Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wendy's guide to Cancun

Sit yourself down, it's time to recap the vacation! :)

We did make it home in one piece, by the way. The trip home was a bit chaotic but mostly fine. If you read my last post, I think it's clear how I feel about flying, lol. I was not a happy camper that morning. I love to go on vacation, and I'm relaxed and happy while we're there, but the day of any flight I'm not really a very enjoyable person. Thank goodness I married the worlds most patient and understanding man. :) 

Before I start with the vacation recap, I have to finish the snow globe story! I mentioned it in my last post, right? Clarissa wanted a snow globe from Mexico. I bought her one, and it broke, so I bought her another one right before we left for the airport to come home and it was confiscated by airport security for having more than 3oz of liquid. 

After I made my blog post and we were waiting to get on the plane to leave Cancun, it was really bugging me that I was coming home without that darn snow globe! It was the only thing she asked for and she has been fixated on snow globes lately, so I know she was looking forward to it.

But I had already bought TWO! I so didn't want to spend the money on a third one, especially at the airport, where everything is ridiculously expensive. So I sat there and tried not to think about it and at the last minute I decided I was going to bring home that darn snowglobe!  I don't usually indulge my kids like that, and I know it seems silly. I missed Clarissa all week and I just wanted to bring her home a darn snowglobe. 

So we bought snowglobe #3 at the Cancun airport. It was the fanciest and most expensive of the three, because the airport knows they can charge whatever they want. I hate airports. 

So we stuck snowglobe #3 in the carry on luggage again, because at that point we had already been through security so we didn't worry about it getting taken away. 

We flew from Cancun to Denver and then had to go through customs before catching our next flight from Denver to Boise. We got to Denver, went through customs, picked up our luggage and checked it back in...and then we realized that we had to go through security again AND WE HAD A SNOWGLOBE IN OUR CARRY ON!! 

Folks, this could only happen to us. Seriously. We're intelligent people, I swear we are, but sometimes we're really dumb, lol. I chalk it up to being heavily medicated and stressed out by airports. And Shawn has to be my travel companion, and he's too busy making sure I'm just medicated enough so that I don't have a meltdown in the airport, but not too medicated that he has to carry me through customs. I married a phamacist just so I could be properly dosed and monitored at airports. :) 

So there we were, standing in the security line and I'm on the verge of tears because I know that we're just about to have snow globe #3 confiscated by security. I hate airports, I didn't want to get on another plane, I was tired, I just spent my life savings on snow globes and I was a woman on the verge. Make a note to yourself, if you know me in person and ever get the opportunity to travel with me and it requires an airplane, you should probably decline. Also, if you travel and buy a snow globe, just put the stupid thing in your checked luggage!! 

BUT, by some miracle, the universe smiled upon us that day in the Denver airport. We sent our bags through the scanner and they didn't say a word about the snowglobe. Snowglobe #3 survived the journey, made it to Boise, and the first thing Clarissa said to me when we got her in the car to take her home was "did you buy me a snow globe?!". Yes, I did, kid. Yes I did. She has been carrying that thing around like a prized possession ever since. 

So now that I have shared with you the riveting saga of the snowglobe, here is my vacation recap, with a few tips in case you ever decide to go to Cancun, which you should do, because it's pretty awesome. 

The resort we stayed at was The Moon Palace. That place ROCKED. Figuring out where to stay in Cancun is incredibly difficult. There are a billion resorts there and they all have their own pros and cons. When we first decided to go there, I got on Travelocity and started looking for hotels and it was totally nuts. There are pages and pages of resorts to choose from. How do you ever decide? We knew we wanted something all inclusive. Cancun has tons of all inclusive resorts, and the best way I can describe them is like a cruise ship without the boat. Food is included, there are excursions you can take, there is nightly entertainment, and really, at most of the nicer ones you could probably spend the whole week and never leave the resort and have a great time. 

I read resort reviews for weeks. Choosing a resort was the hardest part. It's not particularly cheap to go there, and what I wanted and what I could afford didn't always match up. And then, kind of by accident, I stumbled into an awesome deal. A lot of the resorts in Cancun are time shares. You can stay there if you don't own a time share, but a lot of the people who do stay there are time share owners. I discovered that at the Moon Palace (and maybe other resorts, I don't know) there are time share owners who have a high enough status at the resort that they can book trips for other people. They help you book your trip, you get a really good discount over the regular price, you get an upgraded status at the resort and I think the guy who helped us book must get some sort of kickback from the resort. I honestly still don't really get how it works. Honestly, it sounded like a scam at first, but I researched the heck out of it for days and it was legit. They did try to schedule a time share presentation with us when we got to the resort but we told them we weren't interest in attending any sort of presentation and they didn't push it. 

So we pretty much chose the resort based on finding a guy who could get us a deal. It looked like a nice place and the price he got us for seven days was cheaper than I could get for five days on any of the travel sites. It was still expensive, but doable, and as it turns out, totally worth it because the Moon Palace is the nicest place I've ever stayed in my life! It was upscale and beautiful.

