*this post is sponsored by Air Transat
What does a great vacation look like for you? Mine includes no cooking, no cleaning, and uninterrupted family time. Honestly, I could be anywhere in the world, so long as these three criteria are met, I’d be the happiest little camper. That being said, I also don’t mind a fabulous tropical location where the sun is always shining, the folks are friendly, and the cold drinks never stop pouring.
We just returned from an amazing family getaway in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. My husband and I have been to this part of Mexico a few times before and LOVE it. So when Air Transat gave us the opportunity to fly down and spend a week at the Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort, we didn’t have to think twice.
I’ve flown Air Transat a couple of times before and have to say that I love the price point, the family-friendly hours of their flight departures, the leg room, and the employees. The flight is where we started our vacation off right. We experienced Option Plus, and I thought it would just give us the benefit of checking in extra bags which is great but once we were on the flight, it was one surprise after another with all the perks we received. We were given complimentary bevies (hello mimosas!), meals, snacks, neck pillows, blankets, and sleep masks. Not only did these perks make us feel special, but it also made the flight go by way faster!
Henry loved the special kid’s meal he was given and felt so independent playing with the comfort kits while getting ready for a nap.
The flight down took 4 hours and 27 minutes from Calgary. To be honest, it went by pretty quickly. Check out my post here on how to keep your baby and toddler entertained during a flight 🙂
Once we landed, we grabbed our bags and went through customs. It was relatively painless minus the long line up for customs but it was kinda my fault as we were one of three flights landing at the same time but I thought that sitting towards the front of the plane would have us out in a jiffy. Then I went and made a silly mistake that put us waaaaaay at the back of the line.
You see, Air Transat gives you customs cards to fill out on the plane. I filled them out right away but forgot to fill out the bottom portion of the individual cards. The cards are perforated and you need the bottom portion of the card in order to exit Mexico. I thought I could fill this part out once we got to the hotel or whatever, but no. FILL IT OUT BEFORE YOU LAND. I had to complete all four cards (1 per person) while watching hoards of people go past us. Anyways, you live, ya learn and now you know! Once we cleared customs, we hopped into a van that took us to our resort.
Checking into the Hotel
We were greeted by the friendliest of people and were able to check in at our own separate Family Selection lobby. There were no lineups, there was a play area for the kids, welcome drinks for us, and each of the kids were given their own beach bags full of loot! The bellboy brought our suitcases up to our room which was really helpful because there are no elevators. This wasn’t an issue at all during our stay though. We were on the top floor but the buildings are only two stories high.
When we walked into our room, we were blown away. There was a crib set up for Posie, a bed for Henry decked out with a robe & slippers just his size (seriously THE CUTEST) and stuffed animals. There was a bottle of champagne on ice for Mark and I and EVERYTHING we needed for the kids.
Knowing what they had set up for us at the hotel, there are a lot of things I wouldn’t have packed to save room. If you choose Family Selection, the kids get:
Body wash, shampoo & lotion
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Welcome and departing gifts
We were also pleasantly surprised by the amenities for us, like:
Private concierge – you guys, THIS was the best thing ever. The concierge knew us all by name and did absolutely everything for us including snack & wine delivery, sourcing different toys for the kids, getting us extra sunscreen (we forgot ours like the fools we are…). They honestly bent over backward for all of us. The customer service was superior to anything we’ve experienced before. I even got a little teary-eyed when we were saying goodbye!
Robe & slippers
Different surprises in our room each day – a bottle of champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, grapes & cheese
A spacious balcony
Complimentary laundry service before leaving
We were also given a “Wishlist” where we could customize our stay and make it as comfortable as possible. For example, there was a section for the minibar in our room. I asked them to take out everything, including the snacks (to avoid late night temptation ;)) and replace it only with bottled water, mineral water, and a few beers for my husband. The minibar was replenished at least once per day exactly how we wanted it.
We were booked into a Junior Suite and the room was a lot larger than what I thought it would be! My husband and I were worried that the kids would have a difficult time sleeping since there isn’t a separate living area. In the past, we’ve tried to put them down in the same room as us, but with nowhere to go, the kids just stare at you, while you sit quietly in the dark pretending not to notice them, and it just turns into a no sleep situation. We had actually come prepared with command hooks to hang up bedsheets between the kid’s beds and ours if necessary. It’s so laughable now because we didn’t need them AT ALL. The room was perfectly set up for a family of four.
