July was an incredibly busy month for our family! We had a big 4th of July Pool Party, and both my mom and mother-in-law celebrated their 60th birthdays with family trips. At the beginning of the month, we celebrated with my mother-in-law in Destin, Florida. We ended the month with a trip to Cancun for my mom. Our Cancun trip included our little family of four and my sisters’ family of five.
While trying to entertain and travel with young children amid a pandemic, I’ve learned that planning and preparation are crucial. We were blessed with an unforgettable and safe family vacation and the opportunity to celebrate my mother turning 60.
While my husband and I had both been to Cancun, Mexico, several times, we’d never been to a family-friendly resort. Like most parents, we had some reservations about traveling out of the country with young children, especially amid covid. Ultimately, we had a fantastic time, and with proper planning, we felt safe, at ease, and enjoyed our time with family and watching our little ones explore their new surroundings.
We chose Panama Jack Resort Cancun because it seemed to have something for everyone. With activities and areas of the resort to appeal to young children like my own such as Camp Jack, to the teen lounge area and club for my teenage nieces and nephews.
As our first stay at an all-inclusive family resort, we couldn’t have been happier with the service and accommodations. The rooms were perfect for those with families. We stayed in a Family Junior Suite with a giant king bed for my husband and me and a separate area with bunk beds and a trundle bed for our boys. We could put our 2-year-old on the trundle and not worry about him rolling off. Our 4-year-old had fun going back and forth between the top and bottom bunk.
My sister got a One Bedroom Suite to accommodate her family of five. It had a separate bedroom for her and her husband and a living room area with a pull-out bed and bunk beds for her three teenagers. We surprised my mom with an Ocean View suite of her own which had a king-sized bed and living area with a sofa, and most importantly, a beautiful view of the Caribbean ocean.
While I’ve stayed at many resorts, I was overly impressed by the level of service from the staff at Panama Jack. They were super attentive, kind, and helpful. Even calling for extra towels never took more than 5 minutes to arrive after the request. Each time we ordered room service, we received a call a few minutes later to make sure everything was just as we requested it. We were overwhelmed by the kindness and care from the hotel staff and how sweet and patient they were with our little boys as well. The hotel staff were extremely diligent about cleaning and following covid protocols and wearing masks. We felt completely safe throughout our stay.
Panama Jack had multiple dining options as an all-inclusive resort, including 24-hour room service, a buffet option for breakfast and lunch, and restaurants on-site for dinner. The restaurants were all delicious. Our favorite two were the Italian restaurant Viaggio and the Mexican restaurant Casa de Rosa. What made our dining experiences most enjoyable was that they could accommodate my two little picky eaters. Whether we were at the Italian restaurant or Mexican restaurant, or buffet, they always had chicken nuggets and fries as an option for my kiddos.
When we booked our trip, I was a little concerned about how we would keep our boys busy for almost a week. Camp Jackmade it super easy. The kid’s area had a giant pirate ship-style water feature, complete with a pool and multiple slides. The boys loved this area and spent most of their time playing here.
They also had a fantastic splash pad area that was my 2-year-old Richards favorite. I loved capturing these moments, and the excitement on his face as shooting water sprung up from various bins and barrels.
My 4-year-old Deuce was exceptionally proud of himself. He was excited to ride the “big boy water slide” inside the castle but was also timid about doing it on his own. By the end of the trip, he got up enough courage to ride down without dad, and I loved seeing the confidence on his face.
Camp Jack also included a separate gated area for younger kiddos, including a smaller shipwrecked style water slide (my boys loved racing each other on this one!) and a palm tree splash pad.
While we did not take advantage of the kids camp that they offer since my youngest hadn’t reached the minimum age requirement, they do provide a daily kids camp from 9:00am to 5:00pm and 6:00pm to 9:00pm where you can drop off your kiddos and have some adult time. I observed how caring the staff were with the kids in their care, and Deuce even asked if he could join them, as it looked like they were having a lot of fun.
