Recommended READING: Children's Security

 Children are exposed –like never before- to an incredible array of problems as result of global economic problems.

 courtesy by the Federal Public Safety Secretariat  (PFP)

Also because of new communication technologies such as the Internet. Mexico does not escape to the sad reality: international well- organized criminal gangs go around the planet sequestering kids for the sick mind of those who prey on them as sexual objects. The MEXICO CITY P. D. is also busy putting together –via Internet- a new page that contains pertinent, useful information provided to kids -in their own language- about Personal Protection, Traffic Safety, other topics. Learn what the LAPD recommends to better protect your child and what Security Corner –with 35 years experience- to make your children feel safer in Mexico, to include your teenage kids. Campaña contra el Juguete Bélico.

logo by Dick Davis

Traveling to Mexico with Children - Educational and Fun

Travel to Mexico with your children? Give yourself some kudos just for considering it! If the cost is daunting - Mexico may be inexpensive but airflight is not - think of skipping a few of those college-fund payments and taking a trip with the cash instead. With money that may or may not get used for its intended purpose, you can give your child or children a cultural experience of value and a jump-start on language acquisition.

From Tijuana to Morelia - good destinations for kids:

Anywhere in Mexico is a good place to travel with kids, my personal opinion. The tourist meccas of Cancun, Cozumel, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta on the mainland, and Los Cabos in Baja, are more expensive and may have less serious crime - due to the diligence of police, and local officials, seeking to secure tourist dollars. There is plenty of petty theft, however, and you do need to watch your wallet wherever you go, as thieves target tourists throughout Mexico.

Other locations are off the beaten track and more adventurous, such as the jungles of Chiapas or traveling by train through the Copper Canyon. With pre-vacation planning and a little determination, the whole country is open for exploration.

Last spring my nine-year old and I spent a day in Tijuana, a journey based on necessity not personal preference, and I found it to be surprisingly enjoyable. If you had asked me prior to our excursion if I would ever take my child to Tijuana, my immediate reply would have been ‘no way’, with visions of child abduction, men in black uniforms carrying machine guns, and dirty, filthy, car-congested streets dancing through my head.

What we encountered surprised me. A hip, main drag - Revolution Avenue - with the likes of the Hard Rock Cafe, the Tijuana Wax Museum, mega-discount pharmacy stores and leather goods and jewelry galore. You can’t miss the donkeys painted zebra-like; with carts attached and a ready-made Mexican hat for you to put on get the requisite tourist photo taken with.

Since there were few tourists (at that time new passport regulations kept many away) - we were virtually bombarded with friendly catcalls and offers of 2 for 1 alcoholic drinks, take your pick. More than a little entertaining but not something I’d want to experience daily. For an afternoon it was endearing - until the bill came for my beers... regular price, no discount. Innovative Mexican advertising, I guess. Lunch wasn’t a total loss - thanks to the pub we ate lunch at my son can now say he has played pool at a bar in Tijuana, Mexico. How’s that for a childhood story to tell?

After two days in the U.S. it was time to continue our summer journey. Back to Rosarito Beach we went, and to the travel agent for best buys to the mainland. We had spent the previous year living in central Baja. After the summer’s never-ending, excruciatingly-high heat and humidity, plus a tropical storm courtesy of Hurricane John (September, 2006) that had devastated our small town, I was anxious to be on our way. My only two non-negotiable trip requirements were heat that doesn’t knock you on your butt and fun, educational, activities for children.

We got lucky. Due to changes in the regulation of the Mexican airline industry, the influx of new low-cost carriers such as Volaris, and the availability of one-way tickets (actually priced in half, not a one-way fare for the same price of a round-trip) we could fly to Morelia, Mexico in the state of Michoacan from Tijuana for 999 pesos each. That added up to approximately $182 U.S. dollars for both of us, taxes included.

More information on Mexico’s new low-cost airlines:

Morelia is the capital city, located approximately three hours by bus from Guadalajara and five hours from Mexico City. Other destinations I had considered were Guadalajara, because of comfortable summer temperatures and multiple choices of activities for children, and the city of Guanajuato in the mountains of the Sierra de Guanajuato, for similar reasons.

Every country seems to have a bit of Paris in its soul and for Mexico, Morelia is it. Maybe there’s a Lou Vega song there. Morelia is home to over a thousand historical buildings and sites including the Conservatorio de las Rosas (the oldest music school in Mexico), the Museum of the Michoacan Region (built in 1772), and the twin-towered, baroque-style Morelia Cathedral, finished in 1744.

Across the street from the Cathedral is the Palacio de Gobierno, or the Governors Palace. Built over a period of ten years it contains three enormous, life-sized murals by Michoacan artist Alfredo Zalce showing various episodes of Mexican history.

Add to this cultural mix a historic center complete with numerous sidewalk cafes, parks lined with cobblestone sidewalks and magnificent architecture covered with rose colored sandstone, and you can see how the city of Morelia won this prestigious ‘Old Europe’ distinction for Mexico. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991 as well.

Just don’t get excited to see the river that runs through it, or more accurately, alongside the perimeter. The Rio Solidaridad, also called Rio Chiquito or little river, is a brown, mud-filled reservoir of liquid. Not a pretty site.

Morelia was high on my list due to a travel article written by a family of four who had spent a summer there, and had enrolled their two children in a soccer camp, art classes, and music program, at a cost of approximately $100 U.S. (2006). This is less than the cost of most week-long day camps in the states for one child. I was sold.

