This is our second post on our series: Exploring the Yucatan. We couldn’t visit the Yucatan without visiting the archaeological site of Chichen Itza. So today, I'm going to give you some tips on visiting Chichén Itzá with your kids.
Visiting Chichen Itza is one of the most entertaining things you can do on your Yucatan trip, and it’s a fun excursion for people of any age. The busiest times of the year for this site are December and January, because of the pleasant weather, but it is busy all year round. We visited in August, during what is considered the “low season” and were surprised by the crowds.
Basically, the #1 tip I can give you (whether you visit Chichén Itzá with kids or without them) is to get to the park as soon as it opens. There is cheap parking inside the park, but it fills up quick. By noon, when we finally left, the whole park was a madhouse! There were literally dozens of tour buses lined up disgorging visitors. If you only take one tip away from this article, avoid the crush and get there early!
You can bring a bag/purse into the park. We brought in wet wipes as well as some other essentials, but all our bags were searched. I had brought my camera bag with my nice Canon digital SLR. They allowed me to keep my camera but they took away my flash and forced me to rent a locker to stow it. They will not let you bring in tripods, either, so be forewarned.
Once you get past the turnstiles, you will see a restaurant, lockers for rent, and bathrooms in the main entry area. There are also more tour guides in this area.
Top 7 Tips for Visiting Chichen Itza with Kids:
This is the first post in our “Exploring the Yucatan” series, where we talk about visiting the vibrant Yucatan!
This was our first time exploring this wonderful Mexican state. Our family had wanted to visit for a very long time but we never quite got around to it. There are so many beautiful places to see in Mexico, so unfortunately our trip to the Yucatan got put on the backburner.
As soon as we reached the city of Merida and I looked outside the plane window, I knew we had stumbled onto a magical place. Everywhere was green, green green! Lovely trees and flowers in bloom on every corner and every street. Even Quintana Roo didn’t have as much beautiful foliage. The Yucatan is a nature lover’s paradise.
The state's capital, Merida, is the largest city in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and is known as the safest city in Mexico as well as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It's not an exaggeration! in almost every direction, just minutes from the city, there are beautiful Mayan ruins, ancient temples, lovely colonial-era churches and other buildings, and cenotes–so much to explore, we didn’t even know where to start! And we do plan to tell you all about our trip, but first, we're going to talk about one of the few negative experiences that we had in the Yucatan.
Like many others, we have had issues renting cars in Mexico. After a terrible experience in Cancun with Hertz Mexico (which we blogged about), we have been very careful about checking reviews and also finding reputable car rental companies in any place that we visit.
We had good luck renting with National when we visited Chetumal, Quintana Roo, so I decided to make my reservation online with National in order to pick up a car at the Merida Airport.
The problem started as soon as we got to the counter. There are several car companies with kiosks inside the airport. I suggest avoiding ALL of them. First of all, we went to the National counter holding a printed copy of our reservation. As soon as the customer service person at the counter saw it, he looked at it like it was a poisonous snake.
He said it would be “very difficult” to fulfill the reservation, because it was made online, unless we made a $2,500 deposit in US dollars! I assume this was because he was losing some kind of a commission by not Contracting with us directly. I have never had any rental car company ask for a deposit this large, ever. I told him I wouldn't be paying a $2,500 deposit on a car rental was ridiculous, and he just shrugged. I guess if he wasn’t getting his commission, he didn’t care if we rented with National or not.
The representative for Europcar Car Rental Had a kiosk just a few steps away, and she was trying to get our attention the whole time, so we went over to her. She gave us one price inside the airport, but she wouldn't tell us how much the deposit would be. We decided to give them a try even though I had never rented from Europcar before. Against my better judgment oh, and a sinking feeling in my stomach, we allowed them to load our luggage into our shuttle and we went to the Europcar rental office, which was across the street from the airport.
I should have checked the online reviews for Europcar in Merida, because they are terrible, and they are absolutely deserved. When we got to the Europcar rental office, the price magically increased to double what was quoted to us in the airport, plus they also wanted a ridiculous deposit amount, over a thousand US dollars.
And while we were there, another customer was returning a car and there were several employees around the car taking photographs, and they were arguing with the customer about a small amount of sand inside the car. I listened in, and they threatened to charge the customer several thousand pesos for “excess sand” in the car. The car looked perfectly fine to me, and since we were planning to visit the beach in Progresso while we were in the Yucatan (doesn’t everybody visit the beach when they come here?), I had a sinking feeling that they would do the same to us when we returned our car.
My wife had the same bad feeling and she had been searching Google desperately to find an alternative. She found a small rental car company named “Leon Car Rental” just a few blocks away, with over 100+ 5 star reviews. We decided to take a chance and leave Europcar’s offices with our luggage, rolling away from the scummy airport-kiosk rental company.
We immediately saw a difference. Leon Car Rental is a small, family-owned, business. The lot was small, but there was a good selection of economy cars and a few SUVs and minivans for rent. The owners were all working hard to clean the cars and get them ready for customers. Everyone was working hard and there didn’t seem to be any scammy salesmen in suits whose main purpose was to trick you into buying insurance or scam you into paying extra.
We rented a 5-seater car with a roomy trunk that fit all our luggage. The price was fair and included insurance, we also paid with our Amex card for the additional insurance that Amex offers. The quoted deposit was only $500 and they actually never charged it to our card. When we brought back the car, there was sand in it, (from our kid’s shoes) and they did not charge us extra. Drop off was an absolute breeze, and they also took us to the airport and shook my hand. It was one of the easiest and unstressful car rental experiences that we have ever had in Mexico.
So I highly recommend Leon Car Rental (nobody is paying me to say this!) if you are in Merida and need to rent a car.
Contact information for Leon Car Rental:
Phone: 999 356 1542 (+52 Mexico)
Address: Calle 28 # 316, X 21 Y 23, Manuel Crescencio Rejón, 97255 Mérida Yucatán (across the street from the airport)
No website or company has paid a fee to be mentioned in this blog. Any suggestions you see are based solely on our own experiences and personal preferences.
Just a middle-class dad and mom with three young kids, looking to escape the rat race. This is our journey!
If you have a question for us, please contact us directly using our email here.