Club Med, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
The all-inclusive Club Med instant-win button is the Baby Club, where children as young as 6 months old enjoy their own pool, play area and even perform (sort of) in the weekly show. Parents can actually relax on the spectacular adults-only beach, learn to windsurf and scuba-dive, even get a hot-stone massage, knowing their young ones are being well-cared for by trained staff. Club Med is known for its Circus School, which allows kids as young as 4 to swing from a flying trapeze. Parents will also appreciate baby paraphernalia like bottle warmers, baby bathtubs and strollers available for loan at no cost.
Franklyn D. Resort, Jamaica
FDR is legendary among parents with babies and young children for their “vacation nannies,” which are part of the all-inclusive price. Many families return year after year and request the same nanny, who will play with any baby that travels and take them to the kids club, playground or pool. They’ll also watch toddlers in the pool, tidy the room and restock the kitchen with snacks. Other programs for children include dress-up parties, donkey rides, basketball, tennis, water sports and scuba for kids ages 10 and up.
Beaches Resort, Turks & Caicos
The upscale Beaches Resort in Turks and Caicos is the chain’s flagship family property. Sesame Street characters feature prominently in the resort’s kids programs: Preschoolers and grade-school kids can twirl with Zoe and bake cookies with Cookie Monster. Tweens and teens spin discs at the Scratch D.J. Academy and play computer games at the Xbox 360 Game Garage. The resort features scuba instruction geared toward each age range, from shallow underwater treasure hunts designed to familiarize young kids with gear, to reef-fish identification programs for teens and adults.Other Beaches family properties: Boscobel, Jamaica; Negril, Jamaica
Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Bahamas
When this lavish property opened in 1998, it became an instant legend. In the past few years top celebrities such as Katy Perry and Jerry Seinfeld have performed at the outdoor amphitheater, several TV programs and movies have taped episodes on the property, and beauty pageants like Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA have held competitions here. The complex includes a water park featuring the Leap of Faith waterslide, which shoots guests out of a faux Mayan temple down a vertical drop and through a clear tunnel under a shark lagoon. The resort also has multiple pools, a white-sand beach and a lagoon for kayaking.
Disney Cruise Ships
Another way to see the Caribbean with the kids is on a cruise ship. Disney ships’ facilities, dining and activities are geared toward families with kids in the 4 to pre-teen age range. The kids’ clubs are divided into age categories spanning just a couple of years; there’s a nursery for the babies, as well as Aloft, a club for teens to hang out together. Castaway Cay, Disney's private Bahamian island, is one of the nicest in the cruise industry. Parents who want to plan ahead can use an online service to pre-order baby supplies and have them delivered to their stateroom. Other ships for family cruising: Royal Caribbean's Voyager-class ships and Carnival'sConquest and Splendor-class ships
Renting a vacation home can be a great way for families to save money and bring some of the comforts of home, like a kitchen and multiple bathrooms, to a destination. Dozens of websites offer homes for rent around the world. Home Away owns several of the sites, including VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), which allows homeowners to list their own properties. If you’re looking for unique, luxury properties, try Caribbean Villas. FlipKey, owned by TripAdvisor, does for vacation rentals what the mother site does for hotels, offering bookings and reviews by real travelers.
Travel writer Trisha Creekmore has visited more than a dozen Caribbean islands, where she has been scuba diving with her share of sharks and stingrays.