Mexico Life: Tips to Vacation Big on a Small Budget

Regular readers of the blog often ask us how we’re able to travel as much as we do on a retirement income that is less than half what we were previously making when we were both working full-time.

The answer is two-fold: 1) we significantly reduced our living expenses by moving to Mexico, and 2) we employ several different strategies to maximize every penny of our vacation budget.

Since the entire blog is dedicated to the first item, I’m going to dedicate this post to the second one and share some of our cost-saving vacation strategies.

1) Travel During the Low Season

The low season in Mexico begins the last week of August and extends until about mid-November. It’s much easier to find great travel deals and we don’t have to deal with the crowds. We do the majority of our traveling for the year during this time period.

We began the 2018 low season with a trip to the city of Puebla, Mexico. Two round-trip plane tickets and six nights in a hotel located in the historic downtown area (with breakfast included) was only $638 USD. Not a bad start.

2) Stack Savings

When we book trips or stays at resorts online, we use a three-tier system that earns us cash back from two different sources, as well as points that we can use toward future trips.

The first thing we do is go to a website called Rakuten (formally called Ebates) and then access our favorite travel booking site, Expedia, through their portal. Rakuten gives you cash back for purchases that you make from certain businesses, and Expedia is one of them.

Once we book our trip, we pay for it with a credit card that offers cash back. We then pay the card off immediately to avoid paying any interest.

So, in the end we get cash back from two different sources (Rakuten and credit card), and we earn points (Expedia) that we can apply toward future trips.

3) Look for Loyalty Programs

Expedia has one of the best loyalty programs we have ever seen. We have been members for many years – which is free, by the way – and we have worked our way up the ranks to +Gold Members.

The best part about Expedia is that you earn points that you can use like cash. Earlier this year, we used some of our points to book a night at Secrets for less than $2 USD. We arrived early the first day, stayed the night, and then left late the second day.

There are additional perks for using Expedia, like free room upgrades at certain hotels. When we went to Secrets for less than $2 USD, we were automatically upgraded to a better room because we booked through Expedia.

Resort Loyalty Programs

Many resort/hotel chains also have loyalty programs. We join as many as we can and then we get free perks every time we visit.

For example, earlier this week we spent a couple of nights at one of our favorite all-inclusive resorts in the Riviera Maya. We joined their free loyalty program about a year ago and when we arrived this week, they gave us the following for free: 1) 80-minute massage for two, 2) bottle of Linda’s favorite wine, 3) golf shirts, and 4) a bottle of champagne.

4) Residents-Only Discounts

We live in the Riviera Maya, a well-known tourist area of Mexico located on the Caribbean Sea. During the low season, many resorts offer residents-only discounts of more than 50% off of the listed price.

We’ve found that most resorts don’t advertise their residents-only rates. The way we find them is by emailing the resorts directly and inquiring.

Let’s Wrap This Up

When we moved to Mexico in 2015, our goal was to not only survive on a fraction of our former income, but to actually thrive on it. By being smart with our money, we’ve achieved that goal and we now enjoy a higher quality of life than we had back in the U.S.

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico ( to share their experiences as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

24 Comments on "Mexico Life: Tips to Vacation Big on a Small Budget"

  1. Phil B Reitano | December 14, 2018 at 9:36 am |

    Once again Paul you have given us another piece of valuable information that will only enhance our retirement in Mexico. Thanks again.

  2. I love your blog. So much helpful information and always fun to read. I’m happy to say just yesterday I received my Permanent Resident card so I will be putting many of your ideas into play. Many thanks.

  3. You failed to mention the short low season that occurs after Thanks Giving to when the Christmas High Season begins. This is one of my favorite times to visit .

  4. When it comes to these matters, you are my hero, Paul! It’s great to know that one can raise their standard of living without sacrifice, by being smart. Thanks for doing the legwork for us all!

  5. Great articles! My husband and I really enjoy reading them. Thank you!

  6. When you say Residents Only, is that just residents of the Riviera Maya or all of Mexico?

  7. Hello Paul and Linda….Just thought I’d pass along one of the things we do to save on in country travel. We join the travel clubs, or get on the mailing list of airlines. Aeromexico, magna charter, interjet, aerobus, etc. Throughout the year they have special fares for many different reasons, and we are among the first to know. if the fare is someplace we wish to visit, then “away we go”. Most recent was a trip Cancun to Leon for $80US per person.

  8. Very informative and great articles. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge. Your kindness is not unnoticed.

  9. Awesome information and it works for us Canadians still not at the retirement stage but counting down the years. Really appreciate you sharing. Thanks

  10. Thank you for all of your information
    I just came back from my second trip this year to the Riveiera Maya I am in love with the area . Hopefully we will find a great place to move there within the next year.

  11. Great travel tips.I was hoping the residents-only discount might apply to the broader region, not just Quintana Roo (a question you answered above). I live in Merida, and wonder if anyone knows if there are any off-season residents-only discounts for the state of Yucatan?

  12. Very interesting. Thank you.

  13. Ethel Merts aka Fran Clark | December 15, 2018 at 10:51 am |

    Gee, and I thought my husband knew how to save! Actually, since I can’t fly, we always drive everywhere, but we never pay for a hotel room because he has me doing ‘surveys’ that rack up hundreds of thousands of points for free rooms. Then other surveys we do give us Amazon dollars and we have close to a thousand on that. He doesn’t believe in financing anything, uses his American Express to pay all monthly bills and gets hotel points for that. We stayed at a new Embassy Suites when we were in New Jersey for a wedding the end of September. All FREE!! However, with our pensions and SS, we do have lots of money left over and I have never been able to save money like I have since I married this very frugal man! He even paid cash for his huge home in Ocala. I am truly blessed!
    Seasons Greetings to you and Linda!! All good things in the New Year! Fran

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