September 23, 2023

  • My family of four recently returned from a vacation at Club Med Sandpiper Bay.
  • It is the only family all-inclusive in the US and was renovated 12 years ago.
  • The resort felt run down but we would go back in a heartbeat just for the childcare.

A week ago, my wife and I returned from vacation with our family. Not a trip, mind you, vacation.

The difference is simple. Traveling is a great experience: You take the kids on adventures and have fun times. We recently had a family trip to Virginia, with beaches, zoos, aquariums, water parks and more. Every day was something new and fun. The kids had a blast and by the end of this trip, my wife and I needed a vacation. We were exhausted. On top of the usual adventures and energy of being a stay-at-home parent, traveling requires a tremendous amount of extra energy. And unfortunately, hotel coffee is usually awful. We returned from our trip ready to sleep for a solid week. However, our two alarm clocks – one 6 years old, the other 3 – had other ideas.

So my wife and I looked for a vacation.

We found the only family all-inclusive in the US

We were looking for some kind of experience where we could all have fun, but that involved taking care of the kids. We wanted to relax, but we also wanted the kids to have fun. We wanted the whole family to have fun: a resort with childcare that was great for everyone. Add in the difficulty of needing vegan options and childcare for a 3-year-old, and the list of possibilities was minuscule.

Club Med Sandpiper Bay was known as one of the “all-inclusive family resorts only” in the United States, and the only Club Med. The resort was renovated 12 years ago and has a stellar reputation for taking care of her children. We were excited.

Until we got there.

The resort felt run down

The resort immediately felt like a fancy motel. The rooms overlook what can only be described as a dump – an area of ​​sand, weeds, some rubbish and some pipes. The room itself felt like it had been untouched since the 1980s. Peeling paint, cracked fixtures, and a desk that looked like it was designed by a high school theater troupe.

The whole resort felt run down, or as one guest we met early called it, “tired”. Broken golf clubs and a crumbling mini golf course, nothing to do indoors, music playing until midnight in a resort full of little kids. The spa was completely rude and fully booked even though we told our travel agent that you didn’t need to book in advance. Reception was no better.

View from Christopher Mannino's room

Courtesy of Christopher Mannino

In the kid’s craft area, there was a giant wooden Connect Four toy. It was the perfect metaphor for the place. It looked fun from afar, but up close, the toy was broken and there were nails sticking out along the sides. All this led me to leave a 2 star review on Tripadvisor.

We would go again

Still, we had a great time and would go back in a heartbeat.

They offered amazing children’s programs: Our two children enjoyed themselves while there. We gave them several days to choose and they begged to come back with their new friends. They made crafts, spent time in the pool, danced, made pizzas and even tried table tennis. Their leaders were amazing.

Despite the rest of the resort, the food was also amazing.

Christopher Mannino's kid plays mini golf

Courtesy of Christopher Mannino

We weren’t living in luxury, but it didn’t matter. We were on vacation. In fact, we were able to enjoy the tropical weather with delicious food and quiet at noon. We had almost forgotten what that sounded like.

We met a family from London who would only travel between the 71 Club Med resorts. In the words of the father, “Sandpiper Bay is the worst Club Med, but the only one we return to every year.” Amazing statement, but I get it.

Vacations are essential and childcare makes all the difference.

Christopher Mannino is a stay at home dad, authorand Streelance writer. She writes fantasy books for children and adults and lives in Delaware.

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