Budget travel to Cancun
Joseph and I wanted to go to Cancun for a long time. The past December we finally made it! We really enjoyed the sunshine and beach there, especially for us who live in Michigan. The sea is the bluest and purest we’ve ever seen!
I have known that hotels in Cancun are quite expensive and our budget was kind of limited. We agreed to spend at most $2k on this trip. And to be honest, with the hotel and airfare expenses during the holiday season, it was difficult to make this happen. So what we did was: use Chase Ultimate Reward points for airfare, applied a Hyatt credit card and received a two free night bonus, and out of pocket money for the rest of the expenses.
We spent a total of 6 nights from December 21st-27th at Cancun hotel zone in two all-inclusive hotels, and booked a one-day Chichen Itza & Ik-Kil Cenote tour. Our total cost is around $1,241 (see below), which is even less than we originally planned.
Hotels booked from hotels.com: $790
Chichen Itza tour booked from Viator: 69.99*2=139.98
Parking at Detroit airport for seven days: $161
round trip taxi between airport and hotel: $50
Tips here and there: around $70
Miscellaneous expenses (such as souvenir, waterproof phone case, airport foods): around $30
1. Using Ultimate Reward points for airfare
I redeemed a total of 82,772 points for two round-trip tickets worthy of $1034.66 from Detroit to Cancun. You can of course redeem for cash back, but obviously it is a better deal to redeem for travel.
The good thing about Chase cards is that if your family member has a Chase Freedom, they can transfer their points into your Sapphire account. For example, Joseph has a Chase Freedom Unlimited card, and many times it has a 5 % cash back for certain kind of purchase, such as dining, gas station, or grocery in different quarters. So it is money saving when transferring points from Freedom to Sapphire Preferred. Joseph transferred around 20k points to me.
2. Hotel booking
Well, all-inclusive hotels in Cancun are mostly quite expensive, especially during holiday season. What we did is that I applied for a Hyatt credit card through Chase around December 2015, and the bonus is that after you spend $2k in the first three months you can get 2 free nights at Hyatt hotels worldwide. And of course you want to redeem two free nights that with as higher value as possible. I checked the price of Hyatt Ziva at Hotels.com during December 24-26th and the average hotel fee per night is around $800! So I called Hyatt customer service to see whether I can redeem my two free nights for an all-inclusive hotel and the answer was yes! Therefore I booked two free nights at Hyatt Ziva with no out-of-pocket cost at all! And I guess I saved about $1.6k for that! As a Hyatt platinum member, I can also use 25,000 Hyatt points to redeem one night, so again, I transferred my points in Chase Sapphire account to Hyatt and redeemed another night (for free) at Hyatt Ziva!
For the other three nights, I debated between all-inclusive and non-AI hotels. But I found that the hotel fee for AI and non-AI hotels in Cancun hotel zone do not differ too much, especially if you count into the dining, drink, other hotel expenses, etc. So I decided to book another AI hotel in Cancun, definitely need to be much cheaper than Hyatt Ziva. The one I booked is Riu Palace Los America through hotels.com for $340 per night (It is usually much cheaper in non-holiday time). It turned out to be a pretty nice hotel especially the French restaurant and Steak restaurant. I ate lobsters in both restaurants in that hotel; while lobsters in Hyatt Ziva costs an additional $29 at every restaurant. And I really liked their Pina Colada in Riu hotel, not not their show.
For hotels I have two free nights worthy of around $120 per night on Hotels.com so I only spent $790 for three nights. Remember to use ebates when you want to link to hotels.com. I received $23.75 cash back for spending $790.98. It is always good to get some cash back, isn’t it? *_*
3. Other tips for traveling in Cancun
- Get a lot of $1 for tips. Even though these hotels are AI, you are not required but usually expected by waiters for pay tips for dining, drinks, and shuttles. We changed about 100 $1s and did not have too many left.
- No need to exchange for Peso before leaving U.S., but do bring some U.S. dollar cash because some local shops only accept Peso. We exchanged Peso for a rate of 19:1 Peso to U.S. dollar at a local exchange office, which is pretty reasonable.
- Chichen Itza is so hot! Bring your hat, sunglasses, lots of sunscreen lotion, and staying hydrated!
- Get a waterproof Phone Case if you don’t want to spend too much on a waterproof camera. You can purchase it at local stores (like a drug store) in Cancun.