Mexican Adventure 2016

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Now that we’re home, I really loved this trip.

While we were there, it was kind of a different story.

It all started when my sister Lori decided, fairly last-minute, to bag her previously planned Spring Break trip to Iceland (don’t ask me) and we decided to take our combined five kids – ages 5, 7, 9, 11 and 12 – somewhere together.

We had a few requirements: a relatively short flight and the option to do more than just sit by the pool or beach. So after a lot of discussion, we decided on Mexico. It’s an easy flight to Cancun and there seemed to be many opportunities to explore the local sites as well as many kid-friendly resorts.

Well. Let me tell you something about kid-friendly resorts in Mexico during April. They’re all booked already.

But we persevered. And we Googled. We toggled between hotel websites, Expedia and every other one of those travel-related sites, checking ratings and availability until we finally found something that looked great fine ok like the kids might enjoy it.

The Sandos Caracol Eco-Resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Go ahead, check it out. I’ll give you a minute.

Looks pretty nice, right? THAT’S WHAT WE THOUGHT.

We decided that we basically needed someplace for each kid to sleep (bed, cot, bathtub, whatever) AND some kind of common area in which Lori and I could drink after the kids went to sleep.

Perhaps when we called the resort and no one answered the phone, we should have given up, but we’re not that smart quitters. So we booked two rooms online and then, in the comments box, wrote something like:

PLEASE CALL US! NOBODY IS ANSWERING YOUR PHONES AND WE NEED TO SPEAK TO SOMEONE ABOUT MAKING THESE ROOMS ADJOINING AND WE’RE NERVOUS THAT MAYBE NOBODY REALLY WORKS HERE AND IS THIS EVEN A REAL PLACE?

THREE DAYS LATER, a hotel rep called Lori and recommended that we book one junior suite with an adjoining room to get us everything we needed. DONE AND DONE.

Confirmation number received, flights booked… kids, we’re going to Mexico!

Leading up to the trip, I must have told 20 people the same thing: we have very low expectations and I’m sure it will be fine.

My criteria were few:

  1. No bedbugs.
  2. Clean, adjoining rooms so we could hang out at night.
  3. A fun, kid-friendly pool.
  4. No bedbugs.

So Monday morning, we all piled into my minivan and I made Lori drive us to the airport because I have a phobia of driving to New York airports and shut up I think the Van Wyck is scary whatever.

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The Nib can barely contain his enthusiasm.

Lori dropped us off curbside with our luggage and left to park the car. After about 10 minutes, she texted me: Do you have the car key?

SHIT. I had the key in my bag (the minivan is one of those annoying cars that doesn’t actually require the key be in the ignition, the key just has to be around the car) and now I was envisioning the minivan just shutting down in the middle of that crazy JFK airport traffic, leaving her stranded so that me and the five kids and all of the luggage would have to find her and probably get mowed down by an Uber and…

Another text “It’s OK, I’m already parked… I just wanted to make sure I should lock it.”

PHEW. (Did it occur to us that the key thing was a bad omen? No. But maybe it should have.)

Travel was uneventful… Xanax and JetBlue TVs have changed flying for me forever. I intend to plan ALL of my vacations based on destinations to which JetBlue offers direct service and my Xanax refill schedule. Cleveland, here I come! And I might be high depending on how turbulent the flight was!

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The Nib’s a fan of JetBlue, too.

We landed in Mexico, retrieved our luggage and headed to Immigration. WOW, those lines were long. Long enough for the kids to play at least ten rounds of “20 Questions” and for me to sweat out all of the water I drank during the prior two weeks. Let the sweating begin!

We finally made it up to the counter only to find out that I screwed up our forms… we don’t have to go into too much detail here… bygones.

We found our driver fairly easily and got into his nice air-conditioned van. *Please note: this is the last time we will be cool until our return trip to the airport.

We drove to the resort and as we pulled in, I was relieved to see that it looked… fine! And BONUS, there were actual employees working there!

Lori and I went to check-in, informing the woman that we booked adjoining rooms because we’re traveling with soooo many children and we can’t NOT have space to put them at night and shut the door so we can unwind with margaritas and… well, just margaritas.

Then she said those fateful words: “Could you please wait just a moment? I have to talk to my manager.” When she returned, she told us that the manager would speak to us directly and would we mind stepping down to the end of the counter? We were not feeling so optimistic about adjoining rooms at this point, but we waited patiently and waited some more and then waited a little less patiently. Still sweating.

