Below are some issues that often cause complaints at Mexico resorts. To find out if they arise at a particular property, read recent visitors' comments at a site like TripAdvisor.
Beach conditions change -- especially after a hurricane; but even lesser storms, and general erosion, can change a beach. Check recent visitor comments for a particular property; for Cancun, also check beach conditions photos and read the Cancun Resort Forum.
Not All Beaches Are Swimmable
Some areas have rough waves, either regularly, or occasionally depending on weather. Families shouldn't assume that a beach will be suitable for little kids. In Cancun, waves are often rough in some areas, especially on the east side of the Hotel Zone; and in Los Cabos, many beaches have rough surf.
Most Pools at Mexico Resorts Aren't Heated
-- except by the sun. If the weather's cool or cloudy, the pool may be chilly. Some upscale resorts may offer heated pools: for example, the Four Seasons Punta Mita, in the Riviera Nayarit, has a heated lazy river.
Kids Programs Vary Widely
Many kids clubs at Mexico resorts are the "friendly little club" type: a cute room with toys, tv, and video games, where ages 4 to 12 are cared for by friendly staff. If you read that a resort has a "kids club for ages 4 to 12", be sure to check visitors' comments to know what to expect.
At the other end are the kids clubs with different programs for different ages and an array of creative activities. For fantastic kids programs at a Mexico resort, try Club Med Ixtapa Pacific (with Baby Club Med) and Club Med Cancun Yucatan. See also Mexico Resorts with Baby and Toddler Programs, for wee kids. (Read more about kids clubs.)
Tipping at All Inclusive Resorts
All inclusive resorts typically have a "no tipping" policy, but nonetheless tipping at Mexico resorts is common, so you may want to bring along a wad of dollar bills. Read visitor comments before you go, to see if tipping is recommended by other guests at a particular resort.
Lounge Chair Competition:
Often, demand for lounge chairs outstrips supply, and guests have to get up early in the morning to claim a lounge chair. This happens at many resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean.
A la Carte Dining Reservations
All inclusive resorts typically have one or more "specialty" restaurants in addition to buffet dining. Quite often, guests need to make reservations immediately on arrival to get a spot, or need to book early on the day they want to dine. Again, visitor comments will tell you what you need to know.
Pool Towel Controls
Many resorts have some kind of system that limits the handing-out of pool towels. Some places have more relaxed policies than others. Visitor comments will give clues when a resort is overly zealous about towel control.
Many visitors from the US and Canada who visit Mexico resorts remark that "the beds were hard" -- seems to go with the territory. If you can't abide a hard bed, read visitor comments carefully for different resorts when making your selection. (Or try requesting a foam mattress cover; this might help, and can't hurt to ask.)
--can be aggressive at some Mexico resorts.
Families with Older Teens
Just so you know: in Mexico, the legal drinking age is 18; so, at an all inclusive resort, your son or daughter will get "adult" wristbands which means unlimited access to alcoholic drinks.
Getting Sick at a Mexico Resort
When reading visitor comments for a resort, you'll undoubtedly read that someone becomes sick and blames the food. At an all inclusive resort, generally visitors trust that the place takes health and sanitation measures, and it's common to relax the precautions we'd typically use in Mexico outside the resort (such as treating ice suspiciously, and using the "peel it, boil it, or forget it" rule for fruits and vegetables.) So guests are vulnerable if food isn't handled properly.
Generally, resorts do a good job: if they didn't, visitor comment web sites would be filled with criticism. So it's hard to know what to conclude when an occasional guest gets sick at a resort. Food isn't always the culprit. Was the traveler outside the resort, and/or handling money (- a great way to pick up germs)?
In any case, it's easy to take a few simple precautions. Double-check on the tap water quality (for brushing teeth, for instance), especially if you have little kids. Check if the glassware at the bar --or in the rooms-- gets thoroughly washed, or just rinsed and re-used. And washing hands before eating is always recommended, no matter where you are.
Several tragic deaths at Mexico resorts have made it painfully clear that -- even if a resort seems to be a protected, modern mini-world -- families can't count on the type of life-saving medical responses they'd expect at home. Ask your resort if there are trained medical staff on site. (Club Med and Dreams are good bets - but always check.) How would an accident victim get to a hospital? Also, don't assume that safety standards will be the same as "at home".
Finally, a few tips to enhance your trip:
Take Day Trips
Mexico has wonderful opportunities for outings, such as day-trips to impressive Mayan ruins. Be sure to get out of your resort and explore.
Try Local Transport
Often, guests grumble at the cost of taxi rides from their resort to nearby towns or attractions. Other guests get out and make use of inexpensive local transport: bus service can be very good in some areas; ask around about buses and other options.
Bring a Donation or Gift
it's a great idea to bring along some school supplies, kids' clothes, toys, or other donations; many small charities have set up easy ways for tourists to drop off gifts. In the Cancun and Mayan Riviera areas, for instance, Give a Toy, Get a Smile is a nice way for your child to help another child, by bringing a toy to donate to a local youngster.