If your family vacations are anything like my family vacations, you come out of them with an ever-growing list of painfully awkward dad jokes at which you can't help but laugh, new standings following some friendly sibling competition in beach ladder golf, and a wealth of inadvertently hilarious one-liners your mother dropped over dinners that you'll reference for years to come.
But despite how much fun they can be, planning a family trip isn't necessarily a piece of cake (especially if you have a massive family like mine or small children). That's why all-inclusive resorts are ideal for families, as they offer something for everyone in the family and require far less planning since meals and many activities come as part of the package.
Here are 15 family-friendly all-inclusive resorts to consider for your next trip together.
The Atlantis Palm Underwater Hotel is arguably the world's most famous underwater resort, as it's in the middle of a massive aquarium. In terms of accommodation, you'll pick your vice between the twin three-story Neptune and Poseidon underwater suites, where Persian Gulf marine life will drift by your floor-to-ceiling windows. Your view: The majestic Ambassador Lagoon, a three-million-gallon aquarium filled with more than 65,000 marine animals.
If you indeed book into one of those two aforementioned suites, you'll be gifted AED 2,500 (about $680 USD) to spend at the resort (swimming with sea lions, anyone?), as well as two complimentary Dolphin Encounters and unlimited access to Aquaventure Waterpark.
Speaking of underwater resorts, Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore is another resort in an aquarium — in fact, it's one of the world's biggest aquariums, boasting 11 exclusive ocean suites designed like deluxe, two-story townhouses. Think: five-star comfort, butler service and views of both the land and "the seas" through windows that look out to over 40,000 fish.
When you're not relaxing on your own outdoor patio replete with a private jacuzzi, you'll be enjoying the culinary artistry from celebrity chefs who are mixing up meals from Chinese, Japanese, French and Italian influence.
Another option for families with grown-up children (i.e. adults) is the Waitui Beach Club, which just opened its doors in 2015. That's because it boasts everything you ever imagined an adult playground would while combining dovetail innate French elegance with the exotic ambiance of island spirit. You can cozy up in a cocoon by the pool, float on a blow-up seat at the swim-up bar, take complimentary yoga, stretching or boot camp classes, or just get yourself situated for a famous Fijian sunset followed by nightly live entertainment from the club’s resident DJ.
You can also enjoy complimentary non-motorized activities such as kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, and take free intro-dive courses offered on Mondays and Thursdays at the Sofitel swimming pool. Of course, other motorized watersports like jet skiing are available, and you can take further PADI courses and surfing classes, as well.
What better way to entertain young children on family vacation than by taking them to a Nickelodeon-themed hotel and resort? Your children will be greeted with a Slime Smoothie (because, of course) upon arrival, while you'll ge tto choose between a sparkling wine or a Slime beverage of your own. That's not the end of the slime, either. There's an actual slime zone with "mass slimings" — when everyone gets drenched in it. And that's on top of the water slides, splash pads, lazy river and spray grounds.
After that kind of fun all day, you can sit down together for a meal with everyone from Spongebob SquarePants to Dora the Explorer, or go for an "adult" dinner while you send the kids off to supervised activities (like how to make slime).
The development of Puntacana Resort & Club dates back to 1969 when Dominican businessman and hotelier Frank R. Rainieri and prominent New York attorney Theodore W. Kheel created a partnership to construct a resort and real estate community that respects the natural habitat of Punta Cana while still offering guests a world-class vacation experience. Dedicated to sustainable tourism, Puntacana Resort & Club has since grown to encompass over 26 square miles, including Tortuga Bay, Six Senses Spa, the Grupo Puntacana Foundation, four residential communities (Corales, Serena, Hacienda, Marina and Arrecife); a full-service marina, nine restaurants, a shopping village, two 18-hole golf courses and Punta Cana International Airport, a modern facility that incorporates innovative and eco-friendly design.
While you're off golfing, you can send the kids out to learn about the beekeeping, lombricompost, iguanas, bird watching, coral restoration and more through a guided sustainability tour via the Puntacana Ecological Foundation. Or maybe they'd prefer to join the Puntacana Ecological Foundation in monitoring the Ridgeway Hawks (just 300 remain worldwide) in the Dominican Republic. Or they could take it easy and go swim with the turtles and tropical fish in the naturally occurring freshwater lagoons.
This eco-conscious, palm-fringed resort in Indonesia is a former surfing retreat that's earned a spot on tons of lists for the world's best beach resorts. The resort's philosophy is "The Edge of Wildness." That's because, even though it's just about a one-hour flight from Bali, it's nestled wtihin a nature reserve with more than 1.5 miles of white-sand beaches. The 33 air-conditioned, thatched villas are the perfect tropical slice of paradise for you and your entire family — some offer up to five bedrooms with large living rooms, private plunge pools and even butler service so you can all relax (free daily yoga!). Families can even reserve the quirky three-story treehouse.
