We hopped around Europe with our 3 kids spending 3 nights in each spot. We totally fell in love with...
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We hopped around Europe with our 3 kids spending 3 nights in each spot. We totally fell in love with...
We hopped around Europe with our 3 kids spending 3 nights in each spot. We totally fell in love with Scotland and we can’t wait to come back.
Here’s a run down on what we did. We needed more time. There’s so much to do here!
We stayed at the Kingsmill Hotel and Spa. This is the hotel that Adventures by Disney uses for their group tours so I knew it would be family friendly. It is an older hotel that isn’t super updated but felt very authentic. The service was great. I was really impressed with the attitude of the staff, attentiveness in the restaurant and bar and the front desk. The housekeeping was even friendly walking down the hall. It had a very homey feel and we were perfectly happy with this choice.
They had a great indoor pool with hot tub and steam room that was open until 9PM. We had a family suite. This was a large ground floor room with a king bed and sitting area. It has bathrooms and a bunk room (basically the size of a walk-in closet) with 2 sets of bunk beds.
The hotel doesn’t have air conditioning but the Scottish Highlands do not get hot. They gave us a large fan for airflow which was perfect.
The hotel is located on the outskirts of the city of Inverness. It took about 10 minutes (and 10 roundabouts) to get to the city center which is still very quiet. We had Pizza Hut delivered for the kids one night and my husband and I ate in the restaurant at the hotel. Everyone was happy.
There is a nice park with playground directly across the street from the hotel and the grounds are beautiful. We noticed the hotel (and a lot of places in Scotland) was dog friendly. If only it was close for us to bring our dog. Ha!
During a stay in the Scottish Highlands you have to search for Nessie. I’ve heard of the Loch Ness Monster as basically a fairy tale but I don’t think until I started planning a trip to Scotland that I realized exactly where it lived. We took an hour only Jacobite cruise on the Loch Ness which is the name of the body of water. There are a lot of Lochs in the area and Ness is the one with the monster. The cruise told the story of how it was spotted and people who have searched for it for almost 100 years. There’s even a man who they said 20 years ago left his wife and job to buy a cabin on the banks of Loch Ness to search for him. Alas he has not found him and has resorted to selling trinkets to tourists with no regrets.
I was on a mission to see the Hairy Coos or the Scottish Highland cows. I had read that the Culloden battlefield was a great area to see them. There are actually some that live on the battlefield. Another fun fact - this is one of the filming sites for the show Outlander. I haven’t watched this show so this was lost of me but I know a lot of people love it.
The kids loved running around the grass area. It’s 14 pounds per adult for the museum with a guided tour. They did a family pass for 30 pounds (I was so impressed with how there were family discounts everywhere in the UK) but you can walk around the outside area for no charge.
Keep your eyes peeled - Just down the street we found the Hairy Coos.
Another spot we hit was Rothiemurchus we. This is an outdoor activity place in a National Park. There’s a farm store, barn (which is their cafe), gift shop and more.
There are so many activities here. They have things for small children to adults.
Our kids did the Landry cars (PowerWheels sized Land Rovers) and fishing. The Landry’s go around a small track in the forrest. They go pretty slow. I would recommend this for 8 and under.
On property they have several stocked ponds with rainbow trout. It was 17 pounds per kid for a pole, net and bait. You were permitted one fish for this as well if you wanted to take one home.
We are not fishermen so I was having a hard time helping the kids cast their poles. I had the kids go fish by some young teens who noticed their inability and started helping them. It was perfect. The teenagers were so nice. They made it a competition between the boys to catch one. They quickly each caught a trout. They showed them how to hit it in the head (they were going to keep one) and how to release the other. The kids were on cloud 9.
There is so much to do here. They had falconry experiences, ATVs, horses, ropes course and more. It is also a place you visit on an Adventures by Disney tour. If you’re coming on your own make sure to prebook what you want to do. The activities sell out especially in the summer.
We also spent a full day to ride the Jacobite Steam Train. This is on the West Coast of Scotland from Fort William to Mallaig. It is the train featured in the Harry Potter films.
There are a bunch of ways to make this happen.
If you’re driving yourself, there are round trip train rides from Fort William. It gives you a break in the town so you can enjoy a quick lunch.
If you’re not going to ride it then you could go to Fort William and take pictures at the train, and then there is a spot to wait while it goes over the Glennfinnan Viaduct with easy parking, toilets and a cafe. In the town of Mallaig there’s a neat Haggrid’s gift shop for all the merchandise. This town is right on the with views of the Scottish Isles. I would love to come back and visit the Isle of Skye.
The train ride is beautiful though so we booked a tour. We were driven in a mini bus from downtown Inverness. They also have these day trips from Edinburgh. We made stops along the way. We rode the train one way, had time for lunch (amazing fish and chips!) and then we journeyed back with stopping to watch the train pass the viaduct.
It was nice to sit back and relax and let someone else drive for the day.
The people of Scotland were so friendly. I might even say best overall service as far as friendliness than anywhere I’ve been in the world.
Make sure to bring your rain gear even in the summer. It went back and forth from sunny to raining without any notice.
If you’re renting a car just a reminder that they do drive on the left. Inverness was the perfect place to do this with minimal traffic and mostly coy try driving. We had the kids say “Left side Daddy!” regularly to help. You can rent a car with a credit card and USA driver’s license. No special license in required. The cars are smaller here. We had a mid-size which was equivalent to a Mercedes C class. It was a good thing we only had carry on bags to fit in the car.
It’s a wonderful country and we can’t wait to go back.
What I liked and didn’t like about Disneyland Paris, including staying on-property.We are a Disney f...
What I liked and didn’t like about Disneyland Paris, including staying on-property.
We are a Disney family. We aren’t annual pass holders level, but I would say we are almost there. We go often and sometimes I personally go more than once a year with work events. My kids have stayed on property at Disney in all levels from Deluxe to Value, and at Grand Californian in Anaheim.
We headed on a European adventure and made Paris one of our stops. At the time of the trip my three boys were 9, 7 and 6. We flew from London to Paris and then took a cab to the hotel. The cab line was easy to find and cost about 90 euros (in a larger van since there was 5 of us).
Upon arrival, it doesn’t have the warm fuzzy feeling like at Disney World. There wasn’t a welcome greeting but a direct to take our bags to a X-ray machine. We then went through a metal detector. We had Compass Club so we were able to check in right to the left. This was a great time saver as opposed to the main check in desk so I highly recommend this.
We chose to stay at Newport Bay. It sits walking distance from the parks (about 10 minutes) and has a shuttle. We walked each time, but they said the shuttle came every 1 minute. Our room had 2 double beds and 2 sleeper chairs, which worked great for our family to spread out. The bathroom had a shower and a separate tub all in the same little bathroom so that was odd, but convenient. The room was stocked with a couple of bottles of water and bathroom toiletries including robes and slippers.
The hotel is kind of dated. The wall paper in the halls needs to be redone and a lot of the hotel is a little tired. I can only imagine how a kid oriented hotel is treated on a regular basis. The beds were comfortable, though so no complaints on that. I can just see some being surprised especially given the price point.
The hotel had surprise meet and greets, so our first hour of being there my kids met Pluto, which they were excited about. The staff was good about transitioning between French and English. I noticed there were a lot of UK families staying, but not many from the USA, which was expected.
The hotel has both an indoor and outdoor pool. It’s a whole check in where they ask your room number, which is different than in the USA. The most startling thing to me - the unisex locker rooms for the pool. This, I’m sure is the norm in France, but I can see this being awkward for American travelers. The European guests are also not as modest as most Americans. My kids were like “why aren’t they wearing a swim suit top?” and things like that.
For having a club level room we had access to the lounge. In club level rooms at Disney hotels I’ve stayed in previously the club lounge is in the area of the rooms. This was on ground floor close to the lobby. They served daily breakfast and then snacks from 4-530PM. Snacks included different kinds of cakes, cake pops, pastries, fruit, cherry tomatoes with mozzarella and a lot of yogurt. My kids ate so my croissants. I was glad they would try new things like this banana Mickey cake they had. My biggest shock is they didn’t serve wine or beer. I would have thought in all places like France that wine or champagne would flow like water. It did not. Ha! You had your option of Coca-Cola products, Fuze Tea, coffee or hot tea. The drinks were always available.
In case you’re not totally familiar Disney in Paris is 2 parks connected to Disney Village which is their version of Disney Springs. We chuckled at all the American brands in Disney Village from McDonalds which was always hopping to a 50’s style dinner, a BBQ place called Billy Bobs, Planet Hollywood and more. Disney Studios kind of reminds me of Hollywood Studios. Disneyland is laid out very similarly to Disneyland in California but with some fun differences.
