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Hyatt Ziva Cancun – Great Family Resort

Cancun. All-Inclusive. Family-Friendly. Dolphins. Sunrise AND Sunset. You have found the right blog post. Hyatt Ziva is the place!

“Let’s not talk about going home." Those were the words from our very own teenagers. This is a true story. Here’s what has been dubbed the best vacation ever! Let us show you why!

Ziva View of Hotel Zone

All four of our kids patiently waiting for the boarding call.

How Did I Survive as a Teenager without Technology?

Pro Tip: If traveling with kids (even teenagers), we have found it useful to use Ziploc bags for storing clothes for each day. Compressing the air out of the bags helps maximize suitcase space too!

Pro Tip: Use 2 gallon Ziploc Bags

We landed in Cancun and quickly navigated our way through Customs & Immigration. This is the view that awaits you in the transportation area. Don't fret, everyone is there to help. If you have transportation arranged in advance, the driver will be waiting for you with a sign.

We quickly found our driver and loaded up for the 20 minute ride to Hyatt Ziva.

Ok, enough about the journey, let's get to the destination. We arrived! COVID protocols were in effect when we arrived but the experience was very pleasant. 

Hyatt Ziva boast one of the most beautiful entrances of any of the Cancun Resorts. Their location on the northern tip of the traditional “hotel zone" in spectacular. 

The above photo doesn't do justice for the spectacular view. Let's get a little bit closer. I didn't know if I wanted to run to the pool or the ocean first!

The staff at Hyatt Ziva is so welcoming and friendly. We were quickly escorted to the Club Tower for check-in.

Tammy enjoying a glass of champagne - one of many!

We were excited to be in the Club Tower. This was the view from our 3rd floor room looking south towards the hotel zone.

Mr. Oinkster Approves.

Check out this awesome view from a much higher floor!

Wow What A View!

This is the view looking east from yet another room.

View Looking East

We had adjoining rooms with plenty of space for everyone. Having a ceiling fan in each room was wonderful too.

King Size Bed.

The bathrooms are appropriately sized, and the shower is plenty big enough.

Club Tower Bathroom

Staff kept the snacks and refrigerator stocked. Guests can ask for a variety of different items and adjust quantity amounts as needed.

Let's check out the rest of the resort property. The kids loved the pools the best. In fact, we rank Hyatt Ziva pools #1 overall for families among all the hotel zone and Playa Mujeres resorts. The cabana's by the main pool are awesome (extra fee…but worth every penny).

The Pools

The Main Pool

Main Pool Cabana Beds

View from the Sahara Pool

The swim up bar is popular and spacious

Forget Your Float? No Problem.

The Beaches

Enough about the pools, how about the beaches? The great thing about Hyatt Ziva is, being situated at the northern tip of the hotel zone, guests are rewarded with more than one beach option! 

This is the north facing beach. Unlike the south-facing beach on the other side of the property, this beach is isolated from the public. The water isn't as clear as the south-facing beach but with views of the red & white striped lighthouse and the evening sunset frames this beach nicely.

Did I mention the south-facing beach? Wow. Wow. Wow. Protected by a manmade jetty that protects the beach from wave erosion. This beach is accessible by the public but the beach is so large, the public is never an issue. And the Hyatt Ziva staff are constantly making sure the public does not access the resort property. 

Manmade Jetty

This beach offers access to the double-deck family cabana ($199-$249 per day depending on time of year). This was the location of the family cabana we rented one day.

Manmade Jetty

Here's the show stoppers…At Hyatt Ziva, you are rewarded with Sunrises and Sunsets!

Sunrise

Sunset

Dolphins!

Did someone say dolphins?! Yes we did! Everyday you can watch the dolphin swim and play. For an additional fee, you and your family can suit up and play with the dolphins.

@Moods is the exclusive teen-only lounge to hang out. There is a virtual reality simulator! Or they can play pool or foosball. Centrally located, this is a really cool place to just chillout, and it’s not hidden in some basement, so it’s easy to get too.

Virtual Simulator

Virtual Simulator

Last but not least….FOOD! Our kids loved all the restaurants at Hyatt Ziva. They had everything from pizza, Lasagna (Lorenzo’s), Japanese (MoonGate), and Steak (Tradewinds). Tradewinds was also the location of the best breakfast on the property, although the breakfast buffet at El Mercado was great too. 

