Spring Break trips are so exciting – the girls, the guys, the drinking, the dancing, oh, the fun! Wait a minute this is a family show. Spring break means something completely different when you have a family but you can still have fun. Not the same type of fun but still, fun.
In April this year, both my older children were off school for a week, the same week. This is sometimes an issue when they attend different schools. There are some benefits of traveling with preschoolers, you don’t have to worry about taking them out of school and they never need to catch up on the homework (or heaven forbid do homework on the trip!).
We decided on Mexico. A long time ago, Mexico was one of our top family destinations to visit. We were finally going. We already had passports for the family so we were ready for anything (or were we?)!
We left on a Monday morning. Everything was going smoothly until the pilot came over the speaker to tell us we were descending into Cancun and, of course, we needed to fasten our seat belts. The whole flight with our little one (20 months) was great. No problem. At this point, she was doing one of her favorite things, buckling and unbuckling her car seat straps. “Okay, Leah, time to get in the seat.” Or in other words, “Let the crying begin.”
Needless to say, she didn’t want to get in the seat. After we lovingly persuaded her (some say gently forced her, I prefer lovingly persuaded) to get in the seat, she wanted out. Luckily, she hasn’t figured out how to unbuckle the seat while she’s in it. She also hasn’t realized that throwing her body against the straps doesn’t unbuckle them either. What it does do is create an embarrassing scene for her parents.
No toys, snacks, songs or stories were calming her down. After a few minutes I let my husband take over completely and I stared straight ahead.
Finally, a flight attendant came over. May God Bless this woman, wherever she is. She offered my daughter a package of cookies. Before you say anything, yes, I thought of that…I’d offered her cookies (and more) with no positive result. I don’t know what it was about this woman but Leah was mesmerized. Once Leah had the cookies, she played with them, tried to open them (hold your breath, right, because if you have a toddler then you know not being able to open the cookies could lead to a whole new tantrum), but she let us open them and then ate them. As the wheels of the plane were touching down, she fell asleep – of course. I humbly hung my head, avoiding eye contact until we were safely on the shuttle to our hotel.
For this trip, we choose an all-inclusive property. Normally, we love to sample local cuisine and culture but with three kids we thought too much local food could get dicey.
We stayed at Dreams Rivera Cancun. The place was fantastic.
The rest is a pretty short story because we mainly hung out by the pool and ate. The pools were great. There were four of them plus the beach. The first was probably one foot deep. A great starter pool for the baby. She was able to get comfortable with the water on her terms. The second pool was about two foot deep. Not much different to us but the baby loved it after the first pool. It was like she could swim by herself in a “big” pool.
The last two were both four-foot deep and one was an infinity pool – you gotta have an infinity pool, right? The boys spent most of their time in those two pools and at the beach (to note, our baby hates the beach, we’re hoping that changes soon but for now, you can find us at the pool).
We played ping-pong, volleyball, soccer, bungee trampoline, hit balls at the batting cage, and more. The activities to choose from seemed endless. But who are we if not adventurous. We decided we couldn’t spend the whole trip at the hotel so we booked a tour. Let the fun begin!
My husband really wanted to visit Chichen Itza but when we discussed our options with the tour operator, he advised against it. The tour left the hotel at 6am and returned at 8pm, five hours of which were spent on the bus. That was all we needed to hear, we weren’t going there. He did though, have another option he thought would work for us. It was a tour of the ruins in Tulum with a visit to an EcoPark after where we could snorkel, swim with dolphins, go down a lazy river, and more. The bus left at 8am, returned at 5pm, and was only an hour. Also, it was an all-inclusive tour meaning all food and drinks were included. Perfect – Book it, Dano!
On the morning of our tour, we got our wake-up call, which was odd on such a relaxing vacation. We were all ready to go on time. I packed breakfast and many snacks for Leah. We were directed to a small shuttle bus and started to get Leah’s car seat set-up. There were only four other people on the bus, which I thought was fantastic – if we did run into any issues there would only be a small number of annoyed tourists. We started off for a great day of fun!
