Our Family Adventure in Cancun, Mexico

Mexico or Bust!
Greetings from Cancun, Mexico to all my loyal Millionaire Educator readers (Mom and Honest Abe)!  Two weeks ago I bought one-way airline tickets from AirTran for the Atlanta to Cancun flight.  Two days later my wife, son and I landed in Cancun and began our family adventure.   We decided to come to Mexico for two main reasons.  First, my wife and I both agreed that an extended family adventure would benefit all of us.  We could all work on our Spanish, see lots of interesting sites, hit the beaches, and escape the suddenly cold Georgia winter.  Second, we also wanted to see what it would be like to live in Cancun as a local, not a tourist.    
Let’s face it, most U.S. news pertaining to Mexico is very negative.  Friends and relatives advised us not to go, and my wife and I had our own reservations.  We agreed that if we didn’t like it, we would return home after two weeks.  So far, we have really enjoyed our trip, and we plan on staying for two full months.
The flight from Atlanta to Cancun went smoothly and only took two and half hours.  The flight was especially exciting for my son because it was his first flight AND his birthday.  It was a day to remember for him.  It was also a big day for me because it was my first flight in 13 years!


Birthday Flying!
Once on the ground in Cancun, we proceeded through immigration and customs without any problems.  The immigration officer was a gregarious guy, so Sr. Hablar-sin-fin here struck up a conversation with him.  I mentioned to him that we spent our honeymoon in Cancun 17 years ago.  He told me that I would by shocked by how much the city had grown.  He issued us tourist visas for 180 days and wished us well on our adventure.  All in all, it was the most pleasant immigration experience I ever had.

Once outside of customs, we exchanged a few dollars (at a terrible exchange rate) and proceeded to the ADO bus counter where we bought three tickets to downtown Cancun for 93 pesos ($7 U.S.).  Outside the airport, we immediately felt the 80 degree warmth of the tropics…it was awesome.  Of course, we also had to fight off numerous taxi drivers offering their services as we made our way to the bus stop.        

After a 20 minute bus ride, we found ourselves in downtown Cancun during Friday rush hour.  I did not have a hotel reservation, but I knew there was a hotel near the bus station that would fit our needs.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it and took my wife and son on a goose chase that ended up in McDonald’s.  I figured I could at least get my bearings using their WiFi.  After a few minutes, my son said he was hungry, so we celebrated his birthday with a Cajita Feliz, Happy Meal.  (So much for cultural immersion!)  

Cajita Feliz:  It Don’t Get No Better!


After our birthday meal at McDonald’s, we found a taxi driver who took us to our hotel for 30 pesos.  We checked into the Hotel Kin Mayab where we paid 600 pesos ($45 U.S.) for a room with two beds.  My wife and I immediately realized that prices had gone up considerably since our last trip 17 years ago.  
Enjoying the Pool
The following morning we moved over to a suite at a hostel for 680 pesos.  The room was better, had a nice pool, and included breakfast.  We stayed at the hostel for two nights, so the first three nights in Cancun our lodging cost us about $150 U.S.  The costs of hotel rooms is much higher than I anticipated, so we began exploring other options and found a studio apartment in downtown Cancun.
Nuestro Apartamento
Our studio apartment cost us $511 U.S. for one month…not exactly  cheap, but much better than hotel rates.  The apartment is nice; it includes WiFi, a coffee maker, mini fridge, microwave oven, and access to a shared kitchen.  However, the room is a little small for the three of us.  A couple or single individual would love this set-up.
Our Home for the Next Month


