family / travel

A Family’s First Trip – Club Med Sandpiper Bay

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a typical trip pre-baby! ha, just kidding.

Before baby, I loved to travel! After I became a mommy to my sweet daughter Melanie, I still love to travel! Granted, it is a lot harder when you have a curious 11 month old who loves to explore – but I am a strong believer that travel is a wonderful and enriching experience for both parents and for children! And let’s face it, we all need a vacation sometimes.

But, we can also agree that a vacation with kids can be no vacation at all when you think about the extra planning and baby gear it involves. There’s definitely a lot more to consider– anyone who has a baby knows that even a simple grocery store run requires preparation worthy of a five star general plotting an invasion. For a trip, all that planning is amplified because of the extended time away from home. The baby gear needed for feeding, bathing, transportation, etc. can be pretty overwhelming! Not to mention bringing clothes, diapers, wipes, toys… Thinking of hauling all that extra luggage, plus lugging around an infant carrier or car seat… it’s enough to turn someone off of travel till baby is in high school!

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obligatory cheesy tourist shot at the airport!

Therefore, for our first family trip together I decided on Club Med Sandpiper Bay, an all-inclusive resort in Port St. Lucie, Florida. An all-inclusive was great for us because we didn’t have to worry about how much things would end up costing – we paid everything upfront and that was it. The location in Florida was also ideal for us because we live in New York, and it is (theoretically) a nice short flight – that is, if we lived in a hub city like NYC and didn’t have to transfer! We ended up having 1 layover each way, around 6 hours total trip time each way. However, our friends who flew out of JFK got here in a sweet 3 hour flight. So jealous!

We chose Club Med because they have a great Baby Welcome package that includes a pack n play, a stroller, a bathtub, and a bottle warmer in the room! So you don’t need to bring any of that baby gear – definite plus! In addition, if you book transfers from the airport to resort with Club Med, the driver will have a baby car seat in the car – another huge plus! The only things that you need to bring are formula, bottles, and diapers – and of course personal baby clothes and toys. Diapers are pretty big, so we ended up shipping a box to the resort – it’s such a good idea!

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mel chilling in her very useful cheapie stroller

We fit everything baby Mel needed into a carry-on size suitcase. The only baby gear we brought was a cheap umbrella stroller I bought for $20 – indispensable for carting baby around the airport. So for our 5 night trip, we took one large luggage for us, a carry-on luggage for baby, and a fold-up stroller. Not too horrible!

Club Med is known for their awesome Baby Club Med (for babies 4-23 months) and Petit Club Med (for older kids) programs. We used the Baby Club Med for $90/day (not open on Wednesdays!), which is basically a daycare center for the babies from 9 AM-5 PM. We were two families, and we dropped off our babies (8 months and 10 months at the time) without any qualms because the staff were so friendly and calm with the infants. Every day they work out a schedule with each family about when they would like their little one to eat (and what to eat!), when to sleep, etc. They have a large play area with padded floors and tons of toys, from activity gyms to clicky toys to exersaucers to bouncers to… okay well you get the point. They even have a darkened nap rom with pack n plays or strollers for the babies to nap in.

We went during a slow time, so there were probably 6 kids max at one time and 2-3 staff members. At one point there were just our 2 kids and 2 staff members! So that was some very personalized service.

Some parents may feel guilty about leaving their babies – but honestly, our kids were so entranced by the new toys and environment that they barely gave us a backwards glance. Sniff sniff. To be honest, having the Baby Club Med really freed us up as adults to have fun and do a lot of activities which wouldn’t have been possible. I would alleviate any guilt pangs by thinking, ‘Sure I’m having fun, but they’re having fun too!’ But there were definitely times when I would be missing Mel and wondering what she would be doing – and then Baby Club Med was only a short walk away! In fact, the fitness pool is right outside the Baby Club Med building, so I found myself checking in quite a bit when we would lounge and swim at the pool. And each time, she was having a grand old time and would kind of eyeball me like, ‘What are you doing back here already? Don’t you have somewhere to be?’