Tres Cervezas had the BEST hamburger any of us had eaten anywhere (Stateside or abroad).

This is the iconic Chevy's restaurant.

El Mercado's Breakfast Buffet

Craving Japanese? MoonGate is your savory option. You can choose to sit at the grill and watch the “show" (similar to most Japanese Steakhouses) or you can elect for a table off to the side and order of a menu. We chose the show!

One side of Moongate:apos:s dining room

Chef had mad skills!

Best Beef Wantons Ever!

And the sweetest place at Hyatt Ziva is definitely Pastels. Check this place out! It was always a great stop for ice cream and other baked goods during the day, and especially after the evening entertainment show each night. 

From our family to yours, we hope you enjoyed this review. If you need any free travel planning services, for Cancun, Disney properties, cruises, or anywhere else, just send us a message!

2021 Year of the All-Inclusive Resorts: Secrets Cap Cana Arrival Day

Greetings friends! Eddie here. Tammy asked me to take on the roll as blogger for this trip, so when your beautiful, travel agent wife asks you to carry your weight, you gladly respond “As you wish” (The Princess Bride fans will get that reference).

Our 2021 travel year started in Punta Cana (Dominican Republic). With COVID still lingering around the globe, our options were limited but still luxurious and tropical. In 2020, we had traveled to other All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico, like Unico and Excellence Playa Mujeres, so we wanted to venture to a new destination and selected Secrets Cap Cana. Here we go…

The Punta Cana International Airport was surprisingly quaint. No mobile ramps or modern architecture to detract from the tropical paradise that awaits you. The thatched terminal rooftops left no doubt you had arrived to the Caribbean. 

The Customs and Immigration areas were spacious and well marked for travelers.

COVID safety protocols were in full effect. Since this was our fourth international trip during the world pandemic, we were used to these measures, and so was everyone else around us.

The baggage claim area maintained the charm of thatched ceilings and open breezeways. The warm tropical breezes were beckoning us.

Punta Cana Baggage Claim

Once you exit baggage claim, the shuttle/taxi area is very easy to navigate and find where you need to go. We had arranged transportation to Secrets Cap Cana through Mike Fisher Tours and Travel.

The drive from the airport to Cap Cana was a very short 15 minutes. We've arrived!

The welcome staff was friendly and very helpful. They always enjoyed pausing a moment for a great picture!

In typical Secrets fashion, we were handed a glass of champagne upon arrival to kickoff vacation! 

Eddie, Tammy, and our two newest travel buddies: Julie and Angela!

Tammy enjoying her champagne while I perform my duties as business photographer.

The open-air lobby area is reminiscent of other Secrets Resorts. Their architects and designers do such a wonderful job creating great signature views as soon as you arrive.

We were staying in the Preferred Club for this trip, so we were escorted to the Preferred Lounge for check-in. Along the way you get an opportunity to see restaurant locations or subtle landscape elements that make each walk memorable.

Jourdain was patient with our questions.

This was my favorite restaurant.

My mother's side of the family is Italian (shout out to the Lazzuri peeps!), so naturally I quickly see the Italian restaurant Portofino's on the walk to check-in. This restaurant would later provide a great outdoor dinner experience on Day 2.

There's something about wine bottles hanging from a tree that mesmerizes me, as if calling out my name.

After a short five minute walk, we arrive at the Preferred Club lounge for check-in.

Karla helped check us in as we waited for our Room Host (sometimes referred to as a “butler”) Oliver, to arrive.

Yes, I believe those are watermelon margaritas.

And who else would it be, none other than the famous Javier! He was fantastic behind the Preferred Club bar. I watched him handle a many obnoxious and loud guests with grace in the evening hours. 

Oliver is on his way…here's where we're headed!

Oliver is going over the details of the room. COVID cleaning protocols are visible throughout the room.

Yes, Tammy is still nursing her margarita.

The snacks and refrigerator were stocked with plentiful options. If you wanted more or less of particular items, your room host can easily accommodate.