One of the things we loved was you are able to climb up in and around the castle. The castle is Sleeping Beauty’s castle. There are stairs going up and it tells her story in stained glass. You can also go out and wave on the balcony like you see characters doing at other parks. There’s a neat glass blowing shop also in the castle with a door in the back of the shop that takes you downstairs under the castle with an animatronic dragon. My kids probably talked about this the most since they thought they discovered something on their own.
The kids loved Skull Island which is their version of Tom Sawyer’s Island with playground and caves to explore. There is also a cute Pinocchio ride.
Just this last year they completely refurbished and changed Space Mountain into HyperSpace Mountain. This is all Star Wars themed with the song blasting you off at the beginning. A big change for HyperSpace? This ride takes you upside down on one loop. My oldest said it was pitch dark and he only knew he was upside down by how his cheeks felt. I was too chicken to ride it.
Another unique part of Disneyland is the Alice’s Curious Labyrinth. This is the Queen of Hearts garden maze complete with card characters popping up, cute photo stops and a fun castle to climb up at the end. If you’re a big Disney person just coming for the unique experiences I think is worth it.
One thing about the park is from my perspective it’s very understaffed. I’m going to assume this is a worldwide issue caused my the pandemic. I'm used to being greeted at rides. I’m use to a lot of staff everywhere. It was sometimes hard to find someone. It was surprising when we had that amazing Disney service from an employee. This was probably the most disappointing. It wasn’t the same. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing but it wasn’t the interactive chatty happy workers like what we experience all the time in the United States.
Park hopping is common and you don’t pay extra for it here. You easily can walk between the parks. Over at Disney Studios they have a great Cars and Toy Story area. There are some unique rides including a race car ride from Toy Story that does this half circle fall. It reminds me of the boat rides at the fair that swing.
Disney Studios of course has a lot of shows from Frozen to a magician Mickey show. Their new attraction for the park is Avengers Campus. They have modified Rockin Roller Coaster into Avengers Assemble: Flight Force an Iron man and Captain Marvel ride and also added WEB to the campus just a couple weeks before we arrived. This is the same Spider-Man ride at Disneyland in California. It was a resounding favorite of everyone. It can sense your movements so it looks like you’re really throwing webs to help Spider-Man fight off some evil spiders. It’s so cool. We said we need a quick trip to California just to ride this one again.
Here’s some important info. We were there over a weekend in the summer. The parks were at capacity. They do reservations just like we do in the United States. We wanted to be able to maximize so we upgraded to Premier Access Ultimate. This is something not in the USA parks so let me explain with a list to make it easier:
-Cost was 140 Euros per person on top of park admission
-There was a list of 9 rides at Disneyland and 4 at Disney Studios that are included.
-With Ultimate you can walk up to any of these rides on the list at anytime during your day and go to the Premier line (what we like to call Fast Pass or Lightning Lane).
-You only could use your Premier once per ride per person.
There was an option that was less expensive that you could schedule each ride and come back during your time slot. With us not loving making a plan, this wasn’t ideal for our family, but it would be a way to save money. You can also purchase premier access one by one with specific time slots. They ranged from $9-$18 per person per ride. This is all done on their APP.
We really loved the Premier Access. The PA lines were minimal, if anything while the regular lines were over an hour or more. I was calling it a mini-VIP guide day.
Overall, we are glad we went to Disneyland Paris. We had a great time! It was a great highlight for the kids on a European itinerary.
I tried to be as transparent and honest with our experience so you know what you’re getting. If this sounds like a vacation you would love, then please reach out. My office would love to help you plan a European vacation with Disneyland Paris as part of your adventure.
I would like to start off by saying, “What a magical place!”I am just returning from a holiday weeke...
I would like to start off by saying, “What a magical place!”
I am just returning from a holiday weekend where we stayed at the JW Marriott, Marco Island. This is the flagship of Marco Island. When I was checking in I heard one of the employees say it was the busiest Marriott in the United States. I believe it and for good reason. Here’s how the weekend played out.
The JW Marriott Marco Island Resort & Spa, or the JW, as I will refer to it going forward in this blog site, is about 1 hour from the Ft Meyers airport / RSW. It sits on an amazing massive white sand beach (they even have food and drink service on the beach!).
The resort has a large conference center and can quickly fill up with groups, so this is somewhere I’m glad we booked early.
The room options are mainly 1 king or 2 queen beds with some adjoining doors for those traveling in larger families. There are multiple restaurants on site including one of the best wood fired pizza places. The pizzas run $18-$22 and a Caesar is $14. Tip - The salads are meant to share just like the pizza so just order one per 3 or 4 people with your pizza. In addition to the pizza place, there is also an adults only restaurant, sushi bar, and more. We really had more choices that we didn’t get to try all of them.
There are multiple pools which are heated in the winter to the low 80s. There’s a large resort style pool with cabana rentals and a family pool with 0 entry, slide, waterfall, spraying splash pad type things and more. Each pool had a casual outdoor dining option next to it with the family pool having the tiki bar with the most amazing Miami Vice frozen drinks. Tip- If you don’t know what a Miami Vice is then it’s half pina colada and half strawberry daiquiri. It’s a perfect combo. They have the machines right there so it’s a perfect ice purée. They will also serve these poolside with a great staff working drink orders with little flags at the chairs.
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Tip - I loved how they had a water station where you can use their cups or a refillable bottle at no charge. I told my kids that was their option during the day and the fact that it was DIY made it more fun for them.
One of the highlights of this resort is 10K Alley. This is on level 5, and an oasis of fun. For starters, it was the largest arcade I’ve ever seen at a hotel. We joked we had Dave and Busters right there on site. In addition to video games, 10K also has bowling (smaller ball version where you don’t have to put your fingers in it and not special shows required). Bowling was $10/game (not per person) and was a hit. You can also order food and drinks to be served at your lane.
In addition to bowling, 10K also has neon mini golf. It’s a small course of 6 holes and runs $8/person. Tip- Don’t play the last hole and let the kids play to their heart's content before the last hole, so it’s not $8 over and over again.
We explored a little outside of the hotel mainly to just try restaurants. Our two favorites -
1. Snooks Inn - This is how I picture Saturday nights on an island. It’s a restaurant on the docks. There’s a huge outdoor bar with live music and people just enjoying the fun atmosphere. There’s indoor and outdoor seating. I heard from multiple people to order the blackened grouper and I’m so glad I did. It’s melt in your mouth fresh. The meals also come with a great salad bar and pickles. I should have asked about the pickles but they had a whole tub of HUGE pickle slices which were so crunchy. I’m salivating just writing about them. If you eat off hotel property, Snooks needs to be on your list. During the day you can also arrive by boat and that just sounds so fun to me. It’s a destination in itself.
2. Doreen’s Cup of Joe - WOW! This breakfast place has indoor and outdoor seating, a huge menu and some of the best OJ I’ve ever had in my life. This place is a well oiled machine with a stream of customers, a line to put our name on the list but then we only waited about 30 minutes for a table on a holiday. They have fresh squeezed Florida orange juice like pressing it right there while you wait. Wow! I keep saying wow but yes I was wowed. So good! I ordered the famous Crunchy French Toast which I will now dream about until we go back to Marco. It was cornflake crusted with strawberries and whip cream. My husband had their Mexican Skillet. He loved it and it came with a fresh made biscuit. Tip- He asked for a side of gravy and for a small charge he turned that biscuit into biscuits and gravy. Brilliant! Please be aware - they do not have a children’s menu or coloring/entertainment. They do offer simple meals that pleased my kids like plain pancakes or a scrambled eggs/bacon/toast option.
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A couple of expenses to keep in mind when planning this vacation while staying at the JW. There’s a parking fee of either $25/night for self parking or $30/night for valet. We had plans to do self parking but we kept going out and about with kids falling asleep on the way back so valet was so convenient.
There is also a resort fee of $33/night plus tax. The resort fee included wifi (and really wifi is important here since it seemed data signals were pretty low), q hour tennis court rental, 2 spa fitness classes 2 chairs and umbrella on the beach during the day, and golf course shuttle.
There is a lot to do in and around Marco Island. We would have taken advantage of more if we stayed longer.
Family Vacation Must do’s when we go back
- Rent a boat. There’s a '10,000 Island' boat tour where you will go to one of the only places in the world that have both alligators and crocodiles.
- Day trip to the Naples Zoo. We passed by and it looks really nice. It would be a great half day excursion with littles.
- Ferry to Key West. I think this sounds fun. It does look long but I love a Key West day trip. The added bonus to arrive by boat is intriguing to me.
All in which I’m sure you can tell, we loved the JW and Marco Island in general. We have always been big Hawaiian family vacationers and we had that Hawaiian island feel for an easy quick flight for a weekend trip.
