Every Spring Break we take our kids out of school a couple extra days and go on a long extended adventure trip (last year we went to China.) My hope is that by the time my kids graduate high school, all these trips will add up and we’ll have seen the world together. I’ve found that planning far in advance helps us get really cheap tickets and knowing that we are going to take the trip helps us plan and budget all year for it. This year we decided to visit Mexico. I’ve taken trips to the popular Mexican beaches like Tulum and Cancun but we really wanted to visit other areas we haven’t been before. I have to give my good friend Michelle Aller a shout-out here. She helped me plan this vacation. Michelle is obsessed with planning vacations and traveling. I always call her in a panic a week before my trips and she send me emails with itineraries. I’ve been telling her to start a blog for years and she finally did. Go check out her new travel blog Rollybag over here and click through below for the full story.
We chose Mexico because it is an affordable place to travel with the dollar being so strong against the peso and with it’s close proximity to the US. Also, my kids are in Spanish immersion programs in school so I love being able to see them exposed to countries that speak Spanish. I watched airfare for a month or two and finally bought some tickets for less than $300 a few months before Spring Break! We were gone for about 12 days and we divided our trip up into three segments. 1. Mexico City 2. Oaxaca 3. Yucatan.
We didn’t need to get visas and it was an easy five hour flight from California. We arrived in Mexico City before taking a taxi to an airbnb. Mexico City is beautiful, modern and very hip. There were so many museums we didn’t even get to them all. We stayed in the trendy Condesa neighborhood for five days. The whole city was in bloom with the purple Jacaranda trees and the parks and gardens were amazing. I was also really impressed with the food. Everything from the street food to the restaurants we ate at was fresh and good quality.
When we arrive to a new country we usually spend the first day getting our bearings and running errands. We find an ATM and get cash (make sure our credit cards work.) We always call our banks in advance but there is always inevitably problems. We also find a phone store to get new SIM cards. Our phones are unlocked and having a data plan while we travel makes everything so much easier. (We never get lost with GPS!) We also like to just sit down to plan our daily itineraries. We still like to hit good places to eat and maybe venture out to do one or two activities but for the most part the first day is pretty laid back.
In Mexico City we used Uber to get around which was perfect for us out-of-towners because we could always see on our phones where our destination was and the route our driver was taking us. This made us feel safe since we knew we weren’t being cheated or taken to a strange neighborhood. The Uber rides were extremely affordable compared to the US. We took one way across town for 30 minutes and I think the whole ride was $12.
We really loved the parks and the museums. A few friends had suggested visiting the Luis Barragan house (we had to get reservations in advance.) And we found it so inspiring! If you are into design at all I highly recommend it.
Here is my recommendation list from Mexico City
–Mercado Roma for hip and delicious food (we ate here twice at different vendors)
–El Moro for churros
–Chapultepec Park for boat rides and to see the Castle/Museum
–Luis Barragan House
–Frida Khalo Home
After five days in DF we took a short flight to Oaxaca. Oaxaca is famous for it’s food and culture. We arrived just as our travelers diarrhea was hitting. Fun! It was rough for about 24 hours but then it became pretty comical as we felt fine but would have to run to the bathroom at a moment’s notice. We were still able to site see and do what we wanted but with more stops to bathrooms. HA! We stayed in an excellent hotel which I would recommend called Parador de Alcala. Oaxaca is beautiful. We were only there four days but ate so much good food and saw so much. We ended up at some ruins after a rainy morning and had a magical afternoon where we had the ruins mostly to ourselves. We also went to the big city market where we were the only tourists there but we found incredible booths full of sling shots and pinatas. The last morning we went to Hierve el Agua which is a natural spring that has calcified on a hill. It also has calcified pools you can swim in that overlook mountains. We got there first thing in the morning and had it all to ourselves. About the time we were packing up our stuff to go a big bus pulled up and it turned into a party scene. It was so different than the serene experience we had. We had several good meals but my favorite two were at Casa Oaxaca and Itanoní Antojeria y Tortilleria which made the best tortillas I’ve had in my life. They are all made from ancient grains and apparently it’s a favorite of Alice Waters. I loved it too because of the pretty decor.
List of Recommendations
We booked the last part of our vacation last minute. We knew we wanted to spend it near a beach and ended up flying to Cancun and taking a Ferry to Isla de Mujeres, a touristy-but laid back island near Cancun. It had a similar vibe as the North Shore of Hawaii. We rented an apartment off Airbnb which was perfect for our family. The kids could run out the door and skip rocks off the pier. It was so relaxing. Everyone on the island rents golf carts and drives them all over. We could choose to hang out by the pool or else venture out to explore. I had anticipated traveling around the Yucatan more but we ended up just staying on the Island. The food was so good. We found some great restaurants and my favorite thing was to just go to the beautiful north beach where we would rent beach chairs and eat fresh shrimp ceviche all day. It’s my version of heaven.
On Safety: I felt very safe in Mexico and had heard some horror stories and warnings from friends. I feel like all you can do when you travel is be smart and aware but there is always a certain amount of risk that something bad will happen. (People get mugged or hurt in my own neighborhood in San Francisco all the time.)