Recommending the Franklyn D Resort (FDR) in Jamaica

I just got back from a week in Jamaica, and I’ve been talking off everyone’s ear about the experience. That’s because the Franklyn D. Resort has one major thing going for it: every family gets a full time nanny for the duration of your vacation.  Larger families, particularly with multiple age groups of kids, often had two nannies. The resort seemed especially friendly to large families, with big multi-bedroom suites and reasonable rates for additional children. For our trip they were also running a “grandparents stay free” promotion, which I think they do every January. If you are planning a family-oriented vacation, particularly with young kids, you have to consider the Franklyn D. Resort.

So while I’ve been recommending the resort to people verbally, I wanted to take a moment to write down what I learned vacationing there, and what people might want to know before they take my advice and book their own trip:

  • Having a nanny while you are on vacation, as I mentioned on Twitter, is amazing. Compared to my week in Puerto Rico last year with the baby, this was total relaxation. I had exactly as much toddler time as I wanted. And I was lying in the hammock, and Patrick wanted to play basketball, Carlene our nanny was happy to take him, and I could go with them or catch up later. I was able to do my own things, like trying out scuba diving, without having to negotiate childcare with my wife.
  • The resort is wonderful, for what it is. It is locally owned, and definitely not maintained to Disney standards. They stay on top of maintenance, but there is still chipped paint to be found, overgrown plants in places, and parts of the pool deck collect water. But the price is good, the staff members are wonderful, and I didn’t have any facility problems that actually impacted my vacation.
  • If you want to spend time with your kids, you have to be really clear with the nannies. Their default mode is to whisk the kids off into kid-oriented parts of the resort, where there are lots of activities, lots of other kids, and other nannies to socialize and share duties with. Our son was a bit sick, and tended to be clingy. But whenever he wanted to head off to the playground, our nanny Carlene was happy to take him. By day three we realized we were missing him. But it took a couple of conversations to get to the right balance of Patrick-directed, Carlene-directed, and parent-directed activities.
  • “Gratuity included” is only technically true. While the prices and the organizations is gratuity included, many of your fellow resort-goers, particularly the repeat customers, will be ignoring this rule. Tips are not large, mostly one dollar US or one hundred Jamaican (which is about $1.20), but they help to get you priority service at the bar and at breakfast. If the resort had been more crowded, they might have been more necessary.
  • Nannies are happy to stay late, but you won’t get a lot of guidance from the hotel management. Based on conversations with our nanny and others at the resort, a large fraction of their income comes from overtime when you hire them after 5pm for additional childcare at $6/hour. We converged on having Carlene take a break and come back at 6:30 for a few hours while we went to dinner. Tips are also big for them, it seemed standard to tip the nanny $100 for the week if you were happy.

The resort wasn’t without a few opportunities for improvement:

  • The food isn’t very good. This may be par for mid-range all-inclusive resorts. The menu gets a bit repetitive, and in particular the deserts were downright poorly executed. Also, presumably because it was a light week, only 2 of the 3 restaurants were open on any given night. On the bright side, this probably helped me avoid gaining weight, and the breakfasts were reasonably good.
  • Some parts of the facility aren’t as child-safe as I would like. Part of this is Jamaica’s more relaxed building codes, and part of it is that kids are pretty much always being watched, so they don’t have much opportunity to get into trouble. But, for example, the railing between the pier and the ocean had big gapes, definitely not up to US code. And the cribs they provided were not SIDS safe. If you are a parent who is especially concerned about these things, it could be quite frustrating.
  • It could be crowded. We were there the slowest week of the year. If all the rooms were full, I expect the deck chairs around the pool and other facilities could be more taxed. It’s something I’ll keep an eye on when booking our next trip.
  • They are not helpful with arranging off-property trips unless the trip is run by one of their partners. This means that if you are interested in walking ten minutes down the road to the town center in Runaway Bay, and want advice for a place to eat, you won’t get any answers from the staff. Of course, Jamaica is a high crime island, so maybe you are best off staying on the resort. But if you want to catch a cab or their shuttle bus to do some shopping at a tourist-friendly Jamaican mall, expect to be taken advantage of unless you haggle the price and set things up in advance. Just because the resort booked your trip doesn’t mean you will get a good price or good service.

Of course I’m still very positive about the resort, and if you have young kids and are looking for a relaxing vacation I highly recommend it.

I hope you find what I wrote here useful. Especially if you are booking a trip to the FDR, leave a comment to let me know. Thanks.

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