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Tahiti: Where to Splurge & Where to Save MoneyI recently returned from a trip to Tahiti and this...
Tahiti: Where to Splurge & Where to Save Money
I recently returned from a trip to Tahiti and this trip was as memorable and relaxing as it was beautiful. For many people, visiting here is on their bucket list, simply because it is unlike any other place in the world.
Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia, located in the South Pacific archipelago. It’s divided into two main areas: the larger, northwestern section of Tahiti Nui and the smaller, southeastern portion called Tahiti Iti. In total, the island covers an area of 403 square miles and French is the official language, although you may sometimes hear the Tahitian language being spoken. If you’re traveling from Oklahoma to Tahiti, when you arrive, the time difference will be 5 hours behind what you’re used to. Tahiti features two inactive volcanoes, sprawling black sand beaches, waterfalls, and rainforests. If you’re looking for a vacation in a warm tropical oasis, Tahiti is a great place to consider visiting. Here are some helpful tips for your trip to Tahiti.
Tip #1: Take the ferry and don’t be afraid of the bus.
Save: When my husband and I arrived, we took the ferry to Moorea and rode the bus from the ferry to the hotel. This was a huge cost savings, saving us about $600 for two people! The ferries travel every hour and the bus will meet every ferry, so we didn’t even have to arrange it ahead of time.
Splurge: When we were ready to head home, we splurged on a taxi back to the airport, simply because it is hard to know when the bus is going to come back around. Be sure to call and arrange the taxi service ahead of time, as they don’t have as many on the island as other places might. If you need help with that, the concierge at your hotel is happy to do this for you the night before you’re going to leave.
Tip #2: Pack plenty of snacks and drinks.
Save: Everything is expensive in Tahiti and the surrounding islands so if you’re looking to save some money, pack plenty of snacks and drinks that can last you the duration of your stay. We packed containers of almonds and granola bars and we took advantage of the bottled waters that the hotel provided in our room. The Hilton Moorea provides a minibar with pop, beer, and bottled water, so we decided to empty it every day so it would be restocked fresh daily for us.
If you plan on drinking alcoholic beverages while you’re there, consider buying liquor at the Duty Free inside of security in the U.S. and pack it with you. They will tell you the exact amounts you can travel with. This will save you a lot of money, because alcohol in French Polynesia is very expensive. For example, cocktails at the resorts can range from $20-$35 and beer is usually $10 or more. In Bora Bora, bottled water was $10, so we took advantage of all of the included breakfast buffets and drank plenty of water and juice at breakfast since it was all included.
Splurge: There is nothing like fresh, local seafood when you’re visiting Tahiti. During your time there, splurge a few times on some of the local food that the area offers. We had some of the most amazing tuna that we’ve ever tasted and we also enjoyed fresh French pastries and crepes everywhere. Delicious!
Tip #3: Know the difference between overwater bungalows vs. garden bungalows.
Save: To save money, don’t stay in an overwater bungalow the whole time. Even though they are amazing, you can save money by staying in garden bungalows at the Moorea resorts, which I loved. They were posh, but had a fun camp-feel, kind of like the camp scenes that were featured on the original Parent Trap movie. The price difference between a garden bungalow and an overwater bungalow for a 3-night stay in Moorea could be over $1,000 depending on the time of year you travel, so that is a huge savings.
Splurge: If you decide to travel to multiple islands, use the money you saved in the garden bungalow and splurge for a panoramic overwater bungalow in Bora Bora. Here, you need the overwater bungalow – the views and direct ladder access to the water is absolutely worth the splurge.
Tip #4: Eat outside of the resort.
Save: A lot of the restaurants on the island of Moorea will pick you up from your hotel and take you to the restaurant to eat, so you don’t have to pay for a cab. We stayed at a hotel that had a neat local restaurant that we could walk to, and it was in the front yard of a home! There were picnic tables and we were able to chat with a Parisian lady while she cooked. Not only was it charming, but it was delicious and half the price of the hotel food. The service was outstanding compared to some of the more tourist-centered places. In Bora Bora, our resort had designated time that a boat would take you to the mainland where you could eat for less and take time to explore the island.
Splurge: There is nothing like finding amazing food while you travel to a new spot. You have to have a BBQ lunch on Bora Bora Motu. Where else in the world can you be served champagne and lobster while sitting at a table in the water? Amazing!
Tip #5: Know about currency exchanges.
Save: Use the ATM, not a currency exchange booth. The currency exchange booth at the Papeete Airport was 83 XPF - $1 USD. The ATM was 99 XPF - $1 USD. Just be sure to tell your bank in advance that you are traveling so the ATM does not decline the transaction.
Splurge: There will be an ATM fee and it’s worth the splurge. Be sure to get enough cash for the entire trip – ATMs are few and far between and sometimes they’re out of money!
Tip #6: Take advantage of onsite water sports.
Save: Most of the resorts are going to have onsite water sports. They provide the gear you need, including snorkel gear, kayaks, paddleboards, Hobie Cats, and more. Take advantage of these. It’s a great time to try something you never have before.
Splurge: Splurge on a jet ski tour in Bora Bora. The lagoon is protected by all the outer islands so you can jet ski in calm water with stingrays and black tip reef sharks right below you. If you book a 2-hour tour, you will have time to circle the entire island. Make sure to book it from your hotel, as the resorts are so isolated that a water taxi could be very expensive.
Your trip here will be filled with unforgettable experiences and you might even fall in love with French Polynesia from the minute you step off the plane! I’m proud to be a certified Tahiti Specialist and can’t wait for people to experience the beautiful islands of Tahiti! Contact me today to get your trip booked.
Is it a good idea? What is it like over Spring Break? See our latest: All Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels...
Is it a good idea? What is it like over Spring Break?
See our latest: All Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels 101 Guide!
This is a common question we get from clients. Keep in mind Spring Break is wide spread. We were in Punta Cana March 7 – 10 which was Spring Break for University of Georgia, amongst other Universities across the country. I mention University of Georgia because word on the street was, there was a group of over 600 at the hotel for the week.
Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.
The resort is huge. There’s so much to do from the expected beach and variety of pool selection to also the largest casino in the Dominican Republic, activities like VR, laser tag, bowling, arcade, and more. There’s also a ton of onsite shopping from tourist trinkets to trendy beachwear. I loved that there’s so much to do. The Spring Breakers were not bored. Even at night there was a huge outdoor disco set up with either a DJ mixing music at night or a live band and more. One night in the Moon Lounge they even held a Silent Disco where each guest wore headphones and chose their one genre of music. So fun. It’s really impressive how Hard Rock spends the money to keep everyone entertained. The casino has a ton of slot machines and table games. There were a lot of Blackjack tables were are my favorite and the tables start at $15 minimum. Something I want to note is the casino is available for outside guests to come in and gamble. Drinks are not included unless you are playing and there’s a champagne bar and restaurant that is not part of the all inclusive plan.
[video width='300' mp4='https://blog.vincentvacations.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/119561597_301295048594802_4496958459543366550_n.mp4'][/video]There are 12 pools. You could pick what style you want from extreme Spring Break party pool or a quiet adults only pool in the gardens called Eden or if you are traveling with kids you can venture down to the kid’s pool with some smaller slides and even a lazy river complete with tubes. One tip I have is spend the money on a cabana. I rented one for our pool day. It was $100 and came with a dedicated waitstaff to makes sure we were taken care of with drinks. She brought us a cooler of ice filled with Pepsis and bottled water. She took drink orders and we didn’t have to wait in the long line at the bar. You can reserve this upon arrival in the lobby. We loved seeing Ramon who is the star pool waiter at the main pool. He’s so talented bringing you drinks he can balance on his head while riding a bicycle. I told him I saw him on TikTok and he smiled and gave me a big hug. The main pool is where you are going to find the DJ mixing music, live dancers in the afternoon and a great snack bar. If you prefer quiet – I would recommend Eden pool. If you prefer something more in the middle then just do one of the pools next to the main. This is a great thing about Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana. You can pick your mood each day.
Since I also take pride in being a “tell it like it is” travel advisor I also want to tell you the not so great parts. It’s crowded. At night if you enjoy a laid back bar for cocktails, don’t go during Spring Break. I know clients that this would be the end of the world to not be able to do. The young adult crowd really took over every bar. It was 4 and 5 people deep at every single one especially when it got to be later than 10PM. I kept saying it reminded me of Vegas. If you were out late, some of the bars even ran out of alcohol. I’ve never experienced this at a resort before. I was surprised. I kind of wonder if it was a true run out or a que to go to bed. Ha!
