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Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

This is not normal.

I can remember being stuck in that kind of traffic in our Stateside lives—anxiously and impatiently tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, moving along inch by inch, so fed up with that being the “norm”, knowing in my heart that it didn’t have to be, and feeling so ready for a change.  

Breathing in toxic exhaust fumes and missing out on active, joyful engagement in life–on hold in bottleneck traffic–was not how we wanted to spend our precious, once-in-a-lifetime lives. I would take pictures from the dashboard of my car to the sea of bumpers in front and send them to my husband at work with the message, “One thing I will NOT miss”.

And I don’t, not one little bit. Family? Yes. Five-lane freeway traffic? No.

Thanks to creating a radical shift in our lives by moving to Mexico with our children in 2012, we no longer live under that paradigm of life in a 21st-century modern society.

Moving to Mexico with Kids

Since immigrating to Mexico seven years ago, we have gone from daily traffic congestion and the frequent witnessing of road rage to driving on jungle roads and 16th-century cobblestone streets. We have traded in mind-numbing, lost hours in the car to engagement in soul-enriching, meaningful activities of our choice. Time is precious. Spend it well.

Daughter Horseback riding in San Pancho

If one of my jobs as a Mother is to facilitate and nurture the emotional well-being and development of my children, then moving to Mexico with our kids has been one great step towards that endeavor.

Children Playing in Pool

We immigrated when our twins Liam and Mairead were eight years old, during the middle of their third-grade year. Patience, planning and having the right legal liaison at our side paid off and within three months of our arrival, we became Permanent Residents of Mexico.

Baja California, Our First Mexico Home

Our twins were seasoned travelers prior to our move to mainland Mexico, having spent the first eight years of their lives adventuring back and forth between San Diego and Baja California. Frank’s firefighter schedule and my school teacher’s allowed us blocks of time off together as a family and we took full advantage of them to head South!

 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

 

Mairead and Liam fondly referred to their Baja home as their “other home” and Mexico forever became ingrained in my children’s hearts as a place of fun, discovery and family connection. 

Adiós San Diego

Aside from the inevitable emotion of parting ways with our loved ones, the move itself and the preparations leading up to our departure from San Diego were relatively easy as it was something we were ready for

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

We arrived in San Pancho, Nayarit on a Friday, and that following Monday our previously homeschooled twins began their first ever five-day-a-week program at the former Escuela del Mundo. Surrounded by tropical trees and open green space, our children experienced freedom and discovery like never before.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

While the Spanish immersion of their new school was a bit of an initial challenge for The Reds, they acclimated rather quickly, having been exposed to Spanish in a border city and by their Spanish-Teacher Mom for the first eight years of their life in San Diego. Even without that advantage, we all know how sponge-like children’s brains are, and if given the opportunity, are able to assimilate and adapt with great ease. I do believe they were the only Mairead and Liam their classmates had ever met, and their new friends and teachers warmly accepted them and made great efforts at learning and pronouncing their unique, Celtic names.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

From San Pancho to Sayulita

After Escuela del Mundo in San Pancho, Mairead and Liam went to Costa Verde International in Sayulita, Nayarit—a neighboring village just 10 minutes down the main jungle road, famous for its bohemian, surfing culture. Moving to another school was indeed another change and adjustment for our children, but one that they embraced wholeheartedly with the amazing, trusting, positive attitudes that they approach most things in life with.

Located a few blocks from the beach, Costa Verde is a bilingual, multi-cultural school that focuses on environmental sustainability and the advancement of ecological responsibility in Mexico…and surfing! In fact, surfing was part of their PE program!

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Mairead and Liam continued to explore, discover and develop their own sense of community and connection within the larger context of our family’s move to Mexico. Their language skills progressed and improved to where at this point, a year or so into our relocation, they could easily flip back and forth between English and Spanish.

From Coastal Mexico to Central Mexico

After a year and a half of coastal jungle living, we were ready to experience another part of Mexico and set our compasses on something completely different. Sight unseen but with lots of research, we chose San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country. San Miguel de Allende was the first municipality to be declared independent from Spanish rule, and as such, life here is steeped in history, culture, national pride with one festivity after another

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Our children are learning and growing in a loving, nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment of freedom and growth, with two hands-on parents who are no longer trying to keep their heads above water to survive in the rat race.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

A Life Without Limits

They see a life without limits, that anything is possible, that dreams do come true and that carving one’s way in this diverse world is achievable. Our children have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from Firefighter and Teacher to Solar Designer and Freelance Writer. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners, interacting with the world around them with their bicultural perspective. 

