I booked an all-inclusive Puerto Vallarta package for the Xmas holidays months in advance. I was giddy with excitement dreaming of blue skies, margaritas, digging my bare toes in warm sand, reading trashy beach novels, and relaxation time with my 2 brats. Every evening after household chores, I excitedly researched possible excursions including the Marieta Islands, and pored over every TripAdvisor review.
When I booked, who knew I would be in a boot cast recovering from a broken ankle. Maybe kayaking near the Marieta Islands would be overly-ambitious. I already knew the answer when I asked my orthopaedic surgeon his thoughts on zip-lining, but maybe by miracle he would answer, “of course, take your kids on this fabulous outing!” It was of no surprise, when he replied, “that would not be a good idea.” If only I knew, that was the least of my concerns.
We were leaving the day after school closed for winter break. My son was excited to ski the local mountains before we departed for warmer temperatures. He arrived home limping. I initially assumed it was just a minor fall. At about 9 pm, I heard him crying in the bath, which was very unlike his brusque hockey demeanor. I insisted we visit emergency despite his strong reluctance. It was hours before we were seen, and the great majority in the waiting room were the result of winter activities. There were countless kids accompanied by worried parents with broken bones and/or sprained ligaments as a result of skiing, snowboard, tubing accidents. Adults grimacing as they slowly tried to adjust to their newly acquired accessories (stitches, heavy-duty bandages, crutches and casts). Never seen anything like it!
We were finally seen by the doctor as the 7th hour approached. I was horrified to learn he broke his leg. I initially thought it was a sprain. My son’s pressing question was, “When can I ski again?” In my mind, never was too soon. The doctor noted it was a minor break that would heal within 4 weeks, and he could be back on the slopes this same season. I asked with trepidation if we could still proceed with our vacation noting our flight was departing in a few hours. The doctor replied confidently, “Yes, go as planned. Flying is fine.” He paused, gazing intently at my son, “But you cannot do anything: no fun, pool, no running, just sit and don’t move.” My son’s father berated me about my parenting negligence, and suggested our son not travel. This upset my already tired and stressed son more as he already heard the doctor give the green light to travel, and my kid desired to vacation as planned.
We finally made it home in time for my son to sleep an hour before departing for the airport. There are benefits to being anally prepared. I had already packed. What a relief!
It was challenging manouevering through chaotic airports bursting with Christmas travelers. 2 of the 3 travelers hobbled on crutches and wore boot casts. Thankfully, the flight itself was uneventful.
My belligerent teenage daughter had a spoiled brat fit when we arrived at the resort. She demanded to leave. Our accommodations did not meet the elite standards that she has grown accustomed to with her affluent father and step-mother. Not exactly what a single mom on a frugal budget, who has saved and sacrificed, wants to hear. Devastating!
After dealing with her drama, I headed to Front Desk to request a room change. Being on the 4th floor with no elevator was not the ideal situation. I was relieved the resort offered wheelchair rentals. At that point, I would have paid any price for the equipment. Unfortunately, each time we left the wheelchair on ground level it disappeared. We slowly made our way to Front Desk, waited IM-patiently our turn behind large tour groups, and re-canted the same story about the missing wheelchair(s). I was about to lose my mind wanting to yell, “WHO THE @!@# REMOVES A WHEELCHAIR??!!!??” Obviously, its used by someone in need. Instead the hysterics of me throwing myself on the tiled floor kicking and screaming only remained in my tortured mind.
On our 1st full day, we took a taxi into Bucerias town. Originally, I forbade my son from bringing his new iPhone, but at the last minute I relented. What else would he be doing if he couldn’t swim or frolic around the resort? Somewhere while wheeling over the cobble stone streets his new smartphone must have dropped out of his pocket. He noticed when we were on the cab ride back to the hotel. I screamed at the cabbie to detour back to town. Our search was fruitless. The kids started bickering, blaming each other, and then ganging up against me for becoming frantic. We returned to the resort, and I turned on data to call my phone provider to: 1) determine if the phone was used 2) cancel.
