Xcaret is for Kids!

My husband calls Xcaret “Disney of Quintana Roo”, but I felt more of an authentic Mexican, Mayan vibe from the super theme park located near Playa Del Carmen. As a mom of two little ones, I enjoyed our trip to Xcaret, but I can easily see how it is enjoyed by people of all ages. I found it accommodating to our needs as a family, and look forward to our next visit. Follow along with us below as we toured the beautiful park called Xcaret on a one-day pass for 12 hours. Since this isn’t an ad for Xcaret in any way (we paid for our admission), I will tell you the good, bad, and ugly of what to expect from your time at the park in the most abbreviated way possible! Who likes to read lengthy blog posts when you’re trying to plan a fun vacation?!

WHAT TO KNOW

Coming to the Park

You can come by car, bus, or taxi. There is ample parking, and plenty of security in the lots.

What You Will Find

I encourage you to just go. It’s worth every penny and every minute of your time, but some of the highlights of this park are its rich demonstrations of Mayan culture, performances, workshops, food, animals, river, caves, snorkeling, kids play area with ropes course style activities, and various shops.

Admission

At the time of this post, basic admission was $99 USD per adult, $50 per child between 5-12 years old, and free for children 4 and younger. (You can upgrade to different packages to include amenities such “as all-you-can-eat” buffets around the park, unlimited photo pass, 2-day pass, return day, etc. etc. There are many options.)

We purchased two buffets (lunch and dinner) for each family member, but we did not know at the time that we could reserve a place to eat dinner at the special Finale show in the evening, which left us quite envious of those having a feast below us. I would highly recommend dinner at the show instead of the buffet.

Amenities

You will find changing rooms, showers, restrooms, and lockers at different locations. We used the central locker area, and found it to be meticulously clean but a bit dark at certain times of the day.

There are baby changing tables and nursing rooms across the park.

The entire park has terrific signage (except for one spot around the cemetery). If you’re looking for a bathroom or nursing station, you will find it quick.

Feel free to take your stroller anywhere—there are very few restrictions. Although we sometimes chose to leave ours at the base of steep steps or hills.

Workshops

Reserve your place or arrive early to workshops, as space is limited. We were unable to participate in three different events after we walked all the way across the park for them (one was closed for renovations, and two were full).

Don’t Get Lost

There is one place in the park that was a like a black hole to us—the underground trails that run through a cave system, entered near the cemetery are unmarked (or mismarked) and we got ourselves quite lost. Coincidently the lights went out half way through our hike, which was both concerning and terrifying. Thank goodness for the cell phone flashlight!

Best Kept Secret

The show at the end of the day is a MUST. It is lengthy but surprisingly splendid, eye-catching, and intriguing. Insert all other synonyms for “amazing” here! The performers were perfectly rehearsed, the music and lights were dynamic, and the story-telling left us excited to be in Mexico. It was the best part of our day, for sure!

Need to Know

Prepare for mosquitoes! The natural repellents did not work for us.

Areas we did not visit that you might want to check out include the river (because we couldn’t figure out how to get our stroller back to the other side without us), and the beach (because there are plenty of beaches in Quintana Roo). We might have enjoyed the 2-day pass if we were on a vacation staying at a hotel nearby (but we had just moved to Tulum).

 

Here’s a quick photo tour of our day…

To Moms & Nannies Everywhere

Caring for two babies was the hardest job I ever had, until I became the mom to two babies!

While in college, I was a nanny for a small family with two babies, about 1 year apart in age (ages 1 and 2), and it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It prepared me for life as a mom, and also for life as a mom with a nanny.

I learned some very important lessons. Although it was not my first nanny job, it would be my last, and I still think of the experience every day. But what I think of most is the line the mother told me when she fired me… “You would be best at a desk job, in an office by yourself.”

Now this woman was incredibly incorrect, as I went on to be a very successful dance director, working each day with kids of all ages (especially toddlers) and constantly in the spotlight, often in front of hundreds of people at once. I have not had one desk job, ever, (and I quite think I’d go nuts sitting at a desk and not interacting with people).

