This page contains affiliate links, but I would never recommend something I don’t love and use myself. If you want more information, please visit my disclosure page.
Want to travel this year, but need to save money? My husband, Luke, and I went on a blissful 8 day honeymoon from Seattle, WA to Cancun, Mexico the day after New Years Eve and saved thousands of dollars on flights, food, board, activities, and much more. Traveling can be so expensive, so I want to give you my best tips on how to save money and enjoy a budget Mexico vacation.
1. Wait To Buy Flights
Luke and I saved money by waiting to buy flights because often times flights are the most expensive part of the trip. You need to do your research for the destination you wish to travel to. I researched for months the best time to buy flights, specifically to Cancun, before Luke actually bought the flights, because I wanted to make sure we were getting the best deal possible. I found that the sweet time to buy international flights to Mexico was around 4 months out. I already knew it’d be tough to get a really cheap deal since we would be flying out on January 1st, right around the expensive holiday season, but I was determined. I used the website Skiplagged to check flights daily and also used Google flights with alerts I had set so I’d be notified when flights dropped for the dates we wanted to fly to and from Cancun. Luke and I departed from Seattle, so we were looking at much spendier flights than if you were to depart from the eastern side of the country. Long story short, after hours of research, checking daily, and waiting oh so patiently, a glorious day in August (4 months out) arrived when flights dropped dramatically, over 200 dollars lower compared to the past days, weeks, and months, and Luke and I snagged two flights from SeaTac to Cancun for $691.04 including taxes and fees. That’s $345.52 per flight from Seattle, WA to Cancun, Mexico.
In recent weeks and months prior, flights had been $550 per person, give or take a few dollars depending on the day, but I had seen no flights drop anywhere near the $300s. We also opted to fly out on a Monday, which helped a great deal in getting a cheaper flight since flying out on a Sunday is the most expensive day to travel. If you are looking to save big money on flights and are not extremely picky towards your destination, check out theflightdeal.com. This site has crazy cheap deals that can save you hundreds on international as well as domestic flights. I suggest buying the flights first and then figure out your lodging after, so you can fly the cheapest dates possible. Below is an example of flights from today, May 19th, 2017, to give you an idea of the kinds of deals you can snag. I would be flying out of Seattle so that’s the departing city I chose, but you can choose a city near you.
2. Travel in the Off Season
This is where our flights were more expensive than they could have been. I’ve seen flights to Mexico drop to the $100s in the off season. Don’t travel around holidays as flights climb to their highest during these times. When traveling to Mexico, opt for April, May, October, or November. Those are proven to be the cheapest months to travel to Mexico.
3. Book with AirBnB
We scored big time with our lodging on our honeymoon to Cancun. For 7 nights, we paid $567 USD dollars, including cleaning fees and taxes. We received a condominium with a kitchen, full size fridge, eating area, couch, and queen bed with a balcony that looked out over the beautiful Atlantic ocean, just steps away from us. The complex also had a restaurant down below right on the beach, with delicious food for inexpensive prices. My favorite part of the condo complex was the newly renovated infinity pool overlooking the ocean. Talk about beautiful and relaxing. You can use my AirBnB code to get $40 off your next stay with Airbnb. Use this link to save money and redeem your $40 off!
The view from the pool
The view from our Condo
The beach right out front our Condo
3. Negotiate Your Airbnb Price
It doesn’t hurt to try to get the best price possible for your vacation rental. Especially if you are traveling in the off season, hosts will be more likely to drop the price to get their rental occupied rather than letting it sit empty.
4. Use The Public Bus System (or Rent a Car for 1-2 Days Rather Than the Whole Vacation)
There was absolutely no point in forking out cash to rent a car for the week because we had a bus stop literally a few yards from our Condo. Most touristy cities in Mexico have a reputable public bus system that will get you to all the populated places you’ll need to go in that area. Research the specific city in Mexico you are vacationing to. We had no issues at all taking the bus and actually really enjoyed it as we were able to meet lots of other travelers as well as locals. By choosing not to rent a car, we were able to save hundreds of dollars.
