Resort Review: Beaches Negril (May 2022 - Traveling With a Toddler)

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"That's crazy." I'm pretty sure those were the words my husband said to me when I told him I wanted to take our two year old on his first international vacation. Maybe it was. I mean, let's face it, parenting is stressful and so is traveling. The idea of mixing two of these stresses together didn't sound like a vacation. In fact, I saw a social media post once that nailed it saying: "parents don't really go on vacation. They just take care of their kids in a different city." I don't know about you but if I'm going to parent my toddler anywhere in the world, why not make it a place I love to be?

So yes, while I may have been a little crazy for taking a two year old to Jamaica, it meant a week of neither of us having to cook, clean or figure out how to entertain our family and to me that sounded like a vacation in itself. Add in the tropical setting, a swim up bar, and watching my son experience our favorite resort brand through toddler eyes and I was sold. And so, our first Beaches family vacation began...


Why Beaches Negril? A Quick Backstory:

My husband was 13 when he took his first family vacation out of the country. The destination? Beaches Negril in Jamaica. That was in 1999. We met three years later, in high school, and he still talked about that trip often. He promised he'd take me after we graduated. Sure enough, in 2007, we booked my very first trip out of the country and our first trip together to Sandals Negril, the couple's version of the resort chain right down the beach from Beaches Negril. We even went over to Beaches Negril to check out the resort there, so my husband could show me all the places he'd told me about for year.

That trip inspired me to become a top selling Sandals specialist, and when I opened my agency a year after that vacation, I was excited to be able to work from home doing what I loved. My hope was someday my kids would have their first vacation experience at Beaches Negril, too.

In January of 2020 our son, Miles, was born. Named after our love of travel, we fully expected he'd be traveling the moment his passport was in hand. Except the universe had other plans. For two years we weren't able to travel due to shutdowns and restrictions. But finally, in May of 2022 we hopped on Miles' first plane ride and headed to the resort where it all began.

Robert in front of the Beaches Negril sign in 1999. Then again in 2022 with Miles. 

Not Checking A Bag

Okay, you thought we were crazy for traveling with a toddler? We also didn't check any bags and somehow still brought everything we needed, including a stroller. Since Miles is now too old to be a "lap child" we needed to pay for a seat for him which meant we got our own row to our family. That also meant we each got one overhead bag and one personal item. Personal items can be purses, backpacks, laptop bags, or small overnight bags. In this case, we had three rolling suitcases (one for each of us) and my husband and I both brought backpacks. The third personal item was our GB Pockit Air All-Terrain Compact Stroller which I discuss in a separate blog post here. I also discuss travel tips, which include packing tips, in a separate blog post here.

Arrival To The MBJ Airport

My husband and I are frequent travelers to Jamaica. Before the pandemic we would travel to Jamaica once or twice a year, fairly consistently. Each time we travel to the island we purchase the Club MoBay package. I remember the long lines at Customs and Immigration before 2020, so I always recommend Club MoBay for arrival and departure. However, on this particular trip Club MoBay wasn't necessary for us on arrival. We're still glad we got it because you never know when you may need it, but since we were sitting in row 2 on the plane, we were off fairly quickly and by the time we arrived to the Immigration area the regular lines were empty and the Club MoBay lines were a 5 minute wait. We easily would have breezed through without Club MoBay at that time since no other flights came in at the same time as us.

After going through Immigration our Club MoBay rep escorted us to Customs. We hadn't checked any bags so we bypassed baggage claim and went straight to the customs line for Club MoBay. This was where we were glad we had it. While others were lining up in the customs lines after getting their bags, we had access to the VIP line and got through within a minute.

Once cleared, we made our way to the Sandals/Beaches lounge to let them know we'd arrived. They tagged every bag we had and the Club MoBay rep let us know we could enjoy either or both of the two Club MoBay lounges as well as the Sandals lounge. Because we had private transfers set up and would be leaving in just a few minutes, we choose to stick to the Sandals lounge.

There are clean bathrooms there, bags of snacks (mostly plantain chips) and bottles of water and soft drinks. Since we paid for the private transfer, we knew we'd be getting snacks and drinks in the car so we didn't take from the supply in the lounge. However, if you are in the lounge, you should absolutely take some for the road if your transfer time isn't a quick one.

Within minutes our transfer was ready for us and we were being whisked away by an airport porter who brought all of our bags to our awaiting driver.

Private Transfer

I personally chose the private transfer for this trip because our son is two and I wanted to guarantee a car seat for him. Beaches cannot always guarantee a car seat but when booking a private transfer you can make that request known and it's far more likely to be met. It meant one more thing we didn't have to pack or bring with us. I didn't want to have an hour and a half transfer time and no car seat for him.

The van was a typical transfer van. nothing fancy. But it did come with the car set we requested. It was a Graco brand, similar to the one we have at home for him, which was branded with the Beaches logo.

Car seat provided with the Beaches branding.

My husband did have to install it, which took a couple of minutes, but since nobody but the driver was waiting for us, that was okay.

My husband installing it. 

The transfer came with a fruit plate, chocolate muffins, chocolate chip cookies, and some small sandwiches, deviled eggs, and nuts and dried fruit. It was the perfect after-flight snack to help us get through to dinner time. 

Chris was our driver and he took excellent care of us. Once he knew we visited often, he didn't point out the tourist spots, and instead pointed out different things that would be new to us like the "insider" information about the different areas we drove through. He also told us personal stories and was a very cautious driver -- which was most important to us. We had our most precious cargo on board -- who had already napped on the plane he was wide awake the whole drive and decided to sing "Wheels on the Bus" and point out every cow, goat, chicken, dog, vehicle, and more that he saw. Poor Chris. But he has a young son, too, so he completely understood.

Arrival At Beaches Negril

Nothing is better than that moment you pull up to your resort on vacation. All that waiting and traveling is over.  True vacation is finally here. Our arrival was around 5pm so naturally we were exhausted and ready to get into our room. Arriving after 3pm meant our room was guaranteed to be ready for us.

