We recently returned from a 14-night all inclusive vacation in Mexico with our 8-month-old accompanied by my brother and sister-in-law with their 10-month-old and all I can say is; wow, what a difference it is to travel with a baby!
Don’t get me wrong, the trip was amazing. We escaped the cold weather, hung out by the pool and beach all day, ate good food and best of all we did no cleaning or cooking for 2 weeks so how can you complain?
The reality is that travelling with a baby (or two) is very different than travelling as a couple.
Booking the BEST all inclusive vacation for babies
I truly believe this is one of the most important parts of your research. I suggest that you (and your partner) really take your time during this phase. Select your country, location and hotel carefully to ensure you are both comfortable with the choice.
The resort we chose was rated as five-star and it’s located in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
It goes without saying that you should do your own research really carefully before choosing the all inclusive hotel.
The first place I go when deciding on a hotel is Trip Advisor. I love Trip Advisor because you can usually read very recent reviews from many people that have been to the same hotel, and people do NOT hold back. Make sure to read a variety of reviews to get an overall idea of what people think.
Remember that different people have different standards and they may differ from yours, so take it all with a grain of salt.
Guest pictures can bring the review to life so look for those as well.
If you have some time, I will suggest that you and/or your spouse join a Facebook group for the hotels you plan on going to. See what people are saying and posting real-time.
People love posting about anything and everything that they love or hate so you get to see lots of unfiltered positives and negatives before making your decision.
We chose an all inclusive hotel that was known for being “kid friendly”.
There were many parents in the FB group and everyone was raving about how kid friendly the resort was.
A kid friendly all inclusive resort sounded like a great idea for us at the time but in hindsight it turned out not to be the best choice for babies or infants; more on that later.
Choosing the best flight departure time for your all inclusive vacation
Choosing the right departure time for your baby can actually make the whole airport and flight experience much easier with a young baby.
We are early risers and our son usually waked up between 5:30am and 6:00am. On top of that, we really wanted to get to the hotel early enough to enjoy the first day so we booked the earliest flight we could, 6:00am.
Looking back this was NOT a great idea.
A 6:00am flight means a 3:30am arrival at the airport, which translated into a 3:00am departure from home and a 2:30am wake up…
In our naïve minds we were sure we could get the baby from his crib to the airport without waking him up. Huge fail on that one. Babies do not like being woken up in the middle of the night and in fact it messed up his whole day and in turn made the flight itself very difficult.
If I could go back, I would choose a flight that works as closely as possible with his wake-up time. This approach would allow him not to start the day tired and fussy and hopefully help us have a better flight experience.
Packing for an all inclusive vacation with a baby
Remember the days when you could pack a whole large suitcase for yourself and bring all the shoes, clothes and gadgets you wanted? Those days are over, unless you want to pay for extra luggage!
Infants under 2 years old can usually fly for free or very cheap (some airlines charge 10% of an adult ticket) on a parent’s laps in most major airlines.
Baby clothes are tiny and don’t take much space in a luggage, but there are a ton of other items that we figured we had to have with us on this trip in order to keep his routine as much as possible. Some items were a hit and we would never travel without them again, others on the other hand gathered Mexican dust and weren’t so useful.
Clothing aside, let’s start with the basics; diapers, wipes, formula and food.
The way we figured it is that we could either bring all the diapers needed for two weeks or we would need to go off the resort to get some which we weren’t sure when we would be able to do. Diapers at the resort would certainly cost a fortune (and it did) so we decided to stick with what we knew and bring our own.
15 days x 8 diapers/day = 120 diapers
Throw in a few extras for emergency and we had a full large box of diapers (144 units I believe). We chose to remove them from the box but not break the vacuum sealed packaging so they would take less space. There goes half of a luggage…
Flash forward: This was a good amount of diapers. We returned home with about 20 diapers so we ended up using most of them. This is much more than what we use at home these days, but we did expect to be changing him more often, especially when he is going in and out of the pool all day.
For me, a #1 is a one-wiper, a #2 can be anything from 2-5 wipes (I like it nice and clean) so at an average of 3 wipes per diaper:
120 diapers x 3 wipes/diaper = 360 wipes
Round it up to 400 and there goes 4 packs of 100 Kirkland wipes.
