First, background: Travelers were me (single – widowed – 53 year old female) and 2 boys, ages 9 and almost 13. We are homeschoolers and frequent travelers; having made several trips to Europe over the past six years as well as jaunts around many regions of the United States. Not to speak of almost weekly day trips in our own region. I am an independent traveler who does occasional tours especially if it’s something important we’re looking at and I really want my kids to listen more closely than they do when it’s just me jabbering. I usually rents vehicles or do public transportation and prefer to stay in rentals, B & B’s or small hotels. It is sometimes a trick to find these that are welcoming to children, but we found them this time.
My boys are very good, engaged travelers. They do like the comforts and entertainments of home, no denying, but they also enjoy seeing new things. They understand that traveling is about learning and enjoyment. They understand that traveling with others requires compromise – that if they are patient while we are in this gallery, I will be patient while they run around in the park – that their time will come. Also, usually, ice cream will come, at some point, in some form.
We are not the slowest of the Slow Travelers, but I have learned over the years that it’s the little moments that are so memorable – little moments in ordinary places, encountering people who may do and see things differently than you do, but are really, the same.
Since we are homeschooling right now, I’ve equated the money I spent on travel to tuition. This is all about learning, and not just about the history of Mexico or where ever we are. It’s about learning:
- that life is a lot bigger than our individual concerns as shaped by our own little corner of the world.
- that people around the world have different cultures – that is, different approaches to life – and they are fascinating.
- that challenging tasks are doable and worth it.
- that interesting moments and small adventures lie around each corner.
- that the world is an endlessly fascinating place, and God created it, redeems it, and loves it.
I try to engage their skills in travel. The sites on this trip were mostly of interest to the younger boy, but the older boy wasn’t completely uninterested, and is an engaged and curious people-watcher. He also ends up being a great help in keeping track of routes (and subway/bus/train schedules when we’re in those situations) and figuring out the money. He’s the one who looks at the pile of change in my open palm and picks out the right coins for his incompetent mother.
The motivation for this trip, honestly, was my 9-year old, who over the past year has developed a passionate interest in pre-Colombian cultures, especially the Maya. Once their basketball season was over and before some family-oriented travel obligations hit in late spring, I wanted to do a big trip. European airfare was more than I wanted to pay, and his interest in the Maya prompted me to think – why not Mexico?
We had been to Mexico before, as part of a church mission trip (a small town a bit west of Saltillo), so I had worked through (most of) the afraid-to-travel-in-Mexico issues then. In addition, reading this board, various ex-pat blogs and Yucatan Today really assuaged any remaining worries. We were ready!
- I began planning this trip about six weeks before we traveled. I tend not to plan travel very far in advance, partly because our lives and the lives of other family members tend to be always up in the air. It’s generally unwise for me to commit to something more than six months in advance.
- I bought airfare first, then went from there.
- Here are the links – in one place – to the places we stayed:
All were booked directly, with the exception of the Campeche hotel, which was reserved through Booking.com.
We each had one carry-on, plus a backpack each. I took electronics – phone, laptop and tablet – but didn’t arrange any data plans before we left. I decided to just do wi-fi where ever I could grab it. It was only for ten days.
I always compile a folder for myself of printouts of all information regarding rentals, hotels and anything else I think I might need. Before we leave, I send detail itineraries to family members here in the US with probably over detailed instructions about what to do in various scenarios. I probably alarm them all by these emails, but I am superstitious enough to believe that if I prepare for the worst, it won’t happen.
Oh, and health – we knew to be super careful about water while we were in Mexico, but I did attempt to prepare our systems by loading us up with probiotics for a couple of weeks before we left. I guess it worked, because we didn’t get sick….
I consulted a few guidebooks in planning, but mostly I referenced the Trip Advisor Yucatan and Merida discussion boards, as well as several blogs of ex-pats living in the Yucatan or other travelers.