*Disclosure: I did receive a discounted rate to Beaches as part of my invitation to attending Social Media on the Sand. This experience and these opinions are 100% my own and were not in anyway influenced by anyone or any discounts that I received.
Let me tell you a story. A story of how this place:
turned this family:
into this family:
Here’s the scene. A family (my family) of four traveling to a new destination. An adventure. A new country. Nervous, yet excited. High expectations but also cautiously optimistic. We know there is a beach, so at the very least, we are extremely eager travelers. We are beach people. We also know that this resort will be all-inclusive, which again, makes us even more hopeful for meals and feasting that doesn’t disappoint. Let it be known, I am married to a man who takes his meals very seriously, and I have a son who has never met a buffet he didn’t love. We can eat with the best of them. We are headed to Beaches in Turks & Caicos. This is a bucket list journey. The bar and the expectations have been raised very high. As you might expect, that is both exciting and scary at the same time.
If you follow me on Instagram and/or Twitter (I hope that you do!), you probably saw bits and pieces of this journey a couple of weeks ago. My family accompanied me as I went out of the country to attend a conference called Social Media on the Sand. This was a blogging conference that just so happened to be partnered with the Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos for lots of, literally: Social Media on the Sand.
I was thrilled to have been invited to attend this conference and even more thrilled at the opportunity to take my family along on this adventure. I was also excited about the opportunity to share this experience with all of you, my readers, because I have wondered many times if a trip like this would be something worth saving for, and I am sure many of you have wondered the same thing.
As you might also know from reading my site, I have a strong philosophy about saving where you can, so you can spend your hard earned dollars on quality items and experiences. I was already aware that a trip such as this would be an investment for any family; and since I was allowed to travel at a discounted rate, this was a wonderful opportunity for me to check it out for myself and see if this trip, which I know is a bucket list for many people, would be worth the investment for families just like yours and mine.
We had never traveled out of the country before as a family, and let me tell you, that in itself is pretty exciting and quite educational. The entire process from start to finish was so neat to experience — getting passports, filling out customs forms, arriving in a new country and explaining the process to our children. Priceless. Arriving in a new country and having our family see an entirely different way of life. Different people. A different pace. They drive on the other side of the road. Their airport is small and simple. Life is very different from life here at home. To experience this all as a family? Priceless.
My advice to you: if you DON’T yet have passports and you hope to travel outside of the country one day, get them NOW. Or at least start saving up for them. It can be a long process (although ours took just under four weeks from start to finish), and you will want to have them on hand when the opportunity to travel does arise. Adult passports have a ten-year expiration, and children’s passports expire in five years. You can find more information about acquiring passports here. My second advice to you regarding passports: practice your NON-smile faces before you get to the passport office, because those passport photo-taking dudes can be short on patience; and after years of telling my kids to “smile!” for the camera, they both had a tough time with the concept of NOT smiling for the camera. But it’s ok. I a little bit love our gangster-looking mugshots.
Arriving in Paradise.
Upon arriving at the Beaches Resort, life instantly comes a paradise. It is as if you are delivered (in a Beaches provided shuttle, no less!) into a world where greetings are genuine. Smiles are intentional. Everyone is smiling and I’m not exaggerating that. It is a level of hospitality that I had never experienced. These people are professionals at reminding you that YOU are on vacation and they are here to help.
Note: I actually made it a point to look for an unhappy person while we were at the resort, and the ONLY time that I remember seeing one during our seven-day stay was the day that we left, my kids were a bit gloomy as we pulled away from the resort, but I admit… my heart was kind of aching then too. But then again, who wouldn’t feel a touch sad leaving this:
About Beaches according to Beaches: Dive into a one-of-a-kind, unbelievably exciting Beaches all-inclusive Turks & Caicos vacation for the whole family. A 45,000 square-foot waterpark; four magnificent villages, boasting the architecture and ambiance of Italy, France, the Caribbean and Key West; a 12-mile beach lapped by clear turquoise waters; endless fun activities for everyone, from tots to tweens and teens, featuring Sesame Street® characters, the new Xbox 360® Game Garage and a sizzlin’ teen disco, Liquid at Beaches-all located on one of the world’s best beaches.
