Chicago winters can be tough – they’re too cold, too gray and too long. When it gets to be too much, consider a trip to Beaches in the Caribbean where the surf washes away the winter blues and you can make some fantastic family memories in the sun and on the sand.
My family had an amazing time at Beaches Resorts in Turks and Caicos, and there are also two locations in Jamaica. What I loved is that there is something for every member of the family.
Preschoolers party with Sesame Street Characters
There’s a lot of Sesame Street fun to be had at Beaches. Baking cookies with Cookie Monster is a huge hit with the preschool set. And yes, it may be on my bucket list, too.
I loved that the little ones had their own playground and pool, and watching them walk hand in hand with the characters around the resort was just adorable. Kids Camp is available for a wide age range (there’s even childcare for infants), and 3-5 year olds have their own activities. (Camp runs 9 a.m.-9 p.m., though hours can vary.)
Elementary-age kids crave Kids Camp
It was fun to see the groups of Kids Camp campers around the property because they were always having the best time. The kids make new friends quickly there, which ups the fun factor. From swimming and scavenger hunts to science experiments on the beach, there’s a lot to keep kids busy. The only downside is that parents seemed a bit saddened when they came to pick kids up, but the kids didn’t want to leave.
Tweens can be as busy as they want
Tweens loved the Xbox lounge (a.k.a video game heaven) and the 10-year-old boy who was part of our group couldn’t have been happier there. Trench Town next door was a hit with air hockey, pool and pop-a-shot games. They were popular in the evening and during brief rain showers, but during the day, tweens were busy with all kinds of outdoor activities at Kids Camp, including snorkeling and beach volleyball. The surf simulator at Pirates Island Waterpark was also really popular with this age.
Teen activities range from foam parties to volunteer opportunities.
My newly minted teen couldn’t wait to go to the foam party at the beach. She had a blast, and while I was a little nervous, the party was well staffed with adults who knew how to keep things safe while letting the kids have fun and freedom. Teens can also hit Club Liquid, which is just for them.
My teen also got to participate in Island Impact, the “volunteen-ism” program developed by the Sandals Foundation, which gives teens a chance to make a positive difference and earn service hours while on vacation. My teen traveled to a local school and had a magnificent experience, and gained an appreciation of her middle school.
Couples can enjoy time together
I wondered if a family resort would allow much time for just my husband and me, but it definitely did. The beauty of the extended camp hours is that couples can enjoy time together, either day or night. One of my favorite meals was breakfast with just my husband, but romantic dinners are also fantastic, and walks on the beach together can be simply magical. And the hammocks made for two made for a lovely few moments stargazing together. There were several weddings while we were there, which upped the romantic factor, too.
Adventurers can explore the sea
You can kayak, sail a Hobie Cat boat or snorkel right from the beach at Beaches Turks and Caicos. You can also go scuba diving or board a catamaran cruise to go snorkeling and explore Iguana Island. My daughter would not have declared herself to be an iguana fan prior to departure, but she was pretty excited to be the first of our group to spot one on the island.
People who love to be pampered will love the spa
I get a bit stressed traveling, so I kicked off my vacation with a massage at the Red Lane Spa and I really did feel like a new woman, one who was significantly less stressed than the lady who arrived at the resort. It was heavenly. There are treatments for couples and teens, too.
Foodies can feast at 18 restaurants
There’s something for every palate, and foodies will have a field day sampling all the different cuisines. All inclusive means that you can enjoy as much as you like, and we definitely did just that.
While there are plenty of fancy restaurants, one of our culinary highlights was not all that highbrow. We tried the best jerk chicken and sweet potato fries we’d ever had at the open air Jerk Shack that was on the beach. We went from floating on a raft to munching in a matter of minutes, and never once thought about changing out of our swimsuits.
Family fun is found at every turn, but it’s possible to do nothing, too
My very favorite memories were of our time all together as a family. At Beaches, the opportunities for quality time are pretty endless, but it was also possible to do very little. One favorite memory was of my family all floating on an anchored raft in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean – we had nowhere to go, nothing we had to do, no devices, no stress. It was amazing.
Whether it was floating along the lazy river together at the 27,000 square foot water park, cheering as the hibachi chef at Kimonos flipped a shrimp into his pocket, posing for a photo with Zoe from Sesame Street or visiting one of the six pools, it was a wonderful time to really enjoy each other.
Beaches is an all-inclusive resort which means food, drinks, Kids Camp and the vast majority of activities are included. (The only activities mentioned above that were not included were the volunteer program, scuba diving, the catamaran and the spa.) Tipping is not permitted, so it really is possible to put the wallet away for your entire trip.