My partner's parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year, so to commemorate the big event we decided to organize a vacation for the whole extended family at an all-inclusive resort. Since I'm the travel writer in the group, it fell to me to narrow our choices and come up with a reasonably priced, well-appointed hotel in a destination that we all wanted to visit.
As I researched, and later experienced, my first-ever multi-generational, all-inclusive family vacation, I learned some new things about planning. The winner in our search: The Grand Oasis Palm, in Cancun (our 10-year-old niece hosted a terrific video report about the hotel). But whatever your preferred budget, destination or activities, these five important travel tips for choosing the best all-inclusive family resort can help make the trip go more smoothly:
1. Choose a hotel and destination that's appropriate for everyone. Have younger children? Make sure the hotel has a children's program, and that there are fun activities nearby, too. Teens tagging along? Choose hotels with teen-oriented activities, including beach and sports events, and perhaps even a teen disco. Some hotels -- like the impressive new Riu Palace Peninsula Cancun, which opened in 2012 -- have interesting activities that are great for all ages, like art classes. AM Resorts' Dreams brand is also good about providing lots of activities.
2. Book all rooms together and at the same time. That way, the hotel will know how much business you're bringing to them -- and it will make it easier for them to make important notes and respond to requests, such as getting rooms on the same floor.
3. Choose hotels with multiple restaurants and dining options. During our vacation, we were able to eat in a different restaurant almost every night, which makes it easier to take advantage of the all-inclusive dining plans without getting bored. Note that some all-inclusive hotels have a-la-carte restaurants that require reservations, while others don't require you to make a reservation -- so you might want to decide which system you prefer.
4. Have fun away from the hotel. Yes, all-inclusive hotels are designed to offer everything you need on the property, but you should also investigate what's available off-site. In Cancun, for example, my niece and nephew had a great time during their day trip to Xel-Ha, the eco-park in the Riviera Maya.
5. Be flexible. Everyone has different tastes and interests, and the advantage of traveling together to an all-inclusive is that everyone will be able to enjoy different things. You don't need to be together every second of the day. Also, plan to spend more time than usual for hotel check-in, checkout and transfers to and from the hotel. Groups of people are likely to take longer to get things done. But it's worth it just to be together, right?
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