Our African Safari- Seeing the Big 5

Omg, you guys! I can’t even believe I’m writing this post. As long as I can remember I’ve dreamed about visiting Africa and going on Safari. It’s always sounded like the ultimate in adventure. The downside for me has always been that I’m not much into camping, dirt, or bugs. I’m outdoorsy in that I like to take my glass of wine to the patio occasionally. If it’s not too buggy out that is. So the fact that I took the boys on a two day Safari in South Africa blows my mind in a whole pile of directions.

WARNING: Photo heavy because, you know, SAFARI!!!

single mom travels || traveling with kids || safari ideas || the big 5 || Africa with kids || #summertravel2017 || 24cottonwoodlane.com
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It started with a load of research and planning since I’m anxious, ummm, I mean thorough like that. We explored a few possibilities online and finally chose Aquila after some back and forth live chatting to answer all my questions. Such important things like… Would I be eaten by a lion? Where are we sleeping? Does it have to involve a tent? Is there wine?

Here’s how it all went down.

We chose to drive ourselves there to save some cash and I wanted to actually get used to driving on the left on the highways. It was a gorgeous drive from our place outside of Cape Town and took almost 2 hours through the beautiful mountains and vineyards of South Africa. We came across shephards and flocks and a bunch of baboons roaming the highway. With a heck ton of warning signs about said baboons. Apparently, they can be real little dicks.

We arrived around noon on Saturday and were welcomed with champagne and drinks before hitting up the tasty buffet for lunch.

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas ||


Once lunch was finished we were able to grab our keys to check in to our cottage which had one huge bed and the cot I asked for. Unfortunately, I forgot the language issue and remembered that cot actually means crib in South Africa. After the boys fought over who would be sleeping in the playpen/travel cot we agreed that the king size bed was big enough to share. The cottage was gorgeous and well stocked!


African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017


There is a lovely bathroom with a huge soaker tub and and an outdoor rock shower!

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017


Our first safari left around 4PM and we stayed out until after the sun set. We were able to see all of the big 5 with the exception of the lions who had gone to sleep early and couldn’t be located. The guide was amazing in sharing his knowledge and engaging all of us to learn about the reserve and the habits of the animals who lived here.

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017

If you’re not aware, South Africa is in the worst drought in recorded history. This is all that’s left of the watering hole that really should be the size of a lake. It’s seriously frightening and has changed the way we use water both in Africa and even since we’ve come home.

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017

I have a fondness for these wildebeests because they are just so humorous looking. Also, one was pretending to be an ostrich and making ostrich like noises at the ostriches near him. I always like the weird ones.

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017


African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017


Just prior to the end of our first safari, we stopped for champagne and some snacks. Mmm….tasty, tasty.  If you happen to be in South Africa, please send biltong! I’m in withdrawal.


African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017
Everyone should have champagne on a safari


I have like a thousand pictures of the boys and the animals and just one of the three of us together because of the kindness of our fellow safari goers.


African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017


Despite being exhausted, we enjoyed a great dinner at the buffet once again and I slurped a few glasses of South African pinotage, which is pretty much the best red wine in the world. No exaggeration. It’s like creamy buttery wine or something.


African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017
Source: Aquila Safari

We headed back to our cottage to find that someone had been by to turn on the heater and to leave hot water bottles at the bottom of our bed. How delightful to be able to go to bed with warm feet on a cold night!

The boys insisted that they would happily wake up for the early morning Safari which was meeting at 6:45 am. I wasn’t so sure about that but we actually pulled it off. Hot drinks and snacks were waiting for us while the guides loaded the jeeps with blankets and got things ready.


African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017


It was really cold before the sun came up so we cuddled together. It’s kind of rare to get the boys to sit still or for my face to actually take a good photo let alone a selfie but we did! And we mostly look like normal people.


African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017


We did manage to see the lions who had just come out to greet the sun. In my excitement, I forgot to get close ups. Also it was freezing and my hands were a little chilly. It was winter in South Africa and all.


