Traveling on the Cheap

I will be posting photos tomorrow, but a few thoughts on saving money traveling. My wife wanted to go to a warm climate and spend some time swimming in the ocean. As we both did not have to work between Christmas and New Year, we decided to take a trip down south. I searched the online sites and was nof finding anything that fit our schedules. Finally, we went down to a travel agent and found a decent price: a bit less than $1,250 that includes flight, hotel and all food and drink.

Our hotel was a 2-star hotel. We were worried before we left that we would be disappointed, but we decided to opt for a more frugal option. We stayed at the Oceano Palace in Mazatlan.

Were we disappointed? No, it was a decent hotel. Some of the dishes were bland, but there was enough variety so if we did not like one dish being served, we could always go back for more of those dishes that we did enjoy. We never lacked in food: we had breakfast, lunch, a snack bar in the afternoon and supper. We also had an open bar from 10 in the morning to 10 in the evening. We could eat and drink to our heart’s content from the moment we got up to the moment we went to bed.

The hotel also provided some entertainment. We had local dancers and musicians perform twice in the week we were there and the final night they organized a Pinata party for the kids. During the day, they organized a variety of activities.

The hotel is located on the beach and the ocean was a stone’s throw from the hotel. We liked the convenience. There were of course a variety of vendors on the beach selling hats, glasses, fruit cups, and the like. They were not aggressive in their selling. If we said no, they just moved on.

We did make the mistake of agreeing to a time share sales pitch. We agreed to visit another hotel for breakfast and learned all there is to know about time shares. We enjoyed the tour, but the high pressure sales pitch at the end was simply too much. It was an old-fashioned high pressure sales strategy that was reminiscent of a 1970s used car lot. In many ways, I would say that the strategy was counterproductive: the harder the sale, the more that I suspect that the salesperson is trying to pull a fast one. We learned, however, our lesson which was to avoid time shares salespeople.

Avoiding time share salespeople was a challenge. Walking down the street in Mazatlan, there seemed to be a booth with someone offering us “$100 or $200” just to go see a hotel every 30 feet. Some would offer money, some would want to provide information. We would pick up the pace, say no thank you and walk past. We did not want to experience another time share sales session.

Overall, though, we were very satisfied with the trip. What we learned:

  • There is no need for a 4 or 5-star hotel or even a 3-star hotel. A good 2-star hotel can provide for a satisfactory vacation;
  • Buy an all-inclusive hotel package. Meals in restaurants in Mexico are not cheap and it is cheaper to get an all inclusive hotel and not worry about meals;
  • Look for good sales: there are good deals, the trick is to find the right one.

One final note, we bought some insurance to cover our trip. This added 80-or-so dollars to our trip, but it was worth the piece of mind. There was a heavy snowfall in Vancouver and our plane was one of the last to fly out of the airport before it was closed. Travel insurance that covers trip cancellation is a good buy in Canada in the winter.

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