We just got home from our family vacation to the Bahamas! Flying from San Diego, through JFK to Atlantis, with two kids to meet up with family for a week long summer getaway – we had a few hiccups along the way and well… well into the trip too. Overall we are so grateful and went home with nothing but love for the Bahamian culture and a feeling of being stuck in the island vibe that I don’t want to get out of.
My husband and I have quite the track record for having something major go wrong during a vacation. As much as I plan and we research, we have had some annoying things occur on trips over our ten-year relationship! THIS TRIP TAKES THE CAKE!!!
Before I unpack the obstacles that we faced this past week I first want to say how grateful I still am that we were even able to go! Considering the 2020 Pandemic and the year we all had, and the fact that it is a luxurious resort, I do not want to come across as ungrateful because in the end we got priceless time spent with family, and had some amazing moments while we stayed in the Bahamas.
Also, as things are changing on a daily basis as we are in the tail ends of the pandemic, as some countries become vaccinated and ease restrictions, while others are still ramping up or do not have access to vaccines – traveling to an international resort will come with its requirements and paperwork. Which surely complicates things. I will go over what we needed for this trip, June of 2021.
In addition to the COVID requirements, traveling from San Diego to the Bahamas with two kids was an adventure in itself, and then the Atlantis resort is HUGE and takes some figuring out! I read through a dozen blog posts before I went and had a pretty good idea of what to expect and still – here I am with a list of what I would do differently!
FLYING WITH KIDS
How to Pack for the Airport + the Trip
We packed two large suitcases for a family of four, two adults, a 3 1/2 year old and a 1 year old. We still packed light for us. My suitcase had my clothes, plus all of the clothes for my daughters. My husbands suitcase was half full of diapers, wipes, pull ups, formula, baby food pouches, and toddler snacks. We also brought one large backpack diaper bag, my small purse diaper bag, a tot bag full of snacks and blankets, a toddler backpack which my daughter carried and the ergo baby carrier. We pushed this double umbrella stroller which was not only a godsend at the airport but 100% a necessity at the enormous Atlantis Resort.
My husband and I have flown with our daughter Carli dozens of times. This was the first time flying with two kids, doing two back to back 5-hour flights, and trying out a Red Eye flight! A recipe for disaster. We were a mess. We had our flights change a lot on us and then we made the mistake of not checking again before leaving. As a result, we left early and then were stuck at the airport, very early – and with COVID restrictions, all restaurants were closed. We just sat there getting our kids antsy and hungry right before our flight. I will say the kids did fall asleep, and if everything else that went wrong on this trip DIDN’T go wrong, and the only thing was being a little tired from this trip, I’d actually consider doing this again… The only reason it still stings a little bit, is the fact that when we landed from this first red eye flight, exhausted we were hit with COVID restriction issues, and ended up missing our flight as a result.
Our family as a whole had a stressful start to this vacation. My sister ordered her sons passport in March of 2021 to be expedited for our June trip to the Bahamas. The initially rejected his passport photo, so they went to the post office and resubmitted a new photo right away. It got down to the wire and the received his passport only DAYS before we departed for our trip, wondering the whole time if they were going to have to cancel their trip, or leave a kid behind!!
We didn’t have any issues getting our children’s passports. My husband and I are also fully vaccinated, so traveling to the Bahamas for us didn’t require us to get a negative COVID test prior to flying. The Bahamas did however, require every person traveling there to fill out a health visa, submitting proof of either the negative COVID test, the vaccine card number, or an exemption for a child 11 & younger. The only thing is we all somehow missed that exemption option and didn’t have the forms fully filled out for the kids. We had added them to our trips, filled out their information, uploaded copies of their passports – we thought we had done all of our research and had submitted everything correctly. Once we get to the gate for the Bahamas, after a red eye with two kids, 6 am, we find out we need the form approved for the kids too, and not just adults. We started panicking (and crying) rushing trying to fill out these forms on our phones! We finally get them submitted and with both saying pending they shut the gates on us. One of them ended up getting denied so it was just a huge mess and one that I couldn’t even deal with because I hadn’t been to sleep yet! We were geniuses because our kids were well rested and full of energy and we were exhausted and feeling sick because we needed sleep, and coffee and food!! Not the best travel experience we have had! Luckily, we bought travel insurance and with the help of the concierge desk at the airport, and a very patient husband, we were able to get onto the next flight out to the Bahamas, and the only one that day! We also ironically ended up on the same flight as my sister, brother in-law and two nephews. They were ok with this form on my phone, and we now had all required travel documents and could be on our way to the Bahamas.
Because of this flight change – they held our bags in NY and we had to file a claim when we arrived in the Bahamas. We received our luggage the second day we were there in the afternoon.
It seems like all of the flights coming in to the Bahamas are for early in the day, and all of Atlantis has a 4 pm check in time. When I called they said if they have a room we would get in, but when you get there and see the amount of luggage being stored and the amount of people walking around grabbing lunch in sneakers, it becomes apparent that this is normal here.
I have always been the type to plan for the worst and pack somethings in your carry on “just in case”. But then traveling with babies, especially a lap child, it starts to add up all of the things you have to carry! I really tried to simplify the amount we carried on the plane this time.
I will never go to a resort again without packing one small bag to open if our room isn’t available when we arrive. OR if your luggage doesn’t make it with you on the plane!
