Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hashing out Holbox (Mexico)-We Plan Our Escape

Even before we got married we had grand travel dreams; seeing new things and having new experiences fills us with energy.   

Over the years a destination would catch our eye or we would hear a trip report from a friend and say,

“We should do that”, or “we should go there,” and because I like researching and planning trips almost as much as I like going on them, I put lots of little trip plans together. But alas life got in the way.  Money was needed elsewhere and time, time was our biggest nemesis. My vacation days needed to be used to subsidize the sick days that got used up too quickly with health issues, procedures and surgeries. Shannon kept working for companies that met an early demise causing him to join a new company where he had to accrue vacation time all over again.

We did get to sneak in a few trips over the years, most notably to Panama and Costa Rica, 

Holding a sloth was at the very top of my bucket list

and I of course got to check The Wizarding World of Harry Potter off of my to go list this past year, 

but many partially planned trips were placed on a shelf, collecting dust, waiting for their turn. 

As we sat munching truffle fries at Lillie’s in New York for my birthday, Shannon said,

“I think we may have enough money this year to take a trip or two, if it’s not anything too extravagant and if we can find ways to save where we can.” 

We both scanned our internal calendars, yes it appeared we both had the time. The very next question was where?  

It should probably be one of the trips we placed on the shelf, we thought.  If we go in the winter, it should also be somewhere warm. Buenos Aires, Uruguay… a little too expensive…Roatan, a good contender, but Holbox, Holbox seemed to fit just right.

An intern that Shannon worked with first informed us of the existence of Holbox (pronounced Ol’ bosh) Island.  It is a small island in Mexico; beautiful, quiet, non-touristy, and most importantly, warm with sandy beaches and sparkling blue water.  

All sand, no snow

Most people travel to Holbox May-September to swim with the Whale Sharks. 

We just wanted to escape the snow and since Holbox is also located at a reasonable day trip distance from the Chichen Itza ruins, it gave us a chance to check Mayan Ruins off of our things we want to see/experience list.

Although I had already had a hotel on the island saved from when I researched years ago, that particular hotel was completely booked for the dates we wanted, but there are plenty of hotels so finding another place to stay wasn’t difficult.

We booked the Chichen Itza tour with Holbox Adventures. They had great reviews on Tripadvisor and were reasonably priced.

The only thing that was a little tricky was finding a reasonable flight.  That is when we discovered Skiplagged

To put it in simple terms, Skiplagged searches for cheap flights. The flights are usually cheap because they may be a little inconvenient/have inconvenient layovers. So instead of getting a direct flight to Cancun, we had a flight with 2 stops, and on the way home, here is why Skiplagged has gotten a lot of attention recently, we booked a flight from Cancun to Boston with a 15 hour layover in Philadelphia.  So all we had to do was get off of the plane at the layover in Philadelphia and we’re home.  Shannon calculated that using Skiplagged saved us about $400.00 in airfare.  Of course the downside is that because you are getting off of the plane at a layover, you cannot have any checked baggage.

I had to do a bit of research on this.  All the cool travel kids have been doing the carry-on only thing for years and there are numerous online resources that will even break it down by destination as far as how to best pack your carry-on (Travel Fashion Girl is one of the best).  

In the end I did a combination of the rolling method (worked best for my pants) and the Ziploc bag method (worked well for the rest of my clothes). I was able to fit mostly everything in my backpack (carry-on) and my purse (personal item-Thank you Aunt Barbara for getting it for me for my birthday) that really acted more like a small duffle bag.  

Shannon carried a backpack (personal item) and a medium sized duffle bag (carry-on) that I threw a few extra things into as well. 

If I thought that zipping through the airport sans rolly-bag was freeing, having only carry-ons was absolutely liberating.  It was nice to know that everything you needed was right with you and breezing past the luggage claim carousel right out of the door felt great (although I did slightly miss the little thrill you get when you finally spot your bag on the carousel and it feels like you won a prize even though it’s just your stuff).

I’m not sure packing carry-ons only would work for every trip (shoes pose the biggest issue if you need several pairs of bulkier shoes other than sandals and flip flops) but we plan to utilize this luggage style as much as possible in the future. It was also fun because every driver we encountered on the trip would exclaim,

“That’s it,” while staring at us with a perplexed expression. 

Since it wasn’t going to be a particularly long trip the only other thing that I did planning wise was to make a short list of restaurants that I thought we would like best, then all we had to do was hop on the plane and get to Holbox, which was quite the adventure…

Extra Note- I have fallen in love with a travel podcast called Extra Pack of Peanuts. They had a very good episode about saving on airfare.

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