Growing up, my family was not the type to go on cruises or stay at ski resorts. We roadtripped to Disney with maps in the backseat, hiked the Grand Canyon with a tour group, and boiled fresh lobster from the markets in Rhode Island in our hotel room (this was before Airbnbs were a thing… I love telling that story). As a college student and young adult, I’ve pretty much schlepped between hostels and friends’ couches, traveling carry-on only.
Needless to say, staying at an all-inclusive resort for “Adult Spring Break” in Turks and Caicos was like experiencing “how the other side live”. It was a true vacation, not to be confused with an adventure. As one of my coworkers put it, the difference is: “am I carrying a backpack or a suitcase?” And I’ll have to say – as much as I have gained from getting lost in foreign countries with all my belongings on my back… I could get used to the type of vacation where I don’t have to lift a finger. Staying in one room for a whole week is really nice. So is waking up to unlimited food and drinks within a 10-minute walk!
Which brings me to the burning question – such a trip must have cost a fortune, right? Turks and Caicos is supposed to be one of the most expensive islands in the Caribbean. Well, let’s do a little back-of-the-napkin math. Our “Adult Spring Break” squad of six each paid around $219 a night for a basic double room (not inclusive of airfare but including transfers from Providenciales airport and all taxes/tips). I booked my roundtrip flight with credit card points. My very rough, very conservative, daily cost breakdown if I were to do the same activities/have the same meals in DC or on vacation somewhere else might look something like this:
accommodation: $100 (there are no hostels in Turks and Caicos… so I’m assuming we could find a room for $200/night somewhere…. that may not have private beach/pool access like Club Med)
breakfast: $15 (almond milk cappuccino, fresh fruit, omelette made to order)
yoga class: $20
lunch: $15 (fish tacos, sweet potato fries… this was my actual lunch from Sharkie’s at Club Med almost every day)
snorkeling: $70 (incl. equipment, boat ride, ~1 hour of snorkeling… actual tours on the island cost much more but are usually longer trips than the ones operated by Seafari through Club Med)
happy hour: $15 (a glass of wine and a fruity cocktail cause #tropiclikeitshot)
dinner and dessert: $40 (veggie paella, scallops, fresh dragonfruit, gelato… actual items on the menu. Different gelato flavors every night!)
entertainment/nightlife: $60 (covers, show tickets, Ubers, drinks, etc.)
TOTAL: $395. SO. As you can see, even by my conservative estimate it was objectively a great value for having everything included for $219/night. A large factor in our choice of Turks and Caicos over Playa del Carmen, was the price – since Turks is normally much more expensive, we wanted to take advantage of the value. And we can go to Mexico next time 😉
Yes, our rooms were basic – but they were clean, stocked with water bottles and towels every day, and well air-conditioned. And why would you spend time in your room when you can be on a boat or by the pool?!
The food wasn’t anything to write home about (except for the fish tacos from Sharkie’s and the Bailey’s iced coffee) – but think about how much money you paid for college dining plans. Any buffet style restaurant is going to trade some quality for quantity and variety, but the food was obviously a few steps up from college dining hall food. Waiters don’t serve you wine in college dining halls, for example. You just have to not have the expectation that this is some 5-star resort – it’s adult summer camp!
I’ve always said I wouldn’t like not being able to choose what I do and eat, or experience the local culture – but now I totally get the appeal of resorts and cruises. Especially for families and large groups, it takes the guesswork out of planning. My conclusion is that all-inclusives are pretty much cruises on land – you can’t have the expectation that you’ll “be like the locals”… we didn’t step off the resort the whole week. I’m sure that’s not necessarily the experience everywhere, but at Club Med there are so many activities included (snorkeling, flying trapeze, sailing, aqua zumba, private tennis lessons, you name it) that I didn’t ever get bored or feel like I wanted to be somewhere else during my six days.
I didn’t know anything about Club Med before, but it’s an originally French, international chain of resorts known for a very specific culture. My first reaction was that it was kind of like staying in an upscale hostel, because many of the guests mingle and socialize instead of minding their own business like at a typical hotel. It’s easy to make friends when you’re all in line to jump off a flying trapeze for the first time, organizing a game of beach volleyball, or making a fool of yourself at zumba.
