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Interesting and fun vacation for family with elementary school kids?

Interesting and fun vacation for family with elementary school kids?

Aug 6th, 2009, 02:08 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 30
Interesting and fun vacation for family with elementary school kids?

Our family of four, with girls ages 6 and 8, may venture from DC area to the islands for our girls' first trip out of the country, possibly over their Thanksgiving break.

We would like an interesting place to stay - this probably means an all-inclusive with some entertainment or babysitting options for kids - with decent food so I guess not Beaches? - on a reasonably safe island because I do like to go off-resort and explore, and I think the kids should have an opportunity to see life outside mainland USA.

My father's new wife keeps suggesting Atlantis; I think I have an idea of what that is like although all comments welcome.

What about Turks and Caicos - any opinions on family options there? Is there anything reasonably priced and nice on St. John's or is it just too astronomical?

Could you please compare those to Bermuda and perhaps the Fairmont Southampton or - other? Other island suggestions? (Yes, I have read the other posts extensively but did not seem a lot of discussion for a short-attention-span children this age.) In terms of activities for youngsters, expense, proximity to town/things to do?

We are not into parasailing or snorkeling; our kids are too small. But we don't always want to lie on a beach all day (my husband gets antsy) so other family activities are good.

Thank you!

JuliainVA is offline  
Aug 6th, 2009, 02:43 PM
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I forgot to mention - Marriotts would be good too, if you tell me your opinion of them - we have some points. Thanks!
JuliainVA is offline  
Aug 6th, 2009, 05:53 PM
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atlantis is huge and might be overwhelming for kids 6&8.
assume you've already started passport apps for your girls.

while jamaica is not on your list it is an island that offers a great variety of activities and things to see from rafting and zip lines to coffee plantation tours, bio bay, loads of golf, etc (plenty to keep dh busy) and there is an excellent resort that would suit your family: http://www.fdrholidays.com/pebbles/index.php

from your list i've been to t&c. safe, gorgeous beach but not much to do except dive/snorkel. 1 golf course. most resorts offer condo style rooms. very good restaurants.

normally i would suggest maya riviera coast for ai/lots of activities combo, but not sure how you feel about the flu thing as you're going with kids.
virginia is offline  
Aug 6th, 2009, 06:05 PM
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We already have the kids' passports, though I do need to look into vaccinations. But first to decide where we're going! : )

Actually, it does not need to be all-inclusive. It just needs to have some way for us to eat reasonably priced meals - whether through AI, or meal deals, or (I suppose this is impossible) reasonably priced restaurants onsite or within walking distance, or a nearby grocery, or even a well priced villa with pool and chef (I know, dream on...).
JuliainVA is offline  
Aug 6th, 2009, 06:42 PM
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How long are you going away for over Thanksgiving? That might influence where you should stay more than anything. If it's just a long weekend, you should probably only look at non-stop flights from the DC area.

As for your girls being too young to snorkel...if they know how to swim, I humbly disagree. I've found that most kids who know how to swim just love the idea of floating around looking for fish underwater. Most hotels or resorts have free snorkel gear for guests, and I'd bet that your girls really enjoy it.

If you can get to St. Kitts nonstop from DC, that might be an island suited for your family. There's a Marriott on the island, there are cows & monkeys & goats to provide visual engagment for the kids, a wonderful old fort to explore, some nice beaches, and some great beach bars. It's lush and mountainous, so the beaches aren't made of the powdery white sand of Corona commercials, but they're lovely and tropical all the same. Most of the beach bars on S. Frigate Beach have reasonable prices for food--it's within walking distance of the Marriott, or a quick 3 minute drive. There's also a little train that goes around the island for an educational tour. It looks fun but as I recall it was dreadfully expensive in 2006 when I was there.

I liked St. Kitts but I didn't love it, but I think with your needs it might be a good fit for you--nonstop flight, Marriott points, fun things to do beyond the beach with kids.
ejcrowe is offline  
Aug 7th, 2009, 04:32 AM
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I second ejcrowe's comments about St. Kitts Marriott. I think it's a good fit overall. I have been to many Marriotts in the Caribbean, my favorite is Curacao Marriott and that may be worth looking into because there's an interesting town and more history and a unique european/caribbean culture. Also been to Aruba Marriott with my kids when they were in elementary school -- Aruba is very Americanized and the area where the Marriott is one long crowded beach lined with resorts, may not be what you want but it is a good beach vacation with kids and Aruba is clean, safe, and has some familiar food options (dunkin donuts, burger king, outback steakhouse) for kids. Both Aruba Marriott and St. Kitt's Marriott have condos available through their vacation club, worth looking into as a condo is so much nicer to have with a family than just a hotel room.
eileen is offline  
Aug 7th, 2009, 05:03 AM
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Bermuda's temps can be hit or miss around Thanksgiving, it's on par with Hilton Head, South Carolina. It is a gorgeous resort you're looking at, gorgeous island though. Hard to get around with children, no car rentals, you'd have to depend on taxi. (Or scooter rental, not recommend with small children)

