One evening we looked at a ton of different resorts in the Playa del Carmen area and after some discussion we booked directly with Sandos Playacar Beach Resort. Due to us going to Mexico we found that the prices were much cheaper than other options in the Caribbean.
We have not had many all-inclusive resort experiences, two to be exact but when our family vacation to Turks & Caicos got cancelled due to the hurricane damage we decided to expand our experience by researching other all-inclusive resorts.
Over the years Jeremy and I have had the honor of attending the Social Media on the Sand conference with Beaches Resorts. This year we were planning on taking the kids for the first time and man we were excited. And then that crazy hurricane hit. At first we decided to just cancel our vacation all together but after talking with the kids and finding some great flight deals we decided to change our plans and head to Mexico.
The kids were so excited when they heard we would be heading to a beach after all! And honestly…we were too!! Today I am sharing some of our thoughts on this resort and some of our fun pictures from our vacation. In a separate post I will be sharing some tips for families traveling to an all-inclusive resort.
When we booked our stay, the website was having a deal on the Junior Family Suites, so we decided to go with this type of booking. Now, keep in mind that this resort is large. These Junior Family Suites are not close to the beach at all, more on that later. Sandos offers family friendly areas as well as an adult only area. Obviously, since we had the kids we did not experience the adult only rooms, dining, pool or beach.
Our room was on the first floor, which seemed to work well for us. It was a spacious sleeping area with two full size beds. There was also a small sitting area that was nice for the kids to hang out in when we were in our room. A stocked mini refrigerator was also included – beer, water and pop.
The bathroom was pretty great. A huge soaking tub, double sinks, a separate shower and bathroom. Very spacious and left us enough room to hang up all of our wet swimming suits. The room itself was nice enough. My biggest complaint was that it smelled a bit wet and musty and the closet had a really odd smell. Our solution was to not use the closet! HA!
We did utilize the in room safe, as some of the reviews talked about personal items being taken. It was a good size safe so I was able to put my laptop, our passports, jewelry and the kid’s tablets in there when we were out exploring the resort. I would highly recommend using the safe.
Customer Service and Staff Interaction:
When we first checked into the resort we were very tired. We started our traveling at 4 in the morning, that was early for us all!! So, by the time we got our ride to the resort we were pretty done with people and traveling. When we walked into the resort it was beautiful. The lobby is well lit and we were greeted with some freshly squeezed fruit juice.
Once we were checked in, we were taken aside to get a mini tour of the area…at least that is what they said. Instead it was a quick point on the map of where our room was and then instantly we were bombarded with requests of coming to a meeting about a timeshare the following morning. Once that all started, I was upset, I wanted to get to our room and felt pressured by this woman’s ongoing request. She offered us cash, toys and free massages if we came to breakfast the following day. After 10 minutes of us saying no…I gave up and we signed up for the meeting. Ugh….yes we went the following day but did not sign up for anything. The 90 minute meeting was super frustrating, we were losing precious beach and pool time with the kids. Finally, after I literally started crying, they gave up and we were free to leave.
Our lesson – NEVER go to those meetings and do research on the resort to figure out if it is a timeshare resort from the beginning.
Now, let me be honest, once all this happened I was feeling like this resort was very untrustworthy but as the days went on we did not have any other issues.
The rest of our experiences with the staff were pretty positive. Due to us not having great Spanish skills we did find that the language barrier was a bit frustrating for both parties at times but over all we found that the staff was nice.
Our room was cleaned well every day as well. One weird thing we noticed was that visitors were tipping the staff…we have never had that at the other all-inclusive resorts we have been too. Would love to hear your take on tipping at an all-inclusive resort.
Food and Drinks:
As I said before, we have experienced only a few other all-inclusive resorts but unlike the others we have been at, this one was smaller which meant less food options, especially for breakfast and lunch.
Keep in mind that due to us not able to go to the adult only options we did miss some options. For breakfast there was only one option for us, a large buffet that the kids loved. They were able to choose their items every morning. The adults however, got a bit tired of the same exact buffet every morning.
For lunch we were able to visit the buffet, a small Mexican grill that reminded us of Chipotle and a snack bar near one of the pools. The kids loved the buffet of course but just like breakfast, it was exactly the same every day. Jeremy and I enjoyed the Mexican grill for a nice change and we didn’t visit the snack bar.
