Winter Escape to Mexico! Part 1 – Introduction & Planning

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Update:   One or more card offers in this post are no longer available.  Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers. Emily:   When I was a teenager, I traveled to Mexico as part of a mission trip to build homes for families in need.

The experience changed my life in such a positive way!  I saw how kind and generous the Mexicans were towards me, even when they had very little.  I realized how much we take for granted in the US, and how blessed we are in so many ways.

Since that time, I’ve wanted to return to Mexico for another mission trip.  But this time, my friends and I were on vacation, so we visited Playa del Carmen before our recent trip to Cuba!

Winter Escape To Mexico Part 1 Introduction Planning
There’s Plenty of Adventure in Playa del Carmen

No trip could ever replace that first time in Mexico though.  I feel thankful that I was able to help others.

Winter Escape to Mexico Trip Report Index:

I Used Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Reach Mexico

I’m a big fan of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, because of its helpful transfer partners like Southwest.  It seems like I’m constantly transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest.  It’s so easy!

My friends and I flew from Austin to Cancun, Mexico, on Southwest.

I booked 1 month before my travel dates, and paid ~25,000 points and ~$75 in taxes and fees for a round-trip in coach.  I could have flown for ~18,000 Southwest points if I had chosen later travel dates when the airfare was cheaper, but we couldn’t wait to go!  And, getting time off during the holidays is a lot easier than other times of the year.

Winter Escape To Mexico Part 1 Introduction Planning
Hopping to Mexico on the Cheap With Southwest Points!

Cheap, Clean, and Comfortable Airbnb in Playa del Carmen!

We stayed at a cute Airbnb in Playa del Carmen.  The total cost was $339 for a total of 3 nights, which was split between the 5 of us.  So we each paid ~$68 per person for 3 nights total. Use this Airbnb link to get $20 off your first rental!

Winter Escape To Mexico Part 1 Introduction Planning
Stay Together and Pay Together to Keep Costs Low

Visit the Cenotes in Playa del Carmen

My favorite activity in Playa del Carmen was scuba diving in the cenotes, or underwater caves.  The cost for equipment was $145 per person (or you can bring your own!) and the cost for diving was $50 per person (or $75 with a guide).

Winter Escape To Mexico Part 1 Introduction Planning
The Water Was So Clear – Conducive to Exploring!

It was my first time scuba diving since my certification (more on that in another post)!  I was nervous, but the hardest part is always first submerging.  Once you’ve taken a breath underwater, it’s all good.

My friends and I also spent plenty of time enjoying the beautiful beaches.  Playa del Carmen can get really crowded though.

Winter Escape To Mexico Part 1 Introduction Planning
We Also Loved Just Hanging Out at the Beach!

There are Great Food Options in Playa

There are lots of food options in Playa del Carmen, too!

For something light and healthy, try 100% Natural.

Winter Escape To Mexico Part 1 Introduction Planning
The Fresh Seafood at 100% Natural Is Outstanding

If you want authentic Mexican food, 18-inch margaritas, and a local band to serenade you, then go to La Parrilla.

Winter Escape To Mexico Part 1 Introduction Planning
Great Atmosphere Made Our Meal at La Parrilla

How You Can Do It Too!

I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest to fly to Mexico for cheap.  And so can you!  Plus, if you have the Southwest Companion Pass, you can bring a friend for only the cost of taxes and fees!

Round-Trip Coach Ticket From Austin to Cancun3 Nights in a Centrally-Located Airbnb for 6 People
Retail Cost$450$339 total
Our Cash Cost$75 in taxes$339 total, or ~$68 per person
Miles & Points Used25,000 Southwest PointsN/A
Source of Miles & PointsChase Ultimate Rewards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
Current sign-up bonus of 50,000 points
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
Current sign-up bonus of 100,000 points
- Chase Ink Plus
Current sign-up bonus of 60,000 points
- Chase Ink Bold
Not available to new applicants

Southwest Cards:
- Chase Southwest Plus
Current sign-up bonus of 40,000 points
- Chase Southwest Premier
Current sign-up bonus of 40,000 points
- Chase Southwest Premier Business
Current sign-up bonus of 50,000 points
Alternatives- United Airlines - 35,000 miles round-trip + ~$50 in taxes
- American Airlines - 30,000 miles round-trip (25,000 between September 7 and November 14) + ~$50 in taxes
- Use Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard miles to erase $100+ travel purchases, like Airbnb
- Use my Airbnb referral code for $20 off!
- Use Hyatt points to stay at a hotel
Additional Information- You can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest and United Airlines
- Here's how to get the Southwest Companion Pass, so your companion can fly with you for (almost) free for nearly 2 years!
- Here’s how to choose a good and safe Airbnb
- Here are tips on how to negotiate a better Airbnb price!
- You can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt


Link:   How to Transfer Chase Points to Southwest

Link:   How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

To transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you must have either the:

You can also earn Southwest points by signing-up for the:

Note:   The Chase Southwest credit cards frequently offer 50,000 point sign-up bonuses, so I’d wait until the bonus increases before you apply!

You can also use the Barclaycard Arrival Plus credit card to cover the cost of your flight.  The current sign-up bonus is 50,000 Arrival miles.  That’s worth ~$525!


Booking an Airbnb is easy.  Here’s how to choose a good and safe Airbnb, and tips on how to negotiate a better price! And don’t forget you can use the $20 off referral code!

Bottom Line

Playa del Carmen makes a great beach destination!  It’s a little touristy, but still fun.  And flights and accommodations are fairly cheap.  Especially if you plan ahead and make the most of your points!

Because the beaches can be crowded, you can also try nearby towns such as Isla Mujeres and Tulum.  And for a truly unique destination, venture over to Cuba!

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