Another issue when you travel during peak times like Spring Break is it was also harder to get dinner reservations. You had to make a reservation even at the buffet for dinner time if you didn’t want to have to wait. There’s a place in the lobby that does all the reservations for the restaurants. Other feedback I had was it did also get kind of loud in the hallways at night. I can sleep through a marching band so it didn’t bother me one bit. I know some are light sleepers. I love to use the box fan YouTube to play if I need some white noise which would work just fine there with included free wifi. We also did see quite the scene with some drunk young adults but it wasn’t more than I would expect with the age occupancy like that. I have always seen how Hard Rock takes young people’s safety seriously. They will not hesitate to cut someone off. When you check in they also only issue the adult bracelets to over 18 years of age with a valid Passport.
To turn this around, let’s talk more about the food. We at the Mexican restaurant “Los Gallos” for dinner the first night. I had the cactus salad and it was so good. I ordered it to try something new which is the glory of staying at an all inclusive. It was pickled cactus and a huge slice of fresh avocado. I really enjoyed it. We also had some great flautas and fresh churros for dessert. The second night we ate at the steakhouse Torro. This is one of the most popular restaurants. I do live in Oklahoma so I don’t go into this like I’m expecting a prime steak. I’m all about setting expectations correctly. The steaks are thinner but they had good flavor. The atmosphere was great and the service was really good.
I will say the last night we ended up at “The Market” which is the buffet. I would say calling it “the buffet” doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like cooking stations around the world. I said “I feel like I’m at the Wynn in Las Vegas” because the décor is so cool. I ate a teriyaki chicken rice bowl and it was so yummy. I wish I had it earlier in the trip so I could have had it twice. I have been to this hotel multiple times and the food was just so/so. They have stepped up their game. Every meal I had I really enjoyed. I even had room service for breakfast on the last morning. It arrived within 30 minutes and the eggs were cooked correctly (I like over easy eggs) and everything was hot and fresh.
I think a highlight for me as a travel agent was seeing the room renovations they are completed at the hotel. I was in a Caribbean suite which is the back half of the hotel. I prefer the Caribbean Suite side as opposed to being in a Caribbean Sand in the front part of the hotel by the beach. A lot of people are always confused when I say this because typical hotel mode would be trying to get as close to the ocean as possible BUT there’s so much off the main lobby. I would rather walk to the pool/beach in my flip flops during the day and have a easy walk to the casino/restaurants when I’m dressed up at night. If you really don’t like to walk did you know they also rent golf carts? It’s a fun option and you can do it day by day that you know you’re going to use it. Anyway! The hotel renovations are perfect. They removed the big square tub from the middle of the room and put a jacuzzi tub on the balcony. They toned down the colors and added where you would normally step down and be at the jacuzzi is now a sitting area with a sleeper sofa. This is going to open up so many more sleeping options. Another amazing option is in some of the renovated islander junior suites are 2 King size beds and a sleeper sofa. It’s perfect for families traveling with 3 kids that need the extra room. The 2 King Islander sleeps up to 5 if 1 is a child. These also have the option to connect to a Rock Star 1 Bedroom Suite if you’re traveling with a group. The bedding combinations make this hotel such a great choice for groups with different needs.
[video width='300' style='float:right;' mp4='https://blog.vincentvacations.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/dominican-republic-travel-agents.mp4'][/video]Did I answer your questions about Spring Break? Keep in mind Spring Break runs from the 2nd week of March through April in most cases. It’s a busy hotel but with a lot to do to keep everyone entertained. If the increased young adult groups would be a turn off but you still want to go when kid’s are out of school, I would say this would be a great one for Christmas Break when it’s heavier on the family travel or summer if you are looking for a lower price point.
Traveling to celebrate a milestone? Ask us about their great group program called, “Rock Your Milestone” where you can get a private event complimentary. We have had this work out for graduation groups or big birthdays. It’s a great option.
We look forward to helping you plan Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana.
See our latest: All Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels 101 Guide!
A luxury train, beautiful scenery, top notch service….these are all the things I think about when I ...
A luxury train, beautiful scenery, top notch service….these are all the things I think about when I think how can I start this blog about the experience of Rocky Mountaineer.
My journey started in Vancouver, BC. We flew into Vancouver 2 days prior to boarding the train so we could have a full day of experiencing Vancouver.
In Vancouver I realized Vancouver could be a vacation in itself. There’s so much to do. We crammed in as much as possible and I can’t wait to go back.
We had lunch at Granville Island. No one lives on the island and it’s right off the city connected by a bridge. There are a lot of little boutiques and souvenir shops. There’s one hotel in the island called The Granville Hotel with a nice water and city view.
We were obsessed with the Public Market. It was a farmer’s market, food court, bakery, and craft show all under one roof. I could have spent hours wandering through all the booths and admiring all the produce and baked goods.
We spent the afternoon at Capilano Suspension Bridge. I had been to Capilano in 1999 so it was neat seeing how they have added some experiences. The Capilano Suspension Bridge was built in 1889 for workers to use to get across the canyon. It started to become famous where people came on their days off to walk the bridge. By 1910 it become so popular they started to charge admission.
In the last 20 years they have added treetop bridges that are smaller Suspension bridges connecting between trees. I hope you include Capilano on your pre-train itinerary.
It was finally train day. They picked us up from our hotel that was all part of the Rocky Mountaineer package. The train station is about 10 minutes from downtown.
Boarding the train was easy. They have a few out to assist where to go and a man playing the bagpipes. It really added to the excitement.
We were lucky to be in Gold Leaf Service. Let me explain the differences.
You have all 1 level. This actually would be a great choice if you’re really tall like over 6’5 since the Gold one is a split car.
You still have great views with the big windows that go up to the ceiling like the Gold always has had.
Meals are all included. You eat your meals at your seat. A tray comes down from the seat back in front of you like an airplane. It’s an oversized tray compared to airline travel. There’s a small outdoor platform to go outside.
Silver has a little more limited menu but it’s still all cooked to order. The drink menu is all the same and included.
Here’s my experience in Gold.
You have assigned seats. The seats are a plush leather. They recline, heat and have a have a leg rest. If you’re traveling with another couple one thing with that is so fun about Gold is your can rotate your seats to face each other and play cards. I loved this option.
There’s an additional staff member than in silver to cater to Gold passengers. They start alcoholic drink service at 10AM with a wide variety of wine, beer, sodas and juices.
We boarded early and they released half the car to go downstairs for breakfast. Those on second seating were served coffee and pastries.
Breakfast was cooked to order. They had a menu with a lot of options and could accommodate food allergies and preferences. Downstairs still has great big windows so you get to enjoy the scenery while eating. I loved the skillet that I ended up ordering both mornings. Everyone with me had different things and it all looked wonderful.
It worked this same way with lunch and we had fun switching up our dining table mates to meet new people.
The Gold car has an extended outdoor area and we spent a lot of time enjoying the fresh air and seeing the scenery go by. The attendants would let us know about things coming up so we could get our cameras ready. They talked to other trains and even told us when they knew some bears were going to be seen. We saw a white bear which the staff said was so rare and it was their first time seeing one.
Our halfway stop was in Kamloops which is a small town. They warned us the hotels in Kamloops are really basic so it was fine. We arrived at the train station and they had motor coaches waiting for us for a quick 5 minute drive over to the hotel. They had our suitcases already in our rooms since they came ahead in a truck. Smart! It made it so easy and had our room keys pre-programmed to pass out. I love little details like this.
Our second day on the train came early but I felt lucky since my body was still on central time zone so getting up early didn’t feel as early as the weather coasters. The scenery just got better and better. The train meals changed and they had little surprises of treats and a wine and cheese before arriving in Banff.
My number 1 trip for this journey is to do west to east if at all possible. It really builds on the beauty of the scenery.
What a gem Banff is. I kept saying how much I loved Banff and couldn’t wait to come back while I was there and hadn’t even left yet. The town of Banff was bustling with all sorts of shops and restaurants. The Fairmont Banff Springs is just up the hill from the town of Banff and such an easy walk but with a idyllic setting in the trees with a stream behind it. There were elk in the grass around the hotel. It really set the scene. There are restaurants, a great lounge, spa and more. I loved the igloo option for a special event. What a picture perfect option for an anniversary dinner or a proposal.
Rocky Mountaineer was founded in 1990. We could tell their employees love what they do. I think this is huge. For nature, scenery and train enthusiasts this trip is a must.
They also have expanded to a USA route from Colorado to Moab, Utah.
Does this vacation sound right up your alley? 2022 is almost sold out and we are booking for 2023. My office would love to help you. Please email me or give us a call.
I've had a lot of interest in the Ireland trip I just experienced. Here is a list of 5 must do's whe...
I've had a lot of interest in the Ireland trip I just experienced.
Here is a list of 5 must do's when traveling to Ireland.
