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From Strong Roots…..

Grow Mighty Girls

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Journeys

Travel with Friends

We are really, really fortunate to have great friends that we love to vacation with.  We most often travel with my former college roommate (and med school classmate), her husband, and two girls who happen to be almost the same age as our two girls.  Our first big trip together was to a medical conference in Cancun when our girls were just little (ages 3-6).  The trip was such a success that we have repeated it multiple times.  In fact, my girls really only consider it a true vacation if this family gets to go with us.  We have been to Mexico three times (Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and San Jose del Cabo) and Hawaii once (Maui).  We have been camping with them every summer for 7 or 8 years now and also do a girls’ weekend every holiday season.

When we all get together, one of our favorite topics is rehashing past trips and planning for future ones.  Half the fun of traveling is in the planning and that fun is even greater when you share it with someone else.  In the many months that often pass between seeing each other, we share multiple messages about this VRBO or that AirBnB.  We debate the various merits and downfalls of resorts and camping sites.  We share our research about zip lining and food tours.  We compile shopping lists and lists of activities that we must do.  We meal plan and share the packing list.  You know, I’ll bring the salt, you bring the Ziplocks.  I’ll buy the wine, you bring the beer.

We have tried pretty much every style of vacation with our friends.  We have camped in trailers, stayed in all inclusive resorts, stayed in separate VRBO condos in the same resort and on our last trip even shared one large penthouse suite (yes, it was a blast!).  Somehow, with these friends, it all works.  I don’t think that would be true of everyone but this family is the one family I can honestly say that we can vacation with under just about any circumstances.  This has a lot to do with the kind of people they are.  It also has something to do with the fact that we have vacationed together a lot and know how to anticipate and prevent problems by now.  But mostly, they are just great people and that makes it work.

So, what do you look for in a vacation partner family?  First, I think that having kids of similar ages is a must.  That way, the interests and abilities are likely to be similar.  When our kids were younger they loved to swim (with us in the pool), build sand castles, collect shells, do crafts and play simple games.  Now that they are older we go zip lining, take long beach walks, body surf in the ocean, ride bikes down treacherous trails and let them explore on their own with in a safe distance.  Another plus is that they can all tolerate a similar amount of waiting and walking and time between meals.  It’s tough to have a two-year-old who needs to eat every hour and take a daily nap combined with a 12-year-old who needs privacy and freedom and adventure.

The other plus with similar aged kids is that we can mix it up. Nothing kills a vacation faster than sibling squabbling.   The best antidote for sibling squabbling is friends.  I can take the two younger girls shopping and my friend can take the two older girls to the beach.  The older girls can have a little freedom and walk down the street one block for ice cream while the younger girls do a puzzle on the dining room table.  When they all reunite, bliss reigns supreme (or something like that).  Seriously, though, it helps to shake things up a bit.  Having friends with you increases the odds that everyone will get what they need, when they need it, and even have someone like to do it with them.

Another attribute that I think is key in happy friend vacations is at least a modicum of economic parity.  I know, I know, I hate to bring this up.  Money is a touchy subject but one that has to be negotiated and agreed upon in order to pull off a successful friend vacation.  I love that our vacation partners are reasonable about money.  I know they won’t agree to take a vacation with us unless they can afford it.  We have reasonably similar incomes and reasonably similar ideas about how to spend our vacation dollars.  As I mentioned above, we ended up sharing a penthouse suite on this last vacation.  It was a huge unit with plenty of privacy for everyone.  The shared cost factor made it possible for us to afford some luxuries we wouldn’t have been able to afford on our own. Most importantly, we all agreed at the outset that it was worth it.  My friend and I are both very happy to pay for an ocean front condo when we are on a beach vacation.  We are also pretty likely to eat breakfast and lunch in said condo in order to save some money.  We will splurge on nice dinners with drinks but if we want a drink at happy hour we will make it ourselves in the condo instead of ordering from the resort bar.  We talk ahead of time about adventures and excursions and agree on one or two that everyone will like and that we can afford.  When we get there, we won’t be spending wildly nor feel that we have to keep up with each other.  We know that no one will be stressing about money and that is essential to a relaxing vacation.

Finally, you want vacation partners who are flexible.  We all know that the unexpected happens when we travel.  The last thing you want is a tantrum throwing, inflexible, stressed out travel partner.  If you travel enough, some gnarly stuff is going to go down and when that happens you want someone with you who remembered to pack a good attitude.  I’m pretty sure I can’t even remember all the things we have been through with our vacation partners but there have been hotel rooms that didn’t get booked (anyone need a roommate?), reservations that got lost (how will we keep these kids happy while we wait???), menus entirely in Spanish (we took college Spanish, right?), beach walks interrupted by lightening storms, ocean sick kids on boats, dropped ice cream cones, transit on local Mexican buses, poop in hot tubs (that was your kid, right?), sand in shoes, vomit in beds, head injuries, lacerations, and one really epic screaming fit in the middle of a lake on a paddle board.  And you know what? These people that we travel with took it all in stride.  No big deal.  We shared a hotel room, we kept the kids entertained, we found food for everyone to eat, we danced on the beach, we held hair while kids vomited and cleaned up afterwards, we closed lacerations and evaluated for concussions, we scooped up the ice cream and put it back on the cone (ten second rule!), we emptied shoes of sand and we helped our oldest daughters mend their friendship after that really epic screaming fit in the middle of the lake on a paddle board.

