5 Things to Plan Ahead When Traveling 

 

Traveling is a great experience – a huge part of it being enjoyed when you have no plans and go with the moment. You’ll often hear seasoned travelers talk about their fondest memories as times when they dropped their plans and went ahead with a spur-of-the-moment idea. This is a great way to travel around. But it’s not the best way to plan. You’ll want to have some essentials in place. I suggest, at the minimum, planning these five things before you head off:

How you’re going to contact home
Your loved ones will want to occasionally hear from you, whether it’s just to let them know you’re doing ok or to have a lengthy catch-up on all the gossip. You don’t have to talk to your friends and family at home too often, but figure out a way of keeping in touch that doesn’t cost either of you a fortune. When you’ve got Wi-Fi, Skype and WhatsApp are your best options.

How you’ll get local currency
Wherever you are in the world, you’ll need money. But, as the Secret Traveller says, pretty much anyone can slap the word “official” on their exchange office and charge whatever rates they feel like.

Some have even been known to hand over counterfeit notes. As such, they suggest either checking the official rates before, or just using the ATMs at well-known banks. Even better, though, we recommend you check out the best pre-paid travel cards so you can avoid repeatedly paying unknown, potentially hefty, exchange rates.

Whether you need travel injections
Traveling not only exposes you to new experiences and opportunities, but also risks. Depending on where you’re going, you might need to get injections to protect you from the world’s diseases. Talk to your doctor early on about whether you’ll need any, because you should ideally book them in for around six to eight weeks before you’re due to travel.

Make sure you cancel any payments at home
If you’re planning on traveling for a long time, you’ve also got to prepare at home to leave things the right way. If you’ve got any gym memberships or reoccurring postal subscriptions, consider cancelling them for the time being. As Nomadic Matt adds, it’s important to go paperless when you’re away and set up online bill payment for your recurring bills to ensure you won’t miss any overseas. Also make sure you’ve arranged for an emergency contact at home to deal with any issues that arise.

Pack
Last but not least, you can’t go away without packing. In addition to your essential travel documents (which you should scan and back up in the cloud), some of the things you might not have thought of packing include:

  • Flip-flips
  • A small first aid kit
  • Wet wipes
  • Portable charger
  • A lock for your bag
  • A cheap digital watch

What do you plan before you travel? Share your recommendations!

Plan Ahead Vacation

A Road Trip Through the Yucatan Peninsula

Hey amigos! So, my husband (Eddy), furbaby (Benito) and I will be taking a road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula this month and I’m looking for YOUR advice!

We’ve already done all the main archaeological sites, Magic Towns, and obvious stops… We are looking to visit off-the-beaten path pueblos, villages, artisan communities, Maya secrets, and natural wonders. We will be estrenando our Jeep, so tough terrain is no worries and actually preferred. Amigos Yucatecos: Please let us know the BEST hidden gems! And places to eat! Note: Must be corgi-friendly

Here is an outline of our itinerary:

Friday, August 19 – Cholula to Veracruz (5.5 Hours), Overnight Coatzacoalcos Veracruz

Saturday, August 20 – Veracruz to Campeche (7.5 Hours), Lunch in Ciudad Carmen, Crab Legs in Chompoton  Overnight Hacienda Uayamon

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Sunday, August 21 – Enjoy Hacienda Uayamon, pass through Campeche City for lunch (where?), Overnight Hacienda Temozon

Monday, August 22 – Tour Celestun with Angel Loaiza, pueblear (where?), Overnight Hacienda Temozon

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Tuesday, August 23 – Tour Hacienda Sotuta de Peon, pass through Merida for lunch and shopping (where?), Overnight Hacienda San Jose

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Wednesday, August 24 – Pueblear (Izamal, Valladolid), cenote (which?), Overnight Cancun Air BnB

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Thursday, August 25 – Swim with Whale Sharks with Journey Mexico, Overnight Cancun Air BnB

Friday, August 26 – Lunch in Tulum, visit Sian Kaan (where?), Overnight Casa Lamat Bacalar

Saturday, August 27 – Bacalar Beach Day, Overnight Casa Lamat Bacalar

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Sunday, August 28 – Bacalar beach to Villahermosa (7.5 Hours), Overnight Villahermosa

Monday, August 29 – Back to work!

PLEASE LEAVE YOUR SUGGESTIONS IN THE COMMENT BOX BELOW!!!

