If you're a parent of teenagers who have 'failed to launch', consider a fun-filled but relaxed all-inclusive holiday in Cancun, Mexico. Here is my guide to activities and nightlife to suit all ages
Perhaps many parents share my experience of "failure to launch" when holidays are being planned. It's not that teenage children do not want to holiday with their friends; more that they want to share the family holiday and still go away with friends! Indeed, they usually want to bring friends on the family holiday. They also want to meet other teenagers and have an action-packed itinerary.
Cancun is the perfect holiday destination if you find yourself with four teenagers in tow. Divided into two zones joined by bridges, Cancun is made up of the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone) and El Centro (Downtown) on the mainland. It combines Mayan magic mingled with luxury hotels, turquoise blue waters and white sand beaches.
The four-star hotel Barcelo TucanCun Beach is an all-inclusive resort situated in the Hotel Zone on the north-eastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. It boasts four excellent restaurants (with a wide variety of dishes to suit all tastes) and three swimming pools. One of the pools caters for those who enjoy music and action, with competitions, water aerobics and water polo run by the entertainment team (ideal for teenagers who do not like sitting still for any more than five minutes), not to mention the swim-up bar. For those holidaymakers seeking a more tranquil paradise retreat, there are quieter pools and a staircase to the pristine beach and warm water of the Caribbean. The Barcelo hotel group (www.barcelo.com) has hotels in many destinations in Mexico.
We booked with Thomas Cook (www.thomascook.com) and found the package represented real value for money. Being all-inclusive is a real bonus, if you consider the amount of food teenage boys can (and do) consume at regular intervals during the day – or the amount of drinks six people would buy over two weeks, in average temperatures of 33 degrees.
There was evening entertainment of a high standard, including a casino night and traditional Mexican floorshows. The Thomas Cook rep was on hand to recommend activities and excursions, including a tour of Chichen Itza to experience the pyramids and temples of the Maya and tours to Isla Mujeres. We opted for an evening of clubbing, taking in two bars and two nightclubs; the last was the sensational CoCoBongo nightclub – not to be missed, if you love to party! After a recovery day we also booked a two-hour Jungle Tour at AquaWorld – jet-skiing through passages in the mangroves to the National Park, where we went snorkelling at the natural reserve which shelters more than 300 species of fish.
There are many ways to get from place to place, including rental cars, taxis and 24-hour buses. More importantly for teenagers, there is easy access to fabulous restaurants, bars and nightclubs, shopping malls and water sports. Our children generally climbed aboard one of the buses which run every few minutes from outside the hotel and then bartered cheap fares with taxi drivers for the return journey. Many of the nightclubs include all drinks in the price of entry, which meant that the girls did not need to take handbags, just enough cash for the taxi home.
Their recommendations include Daddy O’s, a large two-storey nightclub with a variety of music and dancers, plus a short show, and The City – one of Cancun’s biggest clubs, with great music and performers, very attentive waiting staff, and clean toilets. Once a week, it hosts a beach party outside, taking place around a swimming pool and including a bikini contest – a very good night out! The best evening's entertainment by far was at The Bulldog, quite a small club compared with the others – but with an ice bar to the side, where you cannot avoid bottles of Tequila and no glasses! Beware, the night can become very messy.
At some point during the early hours, an amazing live band performed cover versions – a must-do night out. Let me offer one warning, though,which applies to all the clubs: do not expect to return to your hotel before 6am, and make no plans for the following morning.
Finally, what about the parents? Cancun’s restaurants range from elegant, award-winning establishments to fast-food joints. The choice of cuisines is unlimited. With the children, we enjoyed ribs and steaks at Outback but sneaked out on our own to savour the finest of steaks at Ruth’s Chris (www.ruthschris.com.mx), which lives up to its claim that any fillet can be cut with a fork. We enjoyed the live rock bands at Hard Rock Café and picked up souvenirs at the market and shopping malls. We swam, drank cocktails and spent a lot of time just looking at that turquoise ocean, content in the knowledge that four teenagers were having a great time. Would we recommend it as a good place for a teenage family holiday? A definite yes.