I’ve never taken a Mexican vacation with my kids, although it’s been on my radar for a few years. I really don’t have an excuse as there are direct flights to the Yucatán Peninsula from both the Philadelphia and Baltimore airports and, at least during the low season of August and September, tickets are very affordable.
I went to Mexico in September to speak at a blogging conference and was lucky enough to be invited with a group of bloggers for a complimentary two-night stay in Playa del Carmen, just south of Cancun. We were hosted by HouseTrip, an online holiday rental website. I didn’t really need any convincing that holiday rentals are the way to go on an international family vacation, as I have stayed in a number of them over the years. But since I’ve never used the HouseTrip website before it was a chance for me to see the kind of properties they offer.
Imagine my delight when I arrived in Playa and was dropped off beachside in this gorgeous spot.
I didn’t really want to go indoors, but again, it was hard to feel bad about it when I was led by the very friendly and helpful bellman to a spacious penthouse apartment with this view and balcony.
Just upstairs from the apartment is a large outside living area complete with seating, a grill, and a Jacuzzi. I could see eating dinner with the kids here every night.
A true added bonus to a family stay at El Taj is complimentary breakfast either beachside next to the condos (which I didn’t try) or at a nearby restaurant called Imprevist. The menu was lovely and offered both Mexican and American-style choices with loads of fresh fruit and a fresh pastry basket.
Other things that make El Taj perfect for a family stay:
- There are two heated swimming pools that guests can use, one in the complex on the beach where we were staying, and one in the complex across the street. El Taj will even provide pool toys if you need them.
- The beach club offers lounge chairs, beach beds, towels, umbrellas – pretty much everything you need, just steps from your apartment.
- There’s an onsite concierge to answer questions, help arrange excursions, and handle any problems you may have. (We had some issues with our hot water, and they sent someone to take care of it quickly.)
- Some apartments have washers, dryers, and detergent (ours did) – which is so key when you’re traveling with kids.
- The kitchen is fully stocked with everything you need to cook and a water cooler with unlimited purified water. A large supermarket is a short car ride away – the concierge will help you arrange for a reasonably priced car service to take you to and from.
- The apartments are air conditioned and there’s daily cleaning service.
- The view is so peaceful. Although if I were staying at El Taj with toddlers, I’d probably request a ground-floor apartment so as not to have the constant worry about the balcony or the need to carry the inevitable gear up and down (there is an elevator, another true bonus).
- Playa del Carmen is a cute town, with a long strip called Fifth Avenue that rivals anything you’ll find on the Jersey Shore for a bit of tourist tackiness but also has any number of lovely restaurants and bars as well as a few high-end stores tucked in among the shops selling trinkets and tequila. I liked the fact that it was easy to walk around and a bit quieter than Cancun.
The HouseTrip website is easy to use with detailed information and photographs for each property. A recent search of the site for a rental for four people in Playa del Carman in late October turned up 90 options with a wide range of prices starting at just $67 per night for a small apartment. El Taj falls in the middle of their offerings pricewise – you can find apartments there appropriate for a family of four or more people for around $600 a night.
HouseTrip offers 24-hour, 7-day-a-week customer service if there are any problems with your rental and they only pay the homeowners once their guests have paid for their stay, which means a higher incentive to offer customer satisfaction.
After spending a week in the Cancun area without my kids, I’m convinced that this is a great destination for families. It has the perfect mix of history and culture, beautiful beaches, and delicious and interesting indigenous food. If you’re willing to put up with a bit of heat, humidity, and rain I would recommend visiting in the fall when prices are lower and it is less crowded. And I also recommend a Playa del Carmen HouseTrip stay – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
HouseTrip provided me with two nights in the Playa del Carmen apartment. You can always count on me to tell you when I’ve received something for free and to share my honest opinion.