The breathtaking four diamond Crystal Springs Resort in northwestern New Jersey is THE spot for the ultimate high end luxury vacation. From golfing and spa treatments to gourmet dining and tastings in a $10 million value wine cellar, you can really go all out for a destination wedding, girls getaway, or family reunion. You may be thinking Crystal Springs is out of reach for your family, but think again. I'm going to show you how Crystal Springs can be your perfect multigenerational family vacation, even on a budget!! Watch my highlights video from our summer 2023 hosted stay below, and read on for my tips and tricks for enjoying paradise, without even leaving NY/NJ!!
If your budget has no limit, go ahead and book 1-2 weeks in a huge suite (or house) and get excited to enjoy ALL the amenities without a second thought. Massages at Elements Spa, and tons of fee-based amazing activities like rock climbing, teddy bear stuffing, mixology class, 3 or 7-course Chef's Tasting menu at the adult-only Restaurant Latour, a private goat yoga class, tee time one of their 6 golf courses... sky's the limit!
If you're like the rest of us, you may need to justify vacation expenses and feel like you got as much as possible for your hard earned money. And I'm so excited to be the one to tell you, Crystal Springs has SOOOOooooo many free activities and amenities, if you plan your trip well, you will feel like you got an incredible deal, lived like the rich and famous, and come home with incredible memories (and photos)! Let's get to it!!
1. Book a Suite
I know I know, a suite doesn't exactly scream "budget friendly" but hear me out! For less than $100 extra per night you can upgrade from a standard room to a studio suite, and get yourself a full kitchen (no microwave but it has an oven, fridge, stovetop, coffee maker, and dishwasher), with dining table and sleeper sofa! If bringing kids, I highly recommend leveling up to a one or two bedroom suite - kids can watch TV or play quietly in their room while you sleep in. Now THAT'S how to vacation... so you don't get home and need a vacation after your vacation!!
2. Breakfast Credit
All rooms and suites come with $40 breakfast credit per night, and breakfast at Crystal Tavern is delicioussss!!! From french toast and fritata to acai bowls and cereal, you'll put that breakfast credit to good use!!
3. Indoor & Outdoor Pools
With 7 beautiful indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs at Grand Cascades and Minerals, swimming is probably the favorite activity for both myself and my kids at Crystal Springs, year round, and it's included with your stay!!
The 10,000sqft Biosphere indoor pool complex at Grand Cascades is absolutely stunning. You feel like you're in the tropics, surrounded by palms. With a fun water slide, aquarium, waterfalls, and a little cafe with snacks, gelato, and more. Just outside you'll find a swim out heated pool, another pool, and a life size chess board. So fun!! Do note: the German Foiltec roofing material allows nearly 100% light transmission, so you'll still want to use sunblock** and/or UPF swimwear** (**as an Amazon Associate, I receive commission from purchases made after clicking those links).
At the far end of Grand Cascades, past Crystal Tavern, you'll find the gorgeous (unheated!!) Vista 180 pool complex featuring an infinity pool looking over the gorgeous Appalachian mountains, a fun swirling whirl pool, waterslide, and 180* Cafe for snacks and cocktails!
Just 3 miles from Grand Cascades you'll find Minerals Resort, and you are free to use their amazing indoor and outdoor pools as well, which includes a cliff jump outside, underwater aquarium inside, and an outdoor splash pad!
Some important things to keep in mind regarding pools at Crystal Springs:
4. Free Activities
There are SO many free activities to do at Crystal Springs during your stay, just check their event calendar here for things like petting zoo, glow golf, movie nights, marshmallow roasting, self-guided hiking, wine cellar tours, scavenger hunt, koi fish feeding, outdoor game deck (foosball, pool, and ping pong), splash yard games, and more!! And don't forget, guests can also utilize the Minerals Sports Complex gym and attend classes for free - see the gym schedule here!! We're talking aerial yoga, bungee floating, spin, barre, Zumba, you name it! There are also endless fee-based activities if budget allows, like stuffed animal building, archery, clay shooting, golf, mixology class, paint and sip, VR games, IWall Exergaming, rock climbing, etc.