BEACHSIDE BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
However, the moment that took all of our breath away was the beautiful beachside dinner the staff orchestrated for my mother for her 60th birthday celebration.
It went above and beyond our expectations, and she had such a fantastic time; she’s still talking about it weeks later.
The dinner cuisine was not only a work of art but also delicious.
The 4-course menu consisted of:
- Vegetable Samosas and Tamarind Chutney and Vegetable Spring Rolls with Sweet and Sour Sauce
- Pumpkin Cream with Mushroom Dust in a Sourdough Bread Bowl
- Grilled Rib Eye Steak with Cheese Sauce, Fried Plantain and Vegetables
- Baked Alaska with red berry sauce
Dinner was accompanied by Margaritas and wine. They even created special virgin margaritas for the teenagers and my boys.
Here are some steps we took to ensure a stress-free and seamless trip to Cancun, Mexico, amid Covid. Some actions are legally required, others, just recommendations based on what we chose to do:
- Covid Pre-Test – Although this was NOT required traveling to Cancun, we decided it would be a good idea to get everyone tested in our family before leaving for Mexico. This gave us peace of mind knowing there was no chance we had Covid before arriving and reducing the risk of getting stuck for ten days in quarantine in another country.
- Trip Insurance – We purchased special trip insurance to ensure that if in the unlikely event we tested positive for covid before leaving Cancun, we would have ten days for quarantine at the resort covered through the insurance. We purchased ours through our travel agent, but you can also purchase directly through the hotel. Trip insurance is NOT required, but something I’d highly recommend, especially during these times.
- Covid Test – A negative covid test is REQUIRED before entering back into the United States. Like most resorts, Panama Jack offered free on-site covid testing, so we didn’t even have to leave the resort. They had a third-party clinic with licensed nurses managing to test. The test itself was quick and easy, and we were in and out in less than 5 minutes to get our testing done.
- Verifly App – Each airline requires something different, but most US airlines REQUIRE the verifly app to keep up with your covid 19 test results. You can download the app before your trip and register each member of your family. You can do all of that even before arriving at your destination and complete the final steps of uploading your negative covid test results once you receive them. This is a step I recommend doing before your trip to save you time so that you’re not dealing with so much administrative work during your actual stay.
- Customs Form – If you’ve ever traveled internationally, you know that you receive a customs form while onboard the flight. The form is completed while in flight and submitted upon arrival. These forms are REQUIRED. To save you time so that you don’t have to fill the form out on the plane, you can now download these forms here. Print a copy and bring it with you, so you don’t have to complete on the play.
- Mexican Tourist Card Form – This is the form you need to complete and submit to Mexican customs officials upon entry into the country at the airport. You can save time and complete this at home and print out and bring with you, instead of completing at the airport. You only need one form completed per family/household. This form is REQUIRED for entry into the country. You can fill it out up to 30 days before your trip. You can fill out the form here.
- Health Declaration Form
This is REQUIRED by Mexico. It is a form that attests to the fact that you have received a negative Covid test and have not come in contact with anyone with known symptoms and that you don’t have symptoms. You have to complete the form for each individual in your household that’s traveling with you. You can register and create a login in advance, but you cant complete the declaration 12 hours before your flight. I would recommend completing as much as possible in advance so that you can submit the attestation details
on the day of your flight. This will produce a barcode that you will need to show at the airport to get through airport security. You can fill the form out online here.
Even with what seems like a TON of paperwork and documentation, our trip was well worth it, and we were so thankful that we had the opportunity to celebrate my mother despite Covid. As I mentioned, planning and completing as much as you can ahead of time will make for a smooth trip.
I would love to hear from you! If you have any questions about travel near or far right now, please leave me a comment below, or contact me on my contact page. You can also find out more about my family adventures by following me on Instagram AuthenticallyAmberblog