Want to follow along?
On Instagram:  @MexicanAtHeartJ @BenitoElCorgi

Resources for Expats: Filing Your Taxes

After some time of living and working in Mexico, I finally met the threshold to have to file taxes in the USA. Year after year I had been in touch with my go-to tax gurus,  Taxes for Expats, as they had guided me and advised me patiently until the time came that it was actually necessary to file.  As someone who is totally clueless, I cannot recommend them enough. The process was straight forward, seamless, and they answered all my questions with patience.

 

Here are some resources if you have ever asked yourself “Do I need to file taxes if I live abroad”:

US Expat Tax Guide for Mexico 

Expat Tax Obligations – Do You Need to File?

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Things you should take with you when hiking the land of the Aztecs

Hiking is a highly beneficial activity, particularly in scenic locations such as Mexico. Hikers can enjoy not only enjoy the beautiful sights of the land of the Aztecs but also the health benefits that hiking provides. Hiking helps to keep your body fit and active and is also thought to boost your mental wellbeing.

Before you set off on any hiking trip, there are a number of essential items that you will need for your backpack. Hiking is an enjoyable activity, but you will need to make sure that you are well prepared for your trip, especially if you are planning to be away from home for a number of days. Keeping your backpack well stocked with essential items will help to reduce the risk of any problems during your trip.

One essential item is a mini first aid kit. Hiking is fun, but it is not without risks. There is always a risk of trips or falls, which could result in cuts or bruises, or a risk of developing painful sores or blisters caused by footwear. A mini first aid kit should be kept well stocked with items such as bandages, plasters, cleansing pads, and antiseptic ointment. A small pair of scissors is also a useful addition to a first aid kit so that you can easily cut bandages or clothing if you sustain any injuries.

If you are planning to go on a hiking trip that will last a few days, then you are likely to be away from facilities such as showers. Items such as baby wipes or hand sanitizers are essential in this case as they will help you to stay fresh during long hikes. Hand sanitizers will enable you to maintain good hygiene during long hiking trips, and as they are available in bottles and pouches, you will be able to easily fit them into your backpack.

Exploring the outdoors provides plenty of adventure, but it can risky if you have allergies. Before you go hiking, you may want to consider packing some antihistamines, particularly if you are planning to explore lots of nature trails where there is likely to be lots of plants and insects. Antihistamines will help to provide relief if you suffer from any pollen allergies, and they will reduce the risk of severe reactions to bee stings or other insect bites.

When hiking, it is also important to have the right compression wear with you in case you need to support your joints. There is a variety of brand new compression gear available, including workout gear for men. Choosing the right compression gear will help to support your joints and muscles during hiking, providing relief for any strains or aches.

By making sure that you have the right compression wear and have packed your bag with all the essential products, you can have a much safer hiking trip and enjoy all the benefits that the activity has to offer.

Falling for Mexico in Guanajuato

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View from our room at Boutique Hotel Casa Colorada

When I told my Mom I was moving from Puerto Vallarta to Mexico City she was not thrilled. Her idea of Mexico was laying on a beach with endless margaritas and the thought of having to visit me in the giant, polluted metropolis of D.F. didn’t really sound too enticing to her. Reluctantly, but with an open  mind, she visited me in D.F. for the first time in December 2011. As suspected, she hated it. I myself definitely think D.F. is for a certain type of traveler and not for everyone, but it still stung a little because this was her first glimpse into ‘real Mexico’ and I wanted her to see why I feel so madly in love with the country. Oh well.

After that trip, we decided the next time she visited that we would meet in Riviera Maya or Puerto Vallarta, which worked out nice for the both of us. Almost two whole years later, she decided she would give Mexico City another try (well, it wasn’t so much that, more than the last-minute flight was only $250 dollars). I was excited and determined to get her to fall in love with ‘the real Mexico’ the way I have. So the agenda was: head to Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende! They were two places I was already familiar with and knew their charm was hard to resist.

As with most baby-boomer Americans, this region of Mexico is one of the few non-beach destinations people have heard of, so she was excited when I told her. I had decided that we would leave on a Thursday for a long weekend: 2 days in Guanajuato and 2 in San Miguel de Allende. I had reached out to my friends at Hoteles Mision because I had heard they had an amazing  boutique hotel that overlooked the entire city and I wanted her to have the best of the best for the trip. Arriving first thing Thursday morning and checking into Boutique Hotel Casa Colorada Guanajuato;  my  mom was already stunned simply by walking into the room. At the end of the inviting room was floor to ceiling windows with the most colorful and incredible paroramic vista of the entire city. Her jaw dropping was first sign that this was going to be a trip to win her over.

