Category Archives: All Inclusive

Spotlight on Jamaica

Today I thought I’d share a little “Jamaica Mon” with you.

Photo courtesy Jamaica Tourist Board

This beautiful Caribbean island offers lush green mountain landscapes, white sand beaches, crystal blue water, and a setting for romance and relaxation.  Here’s the home of reggae music and delicious jerk chicken.  Jamaica has several resort areas within easy distance from the Montego Bay airport with accommodations ranging from basic to ultra luxury.  And most resorts, whether family friendly or adults only, are all-inclusive.

Resort areas

  • Montego Bay - Convenient to the airport, this beachy-urban area has five golf courses and multiple resorts perfect for your short getaway.
  • Negril - charming resort area set on a world famous beach.  Enjoy the stunning sunsets and ambiance.
  • Ocho Rios - near waterfalls, mountains, and fern gullies.  Ocho Rios sits east of Montego Bay.
  • Braco & Falmouth - areas just east of Montego Bay offering more remote resort settings but still easy striking distance from the airport

What’s new

  • Zoetry Montego Bay - luxury boutique all-inclusive.  Perfect for the annversary couple looking for privacy and pampering.

  • Royalton Negril Resort - family friendly resort in gorgeous Negril offering something for everyone.  This resort is ideal for a family reunion or destination wedding.

Nonstop flights to Montego Bay from many US gateways including DFW, Miami, Charlotte, Houston, Atlanta.

Ask about ClubMoBay service to shorten your Immigration/Customs arrival processing time.

Happy travels! ~Cindy Grant, Expert Family Travel.  Contact us at 972-625-6200 to plan your next vacation.  Serving the Dallas metro area & with clients across the US/Canada.

 

Places to go, Mexico

So many places, so little time!  Not sure where to vacation this summer?  Here are some ideas to get you thinking about your next trip.

Tropical Hot Spots
Tried and true, add these locations to your bucket list. There’s a wide range of resort sizes and styles to fit you perfectly.  Nonstop flights from major US cities
  • Cancun - With its sandy white beaches and turquoise blue water, the Hotel Zone is as popular as ever with resorts that just keep getting better.  Frequent flights and short ride from the airport makes this a super-convenient beach destination.
  • Riviera Maya/Playa del Carmen - located just south of Cancun, this resort area offers many resorts in all sizes and price points.  Great choices here for families, groups, and couples.
  • Playa Mujeres - located just north of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, this area offers the region’s newest resort developments.  Resorts here are in the 4 to 5 star range.  Or, take the ferry to Isla Mujeres where you’ll find a handful of boutique-sized resorts for couples and adult friend groups.
  • Cozumel - an island destination known primarily for great diving and snorkeling spots.  Located off the coast of Playa del Carmen with its own airport.
  • Puerto Vallarta - on Mexico’s Pacific side, Puerto Vallarta and neighboring Riviera Nayarit sit on the calm, scenic Banderas Bay.  The city is charming and worth an afternoon stroll or two, and there are great zip line opportunities too.
  • Los Cabos - on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean.  This is scenic and desert (imagine Tuscon with a beach).  Famous for the golf but I go for the margaritas.
Hidden Gems
Looking for something a little different?  These destinations may require more travel time but the end result is worth it.
  • Ixtapa - this is a Pacific resort area set along a 16 mile stretch of sandy beaches and inlets.  Nearby is the charming fishing village of Zihuatanejo with a handful of boutique beachfront hotels.
  • Mazatlan - lively resort area with nightlife along Mexico’s Pacific coast.
  • Manzanillo - a small Pacific coast resort with colonial charm and a laid back pace.
  • Chetumal - for the adventure seeker looking for an unspoiled destination.  On the Yucatan Peninsula, further south than Riviera Maya or Tulum.  Getting here requires a connecting flight.

 

City Getaway

Looking for a long weekend getaway?  Mexico City is a fun possibility.  Popular “must see” attractions include the Frida Kahlo Museum, the great pyramid of Tenochtitlan (you can experience this by hot air balloon if you are daring), National Museum of Anthropology and the city historic center.  Stay in a nice 5 star hotel, and enjoy the city’s fine dining options.

Spotlight on St. Martin

Photo courtesy St. Maarten Tourism

St. Maartin/St. Martin is a lively 37-square mile island east of the Virgin Islands which is governed by two nations, Netherlands and France.  There are 37 beautiful beaches (one for every square mile, apparently), plenty of shops and restaurants, and a laid-back Caribbean ambiance.

