In March, an exciting notification landed in my inbox. Volaris, a small Mexican airline, announced a crazy 90% off sale. Among the numerous flights I snagged during this sale were two “first-class” tickets to Cancun, coming in at a mere $184.35. Listen, first class is in “quotes” because Volaris is not exactly Singapore or Emirates BUT I will say this, I have had worse Delta and United flights! I bought all the upgrades for a comfy 2.5 hour flight.
Now, my man is not a fan of the Mexican Riviera and before you come at me let me explain why. Reason number one: we both got hit with CoVid on our last trip there. Number two: the sweltering heat, humidity, and relentless mosquitoes are not exactly a selling point. And perhaps the most crucial point – He’s got fond memories of the Caribbean side of Mexico from his youth, it’s a sentimental thing but these days parts of the area can feel like a touristy blur, reminiscent of Vegas, Miami, or LA.
Now me? I’m all about the Riviera Maya love! While I respect his concerns, I keep going back to uncover those hidden gems that make the place so unique. I hatched a plan.
Part One: Enlist the Squad
I dialed up one of my ride-or-die comadres. Now is it a coincidence that she happens to be hitched to someone the lover enjoys hanging out with? I think NOT! And once they were in, it was time to convince my love. I asked, and he was down for it. It wasn’t an ecstatic yes, but I ran with it. I knew our time in Quintana Roo had to be spectacular or I’d never hear the end of it.
Part Two: The Art of the Possible
Now spectacular can be expensive but it definitely doesn’t have to be; especially when you’ve got tricks up your sleeve.
We live in an era of incredible information sharing. I’ve got some well-connected homies in the travel game, and I’ve learned heaps from them. Platforms like YouTube, Facebook groups, Instagram profiles and blogs are my go-tos. I do my homework and plan a few activities, then let spontaneity take the wheel. Plus, many online deals translate into better prices on the ground.
I’m all about that budget-savvy travel life. One surefire way to live large on a budget? Sharing expenses with a couple you love! I swear by an app called Splitwise – it makes tracking and splitting costs a breeze. There’s a free version that suits me just fine.
For this trip, I relied on the AVIS, Airbnb, Priceline, Weather, and TripAdvisor apps. There’s a wealth of websites and apps to aid your trip planning.
While I didn’t use it on THIS trip, one of my FAVORITE budget friendly ways to travel is to house sit! I use a website called Trusted Housesitters. Sitters can stay for free in unique homes around the world and enjoy travel experiences with or without adorable animals. I have enjoyed free stays in absolutely amazing homes. I’m an animal lover but I move about so much I don’t have any of my own. For me, the stays with furry members of the household were always the best.
Here’s my secret sauce – I’m an introvert who dislikes crowds. So, off-peak travel is perfect. Sure, you might encounter rain and heat, but it doesn’t faze me. To be honest, I actually prefer August-October for the overcast mornings and afternoon rain – it syncs perfectly with my early bird tendencies.
Hay comida en casa!!!
OMGoodness, this may be triggering for those of you who are terrified to turn into your mom or abuela, but it’s so true. One fantastic way to save on costs is by buying groceries and alcohol if you indulge, and enjoying meals at home. Now, if you hate to cook, this might not be your jam, but the lover relishes his time in the kitchen, and I, for one, don’t mind. Most of our meals at home were simple. When we ate out, we were really intentional. Fortunately, my friends are open to our food adventures and we made some delicious memories together!
Here’s the lowdown on how I worked the magic:
- Day 1: Flew to Cancun, snagged a car, hit up El Oasis for lunch, stocked up on essentials at Costco, picked up our friends at the airport, and headed to Akumal.
- Days 2-4: Our condo in Akumal was a charming, older but well-kept spot with a killer view. We ventured to Tulum to some additional (perishable and specialty) food shopping the Mega Chedraui Supermarket. While in Tulum we checked out the Instagram icon that is the Ven a La Luz sculpture. I was in Tulum last year for almost a month and had never been but with my lover and friends, I thought it would be a cute time. It was. We waited about 10-15 minutes. Chatted with some young ladies we met and took a ton of unforgettable pictures. Day 3 was all about swimming with turtles at the TSUUK AKUMAL NATURAL PARK, and we indulged in local eats at IMELDA’S ECOCINA AKUMAL.
- Day 5: Packed up and set off for Bacalar, stopping for breakfast at Botanica, a trendy but DELICIOUS spot in Tulum. Arrived in paradise, and our home was as sweet as could be. We unpacked, and went kayaking.
- Day 6: Sailing on Bacalar Lagoon was pure magic, thanks to an unforgettable experience led by a local expert, Enrique. Swimming, snacks, and great company – what more could you ask for?
- Day 7: This was an unplanned day of exploring. We went into town, and grabbed some lunch at a little corner shop that sold empanadas. One thing about traveling off season is that some places will be closed, either for the season or for a break. This was the case for us. We came home and and went kayaking and snorkeling again.
- Day 8: Checked out of Bacalar and headed back to Cancun, aiming to beat the traffic. We stayed at the Kempinski hotel, and the lover couldn’t find a single thing to gripe about. Dinner at Fred’s Restaurant Cancún was a solid meal, if not the cheapest.
- Day 9: Returned the car and hopped on the first plane home. But wait, I goofed – forgot to pack my pricey shea butter and Dr. Bronner’s soap in my checked bag. A $40 lesson learned. Even seasoned travelers make mistakes and have to adjust. So don’t be afraid to go for it and create your own adventure.
And there you have it, angels! Financing a luxe vacay on a budget is all about savvy planning. Check out the cost breakdown below:
|Expense Category||Cost (Per Couple)||Cost (Per Person)||Cost Per Day (Per Person)|
Catch you on the flip side.
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