African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017


Back to the lodge for breakfast and some free time before our noon check out. As it happened, I was taking yet another picture of the boys before I noticed the elephants behind them in our “backyard.” So freaking cool!


African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017
Can you spot him?


African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017
One of several pools



Aquila Safari–         Touws River, Western Cape, South Africa

COST-   R3295.  Which translates to around $329 CAD or $249 USD  (Seriously, our money went really far!)

INCLUDED-    Full access to all facilities, one night in a standard luxury cottage, lunch, dinner, breakfast, two safaris (with guide), free parking

NOT INCLUDED-    Beverages (welcome drinks and picnic beverages supplied), Souvenirs

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017


PS. This is not a sponsored post however, we did receive a discounted accommodation allowing Aiden to travel and stay free. There were no expectations of a review or any further negotiations between me and Aquila. We’re just very happy with our experience and the discount was very kind. See our full disclosure policy HERE. As a single parent this was huge since you’re almost always paying full adult prices for you and your kiddos.

Is an African Safari on  your bucket list?

Summer Travel Deals

You may have heard that we like to travel. No surprises there since I’m writing this post from South Africa where we’ve spent the last 5 weeks before heading on to Amsterdam in a few days. So it’s no surprise either that my email inbox is full of travel deals and inspiration. I subscribe to pretty much anything that will help me catch a plane, train, or bus to somewhere else.

Viator has been my go to resource this summer as we plan our trips and decide which outings and adventures we want to take advantage of in the two continents we’ve been exploring. I used them extensively in Paris to book tours and have done so in Cape Town as well. And I’ve no doubt I’ll be hitting them up again when we get to Amsterdam later this week.

So when I found my inbox full of summer deals, I thought I’d better pass those deals on.  And just so we’re clear, this is NOT a sponsored post although I have included affiliate links. I just really liked dealing with Viator this past summer and wanted to share what we learned and what’s on sale. I do get a small commission if you purchase a tour or link which helps me feed at least one kid. The other won’t really eat anything. Except the occasional nutella crepe in France.

Summer travel ideas || Paris with kids || things to do in Paris with kids || travel ideas with kids || traveling and FASD || summer travel 2017 || single parent travels || summer travel deals || travel cheap


We love taking the Hop on Hop Off buses in just about any city we can find them. It’s a great way to see the city and you can literally hop on and hop off for one price for 2 or 3 days depending on where you are.

We used the Hop On in Paris and in Cape Town, even though we had a car here. It’s a great way to see the entire city and decide where you’d like to stop. And of course, I was excited to see that the same bus tour happens to roll through Amsterdam so we’ll be hopping on and off a lot more this weekend!

And Paris happens to be on sale for the rest of the summer!

City Sightseeing Paris Hop-On Hop-Off Tour – $37.71

from: Viator

Cape Town is so ridiculously beautiful that it’s hard to concentrate when you’re driving. Particularly when you’re driving on the left which proved to be a bit challenging in the beginning. I still make turns so slowly, muttering “easy left, far right” that other drivers get impatient and honk at me. Which is why we loved spending two days exploring by bus. Also, I got to sample lots of local wine. Yum.

cape town || traveling with kids || south africa tour ideas || summer travel ideas || family travel ideas || single parent travels Cape Town Tour


Viator also has the New York City Tours on sale for 30% off, so if you’re heading that way you can see the city and save your money for the important things. Like eating. Nom nom nom. Book by July 31 2017 to save 30% off their previously offered price on 24-hour Downtown, Uptown, Brooklyn or Bronx Loop! We took that bus tour the last two times we were in New York and it was super easy to find our way around.

Love Game of Thrones? I mean, who doesn’t really. Viator has their Game of Thrones tours on sale throughout Europe wherever the show is filmed. Sign me up!


game of thrones || game of thrones site tours || summer travel ideas ||


Still looking for ideas? Here’s the rest of the Viator sale that was delivered to my inbox this morning!


