Travel site Hipmunk released two reports about Mexico recently that offer a host of insights. Not only is Mexico the site’s most popular international country for flights and hotels, it turns out it’s popular year-round. Bookings to the country are up 15% this summer over last year.
The increase comes despite regular headlines about violence. Mexico remains a go-to destination. Around 7 million Americans visit each year, said Steve Clarke, Hipmunk’s senior director of product.
“Mexico is a really big country, and these things happening in some areas of country are not happening in tourist locations or where Americans usually go,” said Daniel Peña, founder of LocalAdventures in Guadalajara. “If you go to Cancun or Mexico City or Puerto Vallarta, you’re not going to have these problems.”
What’s more, reported Hipmunk, the average round trip airfare to Mexico this summer is down 8%, making now a budget-friendly time to visit. With that in mind, here are seven tips to maximize your savings while vacationing south of the border.
1. Venture Beyond the Hotel
“Everything in a hotel is going to be 20% to 30% more than if you step outside of hotel and seek the same thing,” said Peña. This rule of thumb applies to activities, souvenirs and more, he added.
2. Ask Locals for Recommendations
When hunting for the best margarita, it helps to speak with the locals about things to see and do.
“Spend five minutes or 10 minutes talking to locals, and they will tell how to get a better price on whatever you want to do and where to go,” said Peña. A hotel concierge often receives a commission for their recommendations, he added. Locals will likely provide an unbiased opinion.
3. Come in Late Summer or Early Fall
According to Hipmunk, the low season, late summer through early fall, presents the best chance to optimize savings. The average hotel price in August in Oaxaca, for example, drops to $67 per night. During the same month in Ensenada, average nightly room rates are $87, according to Hipmunk.
Come October, there are still deals to be had. In Alcapulco, the average nightly room rate drops to $79, the lowest all year. Similarly, in Tijuana, hotel room costs hit their lowest in October, with the average being $76.
Flights are cheaper during these times, the report said. For instance, the average cost of a flight to Puerto Vallarta hits its lowest in September, at $389.
However, you’ll need to keep an eye on the hurricane forecast, especially if you’re bound for a coastal community.
4. Check Airbnb & Vacation-Home Rentals
All-inclusive resorts have their perks, as do luxe hotels, but if your mission is to save pesos, don’t overlook vacation home rentals on Airbnb or other sites.
Even the smallest Mexican communities have Airbnb listings these days, said Randy Bonds, owner of TravelYucatan.com. “There’s a plethora of beautiful condos and homes available and property management in the (Yucatan) region is outstanding,” he said. “A lot of times you get better services than at a hotel. And the rentals are as cheap, if not cheaper than a hotel.”
5. Check Social Media for Deals
“Local businesses will contact local influencers and travel boards to spread the word about any deals they might be offering for the next week or so,” said Bonds. “So if you follow the local tourism boards on Instagram and Facebook, you will find local deals.”
6. Haggle for Bargains
It might not be customary to haggle over the purchase of a coffee cup in the U.S., but in Mexico, asking for a discount is standard.
“Every Mexican asks for discounts when they are buying something or receiving a service, so people shouldn’t feel bad doing this,” said Peña. Expect to get at least 10% off the sticker price, he said. That said, if you’re dining at a fine restaurant, leave your haggling skills at the door.
7. Pack a Travel Rewards Card
Nothing sweetens a vacation like getting a kickback for your spending. With travel rewards cards, you’ll receive bonus points and other incentives for swiping as you normally would. That could translate to free checked bags on your airline of choice, hotel upgrades and plenty more. (See some travel rewards cards to consider here.)
Thinking of getting a new piece of a plastic? Be sure to check your credit before you apply. You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.