The main center on the Dutch side is Philipsburg, and here you’ll find some casinos and more nightlife.  On the French side you’ll find some amazing culinary delights as well as the city center of Marigot and the famous clothing-optional beach of Orient Bay.
You can rent a car for the day from the hotel concierge to explore on your own, or get around easily by taxi.  Spend your days on the beach, snorkeling, diving, fishing, shopping, and (on the Dutch side) horseback riding.
Where to Stay

Riu Palace St. Martin – an all-inclusive, family friendly resort located on 18 acres on the French side of the island. A beautiful cove beach and pool area.  Great for a small group with plenty to do onsite to keep you busy.

 

Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort – large resort located on the beach, hillside, on the Dutch side.  There is a casino onsite.  Great for couples and families.  No meals included.

 

Alamanda Resort – a small boutique hotel located right on Orient Bay.  This is a great choice if you want to explore the island and restaurants within easy striking distance.

The cruise port is on the Dutch side, and can get quite busy so you’ll want to save your shopping for the days the port is relatively empty.

Direct flights to St. Martin from Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami, New York, Boston, and San Juan, or with connections in these airports from your departure city.

Happy travels! ~Cindy Grant, Expert Family Travel.  Contact us at 972-625-6200 to plan your next vacation.  Serving the Dallas metro area & clients across the US/Canada.

Spotlight on Barbados

Barbados is the easternmost island of the West Indes where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean.  The coastline is a mix of pink or powdery white sand beaches and scenic seaside cliffs.  Barbados has a friendly, laid back vibe with a decidedly British flair.  Bridgetown is worth poking around for shopping and people watching and be sure to Mount Gay Rum Distillery.  You’ll find great watersports opportunities here as well.

 Where to Stay

Sandy Lane – five star luxury resort that is family friendly yet retains a romantic atmosphere.  There’s an amazing golf course onsite, and the beaches here are a beautiful white sand.  112 rooms and suites.

The Crane Resort – this four star resort is located cliff-side with a pink sand beach.  Rooms are spacious and beautifully appointed with mahogany four poster beds.  This is a great choice for a honeymoon or destination wedding.

Sandals Barbados – a true gem for couples, this adults-only all-inclusive opened in January 2015 after a $65 million dollar renovation.  The 280 rooms and 11 restaurants are spread across eight acres in three distinctly themed villages.  An ideal location for a honeymoon or anniversary. Top tier suites include butler service.

High season is from mid December through mid April.  Weather is lovely year round with rainy season running June through November and is just outside the principle hurricane zone.  Direct flights to Barbados from Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami, JFK, Boston, Tampa, and San Juan, or with connections in these airports from your departure city.

Happy travels! ~Cindy Grant, Expert Family Travel.  Contact us at 972-625-6200 to start planning your next vacation.  Serving the Dallas Texas metro area & clients across the US/Canada.

Spotlight on Panama

 
More than just a canal, Panama is a compact country about the size of South Carolina offering a variety of flora and fauna along with beautiful beaches.  Consider hiking or nature watching among the 14 parks, 12 forest reserves and 10 wildlife refuges.  Or kick back and relax for a few days along a golden sand beach.
There are two distinct ways to experience Panama.  The first is with a tour or rainforest stay, with more of a focus on wildlife and adventure.  The second is a beach resort stay, with optional day excursions.  There are beaches on both sides of the isthmus, though there are more resort options on the Pacific coast line.  And, cap off your visit to Panama with a night or two in Panama City, where you can experience the cuisine and culture of this charming country.
Secrets Playa Bonita Panama Resort & Spa
Panama’s tourism is “up and coming” with new resorts being developed in the beach areas.  The newly opened Secrets Playa Bonita Panama Resort & Spa is the first luxury adults only all-inclusive in the country.  Other great resort choices include the five star JW Marriott Panama Golf and Beach Resort; the Westin Playa Bonita Panama which is family friendly and offers an all-inclusive option; and two upscale all-inclusive, family friendly resorts – Riu Playa Blanca and Sheraton Bijao Resort.  If your focus is on nature, the Gamboa Rainforest Resort is a client favorite.  And for your stay in Panama City, the Le Meridien Panama is a great four star recommendation.
And for you nature/adventure lovers a sample guided tour itinerary would be the “Panama Explorer” which includes 2 nights in Panama City, two nights in the Gamboa Rainforest, 2 nights in Anton Valley, and 2 nights on the beach in Playa Blanco.
Flights to Panama City operate out of many major US hubs, including Dallas.  The “green” or rainy season is roughly from mid April to mid December, while the high season runs from mid December to mid April.  While the green season sees more rain, travel to this tropical country can be enjoyed year round.
Happy travels!  ~Cindy Grant, Expert Family Travel.  Contact us at 972-625-6200 to plan your next vacation.  Serving Dallas Texas metro area plus clients across the US/Canada.