First stop was the lobby for a welcome towel. Miles had no clue what he was supposed to do with it, but this is my favorite part of arrival. Forget the welcome cocktail, the cold towel is where it's at. That ice cold towel is so refreshing and since it has a hint of essential oils on it, it also smells like the spa which helps calm and relax you after all the craziness of your day of travel.

Since we were Concierge level guests, we were immediately whisked away to the Concierge lounge. This is located in an air conditioned room around the corner from the main lobby. Our bags stayed behind, waiting for a staff member to bring them to our room. We brought the stroller and our backpacks with us since one had my laptop in it (for work) and the other had our travel documents in it. Everything else we didn't need, we left for the staff to take care of for us.

Miles immediately rushed into the kids lounge area where they had a television playing cartoons, kid-sized chairs and beanbags, and games for him to play with. In typical toddler fashion, he opened every drawer in the entertainment center and quickly found a pencil he didn't need to play with and unscrewed a door knob I had to fix. And so it began...

Check-in was a smooth process. I'd done the online check-in with Beaches so most of what they needed they already had on file. This is a BIG improvement from pre-2020 travel. In the past, we'd fill out the online check-in and on arrival we still had to fill everything out again. This time we just needed to confirm the return flight info and sign a few things and provide the credit card to put on file for incidentals. It saved a lot of time that was a time waster in the past at check-in.

Beaches Travel Tip: A card will always be requested on file for the room and they will always take a $400 hold out to ensure the card is valid and can be used. This amount won't process unless you start charging things to the room (like spa, excursions, gift shop, etc). Let your bank know you're traveling ahead of time so no stop-holds are placed on the card when the resort goes to process this.

We did try to make our dinner reservations with the concierge team right after we finished checking in. However, we were told we couldn't until we'd been checked into the system for at least a half an hour. Now it's possible the system needs to get you signed in, but I personally think so many people try to make them at check-in that the Concierge doesn't want to be backlogged so they'd rather you come back or call down later to do it. Inevitably, we got so busy that night grabbing dinner and getting an exhausted toddler to bed that it wasn't until the next day that we ventured down to make dinner reservations for The Venetian (Italian) and Kimonos (Japanese) and of course they were almost completely sold out for our whole stay (more on this later).

Unlike in the past, the Wifi worked instantly after we checked-in, so that was a bonus! It's always nice to get the wifi up and running so we can let family know we've arrived safely.

The Room

Let me precursor this by saying my husband and I have traveled to every single Sandals and Beaches property that currently is operating. We feel we've seen the good and the bad when it's come to all the resorts. Many of the resort are going through massive renovations and much-needed face lifts to bring them into the new era of the brand-- rooms are getting soaking tubs and are getting fancy stone stand-up showers with rain faucet shower heads.

Beaches Negril is still a few steps behind that. In fact, if you go to my YouTube page you can see I have a video from my stay in the same room category in 2015 and then again this year and you can see the differences. We were in room 317, the Tropical Beachfront Concierge King (BCK) category.

Here is the video from our stay in 2015:

Here is the video from this stay in 2022:

There have been soft renovations done (sinks and counter tops, new furniture and lighter colors on the wall and furnishings for a brighter look to the room. But the shower still needs to be redone and it was showing obvious signs of that, with a broken towel rack and the need for re-caulking.

One thing I wish Beaches had in all of their bathrooms is an extendable shower head. Some showers in the Key West Village at Beaches Turks and Caicos have them but I feel they should be standard at all properties. When traveling with little kids it's always so much easier to have a room with an extendable shower head for quick rinse offs.

The bathroom is also set up so the sink and closet are in an entry area, then there is a door and the toilet and tub are in that little room together. It's great for being able to use the sink when someone is in the toilet. But there is no door separating the sink area from the bedroom area and there is also no way to turn the light in the bathroom on without turning one in the one in the sink area. Which means, late nights you have to sit in the bathroom in the pitch black so no bright light is on keeping everyone in the room up. It also means you can't use the bathroom light as a nigh-light like we do at most hotels.

Tip: Bring a nightlight or two to keep the room bright enough to see where you're walking at night.

Also, there is also nothing in the room to help keep the floor of the tub from being super slippery. Several times while showering off my son he slipped and fell in the tub. It would have been nice if they provided those anti-slip mats like many hotels have standard in their bathrooms. If you think that may be a problem, consider bringing a cheap Dollar Tree anti-slip bath mat you can use and toss.

Otherwise, the room fit us well. We would have loved a one or two bedroom, but at the time we booked space was very limited so we went with the best possible option we could find.

There is construction going on at the resort, as they're adding the new village at the end of the property. Our room overlooked that construction. They aren't very far along in their work, so we didn't hear much of anything but as the work progresses the noise may be an issue for anyone traveling with small kids who will need mid-day naps. Then again, Miles was so exhausted from running around all day he probably would have slept through a high speed train going by the room at that point. Construction was from around 9-5 every day, which most of it was while we were out of the room and didn't affect us much. If you're on the ground floor you won't see any of it because they have privacy walls erected which have photos of renderings of what the finished products will look like. Here are a few of the photos I took.

The room renderings look gorgeous and I can't wait to see them in person some day soon. It's a much needed luxury addition to this property. But I would have loved to see some money go into giving a proper facelift to the full property first (more on this to come).

Back to our room... our son slept on the trundle bed, but we didn't trust he wouldn't fall off of the top one since he moves so much in his sleep. So the top trundle ended up being a place we left our suitcases for easy access to clothes we needed, and then we pulled the bottom trundle out and wedged it in the corner of the room and built a little pillow fort around it in case he rolled out of it.

Everything else we needed we had in our room. There was a mini-fridge with apple juice, water, and we could request beer and in-room liquor if we wanted. When there are kids in the room they don't generally automatically put it in there, they ask if you want it added. We aren't drinkers, so we didn't bother to request it.

The AC unit was perfect the whole stay. Blew out ice cold air and kept the room frigid, just how you want it while on vacation in the tropics. We never had an issue with anything electrical. We never ran out of places to plug things in. There are USB plugs on the alarm clocks and in the bedside table lamps which meant we had plenty of places to plug in smart devices to charge without needing a wall outlet.