Twenty minutes later we pulled into another hotel to pick up a few more people. Okay, no problem. Twenty minutes later we pulled up to a huge tour bus and were instructed to transfer to the bigger bus.
This wasn’t in my plan but we transferred Leah, her car seat, the rest of us, and our things to the new bus. Twenty minutes later another hotel to pick up a few more tourists. At this point, we asked our guide when we were going to get breakfast, assuming it was a box breakfast. He advised us breakfast wasn’t included and we should have gotten something at the hotel.
No breakfast. Okay, no problem. We weren’t a big breakfast family so it wasn’t the greatest of events but it wasn’t going to dampen our spirits. I did instruct everyone that Leah’s treats were off-limits. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next and I didn’t want her to not have snacks if needed. Anyway, we had already been in the bus an hour and we should be arriving any minute at the ruins. Sixty minutes later…
Yes, sixty minutes later, that’s a full two hours on the bus (not the one hour the tour operator advised), we arrived at Tulum. We used the restrooms and started off for the walk to the ruins. We use the gogo Kidz Travelmate car seat attachment so we can wheel the baby in the car seat wherever we need to go. This attachment has made our airport travel so much easier I highly recommend this product. So here we are wheeling her down the bumpy path/road to the ruins. We get in a line to get into the actual ruins.
Please allow me a quick interruption to the story for a small incident that happened while we were waiting in line. In front of us was a family. A mother, father, and two boys probably about nine and 11. In the brush next to the path was a really big iguana or lizard or some type of creature like that. I do not profess to be a reptile expert so for the sake of simplicity, let’s just say lizard. The boys notice the lizard and start to chase it around, catching its tail just before it completely disappears into a drainpipe. The one boy is holding it with all his might, as I’m sure the lizard is trying to get away with all his might. Both boys are hooting and hollering, excited that they’ve caught the poor lizard.
Are you as appalled at this display as I was? What are the parents doing, you ask? Nothing. Yes, that’s right, nothing. Finally, the lizard is able to free himself, the boys get back on the path and we continue down the line. As we are almost ready to go through the gate, the boys notice another lizard, and, guess what, they jump off the path and begin to chase it around. Luckily, there are some workers there who start yelling at the kids to stop. Of course, they don’t listen right away and the workers are getting ready to chase them, when the parents wake up from their slumber and tell the boys to stop.
When the boys get back in line, they ask the dad why. Why did they have to stop, they wanted to catch it. The father says, “Because I said so.” Here is an example of some great parenting, not! Why not explain to the kids why they can’t chase a live animal around an historic park. Forget the park, why not just explain it’s not right or fair to chase the thing or how about even a mention that it might be dangerous for them, what if the lizard bit one of them? I don’t know if lizards even bite but what if he chases an alligator next time – I know those bite! I know, I probably should have said something, right? But, I hate confrontation and who am I to tell them. Maybe next time or maybe they are reading this and will handle it better next time so I don’t have to butt into their business to tell them the obvious.
Okay, rant done, back to the real story. We get through the line and continue to the actual ruins, over some bumpy concrete. We get to the ruins and the tour guide begins to tell us things about each part of the ruins. It was interesting. It was hot. It was informative. It was difficult to maneuver that car seat through the ruins. It was beautiful. It was odd to look around and see no children there under the age of six. It was inspiring. It was annoying to try and chase a 20-month old while listening to the stories of the ancient civilization.
I think you get the point. It was an amazing place built right by the beach, to think after all these years’ whole structures still remains. To imagine all the people there when it was thriving. What wasn’t the best was having a baby there, I mean, she just wasn’t really into it, I’m not sure why. Oh, by the way, 10 minutes before we’re ready to walk back to the bus, we realize she has a messy diaper. Guess what? There are no changing stations at the Tulum ruins, who would have guessed that? We found a secluded place though and changed her. Back to the bus! Luckily, the air conditioning was on in the bus. Although I hate to think of that bus sitting there generating all those fumes while that air conditioning was running, I was happy to have it!
