Image: Spring breakers
Gregory Bull  /  AP
A group of spring breakers from Alberta, Canada, soak up the sun in Cancun, Mexico, last month. If you're looking for a romantic or quiet getaway between March and May, it pays to do your homework.
By James Wysong Travel columnist
updated 4/3/2007 11:53:24 AM ET 2007-04-03T15:53:24

A couple of years ago, my wife and I decided to take a week off and fly to some romantic destination with the idea of starting a family. Winter had been especially stressful that year, as my wife, who is a pilot, had recently been promoted to captain, and I was trying to juggle three jobs at once.

While recovering from a morning spent shoveling snow from my driveway, I thought of a hot destination: Cancun. Sure, it's somewhat touristy, but neither of us had ever been there, and I was thinking of that Corona commercial — you know, the one with the palm trees and the beach. All I wanted was some peace, relaxation and a little good fortune.

My wife met me at the airport after her working flight. I had brought her packed bag, and our travel plans were right on schedule. One of the flight attendants recognized me as a colleague and remarked, "You're going to Cancun now? Good luck."

What did she mean, "Good luck"? We were already on our way, and we had a nice, inexpensive hotel already booked. Luck? Who needed luck?

I looked around and did notice that we were one of the oldest couples on board, but I shrugged it off. After all, Cancun is pretty much Beach Central. Then some surfer teenager straight out of a Bill & Ted movie sat down next to me and said, "Dude, are you one of the chaperones?"

I laughed it off, but it got me thinking.

I looked a little harder at the crowd. We were surrounded by teenagers dressed in their beach attire, acting like they were off to some sort of convention. My wife and I slowly put 2 and 2 together. Then, simultaneously, we looked at each other in horror and exclaimed, "Spring break!"

How could we have been so stupid? What were we thinking? We had gotten a good deal at an all-inclusive hotel with room, food and — oh, no! — booze. If we hadn't already been in the air, we would have deplaned on the spot.

In the past, I have enjoyed many spring breaks. I have experienced the wild nights and suffered many hung-over mornings, but I was older now. I was past the wet T-shirt phase of my life. Maybe it would be different this time — less rowdy, more civilized — but something about being hit several times with pretzels during the flight made me doubt it.

We were the oldest people in the hotel check-in line by about 20 years. Eight boys shared the room to our right and six girls were on our left. Room parties and live bands went on until the wee hours of the morning; the local bus became the drunk shuttle; and everywhere I went I was called "Pops." The sidewalks in the morning were cluttered with passed-out revelers from the night before, not to mention the vomit and litter.

On the second night, we considered surrendering and going back home. But we would lose all of the hotel payment, and besides, it was wonderfully hot in Cancun and bitterly cold at home. It was give up or give in. The cheapskate side of us took over and we decided to make the best of a difficult situation.

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So my wife and I relaxed a bit, enjoyed the festivities, and bathed in the sun. We posed as chaperones, helped out some neighbors who drank too much, and danced to the live bands. I even tried some Jell-O shots.

Here are a few things I learned from that trip about traveling around spring break.

1. Check the calendar. Think twice about visiting tropical destinations anytime from mid-March to May — especially if you're looking for peace or romance.

2. Get lost. Rent a car or head for remote locations away from the partygoers. My wife and I took a boat to a small island off Cancun and snorkeled for two days. Heavenly bliss.

3. Change your room. Ask the concierge for a room away from it all. The desk felt sorry for us and changed our room halfway through our stay; otherwise, I think we'd have gone crazy.

4. Spend some cash. Think about the company you'll keep if price is the sole consideration when you book your hotel. We suffered for our thrift. Had we paid a little more, we might have avoided the spring break crowd and spent time with some actual adults.

5. Plug them up. Take your earplugs. I wore mine constantly in Cancun and still managed to hear much of the conversation and all of the music.

6. Act your age. Drinking games are not what they used to be. If you're not accustomed to shooters and beer pong, I suggest you give them a pass (this is a tip I wish I had followed myself).

7. Get excluded. Stay away from all-inclusive accommodations during spring break season — they are magnets for kids. Besides, the all-inclusive setup keeps you from exploring the many different restaurants and cultures that await you in town.

8. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Go with the flow and try to make the best of spring break. There is always a way to have fun, and it only comes around once a year.

Had we gone home, my wife and I would have missed out on an unusual adventure. No, we are not planning to go back to Cancun during spring break, but we did enjoy ourselves. Plus, while we aren't 100 percent positive, we believe our little boy got his start on spring break in Cancun. I even suggested Corona as his middle name, but that idea was vetoed almost immediately.

James Wysong has worked as a flight attendant with two major international carriers during the past fifteen years. He is the author of the "The Plane Truth: Shift Happens at 35,000 Feet" and "The Air Traveler's Survival Guide." For more information about James or his books, please visit his Web site or e-mail him.

Photos: Cancún caliente

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  1. Mexican magic

    An aerial view of Cancun Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula’s Caribbean coast at sunset. Cancun was purposely built as an ideal tourist spot by the Mexican government. (Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Postcard perfect

    Lounge chairs wait for tenants on the beach at Club Med. There's more to do in Cancun than one person can in one vacation - water sports, fine dining, nightlife, culture and more. (Macduff Everton / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Dance the night away

    Visitors and locals dance at the discotheque in Cancun. (Demetrio Carrasco / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Authentic arts

    Hanging puppets are for sale at one of the many shops in Cancun. (Bob Krist / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Water world

    Snorkelers explore the warm, clear waters of the Xel-Ha Lagoon near Cancun Quintana Roo, Mexico. (Dave G. Houser / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Mango Tango

    The facade of the popular Mango Tango Restaurant - famous for its seafood and entertainment - is seen in Quintana Roo, Cancun. After dark, the restaurant turns into one of Cancun's hottest nightspots. (Carl Purcell / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Otherworldly discoveries

    A scuba diver discovers shipwreck debris. (Joe Mcbride / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Pretty in pink

    A town scene on Isla Mujeres in Quintana Roo, Cancun, Mexico. (Nik Wheeler / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Sail away

    Sailboats sit on the waters of Isla Mujeres in Cancun, Mexico at sunset. (Nik Wheeler / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
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