5. BYO Snacks, Booze, & Food
While delicious and worth a splurge IMO, food and alcohol bills can really add up when utilizing restaurant dining exclusively. If you're on a budget, I've got a great tip for you here! Wine Country, Walmart, and ShopRite of Franklin are just 4 miles away, so you can load up on snacks, booze, and groceries! There are also several fast food options as well as a pizzeria in that one complex, in case you're looking for quick and cheap :)
And don't forget, you do get $40 breakfast credit per night, so definitely use that! And you can find relatively affordable (and quick) grab and go options like $10-$16 sandwiches and salads, as well as fruit, pastries, popcorn and more in the coffee shop on both Grand Cascades and Minerals Resorts.
If you have the budget, you should definitely have a meal at each of the restaurants at Minerals and Grand Cascades. Restaurant Latour is definitely my favorite, absolute decadence, for adults only, get a babysitter and have an unforgettable dining experience here!! I love Crystal Tavern, too, with a great variety of food and prices to choose from whether breakfast, lunch or dinner. Gorgeous views as well! Springs Bistro is also delicious, their pasta and pizza are *chef's kiss*!! Kite's Restaurant, over at Minerals, is more casual and never disappoints! We've been to Crystal Springs 4 times but still haven't had a chance to dine at Chef's Garden, an al-fresco garden to table experience, because it's not open daily (check the schedule and go if possible!!)
6. Come Early, Stay Late
I'll be honest, their 4pm check-in is painfully late, but you can come as early as noon and start enjoying all the fun on the property! Because both indoor pools have locker rooms and free lockers, you can even utilize the pools before check-in and after checkout giving you 2 FULL DAYS of fun with a 1 night stay, or 3 full days with a 2 night stay, which is our favorite bang-for-your-buck length of stay... or "staycation" if you're fairly local like we are! Ah-may-zing!!
7. Drive and Save!!
When traveling to a far away city or exciting location, you probably won't be spending much time at the hotel, so you can scrimp on accommodation and save your budget for other things such as tours, flights, and food! But when you come to Crystal Springs, the hotel IS the destination. It has EVERYTHING, with plenty of included activities to fill your entire day!
If you're in the TriState area you won't even have to worry about the cost of flights, the anxiety over delays and cancellations and whether or not they'll charge you for a carry-on, and you won't be spending half the day traveling!! Crystal Springs Resort is just a beautiful 1 hour drive from NYC, making it the perfect 1 or 2 night "staycation" getaway if you're short on time or budget, of course a week would be magical!! And... this is a "Condo Hotel" meaning you can actually buy a unit and they'll rent it out for you! I've been considering this for a while... sounds amazing!!!
8. Buy a Day Pass
A day pass won't make sense financially for a big family, but if you're coming up solo or with a few friends just for the day, it may be worthwhile to consider! Shop for Day Passes and other activity gift cards here!
Have any questions about Crystal Springs?? We've been FOUR TIMES (2019 & 2023 in summer with kids, 2021 in winter with kids, and 2020 on a "momcation") so I'm happy to answer any questions!!!
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Ever feel like you need a vacation after returning from a family vacation? Have you thought traveling with kids is just parenting in another location? Join the club!!! The struggle is real, but there are some alternatives to just powering through. Today I've got 4 amazing tips for scoring FREE childcare on your next family vacation so you can feel like you actually ENJOYED the vacation with your family - both your kids, your partner, and maybe even some alone time!! Watch my video below for all the details including multigenerational travel, all-inclusive resorts with kids club, traveling and co-parenting with another family, and bringing along a babysitter on your vacation!
Have more tips for planning and carrying out the most amazing family vacations, momcations, or solo travels?? Leave a comment below!!