Flash forward: We came home with pretty much one full pack left over (100 wipes). In my opinion this was the right amount to bring on this trip.
Our son is mostly breastfed but always has a little bit of formula before bed. We started giving him formula before bed from the day he was born and just never stopped. Prior to the trip, he was having about 4 ounces of pre-mixed formula before bed. About one month before the trip we tried to introduce powdered formula to make it easier to transport but he rejected it really fast.
Because we didn’t know how he would adjust to the eating in Mexico, we more than doubled up on his usual formula intake and packed a full case of 18 x 8oz bottles of Enfamil, just in case he would be hungry.
Side note: there was only powdered formula at our resort and it cost a fortune!!
Flash forward: This one was a surprise. He refused the bottle everyday while on vacation! Didn’t even have one sip of formula. We wasted 3 bottles and then just stopped trying. I guess that’s the end of formula for this little guy.
At home, we make most of the food that our son eats. He eats really well! Steamed veggies, meats, eggs, sweet potatoes, fruit… But how would he eat at the resort? Would he like the food from the buffet? Would there be “baby safe” options available?
We were going in with a flexible mindset and ready to feed him whatever he would accept not worrying so much about nutrition during the vacation.
Just to be sure he would be fed even if he was rejecting the food that was available, we also brought some organic baby food pouches. He doesn’t usually eat these at home but we have used them when on the road and he loves them.
Since we weren’t sure how many he would actually need, we decided on 16 pouches (4.5 oz each), one per day plus one for each flight.
Flash forward: We didn’t have enough baby food pouches. He didn’t love much of the food from the resort and ended up surviving on yogurt, bananas some bread and the premade food pouches we had.
The other stuff you need for vacation
Then there is the other stuff. The things you’re not really sure if and when you will use it but you know you might need it. Here is a list of some of the other things we packed. I will bring them back up in future sections when talking about situations where we actually used them:
- Sleep sack
- Sound machine
- Crib sheet
- Slumber Pod
- Audio/video monitor
- Baby bath towel
- Creams, balms, sunscreen
- Baby soap
- Bottle warmer
- Sippy cups
- Rash guards
- Swimming diapers (reusable and disposable)
- Laundry soap, dish soap, fabric softener
- Laundry line (cord)
- Portable coffee mugs
- Stroller fan
- Tempra & Baby Advil,
- Hydrocortisone cream,
- After-sun care
- Baby bug spray
- Extension cord
- Power bar
- AC power plug adapter (if needed)
Flying to an all inclusive vacation with a baby
Most airlines allow you to bring one or two large items for your baby (stroller, pack n play or car seat). Usually 2 out of the 3 items listed. Our hotel had pack n’ plays available as cribs in each room so we didn’t need to bring one and only brought our full-sized stroller.
The stroller is usually checked in at the gate so you can bring it into the airport and keep it until the last second before you board.
After you check in you need to go through customs. Please check your airport’s rules for travelling with a baby, but usually you are allowed to bring a reasonable amount of formula/breast milk or food with you into the plane. A customs agent may ask you questions but all you have to do is point to your baby.
Now onto the actual flight. Flying with babies is just not easy. Unless your baby sleeps for most of the flight (jackpot!) you’re going to struggle to keep him entertained. Make sure the baby bag is fully equipped with toys, fun snacks, formula or breast milk and most importantly: make sure it’s easily accessible. I would suggest keeping the bag under the seat in front of you.
Most flights from north America to Caribbean all-inclusive destinations are direct flights; Thank God! I would always suggest that you look for a direct flight with a baby. Our flight was about 4 hours and it felt like an eternity!
Even though he slept for about one hour each way, the other 3 hours were a struggle to keep him entertained. Nursing, iPad, food, stand up and walk around, change him and repeat. Everything we tried would work for less than 5 minutes so. Before we knew he was screaming again. There wasn’t much relaxing going on for us or anyone around us.
Sometimes you just have to apologise and go with it.
One suggestion I heard after coming home was to bring a new toy your baby has never seen before. This might work and buy you some calm moments when things get tough.
Finally, remember to feed (bottle or breast) during take-off and landing to help release the pressure in the baby’s ears.