Save 30%! New York City 24-Hour Hop-on Hop-off Tour – Expires 07/31/2017

Save 27%! Comprehensive City Tour of Miami – Expires 10/09/2017

Save 20%! Historical Paris Sightseeing Tour Including Notre Dame Cathedral – Expires 09/09/2017

Save 19%! SeaWorld® San Antonio – Expires 08/04/2017

Save 15%! Hoot and Hoover Dam Tour – Expires 08/09/2017


Save up to 40% off tours and activities in Las Vegas

Save up to 40% off tours and activities in London

Save up to 40% off tours and activities in Rome

Save up to 40% on tours & activities in Paris

Save up to 40% on tours & activities in New York


Started packing yet? Where are you heading this summer?



Drool Worthy South African Outdoor Living Spaces

If you’ve been following us over the past few weeks, we’re in the throws of our #summertravel2017 series. Except today. Today is to celebrate the most incredibly gorgeous outdoor spaces and to find ways to make these ideas workable at your place.

Meaning affordable shopping sources since this is not a luxury design blog. We’re about real life, real style, and real ways to get things done.

Having said that, bear with us, cuz outdoor furniture ain’t cheap. And the sources I’ve found are as close a match as I could find while keeping prices low enough to be doable.

Outdoor living spaces || outdoor ideas || patio decorating ideas || braai ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com

This article is inspired by all the outdoor living we’ve been doing since we got to South Africa. Yes, it’s winter here. No, it’s nothing like winter in Canada or in most parts of the US, including Alabama. While the locals are wandering around in sweaters and hats, this Canadian family is lounging by the pool most days and enjoying being outside any day that doesn’t have rainfall in it. People in South Africa really get how to make outdoor spaces completely livable since being outdoors here is big and you can be outside most of the year. I seriously love it here

V&A Waterfront || South African travel || outdoor living || housesitting || Cape Town travel ideas


Some of my inspiration came from South Africa Home & Garden. I’ve become a bit addicted to this magazine since our host at our house sit was kind enough to stock pile them for me and left me a pile of new issues. Because she read this blog (like, all of it!) and knew what I love. Bless her!

Note for potential travelers: You might start a house sit as strangers but sometimes you become besties in 2 hours. True story. So glad we got to spend a few days together before they left on their month long trip to the US.

outdoor living || patio ideas || outdoor decorating ideas || outdoor style || South African homes || 24cottonwoodlane.com
outdoor sectional || white coffee table || outdoor chair || yellow garden stools || outdoor pillows || PHOTO SOURCE


This space has a seating and dining area. Love.

outdoor dining areas || outdoor living || outdoor decorating ideas || alfresco || South African homes || 24cottonwoodlane.com
hanging lanterns || outdoor table || outdoor dining chairs || planter || PHOTO SOURCE


Here’s a wider view of the same outdoor space. I’m not usually into neutrals but I could live here forever.


outdoor living ideas || South African homes || braai area || neutral outdoor spaces || patio ideas
SOURCE || planters || sofa || pillows || coffee table


This view is for real, you guys! I can barely drive around here without my mouth hanging open from the gorgeousness of it all.  Which has made driving on the left side even more challenging.


Outdoor patio ideas || outdoor living || South African homes || outdoor furniture || outdoor sectionals
Sectional || blue planters || beanbag chair || outdoor throw pillows || blue glasses || PHOTO SOURCE

I’m so glad I found this photo because it’s got a braai (Pronounced bry like cry. Probably because when you taste what’s been cooked in there, it brings tears of joy to your eyes.). This is South Africa’s answer to the cook out or barbecuing. Grilling food over an open wood fire. Holy heck, that’s some tasty experience.


outdoor dining areas || outdoor living || outdoor decorating ideas || alfresco || South African homes || 24cottonwoodlane.com
dining set (on sale!) || hanging lanterns || outdoor sofa || wicker chairs || PHOTO SOURCE


