Kid-tested travelThe sun warmed my skin as I laid back on the brilliant sand, soft and white as baby powder. The turquoise ocean stretched out before us, as rich in hue as a Crayola crayon. It simply doesn’t get any better than this.
My son, Caleb, and I stayed as guests at the Beaches Resort and Spa, an ultra all-inclusive paradise located on Grace Bay in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos islands. Bordering 12 miles of pristine beach, the 453-room resort is spread among several pastel bungalows nestled between lush gardens and swaying palms. The resort caters to families of all ages, but the special attention it pays to its smallest guests truly sets it apart. If you’re seeking a vacation packed with activities geared specifically for your energetic 2-year-old (as well as luxurious amenities and relaxation for you), then Beaches is your perfect getaway.
While most hotels and resorts have kids’ programs starting at age 3 or 4, Camp Sesame welcomes babies and toddlers. The nannies are certified and CPR-trained, and they truly love the kids. They knew Caleb’s name after the first visit and several of the nannies stopped to say hello in other areas of the resort when they saw him. Camp Sesame keeps the kids entertained from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. with visits from Bert and Ernie, pirate costume parties, treasure hunts, face painting and treks to the beach and their own toddler pool.
When you’re seeking quality family time, six swimming pools provide space to splash around. The pool located in the French Village has a large wading pool just for toddlers. Sesame Street characters make plenty of appearances. Families can explore the pirate ship at Pirates Island, build a sand castle, decorate a picture frame at the Crayola Art Camp activity center or create chalk murals by the pool.
Other activities include glass bottom boat tours and relaxing on the custom-built catamaran. Drinks and snacks are served below deck, with a dance party with Elmo and Abby for the kids. Don life jackets and try the tube slide attached to the boat.
When it’s time for some much-deserved self-indulgence, drop the baby off at Camp Sesame and take a snorkeling or scuba diving trip. Up to two diving trips a day are included in your stay. Scuba Diving magazine ranked Turks and Caicos one of the top five diving spots in the world and the snorkeling is terrific as well. It was cloudy and raining the day I went, but the water was still clear. Bright fish darted between green brain coral, purple fans and the waving fingers of orange sea anemones. I spotted a sea turtle and swam alongside it for several minutes.
For more water fun, take out a kayak or try windsurfing. Afterwards, head to the Red Lane Spa for his-and-her massages or a pedicure and then enjoy dinner for two in the Parisian-inspired French Village.
Food for thought
The food possibilities are endless when bellies start to rumble. Choices include Kimono’s Japanese cuisine cooked tableside, Sapodilla’s adults-only, white-glove service and Bobby D’s all-night, ‘50s-style diner featuring chicken nuggets, hot dogs, pizza, ice cream and a soda bar. From quick-service gourmet buffets to a leisurely a la cart beach-front meal, the resort’s 11 restaurants will satisfy both you and your picky toddler. There are plenty of high chairs and crayons and the staff is used to (and even smiles at) tantrums and flying French fries.
Each evening, we headed to the stage for a live show featuring Elmo, Zoe and the other residents of Sesame Street. The kids danced to remixed popular tunes that had the adults tapping their toes, too. The Treasure Caravan parade, dive-in kids’ movies by the pool and the Soon Come Back Friday night beach party with inflatable bounce houses and fire twirlers are a few of the evening activities offered. Of course, after going strong all day, most preschoolers will be more than ready to hit the sack early.
Set to open in January, Beaches’ $125 million expansion will include an Italian Seaside Village with 162 luxury rooms, four gourmet restaurants, a 14,000-square-foot pool and a water park. The park will include seven new slides, a surf simulator, a 1,000-foot-long lazy river and a zero-entry pool and play area for tots.
Getting there• We flew American Airlines from O’Hare, with a layover in Miami. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights to Turks and Caicos Islands, so travel days will be long. From the Providenciales airport, the shuttle is a 15-minute ride.
• For more information, contact Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort and Spa, Beaches.com, (888) BEACHES.
Upcoming promotions• Families traveling this December will receive up to 40 percent off regular rates and their first night free on stays of seven nights or longer. Must book by Dec. 10 and travel Dec. 12-20 at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort Villages and Spa.
• Families planning to travel in spring can receive up to 45 percent off regular rates and their first night free on stays seven nights or longer if they book by Dec. 22 and travel from April 20-June 12, 2009.
• To celebrate the grand opening of the all-new Italian Village, opening in January at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort Village, the resort is offering up to 55 percent off regular rates and up to one night free for stays of six nights or longer for travel through Aug. 31.
SOURCE: Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort Village. All promotions subject to change.
Kyla Steinkraus is a freelance writer and mom.
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