When the manager FINALLY made his way over to us, the conversation went something like this, although it was much longer, more confusing and infuriating than I can even begin to record here:

Him: Ladies, I have something very embarrassing to tell you. We do not have rooms for you today.
Lori: Adjoining rooms?
Him: No. Any rooms.
Lori: What? How can that be? We have a reservation… here’s the number. I spoke to someone on the phone…
Him: Yes, I know. It’s a mistake but we don’t have any rooms. BUT, we are prepared to offer you an upgrade…

Lori and I both thinking, “Oh, ok good, he’s going to upgrade us to an awesome suite or something… phew.” 

Him: … at our sister hotel downtown, about ten minutes away.

At this point, it’s about 5pm and we have been traveling since 7:00am. The kids are hot, tired and hungry. (Yet, shockingly, being SUCH TROOPERS.)

Me: <frantically trying to Google the sister hotel> We don’t want to go to the sister hotel. We booked THIS hotel because of all the kid-friendly options and the whole eco/nature stuff.
Lori: To clarify, you have OVERBOOKED your hotel and now you’re saying you have NO rooms available for us?
Him: Yes, ma’am, that’s what I’m saying.  But we can offer you an upgrade our sister hotel…
Me: STOP CALLING THAT AN UPGRADE! That’s a Jedi-mind trick and it’s not going to work! (I didn’t really.)
Him: OK, one minute please. He then leaves for about 15 minutes… has a long conversation on the phone in Spanish, returns and says, I’m sorry there’s nothing else I can do except get you two regular rooms, not adjoining, but they won’t be the ones you booked.
Lori: Wait, what? So there ARE rooms available?
Him: Well, they’re not the ones you booked.

More confusing conversation, more confusing conversation… deep breathing, deep breathing…

Me: Do you have two rooms for us at this hotel?
Him: Yes ma’am.
Lori: OK, we’ll take those.

So then we waited another 20+ minutes while he does God knows what and when he returns, he spends a realllllly long time explaining the rates we’re going to get for these rooms… {math, math, math, math, math, math, I zoned out}. Well, that was about all that Lori could take. She had remained very calm up until now but at this point…

Lori: ARE YOU HONESTLY TELLING ME THAT YOU’RE GOING TO CHARGE US FULL PRICE FOR THESE TWO ROOMS??
Him: Please don’t yell, ma’am.
Lori: OH, I’M PRETTY SURE I’VE EARNED THE RIGHT TO YELL.
Him: Fine, ma’am. Yes, that’s what I’m saying.

I’m going to fast forward but suffice to say it was the most frustrating customer service encounter EVER. We were obviously mad that they didn’t have our rooms, but it was SOOOO much more than that. This a-hole was so shifty and condescending and unapologetic and possible dishonest so we finally walked away from that counter with room keys in our hands and steam coming out of our ears.

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This is not either of us, but it’s EXACTLY what we looked like. Except I was sweating way more. 

We were loaded into a golf cart to take us to our rooms. *This golf cart ride was one of the highlights of my kids’ trip. Every time we walked anywhere – which was ALL THE TIME – they asked if we could take a golf cart. You can imagine how that didn’t get annoying at all. 

We arrived at rooms 5312 and 5313 (yup, rooms next to each other) and I’d LOVE to surprise you and say, “You guys… the rooms were AWESOME!” but that would be an enormous lie.

The truth is, the rooms were terrible. So, so depressing. Cold (but not literally), stark, empty boxes filled with nothing but the sadness of all the previous guests. Oh, and two double beds, the corners of which I immediately checked for bedbugs. (None! #blessed)

Lori and I did a lot of, “OK, well, this is fine! Look, our own water coolers! Oh yeah, by the way, nobody drink the tap water! NO, NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT WHEN YOU’RE BRUSHING YOUR TEETH! Don’t worry about why, just don’t! And we’re right next door to each other, so that’s fun!

We changed into dry clothes (because.. SWEAT) and headed to the first restaurant we saw, a Mexican buffet. Lori and I immediately ordered Margaritas (not good… more later). The kids filled plates with foods in various shades of beige and orange – tortillas with cheese sauce, chips with cheese sauce, rolls with cheese sauce. We all laughed about what a long, CRAZY day it had been and assured ourselves that tomorrow would be great! Some of us were faking our optimism.

Tuesday started out pretty well. We ate more buffet food, explored the grounds, swam at various pools, etc. But then, heading back to the room in the afternoon, I started to feel not quite great. I left Lori at the excursion desk and took the kids back to the room with me. We only had to stop once for me to throw up in the bushes, so that wasn’t TOO bad! 😜

I’m going to fast forward through the next two hours because they were and continue to be very traumatic for Lori… I basically fell asleep after excessive vomiting and then the Nib slipped getting out of the shower and hit his head badly. I heard the scream, so I jumped out of bed to sit with him while Lori raced to call for ice.

