There is no place like Cancun, that’s is why it has always been on my bucket list. My husband’s birthday seemed like a perfect occasion to escape the daily routine and enjoy all the beauty of one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Good planning is a key to a wonderful trip (even though we used to skip it most of the time). It was his birthday, so I was in charge of organizing, even though I am so glad I got help from my other half. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear about Cancun? Beautiful, but expensive, right? Well, it is, unless you plan everything carefully and spend a lot of time entering the forums, reading reviews and double checking all the prices and dates. By the time I finished, I thought I was loosing my mind, but it was worth it efforts: at the end, we paid about the same price as we’d pay for a week of snowboarding in Colorado, for example. But, no matter how good you are at planning, there is always something you discover only when you arrive. This information may be useful while planning your dream vacation to Cancun:
– Play with the dates.
When we go on an adventure, the first thing that we worry about is the flight. Especially now, when airlines have changed their policies. And, if you have a travel budget, it’s great to get more for less. Flying on Tuesday or Wednesday is the best because of the price, right? Well, at least this is what I thought. We flew on Saturday morning with United Airlines and the price was excellent. And this is not the first time I ascertain myself that the date matters more than a day of the week.
P.S. While booking your flight from the USA, be ready to spend at least extra $25 for your luggage and another $25 if you choose to pick your seat right away.
– Don’t waste money.
There is a saying “Live and learn”. I remember it every time when we have to learn new life lesson. When my future husband and I just started traveling, we had so much trouble using regular credit and debit cards and/or depend on cash. It’s madness to spend time in lines to exchange all your money or find the card blocked by your bank every 3 days. Lesson learned. So, when you fly to another country, it’s nice to have a credit card with no foreign transaction fee. It’s very convenient and you don’t have to worry about carrying all your cash all the time for “just in case” kind of situations.
The currency in Cancun is Mexican Peso, nevertheless, many places accept The United States dollar. Small stores and cafes don’t accept credit cards, so you will need cash. Keeping that in mind, when most people arrive, they stick to:
a) exchanging money at the airport
b) paying in USD.
If you chose to buy Mexican pesos at the airport, you end up losing a ridiculous amount of money. My husband calls it “pure robbery”. Paying in USD is convenient, but here is a trick: locals convert money the way they want.
My rule: carry the credit card (e.g. The BankAmericard Travel Rewards) and visit one of the banks in Cancun downtown that offers better exchange rates. It will take you an extra 30 minutes, but your money and nerves will be saved.
– Evaluate your accommodation options.
Since it was our first time, we chose two different hotels for the trip: one in Cancun and another one in Playa del Carmen. It’s a good option if you have never been to this place before and would like to know the difference. Playa del Carmen is an hour drive from Cancun, but there are a lot of activities there. Living in the city with a lot of traffic, you want to avoid it at any cost when on vacation.
The closer you are to the beach – the higher price you’ll have to pay. The most popular place in Cancun is Zona Hotelera – gem for any tourist with a variety of hotels, restaurants, night clubs, etc. But if you choose to stay in downtown – no worries, most of the times you will be provided with a free shuttle to the private beach.
As much as we all love “all inclusive” package, it was not an option, because:
– there are so many really good restaurants with all kinds of food in Cancun, that it’s almost a crime not to visit them.
– drinks are cheap anyways (for as low as 8$ for 2 cocktails);
– beaches around are gorgeous, so you may want to explore more than just one;
– nightlife in Cancun is a must for everyone;
– there are so many options for staying: from Airbnb apartments and private houses to motels and well-known hotels.
– most hotels offer breakfast buffets for as cheap as $10 just in case you don’t want to look for a place.
– Save time on travel.
While planning our small vacations, I was worried about the transportation, because we were going to visit not only multiple beaches, but also parks and other attractions that required long-distance trips. After doing some research, we came to conclusion that it’d be better to rent a car than rely on taxis or shuttles. After all, it was our first time and we were willing to manage our own time. What can I say now? So worth it! It’s very easy to drive in Cancun even if you don’t have a GPS in the car (we were lucky to have AT&T Internet all the time). So we did not wait for the bus or cab – it saved us so much time!
The only problem may be to find a parking, though there are many spots offering 3$ parking per day. If you are experienced driver – it is much better to rent a car than depend on the schedule of somebody else. You can plan your day with no rush, make stops, stay safe and explore more! 😉
– ¿Hablas españos?/ Do you speak Spanish?
Let me be honest with you: Cancun is a place where speaking Spanish gives you a huge advantage. Yes, most people still try to speak English in the hotels, bars, and restaurants, but you may get good piece of advice and/or discount once you make their lives easier by speaking Spanish. Trust me, it’s worth of trying. We were witnessing tourists yelling at locals in the shopping malls and grocery stores because they couldn’t understand them. Come on! Don’t expect everyone to speak English. I do recommend to learn at least (or make a list) of common Spanish phrases if you want to get along with everyone. You may not even use them, but it’s nice to be prepared.
And the last, but not least: “Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” – Andrew Zimmer.