Vacation Flashback: Cancun 2015

Monday, October 9, 2017

This post originally appeared on, a fantastic resource for parents and daycare providers.

Hola, Mexico!

Well, for Christmas 2015, my little family of three tried something new!  We spent seven days at a gorgeous all-inclusive resort just south of Cancun. 

That’s right; we (mostly) skipped the gifts this year and instead invested in an experience - six nights in paradise at Dreams Riviera Cancun, near Puerto Morelos, Mexico.  This trip was absolutely more than we’d normally spend on gifts (I’ll get to the budgeting later) but was a wonderful family experience that we’d love to do again someday.  If I’m going to be completely honest, knowing I’d soon be in warmer weather with a cold drink in hand was the light at the end of the tunnel after a busy fourth quarter.

If you’re looking for advice on how we selected the resort, the best advice I can give you is to contact our travel agent!  Julie is amazingly wonderful and helped us choose the resort when my parents, sister, and I first went to Mexico in 2010.  My family fell in love with the resort and returned in 2011 as well.  This isn’t a “Spring Break, WOOOO!” resort.  This is more of a laid-back, adults and families enjoying a vacation.  Similar to a cruise, there were dress codes for the restaurants and has an overall high-end feel.  After such a great experience, I knew it would be something the husband and the bonus-daughter would love. 

We traveled as a group of six; me and my husband upgraded to a honeymoon suite, my bonus-daughter and sister shared a garden view room, and my parents upgraded to a suite as well.  Yes, my husband is a saint for spending his vacation with his in-laws; but the truth is we had an absolutely wonderful time together!

Most days we’d get together for breakfast then meet up near the pool where we’d enjoy cold drinks and the sun.  We’d spend time in the pools, napping in the shade, reading, or trying out the resort’s activities.  By late afternoon, we’d head back to our rooms to nap and get ready for dinner.  As I mentioned, the restaurants have dress codes so it was a lot of fun to get dressed up each night.  We made it a point to dine at each of the restaurants.   They have a French, Italian, Japanese/Hibachi, Mexican, and seafood restaurants.  Some nights we all ate together, other nights we split off and did our own things.  We also took advantage of their 24-hour room service when there was a little rain or when the bonus-daughter wanted an evening to hang without the grownups.

Depending on the evening, we met up at the Preferred Club, an additional bar/lounge available to guests who upgraded.  It was a great place to wait for a table before dinner or relax after dinner.  We brought card games to play but found the game Heads Up on our phones to be a go-to for group entertainment.  Speaking of entertainment, the resort had fire dancers, a market night, karaoke, movies, live bands and more to offer each evening.  The vibe at this resort is they offer things to keep you busy and entertained from sunrise until midnight, but you have no obligation to participate. 

Family-friendly resorts, like Dreams, often have activities and kids clubs to keep kids busy and having fun while mom and dad enjoy the resort.  At almost sixteen, the bonus daughter was way too old for that scene but kept busy with books she had packed, and resort activities like yoga, volleyball, and swimming.

Paying for the trip:

Now, this type of trip may be common for the rich and famous, but our household is neither!  We live below our means with aggressive savings goals and began planning this trip in January of 2015.  Our rule with finances is to only finance needs (house, cars (sometimes)), and otherwise, we don’t buy things unless we can pay in full for them, and this trip was no different.   Our trip did go on a credit card with twelve months interest-free and was paid off well before we left town.  Not going into debt on this trip made it even more enjoyable as we sat by the pool knowing we wouldn’t come home to a mountain of debt. 

We also made strategic purchases throughout the year with this trip in mind.  When swimsuits and beachwear went on sale at and Kohl’s, we bought new swimsuits and clothes to tuck away until our trip.

It was hard to leave the warm weather behind, but we were happy to arrive back in Des Moines on December 23rd, just in time for a snowy Christmas at home.  Overall, we had such a great time on this trip.  It was so worth saving up for a trip of this caliber and we really hope we get the chance to go again someday!

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