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Trip Report: Christmas in PDC with Kids…Non-AI.

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Phoenix, Arizona
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Trip Report: Christmas in PDC with Kids…Non-AI.

Trip Report: Christmas in PDC with Kids…Non-AI. We did it, so can you!

Trip Dates: Dec 20 – 28, 2016

This report is broken out in separate “chapters” by day. I tried to manage the details to provide enough but not too much. If you have questions, just ask. I’m happy to help. I added prices where I remembered them, but wasn’t keeping copious notes.


Us: Mom and Dad (mid-40’s); Thing 1(12yo girl); Thing 2(10yo girl)

My Spanish is very good, theirs is not. So I’m the default speaker in all situations (taxis, stores, etc). Working on getting one of the Things up to speed so she can roll on her own. The other Thing can take or leave conversing in Spanish. Whatever, her loss.

General Info:

Accommodations: Booked through www.latidodemexico.com

2 connected studios with kitchenettes, dining table, balcony. Small, tidy condo complex in THE PERFECT LOCATION. Our first time to PDC proper, having stayed in Playacar previously. We wanted to be close to the beach, beach clubs, quick skip to 5th Avenue…but not too close. There are some thumping clubs! We stayed around 14th St/1st Ave..

Transportation: We relied on foot power, buses and taxis. Hence why location and proximity to eating and beaching were critical for us. Bus and taxi info provided below where appropriate.

Why Non-AI? Because that’s how we travel now. We’ve done AI, love them for what they offered us at that time. Maybe we’ll come back to AI in the future..maybe not. I thoroughly enjoy mixing in with the local community and navigating my way around eating, shopping, transportation. It reminds me how beautiful the people are who drive buses, sweep the streets, and run the laundry on the corner.

Lessons Learned/Things I Would Do Differently: covered in last “chapter” of this write up.

**I’ve used English Street/Avenue locations to make it easier for readers, vs. Calle/Avenida

Phoenix, Arizona
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1. Re: Trip Report: Christmas in PDC with Kids…Non-AI.

Day 1: Arrival

Arrived late afternoon. Pre-booked transfer with USA Transfers.

Price for 4pax, private transfer: $70 USD. Paid upon arrival at our destination.

Experience: Great. I asked our driver to stop at the 7-11 for some drinks and snacks. He kindly obliged – do this! It’s a quick stop, and your body might need to replenish the salts and chemical colors from the long flight.

Dinner: El Oasis @ 12th St/5th Ave. We were hungry and couldn’t be bothered to walk far. Overall: Food was good, saw people at the next table order a monster of a lobster. Kid Friendly: YES. Two other families with kids were dining at the same time.

Other: After dinner we walked to Walmart. Quite impressed by the Walmart, everything you can want is there – food, liquor, beach toys, tshirts, flip flops, clothing, etc. In addition to condo supplies, we grabbed a couple boogie boards for the Things, they like that stuff. $230 MXN each. We took a taxi home because we had a lot of stuff to carry. But totally walkable from our place.

Day 2: Beach & Tacos

Breakfast: Adults woke up early for a little exploring around the hood. We stumbled across Imprevist around 14th St/1st Ave, and decided to stop in for coffee and a bite. Imprevist had me at “hello”. The vibe of the restaurant and the cool little lane it sits on, you could be in Bali. With a basket of great pastries and fresh fruit that comes with each breakfast, it just made it that much better. And our server didn’t flinch when we asked to split a single order of chilaquiles. We love our chilaquiles. We liked the restuarant so much we came back for breakfast two more times during our stay.

Daytime: We ventured a bit, starting at the beach in front of the Grand Porto and heading north. We ended up at KOOL beach club.. The concept was something we were interested in – pay up front, stake out some chairs, and use money paid for the chairs as credit towards food and drinks. And just lay like vegetables. And Thing 2 really likes beach/pool combo so it made her happy.

We paid $495 MX for adults and $250 MX for kids, for chairs back from the ocean a bit and closer to the pool. As most people are aware, you pay based on location. I found out later Thing 1 should’ve been charged full adult price, but because they gave us that deal on our first day it worked to our benefit on subsequent visits. Food was good – Thing 1 loved the fish tacos.

