Valladolid, Mexico with a toddler and a baby in four days
We traveled to Mexico in November which is, in my opinion, the best time to visit Mexico. It’s the end of the low season which means lower prices but still fabulous weather. We split our time in Mexico between Valladolid and Tulum. I preferred Valladolid, and I wish we had more time there. The sites near Valladolid are much grander than the ones near Tulum, and Valladolid is much cheaper and less crowded than Tulum.
My son was 26 months old and my daughter was 6 months old during our stay in Valladolid. So this itinerary suits our needs to fit in short activities before and after an afternoon nap at our vacation rental.
We stayed in an awesome two bedroom house with a pool and a crib a short walk from the main plaza and it only cost us $49 a night.
Day 1 - Cenote Zaci and Mercado Municipal
A cenote is a gorgeous sinkhole that you can swim in and this area is awash in cenotes. We started our trip with a visit to Cenote Zaci which is unique in that it is right in the center of town. It only cost about $1.50 to enter the Cenote and another $1.50 to rent a life preserver. The kids were free. The stairs down to this cenote are wide and well maintained, and the entrance to the water has a little ledge. Both of these things made this a great cenote to visit with a toddler and a baby. Our son had fun jumping off the little ledge while more adventurous travelers jumped from much higher heights. We arrived around 8:30 AM and had the place to ourselves for about 30 minutes before some smaller tour groups arrived. It never felt overrun by tourists, but if you like your solitude, I recommend arriving when they open at 8:00 AM.
Just a few blocks from Cenote Zaci is the Mercado Municipal which is a great spot to pick up a selection of tasty and cheap treats for lunch. Our babies passed out as soon as we got them in the car, so my husband and I took turns running into the Mercado to explore and bring back our lunch treasures.
After lunch and naps, we spent the rest of the day enjoying our pool.
Day 2 - Chichen Itza
It took us about 45 minutes to drive to Chichen Itza. We arrived around 8:15 AM and the place was already pretty packed. I’m not sure it is possible to avoid the crowds here, but it certainly did get even more crowded by the time we were leaving around 11:30 am and the parking seemed non-existent at that point. Early is also better with the young-ins because of the lack of shade here. We were all pretty hot and sweaty and we left before the hottest time of the day. But it’s a wonder of the world, so you have to go see it right?
The entrance fee is about $12.50 for each adult and $1.50 to park. Kids under 13 are free!
There were lots of groups navigating the site with guides. Since our two year old definitely does not have the attention span for that, we just explored on our own and eavesdropped every now and then to pick up a few historical tidbits.
One unfortunate thing about Chichen Itza is the obscene amount of souvenir vendors. I can’t complain too much because I did buy that sweet straw hat from one of them. $2.50 and I was sunburn free the whole trip! A lot of the souvenir vendors are on the walk to the Sacred Cenote which you can totally skip unless you are dying to get some photos of a puke green mosquito pit.
A stroller can be a handy thing at Chichen Itza since it is pretty flat throughout. We were also waved to the front of the line at the gate since they knew our stroller wouldn’t fit through the turnstile.
Lots of people stop at Cenote Ik Kil after their visit to Chichen Itza. That would have been lovely if we weren’t with our son who was in definite need of a nap. So we headed straight back to Valladolid. On the way back we stopped along the road to buy some panuchos which were way cheaper than the food in Chichen Itza.
After a nap and some pool time, we headed out to eat at La Palapita de los Tamales in the Candelaria neighborhood. The food there was decent, but we especially appreciated this restaurant because they had a nice courtyard for my son to play with his dump truck and a neighborhood cat while we waited for our food.
There is a really nice playground and plaza around the block from this restaurant where we wound down the evening.
Day 3 - Ek Balam
Ek Balam is another Mayan Archeological site about 30 minutes north of Valladolid. It is less crowded than Chichen Itza, you can still climb on the ruins, and there are many fewer souvenir vendors. So all of these factors would make it my choice of ruins to visit in this area if our time had limited us to one.
There is free parking here but make sure you lock your car as we noticed some sketchy guys in the parking lot trying to get into cars. The entry fee is about $10.50 per adult. Foreign kids under 4 are free. It took us about two and a half hours to explore the ruins. If you have time and would like to take a swim afterwards, Cenote X’Canche can be accessed from a quick rickshaw ride from the parking lot. Our son once again was in need of a nap so we didn’t get a chance to explore the cenote. Instead we headed back to Valladolid. We stopped at Parque Francisco Canton Rosado where there is a food court with many take-out options and then we spent the rest of the day enjoying the pool at our house.
Day 4 - Cenote Suytun
We had originally intended to visit Coba, another Mayan archeological site, on this day but we were a little ruined out. We decided to visit Cenote Suytun instead. I’m so glad we made that decision because it is the most fabulous swimming experience I have ever had. Cenote Suytun is a 15 minute drive from the center of Valladolid and it costs about $3.75 to enter per adult (price includes a PFD). It’s just a few steps down into the cave and then there are many easy entrances into the water, making it an ideal cenote to visit with the little ones. I highly recommend arriving early like we did. We were the first ones there at 8 AM and pretty much had the place to ourselves for about two hours until a glut of tour buses showed up. We got to take some pretty awesome photos by ourselves, but we also got to splash around, make fun echo noises, and change a diaper without worrying about offending anyone.
After we were done splashing about, we visited with some peacocks near the parking lot before heading on to Tulum. It took us an hour and fifteen minutes to get to Tulum and Coba is near the midway point. So again, if you aren’t accompanied by a napping toddler, a visit to Coba would be a great itinerary addition on your way to Tulum. We instead spent the rest of the day enjoying Tulum’s street art and the pool at our next rental house.
Flight from DC - I cashed in 47970 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points for our three round trip plane tickets. The only expense to me was $238.56 in taxes. This would have cost $885 without the miles.
Rental Car and Gas - We paid $194.30 for the rental car for this portion of our trip. It was so much more than I had anticipated as they required us to purchase liability insurance. We only spent about $15 on gas.
Lodging - FREE. It would have cost $196, but I cashed in Capital One Venture Points
Food and Drinks - $94.81. We generally ate one meal out a day and cooked the rest of our food at our rental house. This also includes all of our baby supplies - diapers, wipes, etc.
Activities - $59.50. This includes our tickets to Cenote Zaci, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and Cenote Suytun.
Total for our family of four: $602.17. But since we also visited Tulum on this trip, subtracting half the flight price seems more accurate. So that would be a total of $482.89 or $30 per person per day. That’s pretty darn cheap for all the fabulousness we experienced on this trip.
Baby Supplies in Mexico
We did our grocery and baby supply shopping at Bodega Aurrera and Super Chedraui, both of which are supermarket chains that you will find all over this area. I was actually a little overwhelmed by the variety of wipes and diapers available for purchase at both stores. The weight range for the sizes is in kilograms which is of course a bit confusing for us Americans. Some brands use the same number sizes that we use in the US, but others use small, medium, large. And then there are so many brands and scents to choose from. The baby food variety was not as extensive as I would find in our local grocery stores, but it was definitely sufficient. There were also some fun flavors that I would not be able to find at home. Both of these stores had all sorts of baby things from pacifiers to clothes to toys. So if you forget anything else, you shouldn’t have trouble finding it.