Travel with Kids – Mexico (part 1) San Diego and Ensenada

Travel with Kids – Mexico (part 1) San Diego and Ensenada

23rd November 2016 0 By Zoe

Exciting times, our first big trip with the kids, 11 hour across the Atlantic for a month long adventure around Mexico. One of the many benefits of Home Education is that we can holiday/travel for as long as we like, whenever we like! And what a fantastic experience to offer their expanding minds, being immersed in a completely different culture and exploring foreign lands.

We’d been talking about this trip for a few years, but it never quite felt like the right time. Then when my cousin announced he was getting married, it just seemed like the perfect opportunity. My wonderful Step-mum Elena is Mexican, and although living in the UK with my Dad, she travels back home to spend a couple of months with her family each year.

It was a long flight, but Osito found comfort in the inflight entertainment, had it not been for a couple of toilet and food breaks, I would not have known he was there! Pebble on the other hand, is very like me in that she can’t sit still. Her mind is rarely occupied on one thing for more than a few minutes at a time, but hey she was only 2! We had fun playing games, drawing, flicking channels on the tv and eating…lots! We even managed to squeeze in a couple of hours sleep too! On arrival, US immigration were extremely helpful and guided us straight to the front of the queue, saving us potential hours waiting to enter the country. Our first day started with a 2 am wake up call. Whilst we were desperately trying to sleep, their little body clocks told them it was time to get up and they were not taking no for an answer! Thank goodness for hotel TV’s!


We explored San Diego in the sun, played in fountains by the bay and took a boat trip to Coronado Island. We walked the breadth of the island with Osito in the buggy, and Pebble on my back. They were so tired by mid afternoon they slept for hours while we enjoyed the warm sun on our skin and had a cheeky ice cream whilst walking the promenade, the bubbas completely unaware of our indulgence! It felt so wonderful to be warm after leaving snow covered grounds at home the day before!

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The next day we visited Sea World, where we all had a wonderful day learning about marine life and enjoying the rides! After a train and bus ride back to downtown San Diego, and climbing the hill back to our hotel, we stopped off to collect a take away from a Japanese restaurant, both bubbas asleep after the exciting day.  I had ordered sweet potato fries to go with my teriyaki chicken, but it wasn’t until we got back to the hotel to eat, that I discovered that what I had in fact been served was potato fries, with icing sugar on! Lost in translation or just an American-ism I’m not quite sure, but it did make for an interesting meal!


Most of the next morning, our final day in the US, was spent trying to find Elena (or Abuela which the kids call her!) She was driving up from Ensenada to collect us, and later that evening, my dad from the airport. We had arranged to meet at Balboa park, a vast Urban cultural park in the city that had been recommended and we were looking forward to exploring. However I wasn’t as organised as I should have been, and we had the complication of only having wifi signal in the hotel to communicate by. Elena only had phone signal – no wifi, so I relied on my cousin in Mexico City to relay messages to and from so that we could eventually meet up! We got there in the end…only an hour late, Elena and her sister Martha pulled up in a minibus complete with car seats for the kids!  After lunch and a little shopping, Osito having his first ever burger, we headed to the airport to pick up my Dad before driving across the border and on to Ensenada, about a 2 1/2 hour drive from San Diego. Elena’s mum (Bis Abuela) and her many dogs, live in an amazing house at the top of a big hill overlooking the town. Elena’s twin sister, has her house in the garden! It felt so good to be back, the last time we were here, I was pregnant with Osito, 5 years ago.

It was quite late by the time we arrived, but we got the most welcoming, hospitable greeting you could imagine. There is no family like Mexican family! Well not that we’ve discovered yet anyway! After introducing our children to our familia Mexicana, and having some food, it was time for bed. Bis Abuela 85 years young, very kindly gave up her room for us and slept at Tia Laura’s house in the garden. We all felt instantly at home and had the best nights sleep so far!


Tia Laura (Elena’s twin) owns a plot of land just north of Ensenada and has established a vineyard there in recent years, after producing fantastic wine with some friends (Tres Mujeres) on another nearby plot. The vineyard is called Kastamay, and is worth checking out if you’re in the area.  Osito thought it sounded like Custard Pie to everyones amusement!


A fiesta was arranged for our visit with lots of family and friends there to celebrate. Being immersed in the language once again felt incredible, and we instantly picked up where we had left off 5 years before. Everyone also speaks English of course, but we were making a great effort to practice our Spanish, and it’s much easier when it’s being spoken all around you. After a few nerves at the start, Osito soon settled into the surroundings, finding yet another 4 dogs to play with, his favourite being a dog called Sister!


Pebble was happy exploring, picking fresh oranges from the trees and loving the attention from all the new faces. After getting a nasty splinter, my cousin Fernando spent about an hour at her beck and call. He asked her what would make her feel better, and she said ” a boat that floats on water.” What could be simpler in a vineyard in inland Mexico?! But he did it, finding any scraps of paper lying about, he made her a boat that floats! She was so happy!




Days are calm here, peaceful and happy. There were the usual tensions of tired hungry kids throughout the trip, but nothing that we wouldn’t have had, had we been at home. We all enjoyed the climate and spent time drawing and even occasional bouts of yoga on the balcony!


We went to see the sunset at the beach in our final day in Ensenada, we hadn’t planned for a swim, the Pacific Ocean is not that warm at that time of year, but being there as the sun went down, the kids just ran in and jumped about until the sun had set. The perfect end to the first part of our trip.




Homeward bound up the steep hill for the final time this trip, before heading to Tijuana for our flight to Oaxaca. Well it would have been the last time, but Tia Laura snuck Biz and I out for a sneaky drink at Hussongs, the legendary Cantina that Ensenada is famous for! Our 3rd trip to Ensenada and it was the first time we’d made it there! A real spit and sawdust saloon, great atmosphere, mariachis band playing, football on the tele and 2-4-1 on all the beers…obviously Biz had 2, no, in fact he had 3, he had Laura’s second one too! We were on a deadline so headed back up the hill to collect our belongings and hit the road. Amazingly, both kids slept the drive to Tijuana, through check in, through security (even whilst being removed from buggy and carrier to go through X-Ray), and all the way to Oaxaca, a 5 hour flight later! Lucky for them, not so lucky for us, for we had no sleep at all that night with sleeping kids using us as pillows on a budget airline night flight! Adios Tijuana, hola Oaxaca!

Photo Credits: Barry Minter