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Jan 12, 2011

A great review of the Franklyn D. Resort, Runaway Bay, Jamaica

We spend a week of vacation with our extended family in the Franklyn D. Resort, and I can definitely recommend it for families with young kids. It's focused on families with young kids, and yet nice and attractive for adults as well. What sold us most was the nanny service. Every room comes with a nanny that takes care of the kids at least 7 hours a day (more if you pay extra). Our nanny, Althea, was exceptional. She quickly got to know Charlotte and became her primary care-taker. It was great since Charlotte is still on a different schedule than the other kids. We didn't have to worry about waiting for her to finish her nap or bringing a bottle with us every single time we went out. Althea had her covered. Althea taught Charlotte clapping and waiving while we were there. She definitely knew what stage of development she was at, and helped her achieve a new milestone. Charlotte was very happy with her.
The resort itself is pretty small (70 rooms I believe). It means that the kids quickly found their way around the resort. The beach is small (so not for people who hope for long strolls on the beach), but it's perfect for kids. There was no concern about kids getting lost or walking away.

There are a handful of pools, which also cater to different levels of interests. The baby pool was perfect for Daniel to learn swimming (he could stand in it, which increased his confidence level), and even Charlotte who loved to splash in it.
That said, this resort is also great for adults. There are 2 excellent adult-only restaurants. The food in general is pretty good by the way (I think some of their pastries can compete with the best bakeries in France). Every day, the hotel offered adult-only activities, which ranged from bike tours, yoga, fitness and a lot of games.
The service is really top-notch. The nanny is such an integral part of the family that she understands our needs and makes sure they are all met (from replenishing the fridge to finding the right toys for the kids and advising on excursions). We ordered a "birthday" party for Daniel since his birthday was going to be the following week. We got decorations, a gift and a mouth-watering birthday cake at no extra charge (love the all-inclusive)! And by the way, if you were thinking that people in Jamaica were not punctual, think again. Everyone in the hotel was good at staying on the expected schedule! The birthday party was ready before our family was!


For full disclosure I would also add that the facilities are starting to age a bit. The accommodations are still very comfortable. But it's not luxury, and the resort could benefit from a new layer of painting and some better paved paths in some areas. The reception area is quite underwhelming: a couple of chairs in front of a desk under a roof. Nothing to compare with some of the more luxurious hotels we saw in the areas. That said, we didn't come to be in a 5-star Las Vegas hotel. So it didn't bother us much, and the kids definitely didn't care. Definitely a hotel I would recommend for a relaxing vacation.

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Jan 11, 2011

Jamaica vacation

This year, we started what we hope will become a tradition. Because we didn't have a lot of vacation time, we didn't want to go all the way to Europe over the holidays, since the kids' jetlag negates a lot of the benefits of a vacation. We suggested to our families to meet "in the middle" in the Caribbean. Pros: less travel, less jetlag and warm weather! Cons: nothing really, except some health concerns and the question whether everyone across our families would enjoy the vacation.
We met with my parents, my in-laws and my brother in law and family. It was a first in many ways: first time with all family members, first time in the Caribbean. It turned out to be a great idea!

We picked a wonderful hotel in Jamaica, the Franklyn D Resort, which I describe in detail here. It was so family-friendly that it took away any issue that could come from traveling with young kids.
I have to say that I had some health concerns going to Jamaica with 2 young kids. But they proved to be completely unjustified. The hotel even had drinking tap water for Charlotte's bottles. Yes, really! No mosquitoes, clean facilities, healthy food. Really, nothing to complain about. We even got to check the quality of the medical support in Jamaica since we brought 2 sicknesses from home (I got strep throat and Charlotte had bronchitis). The doctor we met was really knowledgeable and got us back on our feet really quickly.

Outside of 2 of us being sick, everyone had a great time. The grand-parents got to do tours around the island, and they saw jungle, local animals, nice beaches, etc... Daniel loved being able to swim, build sand castles and get ice-cream on demand.

He had a lot of new experiences, from going down the huge water slide to taking the glass boat and taking a few first steps at swimming.

Charlotte seemed to enjoy herself despite the bronchitis and being thrown into a new environment with a lot of new people. She loved splashing in the pool and learned how to clap her hands. This made her very proud.

My husband and his brother went all the way to the other side of the island to check out Pelican Bar, a shack in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by diving pelicans. Very unique! As a family, we went to Dunn's Waterfall, which was fun climbing. I wish I had seen more of Jamaica, but unfortunately, my strep throat came in the way. It was still wonderful to be able to know everyone had a great time, and not to worry about the kids needing more attention.

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