Our family recently travelled to Cozumel, Mexico, where we stayed at the Grand Park Royal. It was a fun vacation but certainly not as relaxing and wild and fun as our vacations pre-Jasmine, our 19-month-old daughter.
The best part was watching her grow everyday and interact with the many other kids there. I think the entire resort knew Jasmine's name by the end of the trip, both because of her beautiful smile and laughter and for being the daughter of two dads.
During our 15-year relationship, we have taken fourteen "All-Inclusive" vacations as a couple and two as a family of three. (We live in Toronto and always want to escape the cold winter season!) We love everything that "All Inclusive" vacations have to offer, but we've learned that with a family we have to plan far ahead and set our expectations. Here are some tips we've learned for making the most of your "All Inclusive" family vacation:
#1. Find a family-friendly resort with a kid's club. This was a lifesaver for us. Even though we won't be able to leave Jasmine alone at the kids's club until she turns five, it was nice to have a safe place for her to play and swim. While visiting the kid's club we met lots of other families from all around the world. Our two-dad family did not appear to be an issue for anyone we met among guests and staff alike. In fact, we actually felt like celebrities since everyone was curious about our story and wanted to meet Jasmine.
By the way, the staff at the resort were all extremely helpful and friendly to us and it's appropriate to provide tips to thank them for working so hard to make your trip perfect.
#2. Use TripAdvisor. You can use TripAdvisor to check the reviews of the resort for anything from family-friendliness to gay-friendliness to the food. We have been to the Dominican Republic and Mexico with no issues, but, of course, you likely want to avoid some particularly gay-unfriendly places like Jamaica.
The food at the buffet and a-la-carte restaurants was pretty good at the Grand Park Royal. We ate like kings and Jasmine ate like a princess. We always bring along toys or other table-time activities to keep Jasmine entertained in case she gets restless. Jasmine also expanded her diet intake and probably ate triple the amount of food she normally does. The staff was so kind that they even brought us a bottle of milk at 2am when we ran out.
#3. Do not expect a vacation for grown-ups! We got married in Cancun three years ago with 35 of our closest friends and family joining us. We partied for five nights in a row until 3am followed by day-time excursions and massages on the beach. We did none of that on this vacation! This trip we were up at 7am and in bed by 8pm every night. We could have hired a babysitter at night, but we were so exhausted we didn't even want to go out! Also, don't expect to get much time tanning by the pool, which used to be our favourite activity. There's no time to tan with a toddler running around!
#4. Choose a flight that fits your kid's schedule. We always recommend a direct flight with a short bus ride to the resort, if possible. We made friends from New York who accidentally flew into Cancun, so they then had to travel over two hours by bus and ferry to get to the resort.
Also, try to find an arrival and return flight that is mid-day. A lot of flights arrived late evening and returned at 2am in the morning. This will make it more difficult for your child to get back on her regular schedule. Jasmine was pretty good this trip and slept over 10 hours every night. When we chose a bad flight in the past it took her two to three days to get back on schedule.
#5. Take advantage of all the wonderful food options! This was actually the best part of our trip: we ate four delicious meals a day, including a breakfast buffet, a mid-morning visit to the snack bar, lunch at the beach and Mexican a-la-carte in the evening. The food is mostly safe but some people do get food poisoning, so always be aware. We also got a twinrix shot for Jasmine which is a vaccination for Hepatitis A and B, just as a precaution. Jasmine got to order her own meal everyday and tried so many different types of food -- it was amazing to watch her eat more and more everyday. (One other suggestion: bring your own bibs, little cups, bowls, spoons and forks for the little ones.)
#6. Let your kids explore the resort. By the end of the trip Jasmine guided us to what she wanted to do. From the beach to the infinity pool and then back to the water slides, Jasmine loved each second of our trip! As you can see this was her trip not ours. We spent all our time and energy to make sure she was happy, safe and enjoying herself and that was so worthwhile! The memories and even stronger bond that we got from a week spent together--with no work, no internet--is absolutely priceless!
As you've likely gathered, we love our family vacation time! We welcome outreach from other gay dad families who may be interested in traveling together with us in the future. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We enjoy resorts, cruises, Disney and we try to travel to Europe every year. Also, please comment if you have more tips or questions you would like to ask.
Enjoy your travels with your loved ones!
Paul, Ewan and Jasmine