So….you wanna see the beach! So did we. We quickly grabbed our bathing suits and headed out to the Preferred Club beach area!

This was a great way to unwind from a quick flight and relax before dinner. You can see more beach, pool, and property pictures here.

Secrets Cap Cana Beach, Pool, and Property Amenities

Thinking about vacationing at Secrets Cap Cana? Read this first. Tammy and I have visited other Secret Resorts (Secrets Akumal and Secrets Maroma) but this would be our first vacation to the Dominican Republic and Secrets Cap Cana. Let me say, it did NOT disappoint!

From the moment you arrive, the Secrets brand of open-air lobbies welcomes you home.

Cap Cana has one of the widest and most beautiful beaches we've ever visited. 

Lobby bar area

Plenty of seating through the lobby

Frequent visitors to Secret Resorts will recognize Coco Cafe. Strategically located in the lobby with fantastic views over the property.

View from outside Coco Cafe

Lets take a look inside Coco Cafe real quick.

Muffins, Donuts, Cake. Yes, please.

Lets cut to the chase. Here's the pool area. 

View from the beach.

Early morning walk view

Luis helped me every morning

The best feature of Secrets Cap Cana is the view of the beach from the pool. Fantastic.

View from our pool location

Obligatory “Wish You Were Here” photograph.

Tammy and our two travel buddies, Angela and Julie, enjoying some quality pool time.

Can't vacation without a “drinks in the pool” picture

Want a night time picture of the pool? Here you go.

Swim Up Rooms provide same colorful glow

The Preferred Club Pool area was small but intimate. Seating was understandably very limited during COVID-restrictions.

Oceanfront Bungalow

Here is the headliner…The Beach!

Tammy was my model this evening.

Preferred Club Beach Area

View from our beach chairs under the Palapa

Bali Beds Available for Extra Fee

Early morning strolls provided some of the best picture opportunities.

Beach Wedding Setup

The clear water wasn't beaming with fish but I was able to see several conch shells.

I placed it back where I found it.

One last stop – the fitness center, just in case you want to burn off some calories. The center had plenty of well-maintained machines and weights to keep up with any fitness routine.

Standalone Facility next to Building 9

Secrets Cap Cana is a fantastic resort. I wish we could've stayed a few more days. Stay tuned for a review on some of the restaurants we visited.

Excellence Playa Mujeres

Hi, I'm Eddie (My friends call me Fast Eddie but that's a story for another time). It looks like my beautiful, talented, travel agent wife, Tammy, has handed me the reigns for this blog. I question her decision but if you're married, I know you understand the art of compromise. Here's a picture of compromise when your wife tells you to get on the swing when you don't want to.

Now, I think you should know right up front that I'm not as eloquent with the written word as Tammy, but I am honest and to-the-point…which I think most people appreciate. If you're into connecting with an authors feelings or intimate thoughts, you can try reading some of Tammy's trip blogs on the Grand Canyon, Disney World, or Alaska!

Having provided that disclaimer, lets get started!

Trying to celebrate a wedding anniversary in the middle of a World Pandemic is difficult, but we haven't let COVID slow us down yet (Disney During COVID and Unico 20.87). So off we go!

Before we take you straight to Excellence, this blog may be your first introduction to Mexico! If so, WELCOME! After you arrive to the Cancun International Airport and depart immigrations, you will have to pass through a rental car and resort sales area. 

If you have pre-arranged transportation to your resort, which we highly recommend, you don't need to stop in this area. Just keep walking to the double doors that lead outside to the transportation hub. Here you will see all the private transportation and public transportation options. Tammy and I prefer pre-arranging transportation with Kalido and Amstar. Each of them have provided great service. Tip and shameless plug:  If you book your trip with Tammy, not only will she help you select the perfect resort, she will also prearrange your transportation for you (her travel agent service is at no cost to you!) 

This is the hub where your transportation greeter will escort you and your baggage. Here you will meet your driver.

We selected Kalido for this vacation. Our driver was Adriano Sosa. He was one of the best drivers we've ever had. Kalido drivers have always been polite, helpful, and safe.  

As soon as we exited our van and before we enter the resort doors, the Excellence staff sanitizes your luggage, provides hand sanitizer, and requires guests to walk on a sanitation pad.  