Tip: Whenever we travel, we bring an extension cord so we have ample places to plug things in if outlets are scarce. This is the one we personally travel with as it is compact and doesn't take up a lot of space in our suit case.

I book a lot of Sandals and Beaches Resorts, and like I mentioned, I travel there regularly. I know the ins and outs of the different room categories and the secrets to understanding their long and confusing names. This is one of the few times I've felt the resort chain needs to rename their category. This "beachfront" is not a beachfront view at all. It's an "ocean view", if that. At other Sandals properties this would be named "ocean view" or "tropical view" with "limited ocean view" in the description. I'm sure if the construction wasn't going on the view would be much less limited, but I definitely think any BCK rooms in the Santa Cruze building need to be renamed to "ocean view".

Tip: The room blocks do not have elevators, so please keep that in mind when booking a room. If you think a ground floor will be needed for mobility issues or peace of mind, book a "walkout" which guarantees you a ground floor.

The Resort

I'm going to start off by saying this resort is absolutely perfect for families with toddlers. The fact that we could easily get around the entire resort in just a few minutes and everything we needed was just steps from our room made this property incredibly easy to navigate with a little one. By day two he knew where everything was and could basically lead us where he wanted to go. We would definitely travel here again before we made the trip to Beaches Ochi or Beaches Turks with him at this age.

The only downside was we both felt the resort needed a facelift to bring it into the new era of Sandals/Beaches. I'm sure it will happen soon, especially with the new room block coming, and we look forward to seeing it when it does.

The grounds are meticulously kept, like with all of the properties. There are beautiful flowers, shrubs, and towering palm trees all over the resort. At night everything is lit up and the sound of the tree frogs provides the most relaxing sounds that remind you that you're in paradise.

Everything is clean and taken care of on property. We saw staff working night and day to keep the resort maintained and they did an excellent job. But, bear in mind, the resort is older and shows many obvious signs of wear and tear. I look forward to what it will look like in the future when they can finally give it the updates it deserves.


The Staff

This is where the resort really shines. The staff here truly goes out of their way to be helpful and make your day. It's clear they love seeing kids day in and day out, and their faces light up every time they interact with the kids which makes the little one's vacations that much better.

For example, Stephanie at the breakfast buffet greeted our son with a big smile when we arrived for breakfast the second morning. She reached out and took his hand and walked him to the table where she helped him sit down in his chair and unfold his napkin. He was in awe of her the entire time.

We also checked out the live shows at night. One evening, right after the Sesame Street character tuck-in we booked (more on that below) our son was too wired to go to bed, so we walked the whole resort in his pajamas and ended up at the live show in the theater. Instead of being on the dance floor running around like the other kids, he was curious about the stage and started trying to go up onto the stage (we later realized he was trying to get back stage to find Cookie Monster and Elmo, who he saw go back there earlier in the evening). One of the playmakers saw him and decided to bring him up on stage in the middle of the show and dance with him. Of course, our son just wanted Elmo and Cookie monster, so he was confused and then came down with stage freight which made the moment even cuter. It was very sweet that the playmaker went out of his way to do that. I just wished in the moment we'd gotten his name.

We also loved Annesia at the BBQ pit. She always had a bright smile for our son and knew his order and brought it to him. She would stop and talk to him and he'd put on his shy flirtation act with her.

Dwight from the XBox lounge was great, too. By the end of our stay he knew exactly what Miles wanted to play with and they would fist bump each other. On our last day, Dwight was inside the booth at his desk and when we went to leave Miles stopped at the door and knocked on it. He didn't want to leave until Dwight came out and he could get his fist bump. It was pretty precious.

Nickesha at YoYo's was also wonderful with Miles. YoYo's was his favorite spot on resort, hands down. He ate there breakfast, lunch and dinner, and sometimes in between. Anytime she was there she'd get a big smile when he would walk in. She got a big kick out of how on the first day he was pretty conservative about his ice cream, just a little bit and some sprinkles. By the last day he had a cup overflowing with ice cream and pretty much every single topping they had (by his own doing).

There were so many staff members who we got names of and many we didn't, all who helped make our vacation so memorable. The staff at this resort shine.

The Entertainment

The entertainment staff was great. Miles enjoyed the nightly Sesame Street show that started at 6PM every night (except for the night of the Sesame Street Parade). We would make our way into the theater after dinner and watch the show while we enjoyed ice cream from Cafe de Paris right nearby. The kids would always rush the stage and dance around. It took him a little while to warm up but he enjoyed dancing along with them eventually.

The show is only 30 minutes long. Around 8PM the entertainment staff comes out and does regular entertainment like songs and dancing. We only caught that one night and Miles enjoyed dancing to the Electric Slide.

The Restaurants

This is another area where this resort shines. Having been to all the Sandals and Beaches properties, I have to say Beaches Negril knocks it out of the park when it comes to the food. I've felt this way since my visit in 2015, so it's nice to know they're still doing it right.

Soy - This is our absolute favorite place to dine while at Sandals/Beaches. Some resorts it's a hit or a miss and this Soy is always a hit. The restaurant is indoors, which is nice when you need the air conditioning. But there is also lovely outdoor seating if you don't mind the heat. We choose indoor. They also were able to accommodate Miles and bring him just plain white rice and soy sauce, despite it not being on the menu.

Tuna Sashimi at Soy

The Venetian - This is the Italian restaurant on property and is the only restaurant that has a "resort evening" dress code [see our blog post about breaking down the Sandals/Beaches dress code here]. This meant we had to put long pants and nice shoes on our toddler. Surprisingly, he did well with it. We let him order his own drink (he picked a sweet tea) and butter his own bread. He even kept the napkin on his lap until it slid off. He ate pasta in white cream sauce.

Mariachi - We did try eating here once for lunch. My husband tried the quesadilla (which he said was a bit bland and he probably wouldn't get again) and we both tried the Mahi fish tacos which were delicious. We got the fried Mac and Cheese balls for Miles to try, but he barely touched them. I ended up eating them and they were very good.
Two plates of Mahi fish tacos and a plate of fried Mac and Cheese balls.

