Staying at an all-inclusive resort often makes life easier for adults as it can give you a much-needed break from cooking & cleaning for a week or two. However if you’re headed to a 5 star all-inclusive hotel with a baby you still likely have several questions how you’re going to make it all work! There’s still a little preparation & research required to ensure you can comfortably maximize your time in paradise with your family. Often you just need to check ahead of time to see what amenities & items the resort will supply to guests and which items you need to put on your list to bring with you.
Isla spent her first night in a hotel at just 4 weeks old in Canada. She soon became a little resort baby going in and out of some of the big fancy all-inclusive resorts here in Mexico by the time she was 10 weeks old. She has experienced many firsts at resorts including her first dip in the ocean, the first time she crawled, her first time climbing up stairs, trying lots of different styles of food at some of the various international restaurants, she took some of her very first steps at hotels & the list goes on. Our Isla has developed a genuine love for staying at hotels and gets incredibly excited every time we pull up to a resort!
Sleeping arrangements are probably the number one thing parents worry about when traveling with their little one. During Isla’s very first hotel stay at just 4 weeks old she slept in a small & portable compact mesh sided co-sleeper that fit in my suitcase and just unfolded. I kept her in bed with me in the co-sleeper and didn’t use any sheets. At that point at home she usually slept every night in her own bassinet attached to a pack n’ play travel play yard but I didn’t feel like bringing the whole thing with me for one night so I was open to alternative arrangements.
Most all-inclusive resorts here in Mexico offer complimentary use of a play yard or crib during your stay. This all depends on your comfort level whether or not you’ll want to use it. We stayed at several hotels where we requested the crib or pack n’ play and still opted to have her sleep in bed with us because we didn’t feel completely comfortable with what they had on hand. I can remember the rickety metal crib at one resort that was wheeled into our room terrified me and a crib at another had a good size gap between the mattress and rails. We never stayed at a hotel where we were completely at ease with what they were providing so we started regularly co-sleeping at hotels. That doesn’t mean other guests at various hotels wouldn’t have better luck but it just so happened wherever we would stay the hotels provided cribs instead of pack n’ play travel play yards which in my opinion can vary a lot more when it comes to safety. It’s definitely worth checking whether a resort or hotel will provide a pack n’ play or crib before you arrive. You can try contacting the hotel itself (keep in mind some hotels offer different items based on the section you’ll be staying in) or read recent reviews on Tripadvisor. If you’re at all unsure about where your little one will sleep and aren’t comfortable co-sleeping as a back-up plan most airlines do allow a playpen as one of your free checked travel items when flying with an infant (under 2 years old). I’d say it’s worth it to allow everyone to get a good night’s rest without worrying.
On several occasions I did use our portable pop-up playpen in small off the beaten path type hotels. The pop up playpen is the same one I’ve always used on the beach or poolside for a cozy shaded place for her to play & nap. If we were going on a little road trip here in Mexico and staying in areas closer to the jungle I was a little more cautious about bugs (scorpions or large spiders) getting at Isla during the night and didn’t want to take any chances so that pop up playpen was the perfect solution.
This isn’t something I’ve ever thought twice about in Cancun or anywhere in the Mayan Riviera in all-inclusive hotels (I have still never personally seen either of those critters in Quintana Roo) but elsewhere in the Yucatan in places like Merida, Valladolid & Uxmal I knew it was much more of a reality. These were places where my husband has family and many times over the years I heard stories about tarantulas in their homes or scorpions scurrying across their driveways. I don’t have an overt fear of any type of insects but it was hard to shake those images over 15 years of visits to the Yucatan state when trying to find a safe spot for our young baby to sleep. The pop up playpen had a mesh screen I could completely enclose her in & I slept curled up next to her with the whole thing set up on the bed. Again I only did this when staying in more remote hotels in Mexico very close to or literally in the jungle. For example when Isla was about 9 months old we stayed in a hacienda style hotel in the jungle just steps from the Uxmal Mayan ruins so that screened in playpen just helped us all sleep a little better at night!
When we stay at hotels I often go for a beach walk during sunrise with Isla using a carrier & just bring a small bag of essentials. But for a day or afternoon by the pool or beach I’d conveniently load up the stroller with towels, pool toys and other necessities. I was always a fan of having our stroller while staying at resorts because it’s always served an extra set of hands to carry stuff for me…some hotel rooms can be quite a distance from where you’re headed. Isla also exclusively received pumped breastmilk by bottles so I also always had to have a small cooler bag on me for that.
