What Happens When Your Kid Doesn’t Want to Go to the Resort Kids Club?

Parents with kids who don't want to go to kids club: I see you.
child looking out at boats and dock on Ilsa Mujeres, Mexico
(Photo: Christine Sarkis)

Sometimes on vacation expectations and reality don’t align. That’s certainly the case if, say, your top family vacation ideas involve your kids’ willingness to spend a few hours a day at your resort’s kids’ club so you can enjoy some well-earned vacation time on your vacation. 

That was the case for me on a recent family trip to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. This isn’t my first rodeo, so I set the stage carefully, showing my kids the kids’ club schedule of all the fun stuff they could do while quietly planning my own parallel schedule of undisturbed beach time, yoga classes, and cocktails on the beach. Let’s just say it didn’t go according to plan.

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When the Plan Doesn’t Go According to Plan

On the first day of our family beach vacation, I sent them off to their respective kids’ clubs and got down to what I thought would be the first family vacation on which the parents weren’t in charge of kids 24/7. 

When the kids resurfaced at lunch and said they were done with the kids’ club for the day, I thought, sure, it’s hot and the activities are all back-to-back so it makes sense they’d only want to do half days. But when they opted out the next morning too, saying they’d rather just hang out at the pool (they’re young enough that “hanging out at the pool” still requires parental supervision), I could already see my week of plans shifting unexpectedly.

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Initially, I thought it was just my kids who preferred to skip the kids’ club. But after chatting with other parents at the resort, I realized it’s not unusual for children to decide they don’t want to spend their vacation in a kids’ club, even at some of the best all-inclusive family resorts in the world. While this certainly isn’t the case for all kids (every day, I saw dozens of kids joyfully participating in the fun roster of organized kids’ club activities), I realized I wasn’t alone in needing to adjust my vision—and game plan.

At first I was a little peeved. The activities were clearly fun, the staff professional, and honestly I wanted some time to be able to do my own set of activities without also supervising kids. I wanted a vacation on my vacation. But then I stopped spiraling, took a deep breath, and listened to what they were saying. They spend their non-vacation time at school, moving from supervised activity to supervised activity. It made sense that they wanted their vacation to feel a little more freeform and independent. Not to mention we were at the resort during spring break, a time when kids’ clubs are packed to the gills.

Making a New Plan

children walking with parent at a resort in Mexico
Oh look, it’s my kids not at the kids club (Photo: Joel Boardman)

So, we pivoted. My husband and I sat down and talked about what level of independence we were willing to give the kids. The resort felt safe and like a supportive environment for roaming kids, but the water factor freaked me out… and my kids love to swim.

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The pool had a lifeguard, and we told them our kids they needed to stick together if they were swimming. (I think my exact words were: “You’re both in charge of not drowning.”) My husband and I took turns hanging out close enough to the pool to make sure everything was OK, but far enough away that they got to practice keeping themselves safe. 

The Surprise Joys 

kids at evening entertainment dance party at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico
Late meals and evening entertainment became easier once we gave up on getting to the kids club by a specific time (Photo: Christine Sarkis)

I also started inviting the kids along to the things that I wanted to do. Both kids opted into ocean water aerobics with me, which was silly and fun and included people ages nine to 90. We all went to a sunset party together and danced in the sand with cocktails and mocktails. The resort had plenty of family activities as well, things like kayaking and art making, that we could do together.

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Since we were all hanging out together anyway, we decided to do a day trip to a nearby island, where we spotted wildlife, ate tacos, and went swimming. And because my kids didn’t need to get up at a certain time for the kids’ club, their bedtimes shifted to accommodate late dinners and evening entertainment, which gave us all a taste of what life would be like when they were teens and adults. 

The experience pushed me to evolve how I thought about traveling with my kids. They were no longer little ones who needed constant care and supervision; they were old enough to have a say in what they wanted their vacations to be. And I just needed to catch up. 

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Do I wish my kids were the kids’ club type? Yes. Will I encourage them to try again next time? For sure. But discovering that the kids’ club wasn’t a good fit, at least this time, turned out to have its own magic. It helped us figure out as a family how to consciously craft a trip where everyone—adults and kids—got to have fun. In order for that to work, we all had to be flexible and adaptable, a vacation lesson we brought home with us. Which, in my book, is better than any souvenir. 

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Christine Sarkis
A traveling parent and longtime travel writer and editor, Christine Sarkis is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of FamilyVacationist. She is the former Executive Editor for TripAdvisor travel magazine SmarterTravel.com, she has spent nearly two decades finding and sharing the best places to go with an audience of enthusiastic travelers. Her stories have appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her expert advice has been quoted in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, Here & Now, Life Kit, and California Now. Her stories have been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008, and she is working on a travel memoir. Christine and her husband first met in Paris, and travel remains a big part of their shared experience. With their two kids in tow, they have piloted a barge down canals in France, befriended llamas in Peru, tended olive trees in Italy, and gone snorkeling with sea turtles in Hawaii. The family lives in California and loves traveling around the state. Their California favorites include Yosemite National Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, and the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.