*s' The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 10, 1997
Mexican sun, sand draw
Daily Staff Reporter'
PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico - Over winter
break, the vast majority of University students headed
home to see their families.
But for some, home was not their only destination as
students from campuses across the country invaded ski
slopes and beaches worldwide with family members.
Those lucky students enjoyed spring break-like
excursions - and mom and dad picked up the tab.
Art first-year student Tracy Silverstein, who tagged
along with family members to Tampa, said traveling
with her family was a different experience from spring-
"It was fun because I got to see people I don't nor-
mally see and because it wasn't snowing," Silverstein
said. "But it wasn't 'spring break' kind of fun - we
weren't going out and partying or anything."
Local travel agents said the winter break is one of the
most popular times of year for families to embark on
vacations - including families with college-age chil-
"The winter holidays are a big travel time for both
families as well as college kids who go places on their
own," said Heather Golembiewski, a travel agent for
Boersma Travel's Washtenaw office. "This is a very
busy time of the year for us."
Golembiewski said Florida, Hawaii and the
Caribbean were some of the most popular vacation spots
during the winter break.
But Mexican travel sites like Puerto Vallarta were
also teeming with college students and their families.
"You hang out with your family all day and then go
out to the bars and clubs with your friends at night -
it's nice," said Cornell University sophomore Stu Katz.
"Being here with the family has been almost as much
fun as spring break trips I've been on - and it's defi-
nitely cool not having to pay for anything this time."
But other students said it was hard to party when your
friends were thousands of miles away.
"The trip's been fun but it's up and down - there are
times when I'd rather be with my buddies back at school,"
said Stanford University sophomore Jason Toranto. "In
Mexico, winter break is a lot tamer - when I was down
here during spring breaks it was much more crazy."
But Toranto also said he enjoyed the greater financial
freedom traveling with family members usually provides.
"I have eaten food that is so much better and more
expensive while I've been here," Toranto said. "I've
been to restaurants I never would have set foot in with
my friends or by myself."
Illinois State University sophomore Julie Johns said
vacationing with her parents was good for her tan but
not for her social life.
"Laying on the beach has been great, but this is the first
time I've gone out at night - I didn't go out all week,"
Johns said. "I stayed in the hotel room and slept and
Cancun boasts history, sights
and the expected party spots*
By Janu Yr cbn a mCabos and Puerto Vallarta.
Daly StffReporter "The Yucatan has been very (calm)," said
Wayne Johnson, a Hudson's travel agent. "There
he Caribbe borders one side, the has been no rebel activity or terrorism in recent
Mayan ruins are available for daily tours and the years. Tourists may worry about pickpockets,
dollar stretches out. muggers or the water but it is really a very user-
The other thing many students like about friendly destination. Built from the sand up since
Cancun, Mexico? the '70s."
"The beer is cheap," said Bill Mitchell, a man- There are those students who won't travel
ager at Carlson Travel. Mexican "tourist traps" because they cater too
Price is a major reason many students head to much to tourists.
Mexico for vacations. "Cancun isn't really a part of Mexico - it's a
"It's less expensive than any- little place for Americans to go and say they're
place else," in Mexico," said Andrew Hunter, an Engineering
s a i d junior.
e Michelle, A few students said they preferred Mexico to
less than a block
away from the
large and flashy
bars and night
clubs that pack
the city's down-
er and stark
d i ffe r e n c e s
from wanting to
go into business
in the tourist-
states such as
before and I
had a good
The beer is*
- Bill Mitchell
Carlson Travel manager
Capital: Mexico City
Population: 93,985,848, as of
Total area: 1,972,550 sq km
Chief of state: President
Unemployment rate: 9.8 per-
Length of coastline: 9,330 km
Independence from Spain:
Sept. 16, 1810
Currency; Peso. U S. dollars
accepted in some locations.
Source:,CIA World Fact Book, 1995
But it wasn't
'spring break' kind
- Tracy Silverstein
Art first-year student
watched a lot of HBO -
it's hard to go out to
clubs when you don't
Locals said the more
than 700,000 tourists
who flock to Puerto
Vallarta each year have
transformed the once
unknown fishing hamlet
into a tourist mecca and
have made speaking
But local entrepreneurs said getting started in Mexico
is more difficult than most expect.