Dinner: On the taxi ride home from Walmart the night before I asked the driver about tacos. I can eat tacos every day, they’re kind of my jam. So I wanted good ones. He recommended El Fogon. So we went there for dinner, the location next to Mega. There’s a line…good sign. We stuffed ourselves with tacos al pastor, queso fundido, and my favorite – tacos de chorizo. I don’t remember the exact price, but it was very reasonable. Lots of locals and tourists in the crowd.

Other: We walked around 5th Avenue on our way home. I love people watching, and there are people from all over the world here. It’s a great scene – families, sidewalk cafes, stores, single people bopping around in their club clothes.

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Day 3: DIY Tulum

Daytime: Thing 2 and I woke up early, and she came with me to the 5th Ave. bus station to check out prices/times for Tulum. Stopped at Starbucks on way. I don’t drink the fancy sweet things, I’m a Café del Dia girl. Their Chiapas coffee is good stuff. So we went to the station, grabbed the info, and then headed back to get our crew ready for Tulum.

Four round trip bus tickets to Tulum was $684MX. The bus makes a stop at the archeological site, which is perfect. It’s a quick walk to the hq where you can grab the tractor train to the entrance, or you can just walk it. It was packed. We arrived about 12pm, and the place was crowded. When we made it to the ticket line it was very long, and it was a hot day. But if you join a guided tour you skip the line – it was well worth the $10USD or so per person. Fast forward to the end of the tour. We exited and headed to the beach. We found a spot at Santa Fe beach club, had some snacks and sat under an umbrella while the Things played in the water. We headed back on the 4pm bus. That’s the advantage of DIY over a packaged tour. You call the shots.

Evening: At KOOL beach club the day before, I talked to our server and asked about a movie/cinema. We wanted to see Rogue One, and one of the things I really like to do when I travel around the world is see a movie. It’s a cool experience. So we grabbed a taxi to Plaza Americas where the Cineopolis is located. We got tickets for the movie, which was English w/Spanish subtitled. The theater was clean, reserved seating, and the movie was good. Husband it a bit of a movie popcorn connoisseur – he rated theirs high. Yay! Taxi from central PDC to Cineopolis was $90MX

After the movie we took a taxi to El Fogon. Why stray from what you know is good? Stuffed ourselves properly, and headed home.

Day 4: Beach & Cirque de Soleil


I’ve been wanting to re-discover my yoga practice, so I thought this trip would be a good chance to get back into the groove. I did some pre-trip research and sought out YogaLoft when we arrived. It’s located on 10th St/10th Ave, so it was a short walk from the condo. I bought the three day package. I was able to rent a yoga mat, but if there’s any way you can pack your own mat/towel, do it.

I work up early to head over by myself for an 8:30am class.. They are serious about their yoga there. If you’re looking for a spot to take a class or three, I recommend them.

Breakfast – After yoga I headed back and grabbed the family. All four of us went to Imprevist. Yep, it’s really good. And yes, you can go dressed straight from yoga class. It’s cool and casual.

I need to mention that I went to Café Chabela on 14th St/1st Ave for a daily Jugo Verde – Celery, OJ, Nopal. So refreshing, so tasty and only 30 peso!

KOOL beach club – we went back. We were lured by the mindless sun bathing and being attended to. Don’t judge! But we did upgrade chairs this time. We sprung for the $595MXN chairs for a better location. We paid $300MXN for the Things. That will buy you some solid eating and drinking for the afternoon.

Evening: On our drive from the airport on arrival day we saw signs for Cirque de Soleil. Don’t know why I didn’t research this sooner, but whatever. We thought it would be a cool fancy night out, and as luck would have it, we were able to book for the four of us. It wasn’t cheap. But the Things loved it so much. They’ve never seeing Cirque de Soleil, and they didn’t understand the concept. One of them said earlier, “Sounds like Cirque de Stupid…”. Well, that tune totally changed afterwards. We bought the champagne seats – comes with bottle of champagne and an assortment of sweet and savory nibbles. We did have appetizers at Nectar, the onsite restaurant. Very good. But honestly, I could’ve just eaten what Cirque de Soleil offered and been satisfied. *Cool note – it’s a bottle of champagne per couple, which means the kids got one too. But since they weren’t able to drink it, our server told us it was ours so we were able to take it home with us. That would NEVER happen in the U.S.

Taxi from central PDC to the Cirque de Soleil venue was $360 MX

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Day 5: Laundry Day & Christmas Eve

Daytime: The night before I asked our taxi driver about laundry – where’s a good spot to have it done? He recommended Lavafacil on 16th St/10th Ave.. I went over early, about 8:30am and dropped it off. Just stuffed all our laundry in a bad in a simple linen back I brought from home. Picked it back up at 5pm. For 5.5kg of laundry it was $71MX for wash, dry, fold. Perfect!!