Kimonos - Hibachi is our family favorite at home, so Miles was very excited to see a hibachi restaurant at the resort. Our chef was excellent. She kept us all laughing and Miles danced and clapped and sang along with her through it all. He even ended up trying some of the meat and fish because he saw us eating it all. It's one of the reasons we loved traveling here with a toddler, because they can try anything they want and it doesn't cost any money to order food he may not end up liking.

Stew Fish - This is the Caribbean and Jamaican seafood restaurant located on the beach. While the buffet was a much easier breakfast with a toddler, this was a much more relaxing experience for breakfast. We loved being able to sit by the water while our son played in the sand at our feet. We also loved that he could get his usual bacon and scrambled eggs while we could get more a la carte options like steak and eggs or eggs Benedict. 

For the evening, this option would have been great but unfortunately the night we planned to dine here we had a cranky two year old to deal with. Instead, my husband went down and ordered off the menu and then went back about 45 minutes later to pick it up and bring it to our room. He did have an issue with the sand flies while standing there waiting to take our food. He was there for maybe 20 minutes and came back to the room all bit up and itchy.
Crab cake

Strip steak and mashed potatoes with a side of fish-in-foil.

The Mill - This is the only buffet restaurant on property and it's located near the theater and overlooks the main pool. Breakfast is the same every day with a varieties of fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses, breads, and eggs. There is also an omelet station and a fresh smoothie station.

We didn't dine here for lunch, as the BBQ Park was our son's favorite spot. For dinner each night they do a different themes. I believe it was Italian, French, Seafood, Indian and Jamaican (the beach party). When the beach party happens on Thursday night, they move the buffet out to the beach on the other side of the pool, unless weather is an issue and then the beach party will be indoors at The Mill.

We did dine there two nights for dinner and it was when they had their French and Italian menus. The food was good and it gave us a nice spot to watch the sunset in the distance. 
The net is to keep the birds out, though it doesn't work.

There were plenty of different things to try. On Italian night Miles ended up eating three small plates of cut up penne that was supposed to be used for the Minestrone soup. He couldn't get enough of it. That night they had "make your own pasta" and it was very good. Not as good as the Venetian upstairs, but great for a quick service meal. 

For the French night we barely got to eat because there wasn't much Miles was interested in, so we sampled a little bit of things as quickly as possible and then got our hangry toddler to the BBQ Park for his favorite meal. That's the beauty of an all-inclusive resort with a toddler.

The BBQ Park - This is the place our son practically lived at for the entire trip. Between the BBQ Park and YoYo's, he basically went back and forth like a ping pong ball. He affectionately named this place "Happy" in reference to McDonald's happy meals, because he always ordered chicken nuggets and fries. Every day we'd get out of the pool when he announced he was hungry and we'd make our way over to the little courtyard in front of the BBQ Park. One of us would go up and order the food and the other two would grab a table. While our toddler lived on chicken nuggets and fries, we tried different menu items. I liked the Jerk Chicken and coco bread best (always my favorite). The Memphis BBQ chicken was good, as was the cheeseburger. My husband tried the Mahi wrap and loved that. The only thing we didn't try was the pulled pork, although the idea of pulled pork on coco bread sounds delicious and now I'm kicking myself thinking about how great that would have been. Several times we grabbed this food to go but we also enjoyed being able to sit there and dry off while we ate, too.

This place is open until 3AM, so it's the go-to spot for late night snacks. I think on this trip our latest meal was 9PM and my husband went down and brought it back to the room so we could dine on the balcony while our son slept.
Jerk Chicken, coco bread, cheeseburger with bacon, fries and a Mahi wrap.

Cafe de Paris - This is a cute little coffee shop that we loved to stop into for coffee, tea, and even hot chocolate. I know the idea of drinking hot chocolate in a hot climate sounds crazy, but their hot chocolate is just too good to pass up. Of course, our toddler loved that he could pop in there at 8am after breakfast and order cookies and ice cream. 

Dino's Pizza - I'm really bummed to say we only ate here once. Total rookie mistake on our part. Our son loves pizza and because this was located across the resort, we didn't spend much time over there. But one afternoon my husband ran down to Concierge for something and decided to pick up a pie to go and bring it back to the room for when Miles woke up from his nap. The kid devoured it like he'd never eaten before. Definitely one of the better Dino's Pizzas we've eaten on our Sandals/Beaches trips.

YoYo's Frozen Yogurt - There is no limit to the amount of ice cream our toddler can consume while on vacation. We've tested it. This was by far the highlight of our son's trip. When I say he camped out in front of this place every morning, I'm not exaggerating. Because our room was right behind the YoYo's building, he'd ask for it every time we went to or from the room. We started having to take the long way around the building just to keep him from asking when we knew it was closed. He'd eat some and then a moment later he'd ask for more. I can't even explain how happy this place made him. He'd scream "ice cream truck" the moment it was in sight (all ice cream shops are "ice cream trucks" to him). The variety of flavors and toppings were plentiful and it was a nice place to sit down and eat something cold in the air conditioning.

Room Service - Something important to note, if you're familiar with the Sandals brand you may expect that a Concierge (Club) level room will have room service. That is NOT the case at any of the Beaches properties (as of right now). The only way to get in-room meals is to order at the restaurant and bring the food back to your room or if you have a butler level room, you can request the butler bring food to the room. That's an unfortunate downside, as other family-friendly all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico do offer 24/7 room service (even for all level rooms), which is helpful for families with little kids who need mid-day naps or get tired out early in the evening.

The Beach

To be honest, the beach is the number one selling point of this resort. Negril has one of the best beaches I've seen in my life and it's perfect for toddlers. We were able to go out at least six feet from where the waves break and our two year old could still stand up on his own without the water being above his shoulders. He had a blast playing in the surf there. There were plenty of places to hang out and plenty of chairs for everyone. 

Tip: If you're looking for a shaded area and all the spots are taken, take a walk over by the water sports at the far end of the property where the boats are. There is a big covered area used for events and they have plenty of chairs out there for guests to sit and relax in the shade.