The Beaches
One of benefits of an extended stay in Cancun is that you can explore its many beautiful beaches.  Since we are not staying in the hotel zone, we have to ride the bus to the beaches.  It costs us 57 pesos ($4.40 U.S.) to get to and from the beach; the bus fare is 9.5 pesos per person.  So far, we have been to three different beaches:  Playa Tortuga, Playa Forun, and Playa Delfines.    Playa Tortugas has shallow, calm water with no waves or undertow.  It’s a nice relaxing family beach.
Having Fun at Playa Tortuga
Playa Forun (aka, Playa Chac Mool) is more of a party place for foreign tourists.  Like all the beaches here, it is gorgeous due its combination of white sand and clear blue water…you have to see it to believe it.  
Fun at Playa Forun
Thus far, our favorite beach has been Playa Delfines.  It’s more of a local beach towards the south of the Hotel Zone.  It has nice facilities:  palapas (gratis!), showers, and a nice changing / bathroom.  If you ever make it to Cancun, you’ll have to check out Playa Delfines…highly recommended! 
Playa Delfines Day Trip
If you have any questions about Cancun, please email me.  Due to the incredible amount of fun we’re having here, it might take me a while to get back to you, but I’ll do my best to answer any questions.  I’d love to write more, but today we’re off to Playa Delfines!
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Phone Options:  My wife loves her $10 a month plan at Republic Wireless (new plans now start at $15 a month).  I had the same plan and liked it too, but unfortunately I broke my phone in Mexico.  I currently use a WiFi-enabled phone at a cost of $0 a month thanks to three Google apps: Voice, Hangouts, and Hangouts Dialer.  We also have a Skype subscription with its own number for unlimited U.S. calls ($80 a year).
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  1. Amy,
    It was an awesome trip! We stayed for 40 days in total. Next time, we’ll stay even longer; the key is setting up a long-term rental. You are correct: we are back in Georgia and our home is on the market. We plan on downsizing our life with an eventual move to Florida. We’re looking for a small 3/2 home in a low-cost area…with access to the beach and an international airport.

    In the meantime, my wife and I have taken new jobs in south Georgia where we plan on repeating our “crappy jobs” routine one more time. Thanks for reading!


  2. AP


    Great vacation! I was listening to your interview on MadFientist and you shared about Lifestrategy and TR funds investing. I think you mentioned that you use LS and TR from Vanguard and also admiral for your investments. How are you using the mix? I am also interested in keeping my investments simple and would like to get your response on allocation and mix..


    • Hello AP,
      It was a great vacation that needs to be repeated! As for our investing strategies, we like to keep it low-cost and simple. For that reason, we decided to go with the Vanguard Target Retirement 2025 fund years ago. It has a fee of .18%, a preset allocation, and that allocation is managed to become less risky the older we get. We have roughly $425K in that fund today and we’re happy with the fund.

      Since we will receive pensions when we turn 60, we decided be aggressive with a portion of our portfolio. Currently, we have about $100K in Admiral share at Vaguard: 50K in Total Stock Market, $20K in Total International Stock Market, $10K in the REIT, $10K in Small Cap Index, and $10K in Emerging Market Index. I can’t say we’re doing anything other than using a buy-and-hold strategy with this portion of our portfolio.

      We do have a few accounts in the LifeStrategy Growth fund. My son’s UTMA account is there, and we also have a few stray IRAs in the fund. I could see us moving those IRAs to the Total Stock Market Index…actually, I could see us moving most of our portfolio to index funds. My reasoning is that our pensions will serve as the bond component of our portfolio, so we can afford to transition to a 100% stock portfolio.

      My son’s education IRA (ESA) is also invested in Admiral shares of the Total Stock Market and Total International Market. I don’t know if my reply is answering your question. The fact that we have these various accounts may appear complex and redundant, but we aren’t moving in and out of these funds in a market-timing fashion. We are just holding the funds and adding to them…now, we’re adding to our index funds (Total and Total International).

      At the end of the day, I’m happy with our fund choices because they’re all low-cost and diversified. I hope this helped and happy investing. Ed

  3. This is pretty cool, Ed. This past summer we spent a week with our 3 kids in the Cancun area (including 4 days in Cancun Hotel zone using free Sheraton points). It was the grand finale to our 7.5 week trip across Mexico with the kids. When we returned to Raleigh, we actually through Atlanta on Airtran/Southwest and I know our flight was dirt cheap (I paid with Southwest points of course 🙂 ).

    Cancun is definitely more expensive than other places in the central Mexico area, and I actually like the more moderate temperatures and low humidity of those areas, too. Plus the cities have more old buildings so they look cooler. 🙂

    • Justin, we had one heck of a time. My son talks about that trip all the time; we plan on a longer trip next fall after we kick our work habit. Next time we’ll be able to use our Southwest point to score some free tickets. We’re so glad we learned how play the travel hacking game.

      Cancun was awesome, but we also want to explore some other areas in central Mexico. I really enjoyed reading about your trip…especially the food post. Cancun’s weather was awesome because we were there in February and March…the high was consistently 82 to 84 degrees! However, I have been in the Yucatan in the summer and it is hot.

      I hope to meet you guys in Mexico one day…Ed

      • Yes, definitely check out the interior regions. Weather is wonderful almost year round in virtually the entire central regions of MX. Mexico City in particular seems to have the perfect weather even in winter. And some places have an early summer in April/May but then cool off in our US summer time.

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