I have always been a fan of traveling, and I have to thank my high school for that. In the 9th grade, I was fortunate enough to travel to London as a part of the English curriculum, and in the 12th grade, I traveled to Italy and Croatia as part of a chorus trip (disclaimer: I absolutely cannot sing but knew this trip was a thing). I was used to traveling along the East Coast or vacationing in the Dominican Republic because it was what my family was comfortable and used to. However, after these two high school trips, I knew there was more in the world that I needed to explore.
In 2017, I was able to convince my family to go to Montego Bay, Jamaica to celebrate my parents’ 25th anniversary. This year, I was able to push Cancun, Mexico as our newest vacation destination. After as much budget and all-inclusive planning as possible, we settled on staying at the Royal Sands Resort with a layover in Chicago on the way there and a layover in Orlando on the way back. Aside from Expedia’s horrible customer service, the flight delays on the way back, and United Airlines being United, I would not change any part of the trip.
The Restaurants & Food:
Each restaurant we ate at was SO good. The dishes were full of flavor and authenticity. We made sure to try a different one each night, both within the resort and outside of it, from seafood to Italian to Mexican to the buffet. The 24-hour room service was impeccable, and the bar food might actually have been better than what we have here. I absolutely took advantage of the all-inclusive package, and I probably made the resort run out of strawberry margaritas. BIGGEST ADVICE: Take the bus everywhere! It is only $1 dollar per person and goes up and down the “hotel zone” strip during all hours of the day. We used it to go to dinner, to go out, and to get back to the resort. The drivers were very helpful and would always make sure to tell us when our stops were coming up. Also, it is a guaranteed way to interact with locals, especially during rush hour.
The (Attempt At) Nightlife:
I have never gone to Vegas; however, Cancun’s main nightlife gave me major The Hangover vibes. We went out to Congo and got our tickets through a resort employee who was in charge of nightlife. As soon as we pulled up to the location, there were dancers everywhere we turned at every single establishment. Rather than paying the cover charge, people would stand on the sidewalks with a drink and watch the scene for free. The club did not on the top of my list (the open bar consisted of bottom tier liquor, and it was filled with parents believing they were in a music video), but the music was great, and I can now say I was there for my brother’s first club experience. BIGGEST ADVICE: Make sure to go out in a group! Although this is something that should be applied to any night out, the Cancun strip had a LOT of businesses with people outside pushing products or “discounts” or “experiences.” We were even offered to see table dancers although you could clearly tell we were a family. Because there were 4 of us, it seemed easier for the solicitors to back off once all of us said no.
Tulum & Lulu the Dolphin:
I love exploring areas outside of where I am staying. Although there is comfortable and unlimited food and drinks within the walls of the resort, there was a need to find out what there was beyond that. On the 4th day of the trip, we visited Tulum, a coastal city that still had preserved Mayan ruins. On our way there, we stopped at a jewelry and tequila factory (definitely made for tourists), but we were anxious to get to the main attraction. After arriving to Tulum and walking through the entrance (which had a Subway and a Starbucks – think of the parodies featured in the castle in the first Shrek), encountering many iguanas along the way, we came across a multitude of pyramid-shaped temples surrounding by the jungle and situated right next to the water. BIGGEST ADVICE: Definitely make sure to set aside a few hours and wear sneakers (I mistakenly wore my Birks) when visiting Tulum. It was about 1.5 hours each way from where we were staying, there was A LOT of walking on both flat land and hills, and you will definitely want to make it to the top if you want dope pictures.
On the 5th day of the trip, we met Lulu the Dolphin. With being a family of 4 tourists, we felt that doing a dolphin experience was absolutely necessary. We went to Dolphinis Cancun, which is located inside an amusement park, and decided to do the interactive, educational experience. Although we did not have much time with the dolphin as the other experiences offered (unfortunately, our experience did not offer the full-day park pass), it was still an amazing experience with some classic photos. BIGGEST ADVICE: If you are staying in Cancun and decide to go a little further out of the hotel zone, make sure to figure out the bus schedule beforehand. Ventura Park is the absolutely last stop of the bus route, and not every bus goes there. The evening buses start up again at 5 PM, so you either have to plan to stay there all day if you want to wait for the bus or take a taxi back to the hotel.
The Big Takeaway:
The Royal Sands had some of the most amazing, kind, and helpful locals I have ever met. From Mario at the Restaurant Veranda to Humberto at the Hacienda Sisal restaurant to Virginia, who cleaned our rooms, each person we encountered was a pleasure to come across. Yes, the resort was full of retired individuals who probably were timeshare holders and their families, but if the point was to relax and drink strawberry margaritas all day, this place did it all and more.
P.S. If you plan on traveling anywhere new, make sure to get to know those who are from the area. While you may be there to relax in the sun on a beach, the best way to say thank you is by getting to know those who may be cleaning your room, serving your food, getting your drinks, and making your vacation as perfect as possible (and if you support the wall, you probably should not be vacationing in Mexico).