Moving to Mexico with Children

We O’Gradys embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives south of the border and give thanks daily for Mexico’s warmth, hospitality, graciousness, and generosity…for welcoming and adopting us and inviting us to feel at home.

Moving to Mexico with our kids has been an undeniable adventure that continues to shape the trajectory of our lives, and we are forever grateful.

Saludos,

~Katie

For more about our family’s immigration to Mexico: Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father’s Perspective

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For more information on Moving to Mexico with Kids, feel free to email me at [email protected]

 

 

 

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Mexico Tourism Tax Refund

Mexico Tourism Tax Refund

If you are a Permanent Resident of Mexico and travel by air to, from and through Mexico, you are eligible for a refund of the Mexican Tourism Tax included in the price of your ticket–usually in the $25.00 to $30.00 USD range-within 12 months of the ticket issuance.

Each airline has their own procedural requirements for applying for the refund so you will want to check with your carrier for their specifications…but whether traveling as an individual, a couple or a family, those total amounts can really add up and it is absolutely worth taking the time to apply!

I recently went through the process with both Alaska & Delta Airlines and will walk you through my experience with each. I hope the information is helpful and paves the way for you to get your refund(s)!

Alaska Airline

With Alaska Airline we used to simply request a tourism tax refund form the ticket agent when checking in, fill it out right then and there and then receive the refund within a couple of weeks. But the last few times we have flown Alaska, we were instructed to apply online. I got onto Alaska’s online chat and the agent instructed me to do one of the following (I did both for good measure):

1. Fax to #206-392-7587:

  • Passenger’s Name as Appears on Ticket
  • Confirmation Number
  • Ticket number
  • Copy of Both Front and Back of Mexico Permanent Resident Card 

or

2. Mail All of The Above Documentation to:

Alaska Airline
Refunds Department
P.O Box 68900
Seattle, WA
98168

I was told to expect the refund in 7 to 10 business days.

Last Summer’s Alaska Airline Round Trip from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego (times 4!) 

Mexico Tourism Tax Refund

Total Refund Due: $116.08 USD

Delta Airline

For Delta Airline, I was first directed to fill out a form online but the system wouldn’t accept my ticket number and prompted me to call their 1-800-847-0578 number. The agent took all of my information (full name, ticket number) and then, while still on the line, sent me an email asking me to reply with attached copies of the front and back of our Mexican Permanent Resident Cards. Easy Peasy! We are due the refund to the credit card used for the purchase within seven business days.

Our Recent Delta Airline Round Trip from Puerto Vallarta to Salt Lake City (times 4!) 

Mexico Tourism Tax Refund

Total Refund Due: $115.60 USD

According to both Alaska and Delta, there are also other circumstances (citizens, diplomats, infants under age of two, transit/transfer passengers) in which a Mexican Tourism Tax refund is given. Again, please check directly with your own individual carrier for their specifications. 

I hope this information has been useful and puts a few dollars back into your pocket to be used for more fun and adventure!

Do you have any experience in getting your Mexican Tourism Tax back? If so, I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Saludos,

Katie O’Grady

Others that have written on this topic:

How to Get a Refund of The Mexico Tourism Tax by TEX MEX EXPATS 

How to request Mexico Tourism Tax refunds for airline flights by citizens and residents by Yucatan Times

*Please protect yourself and your loved ones with an Expat Travel Insurance Policy & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

 

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The Roof Is on Fire! 7 Tips for House Maintenance in Mexico

The Roof Is on Fire! 

It was our first big summer storm since our return to the jungle from San Miguel de Allende. The lightning came cracking down over our house like an arrow landing a bullseye, resulting in my jumping at least a foot into the air and one of our rooftop AC compressors catching on fire! 

Fortunately for me, I am married to a firefighter and knew that our family (and my nerves) were in good hands. Although it was a lightning bolt from the storm that caused the fire, the downpour is what extinguished it. Glass half full, no?