Arriving at the resort hotel
So now you’ve landed, picked up your luggage and your all inclusive vacation is about to start, right? Not yet, my friend… don’t forget about the ride to the hotel!
Before you book the hotel, remember to check how long the bus ride from the airport to the hotel is so you’re not surprised by an additional 2 hours delay before you can dip your toes into that beautiful ocean.
Once you actually get to the hotel you should start to feel like you’re settling in.
If there are many guests arriving just before or at the same time as your bus, you may be stuck in line for a little while before checking in. At least you can now feel the heat and see the finish line. Grab a few welcome drinks and get ready to start enjoying your all-inclusive vacation.
Arrival time and Check-in
We arrived at the hotel around noon so we ended up having to wait over 3 hours before our room was ready. Make sure to pack some light clothing and swimsuits for you and baby in an accessible bag so you can go hit the pool or beach right away. Don’t forget the baby sunscreen ?
If you have a stroller, my suggestion is to ask for a room on the ground floor. It makes life so much easier to just walk into your room and not have to go looking for an elevator that may not be anywhere near your room.
When you’re at an all-inclusive resort with a baby, you will find yourself returning to the room more often than you think so plan the room location in advance and insist on it at check-in.
Getting settled and establishing a vacation routine
I’m a really strong believer in routine, especially with a young baby. Yes, this is a vacation so please be flexible but remember that your little one is very sensitive to change.
If you have a strict routine at home, try not to deviate too much from it. Keep bed times, nap times and wake up times similar to when you’re at home as much as possible. There will surely be some surprises and changes to your plan while on vacation but by trying to stick with what your baby already knows. Believe me, it will set you up for success from the start.
Happy baby = happy vacay
Our baby’s usual bed time at home is 7:15pm to 7:30pm. We knew this would be impossible to keep up on vacation given that restaurants only open at certain times and we also wanted to enjoy some evening time together. So, we made sure to always book the first slot for dinner (6:00pm) and we were able to put our baby in bed by 8:30pm every night.
Keeping a similar routine allowed for full-night sleeps every single night (except one, to be discussed later), 8:30pm to 5:30am without any interruptions. Even though he was getting about one hour less sleep than normal, he was still in a great mood all day which in turn meant that everyone enjoyed the vacation.
It also helped to try to keep his napping schedule pretty much unchanged no matter where we were.
Moral of the story; establish a new routine that is not too different from the usual routine. This new routine should allow for some flexibility given that this is vacation after all.
Daytime activities at the resort
Vacationing as a couple or a single adult is the best definition of freedom I can think of. You can do whatever you want whenever you want. This is no longer the case once you have a baby. Now, your choice of activities will mostly revolve around HIS schedule.
Most of our days had a similar structure that we couldn’t really deviate from too much:
WAKE UP > MEAL > NAP > MEAL > NAP > MEAL > BED
Whatever time you can find in between these is yours to keep ?
Here are some of the daily activities we were able to enjoy while on vacation and how they went:
Meal time was actually a tough one to conquer. To be honest, I don’t think we ever had an easy meal. Both our 8-month-old and his 10-month-old cousin had a very hard time concentrating on eating during the first few days. The food was different, the high chair sucked and there were just too many distractions.
Here are some of our meal time highlights:
The buffets are very busy and distracting for little ones and they just couldn’t focus long enough to eat as much as they usually do at home. Once we noticed that the main issue was distraction, we began to request seats far away from most people on one corner of the buffet and it helped a lot.
Before booking, check what time the buffets open and close so you can plan your day’s ahead of time.
The high chairs
Another aspect we had to overcome was the high chairs. Our son just wasn’t comfortable being seated in them. We soon noticed that the chair was too big for him so he was sitting too low and unable to sit up properly. Our trick was to stuff towels under and around him to prop him up and it instantly helped the situation.
My genius of a brother-in-law brought his Bumbo seat and tray with him and it worked out great for them. I also had one at home but thought it was a waste of space to bring it… how wrong I was. Having the Bumbo allowed him to plop his son anywhere he wanted and give him a meal in a familiar way that he was already accustomed to at home. If you have one or something similar, bring it!