On to the EcoPark, which by the way is called Xel-Ha. Leah was great on the bus and fell asleep five minutes before the bus stopped (she loves doing that). We gathered our things and sleeping daughter in her car seat. We attached the wheels to the seat and were ready. It didn’t take long but the tour guide and other tourists were already gone. Who has time to wait for a baby? Luckily, our boys were keeping a watch ahead and knew which direction we had to go. We started off across the bumpy sidewalks. Notice a trend here, even when there is an opportunity for smooth concrete, there isn’t. It’s supposed to be – it’s one of those things you’d never notice unless you have to drag your 20 month old in a car seat across it, especially when said 20 month-old is sleeping.
Finally, we get into the park and my husband finds a shady spot. He stops with the baby and we all go ahead to hear the fascinating information the tour guide is telling the others. I’m not sure if you’ll believe this or not, but the information wasn’t that fascinating. It was things we could have figured out on our own, which is probably why the tour guide felt comfortable leaving us behind. I wish he had told us that before we wasted what little energy we had trying to catch up to him. Needless to say, at that moment, I wasn’t very happy.
We went back to my husband and then proceeded directly to the restaurant to have lunch. We all felt better after a little food. Leah even woke up in time to have a bite to eat. We changed at the lockers, found a place to stow the car seat and were back on track for fun. Now, I thought, the best thing would be the lazy river. It was something we all could do together. I’m a sucker for togetherness. As we began our walk to the beginning of the lazy river, we saw a sign that said, “35 minutes to the Lazy River.” which we thought had to be a mistake.
We saw a place to take a dip in the lake. Some people were snorkeling but we just took a quick dip. It was so great to cool off. Now, we were ready for the walk to the lazy river, fed and cooled down. The walk was very nice through the EcoPark. We made it to the river after a brief stop at Courage Cliff, which my son and husband jumped off — they’re so cool.
We also stopped and got our snorkel equipment and life jackets. Onto the tubes. My boys got individual tubes and were off. My husband and I were sharing a two-seater tube with the baby. Let me just say, it was not a pretty sight. Let me also say, I was thinking lazy river, like at a water park, jets shooting you with water occasionally, a flow to the river pushing you along. This though was true to its name. It was a lazy river. There was nothing pushing you but your own force.
We finally made it to a “rest” stop. A place where you could park your tube and get out. We met up with the boys there and found out my younger son had fallen out of the tube and lost the snorkel tube. I waited with the baby while they went to look for it…I know it’s a crazy idea but that’s what happened.
While I was waiting, the baby fell asleep. The boys finally came back with…no snorkel tube. We decided to trek back to a great snorkel placed we’d seen on the way to the lazy river, which was only about 20 minutes walk from where we were. Let me just say, I got my workout that day – 20 minutes walk with a sleeping 20 month-old in your arms, I thought my spine was going to split in two. The only thing keeping me going was the sympathetic looks I was receiving from passers-by. We made it back to the place and the boys found me a chair in the shade where I promptly and happily sat in with her still in my arms. Aaaahhh, heaven! The boys snorkeled and had a great time. Leah woke up, we had great frozen custard and then back to the bus for the, remember, two hour drive back to the hotel.
Let me wrap up this tour by saying, although I was annoyed and hot and at points exhausted, I would do it all again. I would reread my tips beforehand though. We all need a constant reminder. Here are the most important things to remember:
- Keep your expectations in check.
- Always have snacks, for the little ones and older “kids” too (including yourself)
- Things don’t have to go perfectly to be fun
In the end, we had a great time on the Tulum/Xel-Ha tour and on the whole trip. We’re looking forward to our next great travel memories and sharing them with you too!