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Just a few months ago, my family took our first trip with Charlie to Mexico. This wasn’t our first time in Mexico. In fact my spouse and I used to take an annual trip down south. We love the Eastern side and would go to Playa del Carmen or Cancun. But we’ve also had plenty of trips to Puerto Vallarta, too. This particular trip would bring us back to Puerto Vallarta. My husband comes from large family with five children in total. So for this vacation to Mexico, we were going to celebrate my other brother-in-law’s wedding.
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This trip has challenged me the most in terms of travelling with a two-year old. The actual wedding was in a cute village just up the coast from Puerto Vallarta called Sayulita. Sayulita is off the beaten path and beloved by surfers. It definitely has more of a bohemian feel than it’s neighbor. We actually stayed in San Francisco (San Pancho to the locals), which was just a few miles even more north.
When I say Sayulita was more bohemian than Puerto Vallarta, I really mean it. The atmosphere is a little bit more relaxed. Most of the activities tend to center around the surf culture and much of the local infrastructure is built off of dirt and cobble stone roads. We were frequently greeted by some friendly dogs and chickens. One of my favorite highlights, though, was going to Palmar Trapiche, an outdoor restaurant and craft beer house. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but the beauty of it was wonderful. It didn’t hurt that they had performers playing with fire.
Not staying directly in Sayulita was a bit challenging with a two-year old, especially given the fact we were there for my brother-in-law’s wedding. Because we didn’t end up staying in Sayulita, we had a bit of a journey to and from wedding venues. Furthermore, we were challenged a bit by a few changes to the schedule and activities surrounding the wedding.
As much as I love being in Mexico, there were some things I would have done differently knowing that Sayulita was a little less touristy hot spot and little more Endless Summer. After coming home, I have had time to reflect on this trip and if we were to do it again, here’s how I’d do it differently. I’m hoping that through my learnings, you all can have a little less stress and a little more relaxation when visiting a surfers paradise. Well, as much as you can on a vacation with a toddler!
Top 3 Things I’d do Differently
1. Stay in Sayulita, close to the wedding.
We stayed outside of Sayulita by about 15 minutes. But if you count getting out of Sayulita, it was probably closer to 30 by the time we were ‘home.’ If this had been in Puerto Vallarta, I don’t think I would have had the same challenges. But as Sayulita is small with limited infrastructure, getting out of town was sometimes an adventure of it’s own. Couple that with tons of construction, we’d find ourselves going way out of the way to get back to a main thoroughfare. Throw in a ton of tipsy tourists and it was a recipe for delays. I’m not sure if I just started looking for a house on Airbnb too late or if I just fell in love with the vacation rental that I found, but I will do everything I can to avoid being so out of the epicenter of activity.
2. Manage bed-time more closely.
Charlie goes to bed at 7:00 PM and given this was a wedding, we tended to be out pretty late. I felt bad leaving events early, but if I could do it again, I would not have sacrificed the sanctity of sleep as much as I did. It’s not that going to bed a little past bed time is a bad thing, once and a while. But when you do it every night for 3-4 days, it really starts to wear on their little bodies and mommy’s patience.
3. Watch what I eat in small towns.
Mexico and I have always gotten along. I have eaten my fair share of delicious street tacos, etc. But perhaps when in a smaller, slightly more remote location, I should have avoided some of the food. I.e. fruit popsicle, fresh salsas, drinks/water where filtration was questionable. Having stayed previously, in more well known tourist destinations, I think the chances of getting sick were smaller. Though not unheard of to be clear. But this time, our entire family was hit with a bug that literally collapsed us for about a week. A bug that gave Charlie a 103° temp and me at 102°. When in doubt, in these smaller towns, it’s best to pass.
Of course we’ll go back to Mexico. How could we not? But perhaps we’ll stick to the touristy destinations with a little less Montezuma’s revenge and a little more beach time. Also, this was Charlie’s first time seeing the ocean. The look on his face when he saw the vastness of the sea was enough to make me smile forever. On the days we couldn’t make it to one of the pre-wedding activities, we’d spend the morning on the beach for hours. You could rent an umbrella and two chairs for around $150 pesos. Charlie was in toddler heaven, playing in a ginormous sandbox. We loved the look on his face so much, that this trip inspired our next. And so, off to Destin, FL later this year. More to come on that!