Hola! This past week, my boyfriend and I took a much-needed vacation to Cancun, Mexico, for a little fun in the sun. This was my first time staying overseas for a significant amount of time, and although I’ve been to Mexico before, I had never visited Cancun. All I could think of was tequila, tacos, swim-up pools and the beach. However, during my week stay I was reminded of some pretty important travel tips, particularly for those that are exploring overseas. Travel is truly the spice of life, and taking strategic steps will not only maximize your vacation, but keep you safe while you’re away. Check out my latest blog on Travel: the Do’s and Don’ts of International Travel.
DO Partner with a Reputable Travel Agency to Book Vacation
Anytime I plan an international vacation, I typically partner with a travel agency to handle the booking. Why? They’ve probably already got a nice head start on resorts and hotels in the area that you are looking to stay at. Essentially, you’re getting a “free” assistant to help you book your vacation, since this is what they get paid to do. It is much more convenient, as it is less time-consuming than scouring the Internet all day finding places. What’s even better is that most travel agencies can set you up on a payment plan, which means that you will likely put down only a portion of the cost in the form of a down-payment, and can pay in increments until a certain deadline. This is an awesome advantage, and beats dumping possibly thousands of dollars all at once. I personally use Vacations to Go for my travel, but feel free to ask around for recommendations so that you have options.
DO Book an All-Inclusive Resort, If Possible
When you are traveling to another country, you want to make the necessities of accommodations and food highly accessible. If the area of the country that you want to visit has all-inclusive resort options, I highly recommend you go with that. It will not only guarantee that you have what you need during your stay, but most resorts have a high level of security, and make it top priority that their guests are safe and have a memorable experience. If you don’t speak the native language of the country fluently, don’t risk your experience by renting an AirBnb or looking for something short-term on Craigslist. I recently stayed at Now Jade, and the resort was amazing! They depend on their tourists to help fund their country, so they have very tight security. I felt extremely safe knowing that visitors cannot just come on to the property. Plus, all-inclusive also means, all the food and drink you want, which cannot be matched!
DO Bring Some of Your Own Cash with You Prior
One thing that I forgot to do before I left is take out a significant amount of cash before I left. If you are visiting a third-world country like Mexico, they may just welcome U.S. currency over their own pesos. This is probably because of the conversion of the U.S. dollar to a Mexican peso. I was able to use my card to bring out pesos for a day that I traveled to town to do some shopping, but I still wish that I had brought more for my stay. Take out an amount of cash that you are comfortable to keep on you during your stay, and use that for your tipping, shopping, or other miscellaneous purchases.
DO Make Sure Your Loved Ones Know Exactly Where You Will Be
If your mom is anything like mine, you will probably receive a few calls or texts before you leave on your trip. Please make sure that someone who is not traveling with you knows all the details of your trip. This includes your flight information, resort/hotel details, and even names of other travelers with you. I also send over information on where I board my dog, in the event that my flight gets delayed and I am unable to make it over there in time. Hopefully, this information will never need to be used, but I personally met people who were vacationing in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit, and were unable to outreach family members for days. I believe in situations like this, it will give your family much relief to know that they know exactly where you are. Make sure you send this out before you head out for vaycay.
DON’T Rent a Car or Explore on Your Own
I see a lot of foreign travelers doing this, and there are a ton of safety risks involved with renting a car on your own in unknown territory. Combine a language barrier with unfamiliar area, and that can make for a huge issue. There’s a 99% chance that if you’re staying at a resort or hotel, they have a taxi service that they can call for you. If you’re wanting to explore the great outdoors, look into excursion packages at your hotel. Utilize these resources.
And here’s an example of why: during our stay, we met a young couple from Long Beach, CA. They definitely were super social and ready to party at any given moment, so they decided to rent a car and travel on their own. The last night we were there, they saw us and ran over to tell us about being held up by crooked police! Apparently, they were pulled over because the wife wasn’t wearing her seatbelt, and ended up negotiating with the husband that if he didn’t “pay up” he was going to jail. Now, I won’t get into the details, but I do believe there may be a little more to this story. However, the couple put themselves in a super vulnerable situation that could have been avoided by ordering a taxi through the resort.
On top of that, they lost hundreds of dollars, and plan to talk with the US Embassy to try to get some of that back. While this is NOT common practice in Mexico, be aware that people in other countries may or may not take advantage of a situation like that. My boyfriend and I were out exploring different towns and had no issues, but we were also with an assigned driver. Just be mindful of this and stick with the resources you are provided!
DON’T Trust Strangers to Be Your Guide During Your Vacation
Similarly to my above message, only book activities that are contracted through your resort or a reputable company on Trip Advisor. While I am sure there are plenty of honest, hardworking people who would love to help out, the uncertainty of foreign land just isn’t worth the risk. I feel that Hollywood is somewhat responsible for the romanticism of foreign travel: woman takes a solo journey or sabbatical to a foreign land, meets some handsome man, and this never-ending love blossoms and changes them both forever. Very appealing *side eye*.
The truth of the matter is that walking into unchartered territory gives the stranger a home court advantage. Research all the activities and places you would like to visit during your stay, and only book through reputable, legit companies and agencies. Read reviews, and if you see something that you’re uncomfortable with, speak up or don’t go. In the end, your goal is to live it up responsibly, and get back home safely.
DON’T Miss Out On Any Travel Perks that Are Offered
One of my favorite things about traveling are all the awesome perks involved!! Every time that I book a vacation through a resort or cruise, there is usually a $150- $200 credit to use during your vacation. During our recent stay, there were multiple opportunities to earn a credit to use, or take a free excursion. Now, we did have to listen to a sales presentation on joining a vacation club (listen, don’t do it!), but after we politely declined, we were given our credit immediately afterwards and used it towards an excursion. Both of my previous cruises included a credit that was included with no obligations. Major win! Make sure to inquire about any potential perks that can be thrown in with your reservation, and take full advantage of that during your vaycay,
In all, it is an absolute treat and a treasure to explore this beautiful world that we live in. Travel as much as you can, immerse yourself into different cultures, learn to speak another language, and try a new experience as often as you can. Hopefully, these Do’s and Don’ts will have you properly set for an exciting vacation. Mexico is personally one of my favorite countries, because they people are beyond kind, the food is amazing, and the culture is rich! What’s your favorite international place to travel, and why? Let’s chat, drop a comment below!
With Love, Melanie