible. My favorite cocktail discovery was the Rosemary at Neptune’s. This mix of gin, club soda, lime juice and rosemary was perfection, and I plan to recreate it at home!
As we enjoyed all of these delicious meals, my husband and I had a chance to focus exclusively on each other without any distractions from our children. While I missed the children, it was so refreshing to have some time to reconnect as a couple over a relaxing meal and a shared adventure. Beaches offers free water sports. While our short trip didn’t give us enough time for snorkeling and diving, we couldn’t resist sailing together. (My husband is an experienced sailor, but the helpful staff at Beaches Resorts will give lessons if needed.) Sailing offered stunning views of the 12 mile long white sand beach as well as the turquoise waters. It also offered a thrill as we had to maneuver quickly back to shore when we saw a thunderstorm rolling in.
Thankfully, the storm passed within two hours, and I had time to explore the 45,000 square foot waterpark. I know how much my boys love visiting the waterpark at Sesame Place, so I wanted to see how Beaches compared. The Pirates Island themed aqua-playground has nine slides, with options for adults/big kids as well as toddlers. The surf simulator seemed popular with the tweens and teens as well as several adventurous dads, but I preferred the lazy river. My worries washed away as I floated along the lazy river enjoying the beautiful weather in the Turks and Caicos. For “research purposes,” I tried the three largest slides. They were fast-paced without being too scary, and I know my six year old would love them. The photo below shows one of the smaller slides, which would appeal to my preschooler.
Splashing around at the waterpark, walking along the beach at sunset and an unlimited supply of tropical drinks at the swim-up bar helped us remember the early days of our marriage. Since I own a small business, my work is quite demanding. I really want to spend my precious vacation time with my children, but I can’t deny the value of a couples-only trip. We’d gone too long without time alone and without the pressure of rushing home from a date night in time to relieve a babysitter.
Before we left, I checked out the childcare options at Beaches. The Kids Camp is included free and is staffed with certified nannies. The activity schedule for my children’s age group included sandcastle building, tie-dye t-shirt crafts, face painting, treasure hunts, and visits from Sesame Street characters. While I wouldn’t want to leave my children in the camp all day, I like the idea of reviewing the schedule with them to select activities that interest them. It seems like a perfect compromise for parents who want some time alone as well as quality time with their children.
How Much Does a Beaches Resort Vacation Cost Anyhow? Booking Information:
Disclosure: I visited Beaches to attend the Social Media on the Sand Conference, so I received a discounted conference rate as well as complimentary products from many sponsors such as Lands End and Iristocracy.
Since I’m interested in planning a future family vacation, I researched the current rates at Beaches Resort: Turks and Caicos. I arrived at the conference on Thursday October 16 and returned home on Sunday October 19. To get a comparable price, I just researched a Thursday-Sunday stay for October 30-November 3. Beaches is offering a last-minute deal with a 50% discount. The Key West Grand Luxe Concierge Room I stayed in would cost $2,202.90 for three nights for a family of four. With airfare from Philadelphia, our total costs for 3 nights would range from $5000-$6000.
A 7 night stay from October 30-November 6 in the Key West Grand Luxe Concierge Room would cost $7,024 for a family of four. With airfare from Philadelphia, our total cost would range from $9000-$10,000. I met a woman at the pool who visits Beaches every year with her husband and two daughters for a week. This was her 10th trip to Beaches Resorts, and she told me she tries to book during one of the promotions. Her total cost including airfare for four is typically around $10,000 for a week.
How Does the Cost of Beaches Resorts Compare with Cruising?
Out of curiosity, I priced a last-minute deal for a 7-night Caribbean cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). I found a cruise on the Norwegian Getaway from Miami for October 25-November 1. A Balcony-Level Room would cost $1556 for a family of four. If I opted for two adjoining staterooms, my total cost would be $2316. With airfare, my trip would range from $3500-$4500 depending on whether I booked one or two cabins.
Why Is Beaches More Expensive Than a Cruise? Or Is It?
When making a vacation decision, it’s important to compare apples to apples. Beaches Resorts costs more than a cruise, but it also includes more. I’m very familiar with cruising and with NCL (one of my favorite cruiselines), so I can point out some of the differences.
- Drinks: Beaches Resorts includes alcoholic beverages as well as sodas and premium iced-coffee drinks. Most cruiselines have an additional cost for these drinks. On a typical cruise, I spend around $150 on drinks for two adults but typically limit it to 1 drink per day at dinner. At Beaches, I had at least one frozen coffee, two pina coladas and 1 glass of wine per day. On a typical cruise, this would cost around $500-$600 with gratuities.
- Tips: Cruises charge an additional fee per day per person for gratuities. On NCL, the cost is $10 per person per day for adults and $5 per person per day for children. On a typical cruise, this would cost at least $210– but typically you want to tip even more for excellent service. I generally spend at least $300 for tips.
- Transfers and Shore Excursions: At Beaches, there are no transportation costs from the airport to the resort. I typically spend at least $100 on round-trip airport transfers for a cruise. At Beaches, there is no need for a shore excursion or taxi to get to the beach. Additionally, admission to the waterpark, snorkeling and use of non-motorized watersports (sailboats, kayaks, etc) is included. Shore excursion costs can add up quickly, and I’ve taken cruises where the cost of my shore excursions exceeded the cost of the cruise. Most tours cost between $50-$150 per person on Caribbean cruises. There are extra fees for renting floats, beach umbrellas and chairs in port as well. While visiting a beach on a shore excursion, I typically spend money for bottled water and lunch (around $50 for a family of four).
- Specialty Dining: The best meals on a cruise are typically in the specialty dining restaurants. One of my favorite specialty restaurants on NCL is Cagney’s Steakhouse, which has an additional cost of $30 per adult and $15 per child. I enjoyed the filet mignon at Le Petit Chateau at Beaches, which was included in our rate. I typically spend around $250 for specialty dining on a 7 day cruise.
- Internet: Beaches Resorts provided free wifi to the bloggers attending the conference. The regular rate is $14.99 per day per device. Paying for internet service is one of my biggest travel pet peeves, so I was happy to hear that Beaches is going to start including internet at no costs to guests starting in December 2014. While I love cruising, the cost of internet is a factor. I typically pay $100 for 250 minutes, which I use on my laptop to keep up with work. While at sea, the internet service is a bit slower. Due to bandwidth issues, Skype is not available.
Total Cost: As you can see, it’s fairly easy to spend an extra $1500-$2500 (or more) on a cruise for extras like shore excursions, drinks, tips and dining. I estimated a total cost of $2316 for a 7 Day Cruise (2 adults, 2 children) in two adjoining cabins (for an amount of space/privacy comparable to Beaches). Total cost with estimated extras as described above would be around $4000-$5000, not including airfare. My estimate for 7 nights at Beaches Resorts is $7024, not including airfare.
So Is It Worth It to Visit Beaches Resorts?
We had a wonderful experience at Beaches, and it is more relaxing to vacation without worrying about the cost of extras. Would I have gone sailing if I knew it would cost an extra $150-$200? Probably not. Do I factor in the cost of a pina colada on a cruise before ordering one? Of course, I can’t help it.
Beaches is truly all-inclusive, which encouraged me to try new things (like that delicious Rosemary cocktail) without worrying about the price. With that said, a visit to a luxury all-inclusive resort like Beaches isn’t cheap. If it is within your budget, I would highly recommend a visit.