Top Five All-Inclusive Resorts in Puerto Vallarta

Nestled between beautiful Banderas Bay and the Sierra Madra mountains of Mexico is the charming city of Puerto Vallarta and its neighboring beach community called Riviera Nayarit.  This is a Pacific coast area, but the waters are calm due to the bay.  The weather here is lovely year-round, though it can get hot in late summer.  There is plenty to do during the day, including zip-lining in the mountains or whale watching in the winter.  Here’s my top five picks for all-inclusive resorts in the area.    

1.  Gran Velas Riviera Nayarit
Hands down, the best all-inclusive resort in the area.  Food is fantastic, and the sunsets are divine.  The resort has a spa-like ambiance, though is still family friendly with a very good Kids Club.  Perfect for an anniversary trip, or for a relaxing escape from the hectic pace.  AAA Five Diamond award.  

2.  Secrets Vallarta Bay, Puerto Vallarta

This adults-only all-inclusive is walking distance to the nightlife and shops, and is perfect for a friends’ group that wants some spa time but still have a resort with some energy.  Use of Now Larimar facilities next door.  Rooms here are gorgeous.  

3.  Hyatt Ziva Resort Puerto Vallarta

After a $20 million redesign, this property recently reopened as the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta.  Situated between the mountains and the Bay south of downtown, this resort is ideal for families and couples alike.  All rooms were completely rennovated and have oceanviews, and the public spaces are fresh and new.  A great pick for a destination wedding or corporate retreat.

4.  Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta

Located at the start of the Riviera Nayarit area with a beautiful beach and yet an easy taxi to the Malecon shops downtown.  Junior Suites are well appointed (including a hot tub) with 24 hour room service, and is offering a very generous Resort Credit with your stay. Resort is full service yet not too large.
5.  Iberostar Playa Mita
This resort opened about two years ago, and sits on the very northern tip of Banderas Bay.  Nearby is the quirky surfer town of Sayulita as well as some fantastic golf opportunities.  The property is spacious and is lovely for all ages.  I especially like the public grounds.  

Destination Spotlight: Cozumel

Just off the Riviera Maya coast line is the charming island of Cozumel.  Ever since Jacques Cousteau filmed from the coral reefs near Cozumel in 1961, this island has been best known for world class diving opportunities on the Playacar Reef which is part of the Meso-American reef system.  Most resorts have dive shops onsite, and many are PADI 5-star certified.  Diving is typically not included in your resort package, but prices are reasonable.  For those not certified, abbreviated resort dive courses are available as well as full certification and advanced diver courses.

 

Secrets Aura Cozumel (adults only)

 

If you aren’t looking to scuba dive, the snorkeling is great.  In other words, you don’t have to don an air tank and weight belt to be able to enjoy the beauty of the coral reefs.  Most resorts have snorkeling right off the beaches.  Or, sign up for a catamaran snorkel sail.  This is great for couples as well as families (with the kids being good swimmers).

 

The beaches here don’t have the wide sandy ribbon like you find in Cancun.  Resort beaches range between narrow sandy to downright rocky (with a few exceptions, like Secrets Aura Cozumel).  However, since the island’s resort side faces back to the mainland, the tide at your resort beach will be gentle.

 

Cozumel Palace Resort

 

My favorite resorts in Cozumel by “travel style” are:

  • Grand Occidental Cozumel – for families and small groups looking for a quiet beach getaway.  This is an easy going 4 star all-inclusive, and prices well (good “bang for the buck.”)
  • Iberostar Cozumel – the best pick for divers who are looking for 3 1/2 to 4 star accommodations.  The resort is very close to the reef, on the southern end of the island.  Diving is at additional cost.  The diveshop (Dressel Divers) is very well run
  • Cozumel Palace – for those divers who are looking a bit nicer accommodations, this resort has a great dive shop and is a 4 1/2 star all-inclusive.  There is no sandy beach here, but just steps that go into the water.  Snorkeling is excellen
  • Explorean Cozumel – this is a new adults-only resort that includes sports and activities.  This is a great choice for the couple or small friends group looking for a little soft adventure. The resort itself has a quiet, boutique feel to it.  Access to beach at sister property next door (Fiesta Americana Cozumel).
  • Secrets Aura Cozumel – for the adult couple looking for a romantic escape.  This is a small 4+ star all-inclusive resort with lots of charm.  Plus, the beach here is gorgeous.

Flights from the US to Cozumel operate year-round out of the following cities, with connections possible from your departure airport:

  • DFW Dallas
  • Houston
  • Miami
  • Atlanta
  • Charlotte
  • Denver

​​Additionally, there are seasonal (December – April) nonstop flights to Cozumel from Chicago and Minneapolis-St Paul.

