A Vacation for Everyone Club Med caters to families of all ages
When I tell people that I’m not really a fan of All-Inclusives, occasionally one will ask if I’ve ever ‘done’ a Club Med. My answer was always an emphatic “No!” My impression of Club Med was that of a crazy singles resort, singing “Hands Up” every hour on the hour and having to participate non-stop in goofy summer-camp games. But this winter had been tough, so when the opportunity arose to visit Club Med’s newly renovated family resort in Mexico, my answer was an emphatic “Yes!” Club Med Ixtapa Pacific is located on the Pacific coast of Mexico, about 100 miles North of Acapulco and just a 25-minute drive from the airport.
At roughly 5.5 hours direct from Toronto, this was our longest flight yet, and with our daughter really getting into certain shows, we decided to invest in a portable DVD player. We did use it and were grateful for it, but our plane had the seat-back entertainment with decent kids’ programming, so she mostly watched that. Our purchase of toddler-sized headphones was definitely money well-spent. After a fairly civilized flight, walking onto the tarmac at Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport made the 8-foot high snowbank that is our front yard seem like a million miles away.
We were greeted by the Club Med rep and whisked away with another family in a large Suburban. We were able to install our car seat, and somehow the myriad of bags and gear were loaded onto the truck. It was upon our arrival at the resort where I realized that Club Med is not your average All-Inclusive. A party of about 40 staff greeted us at the entrance to the lobby. We would come to learn that they are called GOs (Gentle Operators) but we didn’t know this yet. Cold towels were handed out, and trays of ice water (safe) and lemonade were passed around. Our bags were hauled out of the truck and taken away. We were checked in as my toddler ran around being chased by her dad and I sat surprised on a leather chair, handing my documents and credit card over to a friendly stranger, wondering where our bags had gone. GO Emily wristbanded us (ah – the hated AI wristband – but at least they were clear) and walked us to our room. This was the first time ever where I arrived at a large resort and didn’t feel completely lost for the first few days, since the tour on our way to our room was a mini-orientation in itself. Our bags and car seat arrived at our room just after we did.
After speaking with families who’d been there before, the renovations they’ve done have been largely cosmetic, but they are impressive. Our Deluxe Family Room had been 2 rooms in its previous life, but we appreciated the extra space. I would suggest that even a family of 5 could easily fit. Everything was new – firm beds, fresh linens, fluffy towels, cute artwork in the kids’ room – and in spite of being down South, not a critter to be found. A downside for us was a lack of balcony and no child-proof lock on the doors. A room with a balcony can be booked as an additional upgrade and apparently the locks have been sitting in customs for a few weeks. I was informed of this by the Village Chief, Jean Marc, during one of our many friendly conversations. (*edited to add * Jean Marc is no longer with Ixtapa Pacific. I believe he is now at Club Med’s head office) I’m mentioning Jean Marc now – ahead of the beach, food, amenities, etc – because it’s his role and that of his staff of GOs that made our Club Med experience different from any other All Inclusive resort we’ve stayed at.
The GOs are omnipresent. They join you for meals; they work at their particular specialty but can answer questions about anything; they are welcoming and friendly without being intrusive or pushy. The Baby, Petit, and Mini-Club GOs are caring, attentive and fun. After hanging out at the Petit Club for much of the week, we did leave our daughter in their care for a few hours one morning, confident that she was having fun with the other ‘Tigers’ in her age group and well-looked after by the Petit Club team. The Baby Club and Petit Club are programs offered by Ixtapa Pacific and two other Club Meds in North America – Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and Sandpiper in Florida. There is an extra charge for their services, but you are able to use all of the facilities without signing up so long as you are there to supervise.
I was surprised by all the other complimentary facilities available to families traveling with babies and toddlers. In the main dining room there is a fridge stocked with baby food, yogurt and milk, as well as a station offering dried cereals and crackers. At the buffet are differing options of plainly cooked vegetables and pastas. They also offer a baby welcoming program that consists of a high chair, crib, and bottle warmer in your room, the use of a stroller, and 24hr access to a room that has a fridge, bottle washing and sterilizing facilities, microwave, and all the same baby food and snacks available in the dining room. Diapers and wipes are for sale in the gift shop, but selection was limited so I’d recommend bringing your own. Still, not having a week’s worth of baby food jars in your luggage could totally alleviate the possibility of paying for overweight luggage, as well as strain on your back! Club Med also offers private babysitting and a Pajama Club – where you drop off your tot ready for bed and you pick them up on your way back to your room.
We did have a few hours of babysitting one evening but felt that our daughter was a bit too young to enjoy the Pajama Club. Maybe in a few years when she’s a little older… Many of the bigger kids seemed reluctant to return to mom and dad once their Mini Club was done for the day. We’re trying to take advantage of the fact she still actually wants to hang with us for the time being! We loved being able to spend so much time together and it was nice to have so many things to do or not do. This resort is not just family-friendly, it’s all about families. Your children are welcome and welcomed everywhere. The food was fantastic.
The beach and grounds are beautiful. The pool area is lovely and the resort is large without being overwhelming. But we still needed to venture off. Down the road is Playa Linda – a lovely public beach with a small marketplace, as well as a pier from which to visit Isla Ixtapa – the small island facing you. Next to Playa Linda is the Cocodrilario, where lots of large crocodiles hang out in a protected reserve. Ixtapa itself is really just a hotel strip, but Zihuatanejo is a charming fishing village. We spent a lovely morning strolling around and absorbed the authentic Mexican charm, which has been slowly removed from the more touristy spots in Mexico. We negotiated with our cab driver to hang on to our car seat, and he picked us up at a designated spot and time. It’s a lot cheaper to take the public bus, but we liked knowing we wouldn’t be waiting at a bus stop with a tired toddler ready for her nap!
Club Med Ixtapa Pacific is top-notch in every regard – but there is a downside. It’s pricey. There are deals to be found on the Club Med website, but don’t expect the rock-bottom last-minute rates you can often find for other hotels and destinations. A nice thing about the Pacific side of Mexico is that there is no hurricane season. Their rainy period runs from late June until September, with the rain usually occurring in the evening – so it is possible to travel in the off season at reduced rates without fear of a hurricane.
So now that I’ve ‘done’ a Club Med, would I ‘do’ it again? My answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Only one thing disappointed me just a little – we didn’t hear “Hands Up” once the entire week.
To read what other parents thought of their stay at Club Med Ixtapa Pacific, please visit our Mexico Trip Reports page…