I get asked all the time how I can afford to travel so much and the answer is simple: you don’t have to spend a ton of money to travel if you spend some time researching and planning. Once we have decided to go on vacation we spend weeks researching flights, hotels and transportation saving hundreds of dollars. It doesn’t mean you have to settle for one star hotels or 21hr flights either, sometimes just being flexible makes a big difference. We travelled to Play Del Carmen, Mexico on a budget and with these tips you can too!
Booking a Flight
When I am looking for the best deal on plane tickets I look on many websites but I found the best deal on Expedia.com because they bundle your flight and hotel. Even if you are looking for just a flight most of the time they get special pricing so the flight is cheaper. Our flight and hotel flying from Thunder Bay, Ontario to Cancun for a week cost us $1650 CDN which is really reasonable. We flew into Cancun on Westjet Airlines with a one hour layover in Toronto total flight time : 6hr 50min and our return flight was on United Airlines with a 7hr layover in Houston, Texas total flight time: 15hr 30min.
The off season for Playa Del Carmen is mid April to mid December so if you don’t mind traveling in the off season you may be able to save up to 50% off flights.
Booking a Hotel
For this particular trip we book our hotel and flights together saving us $500 but sometimes that isn’t the case and we get a better deal booking separately. We chose to stay at a hotel instead of an All Inclusive Resort for a few reasons:
- We didn’t want to eat at buffet for 7 days and part of the cost of the resort is the buffet.
- There are no resorts in Playa Del Carmen (our main destination) they are located north and south of the city.
- We wanted to be able to walk to shops and restaurants without having to catch the Collectivo (public transit) or a taxi every time we wanted to go somewhere.
We chose to stay at Aventura Mexicana in Playa Del Carmen because of the location. There are a lot of hotels in the same area but Aventura was the best deal and it’s within walking distance of 5th avenue, the collectivo bus stop and the beach.
There are no shortage of restaurants in Playa Del Carmen but choosing the right place to eat can save you a lot of money. Do some research on trip advisor and you will get a good idea what restaurants to avoid and another good tip is to pay for your food in Pesos instead of US dollars because every restaurant has a different exchange rate. Playa has a supermarket (Comercial Mexicana) and a wal-mart so take a few hours and go grocery shopping you can save money on water, food and alcohol.
Our favorite restaurants to save money in Playa Del Carmen are:
- El Fogon
- 500 Gramos Grill
- El Diez
If you are staying in Playa Del Carmen and want to take a day trip to Tulum, Akumal, Puerto Morales or Cancun the best way is to catch a Collectivo. The Collectivo is public transit which travels North and South on Highway 307 stopping almost anywhere you want to go as long as it is along the highway. If your destination is off the highway you will have to take a taxi or walk after the collectivo drops you off. The collectivo depot is on Calle 2 between 15th and 20th in Playa Del Carmen, some of the prices for the most popular destinations are:
Cancun – 34 Pesos
Puerto Morales – 22 Pesos
Akumal – 35 Pesos
Tulum – 40 Pesos
The Collectivo does not go to the Cancun Airport so we paid for a shuttle to bring us to and from our hotel just to make this simpler. We booked the Best Day shuttle on Expedia for $100 to pick us up at the airport and bring us back.
- If you are shopping on 5th avenue barter for everything, most of the time you can get 50% off the ticket price.
- Be aware of the US to Peso exchange rate and pay for everything with Pesos. The exchange rate can vary from shop to shop.