Summer In Mexico: The Next Big Adventure
The plane tickets are booked. In early June the Root of Good family packs up and hits the road for a summer in Mexico. Just another crazy thing you can do when early retired.
We’ll be chasing the kids up and down pyramids and mountains, into the crystal clear water, and then relaxing in the shade until the smell of grilling meats lures us to the explosive colors of the local markets.
The adventure begins when we fly into Mexico City in early June. We depart on a non-stop flight from Charlotte instead of Raleigh, so we are taking an afternoon Greyhound bus halfway across North Carolina the day before. It’ll be boot camp for all the buses we plan on taking between cities in Mexico. Except the Mexican buses are ten times nicer than the Greyhound buses here in the US.
The plan is to spend a week and a half in Mexico City, then head north to San Miguel de Allende for a couple of weeks. After that, we head south to Oaxaca for another couple of weeks. Once departing Oaxaca, the route blurs a bit. The final destination is Cancun, with possible stops in Villahermosa, Campeche, and Merida for a night or two each. This is all subject to change if we find a compelling reason to stay in some places more or less than planned (nicer accommodations or more local attractions are two reasons).
In the next post I reveal our trip budget for just over $1,000 per week. And reveal how we saved thousands of dollars on this trip from travel hacking flights and hotels with credit card bonus offers.
Since we’ll be gone for almost two months and hopping on and off buses, planes and taxis throughout our journey, I need to evaluate our luggage needs. We have a range of wheeled suitcases that could work but it would be a huge chore to carry these things more than a block or two. We already have two small backpacks that can double as suitcases for the two older children and we can use them for daypacks while we’re out exploring each day.
I’m looking at travel backpacks for me and Mrs. Root of Good so we can carry our stuff more easily on this trip and similar trips in the future. The Mad Fientist shared his backpack choices in his globe-trotting multi-month trip summary, so that’s probably a good place to start the search. He went with a 43-liter Kelty while his wife went with the Osprey Farpoint 40 liter pack. I haven’t bought a travel pack like this since I was a teenager so I guess I need to go to a sporting goods store or outdoors outfitter to try a few types on before committing to anything.
For portable electronics, I have a couple of old smartphones and my current Samsung Galaxy S3. I don’t think any of them work on overseas wireless networks, but we can use them for offline navigating via Google Maps or the Maps.Me app. We also have a T-Mobile prepaid phone with hundreds of minutes on it that might work in Mexico in a pinch. To our surprise, it worked perfectly in Canada (although at high international rates that chewed up the minutes pretty fast). Do we want to carry the extra few ounces of weight for an emergency phone?
We have two 15″ laptops that weigh between 4.75 and 5 pounds. I’m debating between taking one or taking two with us. Since there will be five of us, it would be nice to have two “full size” entertainment and productivity devices. But do we really want to carry an extra five pounds of electronics in order to have a full size second device?
A better solution for the second (and possibly third) entertainment device is a 6-7″ tablet like the Amazon Fire HD 7 in the $100-150 range. I like to read, so I might also go for a 6″ tablet for me or a dedicated e-reader like the Kindle (for $79). I don’t really want to load up on special purpose electronics that won’t get much use at home, but cutting down on the weight will be nice. Although I might fall back on good old paperback books since I really enjoy the analog experience. I don’t think second hand or new English language books will be that hard to come by, and there might even be books at the apartments we will rent or at community libraries.
In an ideal world, I’d like to take a really sharp kitchen knife with me. Since the friendly TSA agents typically frown on things like that in carry on luggage, I’ll probably skip it. Another food-related gadget that I would love is a multi-purpose tool or pocketknife for those times when you really want to cut up some fresh fruit from the market while on the go. Mmmm mangos mmmmm.
We’re traveling with three kids including a three year old. Many of the concerns revolve around the kids and how they will deal with the sometimes adverse conditions on the road.
For the kids, I’m concerned about whining, picky eaters, heat, and mosquitoes. Any one or two of those in isolation isn’t that bad. Three or four, taken together, can turn a fun trip into a not so fun one. I don’t like the heat and mosquitoes that much either, so we plan on spending more time in regions that have nice weather and less time in the hot and humid locales. If it is hot and buggy, air conditioned hotel rooms and bug spray will become very important.
I addressed the security concerns of traveling in Mexico in this post. People think Mexico equals gang warfare, kidnappings and severe violence spilling blood in the streets. That’s about the exact opposite of what most of the country is like most of the time. Getting sick from drinking the water or food poisoning is a concern (also addressed in a future post).
Exhaustion is another concern, so we’ll be taking slow travel to heart. While on our five week road trip to Canada last year, we all decided we had enough fun for one summer half way through the trip and returned home early. The two year old will be three this year, making the trip much easier for us. But will we make it? Stay tuned to find out!
Top goals of the trip are relaxation, good food, and adventure. Oaxaca has been on my radar for a while since some consider it the food mecca of Mexico. I have to visit to verify the accuracy of that claim one huarache stand at a time. We like to cook at home, and I hope to learn a few new tricks while eating my way across Mexico.
San Miguel de Allende (SMA) gets good press as a cool little expat town with good weather. Unfortunately we are visiting during the hottest time of the year, but it’s still very moderate compared to our North Carolina summers. I want to investigate SMA to see just how relaxing it is there. Jeremy and Winnie at Go Curry Cracker had a great time in their $1,000 per month three bedroom house, and we hope to find a similarly nice place for our two week stay.
We chose Cancun as the final destination on the trip because I couldn’t find a return flight from anywhere closer to Mexico City (other than Guatemala City). I booked tickets using frequent flyer miles and had a hard time finding return flights home for the five of us in July, so we compromised on location instead of trip length. I’ve always wanted to visit the Yucatan peninsula (for more than a day like on our cruise to Mexico last year), and this was an easy way to make it happen while saving money and frequent flyer points. Having the time to be flexible paid off big time in this case.
Fifteen years ago Mrs. Root of Good and I spent six weeks traveling around the northern and central parts of Mexico on a shoestring budget ($700 each for six weeks). This time, we are returning with more money and more kids for round two of our Mexican adventures.
What’s the longest trip you’ve ever taken? Was it too short or too long?