It’s been 5 years since our last big vacation. In 2007, Lily had just entered our lives, and it was our 5-year anniversary. We left Lily with my in-laws at the time, and the three of us (myself, Namita, and Josh) spent about four days at the Paradisus Punta Cana. A decent resort, fairly okay food, but good weather. The only problem? Four days went by fast, and we already had to go home.
This year is our 10 year wedding anniversary, and we wanted to spend at least 6-7 days somewhere tropical. Working with our always awesome and extremely resourceful travel agent Tom Varghese, he helped us research and narrow down a vacation that would fit our needs, schedule, and budget. Considering that this is our 3rd time working with him (honeymoon 10 years ago, our 2007 Jamaica trip, and 2013 Playa Del Carmen trip), he’s 3 for 3 on great vacations. This year, we settled for a 6-day, 5-night vacation at the all-inclusive Paradisus La Esmeralda in Playa Del Carmen, about 45 mins from Cancun, Mexico.
For the past two months, we knew that we were leaving on Saturday August 31st for our big family vacation this year. In prior vacations, we’ve often been so busy in the days before the vacation actually starts that we end up packing at the last second. I still suffer post-traumatic stress flashbacks to our 2007 and 2008 Jamaica and Punta Cana trips when we packed all night long, got late packing up the car, then drove straight to JFK desperately hoping to make our flights. I swore never again. My plan was that we pack ahead of time Wed and Thurs, load the car up Friday night, and — here’s a novel idea — sleep in bed that night.
It almost worked out that way this year. Almost. I’m happy to say that we did begin buying extra clothes in the weeks prior, and began packing our suitcases earlier in the week. We did have minor items to pack early Saturday morning, so no, the suitcases were not loaded into the car hours in advance. I built in buffer time for travel to JFK, to drop off the car at The Parking Spot for off-airport parking, travel to the terminal, and drop off the bags. I don’t usually like to build so much buffer time into my travel, because I like to live on the edge, but again, post-traumatic stress. We left 30 mins later than planned (around 5:30am), but the NJ Turnpike and the Belt Parkway were clear. We made it with plenty of time, sailed through security, and were comfortably (uncomfortably?) sitting at our JFK gate for 90 mins prior to our flight. We bought breakfast at one of those terrible, overpriced restaurant vendors at the terminal, and waited.
The flight itself was non-eventful. This was Lily’s first trip on an airplane. I thought this would be more momentous for her, but after takeoff, she was strangely uninterested in the view from her window seat. Maybe I’m unfairly comparing her to me, but since I was a child, and still to this day, I enjoy looking out the window at the clouds, the land features far below, and that beautiful blue sky. My kids? Not so much. Oh well, maybe they’ll see it one day.
We took private transport to the resort, checked in without too much fuss, spent way too much time talking to our Guest Services concierge guy when all we wanted to do at 4pm was eat lunch, and finally made it to a on-site restaurant. After lunch, we checked out our two rooms for the first time. This year, through the help of our long time travel agent, we had two wonderfully appointed adjoining rooms — one for the kids and one for us — both with separate bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms, and balconies. Two LCD TVs in each, three hot tubs combined, two small kitchenettes, and one large dining room. Definitely the nicest setup we’ve ever had.
After lounging for a spell, we freshened up, and made our way to our first reservation at the resort’s Asian Fusion restaurant Bana, “A contemporary Asian fusion cuisine and offers a sushi bar, Teppanyaki tables and its own themed Martini bar.” Good food, but not in huge portions. So far, the resort seems to believe in quality over quantity. I’m onboard with that.
We would have attended the 9:30pm outdoor show at the South Avenue Bar, but everyone was fairly exhausted after such a long day, so we turned in early. There are shows put together by outside performers every night, so maybe tomorrow night.