We rambled over to KOOL early to take advantage of breakfast, since we walked away with credits on both previous visits. All day spent there. I have some observations on this in my “Lessons Learned” chapter at the end.

Evening: Thing 2 was tired and had no interest in going out for dinner. She wanted to lay in pj’s and watch a movie on the ipad. Having observed the safety of the condo complex, leaving her with a working phone, and knowing my own kid and her ability to handle herself – the rest of us went to dinner. This is also where location played to our advantage. We were probably closer to her while eating out that we may have been at one of the larger AI’s.

We ate at Da Bruno on 12th St/5th Ave. We shared a Greek Salad, which was very good. I think I just needed some fresh greens. A couple of us had pizza, one had pasta. Very good. And they do takeaway! So we took Thing 2 a pizza of her own. Kid Friendly: YES. Even though Da Bruno looks like it wouldn’t be kid friendly, it is. Sat next to a larger table with two babies – One in a stroller and one in a high chair.

Very unassuming evening. At home and it bed by 10pm. I noticed the night clubs in the area were very quiet for Christmas Even and Christmas.

Day 6: Christmas

Daytime: Everyone slept in. The girls were given their stockings – it was intentional that their gifts were small enough to fit into a single stocking each. One, for the purposes of packing. Two, our goal is to move away from our crazy Christmases of the past. This trip *WAS* their primary gift.

We headed to Imprevist for a late breakfast. We sat inside. At first I was a bit bummed that we couldn’t sit outside, but inside has a different vibe that’s no less great. They play some great music to dine to (Bruno Mars, Coldplay, etc) Kid Friendly: YES. Older kids do fine, ours did. And I did see some little ones at breakfast in high chairs. Little ones could make a meal out of the pastry basket and fresh fruit. I can’t vouch for dinner, but I’m sure it’s fine.

After breakfast I just wasn’t feeling it. When I’m at home I eat pretty healthy and I don’t drink alcohol very often. But on this vacation I did the exact opposite, plus lots of sun. And I think my body was telling me to pump the brakes. I needed to lay down. So Husband and Things headed to the beach and I just chilled at the condo all afternoon.

Evening: Both Thing 2 and I were happy staying in. So Husband and Thing 1 went to dinner at Di Vino? It’s on 12st St/5th Ave, right across from DaBruno. I don’t know what they had, but it must’ve made Thing 1 feel all grown up because she raved about it.

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4. Re: Trip Report: Christmas in PDC with Kids…Non-AI.

Day 7: Xel-ha

Daytime: We decided to do Xel-ha on this day. The day before while I was sitting around the condo, Husband and Things walked over to the 5th Ave bus station and bought tickets for Xel-ha. There’s a desk inside the station for Xel-ha/Xcaret/etc. Quick and easy. Included in your ticket is round trip transportation via ADO bus. Adults: $89USD; Kids: $44USD **DON’T PAY FOR A TOUR** It couldn’t be more simple to just do your own thing via ADO. Bus departed on time at 8:30am, and returned at 6:00pm when the park closes. I would recommend buying tickets at least one day in advance, the bus was full.

Evening: Everyone was tired, and in a semi-hungry state. So Thing 1 and I were sent out to gather dinner. We ended up at Da Bruno again. I got the Greek Salad, she ordered the Octopus Carpaccio – Thing 1 is my adventurous eater. She loved it. We grabbed some pizza to go for the others.

Day 8: Final Full Day/Night

Daytime: Husband and I went poking around, doing some fact finding for the next trip…adults only? Perhaps. On our adventure we stumbled across a little Spanish place “El Tapas”. We spoke to the owner and decided that we have our final dinner there. It was a toss up – Plank was our choice going into the day.

Husband made an appointment for a tattoo on our last day. If you do this, you need to consider your plans. A fresh tattoo means no sun or ocean, so schedule accordingly. If anyone is looking for a good tattoo artist, I can get his name. He’s over by Mamita’s, so he’s popular and busy. Husband is happy with his work.

The rest of us spent a final day with some beach time and shopping. We ended up buying three items at the Candle Boutique, right across the street from Imprevist on 1st Avenue. So impressed with her work. If you don’t like candles, it doesn’t matter! She’s not making traditional candles, you have to see them.

