Spring break. The midway point between spring semester. The timeout before the last quarter of the school year. For the past three years, it has been my saving grace from stress. I’ve gone everywhere with my longtime travel buddy/boyfriend, learning how to travel on a college (read: low) budget.
I chose Cancun because I have always wanted to come to Mexico. I’ve had some non-traditional spring breaks in the past – Vegas, Estes Park, New Orleans. I really wanted to go to the beach this time. Plus, there’s a lot of ruins and caves down here, too. If you don’t know me, I am kind of obsessed with the Mayan/alien conspiracy theory (or any alien conspiracies in general). Also, being semi-fluent in Spanish, I wanted to go to a place to test my skills out. Spanish countries are at the top of my bucket list (Spain and Peru, in particular) because I eventually want to be fluent. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “You speak Spanish?” and I always respond, “Si, yo puedo.”
Our first flight was out of St. Louis. I was nervous because this was my first time not using MoEx so I didn’t know where to park. Parking ranges from $7-$13 a day so we shot for the $7 lot. Unfortunately, the lot was full but we were told we could park at a much closer lot for the same rate, so that was awesome.
The flight to Atlanta was only an hour long. I didn’t know that Atlanta’s airport is the largest in the country! It would have felt that way if it weren’t for the bustle of people there. The airport reminded me a lot of Heathrow in London because of all the duty free shops and mall-esque feel. Our layover was almost three hours long so we had plenty of time to roam around and eat before our final flight.
Our 3 hour flight to Cancun came with some mishaps. As the plane pulled out of the terminal, the engine died. When we arrived in Cancun, we had to wait awhile because someone was at our gate. But it was okay because I was in Mexico!
I’ve heard and read many stereotypes about this place. Most are accurate. For example, I was told that people are very pushy here. As soon as I got out of customs, there is an army of information desk men beckoning at you to “come over here and look at this deal/map/shuttle/taxi/wtf ever.” I’m not saying they’re not helpful but definitely just haggling for your business. I would just wait to get to the hotel for information. Also, don’t exchange your money at the airport. Their rate is $12 pesos/$1 USD when the national exchange rate is around $15.
I’ve also noticed a habit of other Americans nonchalantly telling others tips about this place. The money exchange tip was from a random guy who walked behind the line, told everyone what was up, and then the line scattered. Today, while I laid on the beach, someone walked by and said I was going to fry. I don’t fry, I thought. I’m freaking Filipino. How wrong I was because now I am typing this while wincing at my awful chest burns.
Everything here is expensive. Muy caro. I expected that because this is a tourist area. But like all tourist areas, there are hidden gems. Our resort requires us to buy food coupons at set prices to eat at the restaurants at the resort. When you go to the restaurant, you present the coupon to them. They don’t take cash. The cheapest was like $20 per person and I was like no way. The only good deal was the open bar, all you can drink for $30, but I wanted real food. So we hopped on a bus that runs back and forth down the hotel zone for a dollar, rode downtown, and found a taco diner called Mi Pueblito. Dear Emily, you were right. My good friend Emily came to Cancun a couple years ago and said to aim for the taco stands. I’m going to eat nothing but tacos for the rest of this week! Tristan and I were able to get two piña coladas, burritos, and ceviche (which is like shrimp pico de gallo) for less then $20. We were full from amazing authentic Mexican food and still able to save. We took the bus back to the resort, which I might add is super convenient, and I bought snacks from across the street to bring in so I didn’t have to spend any money at the resort. Proud saving moment right there.
The beach was a lot of fun. The ocean was crystal clear and salty, the air was predictably warm. There were your typical tourists, families, then the Spring Break crowd. It was great getting to just lay down and not worry about anything.
So that’s Day One of Cancun. I will try to blog but no promises because I probably won’t until I get back BUT expect Mayan pyramids and island tours from us next.
This post was brought to you by the biggest glass of wine I’ve ever had.