by Magical Moments Vacations Agent Kristyn Wimer
"Hey, kiddo, wanna go to a resort made just for kids and teens, eat anything and everything, and swim in the blue waters of the Caribbean with me?"
"Ummm Heck yeah, Mom!!" In retrospect, did I even need to ask? Not many kids are going to say 'no' to that offer?
So, that's what we did. We hopped down to the stunning island of Jamaica and spent a weekend playing in the sun, eating in the rain, and laughing our way through Beaches Negril; a very lush, luxurious, and tropical haven for families.
But first, before we could even get there, I had to question my thoughts on traveling during this time of a worldwide travel game of chess. Was this going to be safe or am I walking into a health 'situation'? My fears were completely relieved as we went through the preparation process, which was relatively easy. First, we chatted with the family doctor, and he called for our Covid testing through the hospital labs. This had to be done in a specific manner based on the entry requirements for the island. Then, the Govt of Jamaica has set up a travel authorization website that required me to answer a few health and travel questions. We received an immediate email response back giving us the green light to enter. Armed with our test results and this printed authorization, we were all set. We hopped on the plane, went through Customs quickly (with the help of the MUST-Do Club Mobay FAST TRACK process!!), checked in with the Jamaican health screeners, and found ourselves in the Sandals Welcome Lounge within 30 minutes from landing.
The 90-minute transfer sounded like it would be boring, but it was incredible. Through some local villages and towns, we were able to take in so much of the flavor and feel of Jamaica. As the road hugs every bend and curve of the coast, we caught glimpses of the lovely landscape, including both the mist-covered mountains and the stunning blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Getting out of the van once we arrived, we were treated to lovely citrus-smelling cool towels to wipe our faces and hands. It was the perfect touch to a long day of travel. We were taken to the Concierge lounge, which is where my teenager was first awed with the all-inclusive Beaches concept. She could eat all of the M&M cookies she wanted from the bowl and all of the fruit punch she could drink. Of course, the Rum Punch I was drinking was off-limits to her (which left more for me to drink!). We were enthusiastically checked in by a sweet Concierge with a trim and tidy uniform, a beautiful smile on her face, and a dance in her step. Her welcoming spirit and deep laughs immediately made us feel welcome and at home. She walked us to our room, made sure it was acceptable to us and left us to unpack. Overall, the process could not have been more welcoming, settling, and enthusiastic. Even my teenager was impressed, which can be hard to do at that age! It was going to be the perfect weekend.
Right away, we called to make reservations for dinner and to schedule our complimentary snorkeling excursion. That was easy enough, with us scoring our first choices of Kimono's (teppanyaki) and The Venetian (Italian). That meant we could enjoy the buffet the first night!
Our first morning consisted of a morning walk on the famous 7 Mile Beach, upon which Beaches Negril sits on the widest expanse. We took photos, walked in the turquoise water, and giggled like little girls. We saw the large water park, birds that begged us for food, and several other families just getting started for the day. We stopped at The Mill Buffet for breakfast, where the staff helped each guest by serving their food. The safety precautions at the resort were strictly enforced not only by staffing the buffet, but also requiring hand sanitizer at every turn, and plenty of room for distancing. For breakfast, my daughter always favors the pancakes/waffles/ eggs/bacon combo, and I stuck to the passion fruit, kiwi, and eggs combo. The fruit selection was very impressive, and I could have just eaten that for days...
After breakfast, of course, we had to stop by Cafe de Paris for our gelato dessert at 9am! Along with a side of a fresh-chocolate-and-strawberry crepe, we were beginning to really dig into the all-inclusive concept of 'eat what you want, when you want.' She then headed off to the XBox lounge while I enjoyed a long walk on the beach. Kayaking around the shoreline in the afternoon was a perfect way to giggle, while we almost fell in over and over!
The evenings were filled with local Jamaican dancers on the beach, a firebreather, and the Sesame Street characters. Kid focused shows, pool events, and even a Chocolate Party were the stars of every evening. Weddings and receptions were staged through the tropical beachfront locations. Staff was always in a continual buzz of preparation for the next big shin-dig, and the atmosphere was electric with anticipation and excitement, at times.
We spent the rest of our time at Beaches laughing, eating, playing, telling secrets late at night, eating until we were stuffed, and just enjoying what there was to offer. And, I spent the rest of the time enjoying what time I have left with my teenager. It was hitting me, as it does more and more frequently - there isn't going to be years left to travel with my kid. Only a year or two left. That's it. They tend to fly the nest at 18 or so, and I didn't have the luxury of time anymore. What's that saying - the days are long and the years are short? Well, that is becoming more and more true as time marches forward at a pace I cannot stop. Before I left, I felt the pressure to not pull her out of school and to 'keep safe' - but then, the desire to give her a moment of freedom and childhood after a year of stress and confinement was pushing back at me. Yes, I would get off the fence and make the memories. And, looking back, I am certain I made the right choice.
I asked her, on the return flight home, what her favorite memory was of the weekend. It wasn't the standard expected answers - XBox lounge, eating all of the food, or swimming. Nope. Her favorite memory was that she spent a weekend with a mom that was carefree, willing to do the crazy stuff, and laughed the entire time. The mom that usually worries about her kid eating properly and if this swimsuit is flattering instead became the mom that was willing to try some new-to-us sushi, pretended to be a mermaid in the turquoise waters, ate cupcakes and ice cream for breakfast, and was dunked over and over in the lazy river. She loved lying in bed while talking, listening to the frogs call each other late at night, and the tropical rain hitting the balcony doors. Her favorite memory was just my ability to connect with her on her level while letting go of my own fears and suffocating worries when at home. And that connection is all that matters. Every. Single. Time.
While I know there are different health requirements and needs of every family these days, my advice for anyone that can travel is: go for it. Call your favorite MMV travel agent, discuss your options, and just explore what you might be able to do. Beaches Resorts are a great option for kids of all ages, from 0-100! The stringent health protocols are in place to keep you safe, and the resort's dedication to providing a top-notch experience will give you the freedom to unwind from the daily demands and allow everyone to just be a kid again. Because, those long days can be filled with whatever you choose, and for me, I will never regret filling it with laughter, midnight mom-daughter secrets, and pretending to be a beautiful mermaid in the teal surf and in her memories.
Sandals and Beaches are part of Unique Vacations and Magical Moments Vacations is a Top 10 Sandals Star Awards Agency. Contact one of our Sandals/Beaches Expert Agents today to book your Unique Vacations package to one of Unique Vacations' Caribbean Resorts today!
Kristyn Wimer has been an agent with Magical Moments Vacations since 2014 and a Top 20 agent for the past two years. She has extensive travel experience and is a top seller of Sandals and Beaches Resorts!