Evening: Dinner at El Tapas and Company on 10th St/10th Ave. I haven’t even checked the restaurant recs here on trip advisor for this little gem. I don’t care how high or low they’re rated. We loved it. The owner was charming and buzzing about the place. He remembered us from our drop by earlier in the day. We didn’t hesitate to order the Paella Mixta, which has both seafood and land stuff like chicken. It was the first time our kids had paella, and it was so memorable for us. They loved it. And very reasonably priced. I mentioned earlier that we woke up that day thinking our final dinner would be at Plank. See ya next time, Plank. El Tapas was busy, and it’s justified. I also saw some lovely tapas leaving the kitchen.

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5. Re: Trip Report: Christmas in PDC with Kids…Non-AI.

Day 9: Departure & Lessons Learned

Check out procedure with the condo was simple. Leave the key in the lockbox.

We ate brunch/lunch at 100% Natural on 5th Avenue, and we really enjoyed it. I need to have jugo verde everyday, I’ve decided.

We decided to take the ADO bus back to the airport. Actually, *I* decided this. I had read all the reports about the ADO service to the airport and figured we could make it work. So when I booked the transfer for our arrival, I only booked one way. Husband and I headed to the 20th Ave bus station earlier in the morning and booked tickets. Simple. Later we all wheeled ourselves over and caught the bus. Simple. Simple. Clean. Simple. $177MX per person. Adios PDC!

Lessons Learned/Observations:

• I wouldn’t go with the beach club so many days. Look, it was nice, the service and food/drinks were great. But for what we paid in total, we could invest in a cooler, umbrella and lots and lots of beer and food, and just park ourselves on the beach right in front of the clubs/AIs. I commented to husband that because we paid $$ for the club, we almost felt compelled to eat and drink our way through the daily credit. We overdrank and overate because of it.

• I absolutely loved where our condo was located. It was central so we could run and grab a bite, was far enough from the clubs on 12th Street, and in the case of one night, even leave someone behind who didn’t want to venture out…and feel ok about it. I might stay in another property in the same zone if we were on an adults only trip…upgrade a little bit. But with kids, location was perfect.

• I trusted my instincts on several items, and my instincts didn’t steer me wrong:

o Laundry – don’t pack for your whole trip! Laundry service is readily available and inexpensive.

o Talk to People – several recommendations came from taxi drivers and people from the community. They want to help, let them help.

o Not booking round trip airport transfer with a private service. The ADO bus was ½ of what we paid for private transfer, and so easy. Just do it.

o Not booking pre-packaged tours to Tulum and Xel-ha. We probably saved money and had move control over our schedule by booking via ADO.

o Not overscheduling our agenda. We left it open, which worked so well. Tulum, Xel-ha, Cirque de Soleil…all booked once we arrived. We sprinkled our time with beach days, and just did our thing based on how we felt that day. That’s vacation!

• My kids need to really work on their Spanish. Nothing more to say about that.

• We’ll be back! Adults only, next time….could use more night life in my life 

Edited: 5:32 pm, January 03, 2017
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6. Re: Trip Report: Christmas in PDC with Kids…Non-AI.

Luv your trip report. Lots of good detail.

Imprevist has the best breakfast in Playa, but dinner is outstanding as well. 100% Natural is another favorite, best hot cakes in Playa.

If you had walked the same distance south, Wah Wah's beach bar has free chairs, great beach and very good food (especially their pizza). Kool and Mamitas do have there fans.

Again, thanks for all the details.

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7. Re: Trip Report: Christmas in PDC with Kids…Non-AI.

We have many of the same favorites! Great job researching and thanks for sharing

New York City, New...
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8. Re: Trip Report: Christmas in PDC with Kids…Non-AI.

thoroughly enjoyed reading ... All of it!

Thank you ;)

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9. Re: Trip Report: Christmas in PDC with Kids…Non-AI.

I don't know why I even clicked on this post to read since we always do adults only...but what a great trip report! Love your writing style and a very informative report regardless if you have "things" or not!

Thanks for posting.

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10. Re: Trip Report: Christmas in PDC with Kids…Non-AI.

Great report! Good read. Thanks for taking the time!! Just went to Cirque De Soliel here in Michigan. I think hubby was bummed that it was a "girls night". Might have consider that for our upcoming trip. More research!!!