Aging is a natural part of life. Aging gracefully…that’s a different story.
This is the year that my 30s come to an end. What I want for my birthday – my list – is simple. I want to celebrate someplace where I can feel young. Where I can be totally carefree. Where I can forget my age.
Disney World? Actually, my husband and I were married there, in a lovely little ceremony on a pedestal in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion. It was magical. It is magical. We’ve since celebrated countless birthdays and anniversaries in central Florida, with a few Disney cruises, a trip to California’s Disneyland and two flights across the pond to Disneyland Paris. Something different is in order, and while Tokyo Disney seemed like a logical next choice, a few web searches for flights made it clear that was not an option this year.
I decided it was time to write a better list of what I was looking for.
Warmth – not too hard to find in July. A beach would be nice. And some palm trees. Direct flights. Great food. Good service. An adventure. Some peace and quiet.
So the hunt to find my dream vacation within my budget — no more than $2500 for airfare, a room and transportation – was on.
I combed through various sites over a two-week period: Expedia, Travelocity, CheapCarribean, BookIt, Orbitz, Hotwire. Where? Everything was on the table: Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Florida Keys, France, Ireland, Palm Springs, Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize.
After several days examining the details of hundreds of vacation packages, it became obvious that reasonably priced non-stop flights from local airports needed to be identified first to limit the possibilities. Puerto Rico and Cancun came back as the best options, so I concentrated on those. Extended my ‘local airports’ a bit further, I found non-stop flights for about $500 each on Frontier Airlines from Philadelphia to Cancun – a fitting departure point, as I was born in the ‘City of Brotherly Love.’
As I’ve already pointed out, I’m well beyond the age of the ‘spring breaker.’ Resorts that cater to the party crowd just aren’t for me. I needed to identify a five-night resort stay that, when purchased with the airfare, would give me enough of my budget left over for transportation — a rental car or airport transfers and a tour or two.
The first hotel to fit the description was Excellence Playa Mujeres. Not an oceanview room, but it was adults only, all-inclusive, on a great beach about 30 minutes south of Cancun and we’d have a jacuzzi on our balcony. We talked about it for a day and then I plugged the options into Expedia to book and — I’d missed a deal they were offering. The package price had gone up by nearly $500 and therefore, broke my budget. Rats!
A few days later, I settled on Sandos Caracol Eco Resort & Spa in Playa del Carmen. It wasn’t perfect, but we loved the animals at the resort, the adults only section and all-inclusive package, and the jacuzzi on the balcony again. No oceanview room, and not a great beach at the resort, but it was only a short walk to a nicer area. This time, I was able to secure a $2200 package for room and airfare and we booked it through Travelocity, which had the best price.
We just weren’t as excited as I thought we should be. This resort just wasn’t fitting that magical description I was hoping for. It defintely had some negative reviews and the guest photos posted, even with the good reviews, didn’t look all that nice. Reaching a Travelocity representative by phone, he assured me that as long as we didn’t want to change our flights, it was no problem to change the resort. So, more searching was in order, with a slightly adjust list of ‘magical’ attributes — smaller boutique hotels, beachfront accommodations, no need for the ‘five-star’ extras.
And then I saw this picture on Expedia, which sucked me in for a closer look at Mahékal Beach Resort:
The place is a tropical paradise. It’s not all inclusive, but the rate includes breakfast daily and choice of lunch or dinner, giving us the option to try the restaurants in downtown Playa del Carmen, which is a 5-minute walk from the resort. There are no TVs or phones, but they do have wifi in two areas of the resort — and we’ve got plenty of electronics if we want to stay plugged in (which I definitely don’t). The beach is pristine and somewhat secluded as these are the last accommodations at the southern end of Playa del Carmen. There’s no jacuzzi on the balcony (in fact, there’s only a shower in the room — no tub), but instead, two hammocks — perfect for a daily afternoon siesta.
While I don’t know Spanish, the site claims that mahékal is the Spanish pronunciation for magical. The reviews seemed to agree. If that’s not a sign…
The phone call to Travelocity took five minutes. The price is only a few dollars more than Sandos Caracol. We’re booked in an oceanview room and we’ve requested a king bed and top floor location, to get a palapa roof and a ceiling fan.
Adding to the plan, I’ve got a room with parking in Philadelphia, a rental car in Mexico and some plans for an adventure day to Mayan Ruins. Now all I need to do is set up a playlist on my iPhone of perfect beach tunes and download several books and movies for the flights.
Dare I say, I’m now excited to turn ffff..ffff…fourty.