Welcome to the Budget Series! I aim to give more practical advice and expound on the financial details of our travels through this series. Although travel is way more accessible now than ever before, most of us still need to set aside a piggy bank/save up for a vacation. By taking advantage of credit card reward and bonus points, N and I have been able to travel more frequently and save on cash spend while traveling. The goal for this series is to discuss budgeting/finance tips, breakdown costs of each trip, and show you how to best use your points and cash to optimize your trip financially.
Read other Budget Series posts:
This is my third time in Mexico, first time in Mexico City, and the third time in the Vallarta area. Each time I visit, my love for Mexico grows more and more! Why? It’s cheap, it’s practical (if you live in the U.S.), and the weather is great! We stayed in Mexico City for 5 days and then hopped over to Nuevo/Puerto Vallarta for 5 days.
Mexico City, Mexico
N and I have taken turns getting the Southwest Companion Pass (CP), which we’ve had since the beginning of 2016. Essentially, if you have the CP, every time you fly, you can designate a companion to fly for free (not including taxes and fees) with you on the same itinerary. It’s allowed us to travel so much domestically. Southwest also flies to Mexico, certain countries in Central America, and some in the Carribean. Read more here for why the Southwest CP is the best deal to have for frequent U.S. domestic travelers.
We flew from Dallas Love Field (DAL) to Mexico City (MEX) using the Southwest CP. N bought his one way ticket for $150.47, with about $100 of that paid partially by travel credit left from some of our credit cards (American Express Platinum, American Express Premium Rewards Gold, and Chase Reserve). He then added me on his itinerary as a companion, and I paid $33 for taxes and fees. That’s it!
We booked an Airbnb for $238.45 (~$60/night) for four nights in the neighborhood of Juarez. Juarez was once the grand and wealthy part of Mexico City, which lost its splendor during the revolution and the 1985 earthquake, but is now rebuilding the affluence it once possessed. To our surprise, Juarez was center to the financial and business district of Mexico City. The Airbnb was right behind the Four Seasons Hotel, close to the St. Regis Hotel, and next to the Embassy. Needless to say, we felt extremely safe in the neighborhood.
Everything was cheap as the exchange rate was about 19 pesos to 1 USD. Here’s our breakdown of food for five days for two people:
Day 1 (arrived at night): $13 for dinner
Day 2: $5 for breakfast, $15 for lunch, $13 for dinner
Day 3: $5 for breakfast, $2.50 for lunch, $12 for dinner
Day 4: $5 for breakfast, $23 for dinner
Day 5: $5 for breakfast (left early evening)
Other expenses in this category include coffee and convenience store drinks for about $30 total.
Total food cost was $128.50 for five days between two people.
Uber was extremely cheap here. We spent $16.50 to get around the city over four days.
The metro system is even cheaper!! It costs 5 pesos or $0.25 for a metro ticket, and you can ride it as far down the line as you need! How crazy is that. We used the metro once but should’ve used it more.
Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
From Mexico City, we flew to Puerto Vallarta on VivaAerobus for about $120 for two people.
This Nuevo Vallarta trip was a special one because we came for the 40th anniversary of a Peace Corps group reunion that N’s mom was a part of! We met a bunch of kind-hearted, smart, and friendly people and will possibly reconnect with some during our big trip.
Everyone stayed at Occidental Nuevo Vallarta, an all-inclusive resort. Using our Citi Prestige card’s 4th night free benefit, we booked a four-night stay here for $823.
Since food and drinks were included, we didn’t spend extra in these categories while at the Occidental.
We then moved over to the Westin Resort & Spa Puerto Vallarta for one night to be closer to the airport for our departure the next day and got a great deal booking this one night stay!
With 3500 SPG Star points and ~$65, we booked the Deluxe Room, knowing that we’ll get upgraded to at least a Junior Suite through our SPG Platinum status. To our surprise, we got bumped up to the Grand Suite upon arrival. Score!
The two-story suite had a spectacular ocean view and more importantly, its own private hot tub! Double score!
We took two uber rides from Mexico City to the Westin and the Westin to the airport, which totaled $9.50.
We might’ve spent an extra $25 for food/drinks outside of the all-inclusive and at Westin (since it wasn’t an all-inclusive).
Total spending in Mexico City was $467.17 for two people. That’s about $47 per day per person.
Total spending in Nuevo/Puerto Vallarta was $1,042.50 for two people. This one is more expensive at $104.25 per day per person.
Overall, I love how affordable Mexico is, love the food, and love the people! Life feels nice and light when you’re in Mexico. 🙂