Travel Hacking Mexico City – The Economics of My Recent Trip

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travel hacking mexico city

Travel Hacking Mexico City

Last weekend I visited Mexico City and had a wonderful time. Originally the trip was supposed to be a quick weekend getaway to ride roller coasters down in Mexico’s capital with a couple of friends of mine. Eventually it morphed into a family trip where my wife and baby daughter tagged along as well.

My wife’s mother and grandmother live in a small town about 3 1/2 hours from Mexico City so I devised a plan. I would fly down to the city with my wife and daughter and help them settle in before heading off to ride roller coasters. Her mother and grandmother would then take a bus to Mexico City and they would all stay in a hotel together and catch up. It worked out perfectly.

Of course any trip of mine has to involve money saving techniques. I have covered a few of these things in the past, however I thought I would put it all in one post. Here is how I travel hacked Mexico City.


travel hacking mexico city

Aeromexico and Volaris both fly directly from Las Vegas to Mexico City. While Aeromexico is much more expensive, two roundtrip tickets on Volaris would have cost about $600 roundtrip. The baby would have flown free as a lap child as well. The other option was to fly on Southwest through John Wayne Airport in Orange County. It required a connection, but we could use points.

My wife has the Southwest Companion Pass so she was able to book a ticket for 13,860 points and add my companion ticket for free. We were then able to add the baby as a lap child. The total in taxes was $203.16. So we saved about $400 in cash by flying Southwest, but did have to deal with a connection and about 2 1/2 hours of additional travel time.

I can see an argument both ways for and against this. In our case, the Southwest points have already been earned and thus it didn’t make sense to take cash out of our pockets to purchase the Volaris tickets. Another way to look at it is we used 13,860 Southwest points to save $400 so we got a redemption value of 2.8 cents each. That doesn’t quite tell the whole story considering the extra stop, but I am comfortable with the redemption.


travel hacking mexico city
The Hampton Inn has a large open atrium.

Since we ended up being in two groups, we chose two different lodging options. My wife stayed at the Hampton Inn Mexico City Centro Historico. This is a fantastic hotel that is two blocks from the Zocalo (central square). It is located in a beautiful old building and the best part is it is only 10,000 HHonors points per night. My wife was also able to use her Gold status gained from the Reserve card to get upgraded to a suite with a small living room.

My friends and I opted to use Airbnb since we felt an apartment would suit us better. One of my friends had previously stayed at the Hilton Reforma and liked the area. It turns out this is an excellent area and I was able to find a 2 bedroom apartment one block from the Hilton for $115 per night. The apartment was located in a secure building, had full kitchen and laundry facilities and was very nice. As a reminder you can get $20 for free towards your first Airbnb booking. Here is my referral link, but you can use anyone’s.


travel hacking mexico city
Paseo de la Reforma.

As I wrote last week, my first Uber Mexico City experience didn’t go quite as I expected. I did manage to take four more rides with Uber during my time in Mexico City and had excellent experiences. If drivers wanted to deviate from the Uber route they simply asked. Uber is very cheap in Mexico City and I find not having to deal with money or haggling very convenient.

My friends and I also used other forms of transportation. On the day we visited Chapultapec Park, we decided to take the metro system. At a cost of 5 pesos (about $.30) per ride it is CHEAP and we felt very safe! From Chapultapec Park we walked about 5-6 miles down the amazing Paseo de la Reforma back to our apartment. Paseo de la Reforma is modeled after Champs-Élysées in Paris and has a similar vibe and atmosphere. Mexico City is so alive that I highly recommend walking around to soak up the atmosphere.

Six Flags Season Pass Bonus

travel hacking mexico city

One of the reasons for our visit to Mexico City was to visit Six Flags Mexico. While this wasn’t exactly planned, Six Flags has a huge season pass sale every Labor Day. While prices at the U.S. parks generally were $60-$80 per pass, we were able to pickup our 2016 season passes including parking for $35 each! A nice little bonus.


I will be writing some more about Mexico City over the next couple of weeks including full reviews of our experience flying Southwest, a review of the excellent Hampton Inn and my overall thoughts of Mexico’s capital and why I think it is vastly underrated.

As with any trip, I was able to keep the costs down quite a lot. For my friends and I the Airbnb option worked out great since we had plenty of space for less than half of the price of the Hilton. For normal hotel needs I can’t think of a better value than the Hampton Inn at 10K points. The only painful experience of flying to Mexico is taxes, but those are unavoidable. Overall it was a successful and very affordable trip and my wife’s mother and grandmother were able to meet baby Elizabeth for the first time which was priceless.

