A throwback tribute to our very first international family vacation at the Iberostar Paraiso Maya in Mexico.
I remember the excitement of getting our kids their first passport, searching for vacation packages and planning our itinerary. This was our first big trip and I was what you would call a “worry wort.” Ah, if I only knew then what I know now… We were so nervous we over planned, over packed, and over stressed. In the end, we made up for it by having a too much fun!
We arrived at the Paraiso Maya on New Years Day. The resort was still decorated for Christmas and New Years Eve. It was so beautiful, I remember wishing we had arrived before the holiday. There is nothing like the feeling of arriving at your first big vacation destination. We had traveled a lot before kids, however nothing compares with sharing the experience as a family and watching your child see the ocean and beach for the first time. Sand is a fascinating thing for the little ones.
We learned some valuable lessons and travel tips on our first big family trip to Mexico:
Don’t over pack, (we did), Only take a few nice outfits for dinner that you can “recycle.” Most people go to a different restaurant each night anyway! All you really need is diapers, baby food, extra baby clothes, t shirts/shorts, a bathing suit, a nice outfit, flip flops and sandals. During this trip we also learned a few things about traveling with baby bottles (which you can read here). We took an entire suitcase filled with various clothing and baby gadgets (including a portable high chair). The resort was well equipped for families with small children. You don’t need to worry about bringing anything extra. There were plenty of high chairs available. They also had a selection of toys for borrowing and a small shop to purchase any emergency forgotten items. However, there are a few items you should be sure to pack: Your own sunscreen, beach hats for everyone, kiddie flotation device, and plenty of extra diapers if needed. This will save you a few dollars by not purchasing them at the gift shop.
Take an extra small lightweight stroller. We had a big double stroller which is very handy in the airport, but our 3 year old liked to walk and we ended up pushing the big stroller around. We could have used a fold up check-able umbrella stroller more than all the extra clothes we had.
Get the private transport from the airport to the hotel. The bus/hotel transport stops at every resort along the route dropping off guests. We overheard several guests talk about their unpleasant experience riding the bus; A 20 minute ride turned in to 2 hours for one couple. It is worth the extra money. We almost did not pay for the private transport upgrade but thankfully our travel agent insisted and purchased our transport from Lomas Travel. Both drivers were fantastic, offering suggestions and fun tips during our vacation. When we got back to the airport for our return flight, the driver walked us in to the airport, past the entire line of people right to the AA desk. No waiting. (This may have had something to do with our generous tip – so make sure to tip your drivers!)
Lock everything of value in your room. We didn’t have any problem but the safes are easy to use and should be locked with your extra money etc.
Tip. Our service was always fabulous. Make sure to leave a dollar or two to your servers and bartenders. We also made sure to leave a few dollars for room service. We felt like we received a little extra attention during our stay.
If you used a travel agent take advantage their rep inside the resort. They will take care of EVERYTHING for you. We used LOMAS travel and they were great. We never left the resort but we wanted some kites to fly on the beach. Our agent purchased two kites and brought them to us the next day! Great service!!
Find out the process of making restaurant reservations and reserving a shaded beach chair when you arrive. We waited and missed few opportunities and desired reservation times. We realized we should have reserved some of our dinners and activities immediately.
Overall this was a great choice for our first big family vacation. There are lots of activities for all ages, the food was good and plentiful, the house wine is very good, and the resort had pretty much everything we needed. (Did I mention not to over pack?) Breakfast was our favorite meal. Being a coffee connoisseur, my husband raved about how good the coffee is at the Paraiso Maya. For us, I think our best decision was to not leave the resort with two babies. We chose not to go on any excursions or shopping trips. We made good use of the pools, the grounds, and the beach. Even though we brought a few too many things, we thoroughly enjoyed our week without feeling too rushed. I should note that there are several excursions available and the resort offers a kids club. However, at the time, our kids were too young to attend. It would be fun to return and see what has changed and utilize more of the free activities and amenities now that our kids are older!
Our Favorite Resort Activities & Amenities:
The free carousel at the shopping center. There was a cute little carousel that is free and loads of entertainment. This was THE favorite activity for our kids. We rode the carousel every night.
Fancy Smoothies from the bar. YES we took our kids to the bar. However, there were tons of families in the lobby bar (when in Rome, right?). The bartenders made non-alcoholic smoothies and fun fruit drinks for the kids. We may have enjoyed a cocktail or two ourselves!
The Mariachi Band. On several nights in the common/shopping area there was a fun mariachi band. Many families hung out here in the evenings. We met a family from Czechoslovakia enjoying a four week holiday. Oh, If only we could enjoy the same holiday benefits as the Europeans!
The Pools & The Beach. Most of our days were spent rotating between the pool and the beach. There were activities in both locations. We took dance lessons next to the pool one day. Our oldest son painted pottery on the beach. Most of the time, though, we just relaxed and enjoyed the moment.
We did end up catching a bug in Mexico. We caught a horrible case of the travel bug. And the only remedy is hopping on a plane.