Bon Bini! Planning a trip to Aruba in the future? Then join me as I share details from our recent vacation!
FIRST VACATION POST QUARANTINE … HOW WAS I FEELING?
I had a LOT of anxiety about getting on that plane. After all, this was our first trip after spending the better part of over a year fully masked, indoors and around our extremely limited “quaranteam”. But after the adults got fully vaccinated and we saw the COVID infection numbers significantly decreasing, we decided to plan a visit to our favorite vacation destination: Aruba!
As we got ready to board the flight, I was feeling more excitement than anxiety. After all, we were TRAVELING again! However, we made an important commitment to each other that although we were looking forward to our tropical family adventure, we were focused on remaining safe and would follow all of the appropriate travel protocols.
THREE KIDS UNDER THE AGE OF SIX … WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE FLIGHT?
We were THRILLED to have the opportunity to bring our beloved nanny, JL, with us on the vacation. Extra hands to support are the biggest help when traveling with little ones. Was our journey to Aruba perfect? NOPE! However, here are FIVE things that made the journey a bit more bearable:
1. Tablets: We are very lucky that our children are at the age where tablets can keep them entertained … Lottie (who turned 2 in March) really just started being interested in the tablet. If you’re looking for a recommendation, we love our Fire Tablets from Amazon where you can easily access children-appropriate games and programming.
2. All the snacks: @jetblue is my favorite airline for unlimited snacks, but definitely plan to have secret backups! In our snack bag, you could find gogosqueez applesauce and pudding, cheese-its, and bugles! Also, we brought our gohappykids “travel tray” to put all of our snacks on that we are obsessed with!
3. Small surprise activities: I raided the target dollar section and pulled these out when the kids were getting antsy. One of our favorite finds included a “scratch-off” alphabet letters and numbers book.
4. Have the kiddos pack their carry-on!: Have the children choose what they want to pack and try to limit toys to 4-5. We also had individual water cups for them that we filled at the airport … and their tablet headphones in there too. With them packing themselves (in their wanderwild backpacks of course), they will know what they have in there rather than asking you a million times!
5. Lower your expectations and lower them again: There will be turbulence along the way … (see what I did there?) And remember that everyone around you has one who has kids and is more understanding of your family “noise” than you might think!
WHERE DID WE STAY? DETAILS ON OUR ACCOMMODATIONS
Since taking three tiny humans under the age of 6 out of the country is no small feat, we wanted to maximize the vacation length. So we stayed the first few nights at The Holiday Inn Aruba before checking into The Marriott Ocean Club.
The Holiday Inn Aruba:
Location is prime! You are literally steps away from either the pool or the beach. In my experience, this is unique when compared to other hotels on the island, where you feel like you have to “choose” each day whether you are going to go to the pool or beach since they’re a bit farther apart. We loved this flexibility!
Family-friendly Please refer to the website for all of the updated details; however, in my experience children ate for free as long as they were accompanied by an adult who was paying for an adult meal. There are various other meal plan options if your stay meets the minimum night requirements. There are two pools on the property – one of which is perfect for children.
Accommodations: This hotel has a few different buildings – some of which have had the rooms updated whereas others are a bit older. I loved our view of the pool and ocean; however, our room was a bit out of date. The beautiful view made up for it though. My recommendation would be to ensure that you request a high floor.
The Marriott Ocean Club:
Is this the same as a Marriott Hotel? The Marriott Ocean Club and The Marriott Surf Club both consist of timeshare units, operated by the Marriott.
What do you love about the Ocean Club? EVERYTHING! This was our first time staying here in a few years and it was absolutely perfect for a family. The recently renovated unit we were in had a full kitchen and living area. There is laundry available on site (not within the unit, but on the floor) that was easy to access and KEY for minimizing how many clothes you need to pack. Lottie slept in our master bedroom in a pack and play and Lucy and Teddy shared the pull-out couch. Our view was top-notch and we enjoyed many sunrises and sunsets from our balcony. The winding pool was gorgeous, had multiple waterfalls to add to the tropical vibe, and a swim-up bar for the adults. There is also a kiddie pool on site that Lottie loved playing in with her bath toys we had brought along with us!
