We recently traveled to Cancun, Mexico to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary with the whole family. Here are 9 tips for visiting Cancun with small children.
Earlier this month, my husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary at the JW Marriott Cancun for a week of relaxation and fun in the sun. We had visited Cancun once before, over 13 years ago after just 3 months of dating. This visit was a bit different because we had our 1 and 3 year old boys in tow!
Let me tell you…Cancun with toddlers is a bit different than Cancun with 16 of your closest college friends. But guess what? It was different in the best of ways and I can’t wait to share 9 practical tips for visiting Cancun with small children.
Pack Travel Snacks for Flights: This might be a no brainer but I can’t express the importance of having enough snacks when it comes to flying and traveling with young children. Admittedly, it looked like an obscene amount of food when I had it all ready to go but between the four flights, two layovers, shuttle rides and a week of hanging out in a hotel room, every last bite was devoured. The biggest hit of the trip? My Sweet & Salty Trail Mix.
Splurge on One Bedroom Suite: One lesson we learned early on when traveling with small children is that a one bedroom suite is always worth the additional investment. Our youngest goes to bed pretty early, usually between 7pm – 8pm. Depending on the time zone, that could be as early as 4pm local time. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a dark room trying to keep quiet so that the baby doesn’t wake up. Add in a noisy older brother who doesn’t want to keep quiet and you’ll be wishing you had a separate sleeping area. A suite is always worth it. Just think of all the money you’re saving by not hitting up Señor Frogs for late nights like the good old days.
Mimic Routine from Home: As much as possible, try to keep your daily schedule as close to normal as possible. As tempting as it might be to try and sleep in, skip naps or stay up late, it’s easier not to fight it and keep the routine as similar to home as you can. One tip we recommend to help with the bedtime routine is to bring a couple of their favorite books from home. We are big fans of Goodnight Moon so you better believe that was in our suitcase before we left home. While waking up at the usual 6am isn’t always welcome on a vacation, the incredible breakfast buffet at the JW Marriott was always welcome sight first thing in the morning. My boys loved the fun and colorful juice display each morning.
Active Playtime in the Morning: I don’t know about your kids but mine love to get out of the house and do something active in the morning. Not only does it lead to happier kids but it allows them to get out their energy which means they will be more likely to nap in the afternoon.
Every morning we were in Cancun we got out of the hotel room for active play in the morning. Whether it was swimming in the pool, exploring the neighboring CasaMagna Marriott (connected through a covered walk-way) or visiting shops downtown, we did something active together as a family.
Maximize Pool Time: We spent a lot of time at the pools during our stay because the JW Marriott Cancun has several toddler-friendly infinity pools. Thanks to super shallow sections, our boys could easy splash on their own without us having to help them the entire time. Of course, it also connected to deeper sections of the pool where Mommy or Daddy could give them a ride.
One tip we learned from another family with young kids is to pack small plastic pool toys to keep the boys occupied in the shallow section. A second tip? Bring music to the pool in case someone gets tired and wants to chill out on the padded chairs under the umbrella. Jacob took more than one nap listening to James Taylor streaming through our iPhones at the pool.
Ask Other Families for Dining Suggestions: Speaking of other families, one of the best ways to learn about high-quality, family friendly dining in Cancun is to ask other families with kids while hanging out at the pool during the day. We discovered several incredible restaurants simply by asking around.
That said, I can tell you that almost every restaurant was extremely kid-friendly. The Mexican culture is much more laid back than here in the States when it comes to bringing kids to upscale restaurants. Truly, we hit a home run with every place we dined, but here are a few of our favorites:
- Fred’s Restaurant: Located directly across the street from the JW Marriott, this upscale seafood/Mexican restaurant was incredible and very accommodating to our children.
- Mikado: This Japanese Sushi restaurant is located inside the Marriott CasaMagna next door to the JW Marriott and offers everything from miso soup to traditional table-side hibachi. They surprised us with kid-friendly fruit sushi which our boys loved.
- Beach Walk: We ate lunch at the poolside BeachWalk restaurant right at the JW Marriott almost every day and not simply out of convenience. From the hummus to the fish tacos to the complimentary popsicles after your meal, this was a family favorite every afternoon.
Splurge on a Hotel with a Balcony: If you are traveling with small children, you will likely be spending a portion of your day with one or two little ones napping in the hotel room. And if you’re married to a man like I am, your husband will often join them for that nap. In lieu of sitting around in a dark hotel room in the middle of the afternoon, I would often enjoy this time on the balcony reading a book or watching the waves crash on the ocean. It was great to be in the sunshine and fresh air while still keeping the room dark and quiet for napping boys.
Take Advantage of Babysitting Services: The primary reason for our trip to Cancun was to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary. As much as we loved having our two young boys with us, we really wanted to have one special meal for just the two of us. To help make this a reality, we took advantage of the JW Marriott’s high-quality babysitting services. If the thought of having a complete stranger look after your children scares you to death, you’re not alone. I was a little nervous myself but from the moment I walked in the hotel, I knew the staff was full of professional, highly trained Marriott employees. Even better? All of the babysitters staffed are Marriott employees of the hotel. In fact, our wonderful babysitter works in the “At Your Service” department at the hotel during the day. A mother herself, she was a complete natural with the boys and they were sound asleep when we returned from dinner.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Last but not least, whenever you are flying or traveling with small kids, I can’t stress the importance of not sweating the small stuff enough! We got a lot of eye rolls and negative comments about the fact that we were spending a week in paradise with two young kids but honestly, it’s all what you make of it. Was it the most peaceful airplane ride of our lives? No. Were there some hectic moments? Of course. But we knew that going in and we decided to make the most of it.
At the end of the day, my husband and I are firm believers in investing in experiences vs. material goods. We believe that our boys will gain more longterm by traveling the world than getting the latest toy or living in the largest house. We love traveling with our kids and want to empower YOU to have the confidence to do the same.
Get out there. Have fun and enjoy! Your passport is waiting.
For more vacation inspiration, head over to my Wanderlust Travel board!