We did make sure to bring some beach toys for him, thinking it may keep him busy. Honestly, he barely used them. He was way too excited with everything else around him. But for a few moments he did play. We brought a small (cheap) plastic set of construction toys, a collapsable bucket, and a few dollar store shovels. Nothing from our good at-home set so it would be okay if we lost them or they broke.

The Pools

We chose to spend most of our time at the Piazza pool since it was a quick walk from our room. It's the pool that is in the better condition of the two main pools. We only went into the Mill pool once and that was enough for us. There were tiles missing and the floor just felt too gritty against my feet to enjoy. We didn't stay in there long. It may have been different at another section of that pool but for us, one dip was enough. We stuck to the Piazza pool. There were times when we'd come back to the beach and find there weren't any chairs there. We'd just put our beach bag and shoes against the wall by the towel tower. We didn't need lounge chairs. But I do recommend if you aren't using the chairs to put your towels away to let others know they aren't in use. Many times we spent a few hours at the pool only to notice chairs not being used at all.

The Piazza pool had a nice swim up bar which we enjoyed hanging out at. Because our son is swim trained, we did let him play in the pool but we stuck to the steps so he could swim and then swim back to the stairs without tiring himself out, too much. A few times we went over to the swim up bar and he ordered an "Elmo drink" (as he called it) which was just a virgin strawberry daiquiri.

We also caught a foam party at the Piazza pool one afternoon, which was a lot of fun for all ages. For those who don't know, it's a big bubble making machine that releases foam into the pool and the DJ plays music. That was a lot of fun to be a part of but it does get a little rowdy with the older kids being so excited over it. The DJ had to stop several times to tell kids to back up or calm down. So definitely keep your toddler close.

There was a baby pool located in a fenced in area behind the Kids Camp. Most people probably just assume it's for Kids Camp members only, but anyone can use it. We brought Miles there a few times in the afternoon to let him play around. There is a towel station there but the only downside is they didn't have any chairs for parents to sit on so we ended up sitting on the side. The water was only up to his waist in the deepest end and felt a bit cooler than the main pools since it was shaded. He loved being about to run the whole pool and play with the water features. 

Baby Pool

The Water Park

This was definitely fun for our family, though it was brief. Miles was pretty scared of the big water bucket and the water dumped hard so we had to be cautious of that and time it so he wouldn't get hit with it. He made sure to check everything out but the slide was his favorite and he kept going back to the blue ones. As he gets older, he'll be able to enjoy it much more.

They did have a toddler waterpark with mini water slides and a splash pad for ages two to four. I'll be entirely honest, it needs a major update before I'd let Miles hang out there. The flooring needs to be redone and there was nothing keeping the little ones from falling over the sides into the lazy river area. Again, our son's trained to self rescue in water but it still freaked me out because of how fast the lazy river moves. There should be some sort of safety netting or fencing there. It's hard to see in this image since it's a screenshot taken from a video, but the floor is a worn out in several places like that. To the right you can see only two pieces of rope separate the toddler area from the fast moving lazy river. Definitely something that should be looked at and updated.

Like I mentioned above, the lazy river was fun but it goes faster than I was used to from other lazy rivers and it's a lot more cramped than others. It's hard to pass someone unless they're smaller. We used it once but without a bottom to the rafts it was hard for our toddler to enjoy. Once he's not a toddler he will enjoy it a lot more but for now he had fun going around it once or twice. 

The XBox Game Garage 

This was one of those places we didn't even think about taking our toddler until we were looking for somewhere other than the room or YoYo's to take a break from the heat. Once inside he was pretty much in awe of everything. Not many kids were in there but I put him down in a chair and thought I'd just let him pretend to play like we do at home. Dwight, the guy who managed the lounge, came over immediately and asked if he could put something on for Miles. I told him sure but explained that he didn't really know how to play, he just liked to press the buttons. Imagine my surprise when Dwight put on Paw Patrol. Talk about knowing your audience. Miles' eye lit up and the game was so easy he quickly figured out what buttons to press to make them jump and run. He was having a great time. 

But, as with all toddlers, their attention span is pretty short. After a little while he wanted to check the whole place out, so we walked around the small rooms. What caught his attention most was a race car game tucked into the corner. It had a bucket seat and a steering wheel and peddles. He ran to it. Dwight explained it didn't work right now, but I told him that wasn't a problem. My son's obsessed with pretending to drive cars, and he sat in that seat staring at a blank screen for at least a half an hour, getting up to press the peddles and making race car sounds as he turned the wheel back and forth. Best part was that there was a nice cushioned couch right across from it that my husband and I could relax on while he had fun. That became our go-to place to get out of the heat for a little while and let him have some fun.

The Kids Camp

I'm a little embarrassed to say we didn't use the Kids Club at all. We had two reasons - one, Miles was still getting over a cold and still had a slight runny nose and cough. They ask you not to bring your children if they have any cold symptoms. But also, he was in that in-between age group where he isn't a baby but isn't potty trained to go with the older toddlers. We felt we'd hold off until he was potty trained before we sent him to Camp Sesame. There will be plenty of years to come for him to enjoy it. We did think the activities they had scheduled looked like fun.

The staff did seem really good with the kids. We saw them throughout the resort walking with their little groups and playing games with them. At one point we were on the beach next to a group playing beach games and Miles was having a meltdown over the fact he couldn't play on the blue tractor the resort uses to clean the sand. It was one of those times where he was completely inconsolable. My husband ran back to the room for something we forgot and I was left there with a two year old kicking and crying on the sand.

One of the Kids Came counselors came over and asked if I could use some help with him. I'd never felt so embarrassed in my life, but I was also feeling exhausted and over it all, so I let her have a try. She got down and talked to him and invited him to play with the big kids in the group. While he didn't want to go with her, he did calm down a lot after that because she'd distracted him. Moments later he was in the ocean with us laughing up a storm. Typical toddler... am I right?

They have a schedule up on the wall by the gift shop which shows what activities are done each day. Bring a plain white t-shirt for your kids for the weekly tie-dying activity. We saw the shirts hanging up to dry and they all looked so cool.

UPDATE: We've since been back twice and Miles (and now his little sister, Isla) have been to the kids camp. Read our blog about it here.

