cozumel, part 1.

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A couple of weeks ago we embarked on our first large-scale family vacation, to beautiful Cozumel, Mexico! Cozumel is an island off the Yucatán Peninsula. Sam and I went to Cozumel for our honeymoon seven years ago, and it has always remained in our minds as absolute paradise. I will be honest and say that we were a little delusional in thinking that we could recreate such a wonderfully relaxing experience by merely returning to the island with our kids in tow. But, after a few days of trial and error, and some help from friends, it ended up being a really great trip full of wonderful memories. So, be patient with me as I attempt to record some real-life and real-great experiences here. Because, we are determined to get this whole "traveling with kids" thing down, and I am looking forward to future trips with the girls!

We flew into Cancún, drove to Playa del Carmen, and took a ferry over to Cozumel. It was the longest day ever. I don't feel like the girls were particularly difficult, but any 12 hour travel day is bound to be terrible. I might consider paying a bit extra to fly directly into Cozumel, or to take the puddle-jumper plane from Cancún. We got to our place pretty late, after stopping by our friend's house for dinner.

These friends, they made this trip. Sam's best friend from high school has a sister who now lives in Cozumel with her husband and kids. Sam was really close with their family growing up. We have been wanting to take this trip for awhile, but just hadn't figured it all out. Last year, I was pregnant and the zeka virus squashed our plans. This year, we were nervous about having two kids to bring along. But, Jen and Jeff convinced us we could do it. They let us borrow their mini van, stroller, snorkeling gear, and anything else we needed. They gave us so many good local recommendations, as they have been living their for over four years now. We spent half the trip staying in their beautiful home, which was honestly way nicer than the condo we had booked for the first half. They have four kids, who were old enough to help with the girls. That first morning, at their place, I woke up to find Eliza playing quietly downstairs with their girls and I almost cried. Is this what the future looks like!? I can't wait.

Jeff helped build this chain of retail shops called Los Cinco Soles in Mexico that offers beautiful hand-crafted artisan goods and jewelry. They build relationships with artisans from several regions throughout Mexico, and bring these items back to the shop. The goods are so beautifully made, and really trump the cheap stuff they sell to the tourists in the cruise ship areas. We bought several things for our home, a pretty doll for Eliza with a traditional Yucatán dress, a hand-painted Nativity set, embroidered dresses for the girls, and a silver ring for me. I very highly recommend you go, if you visit! They have a lovely location on the waterfront, and several in the Cancún airport. 

But, let's back it up a bit. We spent the first few days at a condo  we booked on Airbnb called Residencias Reef, which is on the south side of the island. The condos are right on the beach, with two beautiful swimming pools. But, it really wasn't the best choice for us. That was our biggest mistake in those first few days. This is what we learned:

1) We had assumed that, with kids, we would want to stay somewhere a little further out of town. We were thinking, quiet, secluded, easy to wrangle the kids. BAD IDEA. It was too quiet and too secluded, and we all went crazy. Eliza had no one to play with, and all the old people gave us dirty looks for being too loud in the pool. She got super clingy and needy, and threw so many terrible tantrums I seriously got to the point where I quite seriously said, "Sam I want to go home. This is not worth it to me."

2) We assumed that we would need two rooms, which is why we ended up at this condo. But, we really didn't. The kids slept fine. So we could have easily stayed at some of the nicer hotels we were hoping for, which only offered one room.

3) We did not want to cook or buy groceries. What were we thinking!? Everything is so cheap there, it's totally not worth renting a condo with a kitchen so you can save money on food. No. When you are hanging out on the beach, the last thing you want to do is wash dishes, eat pb&js or pack the family up to go into town for lunch. We could have been very happy at one of the hotels that offered breakfast and lunch and then, after cleaning up, head into town for dinner every night. That way we could try the local restaurants, but not break up the swim day. 

4) Traveling with family, should be "traveling with family friends." Eliza desperately needed someone to play with besides us. We had some really great family time, but it just wasn't enough. I am thinking that when we do a trip like this again, we are going to convince another family with similar age kids to come along so we can trade off and so that the kids can entertain each other. Amiright?? Who wants to come with us!? 

After a few sort of terrible days, we managed to figure it all out. I also have to remind myself that those first few days were spent catching up on sleep and getting used to the climate, which would make it difficult for anyone. Later, we found some beautiful beaches that were more active, and easier for kids to play in. And, once we met up more with Jen, Jeff, and their kids, Eliza was so much happier. We really had such a good time, and I really miss it already. 

Now that I have spewed out my honest "traveling with kids" vent, let's just chat about how dreamy Cozumel was... 

These pictures were all taken at the condo we stayed at. The Caribbean is just as beautiful as you could imagine, with every shade of blue. Our beach was nice and close, but not so nice as others. You could only go in a few feet before it was too rocky to stand. And, funny enough, our old-people condo was surrounded on both side by party hotels that pumped "Cotton-eyed Joe" and club music all night. 

But, the pools! They were huge and cool, and had a few different levels that were perfect for Eliza to play on. She could have played in the pools all day long, and pretty much did. I loved watching her with her puddle-jumper floaties and those goggles plastered to her face. She was so happy to be swimming. Sadie took several days to get used to the water. She was hesitant for awhile, but by the end of the trip she would relax in her floaty with her feet up. It was nice to have the pools so close. We would just wake up, swim, nap, swim some more...

I loved seeing all of the colorful buildings, hand-painted signs, and bright murals around town. It was actually the celebration of the 500th anniversary of when the Spanish arrived in Cozumel, so there were several celebrations going on. On the first night we arrived, there were dancers performing in the plaza, wearing costumes from the Yucatán and Jalisco regions. We spent one afternoon walking around town, checking out the shops. I got all tourist-y and paid a ridiculous amount of money to stick my feet in those foot spa tanks. The guy let us split the time for one price, because I really just wanted to try it out. It felt so funny!

(more to come)

1 comment:

  1. We would totally go with you! Traveling with friends who had a daughter Rhoda's age when we went to Brazil, and then when we did wales with our friends who had kids was so much fun. Friends for kids and friends for us! Also makes the nights more fun since you're stuck at home after bedtime. Just let us know the time and place and we are there... ;)