Before we went I was a little nervous, because that resort is kind of out in the middle of nowhere when it comes to hotels. Cancun has what they call the hotel zone, where all the hotels and touristy things are, and the Moon Palace is 20-30 minutes down the shore from all of that. I wasn't sure if that was going to be a good thing or a bad thing, but it turns out it was an awesome thing! We visited the hotel zone twice on our trip. There are nice hotels there, but they're all very crammed together and it's a very busy, crowded place. 

The Moon Palace isn't a tall hotel, it's a whole bunch of small buildings spread out over a huge area. I know I've already gone on and on about how big that place was, but it was huge. It's broken into three sections, and I loved the way it's laid out because parts of it are really busy and loud with lots of excitement and activity and parts of it are extremely quiet and peaceful. So when you want excitement you hop the shuttle bus over to that part and when you want peace and quiet you head back over to the other side. Our room was in a very quiet section. The front overlooked a beautifully landscaped courtyard and we had a huge window and a balcony right on the water. I loved opening the curtains every morning to see the sun sparkling on the ocean. It was peaceful and beautiful and perfect.

It also has 14 restaurants that you get to eat at for free all day long because it's all inclusive. There are huge buffets, free room service, grills by the pool, fancy restaurants, casual restaurants, it was awesome. When we got home we were a little sad that there were no one here to make us an omlet in the morning and grill us a steak at night, lol.  There are also a whole bunch of really nice swimming pools and a ton of activities. You can hang out there and eat and play in the pool and play in the ocean and enjoy the nightly entertainment and live like kings and never even leave the resort. 

That's actually we thought we we're going to do when we first got there. We had the monkey thing planned, but mostly we thought we might just hang out by the pool. But to us, that got old quicker than we thought it would. The resorts in Mexico are very Americanized, and we really wanted to experience Mexico. I can lay by a pool in my own town. I wanted to see Mexico.

So we kept pretty busy. One thing about Cancun that you discover really quickly, is the excursions. The second you step off the plane in Cancun, you're practically attacked by people trying to sell you an excursion. Before we left, people kept warning us not to talk to anyone in the Cancun airport, and I didn't know what the big deal was. I found out really quickly! So now I'm telling you. If you go to Cancun, don't talk to anyone at the airport. To get out of the airport, you literally have to walk through a gauntlet of people shoving fliers at you and trying to get you to sign up for snorkeling or boat rides or zip lining or island tours or any of the fifty bazillion other things you can do in Cancun. It's a little overwhelming when you just stepped foot in the country and suddenly you have a bunch of people in your face.

But if you can get through that and get to the hotel and really take some time to look at the different excursions, there are some cool ones, and the resort is of course more than happy to help you book excursions. At one point in our trip we actually ended up at the Cancun Walmart and we had two different people try to sell us excursions at Walmart. They're everywhere. It's crazy.

You can do pretty adventurous things there, but honestly I'm not super adventurous, so we decided against a lot of things that are probably super fun, but made me nervous. Also, my glasses were a problem in Cancun. I had to take them off for the monkeys, you can't wear them to snorkel, you can't wear them to swim with the dolphins, etc. I'm blind without my glasses and I didn't want to spend the week not being able to see my vacation! If you wear glasses and decide to go to Cancun, consider contacts for the trip. I'm still a little bummed about the whole no glasses in the monkey cage thing. The monkey trip was still absolutely amazing, but not being able to see put a little damper on it.

The big excursion we chose was Tulum, one of the Mayan ruin sites. I wanted to see a little of the history of Mexico. We like history and we knew that would be a place we would enjoy. We had a great time there. The excursions are great because if you schedule them with the hotel, a bus picks you up in the lobby, takes you where you need to go, you have a guide to show you around and then they take you back to your hotel. It's really easy and felt safe and it was quite enjoyable. There were a bunch of bellhops at the front of the resort who just spend all day getting people to where they need to go. It's really easy to get around there. Even with the monkey trip, which wasn't a normal excursion and was a place almost no one had heard of, the bellhops had it covered. They found us someone who knew where it was and got us there safely.

If I ever go back to Cancun, that monkey sanctuary is the first place I'll go. If you go to Cancun, you absolutely MUST go there. It's called The Jungle Place. It's not a normal excursion, the hotel will probably not know what you're talking about if you ask about it, and you have to schedule your tour several weeks in advance because they only do a few tours a week and they're always full. You can find them at It's kind of expensive, it's kind of tricky to find someone to take you out there (ask a bellhop. The bellhops know everything about transportation.) but it is totally worth it. I would go back there a million times.