Unfortunately, the hold was unbearably long, and I wondered how much roaming and long distance would cost in addition to the replacement phone. $$$$$. This trip was not how I imagined, and I just wanted to be in my own bed to cry, but I was far away in a foreign country. A drink of any kind was a turn off. I purchased a pack of Camels while waiting for the phone company to answer. As I angrily puffed on a cancer stick, my daughter concerned that I was gone for such an extended period, caught me. She grabbed the smoke stomping on it, and screamed in disappointment.
This was a pivotal moment of our trip. This amazing or disaster-ous vacation could be as happy and carefree or shitty as I wanted it to be for my family. Team Mom needed an attitude adjustment. Woah, I was in the beautiful Bay of Bandera with my children for the Christmas holidays. The heavens called out to me with an exquisite sunset as the purple & pink skyline changed hues. Everything because vivid…the smell of ocean breezes, guests laughing, and tall glorious palm trees. The tropical heat hugged me with love.
The reality of a lost phone is that it’s just a piece of metal that could be replaced. My son had a minor break. I always had a philosophy that at least once in a child’s life they will have a sprain or break, and that moment arrived. In the grand scheme of things, my family was healthy and privileged enough to travel.
Good things starting happening once my attitude changed. The point of a vacation is to enjoy rest and relaxation, removing every day stress. I was adding more to my plate.
My kids started to have fun. We were able to enjoy the large ornate Xmas tree in the lounge. Why didn’t I notice the lights twinkling? My son wheeled himself up and down ramps, enjoying the wheels accelerating down the ramp giving my heart palpitations.
We did not manage a cruise excursion or zip-lining (or even skydiving which I have experienced several times along the Mexican Pacific Ocean), but there were plenty of in-house activities to occupy our time.
My son and I played paddleboard by the main pool even if he was in a wheelchair. At noon daily, the iguanas feasted on fruit salad in the garden. My daughter and I eagerly awaited mid-day aqua aerobics.
The grounds were vast. As a result, I often had a difficult time pinpointing where the kids were located. The obvious choices were any WIFI areas: the outdoor sports lounge by our block (each hotel building was on 1 of 7 blocks), Front Desk, or the secondary lounge a long hobble from our room. My son checked our hometown ski report at every opportunity. There were a variety of food options throughout the day including several snack bars, buffets, and a la carte restaurants (Brazilian meat galore, Italian, Japanese, Asian fusion, Japanese). We binged at all, and especially appreciated the great efforts of their festive Christmas Eve spread. Santa and his elves do not arrive via the chimney, but on jet skis in tropical paradise.
To my amusement, I learned that we were the center of a rumor at the resort. Apparently, my son and I were not were wearing our seatbelts in a motor vehicle collision which led to our current handicapped state. However, my daughter was smart enough to wear her safety belt which was why she could be running carefree through the resort. People seemed to gravitate to us.
I convinced my kids to watch the cheezy evening show held in the outdoor ampitheatre. I even experienced a bit of a romance (which was something I never imagined). Jordan overheard our family banter, and eventually introduced himself. His initial thoughts were that we had a great relationship, and was curious on our family dynamics. He was great with the kids. To my great surprise, I couldn’t believe how much they each confided in him. I convinced Jordan to wake up at the crack of dawn to watch sunset each morning, sometime I was unsuccessful with my brats. I would wait at the sports bar gazing at the moonlight and palm trees’ reflection in the pool wondering if I would be stood up, but I never was. We strolled the beach hand in hand watching the waves crash and the sky lighten. I was able to walk further each day on the soft sand without my cast and most importantly, without pain as my ankle grew stronger. Morning sunset along the ocean is the best, smelling the morning dew, gazing at impressionist hues change from dark to pinks/purples/blues. We got to know each other with various stories. He always had bubblegum pop boy bands playing on his phone. After our morning walks, we said our temporary goodbyes as he headed to play tennis, and I returned to the room to wake my son and daughter to their great annoyance.
On Xmas Eve day, my family met our friends for a vibrant seafood lunch along the bustling Malecon. One cannot help feel a little nostalgic and homesick during the holidays, and it was wonderful to see familiar faces. My son celebrated his 13th birthday on Dec 25th by smearing bright Xmas green cupcake icing on his face :).
Overall, we enjoyed a wonderful and unforgettable time away. It got off to a rough start, but attitude is everything. Puerto Vallarta still remains on of my favorite Mexican destinations. I can only hope to share another visit, but one may be disappointed as I would assume it would not be as eventful.