This is part four of four blogs discussing extending a package holiday to include independent family travel. Part one, Getting the Most of Your Package Holiday – With Kids, discussed the concept and gave reasons why to consider it. Part two, Puerto Vallarta with Kids – Exploring the Town and Surrounding Area, looked at the itinerary for our 2-week trip. Part three, Cost Breakdown For Our Trip to Puerto Vallarta, looks in detail the budget of our trip.
One of the activities that always cheers me up is to plan a trip, even if we have no intention leaving on these trips. I like making up itinaries for potential trips as it allows me to learn about places I would love to see some day, which is everywhere. Now that I have outlined reasons to consider taking a package holiday at a resort and including independent travel, I thought I would include a few ideas that could be considered. This list is written with a North American bias and I chose destinations that were likely to have the most ‘hot deals’ available. These places have hoards of tourists but have fabulous, less visited, opportunites outside the resort. These are all holidays that I could see our family doing at some point.
Cancun & the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico – There are countless number of package holidays available and plenty of good deals to be found to Cancun and the Mayan Riviera. From your resort you could explore Playa de Carman, Tulum, the islands of Cozumel or Isla Mujeres, and multiple tourist attractions, great for kids. We have rented a car in this area before without issue and you can easily drive and discover some real treasures. Many excursions from resorts will take you for a quick stop at Chichen Itza during the heat of midday, but you can choose your pace and time of day if you go on your own, and it is one of those places that is worth taking your time. If you enjoyed Chichen Itza than you may be inspired to go further afield and explore Uxmal and the multitude of other facinating ancient mayan ruins. Merida is a facinating city and the towns of Izamal and Valladolid are worth a visit. For nature lovers you can explore the various cenotes or visit the flamingos in Rio Lagartos.
Mazatlan & Copper Canyon, Mexico – We were tempted to try this one instead of our Puerto Vallarta trip but it seemed a little too adventurous at the time, and is probably more suitable for older children. If you are comfortable with your kids on some longer journeys this could be an amazing experience. After enjoying your resort stay in Mazatlan you could take a 6-hour bus ride from Mazatlan to Los Mochis. From there you board the Chihuahua-Pacific Railway into Copper Canyon. You could spend a few days exploring the canyon before reversing the trip. You could extend the trip to the city of Chihuahua or complete the loop by going inland, though this would mean longer traveling times. You could increase your budget and add a flight or two if you want to reduce or eliminate bus travel.
Varadero and Havana, Cuba – If you live outside the US and are allowed to visit Cuba, there is no end to the number of beach holidays offered. Varadero is perhaps the most popular beach resort area and would be a nice place to relax for a week. I chose Varadero as it is fairly close to Havana which would be a great place to stay a couple days in. From Havana you could go out and explore the smaller towns via bus, car rental or tour. I have this thing about exploring islands and I may be tempted to endure the ferry trip to Isla de la Juventud.
Costa Rica – This would be a country that I would be tempted to forgo the package holiday and spend the whole time exploring but there are a large number of package holidays that would be tempting as well. Highlights include the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Arenal Volcano, plus many other national parks and beautiful beach towns. There seems to be less ‘hot deals’ to Costa Rica than other locations but there are still some great prices if you look hard enough at the right times.
Hawaii – This one is a bit different since the “All inclusive” holiday is not the norm in Hawaii (higher cost of labour and food/drink provide a different business model than Central America & the Caribbean) but you can still split a holiday between a relaxing beach stay and some independent travel. The Big Island of Hawaii may be the best place to for independent travel but there are options on all the islands.
There are many other destinations I could write about as every resort area has facinating places to visit (The Dominican Republic intrigues me) if you take the time to explore the area outside the resort. We would love to hear comments of similar trips you have taken or areas that you think would make a great resort/independent travel holiday.