The crib for our daughter was placed between a wall and our king size bed and my son slept on the pull out couch in the main living area. We would read them their bedtime stories, grab our drinks and head out onto our balcony to enjoy the rest of our night. There was also a seating area just outside of our room if we wanted to go there too. It was great to have options but we chose to sit out on our balcony most nights… it was closer to the mini bar 😉
The bathroom was huge, with one jetted tub that fit all four of us comfortably, plus a large shower. There wasn’t any storage in the bathroom, so we kept all of our toiletries inside of our toiletry bags to save on space around the sink. Speaking of storage, we used the nightstands on each side of the bed to store the kids’ clothes and the drawers under the desk for things like diapers, wipes, and pull-ups. My husband and I used the shelves and hangars in the entry closet for our clothes and stored our suitcases in there too. There was also a drying rack for bathing suits outside on the balcony which we found very useful.
The first day was all about getting our bearings straight and recovering from traveling the day before. The resort is large, with a Family Selection pool (the best in my opinion), a kids splash pool with slides, the main pool, and an adult only pool. There are also four a la carte restaurants, one buffet restaurant, a coffee bar, a sports bar, numerous other drink bars, and the Family Selection lobby (our hangout with the kids at night). It’s a lot of ground to cover!
So between dips in the pool and the ocean, the kids, my husband & I navigated around the property with these cars which turned out to be the best amenity for the kids to be honest. It made everything exciting for them and going from place to place so easy for us!
Pool & Beach
We spent most of our days going from the pool to the beach. Then to the pool again… then the beach. I meeeeean, that’s what we’re there for, isn’t it? The ocean water was so nice and warm and was great for the kids. There are two sections to the beach – one is a natural wading pool surrounded by large rocks and the other is wide open. There are chairs and umbrellas in front of both sections and the sand is perfect for building sandcastles. The set up is ideal for families too, as there’s quite a bit of shade, which is so important if you’re traveling with really little ones. My little guy wasn’t a fan of the crashing waves so we spent the majority of the time in the wading pool where he could play in the ocean water without being knocked over by the big waves. He LOVED it here!
The Family Selection pool was where we spent most of our time. It was so well thought out and I felt that the kids were so safe there. There is a very shallow area where my 9-month old could crawl around, splash, and play with toys. In the same section, it gets a smidge deeper to where the water would be up to my toddler’s waist.
There was also an even deeper section that was separated by a barrier, which I was very thankful for. There are plenty of pool toys for the kids to play with and constant food and drink service at both the beach and pool. We ended up having most of our lunches poolside because it was just so much easier that way and the food was great! There was also some poolside entertainment on some of the days like Mermaid shows, singing & dancing, which was so fun for the kids.
How was the Food? But like, actually.
This was the number one question I received from you guys! My husband and I were both pleasantly surprised by the quality of food at the Grand Palladium Vallarta. I generally have a difficult time eating out because there are a lot of things I avoid, like gluten, dairy, soy & processed sugar. I was able to find great, healthy options for myself and my family at the resort. It just took a little bit of uncovering 😉
For example, eating by the pool was our preferred way of doing lunch but the menu didn’t list much except for cut up veggies that would accommodate my diet. But I noticed they had quesadillas, so I ordered them with no bread and no cheese and extra veggies. It was PERFECT. This is something I would eat at home and kept me feeling light and healthy while on vacation.
When eating at any of the restaurants, one of the first questions they ask you is if you have any food allergies and are very accommodating about it. Here’s a quick glance at the healthy meals I really enjoyed at the resort.
The Nest restaurant: Omelette and fruit bar
Poolside (Family Selection): chicken breast, grilled peppers & onions, with fresh carrots, jicama & cucumber
Dinner (in order of my fave)
Viva Mexico (Mexican): fresh guacamole made at your table and chicken & veggie fajitas (corn wrap)
El Bosque (Main Buffet): prime rib with steamed veggies
Portofino (Italian): Grouper fish with steamed mushrooms and spinach
Ribs & More (Steakhouse): Filet mignon (order with no sauce), roasted carrots, grilled veggies
Bambu (Asian): Shrimp stirfry with no soy sauce
Watch out for a more extensive post on how to eat (and drink) healthily at an all-inclusive coming your way soon!