But for so many years I have tried to understand, analyze, and reconcile her words to me. For some reason, I took them very seriously. I thought she had merit because she worked in Human Resources for a large company, and that meant something to me at the young age of 23. It seemed like a big deal. Years went by, and nearly everyday I thought of her careless words, trying to decode them. I have come to the conclusion that not only did she misunderstand me, but she also failed to respect me as a person. See, to her, a nanny was a servant. She did not respect me or my health. She often failed to mention when her children were contagious, and then expected me to work while sick.

As she fired me, she explained to me that I was in fact very responsible, kept her children safe, punctual, and she could tell that I loved her children greatly… but I took a nap that day while her children napped because we had all caught a dreadful cold, and I wanted to be my best for them when they woke up. So I napped next to the one year old’s playpen in case she woke up, as I was invited to do so by the mother when I was first hired…but that was just a trick. She was setting me up for failure. She probably felt immense guilt about not being able to stay at home, and needed an excuse to fire me. She set up her nanny cam that morning to keep an eye on things, and through the coughing and sneezing she heard in the playroom, she watched me snooze for about 30 minutes while her children were safe in their beds. When the one year old woke up, I sat her down in front of me to play as I miserably lay sideways watching her. That was all she needed to swoop in and seize control over her household again, as the hero that day.

Later, as she gave me a lecture on my correct occupation and complained about having to pay a more experienced nanny more money, I sat silently thinking about what else I could have possibly done wrong. As she then demanded I say “goodbye” to her sobbing two year old, and her husband removed the car seats from my car, I stood there without arguing or making any protest. I was tired, sick (from the nasty bug her kids had given me), and I was broke (in more ways than one).

It was not until many years later that I realized, she was the reason she fired me. While maybe I was not the most energetic or perfect nanny I could possibly be (working long hours and trying to go to school in between often left me feeling too tired to walk five blocks to the park), but I was dedicated to her children, and I did not do anything wrong. I did not deserve to be fired, without warning, and I certainly did not deserve to be insulted.

But for many years now I have thought about her, and I have been wanting to thank her. Yes, THANK HER. Here is why…

One time I told her husband that I love their children, but I think for me personally I would put more space between my own children’s births because having to look after two so close in age was really difficult. He laughed a wise-father owl laugh, and I will never forget those famous words I said.

As time ticked on for me, and I watched each year pass as a business woman, I kept thinking about what the mother said to me…. And what I said about having more space between my kids. I was getting older, and time was running out to have kids. I was scared to think that I might not have the option to space them out!

By the time I was married, I was 33. I got pregnant right away, and the clues began to surface.

One by one, a clue came to me– Insight into why the mother told me I should have a desk job, and why it was so incorrect.

It turns out, motherhood is actually really damn hard. Pregnancy is hard, birth is harder, being a mom is hardest of all… shocking actually, how hard it is. I know the mother was struggling when she hired me, and she was frustrated when I couldn’t replace her. She still had to be mom. She still had to be the one to ensure her children received the best in life. She wanted to escape, and she couldn’t.

I learned that being a mother and working is not for me. I chose to hand over my business and stay at home with my baby so that she could have the best care, from me. My daughter was a screamer, and I feared handing her over to a caretaker who wouldn’t love her like I do. I was afraid that someone would hurt her if she screamed all day with them, so I stayed home and rocked it out as a picture perfect Mommy. It was my new job. I felt proud that I overcame all the obstacles, and my daughter was turning out to be a nice little human being.

Then I found myself pregnant again when my daughter was only 18 months old! OOPS (but I was so excited to give my daughter a sibling that I embraced the pregnancy). It was also really difficult, and we had to employ a nanny. I was in bed for the first trimester with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, in the 2nd trimester my hips spread too wide and I couldn’t walk, and I finished off the pregnancy in bed with Preeclampsia. I delivered with Eclampsia and an emergency cesarean, and life DID NOT GET EASIER. Newsflash! Life only gets more interesting…

And more clues came in— the struggles of having two children under three, and what that actually demands of a mother in not just every day, but in every moment. YOU SOMETIMES FORGET TO BREATHE.