About Beaches according to moi: AMAZING.
Above are a few photos of the outside of the HOUSE that we stayed in. I call it a house because I am not sure what else to call it. At Beaches Turks & Caicos there are actually 4 different “villages” on the property: Caribbean, Italian, Key West and the French. Each has its own theme and feel; and I might be a bit biased, but we stayed in Key West and it was heavenly. There was nothing “hotel-ish” about our little abode … it was so quaint and comfy and CLEAN! I could not get over how clean it was. The kids had their own room and bathroom, the kitchen was a full kitchen and very roomy, and it even had a washer and dryer. Had I known that we would have had a washer and dryer, I would have packed even lighter. The washer and dryer were not only handy while we were there, but it was so nice to actually be able to wash our clothes before we returned home!
All Inclusive Dining & Drinks (yes, AND drinks!)
I had never experienced all-inclusive dining before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. They don’t allow tipping either, so unless you are shopping at the gift shops OR enjoying services at the spa, then you literally need NO cash on you. Ever. It was such a treat to be able to walk over to the coffee shop each morning and order a mocha, grab a few pastries and receive them with a smile; nothing more needed.
Below is a photo of my favorite coffee barista who welcomed me several times each day when I visited this little coffee shop in the French Village. They change out the snacks and pastries throughout the day (and they even offer warm cookies in the afternoon), so we never missed an opportunity to check in when we had the free time. It is so nice to have people treat you as if they want your vacation to be the very best. Over the course of the week that we were there, we became quite attached to several of the friendly faces around the resort.
All-inclusive also means that you can stop into one of the many restaurants and bars (20 restaurants and 12 bars to be exact) and grab a meal, drink or snack. This is such a luxury, especially when traveling with kids. If you aren’t all hungry for a big meal, then no worries! Dad can grab a full meal while mom orders an appetizer. It was so nice to be able to eat at our own pace, and I especially loved that many of the restaurants feature buffet style meals so that you can adjust your servings to your appetite. This was also great for the kids — they loved the variety of food! And with so many restaurants, one thing you will definitely have: lots of variety! Everything from hamburgers to fancy steak dinners and literally everything in between. We even found a fun ice cream shop we loved to frequent, and I am pretty sure that my hubby got a bit addicted to their milkshakes!
I think that one of the greatest things about a family vacation is the fact that you get a chance to unplug and really (really!) spend time together. There are so many fun activities around the resort, it would be very hard (impossible!) for a person to get bored here.
I can’t say enough about the quality of family time that we had. We are very good about making time for family outings and adventures. We LOVE to travel and we LOVE Disney. That being said, I can’t even tell you how different it was to connect with our kids at this slower pace. At a place like Disney, you are scrambling; and while it’s a BLAST (and one of our favorites!), it is definitely a different pace. This trip felt so good for the soul. My mama soul. I sat on the beach and built sandcastles with my kids. We played chess on the many life-size chess boards around the resort. We walked miles and miles of beaches. We played in the Xbox lounge. We danced in the Sesame Street Parade. We dressed up as pirates. We drank out of coconuts. We chased after little geckos. We read books in hammocks. We hunted for sea shells. The list goes on and on. And my heart was so full when we returned home because …
and this. this. this and this…
Find your bliss.
It’s there. Sometimes you just need the quiet moments to help you remember it. The soft sand beach, blue sky, and clear waters help quite a bit with that too.
Here are a few tips if you are considering a visit to Beaches Turks & Caicos:
I was so excited about how lightly we packed. We each had one carry-on and a backpack. HOWEVER, once we arrived I quickly realized that we still overpacked. For women, I would suggest a couple of sun dresses, a swimsuit or two, a cover-up and a couple of pairs of shorts and/or skirts and a few t-shirts and/or tank tops and a good pair of flip flops and/or water shoes. For the kids, pretty much the same thing… you just won’t need much. I would say bring a light sweater, but I will be honest and tell you that mine only got in the way. I carried it around but even in the middle of the night never needed it. I almost always wear one when I fly (because I find planes to be so chilly!) so that is another way to make a little more room in your bag.
