Crew, squad, fam, gang, gaggle—call it what you will, but chances are the last year or so has brought you closer to some people and helped you form a bond so tight that these people are your “ride or die,” as the kids say. (They still say that, right?) There’s very little doubt you’ve also discussed where your first group vacation will take place, as soon as everyone is ready to travel again, because no one knows how much you need a change of scenery quite like your crew.
That’s the kind of mindset that has brought us the concept of the travel “podcation.” What exactly does that mean? Well, you’ve spent enough time with the same people that you’re willing to go anywhere with them, but you still don’t want to be around anyone else. So, you’re basically in your own pod, almost as if you and the squad have the entire resort to yourselves.
Of course, as we know from the buyout craze, that can be expensive. Fortunately, podcations can still offer enough privacy and intimacy, be it for a girls’ getaway, romance, a weekend for the bros, or that family vacation that was bumped off the calendar. And best of all, as these six Caribbean and Mexican resorts show us, this idea doesn’t have to break the bank and you’ll still have plenty of fun.
The Place: Aruba Marriott & Stellaris Casino—Palm Beach, Aruba
Friends, family, or a little of both, this trip is a celebration of each other. These are the shoulders you’ve leaned and/or cried on and the ears that you’ve borrowed, so it’s only fitting that the centerpiece of this package is an opportunity to create memories. Specifically, Aruba Marriott & Stellaris Casino will schedule an hour-long shoot with Demian Gibbs Photography right on Palm Beach, so you can stare longingly into a loved one’s eyes with the beautiful Aruban sunset as a backdrop or host a chicken fight with the BFFs. Your call.
Groups of up to six people will enjoy three premium ocean view rooms (the largest on the island) and a bottle of red wine will be waiting in each one. You know, for those late-night sessions on the balcony that always seem to turn into early morning complaints about never getting enough sleep.
Caerula in Style
The Place: Caerula Mar Club—South Andros, Bahamas
If it’s good enough for HGTV, then it’s good enough for your pod. It won’t be long before this boutique property is one of the most popular spots in the Caribbean, so now’s the time to establish your Instagram cred by being able to tell people you stayed at Caerula Mar Club before almost anyone else. With 10 acres of gorgeous Bahamian beach, there’s more selfie space here than your iPhone can even handle, and that’s before you start snapping shots of your incredible meals.
This offering is especially great for squads that want to run the place, because it’s basically like a mini buyout, with five nights of villa accommodations for up to eight guests, and it includes meals, airfare from Ft. Lauderdale, and airport transfers.
The Place: Wymara Resort and Villas—Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
There are a lot of things to love about Wymara Resort and Villas, with the first thing that pops into my mind being that it’s right on Grace Bay Beach. But the first things that everyone else will soon be talking about are this resort’s new private oceanfront villas, which rest above the water and boast some of the best views in Turks and Caicos, which is really saying something.
But it’s the privacy of each villa that delivers the “Hideaway” aspect of this podcation, as these 4- and 5-bedroom homes away from home will have every member of the family loving Caribbean life or each inductee of the Best Friends Club arguing over who has dibs on the daybeds on the overwater swim platform.
And no matter the age, there are complimentary activities to enjoy for days—any chance to swim in Grace Bay is a bonus—and the personalized concierge service can assist with everything from booking private yacht excursions to bespoke meals.
Two Peas in a Pod
The Place: Marriott Cancun Resort—Cancun, Mexico
When you hear the words Cancun and Marriott in the same sentence, you know you’re in for a good time. At the very least you’re going to eat and drink very well for however long you’re staying, and that’s certainly the case at the Marriott Cancun Resort, where there are 10 international restaurants to keep guests happy and even surprised. Oh, mezcal lovers? You’re going to love this place more than anybody, what with tastings available and the general existence of the SacBé Beach Shack’s Mezcal Lab.
Between those elements and other experiences, like private gourmet cooking classes and private fitness sessions, none of your fellow travelers will be displeased. Well, unless they found out that booking a fifth room landed the squad leader a complimentary suite upgrade, but that beef can be squashed over body wraps and facials.
The Place: Conrad Punta de Mita—Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
A podcation doesn’t have to be about a group; couples need seclusion, too. But what about those couples who missed out on their big days in 2020? This is the best of both worlds and the new, buzzworthy Conrad Punta de Mita is a fantastic place for a small destination wedding, honeymoon, birthday, or any other cause for celebration. That’s not to say this experience is only for romance—it’s just a really good deal for groups that live by the mantra: “The more the merrier.”
Anyone booking 3-9 rooms will enjoy rates starting at $399, with guests taking up 3-5 rooms also receiving a $150 resort credit, complimentary breakfast, exclusive agave spirits tasting, and a one-day cabana rental with a bottle of wine, and those with 6-9 rooms getting a $200 resort credit, complimentary breakfast, exquisite sea-to-table beachside Zarandeado lunch experience, a one-day cabana rental with a bottle of champagne, and possibly even a complimentary room category upgrade.
All the perks will give everyone something to talk about during a round on the Greg Norman-designed Litibu Golf Course.
The Place: W Punta de Mita—Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
It goes without saying that the beaches in Riviera Nayarit are cause célèbre, so imagine your entire crew—even that awkward friend from work who doesn’t really fit in with everyone else—lounging in the plunge pools on the outdoor terraces of each of the 13 Ocean Front Oasis suites at W Punta de Mita. Pure bliss with a big dose of swagger.
Just as the name suggests, this experience is almost like taking over the entire resort, except your pals will have to settle for a corner of this one. Good thing it just so happens to be the best corner. In addition to the incredible rooms and views, guests will also appreciate beachfront yoga, complimentary poolside cabanas, and even their own DJ. Hey, every vacation needs a proper soundtrack.