You tagged Antigua and Barbuda. I personally would save Barbuda for future, it's gorgeous, but off the beaten track--I would build up to it. Antigua could be a good intro to Caribbean, I enjoyed my stay, but it's not neccessarily my favorite. It's hilly, has some shopping, pretty beaches, just okay snorkeling, when I was there last (and this could have improved) they had the worse roads of any of the islands I visited, it was hard to navigate the clusters of towns. The only AI I can think of is Sandals there, and it's couples only. (There could be more, I just can't think of any off the top of my head)

Bahamas is nice, plenty of AIs to choose from, but you really need to go through Atlantis--it's like Disney waterpark by the beach. It is extremely expensive to eat around there. Your daughters need to be 48 tall to ride all the water slides, sometimes they measure, sometimes they don't. So if your young one is shorter, I'd hold off on Bahamas until she's tall enough for all of it. There are Out Islands in the Bahamas, gorgeous little adventures, but no AIs. Fun to explore, some you rent golf carts to get around, or boats to visit the gorgeous beaches of the cays. Again, a little off the beaten path, so you may want to build up to it.

You tagged Turks and Caicos. I think it's a great destination for families. One of the most gorgeous beaches in the world, it's generally calm and super clear. The bright turquoise hues hypnotize, and the clarity makes it a great intro to snorkel. The beauty of salt water in the ocean, is it makes the body float easier (called "boyant") and the reefs start off the beach in some areas, so they could technically stand in waist high sand to start viewing the reef. They can also get floats or even noodles (you can buy them at IGA Supermarket there) to help float.

Beaches is an excellent AI, and the food is one of the best as far as AIs go in the Caribbean. There is also a waterpark, and plenty to do for kids.

Please don't take this as a lecture: part of learning the "culture" of a country is not staying at an AI. AI's in general, tend to keep you confined (you can venture out, but when you have everything as your disposal, it's lazier to stay "in".) you don't get exposed to the wonderful restaurants and customs as much. I'm not trying to discourage you, just realize that it's hard to leave an AI property when they make everything so easy to just "chill".

T&C has many condo units, so you get full fridges and kitchens, excellent for families. You can go on excellent excursions to snorkel the third largest reef in the world, stop to see iguanas at iguana island, stop at isolated cays with stunning stretches of beaches. You can picnic at Sapadilla Bay or Taylor Bay, where the water is only thigh high deep for hundreds of yards, and super calm, it makes kids your daughters age giddy. There is a Conch Farm. Blue Hills has typical beach "shacks" for food, and plenty of conch to try. (The food of T&C) The restaurants have gorgeous settings, and most have typical kids menu.

In general, Caribbean has 2 types of islands: Hilly, scenic with beaches in coves, or dry flat with long stretches of blinding white sand and neon turquoise water. The hilly islands, in general, the sand is not quite as white, but you can find some turquoise water, just not as blinding as the flat islands. The flat islands usually have boring interiors, the hilly islands have gorgeous scenery. So depends wiether you are a beach person, or active person.

Culture changes from island to island. The British Islands seem more similar to American culture (T&C, Caymans, Bahamas, Anguilla) There are French Islands, such as St. Martin and St. Barth, and Spanish Islands such as Puerto Rico, and Cozumel, Mexico. Dutch islands include Aruba and Bonaire. Jamaica has it's own vibe. Some islands have "Junkanoos" and Carnivals, some have boat (sloop) sail races. All of them you will discover "Island Time."

I've always though an excellent all around intro to Caribbean is St. John. The Virgin Islands are hilly, spectacular scenery. The beaches are in coves, but the water is turquoise. It has a great vibe, and a family friendly Westin Resort. There are no AIs though. It's fun to get around in the open air taxi (almost like a roller coaster) Great little beach bars, fun shopping, and the best part: easy access for day trips to the British Virgin Islands, especially The Baths in Virgin Gorda, and the gorgeous Jost Van Dyke. You can even day trip to St. Thomas or Tortola. Westin offers day trips to Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke on a beautiful catamaran, there are ferries to the others. There is excellent snorkeling, and excellent sail boat trips. There are some small sugar mills to explore. So even though St. John belongs to US, it feels different--and take your passports to visit the British VI.

