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Vacationing with Kids When Things Go Awry

Vacationing with Kids When Things Go Awry

During a family trip to Cancun, a health problem landed me in the hospital, forcing us to readjust our plans and expectations for our time there.

My family recently went to Cancun, Mexico, for a short trip and I unfortunatelyended up in the intensive care unit of a local hospital due to an anaphylactic reaction to aspirin and spent most of my vacation in the hospital. Instead of all the things I had planned for our time in Cancun, everything shifted within moments and I was no longer at the helm of my crew. My boyfriend Monte instead was left to make the most of the vacation with our 6-year-old daughter Brooklyn while also worrying about and tending to me. This is not the article I’d planned to write about my Cancun adventures with my family, but I’ve learned quite a few things from this experience about vacationing when things don’t go the way you’ve planned.


Where You Stay Is Important

My family sometimes travels budget and sometimes luxury. Depending on the rates, the cost of flights, and how badly we want to try a particular property, we weigh all our options and pick where to stay. When planning our trip to Cancun, which is known for gorgeous white powder beaches and turquoise waters but also a loud, rambunctious party scene, we opted for the more exclusive southern tip of the city. We picked a luxury resort called Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun . We’d seen photos online and read lots of reviews, but once we arrived we were far more enamored by the vibe of this hotel than we expected. We knew we were set up for an awesome time when concierge showed us our access to their Grand Club, where we had private check-in, a lounge overlooking panoramic views of the Caribbean and the city of Cancun and availability to snack on delicious hors d'oeuvres all day.  This level of service was, in retrospect, an indicator of the tremendous care and compassion they showed during my family’s ordeal.

On the first day, we went straight for the gigantic pool. I focused on consuming non-alcoholic piña coladas served in a pineapple while my daughter and her father practiced snorkeling in the pool. Our plan was to take her snorkeling for the first time from the floating dock off the hotel beach the next day if she got the hang of it. After a relaxing afternoon and enjoyable buffet dinner overlooking the beach at the resort, we called it a night and I popped the dreaded aspirin that took my breath away.


Involve the Hotel Staff in Your Emergency

Shortly after taking the aspirin, I realized I was having an allergic reaction. Immediately Monte called the concierge, who dispatched a doctor to our room within 15 minutes. This is not available at all hotels. Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun was prompt in responding to our needs, had resources on hand, and helped us throughout this scary ordeal. Upon assessment by the doctor, he determined I needed to be transported to an emergency room immediately via ambulance.

Both the doctor and hotel discussed which hospital to use and agreed the Galenia Hospital was ideal, as it was close and private. Galenia turned out to be one of the nicest health-care facilities I’ve ever been admitted to. The care was excellent, the space was very clean, and the service was expedient. The following morning a staff member from the hotel visited me in the ICU to see if I was okay and assured me my daughter and her father would be well taken care of while I was recuperating in the hospital.


When Plans Change, Ask Hotel Staff for Ideas 

My daughter gets a massage at the Spa

I had an action-packed itinerary planned for every day of our trip, which obviously we needed to change. The ICU had narrow visiting hours and children weren’t allowed, so I encouraged my family to spend their time at the hotel trying to enjoy the trip while I rested. They checked in with the Grand Club concierge, explained I was in the hospital, and the staff went to work putting together fun ideas for Brooklyn and her dad. They spent the morning at the pool, followed by a daddy-daughter day at the luxurious Gem Spa. This is typically an adult spa, but the staff made special arrangements for them to share a room where Brooklyn indulged in a chocolate facial, mini massage, and manicure, while her dad got a well-deserved deep tissue massage. A 6-year-old at a spa can be unpredictable, and during the relaxing massage Brooklyn complained she was bored! She did much better during the chocolate facial and manicure. The spa also has a 10-step hydration therapy ritual, which is one of the finest spa experiences Monte has ever had. 

After the spa treatments they lunched on property, after which the hotel allowed Monte to accompany Brooklyn to the kids-only Coral KidZ Club since she had been through a lot seeing her mom go to the hospital. It took about 10 minutes for Brooklyn to make friends, as which point Monte was able to leave her and relax at the pool. Coral KidZ Club offers tons of indoor and outdoor activities, and you’re guaranteed to find something your child enjoys. It caters to children ages of 3-12, with areas tailored to specific age groups. Depending on your family’s needs you can do full-day or short sessions of activities.

When booking the Grand Club, guests have unlimited complimentary access to the KidZ Club, and if you book a regular suite you get four complimentary passes (morning pass, afternoon pass , all day, and night camp).. Brooklyn is still talking about KidZ Club--it really is remarkable.

That evening I was moved out of the ICU and into a regular hospital room, and I was finally able to have a visit with Monte and Brooklyn.


When In Doubt, Head to the Beach

The beach in Cancun

Sailing, snorkeling, jets skiing, parasailing, and cruises to other islands were available from our beach. The following morning Brooklyn blew us away with her bravery and she and her dad snorkeled out to sea to the floating dock. They had just practiced snorkeling in the pool, but she was confident enough in her skills to do the swim with her dad. That afternoon while I was getting discharged from the hospital she told me all about the school of yellow fish with black stripes she saw and related her first ‘big fish’ story: She says a giant white fish about two feet long swam into her arms and let her hold it. As she’s told and retold the story, the colors of the fish have changed, as has the size, so don’t swim out to this dock hoping for this magical experience--it may be extraordinarily rare! 

That afternoon I had enough energy to jet ski with my family for a few minutes then rested and watched them from the beautiful white beach. Later that afternoon we took a ferry, again from the property, to Isla Mujeres, which is a must see. This tiny island captured my heart and I can’t wait to go back. Monte and Brooklyn snorkeled through sunset in calm warm waters. We heard a dozen languages being spoken and splashed around with families from all over the world discovering this wonderful little paradise in Mexico along with us. Brooklyn’s favorite part of Isla Mujeres was the rental golf cart we used for a couple of hours to tour around the charming island. I still savor the ferry ride at sunset when I was well into feeling better and able to enjoy the time with my loved ones sharing a very special moment.

Just in Case: Tips for Smart Vacation Planning

No one wants to think something terrible will happen when you’re on a vacation, but it’s obviously possible. Here are some tips from my experience on ensuring you can respond effectively if something goes wrong: 

  • Stay at a reputable hotel, especially when traveling overseas.
  • Make note of local hospitals when traveling to foreign countries, especially if you don’t speak the language.
  • Check with your health insurance company about international coverage.
  • Consider looking into travelers insurance for pre-existing conditions.


Tips for a Family Trip to Cancun

  • Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun has many options ranging from all-inclusive to partial-inclusive packages.
  • There are many local restaurants and shops walkable from this hotel.
  • Bring a drivers license to Isla Mujeres if you want to rent a golf cart.
  • Bring all your typical sunscreens, hats, etc.
  • Most places accept U.S. dollars but not all places take credit cards, particularly American Express.
  • There is a lot of history in this area of Mexico and you can choose from many day trips to explore ruins, underground rivers, and cenotes, natural sinkholes you can swim in.
  • You can get around OK without speaking Spanish but it is definitely helpful to know at least a little for when you leave the resort for off-premises activities.


We’ll definitely be back to Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun, and  I would also love to further explore Isla Mujeres. Reflecting back, this trip wasn’t a total disaster--but it could have been. I feel fortunate we asked for help from the right people at the right time.


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Estée Pouleris


 Estée Pouleris is the creator behind blog She lives in NYC with her boyfriend and their daughter. 

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