However, we did do an excursion to Cenotes (lime stone pools) that the bus system wouldn’t have been able to take us to. If there a few places you want to visit on your vacation that aren’t within reach of a public transit system, consider renting a car for a couple of days rather than the whole week. This will still save you hundreds of dollars as rental cars can be $100+ per day.
5. Stay in an Airbnb With a Kitchen and Dining Area:
We were able to save lots of money by cooking meals in the kitchen in our condo. We had burners, a full refrigerator, and a dining area. See my next tip below for details.
6. Grocery Shop For Meals and Snacks. Stick To Eating Out One Meal Per Day
Some people may not want to do this on their vacation, but if you want to travel budget style, it suited Luke and I perfectly. We bought all kinds of delicious and nutritious foods for breakfast, lunches, and snacks at a big grocery store and saved dinner for our meal that we “splurged” on by eating out. Splurge is a relative term, though, considering we ate out at fancy restaurants multiple nights and were always shocked at how cheap our bill was. If you’re looking to save money on your vacation, Mexico in general is a great destination as it is completely affordable.
Going out to eat our first night
Eating Dinner Out at a Delicious Steak House
Our Beautiful View at Dinner
7. Pack Your Own Beach Supplies (Snorkels, Masks + Flippers, Etc)
We packed our own snorkel gear so we wouldn’t have to spend money renting. That way, we could snorkel at as many beaches and on as many days as we wanted without having to pay by the hour on multiple occasions.
8. Skip The Souvenirs
We didn’t buy a single souvenir in Cancun and I haven’t regretted that decision once. Souvenirs can add up quickly and most of the time make it into the trash eventually years later. Opt for activities rather than more junk.
9. Use Groupon
Groupon saves me money WHEREVER I go, whether in my hometown, in Mexico, or across the world. That’s why I so highly recommend using Groupon to everybody. Once in Mexico, search Groupon based on your location and tons of activities, restaurant deals, and more will pop up. You never know if the restaurant you already wanted to visit has a 50% off deal running on Groupon. Save $10 on your next purchase with Groupon!
10. Use A Small Portion of the Money You’re Saving on the Things Listed Above to Splurge on an Extra Outing or Two
Because we were in such a beautiful destination with plenty to do as it was, we didn’t feel the need to splurge on excursions and expensive outings every single day. We chose two days to do special, more expensive, splurge activities and the rest of our days were spent exploring the beaches, swimming in the ocean a lot, relaxing under the sun, adventuring to different parts of Cancun using the cheap public transit, playing tourist in the shops, and exploring around town.
Our two more expensive splurges were a massage & spa day at the Marriott Hotel and a day long excursion to four different cenotes (natural limestone pools under ground) where we snorkeled, kayaked, cliff jumped, zip lined, and repelled into a deep underground cenote. Both the massage/spa day and the cenote excursion cost $100 USD/person so we spent about $400 extra dollars on those two special outings that we could’ve saved.
We don’t regret spending that money at all and it was well worth it in our opinion, but my point of adding in those costs to this blog post is to show you could travel to Cancun and have a fabulous time enjoying the beaches and other free outings without spending extra money for more expensive outings. Had we not done those two extra activities, we would’ve saved money even more. Our total would’ve been a few dollars over $1500 USD for 8 days spent in Cancun, Mexico, including flights.
The Cinote Excursion
Our Massage & Spa day
I calculated out the total cost of our trip to Cancun and it came to $1,950, give or take a few dollars. Had we not done those 2 days of extra splurges, we would’ve saved money even more by spending $400 dollars less. Once again, because it was our honeymoon, we absolutely wanted to do those extra special splurges, but this goes to show you CAN go on a beautiful, long, relaxing tropical vacation to Mexico for CHEAP if you go about it the right way. I’m sure Luke and I could’ve swung this trip for an even better deal had we not departed right around the holiday season, because the holidays are always a more expensive time to travel. So even with bit of splurging, we were able to keep our costs under $2,000 dollars USD for our 8 day honeymoon to Mexico during the holiday season. Even just doing a few of the things mentioned above can save you THOUSANDS. Pick and choose what fits your needs and you’re on your way to enjoying a beautiful budget vacation to Mexico.