An All-Inclusive Journey Over the Hill: Tips for Making Your Celebration a Success

“If I am turning 40 in Mexico.  I’m NOT going to do it alone in a Queretaro hotel room.  We’re going to celebrate at an all inclusive in Playa del Carmen.”   Fortunately, Chris was listening when I made this demand prior to our move and I made the great leap over the hill at Sandos Playacar.  The trip was successful but there were a few snags.  Here are some tips to make your celebration a success.

I was so excited not to be alone in a hotel room for the big day.
Enjoy the journey there.
The cheapest and fastest way to get to Playa del Carmen from Queretaro is to take a bus to Mexico City, and then fly to Cancun.  Since we had a really early flight, took the bus to the airport and stayed overnight at the Courtyard there.  Before we hit the sack, we decided to get a snack in the lounge.  When our waiter learned this was my 40th birthday trip, he decided to celebrate a day early.  That definitely made the journey a little more fun.

Thanks to Alfredo for the early birthday wishes!

Of course I need a doughnut birthday breakfast!  Foreign Krispy Kremes are super fancy.  I highly recommend visiting them at the Mexico City airport.
Look out for anything that is offered “complimentary”.  Nine times out of ten it’s not.
When we arrived at Sandos, a friendly concierge handed me a glass of birthday bubbly and gave us a quick spiel as to how to navigate the resort.  Halfway through my beverage, he mentioned that he would give us free hour-long massages, a bottle of tequila, and a cute tote bag if we would eat breakfast and attend a 90 min tour of their vacation club like properties the following morning.   How could I possibly pass up a free massage?!?! 

We also got a fun tote bag and bottle of tequila.
The following day we got tourist trapped.  We did get to see the club member condos and ate a yummy breakfast, but we lost almost two hours of beach time and had an amusing time managing the high pressure sales tactics. 

Okay, we've been here for 90 min folks.  The answer is still no.  Can we go to the beach yet?
I have to admit, however the massage was great!

Make sure you let the resort about your big day!
Chris let Sandos know that we were celebrating my birthday, so they had all kinds of surprises for me!

I loved the birthday cake!  I still have confetti in my luggage. 

The really yummy French restaurant had some surprises for me too!  
I got my own birthday serenade and drink...

 I am happy to report no one was injured, and the second attempt was a huge success. 
Fortunately the drink was split four ways so I was able to walk home safely. :)
Drink smart.
The US State Department just issued a warning about drinking alcohol at all inclusive resorts in Playa del Carmen.  At Sandos, I have found if you follow basic bar safety rules, you will be fine.  Always stay with a buddy, watch your bartender make your drink, alternate alcoholic beverages with bottled water or soft drinks, always keep an eye on your drink, and if it tastes funny don’t drink it! 

Keep an eye on your drink and don't forget WATER!
Many friends have asked me about ice issues. Chris and I had ice in all of our beverages at the resort and had no problems at all.  But I would use bottled water for brushing teeth and drinking. 

Be patient.
Mexico moves a little slower than the US.  It may take a while to check in. It may take a little while for workers to fix broken items.  It will get done, it just takes a little while.

While there, our door lock malfunctioned three times.  A couple of times, we had to wait about 45 minutes for people to fix the lock.
Fortunately the Sandos crew was finally able to get to the root of the problem.

Look out for the wildlife.
Sandos is committed to preserving and protecting wildlife, so there are many critters roaming the paths.  They especially have a LOT of cats. 

The resort cares for so many cats!!

Chris and I would name the kitties.  Meet burrito.  He was always looking for food.
We also walked past donkeys on the way to the beach.

I have no idea what this critter is, but he and his brothers and sisters were everywhere.

Enjoy the activities
Between the theme days on the beach, the watersports activities, and live entertainment there was always something to do! 

Everyday there was a themed party at the beach.

I had fun on Thai day.  The beach kind of looked like Thailand.
I even participated in some Thai Zumba.  

Okay it wasn't exactly like Thailand, but the games were fun!

That's better.

The resort had outside vendors provide all kinds of tours and activities.  This sky diver was practicing jumping into his wedding. 
The night time entertainment was not too shabby.
If you are traveling without the little ones, stay in the grown-up section!
I love being a teacher and working with kids, however while on vacation I prefer to have the option of relaxing without screaming kids and cannonballs.   At Sandos, we stayed in the adults only section which gave us access to adults only restaurants, an adult only section of the beach, adults only lounges, an adult only pool, and a suite complete with a Jacuzzi.  

The adult areas were either really quiet, or a rocking party depending on the area.  It was especially nice to have a very quiet breakfast. 
This tub was GREAT!  Tubs in Mexican houses are a luxury.

The adult section of the beach was a great place to spend quiet time.  It was difficult to hear the festivities  on the family side of the beach.

DON’T look at the your timehop and ignore the you have memories messages on Facebook.  Your younger self may have posted REALLY stupid stuff on birthdays past.

I was an idiot for posting this a long time ago...
And Finally…Don’t forget your sunscreen!! (and Aloe)

Take the number of bottles of sunscreen you think you may need and multiply it by three. Pack that much sunscreen.  The sun is MUCH stronger down here so it’s important to lather up. Just ask Chris.

This is Chris' head with sunscreen.  Don't forget a hat!

Overall, turning forty was a lot less painful than anticipated. Happy travels!

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¡Viva México!