Do you have any Mexico City hacks or money saving tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments!

Shawn Coomer
Since 2007 Shawn Coomer has been circling the globe with his family for pennies on the dollar. He uses that first-hand knowledge and experience to teach others how to achieve their travel dreams for the least amount of money possible.

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  1. My husband and I just returned from a 13-day trip to Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende. You’re right, totally amazing and insanely underrated. @ninjax…we opened a checking acct at Charles Schwab a few weeks before the trip to avoid ATM fees. We were staying in an Airbnb shared apartment and taking the Metro often and withdrew money frequently. After we returned home, our ATM fees were returned completely. We were given an excellent exchange rate as well.

    The fee in the airport was less than $1USD(!!!) but were usually closer to five bucks per withdrawal.

  2. Hey Mike. Curious what your experience has been with using Mexico ATMs. Where do you usually do FX exchange or pull money out? I ask because Mexican ATMS can not be trusted. Highly corrupt and hacked companies all install ATMS within high traffic areas with sophisticated bluetooth skimmers. Police and ATM technicians are usually paid off to not notice. Its a huge problem now. So I was wondering if you have had any issues or seen your money disappear randomly.

    • I have not personally had any issues with ATMs in Mexico. I usually stick to the ATM’s at the established banks and have had no problems.

      • Thanks for the response Mike. Thats a good strategy to stick with the bank owned ATM machines. All the 3rd party ATMs are hacked.

  3. Shawn, I’ve really enjoyed a lot of your posts the last several months. This is my first comment. We actually just did a similar 4 day Mexico City trip with our then 2 year old. We live in SD, and are very comfortable going in and out of Mexico. We flew volaris from TJ for a TOTAL cost of under $600 rd trip for the 3 of us. It was literally 1/2 the cost of the next best option, and Volaris has a lot more flights running to MEX than SW does from OC. We looked at using SW CP, and it still would have cost roughly $1000 or so for the 3 of us with an extra 1.5 hr drive and only 1 flight a day.

    A few things to note that will help others. 1) the Mexican Peso is severely depressed now. If you can book in Pesos on Volaris’s website, you’ll get a great deal relative to booking in USD. Also, if you book in pesos, it won’t automatically add the tourist visa price which is good if you’ve had it recently since it’s good for 6 months.
    2) most of us have global entry. Global entry is the same program as Sentri which is the trusted traveler program for the Mexican US border. Sentri makes coming back so much easier. If you live in SoCal or anywhere near a U.S. Border Port of Entry, it’s worth it to get your car entered into the Sentri program. Then you can simply drive across at Otay, park at the airport, and drive back at Otay, within a few minutes. With the peso so weak (dollar so strong), parking there is pretty cheap now.
    3) lasty, as mentioned above, the cross border terminal should be open by year’s end. It will allow you to never have to leave a building from the U.S. Side to TJJ. That will vastly change the landscape of flying in and out of the border area.
    I know a good deal about this, so feel free to email me for more info.

  4. There are two border crossings between San Diego and Tijuana, the Otay Mesa Crossing is less busy than the San Ysidro crossing and closer to TIJ airport. If you cross by foot and have global entry you can use the SENTRI lanes with your global entry ID card (but be aware if you drive across this doesn’t work since your car also has to be registered into the SENTRI program). There are safe/secure parking lots (On the US side) near the Otay crossing where you can park your car and they have a shuttle that will drop you off and pick you up at the Otay border crossing, you then walk on foot across the border, and from the Mexican side you can take a taxi to and from TIJ. In the near future there will be a new cross border terminal where you can park on the US side and walk across the border directly into TIJ (this will have a toll per person and is also only available to people flying to/from TIJ).

    • Great info thanks! I have crossed at the Otay Mesa crossing and it is definitely better than San Ysidro. Either way, I still think flying to Orange County and then to Mexico City is much more convenient than flying to SAN, crossing the border and fly from Tijuana to Mexico City.

      • Agreed, I wouldn’t do this if you are flying into SAN first then trying to transfer to TIJ, way more hassle than it is worth. But, if you are going to drive to San Diego for whatever reason then it is something to consider. This is why there are very few flights to Mexico from San Diego as the majority of the passengers fly from TIJ.

  5. I look forward to hearing about the rest of your trip! We’re going to be doing a similar trip next Spring, staying at the Hampton Inn and visiting Teotihuacan and some of the other sites with our two young kids. I’m also trying to decide between flying to SAN and then using the cross-border express to then fly TIJ to MEX, or just using the Southwest CP to fly through SNA to MEX.


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