Ixtapa and its neighbouring towns in the Guerrero region on Mexico’s West coast has serious cred. Artists Damien Hirst and Julian Schnabel have been spotted in the beachside village of Troncones (where you’ll also find wave enthusiasts) located just a half hour up the coast from Ixtapa and luxe boutique hotel chain The Viceroy has an outpost to the south in the fishing village of Zihuatanejo where there are also luxury hillside rentals with mind-boggling views. We, however, were going on our first trip with a group that included 6 parents and 4 kids, so a super cool, surfer inn without a kids’ club or a haute boite for grown-ups only wasn’t on our hit list. For our first trip with vacation buddies, an all-inclusive resort made the most sense and helped make Ixtapa fit our multi-family squad with more joy and less stress. It requires some extra leg work to make it all happen, but as we learned, it’s worth it if you keep these tips in mind. (P.S. This is not a paid post).
A Guide to Travelling With A Group of Families
Get the most for everyone’s money. Even if this means going off the beaten path. For example, we were all excited about going to Jamaica or the Mayan Riviera, but after some digging, we realized our budgets went farther in Ixtapa. We stayed at the Azul Ixtapa Grand Resort (direct flights to and from Ixtapa are admittedly hard to come by; we booked everything through Sunwing), a newer hotel with impressive marks on TripAdvisor. Every room has an ocean view, so no one would feel left out of the gorgeous scenery. We were all able to upgrade to two-room suites with an attached living room and in-room sauna for an affordable extra cost. The added bonus: A kid’s club with indoor and outdoor activities (the variety of activities did admittedly run short about mid-week; making a pinata was the biggest hit) and we were greeted with attentive lifeguards throughout the property, an unexpected poolside perk that put our minds at ease knowing there were extra eyes on alert. #anythingbutbasic
Accept you’re not going to get everything you want. My husband likes an impressive beachfront, however our hotel had more of a wee cove. The upside was that a stretch of beach was a five-minute walk away, there was a heated infinity pool with a killer view and for just 50 pesos per person, we took a 5-minute water taxi to Isla Ixtapa (we went three times). The water was calm, the beer was cheap (20 pesos per Corona and they even had a vin blanc that made our picky tastebuds happy) and the tortillas for fresh fish tacos were hand made over an open fire.
Be vigilant about the food and drink reviews. When you’re spending seven days together, full and satisfied tummies go a long way. Before booking, we combed real talk about the hotel’s menu and service (of course, we ignored the grumpy thoughts from overzealous buffet critics) which scored better than average marks from savvy reviewers who know not to expect Michelin rated meals at an all-inclusive resort. Wine, beer and spirits were all premium (except the rosé, blech) and there were plenty of healthy choices that the kids wanted to eat so they weren’t stuck noshing on fries and breaded chicken all week. What really stood out? The hotel’s service. There was always a helping hand, a clean plate, a full glass and no attitude.
Make sure there’s plenty to do off the resort too. Not everyone likes staying on a property full-time, so a variety of local happenings that are easy to get to, kid-friendly and affordable can offer up a change of scene for whoever craves it. We made a trip the village of Zihuatanejo during a Sunday festival where we gobbled up fresh churros from a street stand, followed up by dinner and margaritas at Bandidos. The moms booked a 2-hour stand-up paddle-boarding excursion one morning (approx $40CAD per person) while the dads went deep-sea fishing the next day (6 hours for approx $325CAD including drinks). And the sister resort, just a stroll away, had a small waterpark for the littles.
Enjoy time-outs from your partner, from your children and from your travel companions. Sometimes the moms would mind the kids while the dads had a boys’ night (and vice versa). Or we put all the kids in the activity camp for an hour or two so we could enjoy the adults only pool (and puh-leeze don’t let those littles make you feel guilty about it). I even went snorkelling with the huzz and let our lovely friends watch our daughter while we won some time as a couple, which would’ve been impossible if we had travelled in our usual gang of three.
Be grateful and resist scheduling every minute. We would always come up with loose plans for the next day or two, and if they fell flat or changed direction, there were no arguments or tense discussions about what went wrong. I think it’s because we were all so grateful to be on vacation and away from our daily to-do lists. Never mind the freedom to steal away moments—or just go to the bathroom in peace—because we arrived with a village willing and able to watch each other’s kids, backs and best interests. (I now it’s cheesy but I gotta say it…hashtagblessed).