The Sesame Street Character Tuck-In

I have to precursor this with the background info that I, as a child, was terrified of people in costumes because of an incident with Cookie Monster at a parade when I was just a toddler. With that in the back of my mind, I was very nervous this trip would set Miles off on the same course, so I was super careful with how I approached the interactions with him. We have Elmo and Cookie Monster puppets at home and we had Elmo and Cookie "talk" to him about him coming to visit them. But I knew nothing could prepare him for the first moment he saw them in person, which was while he was playing in the pool and the Character Breakfast was going on at the Mariachi restaurant, right next to the pool. He was in awe and actually was excited to see them all from a distance.

My hope had been to do the Character Breakfast and then the Tuck-In one day after that, to warm him up to it all before just inviting them into the room. But I also knew he would want to see Cookie Monster and Elmo together, since they were his favorites. Unfortunately, the only night I could book both of them was night two. My husband was convinced I was setting us up for failure. I played it off, but secretly, I was worried about the same. 

The night came and we talked it up a lot. All through dinner we kept telling him we had to go back to the room soon because Cookie and Elmo were coming to read a bedtime story with us. We even got him Cookie and Elmo pajamas for the occasion. 

When the knock on the door came, he looked entirely confused. But the moment I opened the door his jaw physically dropped, to the point where the bacon he had in his mouth actually fell onto the floor (which he then offered to share with Cookie Monster before I threw it out). There were no tears, thankfully. There was uncertainty of course, but also smiles and laughter. 

The team that comes with them is the character(s) you order, plus the person who reads the story, as well as the photographer to take all the photos for you if you wish to order copies. We ended up taking photos and videos ourselves, too. Once inside, the person reading the story will introduce the characters and be the main person to interact with your kids. Miles climbed into the bed and Cookie went to one side while Elmo went to the other. I don't know if it's because of current safety protocols or if it's just because they picked up on his reservation toward it all that they didn't get into the bed with him, but either way it worked out. The woman ready the story about Elmo going to bed while Cookie and Elmo interacted with him-- giving him high fives and at one point Elmo tickled the bottom of Miles' foot and he started laughing then declared "that tickled!" 

By the time they left, Miles had warmed up and wanted them to come back. He dragged us out of the room (in his pjs) and made us walk the whole resort while he called out "Oh Cookie? Oh Elmo? Where are you? Do you hear me?" All-in-all it was a very special and sweet moment that brought many tears to my eyes and I know created a lifelong memory for him.

Part of the package is that you also get a "gift" from the characters, which is a small plush Sesame St. doll. I'd hoped it would be an Elmo or Cookie doll, since that was who came to the room. However, it goes off of what is available at the gift shop and in this case they had an excess of Grover dolls so that was what he got. If you have a preference, let them know ahead of time so they can try to accommodate. For us, I was a little bummed at first but that Grover doll turned out to be his favorite thing. He hasn't spent a night without it since we came home from the trip.

At the time we did this, the cost of this package was $90 total, which was for one child and included everything mentioned above with one character of your choice. If you wanted to add another character like we did, it was an additional $65 per character. For multiple children, it was an additional charge of $30 per child after that first child. You can find the current information and pricing on the Beaches website here.

The Sesame Street Character Breakfast

Table set up (Elmo and Grover dolls not included)

We'd done the character breakfast in the past on a work trip to Beaches Ocho Rios, so we had an idea of how it went. We figured Miles would enjoy it and allow him to see and meet all of the characters up close with a guaranteed interaction. At only $14 per adult and $18 per child, it was worth the money. That price included a la carte breakfast, character cupcakes, drinks, Sesame Street table decorations with a party hat and a party horn, a finger puppet (we got Cookie Monster with a chef's hat on), and a covered cup with a straw.

This was taken after Miles already grabbed the Elmo one.

Sippy cup!

The breakfast experience took over an hour because ours was sold out so there were at least a dozen other families there, too. The food was out fast, but it was waiting for the characters that took a long time. Each one was announced at at a time (except for Bert and Ernie who were together, of course) and stopped at every table for a photo op. While we waited for them to make their rounds a DJ played Sesame Street songs and the kids got to dance and sing along. 

It ended up being a fun time and even though Miles' attention span was short and he got a little bored toward the end, each time a new character came out he'd light up again. Well worth the money for your kids to have a fun breakfast with their favorite Sesame Street characters. You can find the current information and pricing on the Beaches website here.

Grover knows how to enjoy a party.

It's Elmo!

Sesame Street Parade & Beach Party Buffet:

The Sesame Street parade is on Thursday at 5:30pm and goes until around 6pm. It starts at the main lobby where the transfers pull up. They walk around the circle driveway and then into the resort by the gift shop down to the beach. It ends at the stage on the beach where they do a big beach party with buffet style food, live music, dancing, and more. Even if you don't want to stay for dinner, it's nice to pop in and see the Sesame Street characters for the brief time they are there, and grab some cotton candy of course!

Tip: Don't make dinner reservations for this date and time if you have kids who will want to enjoy that. If you don't plan to attend this event then this is a great time to make dinner reservations since most people will be enjoying the parade and beach party.

Water Sports

We didn't get to check out all of the included water sports this trip, but in the past trips we've done them all. This trip we focused on what we could enjoy with Miles, and for us that was the glass bottom boat. Miles loves being out on boats back home, so we knew this would be fun for him to be able to enjoy the ride but also see through the bottom. He was able to see fish and star fish and even an eel.

Looking for marine life

There are also many other water sports options to choose from that we didn't get to try out on this trip. From Hobie Cats to kayaks to Waterskiing and Banana Boat rides. Though we had tried them all on past trips that were just the two of us and plan to try them with Miles when he's older.


Paddle boards.



Just to note, kids did not need a lifejacket for the glass bottom boat ride, but they would need it for other water sports options like going out on the kayaks. Life jackets are provided for all ages and sizes so you won't need to bring your own, unless you wish to.
Life jacket stand, all available for guests to use.

Land sports

There is a plethora of included land spots and activities to keep everyone entertained during their trip. 

