By Melanie Reffes
A family vacation in the Caribbean means more these days than booking a room with a view, lining up for the breakfast buffet or leaving the kids in the game room. Getting off the beach chair is the new ‘cool’ with Canadian families who want more from a winter break than a few extra pounds and another recipe for a rum cocktail.
Competing for your vacation dollar, family-friendly resorts have upped the ante with discounts on adjoining rooms, cooking classes for kids and tours to play with the friendly iguanas.
Home Suite Home
All about family vacations, St. Kitts Marriott invites with the ‘Super Escape! Inclusive’ package which includes discounted room rates and meals for the whole brood. Valid through December 21, the tempting package also includes a round of golf, massage in the spa and coupons for casino play. Under the watchful eye of a Canadian, the big resort on the beach is a top pick for families, big and small. “Being from Montreal, I understand what Canadian families are looking for when it comes to travelling to the Caribbean,” says Jacques Hamou, general manager. “We have it all including three sprawling pools, breathtaking beach, entertaining kids club, unlimited adjoining rooms and direct access to island activities.” www.stkittsmarriott.com
The circular driveway leading up to the open-air lobby lends a grand feel to the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios. An hour from the airport in Montego Bay, the 730-room all-inclusive beachfront resort puts a big emphasis on families with one-bedroom suites with sleeper sofas, menus that please even the pickiest of appetites, teen disco, five pools and a gigantic waterslide. “Our repeat visitor rate has consistently been high due to the great value we offer for the vacation dollar,” says Clifton Reader, general manager. “We welcome our Canadian guests who bring their entire family for a week away every winter.” www.sunsetresortsjamaica.com
Note to Moms and Dads: If a few extra shekels are left in the vacation budget, Club Mobay at the airport offers fast-track through Immigration, Jamaican snacks, Wi-Fi and a Kids Center. So popular, the Club has its own Facebook page. www.facebook.com/ClubMobay
Family-friendly from coast to coast, Anguilla is a favourite of Canadians who covet year round sunshine and plenty to do. “Children enjoy viewing the incredible seascape aboard Junior’s Glass-bottom boat and the Pelican Trail with the huge aqua-trampoline,” says Candis Niles, director tourism, Anguilla Tourism Authority. Another great family bonding experience is exploring on a scenic bike tour or enjoying ice cream at Tropical Treats in George Hill.” Ivisitanguilla.com
Cooking classes for kids under the patient eye of Chef Daniel LeGuenan is just one of the perks at Anguilla’s oh-so-fabulous CuisinArt Golf Resort. Wannabee chefs tour the hydroponic farm and learn how to prepare what they’ll enjoy like giant chocolate chip cookies. For junior gourmands, the “CuisinArt Small Gourmet” menu serves fan favourites like a petite filet mignon and fruity “mocktails”. For multi-generational vacations, ‘Friends & Family ‘includes a junior suite with a 50-percent reduction on a connecting suite, breakfast for the whole family and airport or ferry transfers. www.cuisinartresort.com
Dinner & A Movie
The family-friendly fun at Caneel Bay in the USVI impresses with clever ‘Dinner and Movie ‘nights and tennis lessons for kids on smaller courts. For families with wee ones, gratis wireless baby monitors and pintsized robes and slippers are included and for big families who vacation together, the ‘Greatest Generation‘ package offers one gratis room when three are booked. www.rosewoodhotels.com/
The Aruba Marriott Resort is not only the largest resort on the island but also one of the most family-friendly with the aptly named ‘Family Movie Night Package ‘ that includes gratis DVDs , pizza-making course for kids and beds for heads in a garden view room. Seven restaurants and a casino keep the grown-ups at bay while the kids enjoy video games and shell art. www.arubamarriott.com
Don’t Break The Bank
Grenada is a warm weather favourite with its wide array of hotels and magnificent slivers of sandy beaches. “We welcome Canadian families to our island because many of us have families and friends in Canada,” says Colin Dowe , chairman , board of tourism. “We have a special desire to ensure that Canadians are among those privileged to savour the unique experiences that make up a Grenada vacation.” Close to the beach, Blue Horizons Garden Resort is also close to the airport and capital city of St. George’s and offers suites spacious enough for a family. A 30-percent room rate discount during the winter months is offered for an adjoining suite with gratis babysitting for parents who welcome a few hours away from the fray. www.grenadabluehorizons.com
Get groovy with the iguanas at the Renaissance Aruba Resort’s private island. Aptly called Iguana Beach, the resort shuttles guests to the beach to kayak, snorkel and yes, cavort with the critters that roam freely and are delighted to be fed by curious tourists. The ‘Escape All-Inclusive’ package is the best deal on the beach with ocean view suites, kids’ menus and entry to the Patamingo Kids Club. www.renaissancearuba.com
Nothing says a family vacation faster than zip-lining above the iconic Pitons in St. Lucia. Just a year old and already a smashing success, Soufriere Hotwire Rides start from the Morne Coubaril Estate where adrenalin-seekers glide under the Petit Piton for aerial views of the Caribbean Sea. Priced at US $69 per person, the action-packed adventure includes a delectable Creole-inspired lunch on the ground. www.stluciaziplining.com
5 Tips For Travelling With Teens
1. Include your teenager in making vacation plans. Maybe they have a particular destination in mind or would really rather not head to Florida to the theme parks for the fourth year in a row.
2. Let them eat dessert before dinner.
3. Be OK when they skip the fifth island tour on your list.
4. Teenagers love to sleep in and vacations are excellent opportunities for them to catch up on their zzzz’s.
5. Encourage walks on the beach or seeing the film they’ve been waiting for. These little breaks will do wonders for the entire family.