Background and Rigs
The first time we traveled in Mexico was when Micah was 2 and half and Moxie was 6 months old. It was for about a month.
That was when we flew into Cabo San Lucas and took the bus around. The second time, we drove from the Bay Area, and camped in our Ford F150 with a truck tent. This was for about a month too.
The third time we went, we had an Alaskan camper with a Ford F350 and a new baby, MacQuinn. We camped and traveled all over Baja for 5 months.
The fourth time we went, we had the Alaskan Camper with another Ford F350 and a ’56 Benroy Teardrop Trailer. We traveled all over mainland Mexico for 5 months.
(The long post with photos on the evolution of our rigs is here )
I feel like every time we go, we learn something new and I also feel that we learn more about ourselves and what we like.
Questions to Ask:
I think the most important questions to get started with when you start to plan your travel as a family in Mexico, with regard to rigs are:
- What do you like?
- What are you comfortable with?
- What do you want to get out of the experience?
- Is it safe?
The questions will easily point out the rig that is right for you. Something capable of going off-road? Something self-sufficient? Something really compact, or something with a lot of space?
Is your vehicle/rig safe? Strong enough to handle Mexican roads? Will you be able to fix it easily there, especially with regard to finding parts? We chose the Ford for that reason – it’s a common truck in Mexico and finding parts for it is a breeze.
If you have a trailer, is it reinforced? Can you strengthen the axles? They are going to get murdered with the topes in Mexico.
There is also the safety of alarms. We had a lot of electronics in our truck (- not visible of course, but still there). Our truck got broken into and it was all stolen. An alarm system would have been awesome – we should have had it, and we’re making sure that when we go again, we will (and this is coupled with insurance, of course).
Experience: if you want to go off-road at all, you’ll need a certain type of set up, and you won’t if you don’t! You’ll save yourself a ton of time and money if you start off with a clear idea as to what you want to get out of your traveling experience from the get-go.
Comfort – I like being comfortable. I think we also need space. I want to be able to sleep without a kid on me. Our next rig will accommodate this.
Mikey and I are also homebodies. We are addicted to travel but we are fundamentally people who like “home” very much. Having a comfortable rig makes a lot of sense for us because we like to spend time in the rig, at home, our own place. Lots of hotels, motels, change of apartments, etc kind of discombobulates us.
So we’re likely to get a 5th wheel McRig for the next trip. Big. Easy. Ugly. But strong. I should also note that Mikey built the solar for the last rig, the Alaskan and we had the fridge connected. We were 100% self sufficient for power and we liked that. The next rig will be the same.
Everyone is different
I wanted to throw it out there that we met a few other families traveling in Mexico, and people do it all kinds of ways that work for them.
We met a family in a VW Wagon, another family – who became good friends of ours – were traveling from Canada in their Honda Pilot with a trailer (with tip outs). The Bumfuzzles have the RV bus. We saw but didn’t talk to a couple of other families who looked like they were in European traveling vans. The Irish family we met had a bad-ass set up – over vehicle tents, the works. The British family were in a Winnebago RV. The Johnsons are in a big van with tents! And the Inions are in an RV.
But plenty of families spend very little time in their rigs and don’t care if they are all squished together. I think you just need to know what you are cool with and make it so.
We started off on this all with an income of $2,000/month. Living in the SF Bay Area. Thanks to tax returns, constant Craigslist scouting, the free internet (- to teach us to fix things, wire the solar panel and more), a hell of a lot of commitment to the dream, a big vision and time for learning and fixing stuff, we made it happen.
The most important part in that configuration was the big dreams part, and maybe even more importantly, faith in our dream. It sounds really cheesy, but it’s so true – it’s the fire behind the drive. It was frickin’ HELL for Mikey to come home after working for 8 hours a day and then go straight to wiring the solar panel, or taking our piece of crap truck and completely re-doing it. It was HELL for me to be solo parenting for so long, and trying to find a way to make all of it happen.
We couldn’t have done it if we hadn’t believed in our gut that we could.
You can’t travel on a road if you don’t believe the road is passable, navigable or there at all. And the same goes for dreams.
