Before we had kids, Jason and I did a fair amount of traveling. While we never ate cobra eyes or camped on the floor of a straw hut in a remote village someplace, I’d say we were more adventurous than the average American. We’d eat local food and try to explore the spirit of the place we visited. On our honeymoon to Mexico we made a point of driving the free roads, rather than the toll highway, because the free ones passed through small towns. The highway sped by everything.
Since we’ve had two kids, we’ve continued to travel with some success. Last year we had a so-so trip to Mexico and a great trip to France. This year we decided to return to Mexico again. Last year’s difficulties stemmed from trying to eat out every meal with small kids on Mexico time (= waiting thirty minutes just for chips and salsa to arrive at table) and staying at a tiny hotel with no windows, only screens and a breakfast that took forty-five minutes to arrive. I got it in my head that if we stayed at a resort this year, things would be better.
We’ve never stayed at any kind of big resort hotel because frankly, there’s nothing about being in another place when you stay at one. The uniformity that makes it comfortable and familiar obliterates any sense of what makes the destination unique. It was like going to Mexico without having to go to Mexico. For lots of people, this is ideal and I thought it was a trade-off I could make. I thought our room with windows would mean a better night’s sleep for the kids. I thought three onsite restaurants — kids eat free! — would mean easier meal times. I thought multiple pools would give us something to do if the ocean was too rough to swim.
Can’t complain about beach side drink delivery
But as we drove to the airpot in Cancun, we passed a little stand on the side of the road selling “cocos frios”, cold coconuts, and I was suddenly so sad. We’d spent a week in Mexico and never once had tortillas served with our meals, never mind the kind of food being served at the roadside stand. The kids ate free for sure, but it was hot dogs and fish fingers and burgers. And aside from quesadillas at lunch, which is hardly real Mexican food, most of what we ate was basic American hotel fare. The ocean was so warm and lovely, and the pools were super fun. But we had round-robin of family sickness. And Minna decided after one meal that she would no longer sit in a high chair and screamed when we put her in it.
Last year at the end of our trip to Paris I wrote:
Traveling with kids is really great because everyone gets forced from their routine and you discover, “Hey, that routine wasn’t so necessary after all!”
This year? Not so much. Of course the routine I like that we have at home is that Minna sits in her own seat at meals. And that my children don’t eat junk “kids’ food” at every (or any) meal. And that Ollie sleeps more than ten hours at night. I’m chalking this trip up to a “learning opportunity”. For future trips, I know I’ll do better when I can control some aspects of our meals, like if we rent an apartment and can cook. More importantly: if we’re visiting a place, we need to experience it as fully as possible. If not, there’s no upside to the disruption of travel, and no sense for me in going away.
5 thoughts on “Our Mexican vacation”
My husband went on a business retreat to Sayulita a few months ago. It’s about an hour outside of Puerto Vallarta. They stayed at a little condo-style hotel and several of the employees brought their entire family. I couldn’t make it (due to late-term pregnancy) but everyone seemed to have a good time. The town is small enough that you get to really experience the culture. You can cook in the kitchen, or go out to eat. But it’s not a resort, that’s for sure; no air conditioning, solar-powered water heater, etc. But there was a pool for when you didn’t/couldn’t make it to the ocean.
What we’ve learned from the trial and error of traveling with kids is to make sure (1) we have two sleeping areas that can be closed off from each other and (2) we are able to prepare meals at home. Both of these allow the family to be fed when they need to be, and to get the proper amount of sleep, which makes the trip a lot more enjoyable for everyone. Also, it was easier to be flexible on vacation with a baby and young toddler, than with an older toddler and preschooler. At some point, I think we can be flexible again but we aren’t there yet with ages 3 and 5.
This really echoes what I think about travelling with a baby……. my daughter is ten months old. Hotel rooms are a nightmare, because she goes to sleep at seven every evening and being in a hotel room when she is asleep basically means sitting in the dark for one of us while the other is in the hotel lobby. Resorts are not something we tend to travel to either. We are just back from a week in Stockholm where we had a hotel “suite”, so our daughter slept and we sat in the other end of the room enjoying conversation, food and drinks. Another couple of weeks and we would have been out on the balcony of our “suite”. It definitely is more appealing to have a “home away from home” i.e. an apartment or suite with a door to the bedroom whilst travelling, so that you can try to stick to their routine a little. I think with children of a certain age, especially if you have two of them, scrap the “children’s menu” and just order an “adult” main course that they can share. My daughter has no interest in any baby foods, I can’t wait until she is a little older and has a few more teeth to eat what we are eating! 🙂
Just a wink and nod to Sayulita above, my folks have been there so many times I think next time they might not come back. They say it is amazing, I hope to trek there with the fam someday. When our dude was young we took a cruise thinking that it would be “so easy” since everything was right there but with a 10 month old~completely awful. We hardly left the teeny room, we’ve done the hotel route as well but nothing has been as great as a condo or rental house, that is the way to go with kiddos in my mind. Can have your own food & also large enough to have them be sleeping and the adults not huddled reading by the light of the bathroom. A girlfriend of mine has trekked everywhere with her two kiddos (3.5, 5.5) hotels in Paris, Ireland, Mexico…and never had an ‘amazing time.’ This past vacation they spent 10 days in a condo in Hawaii with grandma in tow and it was the very best ever 🙂
This was interesting for me as a future parent. During our travels abroad we often discussed what we considered ‘the fact’ that this was the before we have kids trip. In other words we didn’t think travelling with kids would be a possibility or even something we’d be interested in. Now that I think about it, that idea seems a little selfish. I’d want my kids to experience that kind of travel and hope we can afford to do that someday, but vacation, it would not be.
You and Jason might consider Turkey as your next destination for ‘travels abroad’, we were very surprised by just how much they love children and the way kids are treated is something wholly different than what we’ve experienced before. Kids were everywhere wherever we went. The idea of travelling without them, seems even frowned upon.
Anyways, thanks for sharing Meg.
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