Isn’t this gorgeous? A beach house done all in white. Which our family would promptly destroy.

outdoor living ideas || pool ideas || white hanging chairs || patio ideas
hanging chairs || beanbag loungers || wicker chair || PHOTO SOURCE


Here’s the view from the other side of the house. Seriously…. I could die. I have to continually remind myself to stick with the season of our lives. Which, for now at least, holds a couple of small messy little boys 😉 And a wine drinking mother who regularly sets her glass on the sofa.


braai ideas || outdoor living ideas || patio decorating ideas || outdoor dining || PHOTO SOURCE
PHOTO SOURCE || white bar stools

I think when we get home I need to do more with our outdoor space than shove the kids out there and hope for some peace and quiet. I’m feeling very inspired these days.



Traveling in Paris With Kids

If you haven’t read our last few articles, we’re traveling big time this summer. We spent 6 days in Paris, before flying to Germany for a day until we arrived at our final destination in South Africa where we’ll be spending a month or so roaming the Western Cape area.

Paris with kids || Traveling with kids || single mom travels || fasd families || Summer travel series 2017


I was so worried about the long haul flights, that I broke the trip down into manageable chunks because my boys become easily overwhelmed and start to meltdown when they’re overstimulated. One gets manic and the other becomes almost impossible to deal with. Nothing says fun like a kid in the middle of a power struggle with no way to self soothe.  FASD is fun like that. Aside from the FASD issue, they’re pretty young at 4 and 5 but are quickly becoming seasoned travelers.


Pairs with Kids || overnight flights with kids || single parent travels || summer travels 2017 || travel ideas 2017


Today I wanted to share a bit about our time in Paris, where we stayed and how we managed Paris in what is likely the worst heat wave on record. We’re not touristy so you’re not going to hear much about the Eiffel Tower or anything like that. I figure you can read that stuff anywhere. We’re all about keeping things real. Also, I wanted to share how I keep costs down because travel, particularly with kids, can be expensive.


We left Canada on an overnight flight to Paris on June 23. As much as I wanted to limit ourselves to one suitcase, it wasn’t possible since we were traveling between blazing heat in Europe and winter in South Africa. We had two suitcases and everyone had a carry on backpack.

The boys are really good about carrying their own packs, which are is full of things they need on the plane and when we first land. We usually add a blanket, travel pillow, and toys and sleep cuddlies along with some snacks and activities. I probably shouldn’t have bothered with the blanket and travel pillow since the airline provided both because of the overnight flight.

I also decided to use a backpack instead of a carry on bag since I was lugging my laptop, our ipad, and our brand new tablet along with the various chargers and travel adapters so that everyone could watch or play without me having to set timers to take turns. Best idea ever.

HINT: Buy more than one travel adapter. I only had one initially which meant I had to run around plugging and unplugging things. I fixed that quick and we now have 3 of these handy fellows.

travel tips || how to save money traveling || traveling with kids || summer travel 201


Before we left I also ordered the cutest cross body messenger bag. Love. I’m surprised by how much I love this bag since, I usually carry an enormous purse crammed full of stuff. This bag this forced me to whittle down all the junk I lug around. I may never go back to big bags after this.

Hands free travel || cross body bags || travel with kids || leather purse || 24cottonwoodlane.com


I was really anxious about sleeping on the plane, jet lag, and how we’d function when we landed in the morning at 9 AM Paris time which was 3 AM for us. In addition that worry about the kids, I struggle with insomnia pretty much all the time so this was a significant fear for me. Ugh. It was kind of bad, I can’t fluff that up at all.

The boys use Melatonin to sleep. Aiden fell asleep quickly and didn’t wake until we landed. Perfect! Liam? Not so much. He couldn’t sleep at all despite a double dose. He was a bit out of it for the next day so we all went to bed at 7 PM and he slept until noon the next day. Do you know how hard it is to let a kid sleep when all of Paris is waiting outside your door?