The Family Friendly All-Inclusive

I sell many different destinations and lifestyles, but by far the most popular remains the family friendly all-inclusive resort in a tropical beach location.  And summer is the time when the majority of my family clients head to the beach.  So I thought I’d give a primer on all-inclusives this month.

 


Azul Sensatori, Riviera Maya

 All-inclusives are so-named because your stay includes meals, drinks, snacks, onsite activities and entertainment.  Depending on the resort, it may also include some offsite activities (such as golf or scuba) or tours, a kids’ club, and 24 hour room service.  And in the top-of-the-line resorts and categories you can find butler services.

There are family-friendly resorts where there are kids’ clubs, kiddie pools, and special activities and amenities just for kids.  Some resorts, such as Azul and Club Med even offer baby programs at select locations.
The great thing about a family friendly all-inclusive is that the resort is designed for everyone to enjoy their stay at the property.  That doesn’t mean you can’t go offsite to shop or take a tour (or two or three).  But it is nice to know that you can stay onsite and not be bored.

Beaches Turks & Caicos

 You’ll find family-friendly all-inclusives in some of the top beach destinations:

  • Playa del Carmen/Riviera Maya Mexico
  • Cancun’s Hotel Zone
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • Cabo, Mexico
  • Cozumel, Mexico
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  • Jamaica
  • Turks/Caicos
  • Costa Rica (Pacific Coast)
  • (Limited) Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, Ixtapa, Aruba

​Some of my favorite resort brands for families include Dreams, Beaches, Iberostar, Azul, Now, Palace, Hard Rock, and Paradisus.

Barcelo Bavaro Palace, Punta Cana

Hawaii and Tahiti do not offer any all-inclusive resorts (family friendly or otherwise).  Fiji does offer some resorts that include meals and select activities, but they are not true all-inclusives.  

Family friendly resorts are also great options for group gatherings or destination weddings where you anticipate some families attending. Many of the 4 and 5 star resorts have onsite wedding coordinators and Special Event planners for your party or event needs.

Resort quality can range from a more moderate 3 star to a luxury 5 star, and sizes from small boutique to some of the mega campus styles found in Punta Cana.  Most of my clients tend to want something in the middle:  4 star upscale, and mid to large in size.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

Announcing new all-inclusive plan for Bora Bora

Exciting news, Le Meridien Bora Bora will be offering a new all-inclusive plan in 2015!  This is great for the honeymoon couple who would like to have as much of their trip prepaid as possible.

LeMeridienBOB-water

Prices for 5 nights begin at around $4889 per person for mid-April through May.  Anticipate higher prices for summer travel.  Package includes:

  • Roundtrip air from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui
  • Roundtrip interisland air on Air Tahiti
  • 5 nights Le Meridien Bora Bora, Overwater Bungalow Lagoon  View
  • Roundtrip boat transfer from the airport with flower lei greeting
  • Non-alcoholic cocktail and fresh towel upon check-in
  • Meals and beverages
    • Three meals daily (buffet breakfast, 2-course lunch and 3-course dinner or buffet)*
    • Drinks at the bar all day:  cocktails, beer, soft drinks, water*
    • Beverages with lunch and dinner:  one bottle of wine, soft drinks and water
    • Minibar:  6 drinks in the minibar (2 colas/2 waters/2 beers) on the first day and one refill every day afterwards
  • A 30-minute couple’s massage
  • Complimentary Internet access throughout the resort
  • A 30-minute sailing course
  • Exclusive free snorkeling experience with the biologist in the turtle area

We can, of course, add flights from your departure airport to Los Angeles roundtrip, and additional nights or additional islands to fit your taste.  Contact me at 972-625-6200 or cindy@expertfamilytravel.com to get a quote for your upcoming trip.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

Get your Group Going

Are you thinking about having your next family reunion at a beautiful tropical beach setting?  Maybe want to round up your circle of friends for an extended weekend getaway?  Or maybe you have a Happy Hour group that’s long been talking about heading to Italy together.  This is the best time of the year to put together your group for Summer and Fall 2015.  

Beaches Turks/Caicos for your family reunion or dive group

 

Here are some suggestions for your next group trip:

  • All-inclusive resort (Mexico or the Caribbean)
  • Escorted tour of Europe, Australia, or Asia
  • Luxury spa/golf/fishing resort (Caribbean, Tahiti, Mexico)
  • River cruises (Europe and Asia)
  • Soft adventure trip (Costa Rica, Machu Pichu, skiing, diving)
  • Walt Disney World Orlando for family reunions

To plan a group trip, decide among the participants who shall be Group Leader and then discuss travel dates, headcount, destination (or type of trip), any special needs to consider, and budget.  Then call me and we can discuss your options in detail.  Since groups take a bit more coordination, effort, and availability you will want to allow more time for planning than you would an ordinary (individual) trip.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.