3 family-friendly ideas for your next tropical vacation

Welcome back from Spring Break! I hope you had a great time. Family vacations can be a mixed bag, and it seems like the best trips have one thing in common: there's something for everyone to enjoy"¦something for mom, something for dad, and something special for the kiddos.

But how do you find that perfect mix that makes an excellent family vacation?

You might start with an excellent travel agent. Today's guest blogger, Donnita Bassinger, is the mother of three young children and a travel agent with more than two decades under her belt. This self-styled "Vacation Mom" shares her top three destinations for tropical family fun "¦

Choosing the perfect location for your tropical family vacation is a balancing act. Mom and dad want quality family-time and a chance to enjoy a romantic meal together. Younger kids love activities and meeting new friends. Teens and tweens want water sports and a place to "hang out." Everyone wants to be together but not all the time.

All-inclusive resorts have something for everyone. The best resorts feature:

  • Secure environment where outside visitors are not allowed on the property
  • Clean, comfortable accommodations
  • Unlimited food & drink with enough variety to offer something for everyone
  • Water sports, beach activities, and indoor fun both day and night
  • Supervised children's programs with trained staff and security measures
  • One price that covers everything, freeing you to leave your wallet in the room

Here are three of my top choices for families:

  1. Dreams Resorts: Dreams Resorts have eight locations throughout Mexico that cater to North Americans. The "Explorer's Club" is a program for kids ages 3-12 with activities including beach soccer, Euro-bungee, campfires, treasure hunts, big-screen movies on the beach and more. Since it runs from 9am to 10pm, you can check your kids into the club for dinner and activities while you have a romantic dinner for two. If you have younger kids, nanny services in the evening run $15 per hour. Some Dreams resorts offer programs for teens, too. (Ben's note: I stayed at Dreams Puerto Aventuras, about one hour south of Cancun, and it was the best family vacation we've ever had.)
  2.  Club Med Resorts: Formerly known as a place for singles, many Club Med resorts now emphasize sports and activities for families. Sparing no expense, they offer the best equipment, facilities and instructors, with programs for kids aged 4-10, 11-17 and even kids under 3. Along with more traditional activities like tennis, water skiing, sailing, volleyball, basketball, aerobics, archery and kayaking, they have a circus skills program featuring a flying trapeze for adults and kids. An evening babysitting program called "Pajamas Club" lets you drop off your kids with a sitter and spend the evening out on the resort. Club Med has an "international feel" due to guests and staff from around the world. Locations in Ixtapa and Cancun (Mexico), Sandpiper Bay (Florida) and Guadeloupe (Caribbean) are good for families.
  3. Beaches Resorts: Beaches is the family-oriented brand from the people who pioneered the all-inclusive Sandals couples-only resorts. The highlight for families at Beaches is the on-site Pirate's Island Waterpark. The "Kids Camp" program is for newborns through age 12 and goes from 9am to 9pm. Their tweens and teens program features a DJ Academy and teen-only nightclub. Nanny services are also available for $15 per hour for up to 3 children. Beaches Resorts are located in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos.

Each company and each resort is unique and different, To choose the perfect fit destination for your family's next tropical vacation, consult a travel agent. When you find the right all-inclusive resort for everyone in your family, you may never take a "regular" vacation again!

A travel agent with more than 27 years experience, Donnita Bassinger lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband and three children. When she's not helping families put together the perfect vacation, she's active in Cub Scouts, the school PTO and local charities. Contact her at 541-688-7473 or visit her "Vacation MOM" Facebook page (even if you're not on Facebook).