Entrance through the front doors of Excellence offers the view of a seemingly ordinary lobby area.

But when you take a few steps forward, the lobby opens up to this spectacular view!

The COVID precautions continue at the check-in desk with temperature cameras and plexi-glass.

Excellence staff decorated the room door to help us celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Oscar did a fantastic job helping with the luggage and showing us the room.

We had a fantastic swim up room in Building 7 with a king bed, full-size tub, and beautiful view of the lazy river outside.

This room was fabulous. Having said that, there is one area for improvement. What is difficult to know by looking at this picture is how small and low these bathroom mirrors are fixed. For anyone shorter than 5'3″, they will struggle to see more than the top half of their head.

Like most resort showers, there are two shower heads, with one being a large rainfall element. The shower dimensions are huge.

The winner of the mini-bar contest goes to Excellence! Forget the mini-bottles…They provided full bottles of liquors for consumption during the stay. So, if the all-inclusive alcohol at all the bars wasn't enough, you could still stumble back to the room. Or, if a subtle evening is more your speed, you could enjoy a quiet evening with a drink on the patio. 

The actual mini-bar was reserved for some delightful beverages too.

After we unpacked and settled in, we decided to take a stroll around the resort. The pools and beach are stunning.

The Prelude Terrace Bar provided a festive environment for bands and musical entertainment.

Stars Theater was a fabulous open-air venue that provided entertainment every evening at 9:00PM. During our stay, the theater hosted a range of options from Fire Dancers to the Michael Jackson Tribute Show. 

Excellence is home to Aroma, a specialty coffee and pastry restaurant. The drink menu offers a variety of options for guests.

There were 20 different flavors of sorbet. Check 'em out!

The pastries and donuts were unbelievably fresh and hand-delivered every morning by the pastry chefs themselves.

Aroma also has pre-made sandwiches for a quick bite. Perfect for a meal-on-go before you head to the airport.

One of our favorite restaurants was Spice. You didn't need reservations unless you wanted the traditional dog-and-pony hibachi show. We opted for a quiet table and ordered off the menu. The decor, lighting, and food were all perfect. 

Although chicken teriyaki wasn't on the menu, the kitchen was kind enough to replace the steak teriyaki with chicken for Tammy. The tenderness was perfectly moist. Better than any Asian dish we've had back home. 

I opted for the Kung Pao that was packed with flavor.

But the best stuff of the night was dessert. The Banana Tempura with warm chocolate sauce was sinfully good. OH. MY.

Every restaurant was perfect. The food. The atmosphere. The service.

But I won't bore you with all the details of every menu item we savored, but I have to devote a few sentences to our meal at the Indian restaurant Basmati.

I can't adequately describe the flavor, spices, and aroma this dinner delivered. We love Indian food and have never tasted anything this good. The Korma Chicken (cashew nut, rich poppy seed flavored finished with rich cream) and Chicken Kadhi (chicken, green pepper, onion, tempered with roasted blended spices) was off the chart. The kitchen was also able to prepare a dish of Butter Chicken that wasn't on the menu. This meal was the highlight of all meals.

Here are some delicious pictures of other food favorites we enjoyed!

Oh! I almost forgot to mention the most important meal of the day…breakfast. Tammy and I chose to enjoy breakfast two mornings at The Lobster House which provided some great views.

And like most great resorts, the drinks were plentiful and delicious. 

Having stayed at Unico a few months ago, we were eager to see how Excellence Playa Mujeres compared.  It was almost on even par in all areas. There were two clear areas where Excellence exceeded expectations – the food and the beach.  Every single meal was fantastic and the beach had plenty of lounge chairs, palapas, a long stretch of area to walk and activities such as jet skis and parasailing just steps away.    

There are a lot of resorts that provide wonderful service and amenities in Cancun. Excellence Playa Mujeres ranks in our Top 2 (A trip report of our Top 5 resorts coming soon). As we wrap up this trip report, here are some positive elements if considering Excellence Playa Mujeres: 

  • Plentiful Beach Palapas
  • Lounge Chairs in Pool
  • Breakfast views at The Lobster House
  • Large room shower
  • Wide Beach
  • Agave restaurant (Awesome Mexican Food)
  • Spice (Great Asian/Better than Unico)
  • Basmati Indian Restaurant
  • Toscana Italian Dinner/Breakfast

Also….Excellence Playa Mujeres has some wonderful art. Check out a few of these landscape sculptures. These sculptures as scattered throughout the property and add to the elegance.

