Travel Swellness: How vacations make you happy (+ my review of Finest Playa Mujeres)

December 21, 2016

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My recent trip to Cancun, Mexico, thanks to booking through the folks at Expedia Canada, couldn’t have come at a better time. Because while I have traveled non-stop this year, this trip I planned to be way different than any other I’d taken this year: this was going to be a vacation.

Most of my trips, you see, are for work, and this means the trips typically involve a very busy  itinerary with very little down time. And while this mean I may take part in absolutely wonderful experiences (such as surfing in Barbados or eating conch on the beach), it can also mean visiting one too many beautiful churches or American history museums or seeing every type of room in a hotel including meeting spaces I will never write about, which is fine (I enjoy pretty churches and museums and cool hotels) but it’s certainly not how I would choose to spend a lot of my vacation time. I’d rather be poking around local haunts or even, well, just starting a day later than 6 a.m. some days. And I’m usually not with friends when I travel for work (although I do get to meet a ton of great writers who have become friends!). But this is all part and parcel with what I do for work, and that’s fine. I’m just trying to explain how most of the travel I do is not vacation, even though I know it may seem like so…

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But this Mexico getaway? “You look really happy,” and “Wow, you’re really on vacay,” said my friends of this Expedia trip. These are friends who know me well and can read when I’m too tired or hiding (poorly) being cranky. And I was happy and relaxed; having six days to decompress in the warm sunshine with my only concern being whether to order a margarita or caipirinha was exactly what this frazzled freelancer needed.

How and when vacations make you happy, though, actually happens long before you make it to your destination, though. And I’ve talked about this in the past on the blog. Researchers in the Netherlands took it upon themselves to find out how vacays affect your happiness, and what they found is the biggest jump in your happiness happens in the eight weeks leading up to your vacay, when you are  planning it. And I was giddy and excited planning where to go and what we would do in our trip (and you can check this post for my tips on finding the right Expedia vacation for you).

After your vacay, your happiness typically drops back to your usual baseline of happiness. It’s only if you experienced feeling “very relaxed” on your trip that your happiness jumps for a period of two weeks post-vacay — and I’m, ahem, happy to report, that that would be me. I was beyond pleased with our choice of vacation spot (here are my tips on how to narrow down your Expedia vacay search to find the right one for you). We stayed at Finest Playa Mujeres and I’d say the only thing that could’ve made it better would have been had it been an adults-only property — but that resort is such that you can usually escape to an adults-only pool or just one of the quieter pools during the day.

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The room (which I failed to take a photo of…see, I truly was in vacay mode!) was spacious and modern, and featured this chic nook on our balcony for a sweet snooze. I finished one book (The Nest — which I very much enjoyed)  and happily dove into another (that I’m still racing through, The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall); reading more books is another way I’m trying to make more time for myself.

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The entire resort is beautifully modern and chic in design, from its airy lobby to its long pools, some equipped with pretty hammocks.

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The beach has plenty of palapas, so you don’t have to rush down before sunrise to “reserve” your spot. There is sometimes one or two people on jetskis in the water, but they’re usually far out enough that it’s not too loud; it’s still a peaceful beach.

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The staff are lovely — the only time I felt they could’ve done better, in my opinion, was when no one on staff asked the parents at dinner at the table beside us to have their child watch his tablet with earphones on rather than at full volume (kudos to the woman at the other table for letting them know as she left the restaurant  this was rude — although it only resulted in the volume being turned down a smidge). PSA: It is not OK to play things on your phone, computer or tablet with the volume on in public with people within earshot. All in all, though, the guests at this resort seem to be there to relax; it’s not a rowdy crowd.

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I’ve stayed at a fair number of all-inclusive resorts and besides its beautiful grounds and design, Finest Playa Mujeres also stands out when it comes to its food. There are a few missteps — avoid the both the pizza and pan-Asian restaurant (except do try the nem as an appetizer — those fresh rolls were delicious!), but the a la carte restaurants (which you don’t have to book a reservation for) are actually tasty. If you’ve been to a typical all-inclusive resort, you know what I mean; the different cuisines tend to poor takes on Italian or Japanese and rubbery overcooked lobster. AT Finest, though, we enjoyed the calamari and sangria at the tapas restaurant, the fish tacos and tender steak at the Mexican restaurant, and so much more. The buffets have a wide variety, too, including some lovely fish in a coconut sauce. My favourite lunch was at the beach shack, because I can graze on nachos with ceviche and guacamole on the daily, and they always had fun snacks including quesadillas and chicken wings.

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The cocktails are refreshing and well made. The best margaritas we enjoyed at the Golden Bar, and at breakfast there’s a self-serve mimosa and bloody mary bar (always a nice touch), and a wide array of juices;  we also enjoyed some lovely wines, sangria, caipirinhas and pina coladas. And the adorable Sweet Corner coffee shop has some good coffee — we were regulars there for cappuccinos, ristrettos and espressos (what can I say, we like to be caffeinated) — and some yummy buttery mini croissants. I somehow failed to try any of the ice cream they had here at the cafe (I just wasn’t in the mood so I wasn’t going to eat ice cream just because it was available — that’s one of my tips for not ruining your healthy regimen ICYMI).

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With the cold weather here now, it’s a good time to start planning a winter getaway with Expedia if you haven’t already and let the happiness of an upcoming trip fill you and get you through the next couple of months.

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1 Comment Leave a Comment

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