I’m excited to have guest contributor and mom Lara Winnick share with us her recent trip to The Atlantis in the Bahamas.
How to Enjoy The Atlantis Without Going Broke
by Lara Winnick
Not so long ago, my husband and I were planning a “big” trip with our kids (ages six and four) to coincide with some “big” birthdays we were celebrating. We had come close to booking a trip to Hawaii when I realized how INSANE that was, the six hour time change alone would turn my kids into gremlins. And not the cute gremlin from the beginning of the movie.
That’s when I looked into a vacation at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. The resort had everything we were looking for; an all inclusive, two-and-a-half hour flight and the same time zone. And just like that, we were headed to Paradise Island.
The Atlantis was ideal for us in many ways. While neither my husband nor I were drawn to such large resorts in our pre-kid-lives, priorities clearly shift when traveling with young children. We stayed in a suite in the Royal Towers, with a generously sized living area, separate bedroom, two bathrooms and an awesome terrace for hanging out after the kids went to bed.
The resort is truly amazing. There are 11 separate pools and the Aquaventure water park, which is comprised of two lazy rivers and more than 18 water slides located throughout the resort, including the insane 60-foot Leap of Faith, which you’ve definitely seen in the commercials. You know the one, where you slide down the side of a Mayan temple and end up in a lucite tunnel speeding through a shark tank—thankfully a height requirement applied here so my six year old son couldn’t go on it. There are also beaches-a-plenty, one of the largest aquariums and marine exhibits in the world, and 21 restaurants and 19 bars and lounges.
While there is no shortage of things to do, there are hidden costs EVERYWHERE. Here are a few tips for having an amazing family trip without hemorrhaging money from the second your plane lands.
- Plan your budget before you arrive. Be aware there are extra costs on everything all over the resort! And because your room card is your only form of currency, it doesn’t actually feel like you’re spending money. Figure out what you’ll most likely spend per day on food, entertainment and extras so that when you go to check-out and see the bill, you don’t feel like you’ve been sucker punched. And avoid the obvious traps! Pack sunscreen, snacks, and beach toys and stay out of the shops. And be on the lookout for things such as pay-to-play premium pool seating (yes, seriously). You know exactly what it means when you see the sign “VIP area. Contact concierge for availability.”
- Choose your accommodations wisely. There are lots of options for where to stay. To save money check out the more conservatively priced rooms in the Beach and Coral Towers. The Royal Towers fall in the middle, and if you are looking to splurge, the upscale Reef (which is family friendly) and Cove (for adults only) provide more luxurious amenities.
- Weigh your meal options. The Atlantis offers all-inclusive meal plans or you can wing it and go a la carte (though a complimentary breakfast is often included with the room reservation). The dinner options are beyond impressive, and if you plan to go for the five star dining —think Todd English, Jean-Georges Vongeritchten and Nobu Matsuhisa, only pricier than in NYC—the meal plan may make the most sense. The cheapest place to eat at the resort is at the adorable Marina Village. There’s even a pizza shop! If you are like me and don’t feel like waiting in line for 45 minutes for a buffet breakfast is a good use of time in the Bahamas, check out the take-out counter at Murray’s Deli at the Marina, where you can pick up some cereal and yogurt (and coffee!) and find a spot to sit out by the water.
- Choose the activities that you want to splurge on. The Dolphin Cay marine center is amazing, and offers an terrific menu of experiences, from interactions with stingrays, sea lions and dolphins to snorkeling. Our favorite excursion was to the “Junior Ultimate Trainer for the Day,” which takes your kiddo behind the elusive “staff only” lines and up close and personal with variety of marine life. These activities are pricey though, so choose what appeals to you most, and then find ways to enjoy the expansive marine exhibits and aquarium for free. If you have a budding artist, pack a sketch book for him/her to document all the aquatic wonders you find. Or download a list of the marine life and embark on a treasure hunt.
- Enjoy the free activities, but have a plan of attack. The schedule that worked for us was water slides and rides in the morning when they first open and aren’t as crowded then lounging by the pool and beach in the afternoon. If the weather gets spotty, or you need to get the kids out of the sun, take advantage of the afternoon family movies, or check out the bumper cars.
Most importantly, it’s a vacation, so make sure there’s quiet time by the pools and at the beach too. Even your kids will thank you.