One day on our trip we took a bus from the resort down to the hotel zone to do some shopping. The Moon Palace in in the middle of nowhere, so it's a bit of a drive to get to actual Cancun. But the resort takes you there for free in a nice air conditioned bus, so it's really not bad. Once we went to the hotel zone and saw how crowded it was and how crammed together the hotels are, we were even more glad that we were out at Moon Palace, where everything was open and spacious. After spending a week at Moon Palace, I don't think I would enjoy staying in the hotel zone. There are two other palace hotels in the hotel zone (Beach Palace and Sun Palace) and if you stay at Moon Palace you get to go to either of those hotels and use their facilities, so we spent some time at the Beach Palace one day and it was a whole different experience. Still nice, but very different from Moon Palace.

Our day of shopping was really fun. We ate lunch at an authentic Mexican restaurant right on the water and it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Spending time in Korea and now in Mexico, I have discovered that I really love experiencing other cultures. My favorite part of both of our international trips was having authentic cultural experiences. I want to eat the food and talk to the people. That part was my favorite.

Oh! And speaking of that! Shawn speaks fluent Spanish. He lived in the Bogota, Colombia area for two years and learned Spanish there. We have been married for almost 18 years and although I'm aware that he speaks Spanish, I've very rarely ever heard him speak it. When we went on this trip he wasn't sure if he was even still fluent. But it turns out he is, and I absolutely loved hearing him speak Spanish all week. You can get by just fine in Cancun without Spanish, but everyone we encountered loved that he attempted to speak Spanish. It came in handy a lot and made us a few friends along the way. I really enjoyed hearing Shawn speak Spanish. I've got to find more reasons for him to speak it now that we're home! :)

One of the things we planned to do on our trip that we didn't do was swim with dolphins. There were actually dolphins right at our resort. In fact, they were directly behind our room. When we opened our curtains we were looking right at the dock that led to the dolphins. But they weren't doing the dolphin excursion while we were there. It was closed for maintenance and training. But one day we borrowed a little rowboat from the hotel and rowed out into the ocean to the end of the dock and watched the trainers training dolphins through the fence. They saw us watching and gave us a little mini show and had the dolphins wave at us. I have mixed feelings about dolphin shows, so I'm kind of glad that the decision was made for us not to do a dolphin swim, but I also really enjoyed seeing them. They're such beautiful animals.

And speaking of animals, on our last day of our vacation, we decided to visit the Crococun Zoo. It's  very small zoo with a guide that takes you around. It's basically a petting zoo, but it's like no petting zoo you've ever seen! I'm used to petting goats and bunnies. At this zoo we petted snakes and crocodiles!

Yes, crocodiles!

We both held a baby crocodile and I held a great big snake. (I couldn't talk Shawn into it!) We got to feed and pet Mexican hairless dogs, a herd of Mexican deer, some wild monkeys who don't actually belong to the zoo, but show up because they get fed, and we got kissed by a parrot! :)

And then, the scariest moment of the week, we got to walk through an open crocodile enclosure! There is literally a long path right through the Crocodiles. You walk through right next to them. No barriers, no fences, just you and a tour guide and a whole bunch of gigantic crocodiles who look like they're ready to eat you. I'm an animal lover, and not particularly scared of any animal, but I'm not going to lie, walking through a crocodile pit was a little scary and definitely the craziest moment of the trip!

And while we were in there, our tour guide took our camera, walked down into the middle of the crocodiles and took our picture. It was both terrifying and, since we didn't die, a really cool story to tell later, lol.

Also, that ridiculous giant hat is there to hide the fact that my hair hates the humidity in Mexico! We live in an extremely dry climate. My hair freaked out when it encountered humidity. It wasn't super hot in Mexico, low to mid 80's, but the humidity was really hard for us, since we're not used to it. So I pretty much had the worst hair week of my life. We really didn't take very many photos of us for that reason, and all the ones we did take make me cringe just a little. It was either big hat or ridiculous hair. Yikes.

So this has become the longest blog post ever, but there was our vacation. We ate like kings, played on the beach, visited Mayan ruins, played with monkeys, walked through a crocodile pit, ate Mexican food on the water, bought three snow globes, got an epic massage at a fancy spa, saw REO Speedwagon in concert, rode a shuttle bus with drunk people, watched the sun set at the beach, got kissed by a parrot, I swooned over my husband speaking Spanish, we visited a Mexican Walmart, we shopped till we dropped, and we pretty much had the most epic, amazing, beautiful, romantic, wonderful, unforgettable week of our lives.

I didn't think I was a tropical vacation person. I wasn't sure if it was worth it to spend that much money on a weeks vacation. I didn't really want to leave my kids. I definitely didn't want to fly on an airplane. But I did all those things, I overcame some fears, I learned so many new things, I had a million amazing experiences and I would do it all again. Even if it meant flying on an airplane.

But that darn snowglobe....I would have put that thing in my checked luggage the first time. :)


Laurie said...

Sounds like an amazing vacation, what an opportunity! If you get a minute can you share how you found the person regarding the timeshares? Sounds like a great way to go. Thanks!

Wendy said...

Here is the guy we used! :)