All meals, snacks and some beverages and activities are included in the rate that'll partially contribute to the Sumba Foundation's community projects, providing fresh water, medical care, and communal farms for local villages.
This elegant resort is on the entirely car-free island of Jumby Bay. You and your family will have to cycle around together to get to and from your luxury guest rooms or villas, which are all equipped with modern conveniences like large flat screens, Bose sound systems and Nespresso coffee machines.
Added luxuries include private chefs and butlers, as well. It'll be an active vacation, as you can enjoy swimming in the infinity pool, play tennis at the courts, playing golf at the course or hitting the beach.
What's a more simultaneously fun and immersive idea for a family vacation than an African safari? Royal Malewane in South Africa is located in Thornybush Game Reserve, bordering Kruger National Park. Your neighbors at the lodge? Just some resident lions. But don't worry. When you're not driving around in the mornings and evening checking out game, you'll be safe inside your (air-conditioned!) suite replete with mosquito nets. And you can still enjoy views of the wildlife, like elephants roaming in the distance, from your outdoor shower or deck and plunge pool. Bigger families can even reserve the Africa House, a six-bedroom villa with a private chef.
Cottar's 1920s Safari Camp in Kenya is set on 6,000 acres of private game reserve near the border of Tanzania, near both the Serengeti National Park and the Maasai Mara National Reserve, which are arguably two of the most famous game reserves in Africa. This isn't just a typical camping experience, however. You'll be sleeping in one of 10 luxury tents (with ensuite bathrooms) with staff that'll ensure a five-star experience and expert Maasai guides and trackers who'll make sure that you find the "big five" — lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalos and elephants. In fact, you'll even be able to peep outside from bed and check out the zebras roaming around. Meals will be cooked from fresh food grown right in the camp, and you'll enjoy them in the dining tent together when you're not out on a drive or getting pampered in the spa.
11. andBeyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge – Botswana
The luxury, all-inclusive resort sits in the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the northern region of the country of Botswana. A vacation in one of the 12 air-conditioned suites (including a family suite) here means the opportunity to see rhinos, lions, giraffes and more wildlife with safari and riverboat tours (included in the rates!), meals and drinks. Enroll the kids in the WILDChild program, where they'll learn more about the animals. And, of course, schedule some morning and evening game drives, bush walks, perhaps even a scenic helicopter flight.
12. The Singular, Patagonia – Puerto Bories, Patagonia (Chile)
Patagonia is deep in the south of Chile. And there, on 30 acres of coveted land, sits The Singular — a hotel featuring 57 rooms that include food and alcohol, plus activities like horseback riding, kayaking and more. The hotel overlooks the iconic Fjord of Last Hope, and the site was actually formerly the Bories Cold Storage Plant in the early 1900s, so it boasts a lot of history. Don't expect a laidback family vacation, however, Patagonia is recognized as one of the top adventure destinations in the world, set in the middle of the Andes Mountains. And the Chilean side is famous for its glacial fjords and temperate rainforest, which means there will be a look of unforgettable hiking to do.
13. Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Thailand – Thailand
Thailand is an easy destination to bring the whole family, simply, because life there is easy. You're spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches, the food is unparalleled and there's no shortage of activities from hiking to surfing to taking cooking classes. The Goldren Triangle, where the countries of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet, attracts travelers from all over the world. And, in the Thai corner, sits this Four Seasons tented resort.
You can choose from an array of packages with different activities includes in your rate. And, because of the proximity to both Laos and Myanmar, some of those activities might even include crossing borders for more passport stamps. Go hiking in bamboo jungles, go give baby elephants baths, visit temples or just relax in the spa.
14. Lizard Island Resort – Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Are you a family of adventurers? This all-inclusive resort is a second home for scuba diving enthusiasts who come from all over the world to dive the Great Barrier Reef, which spans over 1, 429 miles. It sits on Lizard Island which boasts 24 beaches and 40 luxury suites — in other words, that means a private beach for every family. Your included meals will be some culinary take on the catch of the day, which you'll enjoy after a day of diving, snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding or relaxing on the beach.
It's only an hour flight from Cairns, if you want to explore more of Australia while you're in the area, too.
15. Club Med Cancún Yucatán, Mexico
Club Med is a resort set in an environment surrounded by beaches and jungles full of mystical cenotes (caverns of intricate rock formations and lush vegetation) in Mexico's Riviera Maya. And it's the perfect getaway for families full of outdoor enthusiasts wanting to explore the Yucatán Peninsula and preserve the environment. This all-inclusive resort is lined with three blonde beaches just steps from the world's second largest coral reef. You are your family will enjoy unlimited gourmet dining at one of three on-site restaurants, as well as unlimited adventures from snorkeling, sailing, water skiing and windsurfing to archery, tennis, flying trapeze and more. The kids (four to 17) can even enjoy the kids club or, if they're too young, you can send them off to the Petit Club Med club.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.