There are so many all-inclusive family resorts to choose from, but for over three years now, at least once a month, someone initiates a conversation with me that starts like this: “So apparently there’s this resort in Jamaica that gives you a nanny…” or “Have you heard of the place in Jamaica where you get your own nanny?” or “Do you know anyone who’s been to the resort in Jamaica where they assign you a nanny?” My answers? “Yes.” “Yes.” And “No.”
Franklyn D. Resort & Spa in Runaway Bay, Jamaica often gets called FDR or FDR Resort for short. (For the record, Franklyn D. Rance is the owner of the Jamaica all-inclusive resort – hence the moniker. It does not stand for Franklin Delano Roosevelt!)
Up until this past summer my Jamaica travel was limited to a week in Negril with a girlfriend when we were both still single gals. We drank lots of Red Stripe, ate lots of jerk chicken, fended off the occasional invitation to “get our groove back”, and generally just enjoyed the sun, sand and sea. Slightly different circumstances for my most recent visit to Jamaica: as a guest of the Jamaican Tourist Board (JTB) I arrived at Montego Bay airport with my daughter, my son, and my mother-in-law! Our accommodations? The fabled Franklyn D.!
Truth be told, I was pretty ambivalent about the whole vacation nanny thing. If I was traveling with my husband, I’d find it weird to have a stranger tag along with us. Small talk isn’t my forte so the idea of forced chit chat with someone I didn’t know wasn’t really appealing. Plus, I figured there was no way my kids would be ok with being left with a stranger in a strange place. For this trip I was happy my mother-in-law would have some help looking after my son while my daughter and I were kept busy by the JTB. Plus, my mother in law loves to chat, so she’d have someone to keep her company while we were out and about.
After a painless direct flight from Toronto to Montego Bay (painless with a 16-month-old, for serious), we pulled up in front of FDR’s main entrance, and I promptly fell in love. The main lobby is really not much more than a desk under a palapa. After checking in, you are greeted by your nanny, who gives you a brief tour of the property while en route to your room. Because I had my son with me, they assigned me two vacation nannies, which normally costs an extra $20 per day – an incredible bargain.
Within two minutes of arriving at our (incredibly spacious) room, my son’s dirty diaper was changed, and both kids were in their swimsuits and at the beach. I was left to unpack in peace with a cold Red Stripe. The beach was literally outside our door, so I was able to keep my eye on them, but I was stunned that my kids instantly connected with Carmelina and Loraine, and off they went. I have never had a full-time nanny, let alone two, and let me tell you, it is quite easy to get used to!
Carmelina and Loraine were attentive, friendly without being intrusive, and kept our room tidy and our fridge stocked. Even though it is an all inclusive resort, you can order things to have on hand in your fridge like milk, juice, beer, fruit, cereal, cheese & crackers, or all or none of the above. When the kids were splashing it up in the tub, they thought to put towels down on the (slippery when wet) tile floor. They were the second (and third!) pair of hands that I always wish I had, and my children adored them.
The nannies are available to you from 9-5, and after that it is $6 USD per hour. Initially my liberal guilt sent them home right at 5 to be with their own families, but I learned that the nannies would prefer to earn the extra money. I will admit it was nice to have them occupy the kids after their dinner so I could enjoy a glass of wine and dinner with the grown- ups. Bedtime is a special time for us, so I’d sneak away to get my son in his jammies and ready for bed, tuck him in, and then he’d happily drift off under Loraine’s supervision. My daughter enjoyed later than usual bedtimes playing with Carmelina and the other kids in the children’s club.
The atmosphere at FDR is totally laid back, in fact I realized I rarely had shoes on. All dining is out in the open air (a tad muggy in August) and varies between buffet and table service, and often a combination of the two. The kids’ buffet starts early, and is loaded with the usual suspects (plain noodles, chicken nuggets, fish fingers, etc.) but you can supplement from the adjacent poolside grill with excellent jerk chicken or pork, grilled cheese sandwiches, or hamburgers. Topped off with an ice cream cone, most kids (mine included) filled their faces and went off to play with the nannies while their parents enjoyed a more formal setting. The main dining area offered great options each night, and the a la carte restaurant (adults only) features Italian food and is open 5 nights per week.
Breakfast was always delicious, the fresh fruit smoothies were a huge hit with all of us, and honourable mention goes to the big Jamaican buffet that accompanies a great evening of entertainment on Saturday nights. The aforementioned poolside grill is open until midnight, and plate of jerk chicken and pork was a welcome addition to an evening of cocktails (all made with top-shelf brands).
I loved FDR because of its intimate setting, the casual atmosphere, and the wonderful warmth of the staff. I like that it is Jamaican-owned, because I feel like I’m contributing directly to the local economy. I like that Jamaican families and people from all over the world vacation there, because I love learning about what families from different cultures expect in a vacation. I like that they’ve truly thought of everything that family members of different ages and interests might want in a vacation, and try to make it all happen.
On our last morning there, I noticed that my daughter’s finger and hand was quite swollen. Our nanny Carmelina suggested we take her to see the nurse right away. Turns out that a scratch from a stray cat, where the skin did not appear broken, had become infected. The nurse was quite concerned and suggested we begin antibiotic treatment immediately, as even though we were headed home, it would be quite some time before I could get medical attention for her. The doctor said he’d be half an hour, and (somewhat cynically, I might add) I figured that we’d be waiting at least two hours. True to his word, the doctor arrived in 30min and we began a course of antibiotics straight away. Mid-flight, the swelling was noticeably less. By the next day, her hand appeared almost normal. I think it’s important to mention that we came across the cat while we were out on an excursion, not at the resort.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m sold on Franklyn D. Resort & Spa and their vacation nanny program. A good idea is to check out FDR’s website, as they frequently offer amazing deals and discounts throughout the year. As it stands anyway, Franklyn D. Is great value for the money – vacation nanny plus all-inclusive plan plus top shelf liquor plus various boat rides and watersports that we didn’t have time to try. Those who like to dress up for dinner are of course welcome to do so, but truthfully the relaxed and casual atmosphere made me feel completely at home and well-rested in spite of our busy trip.