Every moment of life, you have these babies demanding your resources. You have only two arms, and you have two children that fill your arms at nearly every moment—going to the bathroom, cooking dinner, eating a meal, grocery shopping, banking, meetings, phone calls, emails, events… they come with you. They demand your attention, and your sense of self goes right out the window. There is no “you” anymore. There is only “us”. And while that is quite beautiful and loving in many ways, it can be very difficult at times too. Some women do not adjust to the drastic change in lifestyle, and would prefer to go back to work. Others might not have a choice and need to work for their families. Whatever the reason, many women choose to hire a daycare or a nanny to watch their little ones. But for those that do not…

I know you. I know what you are feeling. I know your daily struggle with trying to just go to the bathroom without interruption, or answer the phone when it rings. I know you also feel really worn out sometimes. It’s hard chasing after two cherubs all day. It’s physically draining. I know you look in the mirror, and you wonder why your eyes are sagging and you can’t feel normal because you are still breastfeeding your baby, or your whole body looks scary and unrecognizable now. I know you sometimes wish you had kept your career, and you think about what you could have accomplished if you had, and you’re just a little too envious of your husband for getting to leave all day. I know you feel a mess when he comes home, and it looks like a tornado went through your house and he doesn’t know how many times you cleaned the house already today, and you cannot bring yourself to pick up one…more…toy. I know. I know YOU, and I get it.

I get HER. That mother who fired me for no good reason– She couldn’t have done all of this, and it is OK.

Because I can. You can.

So I say “thank you” to her, for planting a lasting memory in me that would drive me to be the absolute best mother I could possibly be just to prove her wrong.

“Thank you” to her.

“if you ever read this… you know who you are. You were feeling inadequate that day. It felt better to bring me down to your level and blame someone else for your guilt. You felt like a good mom when you took back your family and began to care for your own children. I get it now. It is the hardest thing in the world to be a mother these days, when women are expected to be solid bread winners, go to college, and be as successful as their husbands, and still raise good children. Thank you, and I forgive you because I know it’s so hard. It’s so damn hard.”

But as a mother who has to have help sometimes too, I know the value of a good nanny. I am blessed to have found several wonderful caretakers over the years to help in times when I could not do it alone, and because of that mother who mistreated me, I will never, ever take them for granted. The people who help me take care of my children and give me the precious time I need to take care of myself and my career, they have my utmost respect. I would pay them in gold if I could.

So here is to moms and good nannies everywhere. You are valued, and you are important!

My kids and their sweet nanny, (who does not like to be in the photos)!

CrocoCun Zoo Review

We first visited CrocoCun back in November 2017, and I was impressed with many aspects of this zoo. If you have never been to it before, prepare for a different kind of zoo experience. It is not going to be like San Diego Zoo!

You won’t find polar bears or penguins at CrocoCun. It is like a giant terrarium for reptiles (and a few mammals too), who live naturally in this tropical jungle climate but were rescued for some reason and cannot survive in the wild on their own. The zookeepers take great pride in providing a safe and comfortable habitat for the animals.

 

FAQ when visiting with children:

What visitor ages are appropriate?

All children can visit this zoo. Babies and big kids alike!

                             (TIP: Bring baby in a carrier or umbrella stroller)

Is the zoo stroller or wheel-chair friendly?

YES. Despite some reviews online, we found the paths to be perfectly wheel-friendly! Paved and ramped throughout the campus, and there are no big hills.

Is the zoo scary for little ones (or squeamish adults)?

No. If you have a fear of reptiles, you can still navigate the zoo without touching any of them. The “scariest” experience is perhaps the “walk through the crocodiles”, whom are well fed (fat and happy), and they are not interested in getting too close to you. They will notice you and rise up when you pass by, but they don’t move towards you.