1. Plan to hop around the country and stay in different cities. There's so much more to explore outside of the big cities like Dublin or Shannon. We stayed in 5 different places during our 7 night trip. It was go go go, but I felt like we were able to really maximize our vacation, without having to back track like if we had just done day tours. It also gave us more time to experience the local towns.
[video width='181' height='320' mp4='https://blog.vincentvacations.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/plan-ireland-trip.mp4'][/video]2. Hire a driver, or join a tour for traveling outside of Dublin. On this vacation, we hired a driver. It was one set cost for the driver, vehicle, and gas. We created an outline of where our hotels were each night so this also included accommodations for our driver, which he arranged on his own. If you really want to dive in deep, you can also hire a professional guide. We were content with a driver, which he still had a lot of knowledge, but a professional guide would be another level. One of the big perks of hiring a driver is you get to pick your schedule. Are you having fun at a pub and want to stay longer? No problem. Are you not big museum people but just want to see the highlights and hit the road? No problem. The driver program gives you 9 hours per day of drive time to set your own schedule.
3. Stay in castles! What a bucket list and unique experience it was for us to stay in some castles during our trip. There are many historic castles that operate as full service hotels with all the modern luxury amenities. Let me tell you about our 2 experiences.
This castle dated back to early 11th century. It is a 5-star experience with onsite 18 hole golf course and leisure center. This is where they have an indoor pool, gym, sauna, steam room, bicycles to borrow and more.
On property there is a spa, tennis courts, some shops and 3 restaurants. There's a host of activities onsite that you can pre-book. This includes activities like archery, horseback riding, or clay shooting. You can also rent a golf cart to explore the grounds.
The castle was refurbished in 2017. I was in an East Wing Executive. This wing of the castle was built in 2001. The rooms are spacious with a bay window. The standard East Wing rooms do not have a bay window. The room is well appointed with bathrobes, slippers, mini bar and coffee station. The bathroom has a soaking tub, shower and double sinks. We loved the towel warmer. It's something I don't see at home or at hotels too often.
Daily breakfast is included with all room categories and some also include a round of golf.
Dromoland Castle is very convenient to Shannon airport and Cliffs of Moher.
Ashford Castle [video width='426' height='240' mp4='https://blog.vincentvacations.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/ireland-travel-ashford-castle.mp4'][/video]
This castle was built in the 13th century. It sits on the largest lake in Ireland, so the views are jaw dropping. The property and castle were purchased by the Guinness family in the 19th century, and they poured a lot of money into the estate. This is also the property that a lot of the movie, The Quiet Man, was filmed.
There is onsite golf and a spa. There are 3 restaurants, plus they set up High Tea in the afternoon you can book. One of the restaurants is called, The Dungeon. It is themed in red with knights and flags. It's known for their steaks but also has a large variety of menu options. I had some really good salmon. This one does not have a dress code, but the formal dining room upstairs, men will need to bring a sport coat and everyone is asked to not wear denim.
Activities are plentiful onsite as well. You do not have to be a guest of the hotel to book activities. There is horseback riding, archery, clay shooting and the School of Falconry.
Our first afternoon we did a 'Hawk Walk' with the School of Falconry. Our guide was a French girl with such a passion for the birds. Her genuine love for the birds was contagious and we loved our experience. We walked around with her in the forest with two Harris Hawks. They are trained to come when someone wears a black leather glove and when you hold out your arm. She brought food, chicken skin and chopped up mouse, to incentivize the hawks. They flew with little bells on so we could hear where they were. It was so interesting.
I was nervous at first, but the birds weighed under 2 pounds, so it was easy for them to land on our arm and they were not aggressive at all. She said they love being fed and haven't ever just flown off. She said one time a hawk killed a duck, so she took the duck home and cooked it. I was totally captivated by this. She said people can live in the wild without a weapon and they hunt with their bird.
The next morning, we went horseback riding. This was different as it is English riding. Not that I know really much of anything about horseback riding, I had no idea it was different.
The saddles don't have the knob to hold onto, the stirrups are smaller and you hold the reigns “like a cup of tea”. They led us around the grounds and by the castle. It was a neat experience.
There are a lot of accommodation options at Ashford. There are newer rooms in 'The Lodge', standard rooms and staterooms. The staterooms are all different and historic. We had a corner stateroom complete with about 30' tall ceilings, a canopy bed that looked straight out of a movie and a sitting area. I was in castle room heaven. The bathroom has heated floors, heated towel rack, and double vanities. There are robes and slippers. They include water and a bottle of Sherry in your room. There is also a mini bar with a price list.
We totally fell in love with Ashford and see why it's a favorite to visit over and over.
4. Skip Ring of Kerry and opt for Dingle instead.
Nothing against Ring of Kerry. It's a beautiful drive with a lot of scenic spots to stop, but it's a ton of driving. Some of the most beautiful spots can be seen on the drive from Dingle, including spots made famous from Star Wars and movies like Far and Away.
In the spring is when you will see the lambs everywhere. The farm, where they filmed Far and Away, has a lamb program where you can hold the baby lambs for 4 euros. When we stopped they had a lamb only 2 days old that was a runt. When the ewes have triplets the runt will be ignored and the farms have to bottle feed the runts so they will survive. The owner of the farm, who was a kid living at the farm during filming of Far & Away, told us some stories about Tom Cruise and about where they set up the filming. It was fun to hear about.
Dingle can be a half day trip from Killarney. It's a great coastal town with shops and restaurants. If you're going during the summer, you can also plan to make a stop at Inch beach along the way. It's an expansive beach you can drive on, and has vendors renting boogie boards. Something I was surprised to find in Ireland.
5. Cliffs of Moher is a must, but so is Doolin
I don't know if you can do a first trip to Ireland without stopping at the Cliffs of Moher.
[video width='320' height='180' mp4='https://blog.vincentvacations.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/best-ireland-travel.mp4'][/video]It's that awe inducing picture spot with the gorgeous - but dangerous, if you don't follow the signs - drop off cliffs. It cost 10 euros per person for entrance. They have a visitor center with bathrooms, gift shop and coffee. Something I didn't know about is the cute little town of Doolin only 4.3 miles from the Cliffs. If you're a hiker, this is a popular hike option. What a memorable way to see the cliffs!
In the town of Doolin, you have to eat at McGanns. We had some of the best food in all of Ireland and probably the best service. Everything is fresh. The chef makes the soups from what's on hand from the garden, and local caught fish and chips. They said the fish are basically jumping out of the water there, so might as well be fresh. My husband had a short rib dish we fawned all over. When we left, we said we can't wait to come back. It was picture perfect. They also have live music in the evenings.
There is so much to do in Ireland! The people we met, the songs sung at the pubs, the wonderful food...it's all so worth the trip. I can't wait for the next trip to the Emerald Isle!
I had the honor of visiting the brand new build, Secrets Moxche Playa del Carmen, in the heart of Ri...
I had the honor of visiting the brand new build, Secrets Moxche Playa del Carmen, in the heart of Riviera Maya. The word, Moxche, comes from a tree growing in this area and they have incorporated the wood throughout the property. The attention to every detail is evident from the ocean view the moment you arrive. This resort is 5 minutes north of Playa del Carmen in the gated community of Coracol. It sits right between Royal Haciendas, timeshare place, and Sandos Caracol. It opens on April 18th, 2022. The resort has 483 suites, which are all oversized, starting around 600 square feet.
There is also a tower called “Impressions”, which is a step above Preferred Club. It is sold as a separate hotel. This section, as I keep calling it, since it’s right there, is slated to open August 1st, with 200 additional suites. At Secrets Moxche there’s a huge variety of suites with their standard suites being nicer than suites at its competitors. There are swim out suites, master suites and more. The swim outs went in a new direction with a divider between each room, making it an impressively large private pool on each room. This category is going to be so popular, especially with honeymooners.
The entry level room is a jr. suite tropical view. There are options for a king or 2 queen size beds. The Preferred Club status will get you extra amenities in your room like a stone soaking tub on your balcony, stocked wine cooler, Nespresso machine, daily stocked snacks and the extra bathroom amenities. I love having all these little extras in my room because I seem to forget something and they think of it all. This also gives you access to the rooftop observatory, which I will go into detail about next.
There are 3 rooftops, which they are calling observatories. On top of the main lobby is just for Preferred Club guests. It has an infinity pool, drink and food service. It is jaw dropping. It gives a view of the entire property and the ocean. The observatory on the roof of Impressions has double the size of infinity pool and is closer to the beach for a straight ocean view. The 3rd roof top is for weddings. WOW! It will be the #1 venue for privacy and views. They have also brought over Carolina, from Secrets Akumal, to have the best of the best wedding coordinators for this new property. I’m so excited for our future brides to have this amazing option. It’s going to book up quickly so we need to start reserving dates for now and 2023.
