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Let the Gazette tell you where you should be planning to go during the sunny months



How does an all-inclusive family vacation that doesn't include mouse ears and character parades sound?

While many parents with small children may stay home and skip a summer vacation altogether, the Azul resorts in Mexico cater to families with children of all ages.

Couples vacays
Girls' getaway

Bonnie Hedges, the vice president of sales and marketing at Bentley Hedges Travel, highly recommends the Azul resorts in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, which has a partnership with Fisher-Price to provide programs and toys for kids.

"At the Azul Beach Resort, you get the fabulous, pristine, white beach location; gourmet food for parents and Gerber gourmet bottle food; indoor children rec areas for toddlers 3-11; a storybook house pirate house for boys, all supervised by trained daycare assistants. Free," said Hedges. "It's just incredible. The flooring is all rubberized for tumbling, gym exercises. (There are) G-rated children's movies. Plus, 70 percent of the rooms have connecting doors."

No need to lug around the Pack 'n Play, stroller or toys, because all that is provided at the resort.

Hedges said the resort also boasts tween and teen departmens, complete with a disco for children up to 17 years of age (because the drinking age is 18 in Mexico), with lessons on being a DJ and approved movies.  

On Fridays, the fishermen come up and let families pick out what they want that evening for dinner. Hedges said the travel deals could include two adults at full price, with discount rates for children and specials for kids up to 10 to stay free, except for taxes.

Another hot Azul property is the Azul Sensatori, a 20-minute private ride from the Cancun airport to the beach area.

"They have a connecting room promotion: Teens up to 17 get a discounted room," Hedges said.
The Sensatori is also a Fisher-Price resort, but is a larger property with an adult-only section. With four different two-story tower rooms, one is for families, one is for adults only, and another is a deluxe part of the resort.

Hedges said there are great prices this year out of OKC and Dallas, and the resorts are immaculately cleaned and have their own filtering system for purified water.

Couples vacaysLia Becker, with Journey House Travel, said more couples are planning to go to Europe.

"The euro is down right now, so it's getting more and more affordable," she said.

No surprise, a lot of couples heading someplace tropical want an adults-only resort, and Becker recommends the brand new Secrets Resorts in Jamaica that opened this month.

"The food is fabulous, and the service is even better," she said.

Hedges also recommended adults-only resorts such as the five-star rated El Dorado resorts in Mexico, which offer incredible activities for couples such as sailing in the deep Caribbean.

"What a fabulous adventure," she said. "The Royal Clipper sails out of Barbados to Grenada and decks on a separate side of island. You get to see parts of island that the large cruise ships do not get to see."

Napa Valley wine-tasting tours and San Francisco tours are still great for couples' and girls' trips, according to Hedges. The package prices include stays at different resorts, and you can take the train into Napa Valley. The customized packages include stays of four to seven nights.

Girls' getawayReady to shop? Becker recommends the nonstop service from OKC to Minneapolis for the Mall of America, or even down to Dallas to stay at the Four Seasons Las Colinas.

"If you stay two nights right now, you get 25 percent off everything at the resort: spa services, dining and golf," Becker said. "It has an amazing pool and fabulous service. There's not a spa like it in Oklahoma, either."

Hedges said hedging your bet on Cancun is always so easy and safe, with a number of resorts that feature spa vacations.

"Cancun is 2,000 miles from the border, and they are very protective of their guests," she said.

One Cancun option is the Le Blanc Spa Resort, an adults-only hotel with a huge spa featuring every type of spa therapy. It sits on a gorgeous beach and has an infinity pool.

"So, so beautiful," Hedges said of the five-star resort.

Inland, Hedges said South Beach and Miami Beach in Florida are still hot locations for getaways with beautiful beach resorts.

Vegas is always popular with Oklahomans, but Hedges recommends getting off the beaten path, the Strip, and heading for Lake Las Vegas, a resort 45 minutes from the strip.

"The resorts do have casinos, but it's not the first thing you walk into, and has shows on the lake and desert landscaping," she said.

Hedges added that Oklahomans are great travelers and tend to book early, which is important, especially since a lot of airlines have eliminated aircrafts."Malena Lott

photo El Dorado Casitas Royale

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