(TIP: If you are hoping to conquer your fears here, the guides will be more than happy to hold your hand a little, or let you touch a baby croc)

Is there parking?

Yes, there is a parking lot on the south side of the entrance. You can also hop in a taxi and tell them where to go—the zoo is well known.

Are there snacks?

Yep! Snacks for you, and snacks for the animals. You can feed all the animals with a snack pack for a very small add-on price. Even my young kids enjoyed reaching out and feeding the docile animals.

 There is a very nice coffee shop/deli attached to the front of the zoo entrance for people, and there are snacks for purchase inside the lobby and gift shop. We enjoyed fresh sandwiches, salads, and frappes there! There was not a kid’s meal option at the time we visited, but the prices were low enough that I didn’t mind buying a normal entrée for my kids to share.

Are there clean restrooms?

Yes, the restrooms are great, and the entire facility and animal habitats were sparking clean. In fact, it is the cleanest zoo I have ever visited!

What can you find in the gift shop?

The usual souvenirs plus some unique artwork from locals in form of sculpture, painting, and textiles.

What is the best time of day to visit?

We went around 11am, and it was quiet and full of shady trees (no direct sun).

How much time should you plan to stay there?

This zoo has private, guided tours. You cannot wander around on your own. The tour takes 1-1.5 hours, and moves from each exhibit fairly quickly (but they will give you all the time you want to take photos and feed the animals). We never felt rushed, and we never felt tired or bored. It was the perfect timing for two toddlers and catching lunch afterwards!

 

Some of the animals you might see:

Tropical birds, snakes, lizards, monkeys, crocodiles of all sizes, deer, wild dogs, big cats, and more!

Top 10 Things You Better Bring to Quintana Roo When you Move (With Kids)!

Moving is a major life event. If you’re getting ready to move with kids to the Riviera Maya, pin this checklist to your fridge while you pack!

In no particular order, my top ten items to bring in your luggage:

1. Waterproof Kids Shoes

Waterproof shoes

Amphibian style shoes are the best shoes for in/out of the water, sand, concrete sidewalks, playground equipment, jungle terrain, newly dug roads, and even by the pool. Yes, flip flops are easier for on and off, but adventurous kids rarely sit down and let you change shoes between activities. The amphibian style shoes stay on their feet all day. They are durable, washable, and cushion their feet against the concrete (and there is a lot of concrete here). The best part is, they don’t smell. After all that playing and splashing, they somehow do not smell bad. Other shoes did not stand up to the stink test for us! You will pay less to buy them in the US and bring them in your luggage, rather than import them from a department store. They are lightweight and you can stuff smaller items inside them for optimal packing.

2. Breastfeeding Supplies

If you are pumping, bring your breast pump and accessories. Pumps are expensive to repair and replace, so pack with care. I pack mine in my diaper bag between diapers. It is harder to find here, but it is possible to get nursing pads, breast milk storage bags, creams, and supplements at some select stores. You will pay a premium for them here. I packed my own disposable nursing pads by the hundreds. I tried to calculate how many more I would need before Baby A was weaned (and boy was I wrong, as he still clings to nursing). I found a small box at the local grocery store, and it cost about the same as one of the huge boxes I purchased at Target before we moved.

3. English Books and Workbooks

English children’s story books are challenging to find here. There are some Spanish children’s books, but books in general are not widely available like they are in the US. Sure, you probably want your kids to learn Spanish, but forcing them to read books they cannot understand yet will only result in frustration and a distaste for reading. While they’re still learning Spanish, comfort them with their favorite books or bring books that are written in both languages. We found baby books that we read to our oldest in English that are now available in both English and Spanish together in the same book. Now she reads them to the baby, and they are both learning Spanish, happily. You could also ask visitors to bring books for the kids when they come to see you. Workbooks can be found in Spanish at some larger department stores, but workbooks in English will need to be packed in your luggage.