For dinner we succeeded in visiting all of the dining options during our stay. Our favorite was probably the Italian Restaurant and the Asian Restaurant being a close second. The Italian Restaurant made a special dessert for Teagan on her birthday, after she was done being freaked out by the singing, she thought it was pretty fun! The dinner menu for kids was exactly the same at all of the dining options – they ate a lot of fish sticks and chicken strips on this trip for dinner.
As for the little treats, we all loved going to the Cupcake Cafe for a little sweet treat before taking in the evening events. Teagan’s favorite was the chocolate cupcakes of course!
Our experience at this resort was a bit different because we were there as a family rather than a couple, so we certainly did not drink as much as we usually do on vacation when it is just us. Thank being said, I do believe the drinks were a bit watered down but I sure did love the strawberry Daiquiris! I am not a tequila drinker at all…Jeremy did enjoy his margaritas! All drinks are included in your stay, wine and beer as well.
The kids LOVED their strawberry drinks by the pool, I think they felt pretty special getting those drinks.
Beach and Pools:
When we started looking at the weather for the time we were planned to be in Mexico, we were nervous because every day said cloudy and rainy. Now keep in mind we did go to Mexico during rainy season. But, we totally lucked out with great weather. It did rain every day but it would come and go. Our last day was the only day that was a totally bummer for weather.
The beach at this resort is beautiful. It is plenty big and we never felt overly crowded. The water was great and we loved seeing the fish swim around us as we fed them little pieces of bread. So fun. The kids LOVED playing in the sand as well. We built a ton of castles and dug a lot of holes!
There was always a ton of open lounge chairs which was nice to set our things on. We also felt like our belongings were pretty safe while we went into the water as well.
This was the kids first experience at the beach and Jude really struggled with the salt water hurting his eyes so while he loved jumping waves and playing in the sand he much preferred the pool. We visited the pools and beach every day. There were two pools we visited, one that was near our room and one near the beach. The one close to our room was very quiet, not many guests went to that one which was kind of nice! The one by the beach was much busier but had fun music and games at the pool. More upbeat!
Even though the one by the beach was busy, we never felt like it was too crowded. We always found chairs to sit in as well! The kids made a few friends too, which was nice for them.
I am not sure if you all have visited Disney and used their photo pass options. If you have, you know how great it is to end up with a large amount of photos of your family and trip with out having to carry around a camera.
Sandos Resorts has a similar option. There are resort photographers walking around the resort offering to take your pictures. They are around the pool, the beach (even in the water), through out the common areas and at events. You can find them anywhere and get your pictures! The following day, you go to the photo shop and add your pictures to your room. At the end of your stay you can decide on a package for all of your pictures! I am a picture freak so this was so special for me.
In addition to the random pictures we decided to schedule a family portrait session, the session sitting was free. Our photographer was so great with our kids and we got some very special photos. I shared our Family Pictures – Beach Style last week. So special to have some on the water. We were able to combine these photos with our random resort photos and create a great picture package.
Family Fun & Entertainment:
Between the pool and beach we were pretty busy but there was always something else to see and do after our water play. Every evening after the beach and pool we would go back to the room and shower and get ready for dinner. After dinner we would walk around the “Meeting Place”, which was the main gathering area at the resort, and explore what was set out.
Every evening there was some kind of show on the main stage – we saw two shows while we were there. The Fantasy Show, which was mostly about Disney Princess stories and the Michael Jackson tribute show. We loved that we had the option of enjoying some entertainment every night.
The resort also had a Kids Club but we did not drop the kids off there. Honestly, it never seemed that busy, we saw families together enjoying the resort which is how we decided to enjoy our vacation as well.
Our Overall Experience:
As you can tell from the pictures, we had a great time and made plenty of amazing memories as a family. Our experience was a bit tainted by the initial push of the timeshare but if we could forget that, I would say that the trip was well worth the money we spent.
Being that this was the first time we did a family vacation like this, we were prepared for the best and the worst. We felt safe at the resort and the kids enjoyed the pool and beach life.
The areas I would suggest the resort to improve on would be the rooms, some minor upgrades would do wonders, and some better breakfast and lunch options.
Overall, we would give this resort 4 stars. Keep in mind, you truly get what you pay for. Cheap isn’t always better but when you need a budget vacation to escape the real world…Sandos would be the one I would most likely go with again.
I would love to hear about the Family Friendly All-Inclusive Resorts you have experienced. Which is your favorite resort to visit with your family?