Challenges we faced on our first Mexican holiday

 (And how we overcame them)

We had the BEST holiday to Mexico, and in hindsight it was perfect timing. We landed back the day before Boris told everyone to stay home. A week later schools were closed and all non-essential travel cancelled. We feel incredibly lucky to have avoided all the initial craziness, and to have enjoyed a holiday when so many others were missing out!img_20200312_083217_2583551936277443279582.jpgBut any holiday with two small children can cause difficulties, and we faced some challenges we hadn’t considered. James (9 months) had started to crawl the week before we left – not so perfect timing- and Jess had just turned four, so thinks she’s now a ‘big girl’ but hasn’t even started school yet. We had heard a lot about TUI Sensatori being really child friendly, so stayed at their Mexican offering: the Azul Beach Resort. It definitely was child-friendly, but could certainly do more. Full review here.Anyway, this post is about the challenges, so here’s what they are, and what you can do.

The Flight

10 hours on a flight. Aaaaagggghhhh. The first problem was that our flight out was actually over 11 hours; after pushing back from the gate we lost our slot. So had to sit for an hour in our seats (seatbelt signs on). Unfortunately (or stupidly) we’d put the bag of snacks in the overhead lockers, thinking we’d get them in the air. James cried and Jessica whinged every minute of that first hour. It wasn’t a great start.

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Things did thankfully improve though. We were flying on a TUI Dreamliner, the seats were comfortable and we absolutely loved the coloured lighting. We all survived, and despite the initial crying, our neighbours commented how amazing the kids were. Jess watched the inflight entertainment or played the games pretty much the whole way there, and James mixed sleeping with eating. Here are the key things to consider;

  • The food and drink situation for yourself. Having James on my knee meant that I couldn’t get the tray table down when the meal arrived. One time I was standing anyway with the carrier, so just had it when I sat down. Well actually with a sleeping James in my arms hubby fed it to me! Otherwise the stewards were happy to keep it warm, and brought it over when hubby had finished his and could hold James. Make sure you have a rubbish bag to help keep things tidy. Obviously Jess wanted the table up as soon as she’d finished, so hubby had three food trays plus drinks stacked up.
  • The children’s meals might not be what they want! On a TUI flight you get ONE proper meal and then a snacky meal. The main pasta meal was fine, but the sandwiches were cheese and onion, so we had to revert to our own snacks. And infants don’t get food provided. Also remember if like us your flight is delayed, you may need more than the allotted time.
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  • Make sure you have enough food and drink for airport arrivals. We queued for an HOUR waiting to get through immigration. Luckily we had the carrier for James but Jess was wrecked and hungry. A packet of sweets helped see her through.
  • Take a baby carrier. I’ve written about the benefits of this previously here. But it frees up hands to carry luggage (or hold another child’s hand), it’s great if you have to queue, it keeps babies contained, easier getting on and off a plane with steps, and for us, gets him to sleep faster.

Jet lag

Luckily, none of us really experienced Jet Lag on the flight there; the first night we had a few wake-ups but on the whole it went well. The way back was a killer though… leaving 4pm Mexico time and arriving the next morning at 6am with only a few hours sleep. Don’t make any plans for that day! We arrived on a Sunday so had the rest of the day to recover before work on Monday. We slept until lunchtime and then stayed up until normal bedtime. It definitely took the children a few days to readjust, and they were sleeping in past nine for the following few days (absolutely not a problem for me ha).

