With two working parents, it’s not always easy when the day care closes and you need to take time off of work. The day care was originally scheduled to close for two weeks (still paid, of course), so what better way to do with time off than to plan a vacation! We found a good deal to visit Playa del Carmen and neither of us had ever been before. When it comes to Caribbean vacations, I always find great deals on Cheapcaribbean.com that includes flight and all-inclusive resorts. I usually compare those deals with other websites like Cheaptickets or Orbitz to make sure I’m getting the best deal. Prices can get a little expensive during spring break season, but you can find some really great deals during the off season like we did. This was probably the fourth trip I’ve planned on that website, including our honeymoon. What, so we’re cheap, that’s how we get to go on so many trips in the first place. 😉
So we we booked our flight and resort on the website and booked our rental car separately. (P.S. I do not particularly recommend Dollar Value Rental and won’t be using them in the future). We flew into Cancun and drove to our resort in Playa del Carmen. Since we were renting a car, we brought our own car seat which our airline, Delta, let us either regular check or gate check it.
Flying can get exhausting…
As I said in an earlier post, I always like to make friends with passengers around me. This cute little old couple sitting next to us were so friendly and loved playing with Alara while she was awake. They did not mind it one bit when she was fussing to fall asleep.
Viva Wyndham Maya Resort – Playa del Carmen
We got to the resort, which was inside a gated community, and were overall very impressed. We opted to get a ocean view room, since we knew we would be spending some time in the room while Alara napped and it wasn’t that much extra since it was off season.
I love staying in all-inclusive resorts… all you can eat food and drinks (admittedly not as fun traveling with a baby or toddler) and there are some great activities and entertainment on site. They usually try to get you to sit down with a representative to purchase some guided tours and excursions, but we like to explore on our own which comes out to be a lot cheaper. Nothing could be worst than the time we went to the Dominican Republic when I was 6 month pregnant and we took the local city bus downtown, walked around the streets alone and went to see the Carnival parade. Oddly enough, I felt totally comfortable and safe the entire time. Therefore, we were pretty comfortable with exploring Mexico by ourselves.
The resort had a great big pool and swim up bar which was awesome. Of course, the beach was a short walk and there are plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas for shade. One downside with this beach was the amount of sea weed. There was SO. MUCH. Every time we were at the beach there were a number of workers trying to rake and clean it up. It seems like it was never clean enough and you had to walk around both the workers and the pile of seaweed in front of the shore.
One advantage of waking up early with a toddler on vacation is getting to enjoy the nice sunrise.
Alara doesn’t seem too pleased with the seaweed here. Luckily, she loved the pool.
She even loved the little foot shower (you know, where you rinse off when coming from the beach) and could spend hours just hogging up the shower and rinsing her feet. The weather was perfect and it was great to relax (as much as you can while with a toddler) and enjoy the tropical outdoors.
Alara loved all the food and desserts at the International buffet at the resort, but we were able to take advantage of two restaurants while we were there. We decided to choose the Italian and Mexican restaurant. Overall, the food was great but it is not easy dining with an antsy toddler. At the buffet, she was able to walk around a bit and make new friends, but we did not feel as comfortable in a fancier restaurant such as these. Luckily, at the Mexican restaurant we were able to eat outside in a gated area and were one of the only ones there. High five for that.
And good food… and yummy mango margaritas.
Alara even made some friends.
Downtown Playa Del Carmen
One of the first stops we made was at a Wal-Mart. Our pediatrician recommended we bring toddler instant formula as opposed to drinking their milk, just to be safe. However, we packed light otherwise since we only brought carry on luggage. We decided to purchase the majority of diapers and wipes, etc. once we landed. Visiting a Mexican Wal-Mart was interesting but it had everything ours at home does and more. It had some great souvenirs that were much cheaper than downtown!
Downtown Playa del Carmen is beautiful and full of life. And there was this cool statue by the beach.
La Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) offered lots of cool shops and restaurants. Definitely a cool place to walk around. Alara enjoyed it.
After packing some waters and snacks we purchased at Wal-Mart (and might have smuggled some from the breakfast buffet) we were off on our 3 hour drive to Chichen Itza. One thing to remember when making the drive to Chichen Itza is to have plenty of Pesos on hand. There are many (expensive!) tolls and the exchange rate they use with USD is ridiculous. They definitely punish Americans, or any tourist, for not being prepared. Same goes for gas stations on the highway, they will accept USD but the exchange rate will not be pretty.
We arrived at Chichen Itza and glad we were also prepared with hats and sunblock since being 3 hours inland in the middle of August was pretty hot. Alara was also thankful for the shade her stroller provided. There was some shade, particularly walking through the paths filled with vendors selling all sorts of souvenirs. We found that the souvenirs were pretty decently priced, but again, pay in Pesos because their exchange rate is not very friendly.
There are many different parts to the Mayan city. Chichen Itza was a large pre-Columbian city built by the Mayan people. It was one of the largest Maya cities and is currently maintained by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.
These columns are called the Temple of the Warriors. It was most likely used to hold large gatherings.
Besides being in awe of the history of the ruins, we also noticed we were the only people there with a stroller. Alara is certainly quite the adventurer.
Of course the most impressive part of Chichen Itza was the Temple of Kukulcan, also referred to as El Castillo, spanish for “the castle”. On the north side of the pyramid (not shown here), on the base of the pyramid are sculptured serpent heads. During the spring and autumn equinoxes, the late afternoon sun hits the corner of the pyramid and casts triangular shadows, creating an illusion of a serpent crawling down the pyramid. This illusion is demonstrated during the night show with artificial lighting, along with other fancy light shows reflected on the pyramid, but we opted not to stick around and pay for the night show.
Visiting Mexico was a lot of fun and an interesting experience. We loved getting some beach time, enjoying the entertainment the resort and city had to offer, and were really overwhelmed with the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. But as always, a part of us were looking forward to getting back home.