Excursion with the Kids
We wanted to add in a little excursion midway through our trip and we’re so glad we did! We hired a private driver (arranged by our amazing concierge, of course) to take us to three towns. We did a bit of research and decided to hit up Bucerias, San Pancho, and Sayulita. Each one had its own distinct vibe, with San Pancho being our absolute favourite. My husband and I are already wanting to go back to spend a few days there.
You can read all about our excursion here, but in a nutshell… Bucerias was a working town with lots of souvenir markets and great beach access. San Pancho was a surfer’s paradise with AMAZING restaurants. And Sayulita was hippie-chic with a lot of cool and contemporary bars and restaurants.
Grand Palladium’s Family Selection
It is SO worth choosing the Family Selection option when booking yourself in at the Grand Palladium Vallarta. I really wouldn’t recommend doing it any other way if you’re traveling with kids. Of course, the entire resort is nice, but staying in the Family Selection area feels like an absolute paradise for both kids and adults.
On top of the all-inclusive resort amenities, Family Selection will also get you a ton more perks. Here are just some of my fave:
Welcome kits for the kids
Private lobby and check in/ check out
Private snack bar and premium bar
Turn-down service for the kids (the CUTEST!)
Complimentary laundry service
Pool kit (sunscreen, daily newspaper, beach reads, aloe lotion, etc)
Kid’s cars! If you can’t tell, this may have just been my favourite perk 😉
Our last day came far too quickly. Our direct flight home wasn’t until 5:40 PM so we had the better part of the morning to enjoy the resort. I knew we wouldn’t be getting home until much later, so I made sure the kids got a nap in before leaving. I requested a late checkout and we were able to stay in our room until 1 PM! That way, we still had time to play in the pool, have a nap, get cleaned up, and have lunch before our 1:40 PM shuttle.
After a week of being treated like royalty, it wasn’t surprising that the kids received a parting gift and were met by staff at our lobby for some hugs and goodbyes. We then hopped on a massive coach bus that took us to the airport. Air Transat arranges this on your behalf and typically schedules your pickup time for four hours prior to your flight time. It took us over an hour to get to the airport on a Saturday, so it’s a good thing we were given so much time to get there! We skipped the line and headed straight for the Option Plus section where they checked our bags and gave us our boarding passes.
The flight home was only a few minutes longer at 4 hours and 45 minutes. Although, because of the time of day, it felt a whole lot longer with the kids! They were pretty exhausted. We were all given meals (Option Plus perk!), drinks and comfort kits again which made for a pretty cozy flight. Again, read here on how we kept the kiddos happy and entertained on the long flight.
I got so many messages while I was on vacation with Air Transat. I was very transparent that this was a sponsored trip, meaning that I wasn’t paying for it. A lot of you messaged me with a similar “okay, between you and me, is it ACTUALLY good? Or do you just have to say that because they’re your client?” Such a fair question, you guys and I really appreciate all the messages of interest I got. I’m being 100% honest in saying that if I had paid for the vacation myself, Option Plus + Family Selection and all, I would be thrilled. I think for the amount of money you pay, you’re getting an amazing deal. It’s so family friendly and your kids are sure to love it! I’d go back in a heartbeat on my own dime.
My husband and I have traveled all over the world and have stayed at our fair share of all-inclusive resorts. We have seen a wide variety of what’s available, so we know a gem when we see one. As adults, it’s far easier to adjust expectations and go with the flow while traveling. But when you add kids to the mix, they’re generally less flexible and a lot fussier than we are. When traveling with kids, it’s the little things that make the huge difference. The attention to detail from the staff and the resort, in general, made the trip incredibly special. They went out of their way to accommodate the kids, the level of care was unmatched, and we cannot wait to return! Check out Air Transat’s latest vacation packages here – airtransat.com
Love, peace & vacationing with kids