Each year we spend a good chunk of time and money going to my hometown to visit our family. My sister's family comes in from Montreal and mine from NYC. All of us are avid travelers and wanderlusters, so we sat down last year and unanimously agreed that we would start taking trips somewhere new rather than just going home, as much as budget allows.
This year marked our first attempt and it was, in a word, A-MAY-ZING!!! As word spread of our exciting plans, extended family jumped in and we ended up with a group of 19 adults and children joining from USA, Canada, and Japan!! And the location? Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!
Our requirements were:
Meeting all of our requirements was the Crown Paradise Club Puerto Vallarta. For my family of 5 (granted the 2 babies were free), one week including flights, hotel, all food and drinks, was $3,000. Awesomely budget-friendly!!
For us, 2 best things about the Crown Paradise were:
1) Their pirate-ship themed kids' pool, featuring a bunch of water slides (9?), which was SOOOOOO much fun for the kids and adults!
2) Their kids' programs. They have a "Baby Paradise" where you can drop off kids ages 18 months - 4 years, for free!! Unfortunately our son lasted all of 5 minutes in there before our pager went off and we had to run back to pick up our sobbing child. Ugh. Apparently another child wanted to share, and ours did not... But he did love the little ride-in car we got to borrow from them. He was riding in style around the resort!! They also have a "Kids Paradise" for kids ages 4-12, and this was great. During the day the leaders would walk around the pools collecting kids for games and contests, and in the evenings they had "parties" the kids could attend while parents went off to have romantic child-free dinners.
Also amazing was the food. Their buffet was great, TONS to choose from and even a kids' buffet corner. They had 3 a la carte restaurants which were great (Italian, Asian, and French), but a bit annoying because you have to call a day ahead, from your room, to make a reservation.
The beach was beautiful, though I'm not much of an ocean girl. Some of our party did the free kayaking, and my hubby and his family paid extra for parasailing!! It was really exciting to watch, maybe I'll get the guts to actually do it next time!
The rooms were nothing special, but they were clean and ours had a nice balcony with views of 2 pools and the beach. I enjoyed nursing my babies out there while people watching!! We got 2 complimentary pack 'n plays for our girls, and there was plenty of room to fit them, but they were very dingy and disappointing. Our babies are only 5 months so clean sheets fitted over the mat was fine, but if they had been older and standing and chewing on the rail of the beds, yikes, I would have been really upset... So, if this sounds like your situation you may want to consider bringing along your own baby bed (like a blow up Dock a Tot perhaps).
The free nightly entertainment was also a bit disappointing. First off because it was not quite the level of professionalism and excitement as I was expecting, but also because it was so late. Most shows didn't start til 9, and after bringing all the kids to 2 shows I quickly realized it wasn't worth it. For the rest of the week we all went back to the room after dinner, nursed the babies, and were in bed by 9pm.
The only other negative thing at all I have to say about the resort was that several underwater steps in the kids' multi-level water park were no longer marked. I tripped going up and down steps that I didn't see, and I witnessed several children unexpectedly going under water because they missed steps down. We had water wings on our toddler and he was never out of reach, but this seemed a bit dangerous. Also, there were no life guards. So, long story short, please keep a close eye (or hand) on your kids if they're not very good in the water.
If you start getting antsy to get out on some adventures, there are TONS of excursions you can book right from the hotel (and if you have the time to sit through time share spiels, you can free excursions or other goodies). We did a full-day city/tequileria/jungle tour which was pretty cool, but I would have been 100% fine with just staying on the resort property for the full week! With all of our family with us, they were so helpful with watching the babies while we swam or ate, it was so relaxing and one of the most amazing vacations of my life... so far!! I really hope we can visit the Cancun location of Crown Paradise sometime soon!!!
Here's a video montage of our stay in Puerto Vallarta, enjoy! We sure did!!!
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1), focusing on fun and honest product and travel reviews, saving moms time finding the best for their families! Find what you need in the menu bar or search section above!