When we returned home I noticed that we didn't have a lot pictures of ourselves from this Anniversary retreat, but I'll leave you with one of my favorites during our dinner at Toscana.

Disney During COVID

You want to visit Disney World during COVID but you’re unsure how safe it is. Well, this blog is for you. In July 2020, Disney World opened its doors with limited capacity and many new safety protocols were in place to keep their guests safe. Temperature checks at entrances, social distancing in lines, sanitizer stations, partitioned stantions, and limited bus seating are some of the new experiences at Disney parks.

We arrived at Disney early evening. Since we were staying at the Yacht Club we decided to take a stroll on the Boardwalk over to restaurant Trattoria al Forno. The evening was warm with clearing skies, and the walk over was quiet. It was almost as if we had the Boardwalk to ourselves.

Empty Boardwalk

Our first full-day was a visit to Hollywood Studios to check out the newly opened Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway and the possibility of getting a Boarding Group number for Star Wars’ Rise of the Resistance. 

On our walk to Hollywood Studios, we passed the Skyliner. This is where we first saw the new social distancing placards on the ground. The placards identified the safe waiting distances between guests, as was the case for this extended waiting line at the Skyliner. 

Please Wait Here

Before entering any of the Disney parks, guests must pass through a temperature check point. Wearing masks was mandatory. The only time you were not required to wear a mask was when you were eating or drinking while stationary…this rule was strictly, but politely, enforced.

Temperature Check Point

Masks Mandatory

Masks? Check.

Time to get our Mickey on, so we begin our wait for Runaway Railroad! Aside from the temperature checks and mandatory mask wearing, the most noticeable COVID protocol was the expanded social distancing measures. Remember those “Please Wait Here” placards? Well, they are everywhere. The placement of placards extended wait lines swirling down sidewalks and streets. The extended lines create an image that wait times are forever, but the lines actually move fairly quickly.

The image below illustrates the area where the Runaway Railway spilled out to the vast concrete areas in front of the former Chinese Theatre. There are patio umbrellas strategically placed to provide shade for waiting guests.

See placards on ground.

Once inside the Runaway Railway, the permanent stantions were outfitted with sturdy plexi-glass and metal framing.

Here we go! Notice the cast members are masked up with face shields.

If you haven’t seen or experienced the new Skyliner, here’s a quick pic. The Skyliner connects EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and the resorts of Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and Riviera. 

Once back at the Yacht Club, we decided to have some relaxation time. Even the pool area was COVID-proof. There were signs reminding guests of COVID regulations and plenty of space between lounge chairs for social distance….which we didn’t have to worry about because we had the quiet pool to ourselves!

Yacht Club Quiet Pool

Later in the afternoon we headed back to Hollywood Studios for our #42 Boarding Group (2:40 PM) for Stars Wars Rise of the Resistance. Social distancing was still in full effect.

Tammy was admiring the Stars Wars gear along the route to help the Resistance. Psst…she’s not a big Star Wars fan so this photo was staged.

Guests ultimately end up outside prior to boarding an escape pod. Everyone was assigned a numbers for proper social distancing. This was your number throughout the remainder of the ride.

I’m not easily impressed but Disney…WOW…you really impressed me with the Death Star hanger bay. It was stunning.

Death Star Hanger Bay

Even the storm troopers were masked up.

After Rise of the Resistance, we headed over to Rock’n Rollercoaster. My hair is proof I was obviously still shocked from my experience on the Death Star.

If you’ve ridden Rock’n Rollercoaster before, you know this scene is out of the ordinary. Never before has the line spiraled like this. With the heat index at 99 degrees, this was the hottest wait of the day. Everybody below was socially distanced in line.

The permanent plexi-glass closest to the boarding area really complemented the “city” feel.