My husband took Miles to the court a few times to practice dribbling and keep him entertained. Of course, it's hot out and there isn't any shade there, so their visits were short. But it did provided some fun and exercise for our family. I even joined in to shoot a few hoops for a little bit before our Glass Bottom Boat ride.

Some other fun ones we tried were the foosball table in front of Cafe de Paris and the billiards/pool table by The Mill restaurant. Though Miles had no clue what he was doing, he had fun playing his version of the games.

Pool table by The Mill


Putting a playground in a shaded area of the resort was genius. What kids don't love a playground? And what parents don't love a shaded playground? This came in handy a few times during our trip and we were very glad the resort had it available. It's located right in front of the Savannah building, behind the lazy river area and is very easy to get to from the Piazza pool. There are slides, swings, monkey bars, and more, plus a soft sand flooring to keep kids safe.

The Spa

We checked in on Mother's Day, and it was Travel Agent Appreciation Week, and my birthday was two weeks after our trip, so my husband wanted to make sure I was able to get a little rest and relaxation on this special trip and celebrate in some way. We went down with a $200 resort credit and Robert wanted to gift me the difference for a nice long spa treatment of my choice. So one morning, Miles and Robert dropped me off at the spa to enjoy a 90 minute massage. 

First off, I didn't get this massage until the second to last day. I kept telling myself I needed to book it for earlier in the trip in case I got sunburn (something I always recommend to my clients) but before I knew it, it was day three of six and I hadn't gone to the spa or called concierge to book it. Thankfully, the massage therapists walk around the property on their down time and check with guests to see if anyone needs to make an appointment. I was very grateful that Caulet stopped by the pool that day and got my attention while I was in the water with Miles. She asked if I was considering a treatment and I had been. She got me scheduled for the first appointment and helped me choose the "Deeper Relief with CBD Oil" massage for 90 minutes and wow. I would absolutely doing it again in a heartbeat.

When I arrived at the spa, the receptionist got me checked-in. That took only a few minutes. Then I was ushered back to the women's changing area. I was given a key for a locker and was told to change out of my clothes and put on the robe provided (they also had flip flops provided). There are also showers in the changing area, which they do request you use to wash up before your treatment. After showering and putting on the robe, I went to wait in the small waiting area where Caulet came to find me. She guided me upstairs to the treatment room and a few minutes after I got situated, she returned to the room to begin the massage. 

My husband and son had been sick before we traveled and my husband had tested negative for COVID or Flu, so we knew it was a cold. I had escaped getting sick and thought I was in the clear until I woke up the morning of travel with a stuffy nose and sore throat. To be safe, I packed some rapid tests in our luggage. By the time it came time for my massage I was all congested, and made sure to test that morning to ensure I was negative, for my peace of mind and the therapist's as well. I made sure to let her know I was negative before she began treatment and she assured me I was fine. She also did something really sweet and unexpected. She switched the essential oil for the massage to peppermint in order to help clear my sinuses. And boy did it! I was very thankful for that.

The massage itself was incredible. Very relaxing and rejuvenating. I am not a talker when it comes to having my hair or nails done or having a spa treatment. I am one who prefers to close my eyes and unwind during it. Caulet understood and respected that, and I appreciated it. I needed that 90 minutes of quiet when everything else in life is always so loud and chaotic. By the time I was done I felt like a new person. 

I will say, they will try to sell you on spa products when you leave. I would have bought some in a heartbeat if I had checked bags coming back. But none of them came in the liquid travel sizes. You can view a full list of spa treatments and their current pricing here.

The Gift Shop

We did buy a few things for Miles there - a Beaches rash guard/swim shirt, a Jamaica t-shirt, and an Elmo firefighter plush doll. We didn't need anything for us but there were plenty of options for all ages in terms of clothes, bathing suits, flip flops, knickknacks, etc. There was also a wide variety of over the counter medications and any first aid items, women's sanitary items, and even diapers and wipes (including swim diapers). So if you run out of anything or forget anything at home, you don't have to go far to find it and whatever you can't find there, they'll help you get.

EPIX Photo Shop

I do love the fact that while you're trying to focus on enjoying your trip, someone else is able to handle taking the photos for you. Especially for those of us who are the picture takers in the family, who never seem to get into any photos. They ask if you want photos taken and you can accept or decline. If they do take a photo for you, they will ask your room number so you can check your photos later to buy any that you want. You can also set up free photo sessions with them and do professional family photos. For us, we had high hopes of doing that but it never panned out sadly.

We did accept having our photos taken a few times and at the end of the trip before check-out we popped into the photo shop to see what our photos looked like. I was a bit disappointed. The photos themselves were good quality and came out fine, but we were missing the entire Character Breakfast and Tuck In photos and somehow had someone else's family photos mixed in with ours. I'm assuming someone else had our other photos. That kinda weirded me out a little to think someone else could technically see and buy our photos. In the end, we didn't end up buying any and never did get to see our son's photos with the Sesame Street characters, but at least we had our cell phone photos. 

Learn from us. If you do end up stopping into the photo shop, make sure it's not right before check-out so you have a little more time to correct any issues like that if they do arise.


Check-out was pretty simple. We used the same card we had on file to settle our bill. We did have a credit on the account of $125 which they gave me proof of in gift certificates in the room. I had to take those down to the Concierge at check-out and make sure they took that off. It did take us much longer because of all of that, but we had gone down early and had a private transfer so we weren't feeling very rushed.

Elmo was in the lobby saying goodbye to everyone when we left. It was nice to see him one last time and made us even sadder to be going home.

Return Transfer:

The transfer back to the airport was also a private one and we were able to ensure a car seat again because of that. The transfer included the same snacks for us but we also brought a box of cereal from the buffet for Miles to snack on. This time our driver drove a lot faster and I was feeling car sick by the time we got to Montego Bay, which never happens to me. We'd definitely try to ask for Chris again next time since he was a more cautious and careful driver. 

The Airport:

Something we weren't prepared for was our return trip being so chaotic. The day before we were set to leave there was a strike at the airport and all planes were grounded and the airport was closed for a little under 24 hours. While our flight ended up still flying out the next day, all the flights had to accommodate the thousands of stranded travelers who hadn't been able to leave the day before. Which meant the airport was packed.