Paris with young children. || single mom travel || fasd travel || traveling in Paris || how to pack for Paris with kids || 24cottonwoodlane.com
Montparnasse, 14th arrondissement, Paris

I worried most about jet lag but it took all of one day before everyone was caught up on sleep and on regular time. The upside of this trip so far is that we’re all sleeping til well past 9:00 AM since we left home. I crawled out from under this morning at 10:00 AM. So nice!

We stayed at a really nice and perfectly located studio apartment in Montparnasse which is officially my favorite neighborhood in France.

Our only issue is that it was blazing hot the entire time and Paris doesn’t much believe in air conditioning. We were able to leave a window open at night but it didn’t do much to cool things off. Cafes were the same so you just try to sit outside in the hopes you’ll catch a breeze.

Traveling with kids in Paris || Montparnasse apartments || Paris with kids ||
Our studio in Montparnasse

We booked through AirBnb for the first time and, while I was nervous about it not measuring up to the photos or that it might be in a crappy area, it was a terrific experience. We were able to do an early check in as well for this apartment and that helped settle the boys tremendously.

By the way, AirBnb has a little bonus for our readers. You can use our AirBnb link when you travel and you’ll get a sweet discount off your first confirmed booking. I used to use VRBO or HomeAway but I’m finding AirBnb to be way more cost effective. The discount makes that even nicer 🙂


Montparnasse, or the 14th arrondissement, is a wonderful area of Paris. Way less touristy than other areas and no lack of beautiful and tasty cafes to eat at and bakeries, oh, excuse me, boulanger to buy that morning baguette from. There’s a law in France banning preservatives from bread which means you have to eat it within the day. I have no problem with that. We bought one every day and walked around eating it from the bag. Good Lord, I’ve never had bread like that in my life.


Paris with kids || Traveling with kids || single mom travels || fasd families || Summer travel series 2017.


The cafe at the ground floor of our building, Le Maine Cafe, was absolutely delicious and we ate dinner there at least twice and had one really nice breakfast on our last day. Well priced and super tasty food.


Le Maine Cafe || Montparnasse || Where to eat in Paris || traveling with kids || kids in Paris || summer travel series 2017


We used Viator to book a Hop on Hop Off bus to see all of Paris without having to walk all over the place. This was a great way to see the entire city. The tour bus made it possible to see most of the city in the blazing heat without melting the entire time. We were still hot since the buses aren’t air conditioned but the breeze was nice when the bus was moving.

Also, my boys are terrible walkers so a bus tour is the way to go. I think we paid around $142 Canadian which is about $108 USD. For three days! This also included the boat tour hop on and hop off up and down the Seine which the boys loved. I wasn’t feeling terribly happy at this point because of the heat and the smell of the river made me a bit nauseous.

If you can get over feeling like a tourist dork, these buses are a great way to see most of Paris. Your pass is good for however many days you purchase it for and includes the hop on hop off boat tour. You can get off and on as often as you like which saves a fortune in taxis and avoids having to figure out the subway (or metro) in a foreign country. I didn’t feel I could cope with managing my boys and trying to learn the metro in my God awful French.

We skipped the tourist destinations because they’re simply too much for the boys and I’m largely uninterested in that sort of stuff. The boys really wanted to go to the top of the Montparnasse Tower which we did on our last day there. The view of Paris from 56 stories high is pretty incredible!


Montparnasse tower || Montparnasse at night || paris with kids || single parent travels || summer travel ideas 2017


Total cost for one adult and two children plus the glass of champagne I wanted was around $54 USD. It was really the only touristy thing we did and I booked through Aviator again which is probably the easiest way of booking just about anything when it comes to tours and activities.

Paris Tours


Time for some Paris photo overload. Je t’aime Paris!

