Don’t Judge My Overpriced, All-Inclusive Vacation that Featured 9AM to 1AM Child Care

When people at the office asked about my upcoming vacation, what I was compelled to share had nothing to do with the destination. I never divulged that I was headed to Ixtapa, Mexico. I never mentioned that I was going to a place with 85 degree year-round weather and oceans that were bathwater warm. I never shared that it was a Club Med or mentioned its better-known amenities, such as flying trapeze, tennis, and sailing.

All of that was secondary — tertiary, even — to the single thing that mattered most. So deliciously appealing, and so coveted was this surprisingly rare amenity that I had to train giddy excitement from my voice each time I replied: “We’re going to a resort that includes 9AM to 1AM child care.” Those who got it (mostly other parents of young children) congratulated me in jealous awe. But this article is for the haters. Astoundingly, there are many, but I’ve summoned you here for a reason. I think there are a few things you might want to consider about vacations like this, and some things you might not know.

Haters: I’ve seen your judgmental looks, and heard your cautiously articulated questions. “How could you ditch your kids on vacation instead of spending time as a family?” some hater moms come right out and say. “Why did you even have kids if you don’t want to spend time with them?” some aspiring not-yet-parents appear to think. More practical parents wonder “Why would you pay that much money for someone to watch your kids at a resort when you could just put them in school and have a staycation home, or better yet, leave them home and go on vacation solo?”

All of these questions lead back to a single, authentic answer: I choose vacations like this because it is critical to my well-being that I fully recharge my own battery; and it’s crucially important that my children witness me giving myself that gift.

That’s right — it’s important that my children are not only peripherally aware of but also witness me choosing time for myself over time with or for them. If they only see me doing laundry, helping with homework, flying off on business trips, and reading bedtime stories, they will believe that is all that moms do. If the only vacations they ever go on are to Disneyland, that is what they will think vacation is. If I left them home while I went on a grown-up vacation, they would miss the repetition of the letting go for the day, and the lesson that even after we have done things apart for awhile, we keep coming back together each afternoon and spend dinner and evenings as a family.

But there’s more: while in the kids club on this vacation, my boys learned character and relationship lessons that they could not have earned any other way. That’s right — separate time on vacation not only served us — it served them, too. Specifically:

Without us in the mix, our kids bonded with each other. My 2-year-old and 5-year-old boys are fierce frenemies at home. What we noticed on vacation (the first time they were ever in a shared setting together, but without us) is that they stuck together. Every afternoon when we went to join them for the family activity, we found them holding hands or sitting together. At various points when we spied them together by happenstance around the resort, they were together and taking care of each other.

Teachable moments about new places and new friends emerged. Our 5-year-old met a not-so-nice alpha kid who made fun of him every day in kids club. We live in a town in which everybody is very friendly so this was hard for our kid. Throughout the week, we had 3–4 dinner conversations about what to do about mean kids, how to choose friends, and whether it is important to have friends everywhere you go. Two days before we left, a new kid came who was really nice. Our son had followed our advice about finding the nice kids and showing that he’s a nice kid too by not acting like the alphas.

Teachable moments about being open to new experiences and maintaining perspective. We told our kids that we were going to grown-up camp where there are things that only grown-ups can do but we reminded them how many fun things they had to do at kids camp (and they really did — one night they put on an all ages play with full costumes, dances and makeup; they staged pirate attacks and treasure hunts on the beach and throughout the resort, again with the kids in full costume; they had a kid pool party one afternoon, a princess show one night — the kids program was excellent). Instead of glossing over our separation from them and focusing them on how soon we would be back, we reminded them how lucky they were to have so many fun things to do while we were at grown up camp. At various points, they both went on and on about how much fun they were having.

So, where’s the rub? Vacations like this are expensive. We paid $5,000 for the land-only portion of our Club Med Ixtapa vacation and $7,500 for the land-only portion of an earlier vacation at Beaches Turks & Caicos (in both cases, these fees included food, most alcohol and child care for two small kids). I fully realize this kind of vacation is not feasible for most people (it’s barely feasible for us), and we are grateful that we can do it.

As we’ve learned by now, vacationing like this has made us part of a small but dedicated tribe. Most other families we have met at these resorts have been to other family-focused all-inclusives and they tended to be in situations similar to ours (e.g., living in areas that were isolated from their own families, had very little child care support close to home, and really needed a break).

The only thing I wonder is: why aren’t there more resorts like this? Or more hotels with programs for kids younger than 5? I have a few theories (and a good idea for a business model for any resort franchise that wants to own this market) but I’ll address that in a second post.