When you have little ones, your vacation priorities change—drastically. Whereas there might have been a time when you were into, say, rowdy nightlife, molecular gastronomy, or keeping things laid-back and carefree, traveling with kids in tow often involves dealing with earlier bedtimes, picky eaters, and levels of advance planning surpassing some military operations.
That’s where family-friendly all-inclusive resorts come in. They can be a haven for tiny humans and their parents when it comes to thoughtful design, amenities, location, cuisine, and activities, all tailored to travelers in the child-rearing phase of life. And because meals, many activities, and other services and amenities are covered in the nightly rate, families can spend less time planning their every move and more time having fun.
For parents seeking reliable, relaxing vacation options, here are 9 of the best family-friendly all-inclusive resort brands for all sorts of travelers.
(Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda in the Dominican Republic | Credit: Club Med)
For the Most Comprehensive Kids Programming: Club Med
Founded in 1950 by Gérard Blitz, Club Med is one of the OG brands in the all-inclusive world. It’s been around so long and has inspired such loyalty among guests that many become “generational lifers”—the sort of vacationers who grew up going to Club Med and now bring their own children. The chain’s first childcare program launched in the 1960s and has since expanded to include offerings for age groups from babies through teens.
Infants get the 5-star treatment at the primary restaurant with a “baby corner” stocked with essentials including jarred food and bottle warmers. A “Pajama Club” for toddlers makes babysitters available in the evenings so that parents can have a date night. During the day, tots can hit the baby gym to fine-tune motor skills or take part in talent shows, masquerades, and other activities.
Programming for older kids adheres to the resort's six pillars of “positive education”: Creativity, Confidence, Connection, Cheerfulness, Courage, and Cooperation. This could include learning choreography for a big theater number to perform in front of the parents and other guests; weaving through playground obstacle courses; baking; being a “nature detective” identifying onsite flora and fauna; solving puzzles and working together to complete scavenger hunts; and performing random acts of kindness such as leaving positive messages and art for others to find around the resort.
If that’s not enough stimulation, kids and teens can learn aerial tricks at the resort’s circus school, while teens can indulge in spa treatments geared specifically toward them (offers vary by resort location).
It’s pretty much impossible for kids to be bored at one of Club Med’s more than 70 resorts (and counting) across 30 different countries.
Family rooms are available in three categories: Superior, Deluxe, and Suites. All are spacious and comfy with numerous configurations available involving separate living quarters and/or entrances for privacy or shared living space. Interconnecting rooms are available at several Club Med locations, too.
Locations in North and South America, the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Mediterranean
(Nature walk at Sandos Caracol in Playa del Carmen, Mexico | Credit: Sandos Hotels & Resorts)
For Active Kiddos: Sandos Hotels & Resorts
Sandos has a total of nine properties, primarily in Spain and Mexico. Three of them are especially noteworthy when it comes to families: Sandos Caracol and Sandos Playacar, both in Playa del Carmen, Mexico; and Sandos Papagayo on the Spanish island of Lanzarote.
Sandos is a particularly strong choice for families with wiggle worms. The chain’s Kids Club (for ages 4–10) keeps participants busy with an extensive and fun schedule that includes mini Zumba, yoga, water polo, pool surfing, and a lot more. At set times, toddlers younger than age 4 can also access club facilities with parental supervision.
The fitness vibes extend to other family-friendly outdoor offerings such as bike rentals, water sports, and a water park.
Room options range from eco-family suites stocked with sustainable furnishings and amenities to superior family rooms with prime jungle views and bunk beds for the kids.
Locations in Mexico, Spain, and elsewhere
(Macaw at Iberostar Cozumel resort in Mexico | Credit: Heather Suggitt on Unsplash)
For Budding Eco-Activists: Iberostar
If you’re seeking summer camp vibes for little ones, look to Iberostar, whose Star Camp is founded on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences that posits there are a variety of ways to nourish young and curious minds. With programming adapted to specific age groups (4–7-year-olds, 8–12-year-olds, and 13–17-year-olds), games and educational activities (including face painting, water games, cooking, sports) teach values such as teamwork, leadership, and problem solving.
Chief among Iberostar’s priorities is teaching kids to be environmentally conscious and to learn how to preserve underwater life. Programs range from beachside investigations and marine life identification to snorkeling for older kids.
Of course, Iberostar also has a slew of fun, less educational amenities like water parks and children’s pools. Family rooms are well-appointed, and there are interconnecting rooms for large groups. Premium and junior suites showcase sunset and beach views from private patios.
Locations in the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa
For Pop Culture Fanatics: Nickelodeon Resorts
(Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya in Cancún, Mexico | Credit: Karisma Hotels & Resorts)
Are your kids obsessed with the likes of PAW Patrol, Dora the Explorer, and SpongeBob SquarePants? If the answer is a resounding yes, your pintsize pop-culture aficionados will be thrilled to stay at a Nickelodeon Resort.
It’s kind of like being at a theme park with all the character meet-and-greets—but minus the roller coasters. You won’t miss them, though, thanks to the Aqua Nick water park (where you can swim, go down slides, and get slimed), live entertainment featuring oversized characters singing and dancing, and Club Nick, a kids-only zone for ages 4–12.
