Who knew a Trip to Mexico Cost so Little?

For Christmas, I called my friend and offered him a gift he simply could not refuse: a free trip to Mexico!

We spent 5 days on the beaches of this little paradise called Playa Del Carmen, in the Yucatán Peninsula’s Riviera Maya strip of the Caribbean shoreline. It is located in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico and known for its sandy beaches and good times. We really had a blast and in the end, it barely cost anything.

If you are wondering how to save on travel, check out how we got a 5-day vacation for two for only $230.

For the flights, we found cheap ones on American Airlines for only $320 and used reward travel-dollars to pay the whole amount. Cards like the TD Visa Infinite First Class, for example, give travel-dollars which can be spent on travel expenses. For this trip, the sign-up bonus alone was enough to pay for a ticket.


Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!


On top of that, we used the sign-up bonus from the BMO World Elite card to book 5 nights at a nice little hotel right off the beach. It was not anything fancy but was clean, close to everything, and safe. Unlike most people traveling to Mexico, we did not opt for the all-inclusive packages. They are over-priced and it can quickly get boring if you are always eating at the same buffet.

We prefer booking our flight and hotel, then exploring for the rest. We discover new restaurants, new flavors, new activities, and explore the city like locals rather than simply following the crowd.


I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money. -Pablo Picasso


In a country like Mexico, we can afford a lot of things we do not do back home such as eating out every day and going out to clubs. Fortunately for us, Mexico is relatively cheap compared to our standard cost of living. For simplicity and ease of reading, all amounts have been converted to U.S. Dollars at a rate of 19 Mexican Pesos per USD.



On day one, we took an early flight and had a stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. This small airport was rather boring considering that the only lounge available was an Admiral Club and we could not access it with our Priority Pass. We waited at our gate until boarding and watched Netflix. Since our stop-over was early in the morning, we did not need to buy any food, the airplane snacks were enough.

When we landed in Cancun, we then haggled with a driver from $50 U.S. Dollars down to $30. Not that bad for the hour drive to Playa Del Carmen. Once at our hotel, we settled down and set off on a taco quest.

From the last time I was in Playa, I could not forget this amazing local taco spot serving the best taco el pastor in town. They are amazingly delicious and only 14 Pesos (73¢) for two. Unfortunately, I could not remember where this marvel was and we simply started walking around town with only a vague idea of where we were going.

At one point, we simply asked a hostel host where to find the best tacos in town. We had given up on this magical place but at least, we would get a good recommendation for some tacos. In his almost perfect English instructed us:


Walk down 30th and told us we would see a restaurant with a bull logo, skip it! We would see one with a yellow interior, go there!”


Well guess what, this yellow restaurant was exactly the one I had enjoyed years ago! Taqueria El Fogon del May on the corner of 30th and 32nd is simply the best tacos in town and we found it on day uno.

On our way out, we noticed a local soccer game held in the city’s stadium so we stopped and watched for a bit before heading on the 5th avenue, which is the main tourist street in Playa Del Carmen and enjoyed walking around in the cacophony before hitting the beds in the wee hours.


Spending for day one:










On day two, we were well rested and ready for the adventure so we hit the waves and stayed at the beach for most of the day. We body surfed, swam, jogged in the sand, and got a little sunburned but it was worth it.

We ate a whole meal, with drinks, for only $14 each and went out to a nightclub on Centro that night which was quite amusing. At the dance club, drinks were highly over-priced but still much cheaper than back home. The beers were $5 each, almost the cost of a meal at most restaurants in Playa.


Spending for day two:








On our third day, we took a collectivo to Akumal. Collectivos are shuttle buses which can take you pretty much anywhere for less than $3. The half-hour ride to Akumal only costs 35 Pesos each way ($1.84).


Budget transportation in Mexico


They are comfortable, quiet, and safe. You simply need to walk to the terminal on Calle 2 and hop on the one which is leaving in your desired direction.

The public beach in Akumal has white sands, a large coral reef, and giant turtles. There is a lot of fake “agents” or “official guides” who will try to charge you to get in or offer you life jacket rentals at exorbitant prices but if you simply walk straight to the beach, you can see the marine life for free.


Cheap Akumal Trip


We brought our own snorkels but if you do not have enough space in your luggage, you can always buy one at Walmart or Mega in Playa Del Carmen for about $12. Buying one will still be cheaper than renting one from those “guides”. The price for a snorkeling set (mask + snorkel) ranges from $40 U.S. to over $100 on the beach itself.

Once we dived in, we saw turtles, plenty of colorful fishes, and stingrays. The coral reef isn’t super colorful but still attracts plenty of marine life.


Cheap travel to Mexico


For lunch, we ate at Imelda’s Ecocina slightly off the beach. We had an amazing, authentic, lunch home cooked in there small kitchen. The food was truly amazing and only cost us $10 each for our whole meal.

That night, we hung around Playa, ate tacos, bought a bottle of tequila at the convenience store for only $8 and enjoyed the night.


Spending for day three:










For our fourth day, we took a collectivo again but this time, dropped off at the Cenotes Azul. In Spanish, Cenote is a sinkhole that contains groundwater. These freshwaters are often clear as crystal and come out of caves. We got dropped off on the side of the highway, beside the big sign for the place, and it was hard to see just how amazing this place would be. Once we walked a bit through the forest, we discovered this beautiful and magical place.


Amazing cenote in Mexico


Once in the water, there is even fish that will nibble at your toes like at the fish spas! There are many little parts, caves, and corals all over the place. Some people even jump off a cliff into the water but we did not dare. All-in-all, a great activity, and the entrance fee was only $6 per person.

After this fun little adventure, we came back to Playa Del Carmen and found a nice little Thai place called Wok Playa on our way to the beach. We ate like kings, ordered multiple appetizers, beers, huge mains, and the bill was still only $23 for both of us. This was one of the best restaurants we ate at and it was still super cheap.

After that, we stayed on the beach until dusk then ate nachos and guacamole we bought at the grocery store.


Spending for day four:












On our last day, we woke up in the late AM and the sky started to turn grey so we decided to head to the airport for our afternoon flight. We haggled with the taxi driver from $50 down to $35 and got to Cancun airport in less than an hour.

We had bought some nice tequila to bring back home since the prices are about ten times cheaper and the quality twice as good. Unfortunately, we forgot that our efficient carry-on-only traveling style would not allow us to transport any liquids on board unless we bought them at the duty-free inside the terminal. We finally checked one bag on the plane and did not have to pay the $25 fee given the status I get as an American Express holder.

Once in the terminal, we headed to the Mera Business Lounge for some nice sushi, rest, and drinks. This was a super nice lounge, offering Wifi, open bar, coffees, tea, soft drinks and juices, canapes, massage chairs, and an overall quiet spot to wait for our flight. Of course, all of this was free with the American Express Platinum card.


Cancun business lounge


Since we booked our flights a bit last minute, we did not have direct flights and now had a short stop in Miami before heading home. In the terminal we were in, the only lounge available was the Corona Beach House. This is the first time I have experienced something like this, it is actually a restaurant which gives you a tab when you are a lounge member (Priority Pass). We ordered a beer, a sandwich, grilled salmon, and since we were in Florida; Key Lime pie. The best thing is; it was all free!

We then flew back home to our cold and icy climate.


Spending for day five:





All in all, we spent only $230 for 5 days in Mexico, for two people. Pretty hard to beat! Happy travels, Xyz.




2 replies on “Who knew a Trip to Mexico Cost so Little?”

What a great trip. Nice job on maximizing the usage of points and minimizing expenses. And how fortunate that you were directed to your favorite taco place!

Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos.

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