Women’s Travel Fest in Cancun / Playa del Carmen

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Affiliate Disclosure

I’ve been a travel blogger for many years, so when I heard about the Women’s Travel Fest being held in Playa del Carmen, near Cancun, I was very interested. It also happened to be our 39th wedding anniversary, so I thought it would make a fun trip for my husband and I.

I’ve attended tons of other blog conferences, but this was my first time at a conference specific to travel bloggers, although it definitely won’t be my last! I had a great time, although there were some bobbles along the way.

The Accidental Travel Blogger

I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how I became a travel blogger, because it happened sort of by accident, but it has actually had an enormous impact on my life.

Back in 2015, I went on a blogger-themed cruise with famous food bloggers The Six Sisters. They’re such amazingly nice girls and they’d set up a cruise with all the six girls, both their parents, several of their husbands, and an assortment of their kids.

Coincidentally, the cruise was to exactly the same area in Mexico. We went to Cozumel, which is right across the bay from Playa del Carmen. It was an amazing trip and I learned a ton from them and especially their dad Larry, who handled a lot of the business aspects of their brand and cookbooks.

None of them had been on a cruise before and I had, so I started up with a post about 25 items to bring on a cruise, just to help them. They very kindly shared it on their Pinterest board, and it went VIRAL. To this day, it is still my most popular post.

From then on, I was a travel blogger. Now I take 2-3 trips per year, and I’m constantly thinking about my next trip, and what I want to share about it on my blog. Travel just makes me happy and I set aside money every month to either pay for our last trip or save for our next one.

By the way, our next trip is to Western Canada this summer…..

Back to the Cancun Trip

Here’s a quick video of our weekend’s activities in Mexico. I just discovered a new slideshow software program so I’ve been having fun playing with it.

I like to plan my own trips. In fact, check out my earlier post when I used AI to plan our trip to Ireland and Scotland last year. I didn’t need AI for this one, but I did have my son help me plan this trip.

They’d been to a destination wedding in Playa del Carmen and they’d been really impressed with the resort they’d stayed at, so we picked out a whole package of airfare, hotel, and transportation. It was a bit pricey, but I knew my husband was going to be hanging out by himself for a lot of the time while I was doing the conference, so I wanted him to have several fun things to do and not just sit at some hotel.

The Sandos Caracol Eco Resort has one of the best water parks in Mexico, they are right on the ocean, they have a cenote right on the property, they even have bikes you can borrow to ride around the property. Plus it was an all-inclusive, so all the food, alcohol, and everything was included. And it’s a gated property with a full security staff, so we could feel safe there.

I always post an honest review, so I do have to tell you the downside about the property. They had 4 or 5 themed restaurants but apparently, they get booked up insanely FAST. We barely managed to get into the Japanese steakhouse, but only because I begged them for our anniversary dinner. The other restaurants – not a prayer in the world anniversary or not! Couldn’t get time in the cenote, couldn’t book a time for the romantic river cruise they offered. Most of the good stuff fills up REALLY FAST, so try to pre-book anything you can.

There was a dinner theater-like entertainment on Sunday night only and we managed to snag tickets for that for $50 each. It was some type of an Mayan fire ritual that was very interesting. It was pretty good with a cast of about 20 performers and fire dancing, but it was way back in the jungle area and was so dark, I couldn’t get any decent photos. It was also quite hazardous getting in and out with lots of tree roots and chunks of concrete buried in the sand with very little lighting. I have some mobility challenges, so I was being VERY careful not to trip and fall.

The rest of the food in the regular public restaurants was pretty dismal – and we’re not all that picky when it comes to food, so if I say it wasn’t great, I’m not kidding. But the staff was nice, the room was really deluxe, and you could tell that they were doing their best to show you a good time. Our room was LOVELY and very comfortable!

Women’s Travel Fest – or WTF

I do get a kick that the abbreviation for this conference was WTF. I felt it was a reasonably good conference as these things go. I’m very cognizant that people work their butts off to make these events a success, so I try to find ways to get value out of them.

Photo credit Luna van Doorn

That said, this particular one wasn’t my cup of tea. Totally my fault – 100%. I should have done my research a little better. I got all excited when I found it was going to be held on our anniversary weekend, and that some of my online friends from another group were going to be attending, and I hadn’t found a conference this year that I wanted to attend, so it felt like the stars were lining up for this to be a great conference.