The gastronomy is being taken to a new level with this new resort. There are some similar experiences like The Market which is located off the main lobby with that picture perfect view of the whole property. They also have added new restaurant concepts such as personalized teppanyaki and indoor/outdoor seating at most restaurants. There are new names to restaurants here as well. I think I’m the most excited about Dos Almas which is Mexican Soul Food. I don’t know if I had a favorite food group before I heard of this restaurant but I’m pretty sure I have found it. They also will have a tequila tasting menu and taco bar. Impressions will have 3 restaurants exclusively for their guests but they also have access to all the restaurants on property.
It wouldn’t be a Secrets without an amazing spa and Secrets Moxche is no exception. The spa is located in a quiet section to the front of the property (further from the beach) with an impressive entrance with banyan trees. There are 16 cabins and 6 master cabins. There’s a his and hers side with sauna and steam room with an outdoor area for everyone. The outdoor area has an impressive hydrotherapy area with all the water massage you could hope for. I almost enjoy the spa experience before the massage more than the actual massage so I can’t wait to get back here and try it out.
As I brag to being a “honest, tell it like it is” travel agent I want to address the beach. This is going to be a hurdle for those that are die hard perfect beach lovers. This stretch of beach is not known for perfection and is prone to seaweed especially during the spring and summer. Secrets Resorts have always been diligent about cleaning to the best of their ability but mother nature sometimes is a real witch. If this is a deal breaker for you then I would encourage you to come November – February. I do want you to hear me out though. This resort is exceptional. They have overly over compensated with tons of pools. One of them even has a sandy beach so you can put your toes in the sand without ever stepping outside the resort. They have 2 natural cenotes on property too which are cool and refreshing. There are also multiple pools with swim up bars.
Have I talked you into this yet? I am hard to impress and I was giddy. Every time I turned the corner I was like saying, “Oh wow I love that. I want my house to look like that! How did they do that? Where did they shop?” and on and on. If you’re an avid all inclusive traveler we decided this is a mix between Atelier and Unico 2087 which makes is even more perfect.
We spend our trips touring hotels so we can be the best travel agents possible. We would love to help you plan a vacation to Secrets Moxche Playa del Carmen. It’s one of a kind.
As a family of 5, we have the hardest time finding resorts - instead of condos - that have rooms tha...
As a family of 5, we have the hardest time finding resorts - instead of condos - that have rooms that accommodate without having to splurge for a second room. We were glad to welcome Hyatt Regency Clearwater Resort and Spa to our list of great options.
This resort is located in Clearwater, Florida. It’s across the street from the beach (which all of them in this area are) and this didn’t end up being a big deal. The pool is on the 8th floor, so the kids weren’t running from pool to beach anyway. At the beach the city sets up chairs with umbrellas or these little tents. They range from $35/day to $80/day and you can charge it to your room. There’s not food service to your beach chair, but there are restaurants all along the ocean-front area. We tried both the burger and pizza place on the ground floor of the Hyatt. They were both great!
[video width='300' mp4='https://blog.vincentvacations.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/275874545_384359569817705_4947652508672294506_n.mp4'][/video]The resort had an activity calendar when we checked in with stuff going on poolside adhering the day to entertain the kids from a pop up snow cone stand to arts and crafts or games. There’s a toddler pool with a small fence and one big rectangular pool. There are awesome cabanas around the pool each with their own private bathroom, inside TV room and patio with table and loungers. These cost $399 per day. The hours are 10AM -8PM.
There’s a variety of rooms at the resort which are all oversized and include a kitchenette. Our room was all one room (some have a door between kitchen and bedroom) with 2 queen beds and a sleeper sofa. We mentioned at check-in that the 3 kids do not like to share a bed so they offered a blow up mattress in addition. (Roll-aways in our room category we’re a fire hazard) Perfect! All the rooms also have a balcony with table and chairs.
We ordered from Shipt and they dropped off our drinks, snacks and breakfast stuff with the bellhop who helped us with a cart to the room. It made it so easy to have things at our fingertips when the kids want for example a drink or snack every hour. Ha!
We did not rent a car did our stay. An XL Uber was about $50 each way. There’s plenty so close to the hotel so it ended up being over a $600 savings to not rent a car with the high rental car costs, parking and gas. There’s endless restaurants, shops and excursions within 1 mile of the hotel.
One of the favorites the kids did was the Pirate Ship Cruise. It departed about 2 blocks from the resort. It was about 2 hours long, included drinks, and the best part was they entertained the kids the whole time from telling jokes, having water gun fights and playing musical chairs. It was a great activity.
[video width='300' mp4='https://blog.vincentvacations.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/VincentVacations_7076073028626550062.mp4'][/video]There were tons of other activities all leaving from this same marina as the pirate ship such as a shark themed dolphin cruise, parasailing, deep sea fishing, speed boat fours, jet skis and more. We were here during Spring Break and didn’t have any trouble getting activities booked with so many options available right there.
We had some great meals. Our absolute favorite? The Bait House. We heard about this place from several locals so we had to try it.
The restaurant sits on a dock and is tiny so plan to go early to be able to eat here. They said they can’t build on because they are grandfathered into their location. They serve fresh fish caught that day and are famous for their “drunken shrimp”. The shrimp come in a little pot in the yummy sauce and served with chunks of ciabatta bread.
The staff here were awesome. They have a few birds that hang out that they feed their bait to. It was fun and they let the kids feed one. One is named Skipper because he had a broken leg and now has a limp.
All in all it’s a great family destination and resort. We did go during Spring Break and some of the days were only in the low 70s. The adults thought it was too cold to swim but the kids didn’t care. They had a great kid’s room for movie nights and games.
It’s a great low key beach getaway.
I just returned from Hotel Xcaret Arte. This is a new resort that opened in 2021 to compliment Hotel...
I just returned from Hotel Xcaret Arte. This is a new resort that opened in 2021 to compliment Hotel Xcaret with the stand out difference being that it’s adults only. I have stayed at the original Hotel Xcaret a couple of times so this was great to compare the two resorts.
This is the perfect resort for an active group of friends, couple or family with adult children. I wouldn’t recommend for anyone with mobility issues or the inability to walk longer distances.
Here are some of my 10 tips when choosing this resort for your next vacation –
1) Stay as long as you can! This resort includes all of the 9 Xcaret parks as part of your inclusions. They all leave you wishing you could stay longer.
2) Plan to eat! This resort is known for gastronomy. The food at breakfast, lunch and dinner was impressive. We had some really amazing authentic Mexican food. They have3 restaurants on property that require reservations so make sure to schedule this when you arrive to be able to hit all the great ones.
3) Transportation is included via motorcoach to and from the airport. If you miss it you can be waiting 30 -45 minutes for the next bus so private transportation is always an option if you prefer. We paid $65 one way for a private transfer.
4) Brush up on your Spanish. We found this resort to cater to a wide rage of international guests. English was spoken but not as fluently as other resorts in the area. We were always able to figure it out but sometimes had to get creative with English and Spanish.
5) Explore both sides. Staying at Xcaret Arte gives you full access to Hotel Xcaret. The spa on Hotel Xcaret side can’t be missed. It is carved out of the rock so your treatment rooms are inside of individual caves. They connect by the waterfalls and you walk on a bridge over the river.
6) Leave high heels at home! This resort requires a lot of walking on uneven surfaces. The pathways just from the lobby to the rooms were stone. We would also recommend brining water shoes for swimming in the river as there are a lot of rocks.
7) Masks! They were more pro-masks than any resort I’ve been to during the pandemic. They asked you wear a mask almost anywhere on property by having a person walking around with a “Please wear your mask” sign. They did not confront people though about wearing a mask unless it was in a restaurant.
8) Dedicate a day to enjoying the hotel. The parks being included is amazing but the resort is equally as amazing. There are caves, the river, amazing swimming pools, paddle boarding, kayaking and more all without leaving the hotel.
9) Plan for later hours…..this resort is catering to a wide range of countries. The United States is one of the few that like to eat dinner at 6PM. When we would go to dinner at 6PM it would be a ghost town. The restaurants come alive starting around 9PM and there’s even tacos available until 4AM outside the SpeakEasy.
10) Speaking of Speakeasys….this is a trend I am loving. We made it one night to the SpeakEasy (located in the music wing). It’s in a service area of the hotel. You follow red lights on the ceiling to get there and seems like you are walking into a parking garage and then all of a sudden there’s a way cool bar with live jazz. This should not be missed!
We just returned from a wonderful week aboard the Disney Fantasy.Disney just started sailing again i...
We just returned from a wonderful week aboard the Disney Fantasy.
Disney just started sailing again in August and yes there are some changes so I was happy to check it out so our clients can be more in the know.