Lack of baby-proofed rooms

Yikes, we really hadn’t thought about this. Jess was never a big ‘explorer’ as a baby… but James is. Big time. And with the new excitement of crawling and pulling himself up to stand you needed eyes on him at all times. The room was all tiled and sharp corners, there wasn’t many places we could put him. It also had some low level lighting which he was obviously fascinated by (and we were unaware to their existence until he pulled out the lightbulb and wires!!!!! Luckily off at the time). So if they have a travel cot, make sure you take enough toys to put him in there and let him entertain himself whilst you get dressed. Our balcony was also one of the best places to put him down for us; nothing sharp for him and no gaps to fall out of! 20200303_185018122593729511636697.jpg

Being outdoors with a baby

Unless you’re sitting by a splash park, it’s really difficult to put babies and toddlers down where they aren’t going to eat sand or crawl into a swimming pool. We took a sun shade, similar to this one; Coleman Sundome Beach Shelter with UV Guard – Blue/White (affiliate link). It was great to have somewhere to put him where he was sheltered and could play without me having to balance him on a sun bed. And being the sun worshipper that I am, meant that I could still sit outside of the tent in the sunshine! Jess loved it too, when she wasn’t in the pool, she enjoyed making it her shop.20200307_1025448404375575191111656.jpg

Packing for four

We had a lovely big luggage allowance from TUI, but that doesn’t help with the logistics of getting all the cases-and two children- in and out the airport! Transporting the luggage is one of the key things to think about (as well as getting it all-and you- in the car to the airport)! Some suggestions;

  • Nappies. These were the biggest space stealer! Unfortunately they were pretty pricey to buy them from the resort shop, so they were essential! Only take what’s necessary. It might be easier to take them out the bag and spread them… but remember they’re packed nice and tight in the packaging so it might be best to leave them in there!
  • Baby milk. Because we were fine on weight and James has dropped the number of feeds, we were able to fit his milk quite easily into the checked luggage. But if you have a younger baby and you aren’t breastfeeding, you might want to consider pre-ordering from the departure lounge. Just remember to take a bag to carry them easily in! More on this previous post.
  • Buggy issues. You can keep a buggy with you until you board a flight, but remember you don’t always get them immediately when you disembark, and it might be a long walk to the terminal/ baggage hall to get them. As well as a long wait through immigration. Think about how much hand luggage you have, and if you will have the capacity to carry a small child if needed. We borrowed one from the hotel.
  • Hand luggage. Our four pieces of hand luggage were as follows; Me- I had the change bag. As well as the usual nappies, wipes and bags etc, I took PJs, a blanket for James and change of clothes. Hubby- our bits, electronics, and the important stuff. Passports, tickets, phones, camera, iPad, headphones, kindle (yes that was ridiculously optimistic). Jess- her own ‘holiday bag’ of toys and games for her holiday and flight. I mean she did think bringing her Elsa shoes was essential, but otherwise she chose a good selection of stuff. I also brought along some new sticker and activity books. She actually played very little with all this on the flight, preferring the entertainment. James’s piece was the food and drink bag. As described before lots of snacks and an extra meal for children. Pouches and snacks for James.
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Sharing one room

We had two double beds and a cot in our room. The balcony meant we could sit outside once they’d fallen asleep. We made sure we slept in the middle so they couldn’t see each other as they fell asleep. In the mornings when James woke up at the crack of dawn, I’d take him to play out on the balcony to leave Jess to sleep a little longer. Make sure to use the blackout curtains.20200303_1849046438175736459692783.jpg

Staying awake for evening entertainment

On holiday we make a deal with Jess, she’s only allowed to stay up late if she has an afternoon nap. Clearly the thought of that is so exciting she agrees. Although some afternoons I’d take the two children back to the room for a nap (so I could wash my hair), we tried to get Jess to nap outside. One day at a theme park, she napped in James’s buggy whilst he was in the carrier. Other days we used a Bali bed. It was a good piece of time for us to relax, have a drink and enjoy the sunshine.

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I think that’s all the main ones! I’d love to know any more advice or suggestions that you might have!