After a long, hot, exhausting day, it was time to head over to Disney Springs for dinner. This was our opportunity to see the COVID measures on the Disney buses. All of the seats were numbered and dividers were added in between seats grouped together. Before stepping onto the bus, the driver would ask how many people are in your party, then assign you a seat number. The straps hanging from the overhead rails were zip tied unusable, so there is no standing allowed. The days of seeing 50 people crammed on a bus are over for now.

Well, that concludes our hot, late summer, visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can also check out our visit to EPCOT for the Food and Wine Festival. We hope our story and pictures help you feel comfortable and safe visiting Disney during COVID. If you’re excited and want to book a trip, you know the best person to call is my talented wife and Disney-expert, Tammy.  

Disney World’s Food & Wine Festival 2020

Hey traveling couples, Eddie here. I decided to give Tammy a break and handle this blog myself. In September, Tammy and I decided to take a quick trip to Disney World for the International Food and Wine Festival. COVID obvisouly made it a different experience from year’s past but it was worth it!

Safety first, so before entering every park, each guest must walk through a health tent.

Taking Temperatures at Entrance

Plenty of social distancing

We entered EPCOT via the International Gateway near Boardwalk, so we started our food and beverage tasting in France. What better way to start than with a drink!

Grey Goose Slushy

I’ll cut to the chase. There were several food favorites but Brazil has the best option: Crispy Pork Belly and Cheesy Bread. 

Crispy Pork Belly

A very close second was Morocco’s hummus fries. Morocco also has the Kefka Pocket (ground beef with carmalized onions, garlic, and spicy tomato).

Hummus Fries

My mother’s side of the family is Italian, so I crave pasta, cheese, onions, and ham. And what better place to taste all those food ingredients mixed together than in Germany. Germany? Oh yeah! Do yourself a favor and get you some Schinkennudeln. Delicious! 

Grubbing on Schinkennudeln

We originally walked past the Spain kiosk but my curiosity turned us around and we decided to try the Shrimp Paella. This dish was surprisingly delicious. The spices were subtle and flavorful. Wait, maybe this should’ve been my #1 option. Hmmm.

Shrimp Paella

The Festival Market used different kiosk spread througout the World Showcase. Several of the kiosk contained merchandise from the Flower and Garden Festival too.

Grape Themed Mickey Ears

Grab a growler

This year’s festival was great, even with the COVID limitations. The weather was warm the day we visited (99 degree heat index) but we made sure we stayed hydrated and paced ourselves accordingly. The crowds picked up mid-afternoon but there was plenty of space to socially distance, sit, and enjoy our food and wine selections in the shade. Always a must do!

UNICO 20.87. Arrival Day

To read about our covid travel experience, click here.  

Unico is a fabulous resort. Our visit was during the Summer of COVID and the resort had taken all the necessary precautions to keep their guest safe. The fabulous staff were always wearing their mask. Our room host, Adriano, met us in the lobby upon arrival.

Adriano goes over details with Tammy

When you arrive, guests are welcomed with a refreshing beverage – Jade (cucumber and mint). I later had some vodka added to mine. 

Aromatherapy menu for guest room diffuser

After discussing the aromatherapy options, spa treatments, and dinner reservations, Ernesto took care of our bags and escorted us to the room.

Ernesto was super helpful

We passed through Bar Balam, then proceed outside through covered walkways on the way to the room.

 

Bar Balam

Beautiful display cases in Balam Bar

Pool table in Bar Balam

Anticipation was building with each turn on the way to the room.  All we wanted to do was unpack and go poolside.

The grand lobby

Corridor leading to the resort restaurants.

Breezeway view

After a pleasant walk to the room with Ernesto, we arrived!  And it was amazing.  But first, Ernesto showed us some of the room’s amenities.

Fridge stocked w/ soda, water & beer.

And now, the big reveal…..and it was spectacular!

Fabulous bedroom with a view

A HUGE bathroom

The unbelievable balcony view

Plenty of balcony space

View of sunrise from the balcony

This was the start of a great vacation.  Stay tuned for more resort photographs and a review of resort restaurants and menus.  

COVIDcation Travel? No Problem – Riveria Maya, Mexico

So, COVID-19 has you down and out? Don’t fret. There are still lots of travel options available, including international destinations. Most amusement or resort destinations have reduced capacity numbers, making you feel like royalty when you arrive.

