I'd never been on an all-inclusive holiday before. Frankly, the concept had never really appealed to me. I mean, c'mon. Me? On a packaged holiday with hundreds of other pale-faced vacationers? Following the tour guide - herd-like and passive - from airport to bus to hotel to pool? Splayed out on an over-crowded beach filled with northern beluga bodies turning pink like spawned-out salmon? Unlikely right? But things change.
With a difficult anniversary to face at home, a daughter who was already trudging the gringo trail in Central America, another daughter who just wanted to go "somewhere hot and sunny" for Easter, and a body suffering the slings and arrows of middle age, I decided one cold Whistler morning that a southern beach holiday might not be such a bad idea to contemplate. Suddenly I found myself surfing the Internet looking at possible scenarios for a short tropical getaway.
And what I found blew my mind! The last-minute deals were inconceivably cheap. A week's package (including flight food and hotel) could be had for as low as a thousand bucks Canadian per person. All I had to do was plunk down my credit card number and all this could be mine. It was worth contemplating a little further...
Mexican destinations, as it turns out, were at the top of the price-to-quality equation. From Ixtapa to Cancun, from Cabo to Huatulco, innumerable all-inclusive packages in four-and five-star hotels were being offered at rock-bottom prices. And this for the busiest holiday week in the Mexican calendar - Semana Santa. It really didn't make sense to me.
But I jumped at the opportunity nevertheless. My search narrowed. East coast or west coast? North or south of the Tropic of Cancer? Four or five star accommodation? It was all so confusing. Still, I persevered.
And it didn't take long for me to make a decision. Although lesser known than its more mainstream cousins to the north, Huatulco on the southwestern tip of Oaxaca is where I decided we'd vacation.
Why? A couple of reasons. First of all, my oldest daughter was already in the region. I figured we could rendezvous at one of the hotels in Huatulco and she and her boyfriend could take a week's "holiday" from their back-packers' journey before resuming on their penny-pinching path. The second reason was more nostalgic. The stunning beaches of southwestern Oaxaca had been the last destination my wife and I had travelled to before her untimely death last April. It had been our first trip together without the kids - a kind of rite of passage for us - and it had been hugely successful.