Thankfully, we flew JetBlue and our lines were short, but American had lines out the door of the airport. It was pure madness.

One of the problems was that so many hadn't filled out the attestation forms for the CDC ahead of time and were scrambling to fill it out using the airport WiFi which was horribly slow. You couldn't check in until you had confirmation of them being submitted for every traveler who had the COVID test done.

Tip: Do this ahead of time at the resort after you receive your negative results. Search your airline's name and "attestation form" online and fill it out. Once you receive the confirmation page that it's been submitted, screenshot it and save it to the "Travel Documents" album on your phone.

We were also glad we got Club MoBay because it gave us a place to hang out with Wifi and food and drinks. It also had a fun kids play area where Miles was able to be entertained for the time we were there.

What I'm Glad We Packed:

Regular Diapers- We're working on potty training but still wanted to pack the diapers because we just aren't there yet. We packed just enough to get us through the week we were there. We didn't overpack diapers because we knew most of the day he'd be in his swim diapers. We did have a very slight concern about "what if we tested positive on the return home and had to stay longer for quarantine". But we decided if that did happen, we'd use that time of being room-bound to finish potty training. Thankfully, it never came to that. But we ended up having the exact right amount of diapers we needed and found that the resort gift shop did have our son's diapers and swim diapers available, if we were in an absolute pinch.

Swim Diapers- Our son uses reusable swim diapers at home, but when traveling I also wanted an added layer of protection because you just never know. Disposable swim diapers allowed that extra layer of peace of mind and at one point when he did go to the bathroom in his swim diaper, we were able to remove it and it didn't make a mess in his reusable one leaving us having to hand wash it.

First Aid - While he thankfully didn't need any of it, I packed any and all first aid I could (including liquid stitches and anti-itch cream). I had everything the nurse's station or gift shop would have had, but it cost me way less to fill the bag with all of it. Anything I could think of, I packed it- even a thermometer and various brands of children and adult Motrin, Tylenol, Aspirin, anti-diarrheal, anti-nausea, etc. In hindsight, I really didn't need any of it, thankfully. But I would rather be safe than sorry.  What I did need was cold medicine and cough drops since I came down with a cold day two of the trip and that would have been very expensive to buy at the gift shop. Thankfully, I had our go-to cold medicine and cough drops packed and we were good to go. That probably saved us at least $50 at the gift shop and it's all stuff we can use at home, too.

1 Kids Drink Cup - To my surprise, there aren't any covered cups at Beaches Resorts for kids. The only ones we found were given as a souvenir for the Sesame St. Character Breakfast. By then we were halfway through our stay so we didn't use it. I'm glad I had his one usual sippy cup that we brought, but also picked up these reusable stretchy cup covers which I keep in the car for when we dine out. It includes two silicone stretch lids and a reusable straw. Several times my son had issues with the paper straws at the resort because he likes to chew on the straws and then they stopped working. This gave him a more reliable straw to use.

Small Matchbox Sized Cars - The little construction trucks and cars were great because they didn't take up a lot of space in his bag. I packed maybe 8 of them total and he played with them when he was bored in the room or at the airport. I even brought them down to the beach one day for him to play with them in the sand.

Dawn Dish Soap - I packed a small bottle of this and it came in handy several times. Mainly because there is no liquid soap in the rooms. The bar soap isn't the easiest to share as a family. Also, we were able to use it to clean his cup and cup covers, as well as using it as a cleaning soap for any stains on clothes.

Bug Spray - While my husband forgot to use it that one evening at Stew Fish, it would have saved him the agony of itchy bug bites for days later. We live in Florida and used a locally made travel-sized bug spray that we've used here when needed. But many recommend a spray like Avon's Skin So Soft to bring with you for any time spent on the sand at dusk or after dark.

Snacks - I didn't go crazy on this one, I only picked up a box of individual bagged goldfish crackers. My husband swore we didn't need it because it's an all-inclusive resort, but I know our son is a snacker and there would be times during the trip that he would be hungry and we'd need something in a pinch. These came in handy several times including in the airport, on the plane, during the transfers, and in the room before we'd go to breakfast or before bedtime when he'd need something small to eat. They even came in handy on the drive home from the airport when we were starting to feel the hunger headaches coming on.

What We Didn't Need To Pack:

Pool Float - What was I thinking? I completely forgot two things- Beaches had pool floats and I'm traveling with a toddler. I wasn't going to have time to relax. I had packed a SwimWays Circle Spring Float, which is compact. Easy to pack and easy to bring home after using. I expected to use it in the ocean. He wouldn't let me sit still long enough to relax in it. So it was one more useless thing we shlepped around the resort while chasing a two year old. But hey, at least I can use it in my pool at home now.

Pool Toys - Everyone leaves behind pool toys and floats. There were plenty of things for our son to play with in and out of the pool and he only played with the beach ball we brought twice. Otherwise he was too busy swimming and having fun.

Beach Toys - Same with the sand bucket and shovels. He barely used them and it was another thing to carry around.

Life Jacket - I have my boating license and I know that back home the law is if a child is under 7 on a boat under 26' then he needs a life jacket. I didn't know the laws in Jamaica, but I knew they provided life jackets for all ages. I just wasn't sure our son would fit any of them as he's on the weight limit cusp between the baby and toddler ones. He is also ISR swim trained and his at-home lift jacked has been ISR approved and tested with his trainer. So being the ever overprotective momma bear that I am, I wanted to make sure he'd be safe if we needed the life jacket. It took up a bit of room in his bag and he wore it for 5 minutes while we got onto the glass bottom boat just to find out he didn't need it. I also found out they have plenty in both baby and toddler sizes in the exact same style as the one we own. Next time, I'm saving the space.

How Can You Book?

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If our blog has helped you out but you wish to book direct with Sandals, please consider booking through our Sandals co-branded website or Beaches co-branded website so we get the credit for helping you.

NOTE: All information in this blog was collected at the time of publishing. Information above is always subject to change, per the resort.

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