After all of that, I can honestly say, I really wouldn’t have it any other way.  The right travel partners exponentially increase the fun, lighten the load, enrich the memories and enlighten the journey.

San Jose del Cabo—-Friend Edition

One of our great pleasures in travel is traveling with friends.  More on this later but suffice it to say that we had a great time traveling in Mexico with our dear friends.  Our time in the Cabo area was fun filled and enjoyable and I hope the below tips will help make your trip better, too.

The first consideration is, in fact, where to stay.  I didn’t know this before we booked accommodations but San Jose del Cabo is NOT Cabo.  It is a smaller, more intimate town just to the east of Cabo.  It is also much closer to the airport which is an added bonus for me.  We stayed in San Jose on this trip and visited Cabo and I am so thankful that we stayed where we did.  Cabo (or Los Cabos) is busy, hectic, tourist filled and a bit pricey.  San Jose del Cabo is a 25-30 minute drive down the road but has a local, small town vibe that is refreshing.  Yes, there are tourists and yes, there are touristy things to do but it felt much more relaxing than being in Cabo itself.  We spent our first night at the Cabo Azul resort which is beautiful and everything you would expect in a high end resort.  I was happy to leave the next day, though, and check into our condo at Las Mananitas.  This is a relatively small, beachfront condo community which provided everything we needed for our week long stay.  I’ve included the link here and you will see my review of the property on the site as well.  https://www.vrbo.com/466060?utm_source=direct&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=earned:vrbo:sharecopylink:USA&utm_content=466060

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Las Mananitas

 

Next up, transportation.  We flew into San Jose, arriving at 6:00 at night.  I had decided to get a rental car for this trip.  (See my previous post).  Regardless of your mode of transportation, once you leave baggage claim, get out of the airport as fast as possible without talking to anyone.  There are men all over trying to get your attention, scam you, sell you something.  Arrange your transportation ahead of time and know where you will meet your driver/shuttle/taxi.  Go directly to that meeting spot.  You will be tired, and hungry, and dirty and overwhelmed and everyone you are traveling with will be a hot mess, but DO NOT GET SUCKED IN!  As a side note, Uber works in San Jose and surrounding areas but cannot pick up at the airport.  They are also currently in a pissing match with the taxi companies and local government because, as far as I can ascertain, Uber just hasn’t greased the wheels in Mexico quite enough for smooth operations.  We were told at one point by a “security guard” that Uber was in fact illegal.  This turns out to be a scam perpetrated by the taxi companies and I suspect it will be a nonissue as some point. There is a good review here if you are interested.  https://www.gringogazette.com/?q=content/uber-finally-legal#sthash.kF4U1zih.dpbs 

That being said, we found Uber to be a great way to get around the area.  We took it to restaurants, into the center of town, into Los Cabos and even back to the airport.  The area is also very walkable and safe and we enjoyed many strolls to and from dinner.

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Playa Palmilla
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Playa Palmilla

 

Now that you are here, what is there to do?  There are, of course, all the usual vacation suspects.  Reading, lounging, swimming, walking.  We found a great public beach, Playa Pamilla, a short 5 minute Uber ride from our condo which was perfect for beach play and swimming.  Much of the beach in San Jose is NOT safe for swimming but Palmilla is much calmer and was very safe the few days that we were there.  We loved the Thursday night art walk in downtown San Jose.  It runs every week from November through June with galleries and shops staying open late and artists and dancers displaying their talents in the town square.  We spent one day ziplining with Cabo Adventures which was fun for the whole group.  Our other big activity was a cooking class at Flora Farm.  Flora Farm is a great farm to table operation in San Jose.  They offer a beautiful setting, delicious food and cooking classes a few days a week.  The class we took was informative and fun for our group (ages 9-51).  I have reviewed these all in detail on tripadvisor.com.  You can find them under my profile @JenniferH456.  Here is the link for Flora Farms to get you started https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g152516-d6424449-r653275229-Flora_Farm-San_Jose_del_Cabo_Los_Cabos_Baja_California.html?m=19905

 

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Flora Farm

 

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Flora Farm

We did take a day trip into Cabo to check it out.  We did a bit of shopping (Pandora charms for the girls’ bracelets) and had lunch.  It didn’t take us long to grow weary, however, of the noise and bustle and head back to our hacienda in San Juan.

Food and drink options are plentiful.  These are also reviewed on Trip Advisor but, some highlights were Cynthia Fresh, El Fish, Cantina Sardina and Las Cazuelas del Don.  Las Cazuelas is a must do if you get the chance.

