Travel Tips

Celebrating the Holidays With a Multigenerational Trip to Jamaica

jamaica 5Multigenerational travel is a great way to spend time with the whole family—parents, grandparents, and children—and discover somewhere new. It’s also an alternative to celebrating the holidays at home—you can let someone else do the planning, cooking, and cleaning. Family travel expert Kerri Zane shares one destination that’s perfect for multigenerational travel: the island of Jamaica. 

The holidays are nearly upon us, which is the time of year when families gather again…and again…and again. It seems that year after year the pattern repeats. You load up the kids and head to grandma and grandpa’s or Auntie Jean’s. How about you break with the tradition? This Thanksgiving, or for that matter, any large family trip, instead of heading to a relative’s house or a domestic hotel, there are a number of economically viable alternatives, and some of them are actually outside the U.S.—in villas you can rent.  It’s less muss and fuss, a great escape, and more affordable than you think.

One villa alternative is Jamaica.

A holiday away at a villa gives you all the freedom of being in a private home (just like grandma’s house), but none of the preparation or clean-up responsibility. Just imagine your entire family sitting around the Thanksgiving table while the butler serves the yams and turkey—that YOU didn’t have to slave over a hot stove to prepare!

jamaica 4 In Montego Bay, Sea Island Villa is one option. It is one of the more than 100 villas available through Villas by Linda Smith. If you have a large or extended family, the size is right. The 6,000 square foot, six-bedroom property sits on top of seven private acres overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Staffed with a cook, butler, housekeepers, night watchman, and four others, it certainly fits the definition of all-inclusive. You’ll find a pool, tennis courts, and yes, even a ping-pong table. You also have full access to the Tryall Club, so you and the kids can enjoy the gym, the beach, golf, or water sports.

Even day care/child care is handled. One of the staff members at the villa will babysit your kids, or you can take the little ones to the Hummingbird Kids Club at Tryall for their own version of a night out. Villa rates start at $4,000 a week (not including food) and vary based on bedrooms and the season. Since each villa has 12 bedrooms, they can sleep up to 12 people, which works out to about $700 each night. If you divide that on a per-person basis , it runs about $60 per night.

jamaica 6Daytime in Jamaica provides lots of activities the entire family can enjoy. One day we visited Rhodes Hall Plantation for a tour (via horseback) in and out of the ocean. Kids as young as six years old can ride and it’s totally safe. Everyone is required to wear a helmet and several guides ride along on each outing.

Another spot to check out is the Montego Bay Cultural Center, which provides a comprehensive look at the rich historical culture of Jamaica, and docents are on hand to answer any questions. Did you know that sugar is not indigenous to the Caribbean, or that the slaves in Jamaica were freed more than 50 years before those in the southern United States?

For a rare treat, take your family to visit Greenwood Great House and request a tour from the owner, Bob Betton. There are well-preserved treasures dating back over 200 years. Mr. Betton will share the historical significance of each artifact with intricate detail.

jamaica 7For a memorable kid-friendly day, you can visit Dolphin Cove. There is one in Negril, and the original is located in Ocho Rios. I had the opportunity to swim with the dolphins, and when I say swim with the dolphins, I mean that literally. Not only did I receive my first dolphin kiss, each of us, one by one, was instructed to hold on to our dolphin pal’s front fins as she swam with us across the water. Children six years and older can participate in this activity. You can also swim with sharks, ride a camel, and play with a stingray.

There are late afternoon and early evening catamaran cruises available through most of the resorts. The one we participated in, Island Routes Survivor, left from the shore in front of Beaches Resort. I’ll caution you, this is definitely a full-on party, and is not for children. We also got to spend a few nights at the first annual Soul in the Sun Music Festival. It was an opportunity to mix and mingle with the locals and listen to legendary acts like Jeffrey Osbourne, Freddie Jackson, and Peabo Bryson, as well as Jamaican superstars like Richie Stephens and L.U.S.T. Check the Jamaica Tourism Board website to see what will be coming up when you plan your visit.

jamaicaDuring your villa stay, you do have the option to eat all your meals there, but you might not want to be locked into that. Just down the road from Sea Island is a secluded gem called Sky Beach Bar and Seafood Grill. Dine in one of the myriad thatched huts named after Jamaican townships. Kids can play on the open grassy area or play checkers on the oversized stone game tops while waiting for their meal. We had the unexpected surprise of not only eating on the water—but in the water. There are tables situated on the beach that you can request. Visit Scotchie’s, a local Jamaican favorite and must-visit for jerk, or pick up a patty at Juici Patty or Tastee, (it’s Jamaica’s fast-food answer to the empanada).

Getting around the island with your whole family in tow is also something you want to consider. Renting a car is an option, but for those of us who learned how to drive in the U.S., it could be a bit tricky. Jamaica was a British colony for many years, and they drive as such. For me, it’s clearly the “wrong side” of the road…I’m afraid I’d get confused. Again, there are many van services available, and our choice was the Paradise Travels Tour. Rates start at $5 per person per destination.

For those who want the full service treatment but have a more modest budget, there are many all-inclusive resorts like RIU Palace Tropical Bay (an adults-only property), located directly on the beach in Negril. Everything you want to do, eat, or play is available, from the moment you wake up, until the time you lay your head back down on the pillow. Plus, there’s no need to take your wallet anywhere because once they slip the wristband around your arm, you are set! Rates start at $153.00 per person per night.

For more information from Kerri Zane about planning family-friendly trips, check out:

By Kerri Zane for Kerri Zane is a family travel expert and author of It Takes All 5: A Single Mom’s Guide to Finding the REAL One, on sale now. For more advice on health, parenting or Kerri’s exclusive MomEscapes, visit her at