Sure sitting in Uncle So and So’s parlour listening to stories of his childhood would be great, but water slides and buffets have their pluses as well.
I have American kids. I can admit that. It is true. They are French fry eating, football watching, hamburger loving, car booster seat using, tan once a year getting, snowman making, Americans. However, thanks to my Trinidadian family here in the states, they are also soca singing, roti eating, soccer playing, doubles craving, pepper bottle sauce tapping, curry finger licking Americans.
I try to keep them connected to culture as much as I can, but there is nothing like touching down in the Caribbean and feeling the sand between their toes, hearing the breeze, smelling the street food, drinking fresh coconut water, and liming with family.
For some families, it is harder to make the connection – especially when it seems like all of their family is living outside of the islands. The family reunion is in Brooklyn or Orlando or Miami or Houston or Washington, DC because that is where the last few generations have settled. Sure you can get a good roti in any of these cities in America, but is it really the same? For many families who want to visit the Caribbean, the connection just isn’t there anymore beyond a distant cousin or aging relative that they have never met. Who wants to be the one to call and say “I comin!” with 3 kids and a husband? Not I.
As a Caribbean Parenting blogger attending the Social Media in the Sand Conference at Beaches Resort, I was keeping an eye out for opportunities for my kids to experience the culture in Turks and Caicos, while enjoying all that a resort has to offer an American child.
Here are 6 things that you can do to ensure that your kids get in touch with their Caribbean roots while enjoying a resort vacation.
1. Talk to the staff EVERYWHERE you go. Often times the resort staff is either local or from a nearby island. Start a conversation and you can find out where to go to get an authentic local meal, where to take the family to experience nature and wildlife safely, and how to get to the beaches that the locals go to. Many times the staff will have amazing suggestions for off resort activities.
2. Learn before you go. Your local library probably has several books on the history and culture of the island that you are planning to visit. Have the kids make a list of the things they would most like to see and experience. Kids love going to a new place and being able to recognize plants and animals that they saw in the books. You can also check out the Caribbean coloring and activity sheets here on SocaMom.com before you travel. You can also print them out and bring crayons and pencils so that they can stay occupied on the plane ride.
3. Download local music on their music players (iPod, mp3, etc.) for them to listen to on the flight. My daughter likes to find out the national anthems/national songs for the places that we visit. She has learned to play “God Save the Queen” on her violin. You may want to download sheet music if you have a musician in your family.
4. Even though American choices are available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, ask if there are local items on the menu. We all enjoyed sushi, fries, steak, ice cream, and other foods we could get on a regular basis as a taste of home, but we also searched the menu for more local fare. At all-inclusive resorts, you may not have the option of ordering off menu since most have a buffet, but at luxury resorts like Beaches, the only no you’ll usually hear is “no problem” and it is likely that you will be able to get something specially prepared for your family.
5. Go on an excursion and ask plenty of questions. I was lucky enough to take a boat trip to Little Water Cay to see the iguanas during my trip to Beaches in Turks and Caicos. While I was there, I was able to talk to our guides about what local life is like, and how the local travel to visit family in various parts of the islands by boat.
6. Be on the lookout for hints at local culture throughout the resort. While the kids loved the familiar Sesame Street characters that roamed the resort – even my teenager got a kick out of them – during one of the parades, the kids were also treated to amazing costumed drummers playing familiar Caribbean beats as they marched through the water park.
Resort travel is one way that you can connect your American (or British, or Canadian, or Australian) kids to their Caribbean roots without having to actually search for long lost family. The kids have the comfort and familiarity of their home, with the opportunity to enjoy authentic food, sights, and sounds of the Caribbean.
I was invited to Social Media on the Sand by Beaches Resorts and BSM Media/MomSelect. I received accommodations at a significantly discounted rate. All opinions are my own.