Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Expectations and the First Stamp in the Passport

Have you ever had a preconceived notion of someone or something that was completely blown out of the water in a matter of seconds?

I'm sure you all have.  We ALL have.  It seems more prominent when the preconceived notion is about the limitations of a child.  

I love my children.  Period.  They are all practically perfect in every way.  But when planning a vacation, I have to keep in mind the things that a 12 year old will find exciting are not necessarily the things a 9 year old and 5 year old will enjoy.  And that, my friends was what I was thinking about when my husband and I decided Mexico would be our destination for Family Vacation 2011.

Here is where the worries about my kids come into play.  Our 9 year old is the wild woman.  She is fearless and that is my most favorite trait of hers (most of the time).  She would be good with whatever we threw at her.  

The others?  Well, let's just say their middle names should be "caution" and "wary"--  not that those are bad traits, but they could limit our activities south of the border.

We arrive to Banyan Tree Mayakoba in Playa Del Carmen.  Amazing.  Wonderful.  Calm.  Perfect.  
Waiting for us at reception is Laura, who takes us on a tour of the lobby area and presents us with a traditional Mayan bracelet of seeds and a flower, symbolizing harmony and peace.  The kids were in awe.

We were then given the "green juice"--- cucumber, spinach, kiwi.  Honestly, it looked like fancy algae water, but we all tried it.  All of us.  This was the first in many "firsts" for my kids and they were champs.

My husband and I didn't plan activities for every day of our trip.  Instead we chose to do something off-property every other day.  Our "off" days were spent at the resort, either in the pool at our room (we had a private pool)  or at the pool by the beach.  

Our "on" days were the days we fretted and talked about.  

Would the kids enjoy themselves?

Was it worth the money to do these things if one of the kids got scared or decided to pitch a fit?

Turns out we didn't need to worry about anything.  Our kids were up for anything!

Here is what we did as a family on our trip to Mexico.  My kids are 12, 9 and 5 and they did everything...EVERYTHING... and enjoyed it all.  In fact, they are ready to go back and repeat this vacation.  To my husband and I, that is the ultimate Stamp of Approval!

1.  Dolphin Experience:  Delphinus dolphin experience was top-notch.  Our family was a "group", meaning we had lots of time and interaction with the dolphins.  We did the typical "dolphin kiss" , "dolphin hug", etc.  In addition, we had the chance to do the "foot push" where the dolphins push you out of the water by pushing the soles of your feet.  I was worried my little guy wouldn't do this--dolphins are lots larger in person.  SURPRISE! He swam right out there, laid in the right position the instructors told him and gave it a try!  He didn't get it the first 2 times, but he was great when the instructor got out there to help him.  We were all so proud and our little guy got a huge round of applause from the instructors and other groups who saw him.

2.  Mayan Ruins:  If you are in Playa Del Carmen or Cancun, you will hear lots about the Mayan pyramids.  Actually, there are ruins everywhere, but there are 3 main pyramids in the general area to see...Chizna Itza (the largest area and most "touristy" site, but still cool), Tulum ( on the coast- beautiful area) and Coba (about 1 1/2 hours from Playa Del Carmen and the only pyramid visitors can actually climb).  We chose to visit Coba.  My husband and I are history buffs and to have the chance to step where people stepped a thousand years ago was too good to pass up.  We hired a private car and tour guide to take us.  I highly recommend this since it makes the trip much more enjoyable and you get a lot more information from your guide.  Plus, you can come and go as you please.   The day we went to Coba, it was hot, humid and about to rain.  This is typical July weather for the area.  Our guide was amazing, telling us great tidbits of information that kept the kids engaged.  The pyramid is about 1 1/2 miles from the entrance, so to get there most people rent bikes or take a trike-taxi.
Trike-Taxi.  Sweet.  And no extra exertion for me. 
 We took the taxi. Heck, we were going to climb a pyramid.  No need to over exert ourselves!  After stops at a game court and an observatory, we see the pyramid.  Awesome.  The kids practically sprinted up the 142 steps.  The reward at the top of the pyramid was an amazing view of the forest.

Sweaty, but at the top.
3.  Swimming in a cenote and zip-lining:  Aktun Chen.  This place was rustic, waaaaaay off the road and truly an experience.  Again, thinking my kids, at least one if not two of them, would not want to snorkel or zip line, I was prepared to sit out one or both of these activities.  We get there, head to the cenote and get fitted with our life jackets and snorkels.  For the uninitiated, cenotescenote, seeing the amazing sites, before I had inched my way in.  It would be another five minutes before I got the nerve to put my head under the water.  

Zip lining was the final activity on our itinerary.  For sure the 5 year old would be a little apprehensive.  Or so I thought.  He was suited up, ready to go and after I made the first run, he was right behind me not looking back.  And his 9 year old sister?  She was trying to mimic all the tricks our guides were doing--going upside down, trying to grab leaves to feed the deer on the ground, no hands.  By far, this was the most popular thing we did.  The kids were sad to have to leave and asked the guide if we could come back the next day.

I love that my kids are willing to try things.  I don't know if I was so willing when I was younger.  Seeing them get excited about things so outside their comfort level got my husband and I excited about the things we can do as a family--snorkeling in the Keys, rock climbing, surfing lessons.  Who knows?  What we do know is that their first passport stamp was from Mexico and they are ready to have more.  

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