Nib and I were sitting on the floor – I was vomiting into a garbage can and he was still screaming – when the ice showed up with a doctor who proceeded to press down on the egg-sized lump on the Nib’s head for several minutes and then told us that the Nib needed a head x-ray. We opted not to believe him and the Nib was totally fine 20 minutes later. I went back to vomiting and Lori took all five kids to another effing tasteless buffet. End of Tuesday.

Things improved after that. I’m not going to give you the minute-by-minute blow-by-blow for the whole trip, but after a very rocky start, things did get better. (Not the rooms though – they were completely joyless the entire time we were there.)

As I started writing this all down this morning, I realized that there are really two ways of looking at the majority of the trip: “Through the Facebook Lens” or “How It Was in Reality.”

So to give you some ideas…

Facebook Lens: The kids were AWESOME – well-behaved, patient, good-natured, agreeable and happy.

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Reality: Have you met my kids? No, I’m kidding. The kids were MOSTLY awesome. But HD constantly complained about the blister on his foot and refused to wear shoes. The Nib turned everything into a winning game and LO experienced her usual highs and lows.

LO is funny. And awesome. But funny. For example, her “highs”… we would see a bird – a fairly ordinary bird – on the way to breakfast and she’d jump up and down and be all, THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER! THIS IS MY FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD! THE BIRDS HERE ARE SO COOL! AND ALSO THE TREES AND THE OTHER NATURE! I LOVE IT SOOO MUCH! And then I’d tell her that we wouldn’t actually be able to fit in a two-day deep sea fishing excursion and her spirits would be dashed. And she’d be sad right up until we saw the next creature…

We’re all still laughing about the fact that on the SIXTH and FINAL day there, we were walking across this little bridge to go to breakfast… just like we did everyday. And LO stops to look at the river… just like she did everyday. And she yells, “LOOK! TURTLES!” just like she did EVERY. OTHER. DAY. And I’m all, “Seriously? You are STILL excited about seeing those same little f***ers that have been here every single morning?” And the answer is yes, yes she was. It’s all part of her exuberant charm.

But this is the same girl who made a serious enemy out of a life jacket on a river tour and simply could NOT enjoy the experience. So… that’d be a “low.”

My nieces are older, easier and delightful, but even they had one or two moments of their own. (For the record, that was way fewer “moments” than I had.)

*Side note: Our most important items in terms of packing went like this:

1. Passports
2. Band-Aids

Between blisters, cuts and many over-scratched mosquito bites, the kids went through more Band-Aids than they did chips and cheese sauce. And that’s saying something.

Facebook Lens: The Eco/Nature angle of this resort was amazing! The reusable cups, the nature trails, the exotic animals… awesome!

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Hiking to the pool

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Resting in the shade. Still hot.

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Wobbly bridge!

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Giant reptiles EVERYWHERE!

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TURTLES!!!!!

Reality: The grounds and trails and animals were indeed VERY cool and the resort’s eco-mission is admirable. BUT I was slightly concerned that the “reusable cups” weren’t really being cleaned, the exotic animals were places where actual FOOD was being served, we got lost more than once on all the trails and we saw a snake. Also, I missed straws.

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At dusk, these guys came out and were ALL OVER this place where people eat. I guess they are big fans of the chips and cheese sauce.

Facebook Lens: We went to this very cool place called Xcarat and explored cavernous underground rivers, relaxed in hammocks, swam in our seemingly-own private lagoon, climbed on Mayan ruins, saw a ton of cool wildlife and the older kids stayed for the nighttime “Mexican Spectacular” show.

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Reality: Xcarat WAS very cool but it took a LOT of work to figure out all of the logistics and the day was not particularly relaxing. (Imagine showing up at Six Flags one day with five kids of varying ages and interests without having any idea what was there or how to navigate the place… it was like that).

Luckily Lori is almost always calm, cool and collected in those situations when I’m more like, “AH!!!! I DON’T KNOW! DON’T ASK ME ANYMORE QUESTIONS! I DON’T KNOW WHERE WE’RE GOING/WHAT WE’RE DOING NEXT/IF THERE ARE FISH IN THE RIVER/WHY THE LEMONADE TASTES WEIRD! IS THIS FUN FOR ANYBODY?? MAYBE WE SHOULD JUST GO HOME!?!”

We did explore cavernous underground rivers, which were awesome. Unfortunately, I had to focus as much on LO’s battle with her life vest as I did on our thousand-year old surroundings.

