Life, Love, Travel & the Pursuit of Traveling Better and Cheaper in Action: Winter international beach vacation for $285.27 (Cancun, Mexico)

Okay so you’re still wondering how I really am able to afford my travels. Honestly, it’s about actively using my top 10 money travel tips. Here’s an example ~ my most recent trip: Cancun, Mexico for five days and four nights ~ a tropical beach vacation during prime season and I was able to do it for UNDER $300 IN TOTAL. Gorgeous view from my $0 flight

TRANSPORTATION

This area tends to be one of the biggest costs when traveling. The photo above was my view from the flight that cost me a grand total of $0. No, I did not use points or miles ~ I used one of my favorite resources: Google Flights and stumbled across an astonishing cheap flight to Mexico. It wasn’t an error fare even just simply a Frontier Airlines sale fare~ $169.20 roundtrip and NONSTOP! Prices typically are ~ $450-$500 for this travel period so I can’t stress this enough, deals like this need quick action. I also used my Chase Sapphire Reserve card which has a $300 travel credit that automatically reimbursed me for this flight. And since I was headed to a tropical place, it was easy to stick to the one personal item allowance (my backpack fits perfectly underneath the seat) and I didn’t choose our seats beforehand so no additional fees. As you can see, I’m a fan of spreadsheets and that I originally set a budget of $600 for this trip. I ended up spending 31% (~$97) of my total on transportation which is pretty good considering we also went outside Cancun twice. Also helped that I traveled with a friend and was able to split costs.

LODGING

Our hotel stays were definitely where I saved the most and really utilized my favorite tips: Loyalty program and large sign up bonuses with credit cards. I booked the Aloft Cancun because it was very conveniently located for us ~ it was close to the beach and to the party zone so we could walk everywhere. And the rooftop pool and lounging area were an additional bonus (shown in the video above). Timing was also key for this booking as this hotel was changing categories ~ luckily I booked it when it was a Category 2 hotel so I only had to use 10,000 Starpoints for the entire stay. To put that into perspective, the hotel rates including charges and taxes for that time period was $744.49. So I was able to maximize my points and my status got us a number of drinks that we enjoyed on the roof. FYI, this hotel has now changed to a category 3 hotel so now it takes 7000 Starpoints/night.

The Westin Cancun is a Category 3 hotel but I figured that it would be worth it for our last night. It’s located at the beginning of the hotel zone so it would be more quiet and tranquil than the Aloft. As you can see by the picture, it takes a lot of effort to make it postcard perfect. It ended up being an ideal way to spend the day in the surprisingly warm waters of the pool and ocean before heading back to the cold wintery weather back home.

ENTERTAINMENT

But what did we do while we were in Cancun? We had the perfect mix of sun, beach, ocean, relaxation and party. We were lucky in that a friend of a friend lived here so he was generous enough to take us around including a trek to see Chichen Itza and a beautiful cenote. We also made new friends that took us to Coco Bongo where we danced the night away and getting to watch a pretty amazing show. We played in the waves and visited turtles and I managed to get pretty tan in spite of the SPF 55 sunblock.

FOOD (AND DRINKS)

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise, that the biggest expense was food and drinks. We definitely enjoyed a number of alcoholic beverages and being in a touristy area, the costs did add up there. As did our restaurant dinners but even so my share of the total was $130.15 for the entire trip. I wish I had taken more pictures but the grocery store that we were near was amazing ~ bottom right photo is of the wine you could purchase by the glass. We enjoyed crepes and coffees for breakfast (less than $10 for both of us) and had some amazing ceviche there one evening. If we had gotten all of our food there, we could have even spent less money. Pro tip: you can buy alcohol there and enjoy at the beach. So this could be a place where you can spend a lot less money than we did.

Luckily I was only asked that we come back safe and sound so I didn’t feel pressure to buy gifts for family and friends and only ended buying a magnet to add to my ever growing collection. If you’re curious, this post covers how I’ve incorporated my travels into my home decor.

And so that’s how I’m achieving affordable travel ~ an incredible trip to my fifty first country (it does seem incredible that I’ve never been to Mexico before right?!) and saw my fifth 7new wonder of the world. Hopefully you’re inspired…

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