Azul Beach Resort, Riviera Maya: A review of our TUI Sensatori holiday

We’ve been sticking to winter holidays in the canaries since our four year old’s been around… so decided it was about time we took the plunge of taking a long haul with two small children. Knowing Sensatori’s are geared up for kids, we settled on trying their Mexico offering, the Azul Beach Resort, situated between Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

General facilities

We were in a Luxury suite in building three, overlooking the family pool, with views down to the sea. We were happy with the room itself, it had plenty of space and storage. It worked for us because our youngest is still in a cot, but we would probably have opted for a Family suite if they both needed beds. Daily cleaning was thorough and our mini drinks fridge was restocked daily. The whirlpool bath was a good addition that we all enjoyed, and the sofa area on the balcony was pretty comfortable.We enjoyed the variety of pool areas, and enjoyed a different spot every day. Bali beds are available around the adults only pool and on the beach (unless you’re premium, where they’re around the premium pool too). But you have to get up early to get them. Whilst sun beds are plentiful, favourite spots do get reserved shortly after seven. If like us, you don’t have a strong preference for beds you don’t need to reserve.The beach area was great, with a team of staff working all day to keep the sand clean. The beach bar is in a great setting and we loved the swings! Just a note on cash- you can pay for everything in US dollars. We normally dont take cash and just withdraw whilst we’re away… but wish we’d been more prepared. The cash machine in the hotel lobby is extortionate… and you might want to take a range of smaller notes for tipping.
More on food and drink facilities below.

Is it Child friendly?

Oooooooh, ‘child friendly’ what a term! If we take that to mean that they make it easy for you to bring children with you, then yes it is child friendly. But that’s a far distance away from providing a child-focussed holiday. Let me elaborate.

They provide lots of stuff to make packing and travelling with children easier. Baby packs for the bedroom are provided, including bottle steriliser, bottle warmer, baby bath, and cot. We also borrowed a buggy which made travelling a lot easier (more tips on this on this blog), it was immaculate with a good sun shade.In all the restaurants high chairs were provided, and they were always properly cleaned. Jars of baby food were also available… but be warned the selection wasn’t great, and at times when there was only one flavour left (maybe courgette) alternatives weren’t offered. We read that you could request food was blended for you, but didn’t try it. We had taken our own food pouches so made do.

Around the resort, our daughter enjoyed the small play frame on the beach and the splash park. There were toddler sun beds dotted about which had great novelty value too! She’d been really looking forward to the slide before we went (and had talked about it non-stop), but it was a little faster than she expected which I think gave her a shock and she wasn’t confident enough to try again! Footstools were provided in the bathrooms (and we’d also requested one for our room) but the sinks were still too tall for our daughter.There is also an indoor Playhouse. Again this is immaculate (sorry no pictures as photos not allowed inside). We took our children inside one cloudy morning, and let them play on the wide selection on toys.

So all of that made the holiday child friendly…. moving onto where they could have improved, starting with the evening entertainment.Maybe it’s because the only child holidays we’ve been on are in Europe that we were expecting nightly mini-discos. Something our daughter LOVES. Unfortunately they only have one of these a week at most. They’re great when they’re on, lots of music and games and glow sticks. Just not as many as we hoped! There were some other good alternatives too… there was a really enjoyable Pirate Magic Show, and a beach bonfire where children could toast marshmallows.But there also seemed too many movie nights. For all supervised activities, children had to be over four and importantly unaccompanied. Our daughter is often shy with new experiences, so not being able to join her until she got settled meant that she wouldn’t go. And if you have an under four, you can’t take them to the activities and stay with them. This was the same as the daytime activities… if it was a planned activity, parents weren’t allowed in and little ones couldn’t join in. So basically we didn’t do any of the activities in the play house.

The restaurants

For breakfasts we alternated between Spoons (a wide range and quick option) and at Zamos, where it took a more relaxed pace with waiter service.

