Have baby. Will travel. Wait what? Are you sure you want to do that? I suppose it was a momentary lapse of judgment when I bought plane tickets for a 10-day trip to the Yucatan Peninsula. A lack of coffee and/or sleep when the mouse was hovering over the "purchase" button. And now that we're starting to plan our trip, I'm freaking out a little more because there are no good blogs about traveling with a baby in Mexico. The only thing I've found so far is about child-friendly all-inclusive resorts. So here is what we hope will be some useful travel information for parents who still want to step off the beaten path, baby on board.
We don't make sound financial decisions. While the rest of my peers are getting master's degrees and mortgages, we're putting diapers and plane tickets on my credit card. Any time we've ever saved up any extra money it has immediately disappeared on air miles or pizza. Yes, my parents taught me how to save but that just ain't happenin' in Mexico.
Regardless of how financially and logically unsound this trip may be, I am so excited. This is our first trip as a little family where we are not going to see family. It is our chance to test the waters as a family unit outside our home and without family support. It is also our last chance to fly somewhere new with a baby on our laps without having to pay for her ticket.
Also, taking a trip is also a great motivator, of course. I get stressed out and overwhelmed easily and "It's OK. I'm going to Cancun in one month" has been my mantra for the past few weeks. Did the baby just spill mango all over the cleanly washed sheets or rip a hole in my last decent pair of pants? No matter, I'll be in a bikini in 3 weeks. It's seriously the only thing holding me together. It's also a helpful way to curb extra spending. Street food is plentiful here and it's so easy to say forget making dinner tonight, let's buy some tamales. All of those pesos (and carbs) add up, so a beach destination holds up a mirror and is like, um, another piece of sweet bread, C? Are you sure about that?
So what are some things we have to consider when bringing a toddling tot on a 10-day trip?
Sharing a bunk at a noisy hostel is fine on a backpacking trip or on your honeymoon. And while no one ever wants a dingy, sketchy place to lay their head at night, it's less worrisome when it's just you. Once you have a little one, you're more likely to want your own room and bathroom, as well as a place that's quiet and maybe even has a kitchen. You should also make reservations in advance. When we took our 2-month honeymoon around South America it was fine to waste half a day checking out hotels. But it's not something you want to do when it's naptime, the sun's at its hottest and people are getting hangry. Also, money-savers such as Couchsurfing are probably out of the question (No one replied to my request to host 2 adults + baby). So no 16-bunk, co-ed rooms or rustic hammocks for us.
Our biggest obstacles for traveling in the US is cars. I haven't driven much in the past 8 years and my husband doesn't have a license. We have no car and no car seat. We also have no GPS or smart phone service in the US. It's downright embarrassing to be almost 30 and have my little sister driving our rental car. That's why we haven't come to visit you, in case you're reading this and thinking that I'm such a shmuck for going on vacation when I told you I didn't have any money. Mexico generally has a great public transportation system (affordable, effective and clean) with several classes of buses. Taxis are also dirt cheap compared to the US. So while we've got that going for us, we have to keep in mind....
One thing to consider when you've got a toddler is that they might not be able to handle long distances (read: you might not be able to handle a long ride with a toddler). Whereas my husband and I took a 24-hr bus ride from Buenos Aires to northern Argentina, even a 3-hr ride from Cancun to the northern coast has me worried. If you are going longer distances, make sure you have toys, snacks and water on hand, as well as lots of wipes.
The great thing about the Riviera Maya is that there's sand and calm waters. Add some shells and seagulls and there's really nothing else you need to keep a toddler busy. But this is NOT relaxing for a parent. You're constantly on guard, on call. And when planning a trip it's so easy to forget that your little one can't go snorkeling or swimming with whale sharks and exploring deep caves or ruins (so, neither can you). We are probably going to give all the happy, childless couples the evil eye throughout our trip as we look longingly at their closed eyes while they sip piña coladas and don't listen for their child screaming.
Traveling with a toddler requires a change of perspective: we are going to the Yucatan to experience life there and to fill up on cochinata pibil. Not to lay on the beach. However much we may want to. But did I mention that we're excited? I've pulled out my Lonely Planet Mexico (from 2006; it was seriously time for another trip!) and started plotting our toddling. Stay tuned for our adventure!