Disney welcomes everyone over the age of 6 months to cruise. At the time of our sailing, anyone under the age of 12 and not vaccinated had to test prior to arrival at the port. Starting on sailings January 13 and onward, everyone 5 and up will have to be vaccinated so this will just apply for the under age 5.
Once we arrived at the port they had testing tents set up. It was an easy process with a lot of people directing everyone. It’s a self test while they watch to make sure you do it correctly. My kids liked that they got to do it and it helped with the nerves. We were then directed to another tent to await results. After we were given an all clear (about 30 minutes later from the testing time) we were directed to check in for the cruise like normal. This was our 3rd Disney cruise so it all seemed similar but no paperwork. It’s a check in online process now and after we did everything we had a QR code. We kept it readily available as this is what they scanned about 5 times at different points to access our information. If made it so much easier than having a bunch of papers to keep up with.
We were told the ship was about 40% full and they would sell up to 50%. We didn’t experience long lines or crowds. It was really nice to have access to chairs and things like that.
Now what was different?
The kid’s club is still included but you make a reservation for their time. We reserved right after dinner each night so the kids could be served quickly and head to the club while we leisurely dined. They did this so they could control the crowds. The kids told me they did games with them and they stayed with their color group. I am assuming so they didn’t all congregate in one area. They asked to go every night and came back with all sorts of prizes from scavenger hunts and competitions. They loved it. I was told I could make more reservations than the 1 per day it allowed on the website in person just based on availability.
They still had fireworks but they did 2 smaller shows to correlate with your dining. Typically the deck is packed with no elbow room for fireworks. Cast members delegated a spot with a dot on the ground for each family group. They played music and had a dance party outside where you had your own space. It was awesome.
Masks were required when you were inside and not in your stateroom. I will say I appreciated that they were not mask nazis like I was expecting. A gentle reminder if you forgot or they offered a disposable one. They were very positive and accommodating.
If you’re a person who loves the hydrotherapy experience before a massage this was amazing. For $175 you reserved the Rainforest Room for 2 hours. You could have up to 10 people from your family and it was totally private for the sauna, steam room, jacuzzis, heated loungers and more.
If you’re traveling with unvaccinated children, a Disney escorted excursion is the only option for leaving the ship with the exception of Castaway Cay. While porting in Castaway, there’s not excursion purchase required.
We chose Swimming with Dolphins in Cozumel and a Beach Break in Jamaica. Vaccinated guests have the option to explore on their own using or booking whichever vendor their choose for activities.
When we returned from the Disney excursions, we were able to head off and do a little shopping on our own as long as the kids stayed on the ship.
We saw the characters all the time. The Princesses, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and more were in the atrium for pictures and chatting. What was different? While you spoke to them they asked you keep your mask on. They had you stay 6 feet away. When you were ready for a picture you could turn and take off you mask and smile. It was a great compromise to still get those great photos and safely interact with all the favorites.
They still had the same great entertainment onboard. During our sailing they did Aladdin, Frozen and Disney Believe which is a compilation. What was different is they had cast members seat you so you stayed 6 feet away from other parties and had every other row blocked off. It worked this same way with the smaller shows like they had a great ventriloquist onboard and a magician.
There is also a movie theatre onboard. They no longer sell popcorn for the shows but they had a lot of great first run movies my kids were excited to see that are currently in theaters.
Time to Book?
Is now the time to book a Disney Cruise? Our answer is yes! They are only little for a short time. The prices are lower than I’ve ever seen before and Disney has made the experience as safe as possible without having the measures be impactful to your vacation experience.
Top Mexico All Inclusive Resorts for families of 5By Lia VincentA common request is, “We love this r...
Top Mexico All Inclusive Resorts for families of 5
By Lia Vincent
A common request is, “We love this resort. What is the price for a family of 5?” Rooms or suites that accommodate a family of 5 can be a challenge especially at all inclusive resorts. As a family of 5 myself, I know this first hand. It can be such a challenge finding resorts with bedding to accommodate but still have the kids close. We put together a list of our favorites in Mexico which our clients have loved, I personally have loved, ones that have more than just a couple suites so it’s realistic to be able to book and are rated a minimum of a 4 star all inclusive.
Dreams Playa Mujeres –
Located - Playa Mujeres, Mexico
With more room options than most, Dreams Playa Mujeres did it right when building this resort with multiple categories with 2 queen beds and a sleeper sofa to accommodate the family of 5. They also have a variety of water slides and a water park geared toward kids 5 and under.
Pro tip - Parents have the option to go next door to adults only, Secrets Playa Mujeres for dinner while the kids enjoy a buffet of all their favorites in the Explorers Club (ages 3 – 12).
Hard Rock Riviera Maya –
Located – Riviera Maya, Mexco
Unique family suites with nonstop fun from an onsite waterpark , indoor skatepark and private beach cove at Hard Rock Riviera Maya make this a top pick for families looking for an all inclusive that will keep everyone happy. The Deluxe Family Suites are guaranteed adjoining rooms with a room with 1 king and a room with 2 double beds. Another great suite that accommodates a larger family are the Deluxe Platinum Connecting Sky Terrace Suites which offer 1,928 square feet with 1 king, 2 double beds and an outdoor terrace with lounge chairs and a hydro spa tub.
Pro tip – Normally this resort is divided to create half for adults only. A chunk of summer, Christmas and Easter do not have restricted adults only areas so kids can have the run of the entire property.
Marival Armony –
Located – Punta Mita, Mexico
A brand new build which opened in 2019, Marival Armony had families in mind when they built this luxury all inclusive in Punta Mita just north of Puerto Vallarta. The resort has a variety of two bedroom suites which include a king master, living room and an adjoining room with 2 double beds. These suites include 3 bathrooms.
Pro tip? Book the Family Emotions category of suite. This will include a custom picnic on the beach, additional kid friendly amenities in your room and a family portrait session.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya
Located Playa del Carmen, Mexico
For families of 5 looking for the ultimate in luxury but still an all inclusive environment look no further than the Grand Velas Riviera Maya. The AAA Diamond Award recipient resort since 2010 boasts top dining options, a world class spa and a perfect choice for upscale families seeking adventure and/or relaxation.
The Two-Bedroom Zen or Ambassador Suites feature 1 king and 2 queen size beds to accommodate up to families of 6. Parents will love the variety of drinks and snacks the suites are stocked with as well as 24 hour butler concierge service.
Included Children’s Activity Program: Grand Velas´ exciting Kid´s Club is an innovative program where children can play and learn through fun activities in a safe, friendly environment supervised by highly qualified personnel. The program provides numerous fun activities such as flying kites, table games, soccer and treasure hunting for young children ages 4-12.
There are English-Spanish classes to help kids learn the names of colors, clothing, and body parts; arts & crafts; live shows with animals where children will appreciate the importance of ecology and care for nature. There are endless outdoor activities and watersports at the pool in addition to indoor fun at the video area that includes a home theater and X-Box.
The Kid´s Cooking classes is a favorite among the young crowd who love to decorate miniature cakes using multi-colored whipped cream and later enjoy the taste of delicious muffins from our bakery.
Pro tip – No need to over pack! Items such as baby monitors, strollers, walkers, and illuminated mobiles can all be requested thru the baby concierge!
Located – Cozumel, Mexico
Traditionally known as a scuba divers paradise, Cozumel Palace has set the bar when it comes to family options people love. The Loft Suite features a king bed with private bath and shower on the lower level and an upper level with 2 double beds also with private bath and shower! Amenities like 24 hour room service, nightly turndown service and stocked minibar make this truly a vacation for everyone.
Stays of 5 nights or longer include a $1500 resort credit which can be used for scuba diving, spa or tours on the island. (16% service fee applies)
Pro tip – Playacar Palace is just across the way on the ferry. Guests of Cozumel Palace can journey over and have a change of scenery for the day with just the cost of a ferry ticket. Food and drinks included at Playacar Palace.
Riu Sante Fe –
Located - Los Cabo, Mexico
This resort is a go-to for traveling with teens but wanting them to stay close by. Riu Sante Fe saves their 2 Bedroom Suites to only be booked with a minimum of 4 guests that are over the age of 13. This is a great option for parents traveling with teens! The onsite waterpark, Splash Water is included with the all inclusive.
Pro tip – Book early! This resort has very few of these suites and is often sold out during school holidays.
Royalton Riviera Cancun –
Located – Rivera Maya, Mexico
This increasingly popular Canadian resort chain has thought of families with all their rooms sleeping 5 or more. Royalton Riviera Cancun appeals to active families with their endless variety of activities for all ages. Included kid’s club and even a teen’s club for the hardest to please guest makes Royalton a great choice for a wide range of ages.
