Our 10th anniversary trip to Mexico + marriage summit

19 December 2022

By now, most of you are probably aware that our tenth-anniversary trip was rerouted at the last minute. With a hurricane bearing down on Bermuda, we booked new flights and accommodations less than 24 hours (!) before departing for Mexico (!) in a grand pivot. Though it was a stressful few days leading up to the trip, it all worked out wonderfully: for our scrambling, we were rewarded with five days of relaxing, enjoying each other’s company, reminiscing, and casting vision for our next ten years of marriage in our own mini marriage summit. It was a true gift. I’d love to tell you about it and share a few photos today!

Before we get to the fun, though, let’s do a brief recap of the stress, ha. Those may look like two happy faces on an airplane to paradise, and they were, but in the week leading up this moment things weren’t quite so happy. About a week before we were due to depart, we began watching the weather (as one does). John also began tracking the weather on various websites and apps (as he does, amateur weatherman that he is). And what did we see? A hurricane headed straight for Bermuda. No worries, we thought: surely the track will change in the next seven days. So every day we checked, and every day… it remained resolutely headed for our island. Five days out… four days out… three days out… still headed straight for Bermuda.

We began to feel more and more nervous. At some point, one of us suggested something about how maybe we should consider alternative options…? To which the other probably said something like, no way! Really? No, we probably don’t need to. Nah…….. but the track continued to not change, and the hour of our departure inched ever closer.

About 48 hours out, we agreed that continuing with our trip to Bermuda was not a viable option for us. The hurricane was scheduled to directly hit the island the day before our departure back to the U.S., and we felt we couldn’t risk getting stuck on the island for days with no power or water and our kids back home. We considered postponing the trip, but agreed we’d rather go forward with a trip of some sort since we had both taken the time off work and my parents had cleared their schedules to watch our kids.

(Side note: We had purchased travel insurance, since we were traveling in hurricane season. However, Bermuda needed to be under a hurricane watch or warning for our insurance to activate. This was challenging, since the hurricane was supposed to hit toward the end of our trip, and watches/warnings are generally only issued 24-48 hours before landfall. We had to make the decision to rebook our flight and accommodations before knowing we would receive a reimbursement for our Bermuda itinerary, which was unnerving, financially.)

With that decision made, John dove into research mode and began obsessively searching for a new destination: somewhere warm, a short and easy plane flight away, and not in a hurricane’s path. Though he considered many destinations, including domestic options, he quickly narrowed in on Mexico, and then Banyan Tree Mayakoba. I wish I could tell you all the details and what about it stuck out to him – it was not on our radar at all before this week – but he handled all of the research and most of the decision-making. I glanced at a few photos before giving it my thumbs up and hopping on the phone to book our room.

And then 24 hours later, we were there! We drove the two hours to Charlotte, then hopped on a 2.5-hour flight to Cancun. (Everything everyone says about flying sans-children being its own vacation is entirely true. Though we were still winding down from the stress and adrenaline of changing our plans and getting out the door, just sitting in the airport reading a magazine and not managing little people was incredibly relaxing!)

But of course, that was only our first taste of what was to come. After making our way through the bewildering gauntlet of taxi drivers at the airport door, we found the driver we’d booked through the resort and made the 40-minute drive to Mayakoba.

The view from the lobby in the main building. Cello is off to the left and breakfast was served to the right.

Once we stepped on property, we never stepped off until we headed back to the airport. We might have done things differently if we had had more time to plan, but we didn’t feel like we were missing anything by staying in place. Mayakoba is a beautiful and unique property. It’s a large natural preserve of mangrove forest set next to the ocean, with canal waterways crisscrossing the property. The rooms are spread out around the acreage, with some at the main building in the heart of the jungle and others near the ocean (our room was on the beach – an oceanfront veranda pool suite). Our room came with bikes to move around the expansive property and our rate included breakfast, too.

It also included fresh salsa, guacamole, and lime-y margaritas as we signed our check-in paperwork, which is a very direct route to my heart.

The margaritas may have made the cost go down easier, too. Because of course, this trip was a splurge – though one we had planned for, saved for, and felt incredibly grateful to experience. The view from our room alone was an embarrassment of riches.