Paris with kids || traveling with kids || single parent travels || summer travel ideas || summer travel 2017


Paris with kids || traveling with kids || single parent travels || summer travel ideas || summer travel 2017


I became crazy obsessed with the doors of Paris. They probably deserve an entire post of their own. And you’ll be seeing them on my Instagram page in abundance.


Paris with kids || Traveling with kids || single mom travels || fasd families || Summer travel series 2017


Paris with kids || Traveling with kids || single mom travels || fasd families || Summer travel series 2017


Summer travel ideas || Paris with kids || things to do in Paris with kids || travel ideas with kids || traveling and FASD || summer travel 2017


Summer travel ideas || Paris with kids || things to do in Paris with kids || travel ideas with kids || traveling and FASD || summer travel 2017


Summer travel ideas || Paris with kids || things to do in Paris with kids || travel ideas with kids || traveling and FASD || summer travel 2017 || single parent travels


Have you been to Paris with your kids? What are your favorite things to do?

Be sure to follow us on Instagram for more travel eye candy and tag me if you add your own #summertravel2017 photos so we can share.


Affiliate links are included in this post because we’ve used these services and products ourselves. See our disclosure page for more information. 

Pros and Cons of All Inclusive Resorts

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of all inclusive resorts most of the time. I have this thing about wanting to kind of immerse myself in wherever I happen to be traveling and I want to feel like I’m part of real life. Having said that, I’ve been to my share of all inclusive resorts and we just came back from an all inclusive in Cuba (Blau Costa Verde Plus) with my two little boys.

As a single parent, all inclusive resorts are a great way to get your feet wet in the big wide world of travel. I think all inclusives are great when traveling with children, particularly young ones for a whole bunch or reasons. I also think there are a few drawbacks. Here are a few pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

Pros of All Inclusive Resorts:


While it’s true that all inclusives can be pricey, depending on the location and resort, they can easily be way more cost effective than regular travel. Our last trip to Cuba cost us $1800 (CAD) for three of and that included having to pay the adult price for my four year old. Our regular jaunts to Florida (Panama City Beach) costs us around $1100 (USD) for the condo alone for a week. That doesn’t include the driving and overnights in hotels, food along the way, or meals out when we arrive. And, despite my intentions to eat in, we tend to go out for a ton of meals. I usually end up spending closer to $2500 for a condo rental at the beach for a week. Not so cheap. If you’re willing to go last minute, which we did, the cost cutting can be huge.

What’s generally included in the price? Airfare, transportation to and from the resort, the resort accommodations, all meals and beverages including alcohol (!!), kids club (if available), beach and pool chairs, hotel fridge stock up (although limited, it’s always been enough for us), entertainment and shows, the disco, activities during the day, and all the sun and relaxation you can handle.


An all inclusive is exactly that. Food, drinks (booze included….hallelujer!) and snacks are part of the package. Now, I listened to lots of people bitch and complain about both the food and the quality of liquor but as a single parent, having free flowing wine, rum punch, ice cream, and meals all thought out and planned for me was a big time win. Ready for dinner, kids? Let’s belly up to the buffet. No cooking, no clean up, no trying to find a restaurant that everyone can agree on only to order kids meals that cost $6 each that no one eats. (When will I learn to just order them a single plate of fries?) My guys really enjoyed the virgin slushies and Liam (4) had his first Shirley Temple. Which he charmingly refers to a Shirley Centennial.  There’s nothing quite like hearing your 3 year old ask if we can go to the bar to reinforce why all inclusives with kids are pretty awesome.

All lot of people complain about the food and liquor at resorts, claiming it’s not the best, or it’s boring and repetitious. That may be true but it’s never bothered me one bit. And I probably should point out that the repetitive thing is a total plus when travelling with kids. My guys loved that there was pancakes for breakfast every single morning, rice and pork for dinner, and they could always find something to stuff their picky eating faces with. The very thing that makes adults complain, usually makes for happy and well-fed kids.