Recent University of Minnesota graduate Danny
Schertzer, who manages a downtown restaurant here,
said acquiring necessary working papers was not a sim-
"A lot of college kids come down here on vacation
and never want to leave - but it's not that easy to get
work permits," Schertzer said. "They aren't going to
just take jobs away from Mexican nationals - if you
want permits you have to prove that you have some
innovative skills like public relations or something. You
have to be creative."
While many students partook in family excursions to
places like Puerto Vallarta over the holidays, others
declined their family's invitations to hit the road.
"I didn't want to be in the back seat of a car with my
two brothers for five hours," said LSA sophomore Steve
Thomson, who stayed in Ann Arbor while his parents
traveled to Chicago. "I stayed in an empty house with
only two other people - it wasn't exciting but it was
kind of nice to have some time to myself."
For other students, just returning to the friendly con-
fines of home was vacation enough.
"I didn't go anywhere
else, I just headed home,"
said Art first-year student
Roy Bird, a Flint native.
"We didn't go anywhere
special, but going home was
restful and it was nice to see
the family again."
But some students did not
even have the option of
"My parents live in Hong
Kong, and I can't afford the
$1,300 plane ticket - that
was the main reason I didn't
go home," said LSA Stanley
Ip. "Staying here wasn't at
all boring for me, I just read
cnP ri hkwlc, TIant 4irm
meals, travel tax, lodging and, ins iecases, air-
The idea is that students are saving money by
prepaying for almost everything.
"About 4 percent of the entire vacation popu-
lation takes cruises," said Robyn Rucards, cruise
director for- Landmark cruises. "They're much
more inclusive than typical air and hotel trips.
You can see all of the islands of the Caribbean
rather than being stuck on one of them."
"Proof of citizenship - that's the only major
preparation you need," Michelle said. "You can't
get in or out of the country without it."
Because passports, which can cost upward of
$100, are not necessary, students can avoid that
expense by travelling to Mexico.
"It's quicker to get to Mexico than to drive to
Florida," Mitchell said. "A lot (of people) have
been to Florida, and Mexico is more exotic."
International travel is a new experience for
"I think Mexico is more accessible to younger
travelers," said Engineering sophomore Marissa
Ebersole. "If you go to Florida or another tropi-
cal U.S. spot, they treat you like babies. In
Mexico, it's more like, 'You got the money, here
"I love the ocean and I'm going to swim in it
and go snorkeling and parasailing while I'm
there," Ebersole said.
Cancun is one of several popular Mexican
vacation sites, including Acapulco, Cozumel, Los
time. Truthfully, you can't drink in Florida - it's
hard to get alcohol," said Leigh Botwinik, an
LSA first-year student. "There are also lots of
clubs in the strip of a couple miles ... you doiW't
need a car."W
Many travel agents said the most common
worry for travelers is the quality of drinking water
"Drinking water is a fear, and there is a gener-
al fear of Mexico being dirty and poor," Michelle
said. "But (Mexican towns) got their money from
visitors and the travel industry and that's how
they got built up."
Students who have visited Mexico said they
feared being thrown in jail.
"My only worry was getting arrested a,
Mexico," said Neema Navai, an LSA first-ye
student. "I've heard horror stories about getting
thrown into Mexican jails and never getting
Although Cancun has a reputation as a vaca-
tion spot for partying, students who have visited
Mexico insist there are many other activities.
"There was a lot of dancing, parasailing, swim-
ming in the ocean and the pool, laying out and
shopping in the market," said David Parzen, an
LSA first-year student.
"There is lots of sun, sand and sea," JohnsW
said. "Geared toward American tourists there is
very nice sight-seeing. You can schedule full- or
half-day tours to the Mayan ruins."
Some hotels offered activities.
"You could go on day trips by getting informa-
tion at your hotel, to see places outside of Cancun
- historical sights, or to secluded parks, and you
could swim with the dolphins," Botwinik said.
English a prerequisite for finding jobs in town.
"The company mostly only hires people who speak
English," said Juan Gante, a concierge at the Puerto
Vallarta's Sheraton hotel. "To work in departments like
the front desk you have to speak it to deal with tourists."
Gante said his hotel was filled at or near capacity all
year except during the region's rainy season months of
September and October and that "college kids ready to
go to the clubs downtown are here all the time."
Claudia Ile, who sells time-share apartments to the
hotel's many guests, said learning English was not a
very difficult task.
"I've learned it from speaking to so many tourists,"