If you’re thinking about taking your kiddos to Turks and Caicos, let me go ahead and reaffirm that it’s a good idea. Of course, there are many ways to travel & stay. You have options! All inclusive resorts, hotels, Airbnb, VRBO, renting a car, using a shuttle service, the list goes on… we did our trip a bit more of the “adventurous” way and I’m going to fill you in on all the details!
Back in March 2018 we decided we were going to join Sarah Driscoll (my Root & Bud partner & best friend) on their trip to Turks & Caicos to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. I was going to photograph her family and in result, our family was going to make a little vacation out of it!
We started planning and all said and done the planning process was fairly quick (about a month or so). What’s so great about planning a trip so far in advance is you usually put half the cost of the house down upon booking and the other half is deducted 2 weeks prior to your trip, making it way less painful then shelling out the full cost of the vacation all up front. Think in advance! It will ease the pain of spending the money!
We knew right away that we were going to go the Airbnb route and let me tell you why:
It’s the only way we travel for us. After we did it once back in Florida for our Disney trip and Gulf Coast trip, we knew we’d never go back to a hotel again.
If the comforts of your own home, separate bedrooms, the option to cook, pack lunches, make breakfasts, privacy and more freedom to explore is your cup of tea then renting a house is the best way to get all of those amenities.
We knew we wanted this trip to be pretty low key. What I mean when I say that is, with Abel being under 2, we knew we couldn’t do crazy excursions, hikes, horseback riding etc. so we definitely wanted to be ON the water. That was our #1 priority when we were searching for a house, and will ALWAYS be top priority going forward. The convenience is paramount and having a view is priceless.
The house we fell in love with and ultimately booked had 3 bedrooms, a laundry room, 2 bathrooms, a spacious kitchen and a killer patio with a view. It was ON the water and had a pool, so everything we needed was right there. Not only that, but this particular Airbnb had a property manager who was SO incredibly helpful. He helped us with a rental car after ours got a bit messed up, he showed us the grocery store, he gave us recommendations of favorite beaches and things to do and lastly he shuttled us to the airport when it was time to go. Emmanuel was THE MAN and made our trip so much smoother.
You can find details about our Airbnb and how to book here.
Cost of Airbnb for 5 nights 6 days was roughly $3800
Next were the flights. Once we picked a house we booked our flights. Since Abel was under 2 we decided to take advantage of the last year having a “lap child” meaning we didn’t have to pay him to fly with us. He’s pretty heavy and certainly mobile, however, so traveling 4 hours with him on my lap was interesting to say the least…
We brought three iPads, three sets of headphones and some travel games & coloring pads. If you search “travel games” on Amazon you’ll see things like ‘bingo’, ‘checkers’, ‘memory’ etc.!
For Abel we had a movie downloaded on his iPad that kept him entertained here and there for 25 minutes at a time, then we’d switch and read a book, color, or play with little cars or toys and go back to the movie.
BIG TIP: Bring kids melatonin. Haha I swear… I gave him one of these on the ride there and he passed out in my arms! The older kids Grant, 7 and Dean, 5 were occupied and happy the whole plane ride!
If you’re going to choose a longer flight, I highly suggest booking a Red Eye. You can administer some melatonin and let them sleep. We had a late flight on the way home and flew 9:30pm-10:30pm on our last stretch and two of the three were sleeping.
Cost of four plane tickets round trip was roughly $3000
We had booked a rental SUV through SIXT and when we landed in Turks & Caicos they had told us that they didn’t have any more cars… FUN! We learned that these things can happen quite frequently when traveling out of the country to a small island and Emmanuel hooked us up with a rental car for half the price. We ended up lucking out, thankfully!
Car seats: in Turks & Caicos no one drives around with car seats or really even seat belts for that matter. Their “highway” was a long rode with dirt roads off of it. Part of the fun when traveling outside the country is immersing yourself into their culture. I’m not recommending one thing or the other, but if you don’t feel comfortable with this lifestyle, you’re able to bring your own car seats or see if a more popular rental car service like Avis can provide rental car seats for you.
The taxi to the house was $46, so you don’t really want to be taking a taxi around the island, especially if you plan on exploring or grocery shopping!
Cost of renting a car through our property manager: $300 Cost of renting a car through SIXT (thankfully that didn’t work out ) $850
We ended up going to the grocery store twice in 6 days. The first shop we got the basics, breakfast foods, snacks, milk, juice etc. and the second time we went to get dinner for an evening we planned on cooking at the house. We spent a total of just under $400 on groceries and I found the pricing to be comparable to the US.
We had planned on having breakfast at the house and doing late lunches at restaurants! That ended up tiding Andrew and I over for dinner most nights… and then we just fed the kids what we had back at the house for dinner. It was nice not having things so planned out and structured, we were fully on island time and saved a boatload of money on going to breakfast and dinner every day!
The restaurants were also fairly comparable to the US. Of course, imports are going to be a bit higher on an island and why buy steak when it’s flown in, am I right? So we stuck to local food like fish tacos, I think Grant had fish tacos at every restaurant we went to. They used local snapper that was freshly caught, or shrimp and it was SO GOOD! Highly recommend #allthefishtacos
We stayed right on Thompson Cove and didn’t do any exploring other than that the first day! The beach there was pretty much empty and we caught a horseback riding tour multiple times throughout our stay. It was a really nice beach to walk and the water was breathtaking. Just a short walk down the beach from our house was a restaurant called “The Conch Shack”, we ate there once on the first day we arrived and watched some locals retrieve huge conch shells from a tiny reef off-shore. It was nice having the convenience of a cute little beach side restaurant within a 5 minute walk from where we were staying with all the local island vibes.
