Tag Archives: Ixtapa

Family fun in Ixtapa

After a week in Ixtapa, Mexico with kids and nary a bandito sighting, I have come to appreciate the real dangers of travel south of the U.S. border: the sun, stinging water fauna and the ocean. Runners up include the weirdly hard mattresses and elevator doors that close speedy-quick.

All of our encounters with danger occured within 48 hours of our arrival, and may have had something to do with our margarita- and cerveza-clouded parenting judement. But no matter. Here’s what went down:

Our son got a sunburn on his shoulders on Day 1, as for some reason I dressed him in a wife-beater tank-top that day and forgot to apply sunscreen to his shoulders. On Day 2 he got stung by a jellyfish, the pain of which eased when a local “healer” rubbed sand on it (good thing too, as my husband declared he’d been about to pee on Bennett’s arm!). A couple hours later Bennett was knocked off his feet by a huge wave and I had to recall my high school lifeguard training and rescue him by sacrificing my back on the offshore rocks. And finally, he ran into our hotel elevator and the doors closed behind him before we could get on. The elevator then went up to the 21st floor, Bennett got off — totally non-plussed (I was freaking out!) — and some random senora delivered him back to us. Ay yi yi!

But when we weren’t being radiated by the sun, dodging jellies, fleeing from rogue waves and playing elevator hide-and-seek, we discovered the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo area has a ton of activities and excursions to occupy a young family. Here are the top five:

1. Isla Ixtapa

It’s a short taxi ride to Playa Linda and then a five-minute boat ride to Isla Ixtapa. The island’s beaches are more protected than the main beach in Ixtapa, so the waves aren’t as crazy and the snorkeling is supposed to be good when it’s calm. You can walk between the beaches and take shelter at one of many restaurants for cervezas and snacks. Our kids liked collecting snails and sea glass, swimming and digging in the sand.

2. Croc watching

There’s a crocodile farm at Playa Linda where you can spot crocs sunning or swimming, and see iguanas and tropical birds. There are also crocodiles at the south end of Ixtapa beach where the river empties into the ocean.

I love this photo -- the kids are oblivious as to the "peligro" that lurks below.

3. Parasailing

One of the items on my husband’s bucket list was parasailing. When he found out it was $40 for a tandem parasail — there are parasail guys spaced regularly along the beach — he quickly amended his list to include parasailing with Avery. She loved it (though I have to admit, this mommy was a wee bit nervous watching them float high above the waves).

Getting ready for a parasail.

4. The beach

Our kids couldn’t get enough of the beach. The sand, running from the monster waves, all of it. I think they would have been happy to play out there all day, every day.

Avery buries Bennett. Finally, his fists and kicky feet can do her no harm!

5. Zihuatanejo

Zihuatanejo was once a sleepy fishing village, but I think its starring role in The Shawshank Redemption — as the place Andy Dufresne ran off to after he escaped the prison — helped turn it into an uber-trendy little town, complete with tony shops and taquerias. It’s definitely worth a visit. Located on a lovely bay, the waves are quite gentle. And the souvenir shopping is great, too. Gracias Ixtapa-Zihua! Hasta luego.

Souvenir shopping is always more fun when you try things on. Don't the kids look serious? Don't mess with me, I'm wearing a Hello Kitty T-shirt!

Spring break challenge: to book a last-minute trip

My husband and I are usually big trip planners. Sadly, we have missed the boat, plane and probably train when it comes to spring break, which begins in 18 days. We looked into Ixtapa in January, but then that Calgary woman got beat up in Mazatlan, so we decided on Jamaica. You have to fly through Toronto though, so we looked stateside instead, to Arkansas. The airfares jumped on that one, however, so we set our sights on Tucson. Who knew it’s impossible to fly there from Calgary for less than $700 and with fewer than one or two stopovers? Now, less than three weeks out, we are once again eyeing Ixtapa.

“We should just go to Ixtapa,” my husband said one night last week. “I bet we could get a deal.” “I agree,” I said. “I think this whole ‘getting gunned down by a drug gang’ thing is overblown. It won’t happen to us.” So, with thoughts on margaritas instead of machine gun-wielding muchachos, we pulled out the laptop, and searched iTravel2000 for some deals. Immediately, this beauty popped up:

Now, I’ve never heard of the Sunscape Dorado, but the gorgeous photos, description of the amazing Kids Club and $60 upgrade (per person) to a “Family Oceanview Suite” for a week nearly won us over. Then, we read this glowing reviews on TripAdvisor:

“I was so impressed on every level (other than the slow check-in) when it came to Sunscape Dorado Pacifico in Ixtapa. I’ve stayed at a few different Sandals Resorts, as well as travelling to different 5-star resorts in the Caribbean and the Mayan Riviera. I have enjoyed first-class travel and enjoyed the finest of everything … But let me assure you, this was a 5-star resort!!”

To get 5-star for $1,000 per person — all in, plus airfare — sign me up! Immediately after reading this review we clicked on the “verify” button, and were shocked when the total on our dream vacation for four suddenly jumped by $1,500.

We’d done the math and were prepared to pay just over $4,000, not $5,500. Incensed, I called iTravel 2000 to have an agent explain the price difference. Were we missing something?

Agent: “Well, what happens is airlines block off seats in certain price brackets and when those seats get filled up, the price goes up.”

Me: “Then why doesn’t it automatically get corrected on the site?”

Agent: “Sometimes it takes awhile for the system to get caught up.”

Sure. Right. Whatever they coached you to say at scam school, buddy. We then checked Sell Off Vacations and also the WestJet site, and each one showed the mysterious price “jump” when we clicked on “Book.” Um, can you say price collusion (or, false advertising)?

So now, 18 days away from spring break and still with no plans, we have a new strategy. (No, we will not look at 3-star properties! Nothing but the Sunscape Dorado will do, baby.) I’m going to check the sites daily for a two-weeks-out price drop that a Flight Centre agent assured us will happen. Wish us luck!

How about you? Have you ever experienced this kind of price discrepancy on a travel website?