So let’s say you made up your mind and decided to visit Mexico. I’m so glad for you! But now you may feel a little bit lost and not know what to do. Where should you go? Should you make an itinerary? Should you be concerned about anything in particular? Planning a trip to Mexico or any other part of the world should be on your to-do list. Planning ahead makes things so much easier in my opinion. It should also be an enjoyable part of your experience as a traveler. Personally, I get really excited when I start looking for destinations, flights, hotels, etc. I sometimes do get stressed, but it’s part of the process. That’s why I include below some recommendations to start planning your trip.
Select a Destination
One of the first things you should do is picking a destination. But how do you choose one? Well, there are many factors to consider which will impact your decision:
- Money. This is by far one of the top factors for many people. Most of us want to make the most out of our money. There are some destinations that are cheaper than others. If you’re traveling on a budget, you might prefer Zacatecas over Playa del Carmen just to set an example.
- Time. This is another crucial factor. For our American friends, a trip to Mexico is just a few hours long. On the other hand, for our friends coming in from Europe or Asia, these trips are quite long. They’re looking at practically 2 days total for the round trip. Although in general, European travelers have more vacation time than Americans and time therefore may not be a problem for them.
- Preferences. Not all travelers are alike. Some are into adventure, while others are into history or art. So, if you want to practice surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving or anything similar, you should look into the many beaches Mexico has to offer. On the contrary, if archaeological sites are your thing, you should look at destinations in central/southern Mexico. Due to its natural and ethnical diversity, Mexico has a large variety of destinations to choose from.
Select the Dates
There are some people who pick a destination first and then decide on when to visit. On the contrary, there are others who first select the dates for their trip and then pick a destination. It all depends on your preferences and flexibility. In my case, I don’t have that much flexibility at work, so I often select my dates and then my destination.
One thing you have to consider is peak season. During this season, the price of everything tends to go up, not to mention many places will be crowded. You may want to avoid that. For your reference, the peak season in Mexico is: mid-December through mid-January, Semana Santa (the week before Easter) and mid-/early July through mid-August. Some long weekends may see an increase in prices as well, but this depends on the destination.
Do Some Research on Your Destination
What’s the weather like? What are the must-sees or must-dos? Where should you stay? Where can you eat? These are just some of the things you may want to investigate.
Also do some research on the modes of transportation. If you go to a big city like Mexico City, you will have lots of options at your disposal. However, if you go to a small town, you will probably have to rent a car or hire a tour. Keep in mind that tours can be expensive, so do your math.
An excellent starting point for your research is Trip Advisor. It’s a large online community where you can read reviews from other fellow travelers like you. You can also find tips about destinations, restaurants, hotels, attractions, etc.
Some Tools You Can Use
In the past, one of the most traditional ways of planning a vacation was through a travel agency. In fact, there are still people who use them. If you don’t want to complicate yourself and avoid the hassle of looking for flights, hotels and whatnot, then you should definitely take this route.
Now, if you have some patience and want to have more control over your planning, then you can do everything yourself. Thanks to technology, you can compare hundreds of flights and hotels in real time. All you need is a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone and access to Internet.
For flights, there are several websites and apps you can use to compare prices. One of such websites is Google Flights (https://www.google.com/flights). I’ve used it a few times and it’s a really good tool. I like the fact that you can open the calendar to see whole months and get a better idea of the cheapest dates for both your departure and return. You cannot buy flights here directly. It just shows you a comparative list of prices. Once you click on one, it will redirect you to the airline’s website where you can complete your purchase.
Another website I’ve used is Kayak (https://www.kayak.com/). It’s pretty similar to Google Flights with the only difference that Kayak has a mobile app. If you can’t decide on a destination, you can use either Google Flights or Kayak and “explore” the different destinations and prices using an interactive map. If you already picked a destination, you can compare different flight dates and prices too. Just like Google Flights, you cannot buy tickets on Kayak. It’s just a search engine that will direct you to the airline you selected.
Other tools for looking for flights include: CheapOair, Expedia and Hopper. Whether you use a website or an app, you will be able to set up price alerts and filter results for your convenience. On some platforms you will be able to complete your purchase, while others will redirect you to the airline’s website.
Regarding hotels, it’s pretty much the same thing. As a matter of fact, you can use many of the sites/apps mentioned above to look for both flights and hotels. Expedia is such an example. I’ve used it quite a lot and haven’t faced any major problems except for one time. What I like about Expedia is that you can earn points for each dollar you spend and use them later when you buy a plane ticket or book a room.
If you’re going to rent a car, I highly recommend you do it directly with the car rental company. The websites/apps mentioned above are good for flights/hotels but not so much for renting a car in my opinion.
When Should You Start Planning?
There is not a single answer here. I don’t think it’s ever too early to start. Personally, I start planning my next trip as soon as the most recent one is over. But that’s just me.
One rule of thumb is: Buy your plane ticket at least three months in advance! Most experts agree that this is a good time to buy a ticket for an international destination. If you buy it within less time than this, you will probably end up paying way more.
After buying your ticket, I recommend you book your hotel as well. This way you will have both transportation and lodging secured. Although you could wait a little to book a room, but don’t wait too long if you’re traveling during peak season.
Is It Necessary to Make an Itinerary?
It depends on your preferences. For example, I have a friend that always makes an itinerary with specific dates and times for the duration of the trip. It can be quite frustrating when you’re pressed for time and you still have pending things on your program.
What I prefer to do is make a list of a few must-sees or must-dos in my destination, and make another one with several things to choose from. I try to vary my second list as much as possible. Once I am at my destination, I adjust my activities for the day as needed. Sometimes I just feel like sitting at the plaza, while others I want to explore my surroundings. So far this has worked for me. So, my advice to you is: Be flexible.
Check Any Special Government Requirements
You will need a passport to travel to Mexico. Depending on your country, you could get it on the same day you apply for it or it could take a few weeks. Check this with the appropriate government agency from your country.
There are some cases where you will also need a visa for your trip. If you come from any of these countries, keep this in mind: https://www.inm.gob.mx/gobmx/word/index.php/paises-requieren-visa-para-mexico/.
There are no mandatory immunizations to visit Mexico. However, it is still recommended you look into this if your immunization record hasn’t been recently updated.
Travel insurance is not mandatory, either. You may still want to get it to prevent any unforeseen expenses that might arise, but this is totally up to you. Remember you will be liable for any accidents or hospital expenses if you don’t have insurance.
Should You Make a Budget?
This is a very good question. Again, it’s totally up to you, although it’s a good idea. In my case, I don’t really make a budget but just establish a limit for the whole trip. I try not to surpass it and only use my credit cards as little as possible. The only thing I try to abide by is spending no more than thirty dollars per day for my meals. Other than that, I’m pretty flexible with the rest. If I spend a little more than expected for a tour, then I buy fewer souvenirs for example. I try to make it up whenever possible.
If you are more orderly and want to have more control over your expenses, then definitely make a budget. Just try to be a little flexible as things don’t always go as planned.
Don’t be afraid to make any mistakes. Each traveler has his own style and that’s totally acceptable. However, I think it’s very important to do some planning. This can save you a lot of stress and trouble during your trip. But if you’re more adventurous, just be yourself! Nothing wrong with that.
I hope you find my recommendations useful for your next trip. Some recommendations can be applied for trips to destinations other than Mexico.
Please feel free to comment below and ask any questions you have. I would also like to read any tips or recommendations you have. And if you could share this post with your friends or family, I would really appreciate it. See you soon!