The airports were empty. It felt like we were in an episode of The Walking Dead.

Charlotte International Airport’s main passenger hub. Pre-COVID, there would be thousands of people in this areas hustling to their gate:

We had a connecting flight in Miami. We were curious if Miami International would like the similar to Charlotte.  Yep. To our surprise, even at 10:00 am, Miami International was eerily similar to Charlotte. Empty, vast corridors allowed families to skip without obstacles as far as the eye could see.

Even the more narrow corridors where food kiosk operate feel voluminous.

The casual emptiness allowed us time to enjoy the many art decorations throughout the airport.

 

Social distancing and masks were common in all the public areas.

Starbucks had well-established 6′ apart markings on their floor.

 

How were the flights, you ask? Great! We flew American Airlines to-and-from Mexico with no problems at all. Drink and snack services were suspended but most people brought their own food and drink onboard.

The flight to Cancun was half full.  

Mask were mandatory, even if worn upside down!

We made it!  Let the COVIDcation begin.  

Arriving in Cancun International is uneventful. Everyone flows like cattle toward immigration and customs. The entry process is easy. Once through customs, you will pass through a corridor, bordered with resort and hospitality businesses on each side. There is really no need to stop or speak with individuals unless you have no clue what your plans will be in Cancun.

One of these passenger vans is ours! My lovely wife, Tammy, will hook you up with the best transportation options available.

Public transportation area outside the arrival terminal:

 

 

This COVIDcation was to the all-inclusive resort, UNICO 20.87, just a short 70-minute drive south of the airport. UNICO provides several safety precautions for guests.  

There’s a digital imaging thermometer at the welcome counter, and staff are masked up to welcome guests.

Guest step onto a disinfectant tray and staff provides hand sanitizer as guest arrive.

Let the fun begin!  

WHY WE TOOK OUR KIDS TO THE GRAND CANYON

The Grand Canyon. Enormous. Majestic. Kid friendly? Believe it or not, the answer is yes!

Despite the fact that our children, ranging from 10 to 18 years old, were less than enthusiastic about adding the Grand Canyon to our family vacation this year, it turned out to be one of their favorite parts of the trip out west. What do I mean by less than enthusiastic? I believe the word “boring” was used once or twice. As far as they were concerned, they’d already seen the Grand Canyon time and time again in photographs. But a photograph isn’t the same as seeing it in person, and seeing this incredible landscape in person is anything but boring.

As soon as we arrived, they quickly realized that the pictures didn’t do it justice. They were in awe. Imagine that, a 10-year-old in awe of something over a million years old. Now, that same 10-year-old girl is learning about the Grand Canyon in school, and she proudly tells her classmates, “I’ve been there!” Not only has she been there, but she’s taken photos there (some goofier than others) and she’s made memories there—memories that she’ll cherish for the rest of her life.

So yes, your kids may groan about how “boring” a bunch of rocks may be, but don’t rule it out. We didn’t, and we’re so glad because of it.

With that said, the Grand Canyon probably isn’t the ONLY place you want to visit on a vacation to the Southwest, as two days there is more than enough for your children. That’s why I recommend visiting any of the many places close by. In fact, we took a day trip out to the Canyon from Las Vegas!

If you’re interested in learning more about building a family vacation around the Grand Canyon (or adding it to your already-planned vacation in the area), contact me for a quote today!

Review:  Passholder Play Time at Toy Story Land – BEST PARK DAY EVER!

My husband and I recently attended the Passholder Play Time event at Toy Story Land.  This was our first time ever passholder event and let me tell you – it did not disappoint!!! 

Our event time was scheduled from 7am – 8am, with entry to begin around 6:45am.  We got to our bus stop that morning right at 6:00am and a bus came up immediately (just like the sign says!):

disney bus times
These signs are stationed at the Disney resort bus stops to let you know how approximately how long you’ll have to wait. We always found them to be pretty accurate!

hollywood bus
We were the only ones on the bus!!

We were at the entrance by 6:20am and were greeted with the sight of all of the Cast Members awaiting our arrival:

hollywood studios opening

This was super cool; we were only the 3rd or 4th people to arrive.  We waited up front talking to a nice cast member until it was time to let us in.  The cast member told us that it was open to 300 passholders, but we weren’t sure if that was per hour, or for the entire 2 hours. 

park opening
First in line!

