How I Traveled The Yucatan Peninsula 9 Days For A Total Of $850!
It’s NO secret I suffer from a case of wander lust- I love to travel and do so as often as I possibly can. Many people think travel is a high expense, but that’s not always true. By writing this blog I hope to give you some travel tips that may encourage you to take that trip you’ve been wanting to take!
Tip #1: Don’t travel during high season!
Easier said than done, I know. One of the most beautiful parts of being a business owner is getting to choose when I get days off, and I take liberties with my vacation days 😉 But if you can, I really do recommend you study what are the high and low seasons of the places you want to visit. Flying during low season will save you hundreds and once you’re at your location your daily cost would be much lower.
My trip to the Yucatan Peninsula was in a grey area… high season was JUST coming to an end, so ticket prices were in the $400 range for the January dates I selected. For a Los Angeles flight to Can Cun airport, that’s pretty expensive. In order to lessen the cost, I tapped into my miles and points. This leads me to tip #2!
Tip #2: Use credit cards that give you miles!
Why WOULDN’T you do this?! We all use credit cards and we should be reaping the rewards from our expenses. Think about it this way- you’re going to spend that $100 whether you pay cash or credit…so why not just pay with a credit card that now gave you 100 miles of credit to use? There are hundreds of credit cards out there that you can choose from. My favorite are the following:
1. British Airways Credit Card: this one has an annual fee, but the avios points are AMAZING for statewide travel. It only costs me 9k avios to fly on the west coast, and the most I’ve spent flying to the east coast was 21k! They are partnered with American Airlines. Plus side: no foreign transaction fees AND they don’t charge you for checked baggage!
2. Barclaycard : This credit card is amazing. Right now if you sign up you earn 40,000 miles… every 2500 miles counts as $25 credit which means you would be earning $400 credit. I did this last year when I flew to the east coast and didn’t want to pay the $350 RT flight. I applied to this CC got the 40k miles and redeemed the $400 to my flight purchase. The best part is that by using this credit card you are gaining miles while redeeming miles, and on top of that you are awarded 10% travel miles when you use during travel! It’s a win win win all around with this credit card! BONUS: no foreign transaction fees! I use credit cards often so I was able to accumulate another $225 credit to be placed towards my Yucatan Peninsula trip. Combining my miles with the points on my Chase Ink business card ( #3 below) I was able to bring down the total cost of my flight to $96!
3. Chase Ink: Even though I use this credit card for my business purchases, I’m still on the fence about the rewards. This gives you points to use instead of miles, so you don’t actually gain as much as you would from the Barclaycard. But it’s not a bad credit card to check out! 🙂
So how did I combine my cards? Easy… to redeem the Chase Ink credits, you have to purchase through their redemption link. So I went over, found my flight for full price and purchased. At check out, I received the $100 credit that brought down my price to about $330. I used my Barclay Credit Card to make the purchase though so that I could place the credit towards that purchase. I also used my Barclay like crazy while traveling to accrue MORE miles that way when I came home I’d have more credit to use towards my flight. I know, it sounds a little confusing, but it makes sense once you’re actually using the card 🙂
Here’s a rule with miles: sometimes it’s better NOT to use the actual miles you accrue with airlines. I tried booking my trip with United directly and they wanted me to use 40k miles AND charge me $160. When you add it up, it is actually cheaper to just buy the flight directly…and then find loopholes like I stated above to bring the cost down 🙂
Tip #3: Read the Fine Print when booking hotels from travel sites AND check hotel website directly!
I usually stay at Hostels to save money while traveling, but over the years hostels have started to become expensive ($30-40/night vs $15/night). This time I decided to stay at hotels and started a search to see if prices would be reasonable. What I found was that I hit real gold here! My friend and I decided to use 2 cities as our hubs for our travel. We settled on 2 nights Merida and 6 nights Playa del Carmen. A quick search on Hotels.com found an awesome deal of $100 for the Merida trip ($50/night for a city center, beautiful hotel!!!!!!!!!!) and $400-something for Play del Carmen. I don’t remember what that “something” was but I do remember noticing a high spike in price during check out to $512. I clicked on the “tax” link since it was pretty high and noticed they were charging me an “extra person” fee. This was odd since I booked a 2 bed/2person room and there was no extra person… I called Hotels.com and long story short while on the phone with them I went to verify if the hotel charged this fee as well and discovered that the hotel’s website was charging me $339 for the same nights.Hotels.com matched the price and after questioning them AGAIN for the extra person fee ($72!!) they refunded me that too. So for 6 days, we only payed $284!!!!!!!!! AH-MAY-ZING!
Tip #4: Book Car Rentals ONLINE if renting a car
In Merida we booked a car in person and paid $27 for the one day rental. We thought it was affordable. Boy, did we learn a lesson, though! On our way to Playa del Carmen (3 hour ride from Chichen Itza), we decided to forgo buses and rent a car for 2 days. I went on Kayak.com and found rentals for $8/day TOTAL. For rentals 2 weeks ahead, they were $2/day!!!!!!!!! I booked the car for 3 days and we paid a TOTAL of $27 with taxes and fees. Not even Budget could believe the deal I got. I just checked Kayak right now and here is what I snap shot:
You can thank me later for this tip 😉
Thanks to these cost saving short cuts, I was able to fully spoil myself with amazing meals, tours, snorkel trips, massages and drinks that brought my entire trip tally to $850. Including flights and hotels, that’s not a bad deal 😉
Now for the fun in the Yucatan Peninsula:
Celestun: quick tip- if you want to take a tour of the mangroves, do NOT stop at the bridge where all the tourists stop. Keep going straight until you end up at the beach. There you will find fisherman that will take you on a longer tour for less than half the price you were quoted at the bridge.
Cenote X Batun: Not even the taxi drivers heard about this beauty! Take a GPS, rent a car, and hunt this beauty down! Located 25 minutes away from Merida
Chichen Itza Observatory: where all the beauty of space studies started
Coba Ruins: the 123 steps
La Zebra Restaurant in Tulum: best money you can spend! DELICIOUS food, beach front and cheap!!! I ordered a crapload of fresh fish and spent $30. Bonus points: you can use their beach chairs all day once you order.
Tulum. Stole my heart
Tulum as seen from our snorkel boat
Tulum at sunset. Night at Tulum is incredibly beautiful! You can see soooo many stars and for bonus you see bio-luminescent creatures!
Few other tips:
– for the snorkel trips in Cozumel, look for the booths near 12 Norte and 5th Ave. You will buy the tickets for $22 vs the $30-50 prices you will find closer to the ferry.
– if you want to escape the awful tourism of Playa del Carmen, head away from the crowd on 5th ave. Instead of walking towards the Ferry, walk the other direction. It gets quieter and more local. My favorite spots on 5th Ave were 100% Natural and La Sala Rosa!
I hope you were able to learn a thing or two from this blog! 🙂 Enjoy!