The Snack bar
We also did some meals from the snack bar, outside while sitting by the pool or beach. They weren’t easy either. With an 8-month-old, someone has to hold the baby while the other feeds him by hand. Baby-led-weaning was too hard without a high chair. Also, the quality of the snack bar food just wasn’t that great, it was pretty much burgers and French fries.
The a-la-carte restaurants are simply a much better choice for dinners with kids. The atmosphere is calm, distractions are reduced and in turn the babies ate better and calmer. The only issue is that you have to make reservations and for some reason the hotels like to make it hard for you to make a reservation.
Most a-la-carte restaurants at our resort opened at 6:00pm so we were able to book dinners on all of them for most nights of our trip.
If the concierge tells you they don’t have space at a certain time, make sure to insist and explain that your baby goes to bed early. They always gave us a hard time to book but somehow always had many empty tables.
I LOVE the beach, but the pool just turned out to be a lot more fun with an infant baby. Especially with a baby that couldn’t be exposed to too much sun due to heat rashes and being on antibiotics for most of the trip (more on that later).
Our beach time was limited due to a few annoyances:
- A nice stroller + sand is not a good combination. We decided to carry our stroller to our location on the beach instead of pushing it through the sand. We sometimes used our Ergobaby carrier instead of the stroller. The thing is, not only does baby-carrying in the sun get hot and sweaty really fast, but you also don’t have a place to put baby down when he’s tired.
- Beach was too crowded. The chairs were very close to each other and there wasn’t much space to move around if you wanted to be near any shade.
- Not much shade available. Unless you arrived at the beach before 7:30am you were not able to reserve a chair under any shade. On top of that, even if you did the shade would move and, in a few hours, you would be left in the sun. I don’t have an issue with the sun but our baby was on antibiotics so he was not supposed to be exposed to much direct sun light.
- 8-month-olds want to crawl and eat sand. You can only hold a baby for so long before they want to be independent for a bit. All he wanted to do was crawl around or cruise on the beach chairs and touch the sand. You can’t avoid sand and anything that got in his hands would end up in his mouth.
Even with these little annoyances we still found time to hang out at the beach. The best times were early mornings for sunrise and late afternoons when most people were leaving and the sun wasn’t as strong.
The pool was amazing! It took us a few days to really settle in and find the best spots to hang out. We wanted some shade, some sun, a few chairs by the pool and a bar close by. Once we found our spot, we gave in and did it like everyone else and reserved our spot with towels. I know this is frowned upon, but when everyone else is reserving their spots, the only thing you can do is play the same game.
Lucky for us we were up at the crack of dawn every morning.
The best thing I can recommend for some fun time in the pool with your baby is a floatie with a canopy. We used this one but any one will do. He was actually a bit small for the leg holes so we just sat him in it and he loved it. Throw a few toys in there and they can be entertained for a while.
If your baby doesn’t love the pool right away, don’t worry. Remember it’s all new to them and it may take some time to get used to it. Keep trying and they will eventually love it.
We are a family that takes napping seriously (for the baby). We know that a tired, cranky baby makes life difficult for everyone around so we really try to stick to our nap schedules and being on vacation was no different.
We were really glad to have our full-sized stroller because 90% of his naps happened in it. We reclined the stroller, turned on the white noise on our portable sound machine, turned on the fan, threw a thin muslin over the sides to block out any distractions and watched him drift away into nappy-land.
Sometimes we had to just push the stroller around for a few minutes before he would fall asleep.
There were a few times we were all a bit tired and we went back to the room for the second nap but mostly they happened on the go. The best was when one of the naps would coincide with our (late) lunch time and we were even able to have a few quiet meals. I called them Dream Meals!
The lesson here is to stick with your routine even though things are so different and sometimes chaotic.
Evening and night time at the resort
Once the sun went down it was time to go back to the room and get ready for our VERY early dinners. We were always either the first people at the buffet or had the first reservations at the restaurants.
Dinner time started at 6pm for us while on vacation.
Going to Supper
We the buffet for the first couple of nights but quickly realized the connection between the chaos at the buffet and the babies not eating well.
As soon as we tried the first a-la-carte restaurant we knew we couldn’t go back to the buffet.
The experience was just significantly better, and so was the food. We could all stay seated and have our food delivered to our table, allowing us to just focus on keeping baby happy.