4. Towels, Sheets, Clothing, and Swimsuits

Once you’ve been here a few weeks, you will be wishing you had more basics and less fancy wardrobe pieces. The sweat is real. You might change your clothes a couple of times a day, and kids get dirty easier with sand, dirt, and Agua Frescas…(fresh juice waters) yum. My kids have been chugging the fresh juice, and there it goes down the front of the shirt nearly every time. Back in the states we could pre-treat the laundry with stain remover, and it would come out in the wash, but the washer/dryer combos that are so popular here just bake in the stains and are hard on clothes in general. Clothing of decent quality is pricey here compared to the US. Even the stores that typically sell inexpensive clothing in the US (Carters, Old Navy, etc) have at least a 20% markup for importation fees at those same stores here. Cotton sheets are expensive and difficult to find. You’d be better off to buy the cheapest cotton sheets in the US and bring them in your luggage because it will be better quality than the most expensive sheets here made of synthetics. Sheets here are commonly made of a polyester blend, which are quite hot in this tropical climate. You probably won’t need any comforters; although, I recommend cotton throw blankets for chilly nights. Towels are pricey here too. I recommend bringing a beach towel for each child, and maybe consider a set of nice bath towels for the family. We found decent options at Sams Club in Playa Del Carmen, but of course we paid a premium for them, and when I tried to buy more matching towels later they were gone.

5. Sippy Cups and Kids Tableware

tableware

If you have a no-leak, durable sippy cup you like, you better pack it (and buy an extra to pack just in case). If you like cheap, character printed melamine, you’ll be happy with the kids dishes you find here. If you prefer more durable dishes for your kids, you will want to pack them. Durable doesn’t always mean more expensive. We found adorable kids silverware by shopping at Sur La Table over the holidays. They have rust-proof, kid-sized forks and spoons in the “cocktail” or serving ware section where you can buy individual pieces for around $2 each. We also packed a small set of our favorite kid plates from the brand Green Toys. They are durable hard plastic, and have already lasted a few years of dishwasher wear in the US before we brought them here. I am so glad we did, but I wish we had packed more of them. Metal rusts fast in this humid climate, so do not bring metal kids dishes or toys!

6. Toys

Certain toys cannot be found here. Forget second-hand or buy/sale/trade boards. They haven’t caught on yet. If you have a special toy that your kids play with every day, you should find a way to pack it in your luggage. My kids really miss their train set, and I nearly lost my mind during the first month when we were here without toys. I would not recommend selling all the toys before you move.

7. Musical instruments

I am not talking about keyboards and guitars. Can you imagine moving to another country with big instruments? My husband is a musician and it pained him to sell all his gear, but our kids love music too. You can easily pack a small xylophone, kazoo, or tambourine. There are lots of drums and maracas here, but they aren’t made to withstand wear and tear. My kids can bust open a handmade maraca in about ten seconds flat. Stupidly, I bought several before I realized it was not a good toy for them. A little, heart-shaped Kalimba has traveled with us to every home. It’s fun and easy to play (and repair). What’s a Kalimba? Here’s a quick video of some cute kids (mine) and some very bad kalimba playing (me).

Karimba

8. Insect Repellent

Yep. They have it here, they do. The question is, are you ok with putting Deet on your kids all the time? (Because you will need toxic levels of Deet to keep the mosquitoes at bay.) The “Family Safe” OFF that you find here is too low of a concentration of Deet to repel these little beasts. Mosquitoes in the Quintana Roo area are smaller and faster than the big floaters that we find in the US. These bugs will bite you before you ever see them, and they will leave you wondering if they are actually invisible. They hang out in places like bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens where there is more moisture, and tourist traps like souvenir shops and crowded restaurants. We even have a corner outside in our yard where the kids pile up their toys, and for some reason the mosquitoes love it, which is enough to send this overprotective mama into a bug spraying fury, quite often.

We use Picaridin at 20% concentration, available in sprays or lotions from the US. The lotion travels better and doesn’t irritate lungs. We use a natural peppermint spray during the day or when inside, and the stronger stuff outside and at night, like when we go to dinner.