Another awesome part of our trip was learning about Pack for a Purpose. You can read my full post about The Sandals Foundation and Pack for a Purpose; but to give you a quick overview, Pack for a Purpose is a 501C-3 organization that provides travelers with the information they need to make an easy yet meaningful contribution to the local community at their destination. My kids LOVED bringing their backpacks full of supplies and books to share with the children on the islands.
Live in the moments!
If you do go to Beaches, or on any other travel adventure for that matter. . . make the decision to let go of the norm and of all those to-do lists that you have to follow every-day. There are no to-do lists here. As soon as we left the United States, we turned off our cell phones and pretty much disconnected from the outside world. Aside from my work at the conference, I only used my phone for taking photos. It felt so good to give my family 100% of my attention and focus on spending time together. The folks at Beaches made that so easy because they are constantly reminding you that “this is YOUR vacation!” … and it is such a treat to be treated that way. Take the incentive to treat YOURSELF that way! Forget about messing with your hair and throw on a hat and head to the beach, wear that swimsuit that you haven’t been brave enough to wear in the past, and dive for that sea shell that might be just out of your reach. Trust me, being able to live in these precious moments will be priceless once you return to reality, because they do live on in your heart.
Go outside your comfort zone.
With a trip like this, you are (most likely) already a bit outside of your comfort zone, so why not go all the way!? Try new foods and drinks! Talk to strangers –we learned some great tips from fellow resort guests and employees! Get up on stage and dance (YES! I did this!). Take advantage of the free activities that the resort has to offer. Beaches Turks & Caicos offers several FREE snorkeling outings each day and I cannot stress how awesome these are! So many of my favorite moments were created each time that tried something new.
Capture the memories.
You don’t necessarily need a great camera (I took MOST of our photos with my iPhone by covering it with one of these Waterproof Dry Pouch Bags, they are AWESOME!), but I would make sure that you have a decent one. Having these photos to remember our trip together is priceless. I think that my favorite photos are the underwater ones, my iPhone did a great job with the waterproof cover. I also invested alittle underwater camera for the kids (the Ricoh WG-20 Waterproof Digital Camera) — and while our underwater photos might not be award winning, it was SO awesome to have a camera in the water!
Make a Plan. Research. Save. Invest.
We all work so hard in our daily lives. We work hard at our jobs, we hard for our families, and we work hard to save money. I think that by making the decision to splurge on a vacation such as this you are choosing to reward yourself (and your family) for all of that hard work. And, to be honest, I think that is what makes such a quality experience even more worthwhile: you earned it. Any additional savings will make you feel even better; so once you make your decision to go, plan ahead by using frequent flier miles and be sure to watch for Beaches Resorts travel specials — make sure to click on the SPECIALS tab on the Beaches website where they quite often have offers which will save you up to 65% off! Getting the best bang for your buck will also make you enjoy your experience even more. When you finally take the step to purchase your vacation, you are investing in an experience that you will remember for years to come –and that kind of quality is priceless.
We left Beaches with this as our family motto: “Why not?” We must have heard this 100 times while we stayed at the resort. It seems to be a common Beaches response that goes along with “Ya mon!”, which my kids are STILL saying. It’s actually a great question to ask yourself. At one point in the trip when we were out in the middle of the ocean snorkeling, my son asked the Beaches guide, “Can I dive down and get that shell that I see on the bottom?”, and the guide’s response was “Ya mon! Why not?! If you don’t try, you will never know!” And you know what? He dove down and brought up that shell. Because: Why Not?
“The only “no” that you will hear while staying at a Beaches Resort is “no problem!”
~ CEO Adam Stewart
A huge thank you to Social Media on the Sand and Beaches Resorts for this wonderful opportunity and experience!