Pro tip – Ask about Diamond Club! Some of the resort areas are exclusive to Diamond Club and the upgrade is sometimes very minimal.
Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta
Located – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
This resort is tucked away just south of the town of Puerto Vallarta on the private beach cove of Mismaloya Beach. Almost all the rooms at the resort have an ocean view!
The Hyatt Club Level Suites feature 2 double beds and a sleeper sofa for families up to 5. The Club tower a private check in in an exclusive area, VIP in-suite refreshment center and access to exclusive club lounge with continental breakfast, table games, books and premium brand liquors.
Pro tip – Select the club suite with hot tub! The hot tub is on your balcony with great views. It’s perfect for an escape after the kids crash from a day of fun!
Generations Riviera Maya
Located – Riviera Maya, Mexico
Unique swim up suites and upscale dining options make Generations Riviera Maya a perfect resort for what a lot of families are looking for. All rooms are oceanfront and the resort features 1, 2 and even 3 bedroom suites that can sleep up to 12!
Pro tip – Guests 18 and up are welcome to dine at El Dorado Royale which is just a short stroll away.
Located – Manzanillo Bay, Mexico
For travelers looking for something different consider Manzanillo on the Pacific side of Mexico. Barcelo Karima is located only 15 minutes from town and 30 from the Playa de Oro International Airport. The resort offers 6 interconnecting pools with waterfalls, 5 bars, 4 restaurants, 24 hour room service and sits on a private cove beach. There is a kid club for ages 4 – 12 with supervised activities
We love the Master Suites which are 2 bedroom suites. They have 1 king, 2 double beds and a sleeper sofa to sleep up to 6. These suites are 1259 square feet.
Pro tip – Upgrade to the Master Suite with private pool!
On a budget? Here are some great options that won’t break the bank!
Dreams Puerto Adventuras
Located – Riviera Maya, Mexico
Dreams Puerto Adventuras prices one of the lowest for families of 5 or even 6 in Riviera Maya with their Family Suite options which include 2 double beds and a sleeper sofa. Families love the dolphins on property, 24 hour room service at no additional charge and the included Explorer’s Club for ages 3 – 12.
Pro tip – Part of Sip, Savor and Dine Program! You can dine for dinner at nearby Dreams and Now Resorts for no additional charge. (transportation not included)
Located – Costa Mujeres, Mexico
Located north of Cancun in the newly popular Costa Mujeres, this family friendly all inclusive was built in 2017. The 2 bedroom suites consist of 2 guaranteed adjoining rooms which can have up to 4 double beds and accommodate up to 8 guests. There are 5 pools, a children’s pool, water park with slides and an expansive beach area make this a great choice for families traveling on a budget.
Pro tip - Children’s Activity Program: 'RiuLand' for children 4-12 years old. Children are divided into two groups - ages 4-7 and 8-12, and each group features its own entertainment team and programs. Kids will enjoy exciting themes, such as Games Day, Riu Holiday, Pirate Day, Aqualand and Olympic Games.
Barcelo Maya Grand Resort
Located – Riviera Maya, Mexico
This huge complex boasts one of the most amazing beaches in the Mexican Caribbean with a stay at one, play at four experience that includes a wide variety of activites in the resort complex.
Options include guaranteed adjoining rooms or families with smaller children love this option for the Oceanfront Junior Suites which have 2 double beds and a sleeper sofa all in one room.
Pro tip – Ask your Vincent Vacations agent about booking with All Inclusive PLUS which includes express check-in, unlimited ala carte dining and upgraded in-room amenities.
Located – Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Beachfront resort located on a large stretch of beach, Marival Emotions is the ultimate in suite options for large families. The resort does a great job with nightly shows, playground and children’s water play area.
The resort features 1, 2 and 3 bedroom suites with the ability to sleep up to 9! The two bedroom suites sleep up to 7 with a king in each bedroom as well as a sleeper sofa in the living room. A unique feature is these include 3 bathrooms!
Pro tip – You can pre-reserve dining reservations in advance. Inquire with your Vincent Vacations agent!
Located – Cozumel, Mexico
Located on the south side of Cozumel on one of the best beaches, Sunsape Sabor features 2 swimming pools, a kids club for ages 3 – 12 and 4 restaurants.
The family suites will sleep a maximum of 5 with guaranteed connecting rooms offering approximately a total of 1,250 square feet. Each room has a king and a sleeper sofa. There is not an age minimum or maximum so works great for all ages of families.
Pro tip - Located very close to the island’s main reeds for snorkeling and scuba diving. Snorkel gear is available at no additional charge or bring your own!
Sunscape Dorado Pacifico
Located – Ixtapa, Mexico
Located on the Pacific Coast in the beautiful town of Ixtapa, Sunscape Dorado is a great choice for active families.
Kids love the onsite waterpark with slides and splash zone. Teens have their own supervised social group - The Core Zone to escape to. Movies on the beach and Monday night tailgate parties are just some of the included activities
Parents love the guaranteed adjoining rooms with 1 room with a king and the connecting room with 2 double beds.
Pro tip – Watch for kids stay free! This is a common promotion this with property.
I just returned home from a wonderful 4 nights at Secrets Bahia Mita. Let me give you the scoop on t...
I just returned home from a wonderful 4 nights at Secrets Bahia Mita. Let me give you the scoop on this property.
It’s a new build as of 2021. It’s unique for this brand as it’s built in a very long U with one side being Dreams Bahia Mita and the other side is Secrets Bahia Mita. Dreams side is for everyone and Secrets is adults only.
Between the 2 is a big courtyard which is where they had evening entertainment. One of the nights they had an amazing mariachi band. We really enjoyed it.
At night there’s a sports bar called Desires. They play games on the TVs and music when it gets to be about 11PM. One fun tip is behind the big screen is a secret door to their Speak Easy. There’s another bar back there, dance floor and bathrooms. It was a very fun vibe in the evenings.
We stayed on the Secrets side. It was nice having full reign of the property with a lot of restaurants and pool to choose from. One tip I would say is if you’re traveling not as a couple - I would pick the Dreams side. The Secrets side has a more open bathroom without privacy for the shower.
We also were in a Preferred Club junior suite. Perks of preferred Club?
Access to rooftop top pool which had food and drinks service and AMAZING views.
Access to Oleo - a Mediterranean restaurant reserved only for Preferred Club guests. I had the beef short rib and my husband had the mahi mahi. They were both excellent.
Our room also had additional amenities for being Preferred Club which as snacks (Pringles and Peanut M&Ms restocked daily), mini liquor bottles in our mini refrigerator and the bathroom amenities had extras like toothpaste and sunscreen. Great touch!
We also spent time at the spa. There’s this water feature that is shockingly cool that is this huge cylinder with waterfalls going down to the the hydrotherapy area. There’s a large selection of treatments. I opted for a relaxing massage. You can use the hydrotherapy before or after your massage. One thing I loved is they dried my swimsuit during the massage so I didn’t have to put on a cold wet suit after. Great touch!
The beach at the resort is smaller than some in the area and it does have some rocks. There is a lot of chairs though on the beach with drink service. There was also a volleyball net with games going on. The beach isn’t a straight shot down so it wouldn’t be ideal for anyone with mobility issues that want to try and use the beach.
The resort has in it’s name - Surf and Spa. While I didn’t try surfing, there is surfing available right onsite. They also have the boards for you to use. We saw a lot of surfing going on. It did seem to be more entry level waves which would be a fun thing learn while on vacation. We did notice the waves were a little bigger in the morning.
I really enjoyed my time at the resort. Here are some of my tips for who would love this resort the most and what to do.
-This would be amazing for Destination Weddings. This resort group does such a top notch job with private events and the guests could pick which side they prefer to stay.
-Be ready to walk. The resort is long and skinny so walking from lobby to beach is quite the hike.
-Splurge for Preferred Club. It gives you access to some great areas of the resort.
-I wouldn’t recommend for anyone with mobility issues. It is spread out and hard to enjoy the beach easily.
-I wouldn’t recommend if you want a true adults only experience. Think of this as a resort with adults only building and pool. You can still hear the kids screaming and playing from Secrets pool.
-Great choice for multigenerational group or families looking for a lot going on. The shows, restaurant choices, waterpark, kids club, and evening nightlife make it a great choice to make lots of people happy.
-Plan a day trip to Sayulita from the hotel. This is a popular surf town that has been made famous by the show Bachelor in Paradise. It was a $31 cab ride each way. It had great unique shopping and restaurants. We ate at Barracuda. It was so good.
I LOVE South Africa. I have gone with friends and taken my family. There’s so much to do from safari to the wine country of Cape Town and more.
I LOVE South Africa. I have gone with friends and taken my family. There’s so much to do from safari to the wine country of Cape Town and more.
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