The funny thing about our grand pivot was that in the end, we actually got a more luxurious vacation than we had originally planned: Bermuda is just a generally expensive locale, and we were already planning to splurge there. When we rerouted our budget to Mexico, a much less expensive location, it went further. We soaked up every minute. There are lots of things our money has to go to, but when John and I think about the money we get to spend, there are few things more worthy of celebrating than ten years of marriage to a best friend.

At top is the pool at the Sands Beach Club, close to our room. Below is the pool at the main building.

After exploring our room, we headed out to the beach. We swam in the ocean. We took a dip in our pool. We lounged by the resort pool. We rode bikes around the property. We had more chips and guacamole and margaritas.

It turned out it was totally fine that we hadn’t made any reservations or plans: we were perfectly happy to spend our days with no agenda, moving from one body of water to another.

We anchored our days with big breakfasts at the buffet in the main building and with dinner at one of the restaurants on-property. That buffet, man. We actually had the option each day of a plated breakfast at the beach restaurant near us or the buffet breakfast, and once we had the buffet we never sampled the plated breakfast, ha!

Walking to dinner the first night at the Sands Beach Club

For dinner, the concierge helped us make reservations for the first three nights when we arrived, and then we returned to our favorite on the fourth and final night. We had our choice of times and locations throughout our stay: we were lucky that we were traveling in something of the off-season (September – December and January are their busiest months), so nothing ever felt crowded. In fact, we were often the only couple at the resort pool. Most of the other guests were attending a luxury travel conference, and were in seminars or off-property during the day.

We tried almost all of the on-property restaurants throughout our stay. We had dinner the first night at the Sands Beach Club, a beachfront spot a short walk from our room, which specialized in seafood and local Yucatan flavors.

The second night we ate at Cello, an open-air Italian restaurant in the main property. Cello overlooked the canal that flowed through the main building, and it was so beautiful to watch the boat moving in and out lit by lanterns and candles.

This photo of Saffron is the only one that’s not mine – my photos just didn’t capture the magic!

Our third and fourth nights we ate at Saffron – it was so magical that we immediately knew we needed to return for our final dinner. Built on floating docks over the water, it was an experience.

The Thai food was delicious, yes, but everything from how we were greeted, to the service, to the setting, was just so special. Probably the most magical dining experience we’ve ever had.

This is as good a time as any to mention the service: it was phenomenal – from top to bottom – throughout our stay. The entire staff was so warm and kind, professional, quick to help with anything we needed and eager to make our stay wonderful, especially when they heard it was our anniversary.

One other element I need to mention that added to the magic: our favorite way to move around the resort was actually via the canals, in a boat that ferried us between the beach club and the main property via mangrove-draped canals. For free! We took the boat to and from dinner every evening and it was so lovely.

I mentioned that we didn’t go off-property, and that’s true, but we did have a few adventures on-property.

We rode our bikes on miles of path, we ducked down into a small cenote in the jungle (not one open for swimming), we tried to get close to the little racooon-like animals (coatis!) all over the property, we visited the village center shared with neighboring resorts, and we rented hydro bikes one afternoon for a guided tour through the canals. It was just the two of us and our guide, who told us all about his work as a free diver mapping the hundreds of Riviera Maya cenotes. The water was crystal clear and John was thrilled to see a crocodile.

In addition to these adventures, eating, and relaxing, we had one other priority: our marriage summit. As soon as we decided we were going on this trip, I knew I wanted to use some of our time away to reflect on the past ten years together, and vision cast and dream for the next ten. John and I have realized that our happiness in marriage is fueled in part by gratitude for what we have as well as our shared passion for looking forward with excitement and intention. I knew this was a chance to indulge in both that we could not pass up.

Our summit was nothing fancy, but it was a delight: the quality of the experience was directly related to the conversation and our desire to engage in it, not anything complicated we had planned. To prepare, I spent some time brainstorming a few questions before we left. I wrote each question at the top of a page in a thin notebook; we carried it with us around the resort.

We tackled 2-3 questions a day, while lounging by the pool or the beach or at a meal. Sometimes I’d sit and write while we talked, and sometimes I’d read the question and then we’d talk about it while we waded in the ocean or swam in the pool (and then I’d capture some of what we talked about on the page once we were dry). Some questions were fairly simple to answer, while others generated more than an hour of discussion.