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The hotel kindly set up for us a private tour of Guanajuato through Grupo Minero Turistico. Down to the last detail both parties had everything covered. Our guide picked us up at the hotel an we made our way down to El Pipila. Now, El Pipila is where all tourists go up to get the iconic panoramic views and shots of the city, but since our hotel actually sat even higher than Pipila, we had to come down as our guide pointed out major buildings in the city.

After taking literally, like a million photos (that will still never do the view justice), we made our way down to land via the funicular (cable car) and headed to Teatro Juarez. Minutes from closing, the nice lady at the ticket booth let us in which I think was mostly because she and everyone in town seemed to know our guide. Most tours in Guanajauato just do a quick drive by Teatro Juarez with a brief explanation so  I actually was really happy we had an explanation.  It was the first time I understood the importance and history of the magnificent place and I was able to appreciate it more than ‘just a pretty building’. With our guide, we stopped at all the other Guanajuato highlights: Museo Iconográfico del Quijote, Plaza de la Paz, The Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato, La Plaza Baratillo, Guanajuato University, Callejon del Beso, Mercado Hidalgo, Bocamina de San Ramón, Templo de San Cayetano de Valenciana, Museo de la Inquicision, and Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato.

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All was great, as usual, and all, without a doubt are must-sees. BUT I will say, skip the Museo de la Inquicision. It is all about torture techniques used back in the day, and last time I went it was really large and interesting filled with lots of “eewwwwws” and “yuuucks”, but this time it was small, rushed, and the best parts were taken away. My favorite part of Guanajuato (besides the over all European-feel to the city) has to be San Cayetano and learning about how important mining was…. and hundred of years later, still continues to be.

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After the long day of touring around the city, we couldn’t wait to get back to our hotel. After plopping down on our soft beds, my mom let out a giant sigh and said  “well, that was a lot of fun! I really like this place, it would be cool to live here”.  Yep, Guanajuato will do that to you! Mission Accomplished: Get Mom to love Mexico beyond the beaches.

 

 

A special thanks to Hoteles Mision for hosting our night’s stay and making it a very memorable trip to Guanajuato. 

 

 

 

Never Leaving the Resort in Playa del Carmen

 

Riviera Maya Resort Hacienda Tres Rios

Waking up to paradise

I recently had the pleasure of being a guest at the Hacienda Tres Rios in Playa del Carmen. It was a very last-minute trip planned for my Mom and me. I know that I had just visited the Riviera Maya a month prior, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to spend more time on the beautiful crystal clear shores of Playa.

This visit would mark my ninth trip to the area, and for the first time, in a long time, the plan was to do nothing but enjoy the resort and relax. No crazy excursions, no to-and-from, no nightlife… Nothing but savoring every minute in paradise with good company.

Let me start by saying, that not every resort is the type of resort where you could spend 8 days straight and not go stir-crazy. Luckily, Hacienda Tres Rios is one of those resorts. It is located within their own 326 acre eco-park of mangroves, which makes it  unique to any other hotel in Playa del Carmen. Remember my post “How to Choose a Hotel in the Riviera Maya“? Well, if you plan on not leaving the resort, you’ll want to choose one like Hacienda Tres Rios.

Here is what we filled our days with:

Rise and shine! Everyday we woke up early for  yoga and stretching. I had never done yoga before in my life, but in this setting, how could I refuse?

Yoga in the Riviera Maya
If there was one thing we absolutely couldn’t get enough of– it was the food! We both spent weeks dieting before vacation, but while we were actually on the vacation we were trying to look skinny for, we just completely let go. How could you not? Being waited on at any hour of the day, regardless of where you are, with lots of yummy options (6 restaurants). Whoever said “Food doesn’t taste as good as skinny feels” has obviously never been to an all-inclusive resort before!

 

While we’re on the topic of food, our absolute best experience was at the Chef’s Table. Now this was out of the all-inclusive ‘deal’ but the hotel kindly invited us and so glad that they did. I’m a hotdog and hamburger kinda girl, so I was nervous for a seven course gourmet meal of things that sounded extremely frilly, but yum, it was delicious. I even enjoyed the raw tuna and I hate raw fish. Bonus? Chef Mario is a cutie!

Chef Mario Hacienda Tres Rios

Raw tuna

 

Cenotes kept us feeling young. No seriously, cenotes are thought to be sacred by the Mayans and have healing properties! The resort has nine cenotes in its eco-park and there are a couple that you can swim in!