What’s the difference between the Ocean Club and Surf Club? We stayed at the Surf Club last year. Personally, I would say the main differences include a larger pool area that includes an infinity pool (adult-only), lazy river, water slide, and kiddie pool. The rooms are similar in size with the only difference in my opinion being that there is a laundry unit in each room. The Surf Club is also a MUCH larger property and tends to have more families when compared to Ocean Club.
Accommodation “personal opinion” time: We have been staying at the Marriott Ocean Club, Surf Club, and Marriott Stellaris for YEARS. During our travels to Aruba, we have also stayed at a few other properties on the island. Personally, I would highly recommend the Ocean Club, Surf Club or Stellaris to anyone looking to travel to Aruba, especially to those with families who may need more space or even a full kitchen so you can choose to eat some meals “at home”. Our parents, who are seasoned (read: “picky”) travelers, love Aruba and the Marriott properties so much, they come back twice a year!
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTIVITIES IN ARUBA:
There are so many countless activities you can plan to do at your own hotel/ resort and I encourage you to take advantage of them all. However, I do have one idea that may take you “offsite” if you’re not staying at the Renaissance Hotel … and that’s to plan a visit to The Flamingo Beach on the Renaissance Hotel Private Island!
Even after all of the years of visiting Aruba, we had never been to the Renaissance Island Private Beach! We booked a day pass for our family and had an absolute blast. Our little crew would give the experience five stars – and here’s why!:
1) First, it’s an adventure even to get to the island! You take a boat (from the lobby of @renaruba ) out to the island … Lottie kept saying, “go faster!” There’s a little magic to the transportation experience!
2) There are two “beaches” on the island: Iguana Beach and Flamingo Beach (Adults Only). But from 9-10am, children are allowed to visit the flamingos, which of course we took advantage of and took lots of pictures!
3) The water was clear and a gorgeous blue – and the perfect depth for small children! They are able to stand throughout the beach “cove” which was great for the kids and for the parents.
4) There is food and beverage service on the beach, which is really helpful, especially as a family! So much easier when you have small kiddos to be able to eat at your beach seats rather than have to dust off those sandy feet to go to a restaurant.
5) This island is near the airport … so on one side, you can watch the planes land – which was a total DREAM for Teddy!!
Other details: we paid $125 per adult for this experience and I think it was great value. This included (per person): one meal, one free drink, transportation, and non-motorized water activity (paddleboards, kayaks, etc.) As you can see, we took full advantage of these activities – especially Chris who is practically an expert paddleboarder!
It was a “ten out of ten” day … would highly recommend this unique day trip to anyone visiting Aruba!
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR RESTAURANTS:
There are SO many delicious food options and restaurants in Aruba to choose from. I’ve included a list below of some of our favorites – however, I know there are many others!
A delicious, family-friendly Italian restaurant in a great location – you can’t go wrong with any of their food including their “not to be missed” cheese wheel!
El Gaucho Aruba
If you enjoy meat, this restaurant is simply NOT to be missed. They offer the most delicious Argentinian beef you will ever taste. The ambiance is lovely and there is a guitar player who comes around and takes requests for songs. Our favorite is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.
This is a “go-to” for my parents – the food is delicious, served in a lovely backyard setting amidst strung bulbed lights.
If you’re looking for delicious food that’s a bit more casual, I highly recommend Casa Tua. It’s perfect for families and centrally located. The restaurant offers pizza but a lot of other menu items as well.
DO I RECOMMEND YOU VISIT ARUBA?
An absolute yes. It’s a special island (known as “one happy island”) that has consistently beautiful weather, lots of activities, and delicious food. We have visited now two times with our children and countless times with my parents. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know if I can help in any way as you’re thinking about a trip!
I’d love to hear what you found to be most helpful about this post!