Club Med - 10 Ways to Make It Worth Your Money!

The name "Club Med" immediately conjures up images of sea, sand, beaches, sports or simply "luxury".  So why would a frugal family like ours decide to go for a 4D3N trip there for our June vacation?  Firstly, there was a promotion which reduced the original price by up to 40% and secondly, airport taxes and fees have really gone up and I don't relish paying for flights out.  Finally, after coordinating schedules, we decided to go to the Club Med at Cherating instead of Bintan, hoping to relive the enjoyable family driving trips we had back in the good old days when our kids were still in baby car seats.

It was a pleasant surprise that even though we paid premium prices for this trip (nearly $3000 or $750 per person), I realized there are always ways to maximize your package.  Here are some tips we gathered during the trip:

1) Arrive earlier than stipulated check-in time of 3pm
Although it is stated that check-in time is 3pm, we arrived there much earlier at 12.30pm as our journey there was much smoother than expected.  Apparently, between 12.30-1.30pm, it is standard policy for you to pay for lunch in Club Med once you enter its gates.  Buffet lunch was a hefty RM180 per adult & RM88 per child.  We took the advice of the security guard, drove to the next door (much cheaper) hotel and had our lunch there - at the grand total price of RM64 for four.  At 1.30pm, we were at the gates again and whisked off nicely to the Reception.  Apparently, our rooms were ready for us and we could go around with the activities of the day one-and-a-half hours earlier than check-in time!

2) Get ALL programme sheets at hand & extra copies too
Contrary to the "relax and let go" mantra at Club Med, you do need to do a little bit of planning if you want to fully enjoy the many activities it offers.  So, having all the necessary information on hand is crucial.  There are the standard "daily" programmes and the "special" programmes at Club Med.  For teenagers, there are also "PassWorld" programmes meant for 11-18 year olds.  Also, don't forget to ask for extra copies of the layout map.  I find it strange but for us, we were only given the standard "daily" program sheets and had to ask for the rest from the Recep.  Make sure your children and you each have a set.  The rooms are typically a good 5-10 minute walk from the main areas, so use a harvesack for carrying your barang-barang, to avoid making unnecessary trips to and fro.  But don't worry, after a day or half, you and your kids would get the hang of things and almost no planning is necessary after that.   If not, just check with any of the friendly GOs (Gentle Organisers) staff.

3) Carry sports shoes and swim trunks in your hand luggage
Even after checking in our rooms, it took a while for the staff to bring our big luggage to us.  The luggage contained our sports shoes and swimming gear and we nearly missed the timing for certain events because they were mandatory for sports. So, lesson learnt: don't leave these items in your big luggage.  Bring them along with you when you check-in your room and you are all set for your activities.

4) Outdoor Sports are the most worthwhile activities
My children went for Archery, Sailing, Flying Trapeze, Tree Top Challenge (much like the "Forest Adventure" here in Singapore), Kayaking, Rock Climbing and other small activities e.g. football, futsball, table tennis etc.  My husband learnt to sail solo in a day.  I went for the indoor sports e.g. Zumba and Yoga.  We all came to the conclusion that outdoor sports are the best value-for-money simply because equivalent courses are not cheap here in Singapore.  Just for comparison's sake, a one-time Grand Course Challenge at Forest Adventure is priced at $44 per adult.   However, here at Club Med, you can go for as many times as you wish, so it's really worth your while if you don't mind sweating it out in the hot sun whole day trying out all the outdoor activities.

5) Dine in small portions but try all varieties
You will never go hungry in Club Med. There are mainly three types of meal options: the Main Restaurant where there are standard buffet opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner; the Noodle Bar, which serves noodle meals during the periods when the Main Restaurant is closed and of course the famous Bars, which serve all manners of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and snacks at regular intervals (set up next to the Main Bar).  After a day and half of going for my favorite foods, I realized it's probably more worthwhile to go for small portions but try out each and every variety.  Of course, this is up to personal preference.  But the way I look at it is, you may never get many opportunities to try that exotic Mexican cuisine but you probably can get good-tasting Nasi Lemak any day here in Singapore.  So, my tip is to go for variety rather than huge portions.  Having said that, I am no big eater myself, so I really "lose out" in this department.  My boys, however, went for huge portions.

6) Not the place to be a teetotaler 
The Bar is a fantastic place to hang out.  Choose alcoholic drinks but please don't drink if you're planning to do sports afterwards. I don't want you going all tipsy while trying out mid-air trapeze stunts.  Best to do it in the evenings when the live bands are playing.  If you were doing this in Singapore, you will be probably be set back by at least $50-$100 per pax in such an environment.  My husband would try out a different alcoholic drink every time we hit the bar.  I see people guzzling down glasses of beer too.  You don't have to go to that extent but well, you get the picture.

7) PassWorld for Teenagers (plus other children's clubs)
If you think babysitting is expensive here in Singapore, then you would really love Club Med. They have programmes for young ones and teenagers.  I am very impressed with the way the staff handled my teenage boys.  They were gainfully occupied for the whole day, including having lunch and dinner with the group.  Being teenagers, they were a little reluctant to join in the performance at night (which was part of the programme for the day) but somehow, they ended up doing four dance items!  The program was a good mix of sports and activities which meant that the parents get a lot of couple-time together and the real benefit was the children ended up doing a lot more sports rather than staying cooped up indoors with the computer or books.  And they learnt to quickly socialize too. 

8) Nightly entertainment shows and dance nights
At 9.15pm sharp, the shows start.  These are performances put up by the staff.  Standards may vary from night to night but for us, the "Circus Show" on the last night of our stay more than made up for all the performances we have seen.  It was a heart-stopping one-hour show put up by the "Trapeze" GOs.  In fact, my yoga teacher by day was up there performing full splits and back bends in mid-air supported only by a strip of white cloth!   It was one thing to watch such acrobatic acts close-up, but quite another to personally know the performer.  And you're free to take as many pictures with the GO staff as you wish.  After that, head down back to the bar to join in the "dance routines" set up by the GO staff. It's like a Zumba-inspired party, plus free-flowing drinks and really spunky instructors.  Can you imagine doing this in Singapore?  You'd be somehow be distracted by thoughts of how you can get home safe and sound or by how much money you're spending on drinks.  Not here, well, because everything is "pre-paid".

9) Don't ignore the small time-filler activities
My husband and I went for the "in-between" half-hour activities e.g. shoulder massage lesson by the Spa.  It was quick and easy and I learnt a few tricks to help relieve my husband's aching shoulders and neck after his long drive.  This turned out to be one of those things I could literally "bring home" from Club Med.

10) Check out on time but stay on for lunch and activities
This is perfectly legitimate because we asked the Front Desk!  Check-out time is strictly 11am or you will be charged for each extra hour of late check-out.  What you can do is place your luggage with the Recep.  We then went to the Forest Challenge and Flying Trapeze again.  There are excellent shower facilities equipped with clean towels and toiletries that you are free to use.  You just need to pop by the Recep to get your clean clothes from your luggage before that.  The four of us then popped in the restaurant again for a lovely buffet lunch.  If you can afford the time, stay on.  However, we had to leave by 2.30pm as we still had a long drive home.

There are more tips but hey, this is a vacation, so I thought these 10 should be good to start you off without too much work.  If you know of any or have any questions, please feel free to drop me a comment.


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