We arrived at 6 a.m. from our red-eye flight and spent the early-dawn at the 24 hour VIPS restaurant, the only establishment open. When daylight returned, we grabbed a cab and went to view the apartments I had found listed over the Internet.

The cab driver, who was inadvertently giving us a tour of the city during our search, kindly offered us a room in his mother’s home. I was flattered, but decided to settle on our second option, a boarding house with a rooftop apartment. It had great views, fresh breezes off the balcony (the city is fairly car-congested and polluted), and accepted our constant travel companion - a five-year-old Rat Terrier. At $160 U.S. a month, I could overlook the non-functioning kitchen.

The next day we set-out to find a summer camp and found a month-long, 9a.m. to 1p.m, art/dance/music/theater program at Belles Artes, an ex-convent now converted into a professional arts and music school, for the price of $75. Another summer program for children I found was Alterdans Escuela de Arte located at Avenue Madero Ortega N. 63. It is similar to Belles Artes, just more low-key. Two of the children enrolled this summer spoke little to no Spanish prior to attending.

Located two blocks away from Alterdans is a swimming complex, Villa Longin, with an outdoor pool and heated kiddie pool. At Villa Longin they offer two-hour lessons for ages 5 to adult, and private sessions are available. Most camps begin in July and end by early August.

Soccer ended up being a free neighborhood league three blocks away, with the addition of many nights of foot jockeying with local kids in the street outside our apartment.

The apartment and location was not as quaint as I had envisioned, yet there were more than a few pleasant surprises. The city zoo, complete with lions, tigers and polar bears, was four blocks away. The city zoo offers a summer course “Let’s save the Planet” for children ages five to twelve years of age. A city park, with library, planetarium and a free, supervised play area for kids with indoor and outdoor activities was within walking distance as well.

In addition, there was a Dominos Pizza, up the street and around the corner, and numerous tiendas for snacks, cerveza, purified water and homemade tortillas. A combi - the converted VW busses used as transportation throughout Morelia - dropped us off daily near the main city square or zocalo, Plaza de Los Martires, where my son`s art school was located, for the price of $1 each way. A taxi ride costs $3.

Conjunto Residencial Valladolid

A more decent living option, Conjunto Residencial Valladolid, is located in the same neighborhood at Tanganxhoan N. 384. The cross street is la calle Vicente Santa Maria. For under $300 a month you can rent a lovely, two-bedroom apartment, with salon, kitchen and 24-hour security guard. They also had a unit up for sale.

Bordering the park, the luxurious Fiesta Inn - complete with restaurant/bar, swimming pool and tennis courts - has rooms starting at $200 per night for two adults and two children. A block away is a small shopping mall complete with kids gym, open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For five dollars each, children can play as long as they want.

Here is the web site for The Fiesta Inn - select Mexico for country and Morelia for city:

Easily accessed daytrips include Lake Patzcuaro, located just 40 miles away, or a 50 minute bus ride. Hot springs are located at the Balneario Cointzio, a $6 taxi ride away or 10 minute combi ride. There is horseback riding available in the outlying areas also.

If you hear a loud ringing coming down the street, like a cow bell being propelled back and forth with all the force the ringer can muster... don’t be alarmed. I heard this first on a Sunday and thought it was a call for everyone to head to church, this being Roman Catholic Mexico and all! The ringing is actually a notification for neighborhood residents to put out their basura (garbage in Spanish) for the garbage truck heading their way. Residents pay 5 pesos, or approximately 50 cents per bag.

Our July weather was very comfortable. The rain storms common to summer season here occurred primarily at night, clearing by morning and leading to afternoons filled with warm, clean air and sunshine. A few days were cloudy as well but I wasn’t complaining. Of course, the day after I wrote this, a torrential downpour hit the city and lasted for hours, drenching everything in site... what I had heard could happen, but hadn’t experienced. Bring an umbrella!

Definitely still not complaining. My son had a month of low-cost, high-quality art instruction, and a ton of fun. I was spoiled with daily espressos and hours of uniterrupted writing stints at local cafes, in a city that seems made for, and by, souls with a creative spirit. An experience of Mexico neither of us will forget.

Flexibility - the key to a successful trip

If you add a little flexibility to your travel arsenal you will find yourself prepared to deal with most issues easily. Keep an open mind while researching and planning your trip as well as during your stay.

You are traveling and are free - do what feels right. If you, or your family, does not like the hotel others raved about, leave. There may be a little casita off the beaten track with a senora and family who would love to rent their apartment to you.

Next door or across the street may be kids of similar ages to your children, who participate in nightly pick-up soccer games in the street - common to most Mexican neighborhoods I?ve visited or lived in. For half the price or less of that fancy hotel, you are getting a much more authentic Mexican experience. Just be sure an adult plays lookout for cars on the street, something Mexican children are adept at, but an acquired skill for most U.S. children.

The real danger in traveling with your family to Mexico is that you and/or your children may not want to leave - go at your own risk!

Current passport requirements for travel to Mexico:

If traveling by air U.S. residents must have a valid passport. Exceptions were granted through September 30, 2007 for travelers wanting to travel to Mexico to re-enter the U.S. but they have expired. You and your children must have current passports, no exceptions.

Traveling by car or by boat the new passport regulations are to be in-effect by June, 1st, 2009.

For more information:

Molly McHugh lives in Baja, Mexico with her son. She is the author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula. To order visit

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