The staff (called something in French that is abbreviated to “G.O” and made me want to say “GI JOE”) are there to facilitate these activities, hence the summer camp feel. They’re even encouraged to socialize with guests and join them for meals and drinks. Both the guests and G.Os are from all over the world, so nearly everyone who works for Club Med speaks French or another second language. The trapeze instructors even knew how to give the instructions (“hook your knees, let go, do a flip”, etc.) in multiple languages, including Chinese. They were all young, attractive, super outgoing, and made me want their jobs temporarily. I know realistically I couldn’t be on all the time like that for six months (the length of their contract) – but being paid to live on a resort and eat/drink for free while teaching yoga or sailing or tennis or whatever, could not be a bad gig.
The Turks and Caicos resort (called “Turkoise”… cheesy, I know – but aptly named) is the only adult-only all-inclusive on the island, and Club Med’s only adult-only resort in the world. I think we took this for granted. I love kids and want my own someday, but I can’t imagine “relaxing” with little kids screaming and running around everywhere, and having to wait in line for things with kids. Compared to your typical “spring break” destinations like Cancun or the Dominican Republic, Turkoise had a lot of older guests – but they could hang. I hope I’m fun like that when I’m 40-60 years old!
My camera actually remained in my room’s safety deposit box the whole week… our building was pretty far from the central dining/pool area, and I didn’t want to risk it walking off or getting wet when I was running around doing things all day. Your room key is on bracelet with a little chip, so there’s no need to bring a wallet or keys or anything with you around the resort. I did have my phone with me most of the time though, so in the spirit of the “a few seconds a day” video I made for my last semester of college, I made this highlight reel video of our trip while stuck in the airport for 4 hours:
At around 1:10 in the video you can see the the outdoor palapas where I treated myself to a massage. Massages cost extra, but the prices were on par with what you’d pay in DC for a massage anyway… and it was so worth it. After a scary ordeal where I got carried away by super strong currents on a paddleboard (which didn’t have the velcro ankle attachment that other paddleboards have… not great), the massage was exactly what I needed.
I am ready to go back, but also curious about other Club Med resorts around the world. The trapeze is honestly probably 80% of the reason I’d pick Club Med over other resorts 🙂 If after this post you’re convinced to go on Adult Spring Break (or a bachelorette party, or family vacation) in Turks & Caicos, a couple tips:
sunscreen: Hopefully at least someone in your group is checking a bag, so you can bring your own sunscreen and aloe – unless you want to spend like $30 on a bottle at the Club Med gift shop. Even if you “never wear sunscreen”, the rays are stronger in Turks & Caicos and you will burn.
bugspray: Ditto. I forgot about this, and got eaten alive at night by those sand fleas that you can’t see. I still have the marks on my legs to prove it!
water bottle: I bought a Lilly Pulitzer Swell bottle specifically for this trip, and it was easily one of my most useful purchases of the year. I used to hate on Swell bottles for being annoying to fill (still true, especially with ice) and hard to drink out of (for the gym, where a flip top is much easier) – but at the beach, water will stay cold in that thing ALL. DAY. under the sun! Being in that heat is sure to dehydrate you, much less when you factor in alcohol. And you’re not going to want to go back to the bar to get a cup of water when you’re on the beach. So, throw a Swell in your beach bag – and rest easy knowing it won’t spill.
airport transfer: Book it through Club Med for ~$40 round trip (no more). Tammy and I arrived early and it was difficult and slow to find a taxi. I’d read that it would cost the same and be faster than waiting for the shuttle to take a big group, but our check-in ended up being a little confusing because they weren’t expecting us. Just avoid the hassle and go with the group.
Fun fact: The first time I heard of Turks and Caicos was from a Youtuber I watched doing a nail polish haul… yes, remember haul videos? The color was a China Glaze color called “Turquoise and Caicos” and it meant nothing to me… little did I know that many years later, I’d find myself reminiscing about that tropical paradise!