Thanks to ingenuity and the reuse and repurpose culture of Mexico, the wires were changed out and the AC unit spared! 

7 Helpful Tips for House Maintenance in Mexico

The Power of Lightning!

Jungle storms can be powerful, messy and destructive. They are equally exciting, cleansing and replenishing—popping out dense, lush, canopies of green and a multitude of ecosystems that thrive inside of them—reminding one of the absolute  magnificence of Mother Nature.

The rainstorms also provide an opportunity to identify where exactly more silicone is needed inside the house, such as around the collection of leaking windows at the base of a 20-foot high boveda ceiling! Tall ladder anyone? Those first few falls on our slick marble floors were not so fun (especially after back surgery!) and made us delay not in tending to this issue ASAP.

Keep a tall ladder and supply of silicone on hand!

The jungle wasted no time in welcoming us back and reminding us of the fortitude, sense of humor and determination one needs to both survive and thrive here. Yes, there are prices to pay for living in paradise folks!

The following 7 Tips for House Maintenance in Mexico are based upon our own personal experiences from our seven years in country. I hope you find them useful and that they help you to maximize your enjoyment and minimize your frustrations.

1. High-Quality Roof Sealant

Ensuring that the roof of your home has been properly sealed and therefore protected against leaks and moisture intrusion should be a top priority. We learned the necessity of this the hard way when our San Pancho rental grew large circular mold spores from the outside in after our first rainy season there. A disgusting and unsafe “inconvenience” to say the least and one that a layer of paint would not remedy! Needless to say, the roof had never been sealed. 

Hire a reputable company to assess the roof’s condition and if needed, to powerwash it prior to putting on a quality sealant that has not been watered down.

7 Helpful Tips for House Maintenance in Mexico

What a difference a powerwash can make! The Before and After in Progress!

There are various types of impermeabilizantes (sealants) available. Spending a bit more to ensure a quality result is well worth it. We went with an eco-friendly, waterproof one believing it best to have maximum protection considering the amount of rain we receive here on the coast of Nayarit. 

2. Air Conditioners Serviced

Have all AC’s serviced at least once every six months. The filters should be cleaned of mold/dust/debris and the electrical panels checked for any unwanted critters that can wreak havoc. Apparently electrical wires are a delicacy to geckos—ridding your AC’s of them is far easier than having to replace the entire unit, trust me.

3. Over-The-Bed Mosquito Nets

Screens on all doors and windows are not just a luxury but an absolute necessity lest you want to share your home with mosquitos, spiders, geckos, scorpions, iguanas and stray animals. Additionally, these over the bed mosquito nets  are must-haves and will allow for peaceful, uninterrupted sleep ( ie. no annoying buzzing in your ear!)

7 Tips for House Maintenance in Mexico

Mosquito-Free Sleeping

4. Drain Covers

If you want to avoid golf ball-sized cockroaches and sewer smells, you’ll want to get some of these

The Roof Is on Fire! 7 Tips for House Maintenance in Mexico

5. Moisture Absorbing Bags & Room Dehumidifier

Jungle equals hot and humid for at least 6 months out of the year! Ventilate your home as much as possible unless you want  fur to grow on your clothes, shoes and other household items. Using these moisture absorbing bags inside closets and other closed spaces helps to absorb excess humidity and to protect your items from musty odors and mold. 

7 Helpful Tips for House Maintenance in Mexico

 

These room dehumidifiers work really well too.


6. Polarity Tester for Electrical Outlets

Make sure your outlets are grounded and wired correctly with a polarity tester or hire a qualified electrician to do so.

 7 Tips for House Maintenance in Mexico

Just Say No To Electrical Fires!

7. Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you’ve been following us for any time, you know why we recommend carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety. We recommend placing one in every bedroom and next to any gas-fueled appliances such as a stove, clothes dryer, hot water heater, fireplace and freestanding gas heater.

 7 Tips for House Maintenance in Mexico

Carbon Monoxide Detectors Save Lives

These are our Tips for House Maintenance in Mexico.

Do you have any that you could add? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below. 

Saludos,

~Katie O’Grady

Reader Tips for House Maintenance in Mexico:

Arturo: For the summer months it is highly recommended to put your clothes in airtight bags or vacuum sealed bags so that mold doesn’t grow in them especially if you skip town. I highly recommend doing this process with your shoes because if you don’t, the soles will disintegrate completely from the salty air and humidity.

