By Jamie Pearson
Mexico is always a tempting family vacation destination, and even more so when winter temperatures hover around freezing in the northern latitudes. Whether you want to stretch out on a sugar white beach, explore a 17th-century colonial town, or scale an Aztec pyramid, you'll find it all here.
Thinking of putting Mexico on your itinerary this winter? Here are some of our favorite Mexico trip ideas for families with kids, organized by the kids' age group.
Infants and Toddlers
If you're traveling with a baby or toddler and don't have your heart set on palm trees, umbrella drinks, and sand, Mexico's colonial heartland (easily reached from Mexico City or Guadalajara by car or bus) is charming and beautiful.
Consider: Basing your family in photogenic Guanajuato, a colonial town with enough winding streets, shaded plazas, and sidewalk cafés to keep you happily exploring for a few days. San Miguel de Allende is also charming, albeit overrun with tourists and expats.
Avoid: Bringing a stroller, which will be useless on the cobblestones. You'll be walking a lot though, so pack a sturdy baby backpack instead.
Remember: When you tire of city pursuits, head for the countryside where you can hike or swim in the thermal pools (called Balnearios) this area is famous for. With its waterslides, fountains, and swings, Balneario Xoté is particularly fun for kids.
Kids don't need much more than sand and water to be happy, so this is a great age for a beach vacation. Skip the glitz and chaos of Cancun and base your family on the comparatively sleepy Riviera Maya. It's got the same spectacular white sand beaches and turquoise sea without the cruise ships, discos, and shopping malls.
Consider: A day trip to the pristine Mayan ruins at Tulum or a visit to the ecological theme park Xcaret (complete with a butterfly garden, nurseries for sea turtles and flamingoes, and a replica Mayan village).
Avoid: Underestimating the strength of the sun. It's easy to overdo it this close to the equator. Plan on retiring to your room for a siesta during the hottest hours of the day.
Remember: Choose your hotel carefully. The Riviera Maya is rife with adult-only resorts that cater to honeymooners and couples looking to rekindle their romances.
Grade school-aged kids
If your kids love animals and adventure, consider a week alternatively exploring and relaxing on the beaches of Baja California. The dessert terrain here is stark and beautiful, and winter brings gray whales that come to mate and calve close to shore.
Consider: Basing your family in a hotel that's walking distance from Cabo San Lucas so that you can stroll into town for souvenirs or dinner.
Avoid: Swimming when the seas are rough—watch for the red flags and heed them.
Remember: Boats and kids are a great combination. Try a whale watching tour or a fun pirate-themed cruse aboard the Buccaneer Queen.
Tweens and Teens
If your kids are city slickers, a few days in Mexico City—one of the world's largest—can be a fascinating cultural experience. As long as you are a relatively savvy traveler, most tourist areas are generally quite safe.
Consider: A full day exploring the Zona Rosa, the Bosque de Chapultepec, and the Museo Nacional de Antropología. Renting a piloted boat (complete with musicians and food) on a Saturday at the floating gardens at Xochimilco. A daytrips to the pyramids at Teotihuacán.
Avoid: Overdoing it physically. At 7,000 feet above sea level, Mexico City qualifies as a high-altitude destination (and if the altitude doesn't get you, the pollution will).
Remember: This is not a city to be conquered in a single visit, so don't even try. Choose a few highlights and just focus on enjoying yourself.
About the Writer
Jamie Pearson is a writer and mother of two. She sees the funny side of family travel, and blogs about it at www.TravelSavvyMom.com.
Photo credit: (1) istock / Jacom Stephens