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This was taken right before her life jacket started to quietly plot her demise.

The lagoon thing really happened (Lori and I did actually relax for those seven minutes), as did the ruins and wildlife.

And the show? Well, I wasn’t there but I heard it was interesting. There was a lot of dancing depicting Mexican history but with very little explanation. Spectacular… ly confusing?

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Facebook Lens: We went to downtown Playa del Carmen one night and had dinner “off campus.” Strolled along the main pedestrian shopping street and had a great meal.

Reality: All true. Plus, the Nib got an extra bonus burger at dinner and I found a Starbucks, which made me happier than it should have. #uglyamerican

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“See ya later, Moms… we’re going to tour with the Dead!”

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*Oh and this crazy thing happened… we were sitting outside while the kids had ice cream when the Nib told me he had to pee. I sent him across the street, back to the restaurant we had just left to use their bathroom. After he disappeared, it occurred to me, WE’RE IN MEXICO. I barely let the kid pee by himself at the Little Barn and yet, I just sent him off to a strange bathroom in a foreign country. Isn’t that just crazy? #MotheroftheYear

Facebook Lens: All-inclusive means unlimited frozen beverages and delicious international food buffets!

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Reality: ALL of the drinks tasted like they were made with a heaping dose of saccharine or some other type of artificial sweetener and if you think it’s impossible to make absolutely flavorless tortilla chips and cheese sauce, you’re very wrong.

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She was a big fan of the Sweet-n-Low Daiquiri

Facebook Lens: The pools were very kid-friendly (think water balloon fights and hamster balls!), there was an “AquaPark” with water slides for kids of all ages, and the beaches were BEAUTIFUL.

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The Nib can find a “winning game” wherever we go.

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Reality: The pools were very kid-friendly (think COMPETITIVE water balloon fights in a PACKED pool with babies and old people) and the AquaPark was fine, but it did play a non-stop stream of the same five Disney show-tunes or oddly monotonous techno music. And there was potato salad out at the buffet ALL. DAY.

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Notice several people IN PAIN behind them after being pegged in the head with a four lb. water balloon. Good times!

The beach LOOKED beautiful but the turquoise water masked a sharp, rocky, underwater terrain making it virtually impossible to frolic in the waves. (The girls tried anyway… see above regarding Band-Aids.)

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Gorgeous! But what lies beneath… 

Facebook Lens: Tropical!
Reality: So effing hot.

Facebook Lens: It was awesome!
Reality: It was awesome. For the kids. And Lori and I survived it. And now we’re laughing. Sort of.


*For anyone who doesn’t know me that well and read this thinking, “Wow, she got to take her kids to a fun resort in Mexico and all she’s doing is complaining about a lot of stupid shit… what a spoiled effing biatch,” you should know this: I totally get that any kind of Mexican vacation is a luxury and I know how lucky we are to have been able to do this and I’m mostly joking. But I really am spoiled, so that’s why I’m not 100% joking.

12 responses »

  1. OMG! You haven’t absorbed ANY of the lessons I have so patiently taught you: #1 Frugality is NOT a virtue! #2 You get what you pay for – buy cheap, get cheap. #3 You can’t take it with you, so you might as well spend it. #4 Do not, under any circumstances, allow your sister to pick your vacation lodging!

    At least the kids had fun.

  2. Krissy, you really should write a book or two. You are an excellent writer. You had me feeling sorry for you guys and then laughing hysterical! Any way the kids look like they had fun!
    Love, cousin Mona

  3. I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. So I did both. You could make a movie out of this. You and Lori made lemonade out of a lemon. What you guys did, sounded interesting and different. All ended well and you can talk about this to your grandchildren someday and have a laugh! Love you guys!

  4. I did wonder how it was going to all go down when you explained how the booking process was. I was thinking that you were pretty brave.

    Ditto on the book. When is that happening already.
    Xoxo Kenny G

  5. So funny!!! Glad you can laugh about it now, and share it with us! You should of bailed on all of this and joined me with my family over in Puerto Vallarta. I did not leave the lounge chair from morning until night except to go to the bathroom (which was like every 5 minutes from all the Mojitos that were endlessly being brought to me, with yummy chips and guacamole!). If my kids shadowed over me and my book or ipod or crossword puzzle, I sent them back to the pool or can you spell – K-I-D-S / C-L-U-B!!! Ahhhh… I may not have a lot to say to fill up a huge blog post like you did, but that my friend, is what I call a VACATION!! Maybe next time you can take a page from my book + take your dad’s advice, and have yourself a real facebook lens/reality!!

  6. Pingback: 2016: Our Year in Review | Who Needs a Nap?

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