Picaridin

You will still get bites. Sadly, there is no total solution for mosquitoes. If your kids get bit, don’t let it ruin your day. The object of the game is to keep them from getting a lot of bites, and thereby lessening the chance of contracting a mosquito borne disease.

If all else fails and all you can find is a can of Deet while you’re out, use it because it’s probably better to spray your kids’ legs and feet with something strong, than to use nothing at all. Whatever you do, don’t forget the repellent!

9. Security

Let’s talk about personal safety for a minute. If you’re concerned with recent travel bans or media scares about our beautiful state, please do your own research using facts and statistics which are easily found online (versus the over dramatic media). Do be aware of “false news” on social media as well. I have seen a lot of stories about Mexico that are not factual, fueled by gossip and negativity (or they are just using shocking headlines to reel in the clicks). I must disclaim here that I am no security expert, but we would not have moved to Quintana Roo if it were unsafe. Period. That being said, I am a big supporter of the “look out for yourself” mentality. We guarded ourselves in the states, and we do it here too. You will find petty theft and burglary to be higher here than many places in the US, so it is smart to secure your belongings in all situations.

Your Home: if you are concerned with safety like I am, you will want to bring a loud entry alarm to warn of intrusion, and cameras to keep track of things. We brought these from the US. Our cameras have motion sensors, microphones, and lights. We can tell the intruder he is on camera and police are coming. You may also want to bring smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. I prefer the battery-only kind because they can be moved around. While most modern buildings here are made of concrete and steel, fires can still break out. Construction practices are not the same here—for instance, our electrical panel had to be redone twice in one month for having cracked breakers (and it was a brand new house). Things rust quickly here, and corrosion is an issue. Detectors are possible to find here; although, they may not be in stock or available at a reasonable price. For some reason, the CO monitors seem to be very expensive. We brought our own, and I am planning to get two more the next time we visit the states.

Your Bags: Shed the designer bags mommies because they will only make you a target for theft. We use durable, but drab bags to secure our belongings. The bags blend in with the stroller, the car floor, etc. They are not easily seen, and they slouch into small spaces quickly. The less time you spend fussing over getting your children and belongings into the car, the less time anyone has to pick you as a target. (a footnote: the shiny black designer bag you see in the top photo did NOT come with us to Mexico. It was intentionally left in the states during a planned layover, as were all other “valuables”. My personal bag that doubles for diaper bag is a durable nylon messenger bag with a handy wide strap that can zip shorter or longer in one second flat. It is perfect for Q. Roo.)

Your Person: get yourself a few little personal alarms that attach to your keys, bag, or stroller. They have a pull tab that you can yank on quickly if someone tries to grab you. They emit a high frequency, piercing siren that will let everyone around know if there is trouble.

When preparing for your safety here in Quintana Roo, think: FAST, DRAB, SMART.

10. Medicines, Contacts, Glasses

When you move to a place like Quintana Roo, you need time to find certain things such as medicines and first aid items that you would normally have on hand back at home.

Take for example Baby A. He has a sensitive respiratory system and suffered from recurring Croup for the first year of life. We came to Mexico with about 1 tablespoon of his medicine, and sure enough he came down with Croup the second week we were here. Luckily, that tablespoon was enough to keep him out of the emergency room. I went to the pharmacy the next day and brought my old bottle. Even though the clerk did not speak any English, she was able to look it up online and translate to the Mexican equivalent. I was lucky they had it!

Most medicines are available here, and in some cases you may be happier with the process and what you find here versus other countries. However, the time it takes to actually find what you need could be a major inconvenience. If your kids have regular or life-saving medicines, especially prescriptions, you should bring enough with you to get by for a few months until you are able to source everything you would normally have on hand.

