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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.