Nick properties earn bonus points for thoughtful toddler amenities—stroller and crib rentals, bottle warmers, highchairs, and so on—that relieve you of having to pack a nursery’s worth of gear in your suitcase. There’s even a Baby Zone that’s essentially a babysitting service that charges by the hour to look after the tiniest travelers (under age 4).
Family rooms echo the bright and playful mood of the Nickelodeon brand, especially in the cartoonish color schemes, and also have thoughtful touches such as abundant places to sleep (queen- or king-sized beds, pullout sofas, Murphy beds), private swim-up pools, and spacious balconies.
Locations in Mexico and the Dominican Republic
For Growing Gamers: Royalton Resorts
(Kids club at Royalton Saint Lucia resort | Credit: Royalton Resorts)
Royalton has a large portfolio of resorts, some of which aren’t intended for kids. But Royalton properties in Cancún, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, and elsewhere in the Caribbean make family-friendly fun a focus.
With programming geared toward kids ages 4–12 and teens 13–17, the resorts offer a Kids Club with indoor games, structured outdoor activities with counselors, and playground time, while the Hangout Teens Club is outfitted with arcade-style games, billiards, and ping-pong.
Budding gamers will appreciate offerings such as PlayStation lounges, virtual reality gaming involving Oculus Quest headsets, and puzzle-solving escape rooms. When kids max out their screen-time allowance, beach volleyball, dance classes, pool games, and other activities supply ways to keep moving and enjoy the outdoors.
Modern, sophisticated suites offer views of the ocean or the city, and can come with extras like separate sitting areas or in-room hot tubs.
Locations in Mexico and the Caribbean
(L–R: Imagine Kids Club Water Park at Finest Playa Mujeres in Cancún, Mexico, and family pool time at Finest Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic | Credit: Finest Resorts)
For Spa-Going Small Fry: Finest Resorts
One of the biggest selling points of this luxury all-inclusive brand with two locations in the Caribbean (Finest Playa Mujeres in Cancún, Mexico, and Finest Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic) is that the whole family can be pampered. Mani-pedis, tropical fruit scrubs, and mini facials are available for adults as well as kids. There’s even an essential oil massage for infants.
Among the resort’s other strong points: baby care essentials for infants (so you don’t have to schlep your monitor, crib, and baby bathtub across international borders), beach parties and treasure hunts for toddlers, and mermaid/shark parties for older kids.
Base rooms start at 800 square feet and come with Bulgari bath products, private balconies or terraces, and private swim-up pools.
Locations in Mexico and the Dominican Republic
For Rookie Rockers: All-Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels
(Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos in Mexico | Credit: Hard Rock Hotels)
At Hard Rock’s all-inclusive properties in Cancún and Los Cabos, Mexico, all Hard Rock guests ages 12 and older can participate in the Music Lab, which involves stuff like jam sessions, DJ classes, and the chance to be the lead singer for a band. Novice performers benefit from the assistance of expert instructors who coach attendees all the way through rehearsals to ready fledgling rock gods to play in front of a raucous live audience.
Additionally, all of the brand’s all-inclusive resorts (four in Mexico, one in the Dominican Republic) offer the Roxity Kids Club—daycare with a rock-star vibe. Think kid-friendly battle-of-the-bands showdowns, Music Madness parties, and crafts celebrating rock around the world.
As for the rooms, each family suite is decorated with the brand’s signature aesthetic and features a primary bedroom (with bed, bath, and walk-in closet), a living room (with queen-sized sofa bed and bathroom), and a large terrace.
Locations in Mexico and the Dominican Republic
For Families Looking to Splurge: Hyatt Ziva
(Hyatt Ziva Cancun in Mexico | Credit: Hyatt Ziva)
Hyatt’s luxury all-inclusive brand has six locations peppered throughout Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic—and although stays aren’t cheap, they certainly live up to the 5-star claims. With sleek and modernist spaces bordered by white sandy beaches, spacious open-concept rooms and swim-up suites (if you really want to do it up), attentive concierge service, numerous restaurants serving international and local cuisines, and, for the grown-ups, plentiful bars and an onsite microbrewery, this brand has definitely raised the bar for all-inclusive experiences.
Kids aren’t left out, either. Each resort has a sprawling water park and KidZ Club overflowing with activities such as beach sports, arts and crafts, themed games, and special event nights.
Locations in Mexico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic
For Picky Eaters: Beaches Resorts
(Ice cream at Beaches Turks & Caicos | Credit: Beaches Resorts)
With nearly two dozen restaurants and different culinary concepts per resort, Beaches properties have something to appeal to any palate: Japanese sushi and sashimi, Neapolitan pizza, fresh seafood, juicy steaks, local Caribbean cuisine, ice cream, French pastries—and baby food purees on demand.
With full bellies, kiddies can run wild with programming geared toward every age group from infants to teens. The littlest visitors have access to professionally certified nannies and playtime with Sesame Street characters (part of an exclusive partnership). Other kids can attend Beaches Kids Camp, get scuba training, and splash their way through the Pirates Island Water Park. Tweens and teens have their own arcade and lounges for dancing and playing Xbox games.
(Yoga with Sesame Street's Elmo at Beaches Turks & Caicos | Credit: Beaches Resorts)
Family accommodations are offered as villas, bedrooms, and suites (great for those traveling with extended family or other large groups). With a classic tropical look, some multilevel residences are fully equipped with kitchens, plenty of beds and bathrooms, private terraces, and even butler service.
Locations throughout the Caribbean