Monday, August 27, 2018

Beaches at the Turks vs Disney

So I am a fan of Disney... its magic works on me. Been to both World and Land... and probably will go back after they complete Star Wars Land and that super cool Star Wars hotel... BUT... this past week I was reminded why we rebooked our vacation at the Beaches in Turks two years ago when we went for the first time... and rebooked again during this trip for 2020...

Here is my comparison between these two very different types of vacations... both which I love... but also comparing these two in particular because they cost about the same for our family... as opposed to national park vacations or camping trips which we also love! So.. for the $$... here are the differences between the two...

The Planning...

For a Disney vacation, I start planning on an excel spreadsheet as far as 12 months ahead. I know I am a little crazy.

I research and plan out all the dining first because some restaurants are super hard to book. For example, the last time we went, I wanted to book a dinner at Be Our Guest and although I tried exactly 180 days prior to arrival, I couldn't because it was full! I had to book a lunch instead. How can the restaurant fill up so fast on the very day we're allowed to book? Apparently, I didn't realize there is this 180 + 10 days rule for folks staying at a Disney Resort. So folks who checked in a whole week before our first check in date is booking reservations on days that we overlap. How complicated is that? Basically, I'll have to set a notification for 180 days before arrival and try to book towards the end of my stay to increase chances. 

Now the other tricky part in planning out the time is trying to match up the fast pass rides with restaurants that are in certain parks on the same day. With four kids, I like to save on not using park hopper tickets if I can help it. Boy, I'm tired just thinking about it all but since I am a planner, I actually find it fun to strategize. It is all part of the vacation experience!

With that said... there is something truly refreshing about going to the Turks with little to no planning at all. Since I am a planner, I did make a smaller excel file where I listed out all the restaurants and tried to arrange it so that we could hit as many of the 22 dining options on site as possible. That's right... 22 restaurants that are delicious and all included! Reason for the planning is because some of the restaurants are only open for dinner and I was trying not to overlap. But now that we have tried just about all of them, next time we could skip some and just pick our favorites to go back to multiple times. Out of all 22 restaurants, only Kimonos requires a dinner reservation. It serves Japanese cuisine where the chefs not only cook in front of you but entertain with Carribbean style singing too!


Since there is no need to sign up 6 months ahead for dining and 2 months ahead for fast passes etc... we basically just showed up on day one and made our reservations for the entire week that day. In fact, since we have four kids, we were limited to housing in the Itialian Village which is all concierge. So perhaps we had it even easier because our concierge basically made our dinner reservation, snorkel trip, and glass bottom boat trip reservations for us at check-in.

The Kids Camp...

Okay, so it is a family vacation and the point is to spend quality family time together... but it is nice to have the option for the kids to get dropped off at Kids Camp if we choose to. It is not for everyone and we do not leave our kids there the entire day every single day... but it really was a treat to have two hours here or there so my husband and I can dine or kayak together. 

My kids actually all enjoyed the camp. My oldest is very social and she likes to meet and make new friends. Our second was in her same group so at the very least they always had each other. My older son seemed to enjoy it too. Look... they had a xbox room, water slides, and a place where they could get unlimited ice cream and cotton candy. They even organize boat trips, snorkeling trips, beach and pool games etc. if you choose to participate. My youngest complained at drop off but at pick up always had something exciting to share... a snake tattoo on his arm, stories with Elmo, cooking with Cookie Monster, riding the choo choo train to a kids dance party etc. 


I know... *shake head* playing video games when there is a beautiful Carribean beach outside... not my idea of time well spent...
 
We dropped the kids at camp for dinner two of the nights in our week stay. They combine the groups for dinner so our kids got to see each other. Then they always had a fun activity like S'mores by a camp fire or a pajama dance party. My older two got to stay up later to watch two of the night shows. I went to watch it with them and was pretty impressed with the entertainment. First show we saw was Jungle Book Live and the second was Alice in Wonderland. They had very catchy songs and dance so my daughters left the show singing the songs all night. I couldn't get the tunes out of my head either!


At Disney, unless we pay extra or bring along a babysitter or grandparents... (which we didn't do the last visit) my memory of that trip was 24/7 nonstop interaction with my four kids... every... single... day... for the entire week! I love my kids but 24/7 every single day for an entire week can be a little draining. There were some long hot days of standing in line for rides, character photos, or trying to get to the next fast pass or to our dining reservation on time. 

Contrast that to sipping unlimited frozen drinks by the pool or on the beach and just laying around. Even if our kids were not in Kids Camp, they were swimming in the pool or playing in the sand and I was actually relaxing! To be fair, my kids are older now and maybe it would not be so relaxing if our youngest was still an infant or a toddler... but my recollection of this past week was a whole lot of relaxation!


The Dining...

Both Disney and Beaches have excellent dining options. 



There could be a whole other post just on food alone... but in a nutshell... I felt like we had more flexibility at Beaches. Since you don't have to make reservations except for Kimonos, we were able to change our mind and switch restaurants or go at a later time than planned if the day was going in an unexpected way.  But of course I made my Disney schedule such so that it was so inflexible. That was my fault and you don't have to do it that way. I just chose to because I wanted to hit certain restaurants and it would have been very difficult to eat at those restaurants if I didn't plan the way I did. So for my experience... dining at Beaches was much more laid back.

In fact, dining at Beaches is very much like dining on a cruise ship. It is all-you-can-eat and all included! Except instead of just 4-5 restaurants on board a ship, you have 22 to choose from. You can eat two dinners if you have the room and go back for unlimited ice cream or cotton candy at Bobby Dee's until 11p.

Unlike a cruise ship or Disney, Beaches also offers unlimited drinks and frozen drinks which are all included... for adults and for kids...


The Activities...

At Disney, it is all about the rides and the characters...

 

At Beaches, it is all about the pool, the water park, the water sports...



...and of course the beach! Turks has one of the best beaches I have ever been to. I think my favorite is still Horseshoe Beach in Bermuda...
Turks is a close second. I love the super soft and white sand. No small rocks or shells to hurt the feet or bunches of seaweed to tangle the ankles, and the water is crystal clear!

I just reread my post from two years ago after we went to Beaches for the first time. I think my kids got more out of the experience this time around because all four can now swim pretty well and participate in many more of the water sports. 


So that's the thing... we booked this year's trip back then because they offer a pretty decent discount on top of whatever discount is online... still pricey but the memories made are priceless... and now that we've tasted this sweetness... we're kinda hooked!   

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