the serene fitness pool and baby club med right behind it

the serene fitness pool and baby club med right behind it

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the bay area, with sailboats and paddleboats for use

So since the babies are covered, now the adults get to play! Club Med has a lot of great sports and activities that are included – free beginner tennis and golf lessons, trapeze lessons, sail boating, paddle boarding, fitness classes, water sports… There was never a lack of activities for us. However, we went on vacation just to be on vacation and relax! So we also spent a good chunk of time just lounging and relaxing by the pool, or doing a few laps to cool off. Sandpiper Bay is nice because there are so many pools – a busy main pool, an emptier fitness pool for laps, an adults-only infinity pool facing the river, and a baby pool as well.

babyless lunch can be so relaxing!

babyless lunch can be so relaxing!

Food wise, Club Med Sandpiper Bay technically has 3 restaurants – The Marketplace with buffet food, Le Soleil Café with light fare, and Riverside Grill and BBQ. However, when we went the Riverside Grill was closed so we had The Marketplace and Le Soleil, which were basically one and the same because when the Marketplace closed, Le Soleil opened and they were in the same area. The quality of the food could be a bit variable. For breakfast, they had a selection of typical breakfast items and pastries but the standout was the made-to-order eggs and omelets station. Lunch and dinner had a nice variety from day to day, with special gourmet plates as well. However, despite the diversity of cuisine sometimes the food itself wasn’t great to begin with. Still, for an all-inclusive buffet the food was really quite good!

Club Med also has a Pajama Club, basically an nighttime babysitting service for a fee so that parents can relax at nighttime and check out the bar or watch the shows (sadly, we didn’t get to see any). Being lazier, we would lounge around in our pajamas and play board games while the babies slept (or in Mel’s case, crawled around investigating everything before passing out).

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family pic in the pool – i’m wayyy too excited

Of course, this is not to say that Club Med Sandpiper Bay is a perfect resort – far from it! The hotel room buildings are not very aesthetically pleasing (they look like blocky apartment buildings) and the rooms themselves are outdated and a little beat up. In our room we had an ant problem as well… more mentally disturbing than anything else though. There was only one main restaurant on the resort (the other one was closed) and although they did a good job varying the food every day, it was sometimes hit or miss in terms of quality.  The pool towel exchange system was quite inconvenient, due to the limited hours of the towel stand. And remember to bring your own conditioner, because the resort doesn’t supply it! So strange!

But, when you balance that out with all the free activities, free food and drink (alcohol included), great baby programs and just the general ease of planning the vacation, Club Med Sandpiper Bay was a terrific choice for us!

Pros
  • All-inclusive means no worries! Food and drink is there for the taking so you can live out your gluttonous daydreams.
  • Convenient – booked our flight, ground transportation and resort stay in one go.
  • Affordable cost makes this a good vacation for many families – we spent 2600 for 5 nights including everything – airfare, rooms, Baby Club Med, etc.
  • Baby friendly resort means you can bring the bare minimum of baby gear. Car seat is provided during transport to/from the resort, and resort has pack n play, stroller, bottle warmer, bathtub, and highchairs. Baby Club Med also includes baby food (not formula) so you don’t need to bring that either!
  • Great baby programs mean you can rest assured knowing that your kids are having as much fun as you are.
  • Wide variety of pools to suit your mood – serene adults-only pool with a view, laps in the fitness pool, bustling vibe of the main pool, or dipping with your babies at the baby pool.
  • Lots of activities for adults and older kids to enjoy – tennis, golf, trapeze lessons, sailboating, paddle boards, etc.
Cons
  • Dated and somewhat tired aesthetic to the buildings and rooms. Not a luxury resort, but comfortable!
  • Great variety of food but quality can be underwhelming. Also, it gets tiring to eat in the same restaurant every day.
  • Towel exchange was very inconvenient due to limited hours.
  • NO CONDITIONER! For hair. How is this possible?
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a sunset goodbye from sandpiper bay!

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