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.