I would just park the stroller somewhere, lock the wheels and have everything we needed handy. If I didn’t bring the pop up play yard with us the stroller was my go to place to lay her down if we couldn’t find shade and she wanted to nap. In the evenings it meant we had a portable bed for her as soon as she was ready to get some sleep…we had absolutely no problem letting her sleep whenever or wherever.
You know those fancy cabanas on the beach & around the pool usually reserved for members or for a steep extra fee to use? Well I always found that by about 4 or 5pm those cabanas would all become vacant and no longer monitored by staff. Most guests are out in the sun the whole day and by the later part of the afternoon usually pack up to head inside to rest, shower and get ready for dinner. Coincidentally 3 or 4pm is my favourite time to head to the beach with my daughter! I’d find an empty cabana and quietly make myself at home. No one ever bothered us because like I said at the end of the day no one really seems to care about the cabanas anymore. We’d go for a swim or just hang out and play which would often soon slip into a natural opportunity to take a nap…and for me to soak up some wonderfully tranquil moments snuggling my baby. Some of those moments spent just resting with her when the pools & beach are completely quiet and all ours are some of my favourite resort memories with her.
During the rest of the day it is possible to snag a beach or poolside umbrella but you often need to get out there quite early to do so. I still only spent early mornings and late afternoons with my daughter outside in the strong sun & heat as I just really couldn’t stand laying out in the sun all day…especially with a young baby. To this day my daughter has a hard time regulating her core body temperature and ends up sweating like crazy all of the time. So for us, even with her beautiful sun kissed complexion, shade is still always a good idea.
Washing & Sterilizing Bottles
Isla exclusively received breast milk for about the first 9 months of her life but all from bottles. Since we were going in and out of hotels with her at quite a young age it also meant I needed to think about washing and sterilizing bottles as well as my breast pump parts. I used to carry my own small liquid dish soap & a bottlebrush in a large zip lock bag. I would wash the sink in the hotel room and just wash the bottles and pump parts there using tap water. Most large all-inclusive hotels operate their own amazing filtration system so there’s really little concern to use the water to brush your teeth or wash bottles but if you have any doubt…use bottled water to give them a good rinse after you wash them with tap water, wash them in bottled water all together and/or sterilize your bottles afterwards. To dry bottles I always kept it simple and would lie out a clean towel to place everything on.
For sterilizing bottles this varied from hotel to hotel but at the Royalton Riviera Cancun they actually supplied a loaner electric sterilizer we were able to sign out and keep in our room free of charge. We stayed several weeks at the Royalton with Isla as a young baby so having the sterilizer was perfect because it was handy, quick & effective!
At all other resorts I brought sterilizing bags. You basically throw a few bottles at a time in a bag with a bit of water and pop it in the microwave for a few minutes. The challenge sometimes was finding a microwave! Some rooms have microwaves (but not very often at an all inclusive), some restaurants can give you a hand or failing that we used to try and track down the employee lunch room. On many occasions where I didn’t have access to a sterilizer or microwave for the bags…I would head to the resort’s coffee shop. I would get them to give a few good blasts of extra hot steam from their espresso machine and it would do the trick.
As an exclusive pumper it also meant I needed to always keep an eye out for a fridge to stash all of the bottles of breast milk. In our case breast milk wasn’t an “extra” but my daughter’s only milk she was receiving so it was crucial. Our first hotel stay in Canada we made a special request for a fridge and they quickly delivered a small fridge to our room to use for the night (I did know they had them available upon request ahead of time). Most all-inclusive hotels have a small mini bar type fridge already in the room so I would just clear it out and replace most of the cans of pop or cerveza with bottles of breast milk. In one small hotel we stayed at in Merida, Yucatan I can remember they didn’t have a fridge in the room but allowed me to keep the bottles of milk in the employee lunchroom refrigerator (I tied them up inside a few plastic bags before placing in the fridge). Sometimes you just need to get creative…and be a little persistent.
Once we moved into using formula around 9 months old we always used the powdered formula pre-portioned out in a small container with bottled water in her bottles/sippy cups as it was pretty convenient to keep with us on the go in the heat. If you’re using ready to feed formula the small fridge in the room will definitely come in handy for opened containers.
