I know what your thinking, it’s an all-inclusive vacation how much more value could I get? There is way more you can get with an all-inclusive vacation than what’s listed on the website. We are going to share with you the tips and tricks we have learned over the years traveling to Mexico, specifically the Mayan Riviera. For this post, I am going to review our stay at the Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar located in the Mayan Riviera.
Vacation begins with a flight!
We have flown many airlines to the Caribbean but one of the most popular is Sunwing. Sunwing is a standard airline, cramped seats, and no food. Of course, they still offer complimentary drinks but that’s it. You will find minor variations in the airlines going to Mexico. Except for a few that have great attendants, they are the same.
Seat choice is a personal decision but for us two aisle seats are perfect. As you know the most common seat configuration is three across then isle then three more seats. So as a couple you are always stuck with the odd person. The aisle seat for me offers freedom – I can get up when I want and use the “facilities” when I need to.
Being in the aisle also means I stand up first, get my bag first and get off the plane. Also, we try and book as close to the front of the plane as possible it means the last ones on, because who wants to sit there while everyone else loads on. And it means the first one off because who wants to wait for someone to find where they put their bag in the overhead.
Vacation Arrival – You made it!
You can see it through the window the clear blue ocean and can’t wait to get to the hotel. But first, you must get through the airport. It sounds simple right. Not if this is your first time to Cancun. I remember my first time being caught up in all the people saying they were my driver, and they were the ones to take me to the hotel.
Well, we learned quickly. Unless you want a very long expensive taxi ride or are in the market for a timeshare, just look for your designated tour guide. Don’t fall for it! Head to the baggage claim and get your bag. Once you have your bag don’t let it out of your sight until you see it loaded on to the bus.
I am going to talk mostly about Sunwing for this post since that’s who we flew with recently, but the same information applies to all tour operators. So, Sunwing has great, extremely visible vans, bright orange with NEXUS splashed on the sides. That is, of course, you are us. We get the non-descript white van without WIFI. The good thing about the smaller vans that Sunwing operates is it means fewer stops on the way to your hotel.
We are now on our way to our hotel, a mere 25 minutes away. Most of the hotels are located from 15 – 30 minutes away by major highway, depending on how many stops you make. Unless you are staying in Tulum
Now if you are like us, we opt for the first flight out in the morning. That means you likely arrived at the hotel early and your room is not ready yet. Don’t worry you’re also an expert like us and have a bathing suit in your carry on and are off to the pool.
But first you must get past the check-in concierge, you know the ones who sell timeshares and such. Well, we stayed at many like this and let me tell you the best sentenced I ever learned in
Spanish was, No, no estoy interesado. Which translates to I’m not interested. And if you say it in Spanish they think you understand. And hopefully won’t make rude remarks behind your back.
We were at the Iberostar Parisio Del Mar and thought we didn’t have to deal with this but we were wrong. They know train the hotel staff to encourage upgrades. Luckily, I came prepared. We had
researched the upgrade and we knew this is something that we were going to do anyway. But found out the upgrade was only to get us closer to the pool and restaurants. It did not include amenities such as the bathrobe and slippers that I love. So ask for them, I did and they were happy to send them to our room.
We hand over the credit card and bing, bam boom are upgraded. Now to book our restaurants for the week. Since as you know we have a few hours to kill until our room is ready. I highly recommend that you book you’re la carte dinners as soon as you arrive they usually fill up fast.
About the Hotel
Whats better? A big hotel or a small hotel? Well, I guess that all depends on what you’re looking for. When we checked in to the Iberostar Paraiso del Mar our first impression, OMG this place is huge. Now that means lots of restaurants, bars and things to do right. But that also means a million miles of walking to get anywhere. This particular hotel actually comprised two hotels that shared the pool, a huge pool. I mean three pool bars huge.
Now, are you looking for a whooo, yaaaa shots kinda bar, they have one. We aren’t so we stayed away from that one and found the nice quiet bar where we could hang out. Then, on the second day, they closed it! Forgot about offseason, make sure you ask what will be open or closed during the offseason. One great thing we found at this hotel, the accessible beach.
You might think that shopping on vacation is great but beware. The jewelry they swear is silver probably is not and everything is priced for the tourist. If you’re like me an love to haggle for the best price you will love the markets just off the resorts. Most resorts like the Iberostar have a designated shopping area built just for the hotel. Usually a small street with everything you need from paintings to pharmacy. And everything is overpriced. These designed shopping areas are not the best place to haggle. They don’t change prices in the store shops very often.
The bonus with this shopping area is that the food and beverage stores were included. So, we got to try gelato, ice cream, tacos and coffee when we wanted to.
If you are looking for real silver or jewelry arrange to visit the design houses like Matis. I have been to Matis a few time and the jewelry is beautiful and you can see it being made. Tip: if you bring cask you can get a good deal.
Also, remember while you are haggling for the best price they are trying to make a living. So set a fair price you would pay for it and don’t be afraid to walk away the next person will take your price.
Don’t forget your last minute shopping at the airport, many of them have some good prices and you can pick up what you need.
There are going to many opportunities to take an excursion on your trip. And, they are going to start selling them to as soon as you get to the bus. You will be handed an envelope with hotel information, your orientation meeting time and surprise trips to buy. Tip research what you want to do before you go, check the prices online. Often if you buy the ticket ahead of time online it offers a discount.
Mexico has many excursions and I have been on most of them. For a first time traveler or those still not sure about venturing out on their own, this is perfect. Like us, over the years we have become more comfortable taking taxis or public transit to get to them. Some countries it is best to book with a group for safety reasons.
The first time we went to Tulum ruins we took a taxi on one of the hottest days of June. Even though our driver said he would wait but we said, no go one we will be awhile. Although he was right 45 minutes later we had enough. It was too hot, we didn’t know the language so had no idea what anything meant. And, our driver was waiting for us with a smile on his face when we came out. He got a good tip! The next time we went with friends on a tour, with a guide and enjoyed the trip much more knowing what the ruins were built for.
Our favorite Excursions in Mexico
Final All-Inclusive Vacation Tips
Have fun! Don’t be afraid to venture off the resort. Although, if you are unsure tell the hotel where you are going and when you expect to be back. Only take authorized taxis. Never carry your passport with you, take a photocopy. Never carry all your cash with you.