By their very nature, all inclusive resorts are usually located in some pretty fantastic places. Generally, they are right on or very close to a beach, usually in tropical climates. Most days the biggest choice involves sunbathing at the pool(s) or hitting the beach. It’s a hard life. In addition to the great location, all inclusives usually have the airport transport thing taken care of as part of the package. Not having to find a taxi or bus after dealing with kids, customs, and luggage is pretty great. The resorts are usually fairly close to airports as well which minimizes the amount of traveling you do back and forth when all you want to do is either get there or get home.  In addition, if you care about this kind of thing, all inclusives are exclusive walled communities with gates and security. As you can probably tell, I don’t worry about stuff like that but I know lots of people that do.


All inclusive resorts are known for their amenities. Most have more than one pool, many  have swim up bars (Aiden’s favorite thing), they often have designated kids pools and even kids clubs where parents can get a break as part of the all inclusive price.  Water sports are often included, as is the gym in the price you pay before you arrive. In addition to what’s included in your package, many resorts offer fee for services as well, including spa treatments, babysitting (hello!), and sports such as scuba diving, golf, and sailing. Often the resort provides entertainment at nights, a disco (that we will likely never get to since we’re all asleep by 10pm) and activities during the day. I enjoyed watching the aqua gym classes while sipping a cold drink in the shade. So inspiring. On top of all that, your bar fridge is topped up daily, there are tons of places to eat and drink, and you don’t need to lug beach chairs or make your bed since all that’s taken care of.

Along with the resort amenities, most offer tour packages off resort. In Cuba there were trips to local cigar factories or markets. In Jamaica, we took a snorkeling day trip on a catamaran and climbed the waterfall in Dunn’s river. Well, the kids did. I cheered and took pictures.

single parent travels, traveling with kids, all inclusive resorts, travel to cuba


Everything you need for a great vacation is right inside the walls of the resort. Beaches, pools, activities, kids clubs, meals, drinks, and entertainment. If you’re looking to relax, this is the way to go. As someone who spends a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of everything and overthinking pretty much all of the time, an all inclusive is a really nice break from all of that.  Meals are planned and scheduled, beverages flow, and while you’re sunbathing or sipping rum punch, someone cleans up your room and makes your bed. No grocery shopping, no cooking, and no cleaning. Can’t argue with that.


Cons of All Inclusive Resorts:


You are not seeing double. This made it into the pros and cons list.

Personally, as a fairly picky eater, I’ve never been unhappy with the food at an all inclusive resort. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to plan, prep, cook and clean up that I’m happy with whatever is being served. Having said that, I’ve heard tons of complaints about food at all inclusives, largely around the buffet which can get repetitious. Yes, lots of the dishes are repeated, particularly breakfast meals. The theme nights can look a bit like all the other nights but there’s also lots of a la carte dining options to get a break from the buffet. The downside of those restaurant options is that you need to make reservations fast. Like the day you arrive or most will be booked and you’ll miss out. The only a la carte restaurant we managed to get into was the Cuban restaurant at Blau Costa Verde. Everything else had been all booked up and that happens pretty much everywhere.


While lots of things are included in the package price, many things are not. Generally water sports involving catamarans, golf, spa treatments, and babysitting are going to cost extra. Tours are rarely included in your ticket price and can be expensive. Car rental, jet skis, and bike rental can all add up as well. Check the details of your package to be sure of what’s actually included to avoid disappointment and unplanned for expenses once you arrive.


The buffets and restaurants operate according to certain hours.  As an example, the buffet hours at our resort in Cuba were as follows:

Breakfast: 7-10:30 am
Lunch: 12-2:30 pm
Dinner: 6:30 – 9:30 pm

The pool bar on the plus side of the resort was open from 10:30 am – 6:30 pm. There were loads of other bars open, but that one was the most popular.