They always had kid meals available but the babies would sometimes take them happily and other times not. So, we always brought some snacks along with us and requested specific things from the kitchen. Most of the time they would comply without any issues.
Supper times were hit or miss. Sometimes we would have a great experience, others one of the parents would be bouncing the baby while the other ate and vice versa. I would suggest to going in with no expectation and as usual, go with the flow.
We kept our bedtime routine very similar to at home.
Supper > Bath > Book > Feed> Sleep
The one twist we had is that at home he would always breastfeed and then have a top up of formula. To our surprise he rejected the bottle every single time for the first 3 nights and then we just gave up on it. And he hasn’t taken a bottle since.
Even though our bedtime routine was about an hour later than usual, it didn’t seem to affect him too much. He never slept later than 5:30am (which is the same at home) but he was still getting 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Putting baby to sleep
We sleep trained our son at about 5 months of age and he took really well to it. In fact, he has slept the entire night, every night since then when he was up 3 to 4 times every night before the training.
So, we have come to LOVE sleeping the whole night and would hate to break our winning streak.
Before leaving on this trip we did some research and found out about the SlumberPod. The SlumberPod has turned out to be THE BEST travel accessory we could have ever bought. What it does is that it gives your baby a private, dark room within your room. It is perfect for hotel rooms where you are sharing the living space. It allows baby to go to bed and mom and dad to go on with their evenings.
As you can see from the multiple wires going into the SlumberPod we had a camera (audio + video monitor) as well as our portable sound machine and a portable fan to move the air inside the pod.
If your baby is used to sleeping in a dark and quiet room on their own, I implore you to take a look at the SlumberPod before heading out to an all-inclusive vacation! The material is really nice, breathable and it’s REALLY dark. There are also other cheaper options like the SnoozeShade out there that could suit your needs.
Baby is Sleeping, now what?
Well, it’s time to enjoy some much-needed relaxation time. We sometimes ventured out, one parent at a time while the other stayed in the room with the baby, but mostly we hung out in the room or the balcony.
We have an audio/video baby monitor to see and hear what was happening inside the SlumberPod which came in handy many times. We have the Toguard, but there are so many others out there that will do just the same or better as well.
The pack n play provided by the hotel was obviously not his crib and definitely not as comfortable so he would sometimes roll around a bit unhappy and then put himself back to sleep. It was nice to be able to see what he was doing.
If you have a ground floor room with pool access you could even hang out in the pool while safely monitoring your baby. I think that’s what I will do next time!
Sick babies on vacation
Here is the truth, babies get sick, and sometimes they get sick on vacation. I know, it sucks, but it happens.
Here is how it unfolded during our 14 day all inclusive vacation:
Day 0: Arrive at the resort
Day 1: Cousin gets sick, goes see the on-staff doctor at the resort and finds out he has a double ear infection. Gets on antibiotics and Tylenol/advil right away and continues for 7 days until the infection is cleared.
Day 2: Our son starts showing some signs of sickness. We go see the doctor to find out he also has a double ear infection. Gets on antibiotics and Tylenol/advil right away and continues for 10 days until the infection is almost fully cleared.
Follow ups with the doctor every 2 days to see if inflammation was going down.
Day 11: Ear infection/inflammation is cleared BUT now he is diagnosed with Hand Foot and Mouth (HFM) disease. Nothing to do for HFM but pain control and wait
Day 14: Peak of HFM symptoms and it’s our last day of vacation ☹
The ear infection hit him hard during our second night and cause him to wake up very unhappy in the middle of the night for the first time is a very long time.
We noticed his temperature was elevated (just a mild fever) but it would drop to normal ranges during the day.
He was rubbing his face and ears a lot and since his cousin was just diagnosed with an ear infection we figured there was a good chance he had it as well, and he did.
Seeing the doctor on vacation
The resort had a Doctor onsite available 24hrs per day which was great. If you’re travelling with children I would suggest checking that your hotel also provides this service. The consultation cost US$130.
The doctor at the resort was good but not great. We are used to North American medical standards so we were slightly doubtful of her diagnosis but not enough to need a second opinion. Her prescription was a penicillin-based antibiotic which is standard practice so we went with it.
