Help us travel to Mexico?
September 28, 2010 9:07 AM   Subscribe

My friends and I would like to go on a vacation to Mexico this winter. I have done some research but all the options are pretty overwhelming, so I'm turning to AskMe for your advice. Details about what we are looking for are inside.

My friends and I (2-6 college-aged women) would like to travel to Mexico this winter (Leaving sometime after Christmas and staying at least through New Year's) together. I'm looking for recommendations on cities, hotels, beaches, flights, and anything else that might be helpful! I have tried to do some googling but there is so much information out there, I'm hoping you all can narrow it down.
Things that are most important to us:

- Price. We don't have exact budgets, but the cheaper the better. If it's too expensive we just can't go, so consider this the number one priority.
- Safety. I understand there are always risks, especially as tourists, but ideally we'd like to travel to a place where those risks can be minimized. I realize that low prices and safety don't often go hand in hand, so if this isn't an option, are there any tips/books you can recommend to help us?
- Beach/Pool. Basically, we'd like to be spending our days reading/talking/swimming outside. Ideally this would mean a clean/not-insanely-crowded beach within walking distance of lodging. It would also be nice but not necessary to have a pool at our hotel for an afternoon when we don't want to cart a bunch of towels and all our things to the beach.
- Travel. This sort of plays into price, but unless we can find cheap plane tickets (which seems unlikely, given the time of year), we'll probably be driving to our destination from Austin, TX. While we're not opposed to a long road trip, shorter is obviously better for our gas money budget. (Side question: Where can one find maps for this kind of trip? I have grown up in the internet age where I do all my mapping google-style, but google maps and mapquest both fail me when I try to chart travel or even just distances between the US & Mexico. Are there particular international mapping websites or should I buy a paper map? I have a GPS unit for the car but I'm not sure whether it works internationally.)
- Nightlife. We definitely want to go out to a fun club of some type for New Year's/Eve, but other than that, as long as there is a way to purchase alcohol we don't need a big scene.

Things that are not important:
- Sightseeing/Culture.
- Comfort. Part of the reason we are friends involved sleeping 5 of us per double bed in motel sixes, so we are fine with cramped/low-quality sleeping quarters.
- Food choices. As long as it's edible and not too spicy (I'm weak!), we can eat pretty much anything.
- Language barriers. Most of us know passable Spanish and one of the friends speaks fluent Spanish.

I have started the search into all the posts with "Mexico" in them, but it's a deep hole, so if you know of any previous posts that would have valuable information please send them my way.
Thanks in advance!
posted by jouir to Travel & Transportation around Mexico (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have any vague sort of budget idea? (Cheap means very different things to different people). That will help to know what advice will be useful or useless to you.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:10 AM on September 28, 2010

Zihuatanejo. That is all.
posted by matildaben at 10:20 AM on September 28, 2010

It's not drive-able, but a friend and I got cheap, cheap tickets to Cancun, then took an inexpensive ferry to Isla Mujeres, which had great beaches, enough night life without being Cancun, and was safe and fun. The beaches were lovely.
posted by ldthomps at 10:24 AM on September 28, 2010

Response by poster: haveanicesummer: My budget would be somewhere around $300, but I haven't heard anything conclusive from my friends. If that is too low to do anything worthwhile (this is my first time paying for my own vacation so I am a little lost in terms of what is reasonable) I could spend more.

Thanks for your suggestions so far, these are great starting points for more concentrated searching.
posted by jouir at 10:51 AM on September 28, 2010

The bad violence in Mexico is going on in the border areas, among other places. I certainly would not want to drive through them. Here's an example.
posted by Addlepated at 10:52 AM on September 28, 2010

You want to go to a beach at Christmas? Parts of Mexico are in the tropics, but even that will be pretty chilly. That said, here are probably your top choices:

Playa Del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

As for the safety issue, I don't know you can be guaranteed anything right now. Things are very sketchy in Mexico right now. I have native relatives who won't drive down there in this climate. If Mexico is your preferred destination, you might consider a plane flight and an all-inclusive resort.
posted by Gilbert at 12:02 PM on September 28, 2010

I went to Playa Del Carmen with my girlfriend in October for 9 days. It was beautiful and we felt extremely safe (almost safer than Europe because it wasn't very crowded and so we didn't have to be overly pickpocket-cautious). If you're going to an area like that I don't think an all-inclusive resort is necessary at all. I'd recommend Playa del Carmen in a second as it fulfills all the things you want, and is a great base for travelling to other areas, while avoiding the complete generic feel of someplace like Cancun.

However, getting to someplace like that will cost more than your entire stated budget. Our plane tickets were about $390 each from Hartford in Oct. Looks like around just under $500 from Austin in Dec. Playa Del Carmen is way too far away to drive and I'd probably feel far less safe driving through the border areas anyway that have state department travel warnings against them.

Essentially I think $300 is unfortunately too low for it to be worthwhile. You certainly can get inexpensive but excellent hotels in Mexico, but the scary drive vs. expensive flight issue will still be there.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:38 PM on September 28, 2010

Playa Del Carmen has great nightlife!

$300 for the entire trip, over the busiest tourist season? Not happening.
posted by halogen at 12:45 PM on September 28, 2010

If you do end up planning on spending more and go for a flight, you can memail me if you want some tips and planning help. I can at least help you stretch your money once you get over the baseline flight cost.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:57 PM on September 28, 2010

If you are intent on driving, I would skip heading for Cancun, Veracruz, Yucatan and all the Gulf stuff. To get there from Austin, you have to drive through the border regions of either Nuevo Leon or Tamaulipas, either of which are experiencing a heavy volume of drug-related violence. Instead, I would advising driving through the US, west to Tucson, Arizona. From there, it's only 4 hours to the beaches of Puerto Penasco and the Sea of Cortez. The Sea of Cortez stays nearly as warm as the Gulf of Mexico. Plus Puerto Penasco is basically a beach town for Phoenix and Tucson residents, you can get by in English. Since you will be in the Sonora Free Trade Zone, crossing the border in a car is a breeze and this area of the Mexican border is both safe and largely unpopulated.

If you are intent on heading to the Gulf though, ditch the car and snatch up some plane tickets to Cancun, rent a car and get yourself to a nice little affordable beach like Tulum.
posted by caveatz at 2:44 PM on September 28, 2010

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