Lots of folks had something to say about that. Personally, that doesn’t bother me in the least since that’s kind of how the world works. Restaurants have operating  hours. I don’t run an all day kitchen at home. And, I’m traveling with little kids so those hours worked fine and made sense for us. There are lots of other bar options but if you’re having a good and boozy time around the pool, the early closure was pretty insulting for some travelers. Those are the same folks that had a bit of trouble getting to breakfast in time and, thus, complained a lot about the breakfast hours.

Many resorts have a 24 hour place to grab a light meal or snack but some don’t. Ours had lunch offered in different restaurants and near the beach in addition to the buffet. Again, check your resort details before leaving home so you know what to expect.


I have tons of friends who travel constantly to all inclusive resorts who “love Jamaica”, and “adore the Dominican Republic”, and tell me “Mexico is awesome”. But they don’t leave the resorts. And when they do they’re on tours designed for tourists. There is nothing wrong with that at all. We were in Cuba and didn’t leave the resort because…well….the boys and a problem with renting a car. The boys, both of whom have FASD, don’t do well with more than one major thing a day. That’s okay and I knew it would be that way going in. But when friends asked me how I liked Cuba, I say “I don’t know, I haven’t really been there.” Because when you go to a resort you could literally be anywhere. Like, can you figure out where this is? Me neither, but it sure is pretty.

Going to an all inclusive resort teaches you nothing about the country your visiting with the possible example of how they cater to tourists. There is no learning about a new culture or country, nor is there any real participation in local life. The outings are on catamarans and to tourist destinations. The sight seeing is just that. Seeing the sights. The only interaction with local people or customs occurs pretty far away from reality. Even the food is toned down to cater for tourists from a wide variety of places. So all inclusive resorts are not a good way to see a country unless you’re willing to leave and strike out on your own. I tried to rent a car in Cuba one day but they didn’t have any available and the cost was insane. Also, the fellow insisted I rent it for 3 days which kind of defeated the idea of an all inclusive for me. I wanted to tour for one day but the rest of the time, I wanted the luxury of no meals to plan and no brain power to harness. So we happily stayed on the resort. But I can’t pretend that I know what Cuba is really like, either.


Maybe it’s just me but I feel a fair bit of guilt when I stay in a luxury resort in a really poor country. Perhaps it’s the whole former social worker thing, or just that I really want to feel a connection with people wherever I am. So when very poor people from a very poor country are waiting on me, I always struggle. Maybe guilt isn’t the right word, but there’s definitely an awareness that while I’m not wealthy by any means at home (#singleparent), I’m one of the haves being waited on by the have nots while I’m in a resort.  When other guests start bitching and complaining about the service, or the resort, or the “quality” of foods or liquor, I have a tendency to become mortified at the entitlement that we have and are taking for granted in, what is usually, a third world country.

And then there’s the whole “I should be doing more” thing that happens to me when I get anywhere and park my butt on a beach chair. When we’re at the pool, I feel guilty that we’re not at the beach. When we’re at the beach, I feel like we need to leave the resort and do more. I voiced that to a lot of folks at our resort and learned I wasn’t alone until someone kindly reminded me that “You paid to be lazy”. Bless him.

Travelers guilt. It’s real. It’s yukky. I think someone needs to invent a very strong, rum soaked drink called “Travelers Guilt”. Strong enough to wipe away any guilty feeling about anything. It could be accompanied by a sister drink called “Shut Up”. Strong enough that people stop complaining that the food and such isn’t up to their standards and all.

All inclusive resorts can be an amazing way to have vacation, particularly when traveling with kids, as long as you know what you’re looking for in a holiday. As always, check things out before you leave and read the fine print to avoid disappointment after you arrive.

Want to start planning your own all inclusive vacation? Take a peak at the Top All Inclusive Caribbean Resorts as recommended by TripAdvisor.

NOTE: Affiliate links to TripAdviser have been included in this article because I pretty much don’t go anywhere without them. Read our full disclosure policy here