For more than 50 years, Club Med has been a world unto itself. For many Americans, it’s both a familiar name and a big question mark. How is a Club Med vacation different than a typical all-inclusive resort stay? Can it be a good fit for non-all-inclusive types?
Club Med Vacations: What to Know Before You Book
Here are 10 key things to know about Club Med to help you decide if it’s right for you
Club Med Is About More Than Location
Most travelers start with a destination and build the vacation around the place. But because offerings vary among the 68 Club Meds around the world, it often works better when planning a Club Med vacation to find your passion, then choose the destination.
For instance, Club Med Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and Club Med Opio in Provence are currently the only two properties in the world to have CREACTIVE, the Cirque-du-Soleil staffed circus-skills playground for adults and kids. Club Med Columbus Isle is an adults-only getaway on an island that’s surrounded by endless beaches—and very few people. And Club Med Sandpiper Bay is home to Club Med Academies—sports training facilities staffed by top pro instructors in beach volleyball, tennis, sailing, golf, and other sports.
Club Med Believes in the Power of Travel
When Club Med started as an NGO in the 1950s, its goal was to bring the joy of vacation back to Europeans who had survived the tragedies of World War II. After opening the first Club Med—a modest summer “village” of tents on the Spanish island of Majorca—former French resistance fighter and Club Med founder Gerard Blitz explained, “Our purpose in life is to be happy. The place to be happy is here. And the time to be happy is now.” And while the Club Med brand has shifted upscale in recent years, its roots shine through in the continued spirit of joy and community.
You’ll find Club Meds in far-flung destinations around the globe, but even the English language can feel foreign on a Club Med vacation if you’re not familiar with Club Med-specific terminology. The people who greets you when you arrive? Those aren’t employees, they’re G.O.s—gracious organizers—and G.E.s—gracious employees. You, the minute you step foot on the property, are transformed from a guest to a G.M., a gracious member.
Club Med G.O.s and returning G.M.s use these and a few other Club-Med-specific terms regularly, so get ready. And keep your eyes peeled for “crazy signs,” the property-specific dances you’ll see on stage, in the pool, and at the clubs.
Club Med Is the Sort of All-Inclusive That Expects You to Come and Go
Many all-inclusives expect that you’ll stay on the property for the length of your vacation, and that can create a sense of mild claustrophobia—especially among people who aren’t totally sold on the all-inclusive concept. But an increasing number of Club Meds are built in proximity to incredible destinations, and they expect that guests will come and go.
Consequently, there tends to be a flexibility in offerings on Club Med vacations that allow for people to come and go without missing out on the abundance of offerings—including meals, sports lessons, and activities—built into the Club Med all-inclusive experience.
Club Med Is French at Heart, But International in Spirit
You’ll see signs of Club Med’s French roots in its attention to mealtime; even at the buffets, you’ll find carefully plated dishes as well as French favorites like crepes, ratatouille, and escargot. But this Francophone approach also means that North American standards—for instance washcloths and conditioner—may not be room standards.
However, since Club Med caters to travelers from around the globe, it’s pretty good at anticipating and adapting to different cultural preferences, and is likely to have what you need if you ask. And if French food isn’t your jam, take heart: offerings at breakfast, lunch, and dinner represent palates from all over, including local specialties wherever you are in the world.
Club Med Understands That Kids and Grownups Have Different Vacation Standards
Kids clubs are a big draw for parents looking for some downtime on their family vacation. But if the offerings feel too much like daycare, kids catch on quickly and refuse to go back. Club Med vacations solve that by offering kids a parallel resort track focused on creativity and activities.
Kids are broken up by age so that activities can be age-specific, and parents can even venture off property while their kids are safely ensconced in their own mini-Meds. There are even late-evening pajama club childcare options so grownups can have a chance to relive their younger days with a late dinner or dancing.
Kids stay at Club Meds for 40 to 50 percent off adult rates, and there’s no additional cost for the kids club.
Club Med Knows Babies Can Vacation, Too
Most kids’ clubs at all-inclusive resorts don’t allow babies or toddlers. But Club Med has special care for babies four months and older, an amenity that allows new parents the chance to get a break on vacation … even if it’s just napping by the pool or enjoying a diaper-incident-free happy hour.
On Club Med vacations, baby clubs are staffed at a ratio of two-littles per caregiver. Kids under four stay free; there’s an additional cost for the Baby and Petit (toddlers up to three years) clubs. Club Med resorts have everything from cribs to highchairs and strollers on hand to lend.
A Club Med Vacation Will Surprise You
Following the music into an ancient olive grove and finding a cocktail party. Snowshoeing into the woods at night and discovering piping hot chocolate in a moonlit clearing. Watching a children’s end-of-week performance to discover your shyest child is belting out a tune in front of the crowd. Club Med seems to understand that surprise and delight are the best vacation souvenirs, and it works quietly to make sure surprise is something to be counted on.
There Are Options Beyond the Beach
Club Med made its name along the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea, but it also has outposts in many other landlocked—but beautiful—settings. The Swiss, Italian, and French Alps are dotted with ski-centric Club Meds where the all-inclusive experience takes shape in ski-in-ski-out accommodations, lessons for all levels, and serious apres ski offerings. Club Meds in Morocco, China, and Japan all offer more inland vacations, too.
Expect to See More of Club Med in the U.S. Soon
With its 22 ski-centered resorts in the Alps, China, and Japan, it makes sense that Club Med would be looking to the snowcapped mountains of North America as well. And it is: There are no exact dates yet, but Club Med is planning to open at least one ski property in the U.S. or Canada within the next few years.
That will mean all-inclusive ski experiences that include lessons, other snow activities, apres ski offerings, plus meals and drinks. And it won’t arrive a moment too soon—in recent years, the number of Americans and Canadians coming to Club Med’s 20 ski resorts in the Alps has nearly doubled, suggesting we’re ready for the Club Med approach to winter wonderlands here as well.
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Christine Sarkis explored Club Med Opio as a guest of Club Med. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation. All photo credits go to Club Med.