I’m definitely the impulsive LEAP before you LOOK type and it trips me up sometimes. I wanted a conference for people like me – travel bloggers. I thought I’d be getting sessions on how to monetize your blog, how to grow your traffic, all the tech stuff. That’s where I went wrong.

This is a more of a festival than a conference and it’s for women who just like to travel. There were sessions on how to use points cards to upgrade your flights, how to get upgrades for food and hotels by joining various memberships, and how to do travel journaling, etc. Totally not my jam.

The ones I enjoyed the most was the photography course by our conference photographer Luna van Doorn. I consistently take shitty pictures because I’ve got ADHD so bad that I get busy talking to people and forget to take them or don’t take the time to frame them up properly.

The other session I enjoyed was about how to move to other countries, which has been on my mind for a lot of years. It was helpful because there is a lot of red tape and legalities I hadn’t considered. That one definitely gave me some food for thought.

And I did get to meet some nice ladies at the conference, including a few ladies from an online virtual assistant group I belong to, so that was nice. And the Hilton, of course was gorgeous and the conference went very nicely.

Getting Around in Mexico Caused me Anxiety

One thing that kind of threw me was getting to and from the conference every day. As I said, our resort was very deluxe and very secure, but it was way on the far side of town, and I had to get comfortable taking a taxi by myself through some very sketchy areas of town to get to the downtown area. Several times, I was making the trip quite late at night, and I’ll be honest, I was a little scared.

Fortunately, the taxis were very nice. They were all brand new and sparkling clean. The drivers were always dressed in spotless white uniforms, although they didn’t speak great English. But they were always very polite and respectful and charged a fair rate. I think if the taxis had been less classy-looking, I’d have been a little more nervous.

I had a single mom, so I grew up in some pretty sketchy areas – I did Elementary School in Long Beach and my Jr High backed right up to the Projects. I lived for two years just on the edge of Compton, where I was never allowed out of my yard without an adult to escort me. In 8th grade, we moved to Orange County, which literally seemed like Disneyland after where I’d grown up.

But in my late teens and early 20’s, we lived in Santa Ana (one of the sketchy areas of OC) where we were burglarized several times, and often had gunfire or gang fights close by our home. Several people were murdered within a block of our house and we had a homeless shelter nearby with some rough types hanging around all day. It’s no wonder I didn’t feel personally safe, even in my own home.

So, I was surprised at how triggering it was for me to be spending time in these really poverty stricken areas. The elaborate security routines at the resort with not one, but two security checkpoints kind of alarmed me because I kept thinking of what had the potential to happen for them to need such stringent security. Even though I dreaded the taxi rides, I was very happy that we hadn’t stayed at some of the places in town that looked much less safe.

I think I’m going to take this into account as I plan my future trips. Whether I’m at home or traveling, feeling SAFE is very important to me. Are you this way too?

Fun Activities with the Hubs

If there’s anything we know how to do on vacation, it’s have fun! So, I managed to plan in some fun activities around the conference schedule. Prior to the conference, we had a fun food and street art tour of Playa del Carmen offered by the conference people.

It was kind of funny because I’d expected some of the other women to bring their husbands along. NOPE! Apparently, I was the only one who’d brought a husband to the conference, so here was my hubby and about 20 women. Fortunately, he’s a great sport so he just went right along with it. (There he is way in the back next to our tour guide with the hat)

We walked all around town sampling different dishes that had been pre-arranged by our hosts. Took about 2.5 hours and we sample quesadillas, mole, several different street tacos (my favorite!), some fresh fruit juice from a fruit stand, and ended up with fresh fruit popsicles for dessert. It was fabulous, and we had a wonderful time.

We saw some wonderful street art. See this cute little children’s library?

Pyramid at Chichen Itza

Of course, no trip to this area is going to be complete without a visit to Chichen Itza, which is one of the wonders of the modern world. I had been once before with the Six Sisters, but I didn’t feel like I’d had enough time to really enjoy it, so I was pleased to have a second visit with some extra time to really SEE it.

We love history and we were lucky to have an amazing tour guide. He was a tough old guy named Santiago, and he was an archeologist who had worked on the site for decades, so he had a lot of interesting stories to tell. As you can see, it was a gorgeous day and we’re both big history buffs, so despite it being a 12 hour day on a bus full a strangers, we had an amazing time.

We also visited a local cenote and had a nice lunch with some entertainment at a little village nearby. We were even given a group blessing from the local holy man.

Cancun conference trip

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