Lunches- we never made it to Spoons for lunch. The Beach BBQ was definitely our favourite, it’s a fab setting and good, easy food. If you’ve got a little one park yourself next to the climbing frame. We thought the pizza place behind the splash park was great too. Delicious pizzas, just be aware they only serve soft drinks there so pop to the bar and take one with you if you can’t live without a beer! Finally Zavas offer amazing burgers for lunch (make sure you try the Mexican Burger), but again don’t go if you want anything quickly! Dinner options. Having children meant we passed on the Le Chiquita experience, which is by all accounts amazing. Happily, TUI arranged an alternative taster session; seven courses inspired by le Chique served at the Tapaz restaurant. Ok it wasn’t the same, but it did mean we didn’t miss out completely. Our favourite restaurant was Tapaz, it had a great menu and felt like a real treat. The Italian was also a great choice, mainly because the service was exceptional. In the other restaurants, waiters were friendly and polite, but we found the Italian the only place which felt like 5 star service; we were better attended, they fussed over the children and made sure that our drinks were flowing! Zocalos, the Mexican restaurant did good food, as did Zavas and are worth a booking. In all the restaurants there are children’s menus, and they’re all different which is great.. too many places have the standard chicken nuggets and pasta at every place!

Other bits;
  • Room service. Easy and included in all inclusive. Alcoholic drinks aren’t included, but you can buy bottles of wine. We only did it a few times but it took around half an hour to arrive.
  • Wine and spirits in the all inclusive were fine. Red wine was better than the white. I don’t really drink Chardonnay but found it was more palatable than the Sauvignon blanc. If you did want Pinot Grigio it was about $40US and decent. You might consider trying the rose as well!
  • The Mojito bar did a great selection, lots of flavours! It’s adults only, but one of us popped in and then we could enjoy them in the lobby or on the roof terrace.
  • The Aperol Spritz bar is mega quirky, but you’re lucky to catch it open. Early evening (6.30pm to about 8pm) is your best chance.
  • The Waves bar was definitely the best swim up, where you can enjoy sitting in the sun.
  • Reservations are a pain but avoid going to the concierge at the start or end of the day when it’s at its busiest. You can only book for three days at a time.
  • Starbucks is right in the centre of the hotel, obviously drinks are not included but some people need their fix! If you dont want to pay, take a flask- you can top coffee from outside spoons.

Activities and entertainment

Every week there is Mexican beach party with mariatchi band. It’s good fun and nice to do something a bit different eating on the beach.

There’s a decent selection of evening entertainment (usually the main act around 9.30pm) but with two little ones the best we could do was listen from the balcony! We did enjoy the singers in the lobby earlier in the evening.
We thought the day time activities were great, from Zumba to Spanish lessons there really was something for everyone and the entertainment team were really great.

If you’re here without kids, the Friday Moët party looks amazing. A bottle of Moët on a Bali bed, a DJ and lots of inflatables in the adults only pool. I’d say it’s worth the extra cost.

Places to go

Playa del Carmen.Ooooooooh we LOVED wandering up and down 5th Avenue, soaking up the atmosphere!! Don’t expect a glimpse of the ‘real’ Mexico- it’s tourist central. BUT it’s quirky and a lot of fun. We just asked the hotel doorman for a taxi, it arrived within minutes, took us to a tourist drop off and waited for us until we were ready to return (we spent about three hours there). It cost about $80US. Another alternative is Cancun, but we heard it lacks a real ‘centre’s so you cant just wander from shop to shop (or bar to bar), you need more of a plan anf taxis in between. To see a bit more of Mexiacn history and  culture there are trips to the well known Chichen itza or a bit closer, to the Cobo Mayan ruins. This might be a better choice if you’re visiting before November, as at the moment you can still climb the stairs. In November the restrictions start.


We had a great day at Xcaret Park; a natural theme park. Lots of animals to see, and you can swim in natural underground rivers which is a lot of fun. There are lots of opportunities for additional activities (at an additional cost) such as swimming with dolphins. There are good shows to see; flying men and a horse display, all culminating in a huge show at the end. It’s a bit like Mexico through the ages with lots of singing and dancing. Worthwhile staying if you dont mind the later finish. We went with a Tui organized trip and were expecting carnage at the end getting the coaches back, but were really impressed by the smooth operation.

So there’s my round up. No doubt I’ve not included something important… just let me know and I’ll add it in!