Once open, the cast members walked us over to Toy Story Land.  The sun was just beginning to rise, so it was still all lit up which was pretty cool. 

passholder play time passholder play time passholder play time

passholder play time

 

We headed straight for Slinky Dog Dash.  We did have to tap our magic bands (similar to a fastpass) but only had to do that the first time.  After that we went through a separate line. Pics of the empty queue:

passholder play time Slinky Dog Dash Queue Slinky Dog Dash Ride

Our first ride:

first slinky dog ride

Our 3rd ride:

Third ride

Our 5th ride:

5th ride

Our 7th (and final) ride:

7th ride passholder playtime

passholder play time passholder play time

By the time we finished our 7th ride (we thought about going for 10, but we were both feeling a little nauseous after the 7th time), it was only 7:30am.  We walked over to Alien Swirling Saucers for our first ride.  On the way over we stopped for some PhotoPass pics:

alien swirling photopass
The CLAW!!!

Slinky Dog Dash Ride

We walked right on to Alien Swirling Saucers.  This wasn’t our favorite ride and wasn’t something we wanted to ride a second time, even though we could have walked right back on. 

alien saucer passholder play time

alien saucer passholder play time

alien saucer passholder play time

We stopped for a bathroom break and then took some more pics:

passholder play time passholder play time passholder play time passholder play time

As you can see, the park was pretty empty – it was amazing!!

passholder play time passholder play time passholder play time

Afterwards we headed over to the Woody & Jessie meet and greet.  This would be our longest line of the day…..which was about 10 minutes total.  The characters are out in the sun with no shade cover, so they take breaks frequently.  We had some cute interaction with them and ended up with a shirt full of stickers:

Next we were off to meet Buzz and to get our Photopass picture by the entrance sign:

After meeting Buzz, we decided to head over to Woody’s Lunch Box for breakfast.  I have heard good things about this quick service meal, and it did not disappoint.  You can check out their menu here.  

woody's lunch box 1

Eddie ordered the Breakfast Bowl:

woody's lunch box breakfast bowl
Breakfast bowl with potato barrels, eggs, green onion, and smoked brisket country gravy

I ordered the Smoked Turkey breakfast sandwich on sourdough:

woody's lunch box smoked turkey
Smoked turkey, swiss cheese and egg on sourdough bread – yummy!

Everything was really good.  We decided to go ride Toy Story Mania next.  It was another walk on. 

passholder play time passholder play time passholder play time

toy story mania selfie

toy story mania score
Eddie beat me. Ugh!

We were hoping the cast member would let us stay on for a second ride (because some of the queue lines were empty), but there was someone at our number, so we had to get off and get back in line.  No worries though – we walked right back on again!  On our way out we took some more pics:

disney wall toy story land

disney wall toy story land

disney wall toy story land

Then ran into a Photopass photographer who offered to take our picture:

At this point it was around 9:00am so we decided to leave Toy Story Land now that the park had opened to everyone else and it was getting crowded.  As we walked out right at 9am, we saw that the line for Slinky Dog Dash was at a 60 minute wait! 

We walked towards Rock ‘n Rollercoaster and stopped for some Photopass pics since the streets were pretty empty:

We walked right on Rock ‘n Rollercoaster.  When I say walked right on – I mean it!  We didn’t even see the pre-show with Aerosmith!  That has never happened!! Check out this EMPTY queue!!  Now keep in mind – passholder play time had ended and the park was open to everyone!  I cannot stress the importance of early park arrival!!!

Next we walked over to Tower of Terror.  Another walk on, although we did see the pre-show Twilight Zone video. 

We finished up around 9:35am and decided to go into the shops to look at the Toy Story Land pins (my husband has a severe Disney pin addiction), along with anything else we might want, lol.  

We were out at the bus stop by 10:15am, and back at our resort (Port Orleans French Quarter) by 10:40am. 

Did I mention this was the BEST.PARK.DAY.EVER?!!   We were so lucky to be able to get tickets to experience this event – I wish we could experience all of the parks like this!  

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