In terms of money while we travel, the first, second and fourth times we traveled, it was on savings. The third time that we traveled, it was on income earned as we went. I did some virtual career counseling, ghost writing, resume writing, and ads and support from readers of this blog helped float the boat.
Travel in Mexico with Kids
Kids and Mexico get along. Mexico loves kids. Mexico, as a country, is very kid-friendly. Is it safe? I think it’s as safe as it is anywhere else. Bad things can happen in Mexico, just like bad things can happen in San Francisco.
I never did anything in Mexico with the kids that I wouldn’t do at home. I have left the kids with my mom, Mikey’s mom and close friends, but never with a paid sitter, ever. Not in the US, not in Mexico. The kids are always in sight. One or the other of us is always with them, and that’s simply our choice.
But at home in the US, living off the grid, or traveling in the US or traveling in Mexico, we are well aware of stuff that can happen and do our utmost to be present with our kids, have them in reach, and never really trust anyone with them. Maybe it’s a tad paranoid (?!), but I won’t take chances with my kids.
We have leashes for Mack and Moxie – and we use them.
In the US, we use a double stroller but in Mexico, we used backpacks (we put the little kids in them and carried them). Next time, we’ll go back to the single BOB Revolution Stroller and a backpack (- any double stroller except for the BOB is useless with the roads in Mexico; but the double BOB is too wide for most places there. We stick to the single, have the older kid ride in front, shotgun and the younger ride in back, or buy the Stroller Back Board Rider and let one stand in back and the other ride).
I highly recommend the BOB. And nothing else, actually. Anything else is going to break in a heartbeat and isn’t worth your money.
My background is in Elementary Education – I taught in public and private schools for over 10 years. Choosing to “roadschool” was an easy fit for us, because of my own qualifications and experience.
A lot of people choose to “unschool” or “worldschool” which is learning on the road, naturally, but without a curriculum, etc. That’s not for us. We like some structure and I like the kids to be following a measurable path of some sort.
More on our roadschool is here.
I think one of the biggest things I see with people who want to travel with their kids is thinking that they can’t do it. I might agree, if you are thinking of traveling on more than you can afford, or you are not willing to change the way you do things to make room for new experiences and so forth.
That means different things to different people.
We had to give away or sell almost everything we owned we had to dramatically reduce our income, live off of far less money and to get used to a new way of doing things. This was really hard for me. I’m a ‘stuff’ person. I like stuff. But I had to come to grips with the fact that I couldn’t have both; I couldn’t travel AND have a lot of things.
It also meant figuring out how our kids tick and working with them.
Both boys are more like me, stuff people. Moxie’s like her daddy; she’s happy with one doll (- she has Dora; he has me).
While I don’t think that being a ‘stuff’ person is bad, I know I don’t want my own life to be ruled by my possessions. I want to engage more in experiences and fun. I want to be unfettered. And I know I need to lead by example and show my boys how to let go of things to make way for more experiences.
Blog Posts on Travel in Mexico
ALL of my posts related to traveling in Mexico are below this piece, but 2 of my top posts are:
Traveler’s Guide to Camping Mexico’s Baja: good book
Traveler’s Guide to Mexican Camping: seriously outdated but it doesn’t look like much else is replacing it
83 PUEBLOS MAGICOS: AWESOME BOOK. Get this if you get anything. It’s basically the 83 coolest little towns in Mexico. In Spanish but hey, even I could figure it out…
POR LAS CARRETERAS 2015: Mikey wore this thing out. He loved it.
Lonely Planet Mexico (Travel Guide): It’s okay. Worth having. We had the specific ones too – for Yucatan, Baja, etc.
The Rough Guide to Mexico : In cahoots with Lonely Planet. They both cover stuff the other doesn’t. Worth having.
Moon Mexico City : This was pretty useful in Mexico City.
iOverlander – site + app for campgrounds
Life Remotely: check out their FREE e-book, full of planning tips. The blog is also awesome and if you have questions about details, you can email them directly.
Expedition Portal: you can get lost here, in stories, dreams and products. Good lost, you know what I mean?
Any other resources that are helpful? Rigs, roadschool, books, sites? Leave a comment – thanks!