I hope I didn't confuse you more.
blamona is offline  
Aug 7th, 2009, 05:18 AM
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To add to Blamona's post ...check out The Sands on Grace Bay, on Turks & Caicos, great pool for kids, excellent on site restaurant (plus many close by to walk to) and wonderful staff.
Caribzack is offline  
Aug 7th, 2009, 10:24 PM
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I'd also add www.coralsands.com on Harbour Island, Bahamas as a possible family resort.
travelbuff is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 07:23 AM
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Well the Atlantis is a huge resort with slides and pools. It is like Vegas on a beach. I have never been to Vegas, but it is over the top like that. We had fun on our trip there, but not sure if that is what you are looking for in a caribbean getaway? Nassau, the nearest town is dumpy and not worth venturing into,(my opinion).
We have been to the Aruba Marriott Stellaris Hotel, Cayman Marriott, and have eaten in the Puerto Rico Marriott Stellaris.
Aruba has lots of watersports, is a safe island to venture out on, has great dining and also some american choices as stated above. The dining is good and not overpriced and not all outbacks either. The beaches are nice and the water is green. The weather is generally hot and sunny with always a tradewind blowing. The Marriott is large scale with several pools and swim up bars. They did have a kids club. We used it once at night to have dinner on the beach as adults. Our kids were older than yours and loved the watersports activities available.
The Cayman Marriott is much smaller and has a small pool. Cayman Islands are very friendly and safe. The dining is very good. Snorkeling is excellent and going to stingray city was a highlight. There are things for younger kids (I think there is a turtle farm). We liked the Cayman islands, but they are a low-key vacation. The waters are probably the clearest and most beautiful I have ever seen.
Have only had dinner at the Puerto Rico Marriott. We stayed at the Hilton there. The Puerto rico Marriott is very nice. The water is generally rough in front of the Marriott. Puerto Rico has many places to go see. I did not care for Puerto Rico as an island. (and I have a sister in law there). It has lots to do and see, but was not my cup of tea. The hotel Marriott was nice though.
Now Bermuda is one of my favorite places and we just stayed at the Fairmont. It is a gorgeous hotel. The beach is at the bottom of the hill, but there is a trolley that takes you back and forth. We rode the public bus all over and it is cheap and very safe. Town is cute.Food is good, but expensive. Island is just pretty and people are friendly, but reserved. People are expected to show good manners. (Like saying good morning and thank you to the bus driver). If you show good manners, than you will have a very welcome atmosphere. Now, the problem is that Thanksgiving may be too cool for Bermuda. It is on the line of getting colder. We have gone in mid October and had warm ocean temps and hot weather still, but not sure about Thanksgiving time. Bermuda is the one island my husband always wants to go back to.
girlonthego is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 12:09 PM
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Wow, that's a great overview girlonthego gave you. I'll simply add one point about the Grand Cayman Marriott. The area in front of it is excellent for young children to snorkel at. They have made an artificial reef and it is shallow calm water. Lots of fish to see there. The Marriott has snorkel equipment to rent, including snorkel vests which are great for the kids.
travelerfromtx is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 06:00 PM
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St Thomas has beaches, shopping, and aquarium, and like Puerto Rico is US territory. Grand Cayman is nice, very safe, but sort of like Florida with better beaches and water. St Maarten/St Martin has a butterfly farm and zoo, and you can get the Dutch vibe and the French vibe. Barbados has been built up, but still has great beaches, good restaurants, shopping, a tram ride through a cavern, and more. My favorite, Anguilla, has great beaches, excellent restaurants, some snorkelling, Juniors Glass Bottom Boat.
T&C and the Bahamas may be too cool in November to really enjoy the beach and ocean
beachykeen is offline  
Aug 10th, 2009, 05:15 PM
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You might also consider St Croix. We were there two years ago when our kids were 9 and 7 and stayed at the Buccaneer. The kids club is free and our kids really liked it. The snorkeling right off the beach there is very good as well. Breakfast is included in the room rate. We won an online auction at luxury link and got a really good deal. You can drive around the island and see the beer-drinking pigs (non-alcoholic beer). We spent a week on St John and then took the small airplane (fun!) to St Croix for another week.
where_to_next is offline  
Aug 13th, 2009, 07:28 AM
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I take my 2 kids to St. John every year. We stay at the Westin or Caneel Bay - both are kid friendly. Its easy to get a taxi into town, great resturants, tons of beaches. Love it!
mgoss is offline  
Aug 13th, 2009, 07:28 AM
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Have you considered a cruise? After reading about you and your family I think it would be ideal for all of you. Each day you wake up on another Caribbean island and there are plenty of activities for kids, especially on Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas, which sails from San Juan, Puerto Rico. You could arrive a few days early to see the historical sites in San Juan, El Yunque Rain Forest and Luquillo Beach, then board your cruise ship. I live in Puerto Rico and have taken ships out of San Juan numerous occasions, and the kids have the time of their lives!
Alicia_1968 is offline  
Aug 13th, 2009, 07:49 AM
Join Date: May 2009
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we just got back from the wind jammer landing on the island of st lucia. I didn't take my kids but there was alot there and they had daily activities and very kid friendly yet small enough so they would not be overwhelmed. check out thier web site and let me know if you have any questions.
shunter5 is offline  
Aug 13th, 2009, 08:23 AM
Join Date: Sep 2006
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Why don't you try Roatan, Honduras. It is an up and cominig new destination off the mainland of Honduras. You will not find any huge hotel chains. You will however find beautiful, family owned hotels/condos. Several offer all inclusive. Try Anthony's Key Resort...they offer a dolphin program for kids. or try a place on the beautiful West Bay Beach...just do a google search. We took our 6 and 11 yr. old granchildren. They ziplined, went to the Iguana Farm, did the dolphin encounter but they were happiest when parked on the beautiful beach.
Meka is offline  

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