Cancun Vacation Tips on a Budget

Cancun is ALL about the water.  

Travel on a Budget in Cancun Mexico
Cancun, Mexico  Hotel Zone
Those waters are seriously as blue as they say.  The clearest turquoise white sands and breakers all up and down the coast of the Yucatan.  I had never been anywhere near the Caribbean before, but I had been to the gulf coasts of Florida and while there are similarities, in many ways it is a whole new world.   We spent the first half of our vacation at a luxe, all inclusive resort in Cancun and then headed south for the "real" Mexico.  It was fabulous.  I never want to do a vacation without this duality again.  We saw the best of both worlds, and believe me - they both were fabulous!  The only change we would make is to start the trip with the adventurous "real" Mexico locales and the end up sipping fruity drinks in the beachside hot tub the last half of the trip.  yes, they did have hot tubs literally on the beach...

Travel on a Budget in Cancun Mexico
Kuku's Hot Tub Bar   |   Omni Cancun, Mexico tubs with stools in the water AND swings on the other fun :)  SO.  All of this vacation for around or under $500.  Our stay at the Omni included the room, access to all the pools (like all 7 of them...), beachfront access and all meals and such at several different restaurants for 5 days.  We paid for this by listening to a 90 minute timeshare presentation and $185 cash for the entire week.  Rooms at the Omni typically run $250-650 a night without the all inclusive meals.  While listening to a timeshare presentation might not be your cup of tea, it was a FABULOUS deal for us! 

Travel on a Budget in Cancun Mexico
Cancun, Mexico
Don't be sucked in by the presentation however.  If you end up buying into the Vacation Club, you will be spending a WHOLE lot more then $185 and you will regret it.  If you would rather pay the $250-$650 a night and not deal with the whole Vacation Club Presentation, I would still highly recommend the Omni.  It was beautiful, luxurious and the beaches cannot be beat (except by Club Med down the beach...but that's a whole other ballgame...)  If you plan to stay at a resort in Cancun, you should look into the all inclusive options.  It is around $50-60 a day and includes all meals and drinks.  Some places offer reciprocal deals with other hotels.  The Omni does not, but they have an amazing beach side restaurant, a fine dining restaurant (you can visit Da Vinci's 3 times during your week stay), a good buffet restaurant (where you can and should order off the menu if you are all inclusive), a sushi bar and room service that are all included in the plan.  The buffet is $20 a person if you are paying per meal and it is the cheapest option.  If we go back, we will definitely go all inclusive somewhere.  It is so amazing to not have to worry about the pennies.  There are plenty of American chains around Cancun as well, but they are American prices and who wants to eat American food while you are in Cancun??!  (Of course, we also wondered who would want to eat at Chinese buffets while in Cancun, but there were plenty of tourists doing so, so go figure...)

As far as entertainment at the resorts, they have "activities" throughout the day and some nights they have "concerts" and "presentations".  I put those all in quotes because they are very cruise ship like and not super amazing.  We went to one "show" - basically a stage with various types of Mexican and Mayan dance...interesting, but not fascinating.  We also played Bingo one day.  3 single rounds of Bingo that took literally 45 minutes.   Very weird, but fun because we were sitting in the pool anyway, but not something we would repeat.  So don't count on great entertainment at the resorts.  Expect AMAZING relaxation...just not amazing performances.

Travel on a Budget in Cancun Mexico
Cancun, Mexico

We spent the majority of our days in Cancun at the resort, swimming, diving in the surf for shells (you can find giant conch shells if you are diligent, or just buy them off the beach sellers if you're lazy) and eating amazing seafood.  We did visit El Roy which is a small ruin right along the Hotel Zone and it was small, but interesting, cheap and had about a million iguanas.  We hear that they feed them there and it is part of the attraction of this particular ruin.  It was worth the few bucks just to see the iguanas, but the ruins are pretty interesting too.  Make sure to check out the one outcast villager that lived back in the woods...we totally thought that would be our house until we remembered the jaguars.  Then we thought we would much rather we in the middle of town, don't you think?

When we did venture into the town of Cancun, we just basically looked around.  It is a lot like Vegas (Coco Bongo is a huge nightclub among others on the strip that is said to be amazing...we didn't want to pay the $45-$55 cover).  The malls are as luxurious as anything in America and are fun to walk around, but the prices are luxury prices.  Feel free to buy, but don't expect a good deal.  The only thing we bought in Cancun was a little chicken pecking toy from a lady that had set up a blanket with trinkets on the side of the walkway (it was around 2 bucks and they were 9 at the airport, so an ok deal).  We collected a ton of shells by searching in the waters, but otherwise did not bring home any Cancun souvenirs.  The good stuff is to be found in the villages!  Of course, I took plenty of photos...because the beaches are seriously THAT GOOD. a postcard...

Travel on a Budget in Cancun Mexico
Cancun, Mexico  |  Hotel Zone

As far as the rest of the trip, costs were minimal thanks to my husband's ingenious planning.  He signed us up for the Vacation Club/timeshare deal before we left, but also signed us up for a rental car for the entire trip (a steal @ $85 for the week off Priceline) and of course airline tickets.  The airline tickets were free first class tickets paid for with frequent flyer miles.  We signed up for a credit card deal where we put ALL of our grocery, gas etc. EVERYTHING purchases for 4 months and then paid it off immediately (around $750 each month).  No fees, no interest, free first class tickets to Cancun.  If you can't pay off the credit card bills religiously, then taking deals like these aren't worth it.  You'll lose more in interest than the plane tickets are worth, so just find a good deal on Expedia.   By the case you were wondering - First class was AWESOME.  ...and yes, we were flying American Airlines.  Yes, they declared bankruptcy while we were in Cancun.  Luckily, they were still running flights as usual and we got home, but what a fun scare that was reading the front page of the Mexican newspapers announcing that our airline had gone under.  Of course...there are worse places to be stranded...

Puerto Morales Public Beach Travel in Mexico
Puerto Morales,  Public Beach and Snorkeling Access

To learn more about traveling Mexico, check out my other articles below!
1. Cancun Vacation Tips on a Budget2. How to Listen to a Timeshare Presentation without Buying In 3. The Real Valladolid, |  Hotels, Ruins and the Heart of Mexico4. Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morales  |  Snorkeling and Sambutes 5. Ek Balam and the Cenotes6. The Municipal Market of Valladolid

Want more travel?  Head to Vegas with me HERE, the Pacific Coast Highway HERE and keep your eyes peeled for my trip to NYC with Martha Stewart coming soon!  Here is some fun info on the boroughs of NYC to hold you over until then :)

New York City Infographic


Laura said…
Looks like fun! And it sounds like you left you children at home? If so, I think you should post about that, too!
Oscar said…
The first photo is amazing!
Gary said…
Amy really found this post and our other post regarding time share promotions very useful. It's good to read a real person's experience with these promotions. I feel some what relieved that someone else has done this and its legit. Appreciate the blog post!
Amy Renea said…
Are you planning on a time share vacation Gary?? Have fun!!
Amy Renea said…
Thanks Oscar! ...and yes Laura -- they were home! It was a nice change :)