Have a great vacation on a budget: Tiny House, Giant Journey blogger Jenna Spesard shares five tips for cutting costs during your vacation to Mexico.
When you daydream of vacationing in Mexico, you probably imagine margaritas, tacos, beautiful beaches, and (last but not least) affordability. But is Mexico really a cheap travel destination?
When vacationing in Mexico, most tourists blow their money on expensive hotels and high-end activities, while missing out on local prices and authenticity.
On my recent trip to Cabo San Lucas, I quickly learned that my dollar wasn’t going to stretch very far if I booked the typical American-tourist-in-Mexico vacation. As a Grownup trying to pay off college debt and save for the future, I was on a tight budget. Using some simple tricks, I was able to vacation to one of Mexico’s most popular destinations for just $75 US per day.
Mexico Travel Tip 1: Stay Away from All-Inclusive Packages
All-inclusive packages might sound like a good deal, but unless you plan on never leaving the resort, they’re a waste of money. Remember, you’re in Mexico. The best restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues are not going to be in your hotel. Get out and explore!
Save money by booking a luxury vacation rental instead of an expensive hotel room or resort package. I rented a one-bedroom condo near the marina in Cabo San Lucas. After splitting the cost with my travel partner, my portion was just $40 US per night! Local restaurants and cantinas are cheap, so I didn’t mind skipping the all-inclusive resort. Speaking of food…
Mexico Travel Tip 2: Don’t be Afraid to Eat Local
Many travelers are afraid to eat local food in Mexico, which is why they only visit large commercialized restaurants like Señor Frog’s. This is a shame; chain restaurants serve mediocre food at tourist prices. The best food in Mexico is always served at the local mom and pop restaurants. Look for places where the prices are in pesos, the waiter only speaks Spanish, and everything is open air (no air conditioning). Food is generally safe in Mexico, just make sure to use common sense.
If you see locals lining up at a restaurant, there’s a good chance the establishment serves authentic food at affordable prices.
In Cabo, my favorite restaurant was Taco Guss—a tiny taco shack with only a few things on the menu. The prices started at 25 pesos (about $1 US) per taco, with two tacos being enough for an entire meal. It was affordable and delicious!
Mexico Travel Tip 3: Buy Food and Alcohol at Local Markets
In Mexico, it’s a good idea to purchase beer and wine at local markets and carry a backpack or cooler to the beach. If you forget, locals will sell you beer on the beach for five times the price! Six-packs of beer are sold as low as 75 pesos at the local market (approximately $3 US). Or, if you like tequila, it’s not hard to find a free tasting room along the main streets. Buy a bottle to make your own drinks.
You can also save money by buying snacks at the local market. During my Mexican vacation, I purchased fresh fruit and a bag of coffee to make my own daily breakfast, saving approximately $5 US a day.
Mexico Travel Tip 4: Take Local Transportation or Book a Shuttle
Many American vacationers are afraid to take public transit in Mexico, so they pay high tourist taxi prices. For example, a private taxi to the airport from Cabo San Lucas will cost you $75 US. For a cheaper option, you can book a shared hotel shuttle for $20 US, but the real bargain is to take the local bus, which costs less than $5 US!
Mexico Travel Tip 5: Choose Low-Budget Activities
Many high-end activities, such as zip-lining and scuba diving, can cost hundreds of dollars in Mexico. Excursion companies are priced with American tourism in mind, and their customers mainly consist of cruise ship passengers with money to spend. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s probably best to avoid these types of tours altogether.
For an affordable experience, try renting or bringing your own snorkel gear and ask around for the best snorkeling locations. You can also fly a kite, go for a hike, lay on the beach, or browse local shops selling trinkets at a cheap price. Never underestimate the entertainment value of people-watching. In Cabo, I particularly enjoyed watching the fishermen return to the marina every evening, fighting off swarms of pelicans and sea lions.
I was also able to book a one-hour massage for only $30 US. If you’re looking for a similar deal, avoid the resort spas and find a small locally owned parlor. It pays to shop around and sometimes even haggle for the best price.
Be on the lookout for free local events and festivals while vacationing in Mexico. For example, San Jose del Cabo hosts a free Art Walk every Thursday night. I walked through dozens of galleries, some serving free wine and tapas, and enjoyed looking at the local art for hours.
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to have a luxury vacation in Mexico.
Being a Grownup sometimes means making hard choices to stay within your budget. The total cost for my five-day vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, was just $375 US. With flights, I spent less than $700 US total. Even without resort accommodations, taxis, and excursions, I still consider my budget-friendly Mexican vacation to be luxurious.
Can you be satisfied with a condo vacation rental, free tequila tastings, cheap tacos, and sun-soaking on the beach? If so, then you’re ready to travel to Mexico on the cheap!
Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.