Taking Frequent Staycations on a Budget

Source: Q-Roo Paul

Although Linda and I live on a tight budget in Mexico, that doesn’t mean that we just sit at home all day counting pesos. Living in Mexico allows us to live well on a fraction of what it would cost for the same quality of life in the United States. To put a figure on it, we actually live on about 30% of the income that we made when we were both working back home.

One of the ways that we live life to the fullest on a budget is to take advantage of the low tourist season – or what we like to call “staycation season”. That is when we book the majority of our hotel stays.

If you are unfamiliar with the term “staycation”, it basically means that you are taking your vacation at home or close to home. For the purpose of this post, I am referring to the area of the Riviera Maya. This is a huge tourist area with a plethora of amazing hotels, resorts, beaches, and attractions.

Staycation season for us begins when the kiddies go back to school in Mexico at the end of August. The season lasts until the end of November, around Thanksgiving. There are a few dates in that period where hotel occupancy will temporarily be higher – such as around Mexican Independence Day—but for the most part, hotel rates will be 20% – 50% lower.

Budget Strategy

Since the staycation season lasts 2 ½ months, it is important to have a strategy to avoid getting overextended financially. The key to living well in Mexico on a budget is to remain debt free.

Determining how much we can spend

After subtracting the money for our monthly bills, we put the remaining amount into an expense tracker app on my  cellphone. We then divide the amount by the remaining days in the month to determine our daily budget.

We track every peso that we spend from groceries to gasoline. If we stay below the allotted daily amount, then the average for the remaining days increases. During staycation season, we eat at home or at inexpensive restaurants in town. This strategy allows us to save a lot of money quickly and we use the savings for staycations.


Isla Holbox

How we find deals

We usually search through Expedia; however, we have booked directly through the hotel if they offer a local’s discount during the low season. It never hurts to call the hotel and ask if they offer any deals during the low season. For the most part, we have found that the Expedia prices are still lower.

We do not use multiple booking sites because we want to earn points that we can use for future vacations. By being loyal to a single booking site, you can even earn free upgrades and perks.

It takes patience to find deals because you need to look through various dates and locations. Linda is very good at finding deals and she tracks hotel prices like some people track stock prices.


One of our favorite places near Tulum

Duration of the trip

We have found that we get the most bang for our buck when we only book a single night at the hotel.

Since all of the destinations are within driving distance from the condo, we arrive early and make the most of the first day. After we check out the next day, we spend the whole second day enjoying the sites before heading home in the evening.


Our favorite hangout in Mahahual


When we just want to wine and dine for two days at an all-inclusive in the area, we usually only book one night. We arrive around noon the first day and begin the festivities. When we check out the next day, we always ask the hotel how long we can stay. The answer is usually a time between 5-8 pm.

We have compared this to getting a day pass at an all-inclusive. The day passes for two people are almost as expensive as booking a room. For as little as $30 -$50 more, you can stay the night and enjoy the hotel for the majority of the following day too.


I think I ate my weight in peel-and-eat shrimp that day

Taking advantage of points and cash back

As I mentioned before, we like to use the same booking service each time in order to get points for things like free upgrades and discounts. This has resulted in huge savings over the years.

For example, we booked an overnight stay at local all-inclusive resort last week. I won’t mention the name because I hate to give free advertising to a business unless it is one of our recommendations.

Anyway, this particular resort is very nice and is normally out of our price range. The peak season price runs about $381 USD a night. Even the low season price is high at $236 USD a night. We used the accumulated points from Expedia and a voucher they gave us to get the room for $31 USD. That price included an upgrade to the VIP level.

As usual, we arrived early and spent the majority of the following day there as well. Not a bad deal.

The other strategy we use is to book using a credit card with cash back or travel points. It is important to pay the card off before you owe any interest or it defeats the purpose. We plug the savings back into the staycation budget.


Enjoying sunrise at a hotel near Tulum

Frequency of the trips

If we follow the strategy laid out above and control our overall spending, we plan a staycation trip almost every week during the low season. By spreading the trips out over a longer period of time, there is less of an impact on our monthly budget.

Let’s Wrap This Up

For those readers who are not in Mexico, you can still take advantage of good deals on hotels and resorts in the Riviera Maya during the low season. If you use a booking site like Expedia, be sure and look under flight/hotel bundle deals and play with the dates a little. Patience and planning can result in big savings.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) is a former lieutenant from the Polk County Sheriff's Office in Florida. During his 25-year career, he received numerous commendations to include two of the agency's top honors: a Meritorious Service Medal and a Medal of Valor. In 2015, Paul retired and moved to Mexico with his wife. He now spends his days enjoying the Riviera Maya and blogging from the beach.

14 Comments on "Taking Frequent Staycations on a Budget"

  1. I greatly enjoy your friendly and informative posts. Thank you! Jane

  2. So glad I found your blog. We too love the Riviera Maya area and are considering moving in the future. I saw that you used to live in Polk County, Florida. I was in college at Florida Southern some years ago but am familiar with the area.

    • Thanks for reading the blog. This area of Mexico is great and we have loved it. Yep, old Polk County….small world 🙂

  3. Great information as always!

  4. It takes patience to find deals because you need to look through various dates and locations. Linda is very good at finding deals and she tracks hotel prices like some people track stock prices.

    This made me smile!!! Must be something in the name?!

  5. I am coming down for a conference at Bajia Principe in late September. I have 5 days after the conference to explore the area. Don’t wish to pre-arrange due to possible bad rainy days. Will wait until I arrive. My goal is move down and to rent and live on social security until I get work set up. Last year I stayed at TAO Community on a chill weekend, and spent 3 nights in Playa. Love TAO, but not sure the place is close enough to life that is not tourists. Not impressed with Playa due to congestion and touristy vibe. I’m looking for a more local vibe and feel and close to city with services. I am single and 63. I speak fluent Spanish and lived and worked in Acapulco and Leon, GTO in the 80’s-95 in Tourism industry. Any suggestions on where I might spend my 5 days exploring for my future move? I enjoy your posts immensely! Would love to buy you two a margarita while I’m in town. Cheers! Mil Cien Gracias 🙂

    • Hi Judith, thanks for reading the blog. I love the area you stayed in last time because it is far from the daily traffic of Playa, but close enough to have access to good medical facilities and shopping. If you are looking for something a bit less touristy, you will probably have to look inland a little. Valladolid is an amazing town with an old colonial feel. The prices are also much better than those here on the coast.

  6. I look forward to each posting from you. You have given us many ideas for future stays. Hopefully someday we can make a permanent visit. We generally visit Isla Mujeres but are now exploring different areas to spend time at.Please keep your posts coming.

    • Thanks for writing. I guess we should start taking more trips around the Riviera Maya so we can give you some more ideas of places to visit — not that we needed an excuse…haha. 😉

  7. Hello Paul,
    I’m late in reading this post. But I like you track every penny we spend. I’ve been using YNAB and love it but I’m wondering what app you use for pesos? Thanks in advance. Been filling you both for quite awhile. We’re moving down in August. Can’t get here soon enough.

  8. Lol, sorry about all the typos. 🙂

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