Mexico Travel Guide

At the beginning of the month, I got to go to Mexico to thaw myself out after experiencing my first winter in Canada. As neither my boyfriend or I had ever been to Mexico, we obviously went as touristy as possible. We hit Cancun, Tulum, and Merida in the span of about 8 full days.

CANCUN: As soon as we landed in Cancun, we were not fans. Cancun is great to go to if you’re looking for a timeshare or if you’re looking to just party. Neither was high on our list. We stayed in a cute little apartment on the Ocean which was really nice but all the places near the water are enormous resorts, and it kinda kills the vibe of the place. Luckily, our first full day wasn’t spent at the resorts, it was spent on a tour to see Chichen Itza!

 

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The gorgeous view from our Cancun Apartment

 

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Fresh fruit and coffee by the ocean for breakfast

We spent all day driving, experiencing Mayan culture, and visiting the archaeological site as well as the Ik Kil Cenote. We did use a service for this tour, and honestly, we don’t really recommend it. It’s easy enough to get around on your own if you work out the bus system and you save yourself the sales pitches to buy souvenirs and the overkill talks the guides provide. We did learn some cool stuff, but not enough to offset the lack of independence.This day was pretty much the highlight, as the next day we just hung around the beach and the resort since it rained off and on in the afternoon.TULUM: But the next day we were off to Tulum. Tulum was AMAZING. So amazing, that we want to come back to Mexico to only go to Tulum. We stayed in a beachside cabana right on the ocean and it was absolute HEAVEN. The beaches were much better than Cancun as well:  Softer sand, clearer water, and way less people. Furthermore, all the hotels in Tulum are cute little cabana style spots, rather than huge all-inclusive resorts. You can rent bicycles to get around, and the general atmosphere is much younger and relaxed than Cancun. Tulum also has it’s own killer set of Mayan ruins right near the water so it really doesn’t get much better than that.

 

 

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The Great Pyramid of Chichen Itza (and my personal 4th wonder of the world!)

 

MERIDA: Unfortunately, we only booked a few days in Tulum, before we were off to Merida. Merida is the largest city in the Yucatan, and has a much different vibe than Cancun or Tulum. Merida was probably the only genuine look we got at what most of Mexico probably feels like. It was a much larger city which means crowds, music, and more historical sites. The city operates as most cities do, but also has a quaint collection of Spanish colonial buildings and little museums to explore. We originally chose to visit Merida to use it as a jumping off point for the ruins of Uxmal.

 

 

 

 

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Uxmal is another set of Mayan ruins, similar to Chichen Itza, except for the fact that the site is probably triple the size, the ruins are a lot better preserved, and the area is infinitely less crowded. We spent the whole morning exploring the ruins and we were just in awe by what this civilization was able to create hundreds of years ago. However, our Uxmal day, was the day I got some food poisoning, so I wasn’t able to enjoy it to the fullest extent and I was basically down for the count afterwards (more on that later), but our last day in Merida was just spent wandering the Spanish colonial buildings, and people watching in the main squares.

 

 

We returned to Cancun to finish out our trip, and we were originally going to visit Isla Mujeres to go diving, but it rained on us again and we were confined to the hotel.

All in all, I absolutely adored Tulum as a beach getaway and I would love to explore more of Mexico. We heard great things about Mexico City, but didn’t make it all the way there. I highly recommend sticking to local shops within the towns of Cancun and Tulum as they are way less expensive and have better traditional Mexican food than the restaurants geared towards tourists. However, we did find a phenomenal breakfast spot next to our hotel in Tulum called Ojo de Agua with incredible Acai Bowls and coffee.

The easiest and cheapest way to get around the peninsula was definitely by bus. There are bus stations in every town and it’s pretty simple to get a ticket for less than $20 to get to a whole other city. However, I do recommend brushing up on your Spanish before you try this, as most local places will speak very limited English. Also, make sure you have peso coins with you at all times as the bathrooms in public spaces often cost 5 pesos to use.