Day 2: Long Bay Beach
The second day we visited Long Bay Beach. This was my FAVORITE beach because it stretched for miles and had so many kiteboarders surfing the waves. This beach was soft white sand and perfect for the kids to swim in. Here Abel fell asleep in our arms for about 40 minutes as we just waded in the water and took in the scenery. It was truly a breathtaking view! This beach was pretty desolate as there weren’t many people there which we found to be quite common throughout our stay. We spent most of the day there and then drove back home exploring the island in our car. We stopped at Jack's Fountain for lunch and this place was adorable. They had little corn hole boards in the back patio and such a great island vibe. This place wasn’t on the water, but you totally felt like you were dining ON an island. The food was so good and we learned it was owned by a Canadian, pretty cool, eh?
Day 3: Chalk Sound
The third day we headed into Chalk Sound. There were re tons of huge beach front houses there and they were absolutely gorgeous. We spent the car ride daydreaming about the beautiful island homes and stopped at Sapodilla Bay for the morning into the afternoon. There weren’t many people at this beach either! We walked this little cove, swam and rented some beach chairs and an umbrella for the day. They had little beach drinks, jet skis & kayaks for rent and it was the PERFECT place to spend the afternoon. The kids LOVED this one and the water was shallow and clear so they felt confident and safe swimming. The whole area was breathtaking!
Afterwards we ate lunch at La Brisas which was literally 3 minutes from Sapodilla Bay. The food there was as beautiful as the view and right around the corner and down a little path there were little huts and kayaks you could take out around Chalk Sound. We rented two for $50 and kayaked around. YET another amazing afternoon.
I think if we were to go back to T&C we might consider staying right on Sapodilla Bay.
Day 4: Grace Bay
The fourth day I’ll admit… we spent the day with the Driscoll’s on Grace Bay Beach. This beach was actually voted the number 1 beach in the WORLD in 2018. There are sailboats and parasailers and the most BEAUTIFUL water ever, ever. We actually were naughty and snuck onto the Beaches Resort to hang with Sarah and her family and later take her family pictures! It was SO incredibly perfect for the kids. Water slides, pools, restaurants, you name it… they had it. We found a little spot right on the resort beach and where not a lot of people were and it worked PERFECTLY! Here’s a little slideshow of her session <3
Day 5: Boat ride to Fort George Cay & Iguana Island
The fifth day we rented a boat and the captain took us to Iguana Island where the kids got to feed some Iguanas! This was Dean’s favorite part of the trip! Shortly after that we boated around Grace Bay and over to Fort George Cay which was uninhabited and desolate. The beach was INSANE. Truly the most gorgeous beach we had seen and the water was so clear and beautiful. It was completely one of those moments where if you envision heaven at all, it would be similar to this desolate beach. The Cay you can only get to by boat and because no one lives on it you truly feel like you’re in a scene from the show Lost- it’s what makes these Caribbean Islands so amazing in my opinion. The desolate beaches on the outskirts of the main islands are something everyone needs to see and it’s 100% worth the money to plan an excursion to get you there!
You can book an excursion or a boat ride through this site here.
After we boated we drove over to Coral Gardens for the boys to snorkel. That was an epic failure as they couldn’t quite figure out the snorkel paired with the life jacket riding up on them. Better luck next year!
But what was a huge success was the restaurant called Somewhere. This restaurant was situated RIGHT on the beach and had stunning views. It had such an island feel with perfect island music and it may have been my favorite restaurant that we visited! The fist tacos were actually to die for.
After all this we went home, put the kids down for naps and then went out for our one and only dinner!
We ended up going to Mango Reef and I have to say, while it was cute with the lights, I don’t think I’d recommend going back… we were told to go to Coco Bistro/Coco Van, but you totally needed reservations for that and we dropped the ball! Next time.
Day 6: half day on the island then flew home!
The last day, day 6 we packed up early morning and spent about 3 hours or so swimming in the pool and eating lunch on the beach! Emmanuel shuttled us to the airport and we started our journey back home!
We could have stayed a few more days to be honest, and we weren’t “ready” like you usually are when you’re far from home and wrapping up a vacation! All good signs :)
Things to know
First thing I never expected was how many stray dogs there would be on the island. They are EVERYWHERE. But this is the way they live. Lots of people on the island have what they call “beach dogs” meaning they live outdoors, on the beach, but they come around for food, water, and basic care. For the most part ALL of the dogs we came in contact with were friendly.
The boys were really heartbroken at first, (so was I) but thankfully with a good talking to from Dad, we learned to understand their way of life! It’s just very different from what we are used to back in the states!
Second thing: BRING CASH! I know, it’s sort of a no brainer- but we didn’t think of this too much in advance because we didn’t bring enough. You have call the bank and let them know you’re traveling outside the country and they’ll take a hold off your account to allow you to withdraw from ATM’s. Without having an international plan though, that call will run ya! So just be prepared!
What we loved SO much about adventuring is we were able to really rely on nothing but ourselves, the car and nature to entertain us the whole time. We stayed so busy and we were constantly in awe of our surroundings. The boys spent every hour of the day on the beach or swimming for the most part, and needless to say they had no trouble falling asleep each night!
We are already planning our 2019 Caribbean vacation because this truly was a trip of a lifetime and it’s just the beginning for us. We’ve got big plans with drones, vlogging and more for our next trip and we can’t wait to document all the fun!
My biggest takeaway: family time is EVERYTHING. You only have 18 summers with your children until who the heck knows… once they’re adults they could be doing anything, right? So we want to make it count. Sure, it’s hard traveling with little ones, but if you feel you can swing it, I encourage you to try it. It’s so rewarding and so worth it. This trip was the best family trip yet and Turks & Caicos is INCREDIBLY family friendly. Happy vacation planning, friends!