Eating at Resorts
Depending on the age of your baby he or she may already be eating solids or a variety of purées. When my daughter first started on solids and we were headed to a hotel for a week or two we would bring our Baby Bullet System along with us to make fresh baby food. That way I could grab a few fruits or vegetables from the buffet or order through room service to whip up a some purées to have on hand & stash in the cute little containers it came with in the mini fridge in our room. If you’re at all concerned with giving your child fruits while in another country you can stick with items that you can easily cut & peel yourself that don’t need to be washed like bananas, mangos, avocados & kiwi. The size of the Baby Bullet blender is fairly compact, made of plastic (not glass) which is a plus for traveling and I could easily toss it in my suitcase. I only did that for a short time until Isla was able to move more into whole fruits, veggies, pasta, rice etc. We’ve never had a problem feeding her at all-inclusive resorts, as there are so many options! There’s always something she’d eat and that we could try giving her for the first time. Remember though if your baby is new to eating you may not want them to try foods or ingredients they haven’t had before for the first time at a hotel in an area you’re unfamiliar with. Either way at the advice of close friends of mine, who have children with severe anaphylactic allergies, we did always keep a bottle of liquid children’s Benadryl with us just in case Isla ever experienced a reaction. Benadryl can help with symptoms in an emergency situation until proper medical attention is received.
I often felt better bringing my own reusable placemat, plate with a suction cup on it and reusable simple plastic sippy cups even to a resort. Sometimes I’d cringe when a waiter would bring my daughter food on a fancy ceramic plate or water in a tall glass drinking glass. I just wanted to relax during a meal instead of worrying she may knock something breakable off the table (or worse yet chuck it across the restaurant) so it was worth it to bring my own items. They didn’t take up all that much space in my diaper bag (the plastic sippy cups I’ve always used are stackable & the lids are interchangeable) and were worth it to have on hand at all times! One more item I always brought with us into resort restaurants was a sweater. A lot of hotels keep their restaurants quite chilly so it’s worth it to have a sweater on hand for your little one.
Most restaurants at resorts have lots and lots of high chairs for guests to use. We’ve never had an issue finding one at any of the hotels we’ve been to and if it’s a family friendly resort they will likely have many on hand at each restaurant on the property.
We’ve only owned one baby bathtub but it was by all means the most perfect baby tub we could have ever got. We’ve been using the same portable & foldable tub for Isla since birth. Believe it or not but we still use it now for her at 3 years old because our home here in Mexico (& often most homes in Mexico) don’t come with bathtubs! The tub collapses right down and has travelled in our suitcase between Canada & Mexico and also resorts. Here at home it also means we’ve always been able to fold it up flat to keep it out of the way in our bathroom instead a big hunk of plastic sitting around.
At resorts it meant we didn’t need to inflate a bathtub (most portable bathtub options tend to be plastic and require you to blow them up). For us our Stokke tub was compact & convenient in every sense of the word and perfect for a traveling family with a young baby. Once she was able to sit up we stopped bringing our portable tub with us and started using the hotel room’s bathtub (if they had one), sink or shower.
Most kids clubs here in Mexico at all-inclusive resorts are fully equipped and can keep little ones busy for hours & hours. There’s usually a combination of an outdoors playground, splash pad, indoor play area usually concentrating on creative play, scheduled activities, shows and character appearances. The majority of kids clubs allow kids of all ages to enjoy them but only kids 4 years and older can stay unaccompanied without an adult. I’ve always still taken Isla to check out what’s happening in the kids club, especially during mid day when the sun is the hottest & strongest so it gave us a little mini break from the heat. I’d just hang out with her and it was a good chance for her to socialize with other kids.
For kids who are at least 4, parents can sign their children in at the front desk of the kids club. Isla is still not old enough to be left alone but I’ve witnessed lots of excited children enter into the clubs as they often become quite close with the staff who run the kids clubs. They keep them busy with lots of activities and some playrooms even have built in areas for meals with child friendly food items (like chicken fingers, burgers, fries, hot dogs, pizza & pasta) so they don’t have to leave the club to feed the kids.
Really if you’re staying in a modern nice hotel or resort there isn’t a whole lot to worry about. Some things do take a little planning just to ensure you have the necessities covered but by no means do you have to drag everything with you from home to enjoy your stay. Often you just need to do a little research about where you’re staying, aim to be flexible and get creative to troubleshoot along the way!
The following products were mentioned as items we personally used with our daughter. We are in no way affiliated with any of the manufacturers.