The same goes with contacts and glasses. In the states it is possible to walk into a popular spectacles store like Lenscrafters, and get a new pair of glasses in 2 hours. Here that will take 7-12 days on average. My kids recently broke my glasses, and it was faster for my husband to get them fixed in the states on a recent trip than to get a new pair here. So in summary, bring an extra pair of glasses and plenty of contacts if you normally wear them! You don’t want to be blind while you’re trying to find your way around town.

broken glasses

Kids band-aids are something else you should consider buying in bulk when you visit home. They just are not as popular here! When we went home for the holidays, I stuffed one of the kids’ suitcases with Mickey Mouse band-aids I purchased on sale at Target for $.50 a box… shameless, I know, but I don’t anticipate running out any time soon!

 

And that’s it for my top 10 list of Things You Better Bring to Quintana Roo When you Move (With Kids)! I would love to hear from you if you’re planning to move or if you recently moved here. Did I miss anything?

Emergencies in Quintana Roo

It happens…When you have children, sooner or later you need a hospital while traveling!

We recently had the opportunity to try out the medical system while staying in Akumal, Mexico when Baby A took a nose dive (while strapped into his stroller) onto a concrete parking lot, from a raised sidewalk. When I picked him up, he was covered in blood, and it looked pretty bad. Every parent knows that sinking feeling you get when you see your kid get hurt, but I know from experience that the most important thing you can do as a parent in these situations is STAY CALM! ok?! Just chill.

After Baby A was cleaned up with a bottle of water, I could tell the bleeding was mostly coming from his mouth. I held tissues onto his gums to stop the bleeding, and he made (what I thought was) a nice recovery! Kids are miraculous sometimes… but not this time. About an hour later we were eating lunch in Playa Del Carmen, and I noticed my little boo boo bear had blood all over his chin and shirt, so we hopped into the car— and drove literally one block away to Hospiten, a local private hospital. It was only a coincidence we were so close to the hospital, but that is most likely the hospital I would have taken him to from Akumal, had the situation seemed worse in the beginning.

There are many hospitals all throughout Quintana Roo, but it can be difficult to know which one is a legitimate emergency center. Some private hospitals are named after the doctor who owns it, or called “clinic”, or “hospital” when it is not actually equipped for a true emergency. I just so happened to have a conversation the day before with a friend who told me about her own experience at Hospiten with her baby, so I knew exactly where to go. If you’re traveling in the area, you will pass by this particular hospital when you drive between Cancun and Tulum. It is easy to spot right from the highway on the southern outskirts of Playa Del Carmen.

I was by myself with the kids that day with hubs out of town for work, so it was just me and two toddlers (one with a bloody face and shirt). The hospital was quiet, and the security guard at the front door helped me in with the stroller. The front desk staff was bilingual, took our insurance information (and explained their policies regarding cash pay), and got us in right away.

RIGHT HERE is where you need to understand something–> if you’re on a vacation, expect to pay a little more for your treatment than the locals. They have a tourist price, an expat price, and a locals price (so I have heard from other moms). All of which are still lower than you would pay in the US. I’m not entirely sure which price we paid that day, but it was not the local’s price. It was comparable to what we would pay at a reasonable urgent care facility in the US. This also considering there was a lot of blood to clean up, a lot of screaming to deal with, and a US mom who did not speak much Spanish. They had to hold the baby down, make a thorough exam, administer medication, and clean everything up afterwards. They did this with understanding and kindness every step of the way, they spoke fluent English to me, and they gave us clear instructions on how to help Baby A recover completely. I personally feel that I paid a fair price. I am happy to report he made a full recovery within a few days, and saved us a lot more money by severing his own lip tie (it would need to have been lasered later in life). Not a method I recommend though…

Baby A at Hospiten, after treatment for severed frenula.

 

Fun With Monkeys

The monkeys of CrocoCun Zoo keeping tabs on the new expat family.

Living in the jungle comes with the occasional monkey shake down… 

These monkeys are from the CrocoCun Zoo in Puerto Morelos (Cancun area). They have been keeping tabs on us since we played in the park behind the zoo earlier in the week, and then we saw them at the zoo. The keepers have named them all, and Yessica here is the ring leader. 

I will be posting a separate bit about the zoo because it is worthy of its whole, special post!