I would definitely recommend Mexico to anyone (even though I was probably the only one who hadn’t been at this point), and I unquestionably recommend getting away from the resorts. They are decent as a place to relax, but as far as getting the best bang for your buck or experiencing anything truly Mexican, they just can’t provide any truly unique experiences. The Yucatan is intensely built up for tourists so just be aware that people will try to sell you timeshares, tours, and guides at every turn and you don’t always need them. We will ABSOLUTELY be returning to Mexico and I am so disappointed it took me so long to visit in the first place!

If you have any Mexico recommendations, please share! I can’t wait to go back and experience more of the country.

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How Not to Overpack (You know you’re guilty of it)

Let’s start by running some numbers:

  • Seven Weeks Vacation = 1 40 liter backpack
  • Two Week Vacation (Colder climate) = 1 40 liter backpack
  • One Week Island Hopping = One medium sized tote purse
  • Three Weeks to visit home = One standard roller carry on & small backpack
  • One Week Business Trip = One standard roller carry on & Laptop Purse

I think you get the picture. Over the past couple years I have become a MASTER packer. I know there are people out there who are even more streamlined, but I’m improving all the time. I refuse to take any more than I need and if I am flying somewhere, I’ll be damned if I have to check my luggage. Therefore, I’ve learned how to take exactly what I’ll need, fit it all in a small space, and have much smoother trips.

First tip: As I stated above, try to plan with only carry-on luggage to work with. You’ll automatically reduce the amount of things you can bring since you just won’t have the space to fit all of it.

Second tip: Research the climate of your destination, then make a list of all the activities you’ll be doing while there. If this is a business trip, you know you’ll be indoors working. But if you’re on vacation, will you be hiking? Swimming? Skiing? Once you have all your days planned, you can start working out how many clothes you’ll really need.

Third tip: EVERYTHING you pack needs to go with one or two pairs of shoes. Shoes are heavy, bulky, and are the biggest culprit when it comes to overpacking becuase they take up so much freaking space. For example, if I’m going to a warm climate, I pack a pair of sandals and a pair of trainers. For a cold climate, a pair of heavy boots and a pair of light boots. For business, I pack a pair of heels and my workout shoes.

Fourth tip: Ok, once you know what you’ll be doing on your trip, and which shoes you’ll need, you can plan your clothes. Since you have all your activities noted, you know exactly what kinds of clothes you need, and since you have your shoes picked, you limit the clothes to what goes with those shoes. The key here is to only pack MAXIMUM one outfit per day. I say maximum because I rewear pants, bras, and shirts (if I don’t sweat), and it’s actually surprisingly cheap and easy to do laundry on the road. Don’t sit there and say “well I want options for each day”. You’re killing me. You’re gonna bring all this crap and you’re gonna end up wearing the most comfortable outfit anyway. My only exception to this is that I like to have one reasonably nice outfit to wear just in case of a party or nice dinner. (The shoe rule still stands though!).

Fifth tip: Lay out all your clothes on your bed to make sure you’ve got everything, including socks and underwear! Then, to make everything fit in a small space, I recommend rolling all your clothes. I’m sure you’ve seen this tip before, but it really does make a big difference in space saving. If you’re an even bigger packing nerd like me, roll your clothes by category and put them all into packing cubes to stay organized (example ones here).

Ok you’ve got clothes and shoes but here are some other things you’ll want to bring no matter what:

  • Pack Towel (lightweight towel)
  • Toiletry kit (make sure all your liquids fit according to TSA rules) & toothbrush!
  • Comb or Brush
  • Headphones (but bring earbuds, over the earphones are bulky)
  • Book, journal, or Kindle.
  • One set of sleepwear (if you really need it)
  • Scarf (light or heavy depending on destination)
  • Travel necessities – passport, wallet, phone, medicine, etc.

