“Don’t grow up too quickly, lest you forget how much you love the beach.”
– Michelle Held
Our recent vacation was a long time coming. Three years to be exact, and let me say, it was well worth the wait. Traveling with a teenager and a pre-kindergardener, we needed to find a place that was equal parts zen for mom and dad, chill for the teen and fun for the four year old (in all of us). I did a ton of research and compared countless properties before zeroing in on Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, an all-inclusive family resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and let’s just say it was 100% the right choice.
Here are 3 Tips to help you ensure you and your family have the best vacation ever:
TIP ONE: FOOD IS A LOVE LANGUAGE
August Escoffier said, “Good food is the foundation of genuine happiness.” I think he might have been onto something there, especially when on vacation. And for our family, that means finding a place that can accommodate our allergies and still make food that tastes incredible. For the boys it’s just gluten, but for me the list of allergies is a long one, and it can cause a pretty significant amount of stress for me when we travel. There’s always the balance of wanting to enjoy our meals and not wanting to inconvenience the chef, but we didn’t have any of those worries on this vacay. The head chef met us in each of the restaurants where we had reservations daily and ensured that the meals we selected were being prepared with our food restrictions carefully considered. Alterations were made to accommodate us, allowing us to select whatever we wanted off the menus. And let me tell you, we did not suffer. Just take a look at a few of these meals we enjoyed.
Graham and I both agree that we had the best salmon of our lives on this vacation. Everything was plated to perfection and the restaurants themselves were beautiful (just take a look at my Instagram feed!). They even made me a special sugar-free, vegan desert that was incredible! I’m still craving it.
Oh yes, and did I mention the 24 hour room service? Noah was in his glory. Breakfast in the room became a daily decadence, because why wouldn’t we when they were making gluten-free pancakes to order for the kiddos? We would place our order the night before, hang it on our door, and voila! Breakfast at our door and set up beautifully in our living room every morning with a view of the ocean as our backdrop. Perfection.
TIP TWO: GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE IS A GAME CHANGER
Having the resort’s head chef meet us daily at our restaurants of choice was indeed impressive, but it was completely in lock step with the kind of customer service we experienced across the board. Every family is assigned their own personal concierge who will come and find you near one of the 3 infinity pools during the day. They ensure that you have everything you need – from snacks and meals by the pool, to activities for everyone, to reservations for dinner and a mini bar stocked just to your liking in your room. Truly the only problem with this situation was not having anyone to look after us like that when we got home!
TIP 3: MAKE SURE THERE ARE ACTIVITIES FOR EVERYONE IN YOUR CREW
The customer service extended everywhere, including the Kids’ Club, which I confess I had no plans to use when we first arrived. I suffer from a pretty hefty dose of mama guilt, and my goal for our vacation was for us to relax and have fun together as a family, so shunting my littlest off to a kids’ program just didn’t fit my paradigm of a family vacation. Great that it’s there, but it’s not for me kind of thing. Until, that is, Tate made some friends and they were going to Kid’s Club the next morning. With more than a little hesitation, I dropped him off, telling them I wouldn’t be leaving him there long and wanted to be sure he wasn’t just being babysat by a screen while he was there. Not only was he not screen-zombied, they made crafts like kites and piñatas and played soccer outside. He LOVED it. And they loved him. They got to know his name immediately and hugged and hi-fived him when he came and left. From then on our morning routine was Tate would go for an hour or so to Kids’ Club while Graham, Noah and I went boogie boarding in the ocean. Then he would join us for a swim in the pool followed by lunch by the pool. Then he’d go off with his friends to the bird show or whatever fun thing they had planned for the kids at 2pm. He had the time of his life and is still asking when we are going back to Mexico.
And let’s not forget some fun for the grown ups on the list! Yes, yes, open bar with good wine (the prosecco was my personal poison). But can we talk about the spa for a minute? Because this vacation had been well-waited for, a good spa with a thermal cycle was pretty high on my wish list, and the Spa SE at Grand Velas did not disappoint. An hour spend relaxing in the sauna and cold plunge followed by what was hands down the BEST spa treatment I’ve ever received (The Grand Coral, for those of you with your finger hovering over the booking button, was INCREDIBLE, as was Gloria who performed the service so thoughtfully and expertly). Having this extra indulgence as a part of our experience made for a seriously decadent treat for mama and ultimately a much more relaxed mama for the rest of the trip!
For Graham, relaxation came in the form of surfing and daily beach/ocean time. Making sure it was a clean and swimmable beach was also on my “must have” list, and this one was absolutely perfect. Totally his happy place, and so grounding for all of us.
We all came away so incredibly grateful for the Vitamin Sea, the new friendships, the amazing meals, and for a truly stress-melting, memory-making time together. Needless to say, I can’t recommend Grand Velas Nayarit enough, and would like to thank them for our room upgrade and for treating me to the Grand Coral treatment at the spa. They’ve redefined what an all-inclusive experience can and should look like for us, and I hope this experience will not be our last! Raising a glass of bubbly to all you families looking to vacation in style. Here’s hoping these tidbits give you some fuel for designing your own beautiful life.