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St. John’s platter at Sardina Cantina.

 

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Las Cazeulas!

 

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Gorgonzola pasta at Cynthia Fresh!

Last stop, shopping.  El Wine Shop is a great place to get your morning coffee and buy your wine.  They offer a large selection of Mexican as well as European and American wines.  La Comer is the large grocery store in town and is well stocked with food, alcohol, clothes, games, boogie boards, etc, etc, etc.  The main plaza in San Jose offers a huge number of local shops and art galleries.  We didn’t buy much on this trip which is a bit rare for me but nothing really tugged at my heartstrings.  The girls each chose a dress at La Comer ($5).  My oldest and I split a pair of earrings ($20) and my youngest bought a bracelet with her name on it ($6).  We bought a bottle of tequila for my co-worker ($20) and eight bottles of vanilla (less than $1 each).

And that’s a wrap!  Leave me a note if you have questions or comments!

Unexpected

By now you probably know that I’m a planner.  I plan everything.  EVERYTHING.  When I travel I know where I’m going, when I’m going, who I’m going with.  I have it all planned down to the smallest details.  This is how I roll.

Sometimes, though, plans just don’t work out.  Sometimes we finds ourselves journeying at unexpected times to places we never thought we would go.  I don’t love these kinds of journeys, I really don’t.  But sometimes I’m forced to go on them.

I took one of these journeys recently with my oldest daughter and our oldest dog.  It was a gut wrenching journey.

Our oldest lab was approaching 13 years old when he began to show signs of slowing down.  Nothing specific really, just a little slower, a little weaker.  But he still seemed game for his daily walks and twice daily meals.  He still loved to be petted and eat ice cubes.  He was still the patriarch of our three dog pack.  This was the dog that had grown up my oldest daughter.  He was only two when she was born.  When I brought her home from the hospital, I told him in no uncertain terms that he needed to protect her, look out for her, and keep her safe.  He took those instructions to heart.  As a toddler, she would take her naps with her head rested on his belly.  Once she was out of the crib, he would sleep in her bed. Every night.  The muddy bedding made me crazy.  But the two of them loved it.  When she went out to play, he went outside, too.  When she went down the hill to her playhouse, he went too, and sat on the porch.  He walked to the bus stop with us every single morning, even on his last day of life.  He went to school with a Santa hat on.  That girl and that dog were best friends.

Over time, though, his weakness increased.  He had to be lifted up off the floor.  He needed help navigating the stairs.  His appetite waned and his muscles atrophied.  He made multiple trips to the vet.  He was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease and prescribed a lot of medications.  He took them all but still, he didn’t get better.  He developed large, weeping sores on his torso.  His weakness worsened.  We watched him get worse and worse, spending his days lying on the floor.  I prepared the girls that his time with us was coming to an end.  Either he would die soon or we would have to make the difficult decision to put him down.  They received the message well, took it in quietly.

Another week passed and he worsened still.  My husband and I talked about it and made the incredibly difficult decision that it was time to put him down.  He no longer had anything he loved in life.  I called the vet and we scheduled a time on Thursday to take him in.  Wednesday evening I told my daughters that it was time to put down their beloved pet.  There were tears.  There was sobbing.  There were heads buried under blankets.  I asked them if they wanted to come with me to the vet’s office when he was euthanized.  My youngest said no.  She wanted to stay in school.  She was sad but she and this dog had never been particularly close.  My oldest, though, that was a different story.  She said she wanted to come with me.  I wasn’t sure I could handle that.

She never wavered, though, in her desire to come with me and be with her dog at the end.  So, I picked her up at school at noon on Thursday.  We took the long way to the vet’s office.  She snuggled her dog in the back seat and held his paw.  She helped me get him out of the car and into the vet’s office.  She sat with him while he ate treats and had a sedative injected.  She wrapped her arms around him while the catheter was placed in his left front leg.  She buried her face in his neck while the lethal drug was injected into the catheter.  She held him tight while his heart stopped beating and his soul left this earth.  And she sobbed.  She sobbed, and sobbed and sobbed.

I told her we could stay with him as long as she wanted.  After a while she said, “Mom, I can’t leave him”.  So we stayed longer.  And still, she couldn’t leave him.  So we talked about how sometimes you can’t leave because you just need more time.  And how sometimes you just have to leave because more time isn’t going to make anything any better.  A few minutes later she kissed him one last time, said goodbye, and we walked out the door.

The ensuing days were filled with intermittent bouts of sobbing.  At bedtime when would lay in bed and cry for her dog.  I know with time this will get better.  I know she will move through her grief and come out on the other side.  I know that I’m incredibly proud of her for doing the hard thing and being with her first best friend all the way to the end.  I also know this was a journey I never wanted to take to a place I never wanted to go.  But I’m heartened, at least, that I had the best traveling companion ever.

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