(photo via Caren Explains It All)
If you are considering traveling out of the country with your family, I would suggest you consider the following items:
1) When in a large airport, keep at least two pairs of eyes--or better, a firm hand--on any child under the age of seven. Airports are busy places and things like escalators and those conveyor belts people walk on are very, very enticing for young children. It does not matter in the least if you are bogged down with your purse, your book-laden carry-on, his book-laden backpack, and five other things. Keep tabs on the kid. Otherwise, you may find him grinning at you from halfway up the escalator. And you know how you hate escalators.
2) When you get to the foreign country, say Mexico perhaps, take in a deep breath of air through your pursed lips and thank your lucky stars that Michigan, while it has its negative aspects, also has things like low humidity and temperatures--most of the time. This might be a good time to just give up on your hair, as well. Remember that having fun is more important than maintaining great curls. (Although, of course, these two can often coincide in a way that is both beautiful and gratifying.)
3) Once you leave your gate in the Cancun airport, you'll need to find the baggage claim area and go through immigration with your luggage. At this point, it is perfectly fine to look as though you have been up since 1:30am (which you have because your flight was at 6), and you may well find that the immigration line has been magically shortened for you and your family. This is because the attendant has taken pity on either a) your tired look, or b) the fact that you are traveling with children. He will usher you with a smile into a much shorter line composed of other traveling families. The security guard will wave you through with a wink and a nod, no luggage or bags scanned at all.
(photo via Treva Tribit photography)
4) You can anticipate a very fun experience when you have loaded all of your bags into the van your husband has arranged to take you to the airport. This exercise is called "Take advantage of the silly Americans." When they tell you you must get out of the van, you can certainly refuse, but then you will miss enjoying this activity. Once you have urged all your family members out of the van, go inside and listen as the agents promise reduced admission to various local attractions. Assure them you only are interested in the Mayan ruins at Tulum. When they offer to get you discounted tickets ($100 instead of the $260 you'd likely pay if you book at the resort), continue to act disinterested. Then, when they offer to cut that price in half, perk up a little. (Half! you think. That's the price of just one ticket at the resort! How can anyone say no to that?) Just realize that there are always, always strings attached. This time, the strings involve a van ride that takes nearly 90 minutes, breakfast with a salesman, and six conversations with agents who will try to sell you membership in a vacation club, even though the first man you spoke with told you quite honestly that you are not the sort of travelers they are looking for. You're too cheap. Be grateful upon returning to your resort five hours later that at least you got some very tasty French toast out of the deal. That and cheap tickets to Tulum. Ignore the fact that you are suspicious about the Tulum deal and actually dread leaving the resort another time. Assume Tulum will be wonderful.
5) When you check in at the resort, the lady at the desk will ask you if you want to upgrade your second room since your first room is "Privileged" and your second is "Standard." If you don't upgrade the second, you and your husband will be in a totally separate building from your children. As appealing as this may sound, remember that you are in another country and you're on vacation with them, so distance is not desirable or advisable. If you're penny pinchers like we are, you'll ask if you can downgrade your premium room so that you can get a room close to the standard kids' room. I would advise upgrading their room. You don't stay at resorts often, and what is another $100 or so when you've already saved almost $200 by agreeing to the sales pitch earlier? Besides, the nicer room comes with a stocked mini-bar!
6) Spend all available time at the beach or the pool. Exchange your dollars for pesos because the coins are easier to use at the swim up bar (for tips--drinks are free!) than dollars, which, as you know, are not water resistant. Take lots of books to read and apply sunscreen liberally. Swim to cool off and take plenty of pictures.
7) When preparing to head out to Tulum, talk to someone about what to expect. If you do, then your trip will be much more pleasant. You should know to bring sunscreen and a towel or two, and you should wear your swimsuit, not pack it. If you do these simple things, you will avoid being a feast for bugs and you'll get to cool off instead of looking longingly down at those who knew what to expect whilst sweltering in your shorts. Look around at Tulum at the ruins and see how many iguanas you can spot.
8) Most importantly, enjoy these moments with your family. This is the purpose of your trip. Celebrate the snorkling voyages, observe the rituals of the pelican, eat good food, and let your children swim up to the bar to order drinks. Don't let the bartender give your daughter tequila, though, as much as he seems to want to.
9) Oh, and wait in line for the crepes at breakfast. Eat them with custard and chocolate sauce. Shoo the birds away from your table, and trust your husband when he says to take the long way around on the beach. Jonah doesn't need to see those two ladies who are taking full advantage of the rays of the sun. Neither do you, really.