This is part three of four blogs discussing extending a package holiday to include independent family travel. Part one, Getting the Most of Your Package Holiday – With Kids, discussed the concept and gave reasons why to consider it. Part two, Puerto Vallarta with Kids – Exploring the Town and Surrounding Area, looked at the itinerary for our 2-week trip.
The table below outlines our budget during our 2-week trip to Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding area. This was one of our most expensive trips, when you look at the daily cost as $3500 for 14 days equates to $250 a day, but it is easy to spend a lot more than we did and see a lot less. Now that we are more comfortable with travelling with kids we will look for less expensive methods of travel but given the timing of this trip we were happy spending the money for the experiences we had.
Package Holiday – We bought a 1-week All Inclusive package at Villas Vallarta by Canto Del Sol. This is a 3-star resort that allows guests to use the restaurants and pools in the neighbouring Canto Del Sol, a 4-star resort. We paid $449 per person for the flights, from Calgary, and 1 week all inclusive at the resort. We were allowed to extend the return flight to leave two weeks after we arrived and since our daughter was under two her trip was free. Taxes are extra and will differ depending on where you are flying from. This was one of the ‘hot deals’ of the week so you will not be able to get this exact deal all the time, though I did find a similar cost at the time of writing. We flew in March which is a good time to look for deals. If you want to fly during the holidays you will pay considerably more.
Car Rental – Before you decide to rent a car I would suggest doing research, including stories online about driving in the area you have chosen, and decide if you are comfortable with renting a car. We have rented a car twice in Mexico without issue as the area traveled had fairly good roads, responsible drivers (outside of the cities anyway), and few stories of being targeted by criminals or the local authorities. There are some areas in Mexico, and other countries, where we would not be comfortable driving a rental car and we would choose local transportation or alter our trip entirely. I would recommend booking a rental car prior to leaving if possible to make sure you have a car waiting for you and secure a good price. While you may be able find a hot deal once you arrive we found that the best costs were found scouring the internet before you leave and besides do you really want to waste precious holiday time searching local car rental places?
Accommodation outside resort– Other than the 1 week at the resort, we did not have any accommodation booked for this trip. We were confident that we wouldn’t have an issue finding places to stay and we did not want to be tied down to a firm schedule, especially since we were traveling with a child. We do not crave luxury when it comes to accommodation but we did spend a bit more than we usually would. Our main criteria were the rooms had to be clean, the location had to be quiet, and they needed a clean looking swimming pool (This was Annika’s addition). We paid on average $65 a night. Hotels will fill up during peak times so make sure you are aware of local holidays and other times the area is at its busiest. The day we were in San Blas we had to stay at our third choice as the first two hotels were full.
Food– We have to try the local cuisine when on holiday, it is one of our favourite parts of travelling, and we did not shy away from trying new foods even though we had Annika with us. Most places provede safe food if you use some caution and common sense. For breakfast it was easy to find pancakes, cereal, toast, or eggs, for Annika on the same menu as some more adventurous fare. Mexican food is usually flavourful but not too spicy until you add the salsas and other sauces. Annika was usually happy with a couple tortillas (served at every meal) and a few things off our plates for lunch and dinner. We enjoyed some excellent food on this trip.
Attractions & Excursions– You can spend a lot more money than we did at attractions and excursions, especially in tourist centres like Puerto Vallarta. We like to outline our budget ahead of time and choose what type of attractions we want to see. We usually prefer to do the activity independently if possible as we enjoy going at our own pace and it can cost a lot less. We will spend the money if it is not feasible to do it on our own, it really interests us, and the activity is unique to the area.
Souveniers & Gifts– There is usually no shortage of shopping opportunities so we feel it is important to make a list before you go of what you will want to buy and what you are willing to spend. Before this trip we decided that we wanted a nice piece of Huichol (the local indigenous group) artwork, some Mexican glasses, vanilla, and gifts for selected people. We always discover some hidden surprises but our preperation provides the framework needed to make sure we get everything we want and not spend too much.
Part 4 in this series will look at other similar destinations for this type of travel.