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**Items I’d Pack in my Carry-On Next Time**
We arrived a few hours before check in and were not able to get a room right away, in fact it wasn’t until a few hours after their listed check in time, that we finally received our room key. My sister and her family got their room before us and so we were hanging out with them in theirs when my husband decides to take my daughter Carli and go back down to this concierge room where they had been helping us get our room. The large metal door opened over my daughters’ foot and cut her two toes. My husband was very worried that it was a deep cut and had her taken to the resort nurses office! SO – before we had a room, before we had even gotten our luggage, my daughter is injured in a foreign country and at this time I’m worried she needs stitches and that she won’t be able to swim or even go in the water during our stay at ATLANTIS BAHAMAS water paradise for kids!!! I was devastated and so ready for bed at this point. My daughter got her foot wrapped up, I borrowed a suit from my sister and spent the afternoon at the pool and then we all went to dinner. Then all slept very well in hopes for a better second day! Carli had to go back to the doctor in the morning, my husband was really worried about it becoming infected and wanted the whole thing documented. The Cove, Atlantis was so helpful and attentive from the start, covering all cost of medical care, bought my daughter. Mermaid stuffed toy from the gift shop, filed reports, checked in with us daily to see how she was doing, sent a huge cookie to the room!
We finally started to figure out the layout of the resort, find our way around and have a few good days there! Overall the Atlantis is for sure a bucket list vacation, and therefore I HAD to do all the things! We went to the marina for dinner, we ate Ice Cream, we went on the slides, we saw the aquariums, we did all the things that we could squeeze in our short stay, and despite COVID restrictions, sunburns, blisters, injuries, rapid river accidents, missing luggage and delays in check in – the Bahamas welcomed us with a warm heart and we were treated with care and were able to rest and relax for a few days away from the chaos of post pandemic life!!
DOUBLE check all COVID restrictions – what you need for each family member, even babies when traveling internationally. Everything is different because of COVID so be sure you have all of your bases covered. Ensure your passports are up to date, name changes post wedding have been made on your passport, and even that it is in good condition. Mine went through the wash once… so my passport had a few frayed edges… and that prevented Southwest from allowing me to get my boarding pass. They said Mexico wouldn’t let me in and then they would fine Southwest. They wouldn’t let me go on my babymoon to Cabo! Birth Certificates or passport/passport card for infants if flying as a lap child.
Check requirements for coming back into the US. When we returned from Bahamas in June 2021, they were requiring negative COVID tests even for fully vaccinated individuals. We had to schedule it through the hotel the day before our flight back. They paid for 2, and we just had to pay for one since Carli needed one to.
Pack a Stroller. It is useful in the airport, so gate check it. But definitely bring it for any kids 6 and under for Atlantis alone. Even my 6-year-old nephew was asking for rides in it when there was a open seat. Especially when he got blisters from the bottom of the pools at the Atlantis. Atlantis is huge and it takes a few days to figure out. Once you do its time to go home! Carrying your beach stuff, plus your kids all around to different pools and slides is seriously torture without a stroller. We invested in this super compact and lightweight double umbrella stroller and it was so perfect for this trip. It worked well in the airport. It always either had two kids in it or a kid and carry-on bags/diaper bags in the other seats or hanging on the handles! Super convenient and we don’t know what we would have done without it.
Pack a drink cup and bring alcohol or buy in duty free shop. Making our own drinks saved us a ton of money and also gave us some freedom. No waiting in long lines or hanging out in crowded areas to stay close to the drink bars, and then gulping down frozen drinks before they melt! Making some large stiff drinks that stayed super cold in these Hydroflask’s was a silver lining nailed it item on this Bahamas trip. Our his and hers drinks most of the week!
Pack a carry-on 1-night bag in case your luggage doesn’t make it, you want to have at least a swim suit to put on to get you out by that pool! It is HOT and HUMID in the Bahamas! While you wait for your room to be ready, or for your luggage to arrive, having a small bag with shoes, swim suit, clean clothes to sleep in, tooth brush, medication, and sunscreen. You can be at ease that your vacation will start right when you arrive.
Make Reservations One thing I would for sure do ahead of time if I were to return to Atlantis Bahamas again, is make reservations for dinner each night. There were restaurants we missed out on trying because we didn’t make reservations. There were still many COVID restrictions in place in the Bahamas when we visited. Therefore, some restaurants weren’t open again, and ones that were, were seating at half capacity.
Get to Breakfast Early Getting to breakfast around 8:30 we found that we were seated right away and were able to order right away. By 9 am, the restaurants are filling up and lines forming at the doors. You can waste half your day in line for breakfast! There are stores that you can by yogurt and fruit and keep in your room fridge, and eat for a quick breakfast and then just grab an early lunch by some of the walk-up food counters by the pools. If you aren’t concerned about budget there is also room service. But another budget friendly option is the Starbucks located in the lobby of the Reef hotel.
Get to the Pools early Whatever you decide to do for breakfast – keep in mind how quickly the chairs at the pools fill up! Plan on what pool you want to post up at for the morning and plan on getting there early to ensure your entire group gets a chair together! People do migrate around throughout the day, trying out different pools so it is possible to find chairs midday, but its hit or miss. The slides, pools and splashers kid pools are all spread out among the various hotels of the Atlantis, with a few adult only pools in the mix too. I had a baby, a 1 year old who was not yet walking, a 3 ½ year old and we were with my sister and her kids, 4 and 6. So we mostly stayed by the kiddie pools, the SPLASHERS kids pool. This was great because of the beach like pool entrance that I could sit in with my crawling baby and watch the 3-6 year old’s playing on the Mayan themed play structure with water slides!
airport packing list:
Backpack Diaper Bag
Easy Open Diaper Bag
Plenty of Extra Clothes