An important note: these questions were designed to help us celebrate God’s goodness in our last ten years of marriage. We were not using this time to problem-solve or give constructive criticism or workshop an issue. Those things are important, and all have their place in our life together, but this was not it, ha. This was meant to be a joy.

I loosely grouped the questions into past, present, and future. Here are some of the questions we used:

— What are some of our favorite adventures, trips, meals, and moments from the last 10 years?
— Where have we seen God be gracious to us?
— What are our keys to a happy marriage?

— What are our family core values? Our mission statement?

— What milestones will we mark in the next 10 years?
— What adventures do we want to have in the next 10 years?
— How do we want to be generous in the next 10 years?
— What do we want to be part of our weekly, monthly, or annual rhythms?

The questions that ended up being our favorites to discuss were the keys to our happy marriage and the ways we want to be generous in our life together. I know everyone’s personalities and relationships are different, but I highly recommend trying something like this if you can create time away on a milestone anniversary. The questions themselves and the conversation they generated were wonderful, but just layering them into our days added such a unique and memorable element to our trip. I am so grateful.

And there you have it! A marvelous way to mark a truly marvelous decade of marriage. The decade itself would have been enough, but we are so grateful to have been able to mark it in this way. If you have any questions about our trip or summit or anything else, I’d be happy to help! Thank you, as always, for coming along for the ride!

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December 19, 2022 7:06 am

Love every bit of this! So glad you were able to enjoy this time!

Kelly Strawberry
December 19, 2022 7:54 am

The fact that you had a marriage summit on your anniversary trip is so fitting to your personality. I love it! This spontaneous trip seems so fun and memorable!!! Your vacation posts are always my favorites!

December 19, 2022 9:08 am

First of all, congrats on 10 years! That is definitely something to celebrate! This trip looks nothing short of a delight and am glad you two were able to have that intentional time together.

Kelly C
December 19, 2022 9:12 am

I’ve heard of this resort from my fiances boss, and I’ve loved seeing your photos! Such a lovely trip! I can’t wait to use some of these questions as jumping points over our honeymoon. We will have been together for 5.5 years when we get married in February. Any other questions or suggestions you would have to ponder over a honeymoon? We’ve got a two part honeymoon, so lots of time to lounge and think about our family’s future. :)

Rebekah Louise Murphy
December 19, 2022 10:07 am

Love this so much! I also love your marriage summit questions and how they naturally fit into the trip with some structure but not too much. Would you mind sharing where you were planning on staying in Bermuda? We have Bermuda as a possible future travel destination!

December 19, 2022 11:32 am

Hello, honeymooners!! Y’all are glowing in every photo! I’m so happy that your last-minute change ended up being so delightful—this property looks so unique and lovely! Also making note of those questions for future date nights :)

December 19, 2022 3:05 pm

Oh man! I had no idea about your last minute change, I must have missed that. But it looks and sounds like everything worked out beautifully! That resort looks delightful and I love your marriage summit questions. Thank you for those! Our ten year anniversary is coming up in April, so I might have to steal those. :) Congratulations on 10 years!

December 19, 2022 9:04 pm

Hooray! Congratulations on 10 years! What a gorgeous property — the view from your room hopefully softened the blow of the last minute planning stressors! My husband and I celebrate 5 years in March but won’t be able to travel as I’ll be late in my pregnancy, so we’ve decided to start saving towards something extra special for our 10 year. I’ll be keeping this gorgeous resort on my list!

Was this y’all’s first major trip away from your children? If so (and if you have capacity), I’d love to hear more about anything that made that aspect go smoothly. I’m sure there were some logistics with three kiddos of various ages!

Appreciate all you share here. It’s my favorite corner of the internet.

December 27, 2022 12:05 pm

So wonderful! I‘m so happy for you guys!

January 31, 2023 3:13 pm

Hi Emily! Would you mind sharing the process behind determining your family’s core values and mission statement? Is it like an adjusted version of PS prep work? :) Thank you for sharing so much of your life with us!

February 8, 2023 10:45 am
Reply to  Em

Thank you, Emily! This is perfect and I can’t believe I missed it on the blog. I love the idea of tabling this until the kids can have more input, too. Our daughter is not yet one-year-old and so it’ll be a while until she’s in on this fun, but we’ll work on this as a couple in the meantime. Thanks again!