The concert goers are swaying to the music, clapping and crowding the stage so they can reach out and touch their favorite stars.
Their smiling parents are right behind, video cams and digital cameras in hand. That’s because these concert goers are toddlers and preschoolers, many in diapers. Their stars are Elmo, Burt, Ernie, Cookie Monster and the latest to join the Sesame Street gang Abby Cadabby, a fairy in training. They sing and dance for the kids for an hour.
But we’re not at a high priced show in Chicago or New York. We’re at Beaches Resort in Turks and Caicos—the family resort of the Sandals Brand—which does a stellar job, especially for young families. (http://www.beaches.com/main/tc/tc-home.cfm)
“A lot of resorts have camps for older kids but nothing for my daughter,” said a very happy single mom named Leah traveling with her 20 month-old Stella and extended family. “I get a break here!”
There is programming for infants as well as toddlers and preschoolers and an appealing ratio of just 1 to three for the youngest, one to five for the toddlers and one to 10 for the preschoolers. All have received CPR and first aid training and all have had criminal background checks.
This week, Federline Julien and her crew are taking care of nearly 100 youngsters. Most impressive, they welcome kids with special needs –as many as 10 a month, often youngsters with autism spectrum disorder. Children with severe challenges can also be accommodates on a one on one basis for an extra charge ($8 an hour).
No worries either if there is a severe food allergy—there is a special allergy kitchen and all you need to do is tell the chef where you will be dining and they’ll provide food your family can enjoy—down to gluten free cookies.
There are all of the activities you’d expect at a big all inclusive resort (over 600 rooms) beach volleyball, snorkeling, an area for tweens, night clubs, but there is a more—a white sand beach that stretches for 12 miles, two dives a day for certified divers, a studio where tweens can learn to make a mix, and another space with 40 giant screens with the latest Xbox games, three pools…and morning till night activities- yoga, wine tasting, pool games and fitness classes.
But what is most impressive is all of the programming—and attention for young children. That may be one reason why despite this economy, this resort is operating at over 80 per cent capacity and draws something like 500 families a year here for weddings. No need to be stuck in your room while your toddler or baby naps. Bring them Sesame Camp where they can snooze while you play on the beach. Want to go out for an adult dinner? The counselors take the kids to dinner—at their own pint sized tables so you can enjoy a meal out0 whether French, sushi, Italian or barefoot in the sand at the beach.
“All of the activities—plus an appealing deal that was 65 per cent off rack rates—tempted the Valente family to take their first ever all inclusive vacation, Joe Valente said, noting that if he had taken his daughters to see a show like this one they’d be spending several hundred dollars nor would the kids be able to literally reach out and touch Cookie Monster and Grover.
“This is great!” enthused Nina Valente, and the family had just arrived. I think they’ll be pleased with what they are getting for their vacation dollar.
With the newly expanded Pirate’s Cove Water Park with nine water slides, a lazy river and plenty of slides, fountains and other water features that young kids love. There are 16 restaurants including Bobby Dee’s that serves ice cream on demand a hibachi, a sushi bar, one called Barefoot where you literally eat on the sand and a hibachi Japanese place . And even the “fine dining” restaurants have kids’ choices and high chairs, one mom gushed.
Even better, none of this is extra as on cruise ships. That may be why even in this economy Beaches—which isn’t cheap—is running at over 80 per cent occupancy, officials say, and families perceive it to be a good vacation value.
“Everyone is so friendly and accommodating,” said Toni Pasloski, vacationing with her two young daughters and in-laws from Canada. Her mother in law Sylvia—who lives eight hours from her grandchildren in Calgary was relishing the time together and pleased to be meeting so many grandparents.
And though this is a huge resort, 633 rooms spread over 60 landscaped acres, it doesn’t seem that big because there are three clusters or “villages” each with its own check in, lobby, shops, pools and more. The rooms can be adjusted as needs from a room to a connecting room to two rooms connecting with a living space.
I’m staying at the most posh and the newest called Italian Village which couldn’t have been designed better for families. There are bunk and trundle beds for kids who have their own separate video game area and TV and sink. Even better, there is a pocket door parents can slide closed once the kids are asleep if they want to watch TV in their big bed or sit on the balcony and have a drink (the mini bar is equipped with wine and beer as well as soft drinks—no extra charge. If you are traveling with a big family group, you can get a “parlor” in between the rooms too.
My room overlooks a spectacular pool and Jacuzzi complex complete with those swim up bars that kids love—again no extra charge. Drinks (alcoholic and non alcoholic are included).
Sure this isn’t cheap but it shows the resort was thinking about what works for families. I love that with all of these restaurants you don’t have to wait for a table and you can head to a pool that suits your needs—or a water park—where again, you’d pay significant bucks. Just to hang out at the kiddies area all day.
The best part is all of that unfettered family time, it seems. The Pasloskis were happily heading for Japanese hibachi. “We just don’t get to spend time like this that often” says Sylvia Pasloski, cuddling her granddaughter on her lap. The fact that this is the poshest resort they’ve ever visited is nice too, she adds.