Margaret: Keep all your food in the refrigerator, even if you wouldn’t normally, especially fruit. Clean up your kitchen messes as soon as possible to deter unwanted scavengers and never ever ever let your kids eat in the bed unless you want… ANTS ANTS EVERYWHERE! (And they bite). Even with screens and drain covers, if you leave food out they will find you.

 

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*This article contains affiliate links for products we use. The price is the same whether you use our affiliate link or not. If we haven’t spent our own money on it and loved it, you won’t see an affiliate link for it here. 

 

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My Immigration to Mexico~ A Tale of Irony, Coincidence & Destiny

As the granddaughter of a former Chief of the US-Mexico Border, it is no small irony nor coincidence that I, along with my retired firefighter hubby and our eight-year-old twins, would immigrate to Mexico to create our lives anew.

We were ready to get out of the rat race and redefine our reality. 

Departing from San Diego with nothing but a car and trailer full of stuff that we deemed to be the “essentials” after selling, gifting and tossing the rest, we headed South!

Immigrate to Mexico

Shortly after our arrival to San Pancho, Nayarit, we received our Permanent Residents cards (having begun the process stateside at our local Mexican Consulate) with the assistance of a highly reputable, local legal liaison. 

Immigrate to Mexico

A Historical Love

From a very early age, perhaps even encoded in my genetics, I have had a deep love and respect for Mexico–her people, her magic, her allure, her fervent sense of community and reverence for history and tradition. I often joke that in a former life, I was a salsa dancing latina

My proximity to the San Diego-Tijuana Border granted me access to a bilingual/bicultural upbringing that allowed me to move easily between both worlds. Speaking in both Spanish and English at school, work and play has always been my norm.

And without a doubt, my relationship with my Grandfather, my Dad’s Dad, was one of the most significant influences in my  connection to Mexico. 

Always dressed impeccably in his signature crisp-collared Oxford shirt, ironed slacks and shined shoes–no matter the occasion–my”Big Joe” (as we affectionately referred to him) was a humble, bright, witty gentleman with no time nor concern for nonsense. He was as tough as nails and lived his life to the fullest until the age of 94.

He adored me, and I him.

Immigrate to Mexico

A Living History Book

Sitting in his living room overlooking Mission Bay, he would speak to me of his many adventures, of his life on our family’s dairy farm in Chula Vista, of the beautiful horses in his care, and how at the age of 14 he left his home to become a cowboy on the last rancho that spanned the US-American border. 

Family historians state that he was the “Paul Revere of Chula Vista” by warning the Otay Valley on horseback of impending rain that ultimately ended up bursting the Sweetwater Dam.

I would listen in awe, taking mental notes of these precious conversations, knowing that I was bearing witness to a living history book. 

We would drive down to Rosarito Beach on weekends for an early dinner at El Nido and I would marvel with pride and joy at my Grandfather’s ability to conduct himself so eloquently in both languages and cultures. Sitting in front of the open, wood-fired oven where our quail and lobster tails would cook, my Grandpa turned the ordinary into magic.

His affinity for conversation, charisma, thoughtful ways and sharp sense of humor made for a dynamic mixture that simply attracted people to him. It felt good to be in his company and I just happened to be lucky enough to be his granddaughter. 

Although my Grandfather passed before I began my teaching career, I know that he would have been so very proud that I had chosen to go into a line of work that shares the beauty of the Spanish language and culture with the youth of today. 

Family Shenanigans

My Grandmothers Mary & Elizabeth had their own fair share of  South of The Border Shenanigans and their stories were nothing short of hilariously entertaining–like something out of an I Love Lucy Show! This 1982 picture is of the two of them (in the middle) on a day’s outing in Tijuana…I can imagine the laughter!  

Immigrate to Mexico

A Mexico Influx

It comes to me as no great surprise that we find ourselves in a time when more and more people want to immigrate to Mexico, looking not just for an escape from “politics” that defy reason and common decency, but for a reinvented, reinspired life where adventure is affordable and time and freedom are your most precious commodities. 

Life in Mexico WAKES you up from whatever slumber you might have previously found yourself in, RESETS your outlook and REMINDS you that true, mindful, engaged living results from paying attention and participating in a life of design.

