“Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.”
― Shannon L. Alder
We had our family vacation when the kids ended their school year. Once a year, we tried to have a getaway with our parents and my sister’s family so that the boys can play with their cousins and grandparents can enjoy quality times with the grandchildren.
This year our friend’s family join us too.
Cancun is known for beautiful beaches, numerous resorts, and awesome nightlife. We stayed at the Royal and Sands All inclusive.
We planned our itinerary like this:
Day 1: Arrival
Day 2: Beach/Hotel/Nearby areas/Get footings
Day 3: Chitchen Itza early morning/Lunch/Cenote/Valladolid late afternoon/Dinner
Day 4: Tulum
Day 5: Coba
Day 6: Isla Mujeres
Day 7: Relax at hotel
Day 8: Leaving
All of us were Cancun’s first timers. It was difficult to get everyone on the same page, and no matter how much you did research things would not turn out the way you planned. We expected it. So…
Day 1: Arrival
We arrived mid-day. After we went through rows of visitors like us to custom and for our luggage, by the time we headed to the rental car office it was early evening. We ran out of snacks and water. After another hour at the rental car office, we went straight to Walmart on the way to our hotel to pick up snacks, milk, and water. We got to our hotel 7-8 pm in the evening and went straight to dinner. All were hungry. Dinner was delicious 😋.
- If you buy your vacation package such flight, hotel, and car, expect to pay another $200-$300 per week on the rental car insurance. We rented a car seat for my little one too with additional $50/week.
- It may be depending on the day that you fly in. We flown in on a Saturday and there were multiple carriers that arrived at the same time. The customs line was jammed. Rows and rows and it took hours. If you are with your kiddos, prepare to occupy them with snacks and entertainment.
Day 2: Beach and Pool
Things went as planned. We relaxed. We enjoyed the pool and the beach.
After this trip, James added two more words, “Ba” (Dad) and “Sợ” (Scare).
Day 3: Chitchen Itza and Ik Kil Cenote
We planned to meet down in the lobby at 6 am. In the end, we didn’t get to meet. Everyone started at different times. We forgot to exchange for pesos when we headed out for Chitchen Itza. The gas stations outside of the hotel zone did not take credit cards. A gentleman at the toll booth helped us exchange for pesos with visitors who stopped by the toll. We had to take the inside road in order to get to the nearest gas station.
The roads reminded me of Vietnam. Occasionally there were three wheels motor and non-motor bikes. Pop-up shops and little food vendors were on both sides. We stopped at a hat store, and everyone got a hat for souvenirs.
Finally got to our destination around 11am, 2-3 hours behind schedule. It was brutally hot and I was glad the kids survived the Chitchen’s tour.
We went straight to IK Kil Cenote. We had lunch, and the kids couldn’t wait to get into the water. My five years old Landon was so brave. With some convincing, he finally went in and then made a jump with his Dad. I made two jumps too. The fishes in the Cenote were all black.
We skipped Valladolid. We were back to the hotel right at dinner time.
1. Fill your gas tank full before leaving hotel zone.
2. Exchange for pesos at your hotel front desk.
3. Beat the crowd and the heat by leaving your hotel Extra Extra early. From the hotel zone to Chitchen is a little over 2 hours. We took the inside road so it took us longer, and so therefore it was scorching hot and crowded.
Day 4: Rainy. Relaxing by the Pool
The weather was overcast and rainy. We decided to stay relaxing after being beaten with Chitchen’s experience previous day.
Day 5: Yal-ku Lagoon and Tulum
The sky was cloudy. We got some rain and high wind. We headed out anyway to have a taste of the boho chic paradise.
We wanted an activity where the little ones can join us too so we stopped by Yal-ku Lagoon to have the kids snorkeling. All went in the lagoon including my 18 months old James. We brought a floater wiThe oldest boys can venture out a little, but the little ones stay close to the dock. I was glad that we happened to pick the first vendor, which was the end of the lagoon where there was less current. I tried to snorkel out and had a difficult time going back in.
We had lunch at La Barracuda. Our favorite dish was the whole fried fish with rice and vegetables. We stopped by the fruit shop and were happy that it carried the same fruits we have in Vietnam.
We didn’t have enough time for the Tulum ruins, so we decided to make a stop at the best public beach in Tulum, Playa Paraiso. What’s a magnificent view! The kids were able to dip in, but it was not a swim condition with strong wind and high waves. My kids still love it and didn’t want to get out.
1. Bring your snorkeling equipment if you have them, then you just have to pay for the entrance fees at the lagoon.
2. If you want to submerge with the locals and enjoy beautiful beaches, stay in Tulum at least for a few days.
Day 6: Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is about 20 minutes ferry drive from Puerto Juarez. The ferry dock is called Gran Puerto Cancun Ultramar located about 25 minutes drive from the hotel zone.
Before we arrived to the entrance of the Ultramar, a couple of men waived us in holding the ferry’s flyer. We stopped but did not take the bait. A next group stopped us at the parking entrance offering a package of roundtrip ferry tickets, a stop at a shallow beach for snorkeling, and a lunch for all of us, which was 6 adults and 7 children including parking for $3500 pesos. We bargained down to $3000 pesos and took the bait. We rationalized that it would be convenient for our group.
A men sat in our car and directed us to drive to the parking lot, which was about 5-10 minutes drive down the road. Next to the parking lot was another ferry dock. Most were locals. We parked and got on.
All went well except the tour guy who told us to meet up at the ferry at 7pm after our swim didn’t show up. We ended buying the ferry tickets going back. The highlight of the day was a ferry drive with a small boat to a shallow area where the kids snorkeled and got to see the tropical fishes. All jumped in except 18 months old James. He stayed behind with my parents.
Another highlight was when my husband drove us out of the ferry’s parking lot, following the cars in front of him, the police-two women and one men stopped our car. It was around 8pm. They claimed he made a wrong turn. They took his license. We probably got disconnected with the language barrier, but we understood that they wanted $200 or else to pick up his driver license at the police station. My husband argued profusely. They finally gave up and took a can of mosquitoes spray instead.
1. Don’t stop for set ups. You will see people waive you in with flyers. They are not official. We had the same experience with the Chitchen visit.
2. After this Mujeres, I felt the hotel zone probably the safetest. Driving out was a risk. If you are taking this risk like us, do early and be at the hotel before the sun goes down.
Day 7: Family Picture
The weather had improved, sunny and hot. We enjoyed our last day being lazy hanging out at the pool and the beach. We blocked out a time to meet for pictures.
Day 8: Departure
Final Note- When you enter through customs, you will have to fill out the customs sheet at the top and the bottom with your information. Customs will take the top part and return to you the bottom part. Just remember
DO NOT throw it away because it will cost you $30 if you don’t have it when you check in with your airline. It is required to attach to your boarding pass.