What’s in That Diaper Bag?!

As we travel the Mexican Riviera, we have edited the diaper bag several times. “Strolling around” has a different meaning here than in the US, where the roads can be rough and banos even rougher. When day tripping with small children, my goal is to keep us safe and comfy, but also pack light so we can be flexible if plans change. Here are the essentials that are in my bag right now:

1. Extra onesie. In addition to diapers and wipes, an extra onesie is essential in case of blow-outs. I have learned over the years to use a loose fitting onesie as an extra in case months go by before it is used (it will likely still fit a growing baby). The key is to replace it once used, of course. Traveling with children takes a few extra minutes before you leave your room or rental to make sure you refill those essentials so you don’t get in a bind without them.

2. Wet wipes. This is a small, travel pack of sanitizing wipes that can be used to wipe down high chairs or tables when you go out to eat, or a dirty toilet if you forget number 3…

3. Toilet seat covers. I buy extra large, disposable toilet covers in bulk from Amazon. If they are too small, your potty training tot might rub her legs on a poopy pot (ick!).

4. First aid kit. This is essential for Mexico, where there is rocky terrain, coral reef, hard tile, and concrete everywhere. Little knees and elbows get bumped easily. We never even used a band aid on our youngest until we moved here. Now we have gone through a box in one month, along with large knee patches, medical tape, and a couple travel sized bottles of Neosporin. That’s what’s in the kit: various band aids, antiseptic spray, and a roll of medical tape (I prefer the tan, waterproof foam tape because it stretches over the knee when it moves).

5. Bug repellent. For the kids, we use a local concoction called Maya Bug Repellent, but it needs to be applied often and in large amounts. We brought several bottles of California Baby bug repellent with us, and went through them very quickly. The mosquitoes just bite right through it. We also use OFF on adult legs and feet. There are fleas and sand flies after 4pm, and they need a strong repellent as well. Don’t make the mistake of leaving for the day without your bug spray. UPDATED: As of January 2018, we are only using Picaridin bug repellents now (OFF Family and the natural concoctions did not prove to be strong enough for the mosquitoes, long term).

6. Bug bite itch cream or roller stick. Even with all that repellent, we still get bites. Don’t let a bad itch take away your fun. There are some roller types that contain menthols and ammonia, which work great for adults, but are not safe for small children. Benadryl spray or cream seems to help, and poses less danger. You’ll want to pack these in your suitcase because they are hard to find here.

7. Decoy wallet/ decoy purse. I have both. I use them for different occasions. You want to keep a low profile here so that you do not become a target for theft or extortion. I keep my nice handbags in the states, and I have a small Vera Bradley crossbody with lots of pockets to hold my wallet with one credit card (not debit), and some petty change, or a small wad of pesos for snacks, etc. Most gift shops take credit cards, and they are easier to cancel if your wallet is stolen. A debit card, we are told, can be a source for extortion, where the perpetrator will demand you take it to the atm and make a withdrawal. I just like to avoid any possible targets, especially when my children are with me.

8. An amazing toy. This week it was a lime that baby A found on the street under a tree. For whatever reason this was the most interesting item to him, just second to the ipad (which we do not like, but surely keeps the peace while on longer drives in the car). This lime ended up nearly rotting in my bag, but I found it just in time to throw away. Totally worth every penny (especially since it was free). Other great toys have been teethers with bristles, a singing elephant that speaks Spanish, and a bucket of sand toys (not able to fit those in the diaper bag, but we stow them in the back seat or stroller).

9. Finally, a lightweight cardigan in Mama’s size. Good on those slightly chilly days here during the winter, or an especially powerful air conditioning unit. It doubles as a blanket, sun shade, napkin, etc.

I mentioned diapers and wipes before. You will have no problem finding affordable baby products here in the Riviera Maya, at any grocery store and many corner stores too. The locals love babies, and are very family oriented, so you don’t need to overpack! Stop by the grocery store on your way into town. It will give you the opportunity to see the other great deals to be found here locally.