I thank my beloved Grandfather for setting the bar high, for leading by example and showing me a love and respect for Mexico that is forever imprinted in my heart and has forever changed the trajectory of my life.

Grandfather holding Granddaughter in Chair

Mi Querido México, thank you for taking my family in, for welcoming us with open arms. These past seven years have been one heck of an adventure and we are better people for it. 

!Viva México!

~Katie 

 

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Shoulder Pain

While I am not particularly thrilled that I find myself with a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder–something about 50 years of miles on my body, I guess–I am eternally grateful for the Mexican Medical System that has once again proven itself easy-to-access and affordable.

After both a spinal and abdominal surgery here in Mexico, amongst a host of other medical situations one experiences when  raising a family, I feel somewhat seasoned as it pertains to “the system” on this side of the border.

On Friday of last week, I called to make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist here in Puerto Vallarta after months of a nagging shoulder pain that has evolved into something that keeps me up at night with increasing pain and limited mobility. I phoned the office directly–no having to go through a primary, no frustrating pre-authorization phone tree web or an on-average 6 week appointment wait.

I got in to see Dr. Ricardo Vázquez at Imagenología y Centro de Diagnóstico across from Plaza Caracol, just 2 days after having placed the call.

After about a 5 minute wait, I was greeted and walked back to the consultation room by the doctor himself. After a thorough evaluation, Dr. Ricardo wrote me an order to radiology for two x-rays, which conveniently was located just downstairs in the same building. Here my wait time was also around 5 minutes, if that.

Cost

800 pesos later (about $41.00 USD) and with x-rays in hand, back up to Dr. Ricardo’s office I went where he was waiting for me without having crammed several patients in during the time I was gone. Thank you.

After a thorough explanation of my x-rays, more clinical assessments, a 3-ingredient infiltration injection into the back of my shoulder (fun, fun!), a booklet of at-home exercises and a prescription for anti-inflammatories, I was on my way with instructions to return in a month for a possible MRI based on how I progress. I will progress!

The doctor and his assistant spent nearly two hours with me, never once looking at their watch or rushing me out the door. Thank you.

The total cost of this appointment was 2,300 pesos (about $120.00 USD). While that is not the “usual” 600 to 800 peso consult fee that we have experienced for other situations (dental cleanings, ENT consult, pulmonology, etc.) nor was it a routine appointment.

I am so grateful that we don’t have to jump through hoops, spend hours on the phone, wait for weeks or months on end to access top-notch medical care here in Mexico.

Yes, this is private care and we are grateful that we have made choices to have access to it.

So How Do We Pay?

Now onto the million dollar question…how do we finance our medical care in Mexico? IMSS? Seguro Popular? Expat Insurance? Cash?

As part of my husband’s firefighter retirement benefits, we have an HRA whereby we can submit for reimbursement for substantiated medical appointments/procedures/medications up to a specific amount in the fiscal year. We simply need the physician’s prescription, diagnosis and lab reports translated into English and the Peso to Dollar exchange rate for that date. We do need to front the money and it usually takes about a week to get reimbursed. Not all of our expenses are covered because there is a cap, but many are.

Since our HRA is not a “typical” Insurance Plan, when we travel to the States, we use Bethany Neuman of Expat Health Insurance for our north of the border coverage.

Bethany is also who we refer all of our friends, family, followers and clients to for Long-Term Expat Health Insurance in Mexico & Short-Term Travel Policies to and from Mexico and the States.

Click here if you would like a free quote.

GOOD NEWS!

This morning, after that gorgeous horse-sized injection I received yesterday at Dr. Ricardo’s office, my pain level is significantly diminished and I am oh-so grateful! Here’s to NO SURGERY! That is the only energy I will entertain with this current challenge.

Thank you all for your care and concern. It is warmly received and truly appreciated.

Off to do my 40 minutes of in-home physical therapy!

Saludos,

~Katie

P.S. For those of you that live full or part time South of the Border (or travel back and forth frequently), how do you manage the financial side of your Medical Care? Please feel free to share in the Comments Section below…

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*For information on my Relocation Consulting, please email me at [email protected]

*Please protect yourselves and your loved ones with carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety.

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