Part 2: How we did it…
But I’ll admit that getting there was a cause for concern, with all the initial anxiety around the affordability of the trip. After a lot of research we found some ways to not only save some money, making the trip quite reasonable for a family a five, but also managed to make the overall experience more pleasant for the parents in our group.
In part 1 we talked about all the wonderful amenities and beauty offered by the Iberostar Rose Hall Suites, especially for those planning a destination wedding involving a larger number of guests, and guest with families. In part 2, I’m going to share some tips for how we managed to make this trip happen, and how we coordinated all the guests and the kids.
WEPlusTHREE…or More’s Top 8 Tips:
- By the Numbers. With three kids, the option of all staying in one room was not an option, especially when pricing the trip out. As we did not want to, nor could really justify, paying for two rooms and dividing up parents and kids (just silly!!), we took a look at the guest list, found out who our singles, doubles and large families were, and started filling rooms by numbers, not family units. At the end of the day, the cost was reduced for both families and singles, and if you’ve ever travelled with kids, their cousins/friends and grandparents, you know that sleepovers and room allocations are changing nightly.
- A la Carte is always an option. Consider booking flight and hotel separately – not for the faint of heart, but given that this was a big trip for us times 5 people, I decided it was worth a shot. For our family of five we saved approximately $400 per person, so about $2000, by finding a lower room rate and booking our flight during a flight sale. Transfers were available through the hotel, the travel agent and there are a lot of private shuttle services available that charge about $7 per person each way.
- Book Direct. Book a direct flight if it’s an option and not too much more expensive. Running off an airplane and trying to catch a connector with three + kids, even more carry-on’s and purses, a blankey, a ziggy (special stuffed animal) and headset cords flapping in the wind is not my idea of a good time! Especially in the summer months when storms can come and go so quickly and wreak havoc on your travel plans. And missing a connector due to delays can put anyone on edge and start or end a holiday on a bad note.
- Stay Connected. Walkie-Talkies are a must when traveling with such a large group. One of the best ideas we had was getting a bunch of walkie-talkies, about 8 of them, and giving them to each family to keep with them. This helped us find people, coordinate activities and dinners, and give enough of the kids an annoying toy to bother my child-less brother with – “breaker-breaker” – well worth the expense for that part alone!!
- Room Service – who knew that the benefits of room service included the prevention of a melt-down. Every day we got ready for dinner a couple hours or so before the actual meal. For parents this meant bathing, drying and re-dressing kids for the restaurant. Parents of daughters with long hair, you know what I’m talking about when I say you need hours. After a whole afternoon of swimming and activities, they were hungry! Ordering room service to the room as soon as we got there meant that we had food waiting for them as they were getting out of the bath, and allowed them to eat something before it was too late (i.e. meltdown). The variety of options for Room Service at the Iberostar Rose Hall Suites as great and with later reservations (usually after 7:30pm), and a number of courses to get through before the main course, we were able to eat in peace and were not too concerned if they ‘ate their dinner’ or not.
- Take a Time Out – while I was very nervous and hesitant to leave the kids at a kids club and had never done it before, we were very impressed by the staff and the layout of Lucy’s Mini Club. This was a welcome break not only for us, but apparently the kids! Take the kids there for a few hours after lunch allowed us to explore the beach, go scuba diving, play beach volleyball, hit up the spa and the casino, lull on the lazy river, and for a couple of people, get a message on the beach. Not something you can readily do with Junior tugging on your wrap.
- Go Foreign. Saving the best for last…..Compare prices on the European or British versions of travel sites. As crazy as it sounds we found that the pricing of rooms was sometimes less expensive when booked through a British site or the British version of a site. As the Caribbean has a large influx of Europeans travelling year round, and even more staying for longer periods of time during summer months, they seem to get bigger discounts at some resorts. Not always the case, but sometimes. (This is even true for some ‘local’ North American resorts too).
- Bonus: Now this is just for you for reading all the way through– don’t tell anyone – but if you book on a foreign site and find that you can get a better price, see if they have a drop down menu for payment – you can sometimes pay in your local currency saving you exchange rates on your credit card and giving you a ‘real’ cost in currency you understand. Check it out….but don’t tell everyone. We wouldn’t want the travel sites to catch on!
In Part 3 we’ll look at some of the excursions offered in Jamaica and what we did that really got my heart racing! Thank you to Michelle Sobhraj and the staff at the Iberostar Rose Hall Suites in Montego Bay, Jamaica for all their help in coordinating our large family destination wedding!!
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What are your best tips for family travel? Share your ideas and experiences in the Comments section below.