Planning a dream trip to Mexico

vanAt first the idea that sometime later this year we would be flying to a Caribbean destination seemed far-fetched. For the most part of our 3 childrens’ lives we have travelled by car. The only budget transportation way to stretch the dollar as far as you can.  I am the one who is guilty for subjecting my entire family to road trips since there are so many places I want to see and experience with them. Unfortunately being a family of five makes it really difficult with the finances. Many vacation packages or hotels are geared to 2 adults and 2 children between the ages of 3-10yrs. What happens when you have 3 kids of various ages… 8, 12 and 16

We haven’t been on an airplane since 2003. Fares have risen astronomically for the past 15 years and having to purchase 5x the amount of anything makes any destination out of reach. ” I guess we can fly to Paris, but that’s our entire savings, now what?” The lowest airfare I’ve seen was somewhere around 150$ one way but you’re not going that far away from home, maybe 10hrs or so… you might as well save that   1 500$  and drive it.

So for the most part of June, July and August I studied the flight market. At first I didn’t know when a deal was a deal. I had nothing to compare the prices to, but I soon was an expert. I became quite obsessed with outbound flights leaving Montreal, Ottawa and Boston as well as layovers. Anyway possible to reduce the cost and make our travel to the Caribbean possible. We had four destinations in mind; Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Mexico. Jamaica seemed to have a variety of low cost flights which attracted me but the cost of living on the island for a month exceeded our budget. Jamaica works on a US currency and the USdollar is not Canada’s best friend with an exchange rate of 74cents to the CAD, we are looking at paying 30% more for everything. Mexico was our final choice, airfare was affordable and living expenses are 50% less than Canada. Tool of choice for flights is google flights (.ca for Canada) click on the icon next to your departure date to get pricing for the entire month. Those in green are your best fares.

screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-6-28-41-pmYou can also click on ‘Price graph’ below your departure and return dates to see pricing throughout the year to plan your next vacation around the lowest fares. These two incredible features will reduce your stress and facilitate your flight search. I’ve notice that flights are like the stock exchange, the prices fluctuate. Enough to make you go insane… “I swear I found a flight yesterday out of Boston for only 375$, where the hell is it?!!” So keep in mind the prices change day to day and week to week. If you’ve seen a flight for 375$  keep calm, the price should come ’round again.

We had a layover in Philadelphia. I had the choice of picking between 4 different flights with layovers. I was saving roughly 200$ per ticket if I chose the layover; that’s a savings of 1000$. I picked the layover with the longest time between flights that way we could get some sleep rather than wonder pointlessly through the airport for 6hrs. I used Priceline.com to get the best priced hotel. This site’s pricing also varies week to week but not as drastic as the flights. I scored a 4 star hotel for 129$ CAD going to Cancun. Most hotel rooms don’t allow more than 2 adults 2 children but on booking.com you can type in your party (2 ad. and 3 kids) , so only hotels that can accommodate you, will appear. I made my selection on which hotels to pick from ‘Booking’ but used ‘Priceline’ for pricing. Both sites offer the possibility to convert the pricing to your country’s currency. Junior suites can accommodate 2 adults and up to 4 children.

The Yucatan Peninsula aka Riviera Maya is very touristy, my idea of spending Christmas in a popular touristy area seemed unrealistic. Condo pricing skyrockets around the holidays tripling their fees. My original idea was to rent one condo for the entire month vacation. I was thinking 1500$ for the month of December but most raise their prices to about that for a week at Christmas time. I ended up splitting our vacation into three parts. The first part we’ll stay on the touristy Riviera Maya side (Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Tulum), the holidays we are headed to the not so touristy Merida side in the Yucatan State and we are ending our holiday in Playa del Carmen, the party town. Airbnb was by far the best site for low rent vs. quality accommodation. This will be our first try with Airbnb. We will keep you posted with reviews of each place.

Total cost for 2 adults and 3 kids aged 8, 12 and 16 for a full month (30 days) on the Yucatan Peninsula including round trip airfare and accommodation is 4 500$ CAD.

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