Cenotes in RIviera Maya at Hacienda Tres RiosCenotes at Hacienda Tres Rios

 

Getting to know the eco-park via bicycle rides! Although it was kind of short, we took a ride into the mangroves and learned about different types of flora and fauna that the property has.

Bicycle Tour in Playa del Carmen

 

I spent lots of time hanging out at the breathtakingly beautiful beach that is “private” just for “owners”. Unfortunately, Mother Nature took away most of the beach access to resort guests only leaving “the pretty part” to the timeshare owners. Being the rebel that I am, I went and used the other side anyways. Since it was low season, and there was tons of vacancy, it seemed to be okay.

Private beach in Hacienda Tres Rios

Near the beach on one of the many bali beds is usually where you could find me. I myself prefer the ones without shade; I slap on some SPF and take several naps throughout the day.

 

While interesting to navigate through one of the riviers thorough the mangroves, I found out  one day that kayaking isn’t for me. I prefer photographing them instead!

I yi yi yi, canta y no llores. I could listen to mariachi day and night — and I did!

Mariachi Music in Playa del Carmen

 

The most eccentric thing we did was the sense adventure,  a ‘tour of perception and exploration‘. I’m super into the universe all-mighty and holistic experiences so thought this was a really cool, and completely unique tour that I was happy to have the chance to participate in.

hacienda tres rios senses tour

 

We also went to a Mole Cooking and History Class. Mom had just been introduced to the delicious flavors of Mole Poblano on her previous Mexico trip and fell in love, so getting to taste this delicious chocolate/chile sauce was a super treat! 

 

Disclaimer: I would like to thank Hacienda Tres Rios for inviting me to be a guest at their resort. For more pics and info during my week at HTR, check the hashtag #TresRiosResort  on instagram, twitter, or pinterest!

 

Monarch Butterflies in Piedra Herrada

Mexico’s migrating monarch mutterflies is a miraculous event that happens not only in Michoacán, but just outside Valle de Bravo in Estado de Mexico too! A visit to the Monarch  Butterfly Sanctuaries of Mexico should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

Monarcas Mariposas everywhere

The migration of the monarch butterfly is something that I have been wanting to see for a long time; and for some reason, I thought the only place to witness the phenomenon was in the State of Michoacán.  After some planning to check it off my travel list this winter, I realized there was a  Santuario Mariposa Monarca (Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary) at Piedra Herrada near Valle de Bravo, only about an hour drive away from where we live in Mexico City!

There are actually several Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserves in Mexico, all designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In case you don’t know, the reason the monarch migration is so spectacular is because between late October-ish and March, millions of these butterflies come to Mexico every year from Canada– and it’s not the one, same butterfly that makes the roundtrip– it is a span of four generations! The first three generations only live weeks, and the last generation (which is the one that is in Mexico) sustain six+ months. No one is sure how the last generation of butterflies know the way to navigate to the exact same place every year, but they somehow make it! You can read more about it here.

[Read more…]

The Truth About “Mexico, The Place You Thought You Knew”

Mexico’s slogan “Mexico, The Place You Thought You Knew” is now more appropriate than ever, as industry professionals are challenging the negative misconceptions and shining light to the positive Mexico.

Mexico Campaign

Mexico, The Place You Thought You Knew

After Mexico’s first big hit to tourism in 2009 due to Swine Flu reports, Mexico knew it had to quickly take action to recover a decline in tourists. Releasing a welcome back video and being commended by president Obama for how the well the crisis was handled, Mexico started seeing a recuperation of their numbers in early 2010 and it looked like Mexico had weathered the storm.  Shortly after Gloria Guevara took place as the new Secretary of Tourism, The Mexico Tourism Board  launched a new campaign and initiative,  “Mexico, The Place You Thought You Knew”. These were a set of advertisements to arouse the curiosity of tourists by showcasing not only beach destinations,  but also the natural wonders, modern aspects and cultural hertiage that some people may have never tought exitsted in Mexico. With this they also revealed “the Routes of Mexico” which were 10 touristic  routes that connected the 31 states and Mexico City.  However, right around this time also began the slew of media reports about increased drug-related violence in Mexico. The reports started again negatively impacting tourists decisions to visit Mexico, painting mexico with one large brush instead pinpointing the trouble (border) areas. This came as a bad time, as the campaign was aimed at convincing tourist to venture beyond the beaches. The new initiaves that The Mexico Tourism Board put forth were starting to receive criticism. [Read more…]