The feeling that most overpackers suffer from is fear of the unknown. The what if’s. It starts with: what if I spill on this nice shirt and need another? And then get’s crazy: what if I get invited to tea at Buckingham Palace? There are always situations that will arise that you didn’t plan for but packing too much stuff will just make your life harder. If something happens along the way, just buy what you need at your destination. If you know you love to shop, pack even less to be able to fit your new stuff and wear your new stuff as you get it. For souvenirs or gifts to bring back for friends, I opt for jewelry or small prints that lie perfectly flat against the back of my bag and take up little space.

Overpacking means you’ll literally be dragging a bunch of stuff you don’t need to a new destination and just lugging it all back home again. Next time you pack, I want you to pick up each item and justify WHY you’re packing it. If you start you’re reasoning with “what if” or “something could come up”, then leave it behind. I promise you’ll be ok without it.

If you have any tips to prevent overpacking, please share! I love travelling light and am literally always scouring packing and travel lists to make trips as streamlined as possible. Happy travels!

 

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A peek into my business trip suitcase. Something I always bring? My massage ball since I always get kinks in my back.

 

 

 

 

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Yes, I took these photos at the Calgary airport…

 

 

Love & Capitalism

Ah Valentine’s Day. You either love it or you hate it, right?

I myself, actually have pretty mild feelings (for once) about this holiday. It’s never played a huge part in my life whether I was single or in a relationship and as a result, I had never given it much thought. It just sort of passed vaguely under my radar as grocery stores stocked up on flowers and red or pink wrapped chocolates.

But that, my friends, is the problem. Indulge me for a moment in a brief history lesson. Valentine’s day was originally created to honor Valentine of Rome, and Valentine of Terni, both religious martyrs who were revered as Saints. Although there have been feasts on this day for centuries to honor the aforementioned religious figures, the notion of this day being romantic didn’t occur until Chaucer suggested the idea in one of his literary works (remember Geoffrey Chaucer from high school English?)

There are numerous other theories as to how the day became associated with love, but the Chaucer link clearly exists. As Chaucer connected this day to medieval courting, it became customary to give trinkets, confections, and flowers to one’s romantic interest on Valentine’s Day. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with giving your crush or significant other something nice, but let’s be honest, Valentine’s Day isn’t courting anymore, it has turned into a MONEY MAKING MONSTER.

BILLIONS are spent every year on the holiday and the anticipation beforehand can be likened to Christmas. Listicles fill the web offering gift guides for him and for her, date night ideas, restaurants offering deals on wine, etc. Getting a reservation is impossible. Grocery stores have aisles dedicated to heart candies, red balloons, and flowers. Flower shops probably make half their yearly revenue in February alone. It’s insane.

I get it. This holiday is another one that depends on gift giving so it’s only natural for businesses to seize the opportunity to sell us more stuff. But the high stakes of Valentine’s day can only lead to disappointment, and that’s the part that honestly makes me sad. The day has created an enormous amount of pressure on couples to do something over the top for each other on the day and that can be really stressful. People that aren’t in relationships also have to have relationship-themed EVERYTHING thrown in their face for about a month, and finally, what happened to appreciating your partner on every other day of the year?

Who says you can’t have a lovely candlelit dinner on April 10th? Or buy your special someone a cute present just because it reminded you of them on September 27th? The relationship of February 14th to romance is tenuous at best and there is no real reason to give the day any more meaning for your relationship than any other day. Sure, I have bought my boyfriend a little present for today, but I also buy him presents or treat him to dinner on any other day of the year, and he does the same for me.

If anything, I’d recommend creating your own romantic holiday. Maybe your anniversary, or some other day that means something to your relationship because honestly, February the 14th is just an old Saint’s holiday turned into a massive avenue for capitalism and it’s a little sickening.

I sincerely apologize if this article killed anyone’s romantic day (or your libido ;)). Valentine’s day can still be an awesome excuse to celebrate but don’t let it turn into something bigger than it needs to be, and definitely, don’t let it limit your appreciation for your loved ones. Happy V Day!

 

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Me and my V Day partner. Although we kinda celebrated early in Mexico 🙂