The hotel concierge called the pharmacy and ordered the medication which was delivered to the hotel a couple of hours later. It cost us about US$40 for 12 days worth of antibiotics even though he only needed 7 days initially and then ended up extending to 10 days.
The antibiotics came in powder form in a small glass bottle. It needed to be manually mixed with water (suspension) and given to the baby with a syringe 2 times per day.
We also ordered some extra baby Tylenol and Advil which cost less than $4 each. And gave it to him for a few days alternating between them every 4 hours as prescribed by the doctor.
In the end, the two minor health issues he had were harder on us than on him. They didn’t affect him much if at all, except for the day we found out about the ear infection. Otherwise, he was his usual happy self with regular fussy instances just like at home on a good day.
The lessons learned for us here were that you do need to be diligent when travelling with a baby and be careful about potential harm to the little ones. But at the same time, the vacation is to be enjoyed and as long as your little one is his usual self you should be fine.
Packing up and heading back home
Now onto the sad part. After spending 14 days of pure sunshine and (almost) no chores, it was time to pack up and go home.
One thing we did on the way back was reduce the handbag and carryon count in order to free up some hands for handling the baby on the bus and at the airport. I would suggest no more than one wheelie carry one and a couple of back packs. This allows for enough free hands and not too much clutter when you board the airplane before your flight.
Another little surprise was the size of the van that came to pick us up to return to the airport. On the way to the hotel we had a large bus with plenty of space for all passengers. On the way back however it was one seat per person in a small, tightly packed van. Just a small challenge for new parents right before a flight.
Tips for your all-inclusive vacation with a baby
Travelling with babies is never easy, but it sure is worth it. Even with all of the added pressure and restrictions you may encounter because you now also need to keep your baby happy, fed and rested, you and your family can still find plenty of time to relax and enjoy some time away from home.
All-inclusive vacations are perfect to gain some traveling experience because they remove most of the responsibilities you may otherwise have on a normal vacation. No need to worry about cleaning, cooking, finding a restaurant to eat or even planning anything special for the day. Just go with the flow and enjoy your time.
Here is a list of tips and recommendations for parents planning on going to an all-inclusive vacation with their baby for the first time:
- Do extensive research on the resort hotel you plan on booking. Use resources like Facebook groups, Instagram hashtags, Trip Advisor guest reviews and picture to help you see the whole picture and have a good idea about what the hotel is really like today, not five years ago.
- Book flights at an appropriate time that is in line with your baby’s schedule. Avoid very early and late evening flights so you don’t interfere with your baby’s night sleep. You can always adjust naps but a night cut short can cost the whole family precious hours of sleep for days.
- Reserve an aisle seat or upgrade for more space. Upgrading can cost a lot so if you’re not up for paying extra, at least get yourself an aisle seat so you can get up and move around when the baby gets fussy.
- Don’t get to the hotel too early to avoid waiting too long for the room. You don’t know what mood baby will be in when you get to the hotel. Make sure you arrive around check-in time and are able to get your room right away.
- Get a room on the ground floor. Walking 5 to 10 minutes to the closest elevator at a huge resort gets old really fast. Your may be returning to your room many times so a ground floor room makes it so much easier to just stroll in and out.
- Plan for baby’s sleep arrangement. If the baby sleeps well, everyone will enjoy the vacation more. Plan carefully for how and where your baby will sleep and if possible, try to have a separate sleeping space for baby so you can go about your evening in the room.
- Be careful with extended sun exposure. We all want to get a tan and feel the heat, but babies can be sensitive to the strong, mid-day, Caribbean sun. Find some shade and hang out away from the sun from time to time, especially between 10am and 3pm.
- See if grandma or grandpa would like come on vacation. An extra set of hands or two could be so helpful in many situations. Ask other family members if they are free to come along. Having someone else hold the baby for a few hours or overnight can help the parents so much.
- Overpack for baby and under pack for you. Bring anything and everything you think your baby likes or may need for the duration of your trip. Food, toys, books, fans, creams, medication, soap, and the list goes on. Make a list and review it many times to ensure you don’t forget something important.
- Book more than a week. One week goes by so fast, especially if baby has a few bad days. If possible book for 10 or 14 days to really get the most of it.