Countless families enjoy the warm shores of Puerto Vallarta on family vacations each year, and the Banderas Bay area is rich with wonders that will captivate children of all ages. All-inclusive resorts provide a low-effort escape to the sunny scenes of the Banderas Bay while rental units intended for visiting families are heavily represented in the city’s most popular and desirable neighborhoods.

However, families with small children should be aware of certain realities that can affect their best practices for ensuring everyone has an enjoyable stay in this tropical paradise. While the area is free from many of the violence and public safety-related issues that plague other areas of the world, Mexico is a country that emphasizes personal responsibility and so vigilant parents will want to take certain steps to safeguard their little ones while on vacation in Puerto Vallarta.

Keep a Close Watch While Swimming

Both locals and residents enjoy leisurely trips to the many beaches in the area to enjoy these sandy seascapes in the company of loved ones and enjoy a refreshing dip in the rolling Pacific.

However, families who visit some of the area’s beaches will find it helpful to take note of water condition signs, which are posted in prominent locations near local beaches and inform guests of factors such as heavy surf and rip currents, which are relatively common in the area. Any water condition warning should serve as sufficient notice to evaluate the suitability of the area for children and swimming on that day. Parents should also instruct their children to minimize their intake of saltwater.

Another common issue for visiting tourists is the lack of lifeguards at area hotels. While some may employ a full time professional on scene to respond to emergencies, the concept is not nearly as widespread as it is in other North American countries. Many hotels simply staff their pool areas with an attendant who may not be trained in lifesaving techniques, and so parents will want to watch their children closely at area pools and consider keeping children who cannot swim confidently away from them entirely.

Avoid Spicy Foods

As practically anyone who has sampled enough traditional Mexican cuisine knows, the definition of “spicy” in Mexico is vastly different from the interpretation in points north. Even Mexican children typically take years to adjust to the high levels of piquant flavor that dominate many beloved dishes in the characteristic cuisine, and so visitors will want to take care in their dish selections to avoid overpowering sensitive children. Many spicy dishes are marked on menus for convenience, but don’t hesitate to ask if you are unsure about the spice level in a given dish for your child.

Keep an Eye Out for Animals

The local community loves animals, and unleashed dogs are a common sight along with the wildlife that populates the region including iguanas and raccoons.

While these animals are generally harmless, children are prone to creating situations which may alarm them into acting outside their normal, docile nature. For this reason, parents should monitor their children’s interaction with these creatures.

The area’s beaches are of particular note when regarding environmental caution, as many of the local beaches are protected turtle release points. Take care to educate your children on the importance of protecting these endangered animals, including not disturbing them during the delicate birthing process.

Watch Your Step!

Many of the sidewalks in the most frequently visited areas of town are dramatically raised to assist with rainfall management during the torrential downpours that occur seasonally throughout the year. These walkways can be nearly a full foot off the surface of the street, and some do not include accessible ramps for easy passage of conveyances such as bikes, wheelchairs and strollers.

This means that a small child could easily stumble over a ground construct or off the sidewalk entirely unless carefully watched, and so parents will also want to carefully guide their small children by the hand to walk safely in the streets of Puerto Vallarta. The cobblestone streets of Centro and Old Town among other areas can also be very slippery in the rain, and so care should be taken in this scenario as well.

Emphasize Establishments

While much of Puerto Vallarta itself Is optimized for tourists, with easy to navigate streets and many child friendly restaurants and activities, it is important to remember that the area rests within a larger jungle environment. That means that some smaller towns surrounding the city proper may not feature the same amenities as Puerto Vallarta, and even though they make outstanding choices for day trips and cultural experience, essentials such as a supply of bottled water and comfortable walking shoes are even more necessary in these environments. Families with very small children may even want to consider making major establishments like resorts and large restaurants the core of their vacation plans, as they are widely equipped to address the unique needs that parents of infants may have.

Be Prepared

Many of the most common everyday pitfalls that occur during vacation stem from a lack of adequate preparation. Venturing out without a plan can sometimes lead to a bout with cranky, impatient children in the best case scenario and so communication and foresight are indispensable in a successful family vacation with small children.

Prepare a trip itinerary ahead of time to avoid unscheduled downtime, and be sure to pack any special food or medications they may need. Every verbal family member should learn a few basic phrases in Spanish, such as hello (“hola” spoken “oh-lah”), goodbye (“adios” spoken “ah-dee-ohss”), bathroom (“bano” spoken ban-yo”), help (“ayuda,” spoken “ah-you-dah”) and “parents” (“padres” spoken “pah-dress”) to smooth out minor emergencies.

Other items that may prove essential for traveling with small children include a child’s favorite toy or security item as well as maps of the Puerto Vallarta area to aid in your discovery of the city. It can also be a good idea to give your child a taste of local culture with Mexico-themed activity books to spark their curiosity about travel.

Traveling with small children can require a little more preparation from families, but the area offers plenty to enjoy for those who make the effort. Be sure to expose your children to the rich culture, festive celebrations and vibrant spirit that makes Puerto Vallarta, Mexico into one of the most inviting and family friendly destinations in the world!

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