Breckenridge/Denver, Colorado

JP’s 24 Trips in 12 Months!

Trip No. 5  Breckenridge / Denver, Colorado

Dates:  December 10 – 13, 2017
Hotel:   Beaver Run Resort (Breckenridge) and Super 8 Downtown Denver

Recommendations:

  1. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again:  Colorado Mountain Express is a great ride service up to the ski towns from Denver airport!
  2. Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center:  I highly recommend staying here if you’re in Breckenridge.
  3. Epic Pass:  If you’re going to ski or snowboard more than three days out of the year, look into whether or not a season pass is right for you.
  4. Denver Central Market is a great place to stop by for food and drinks with friends.

Best tips and lessons learned:

  1. If you’re going on a trip with different geographies, it’s best to prepare your body for the change. For being in the mountains I like to prepare by taking altitude supplements to avoid altitude sickness.
  2. When you are ready to rent skiing and snowboarding gear, make sure you ask your hotel if they offer any sort of discount because most of them do.
  3. When you use your miles to purchase wifi inflight on United, you may be able to alternate between devices, switching the wifi to whichever device you want to use. 
  4. Anytime you go wandering around a new town and have a scheduled departure coming up, plan ahead… whether it’s getting lost or car accidents on the highway, your plans can get derailed and you can be late really quickly…. Build in cushion time, be flexible and figure out public transportation and/or directions before you start to wander.

My Colorado Trip:

Colorado is one of my favorite places, and I intend to spend more and more time there as I am able, so it had to be featured in my 24 trips in 12 months.  I’m learning to snowboard so I went to Breckenridge and stayed at the Beaver Run Resort, as well as making a quick stop in Denver before coming home.

When I was driving into ABIA, I saw something I had never seen before at an airport: someone had driven down the wrong way on the street to departure dropoffs.  Thankfully for them, the officer that approached just waited till they turned around and went about his day.  Heads up for people taking early flights, make sure you read the signs extra carefully, and maybe even check out the map online ahead of time. When I got in the airport, I realized my phone didn’t charge all the way, so my battery was super low, which is always a problem when traveling.  Double-check before you go to bed with a morning flight to make sure your phone is charging!!

We when I landed in Denver, I had two interesting occurrences:  First, I didn’t notice an emotional support dog near baggage claim and got shocked awake when it started barking at me right next to me!  I’m not sure about this over allowance of emotional support pets… Then, I was making a fat fuel instant coffee by shaking it, but the pressure in the canister built up so high, when I opened it, the coffee basically exploded all over myself and the bathroom.   Luckily, I had a sense of humor about it all.. .

Once I cleaned up the mess up ,as well as myself, I caught the Colorado Mountain Express ride that would take me to the resort. I love using CME (Colorado Mountain Express), it’s a shared van service I’ve used before and I always seem to be accompanied by the nicest people. This trip was no different, I was able to get some work done and had some great conversations.

Driving into Breckenridge was absolutely beautiful.  Rolling hills of snow, huge mountains, and blue skies  I chose Breckenridge because I enjoyed my last trip there, and Colorado has been having a very warmest winter but Breck’s mountain happened to have the most snow.  The CME stops at a small town called Silverthorne for a small break so it was nice to get out and enjoy the light snow falling. Perfect little mountain town feel, made me even more excited for my resort.

Before I had arrived I made sure to call and let the hotel know I would be arriving before check-in. A lot of the time if you call before you arrive the hotel will do their best to accommodate and get you in a room early. Thankfully, they could get me in a room and it went really smoothly. I recommend this if possible, it’s just so nice to relax after a flight. I guess it was my lucky day because I also got a room upgrade! It included a kitchenette and living room, very nice.

I arrived with much of the day to spare so after check-in, I decided to head to the Copper Top Bar.  (I also popped my altitude supplements — got to prepare for altitude).  The Copper Top Bar is awesome!I had a Santa Fe chicken salad while taking in the scenery and over heard that a lift had got stuck. made a note to keep that in mind. After a great lunch, I decided it was time for me to take a nap.

After a nice power-nap, I went and got some groceries since my room featured a kitchenette. This is awesome because you end up saving so much money making your own meals.  While I was out I made sure to go pick up my “Epic Pass.”  If you are going to snowboard or ski more than three times, a season pass is definite worth looking into.  The trip would have been much more expensive without it and having to pay daily lift ticket fees…

Another tip when it comes to actually heading to the mountain is to check with your resort before renting any gear. A lot of the time, ski resorts will offer a discount valid at the rental shops just for staying there. Luckily, I received a 20% discount, geared up and was ready to go. It was pretty funny, I started on a blue because I have been skiing before. Way to sure of myself, it was a little rough since I hadn’t been in a while and I took a couple falls. Once I had had my fun of skiing, and falling, I went back to the hotel. They happened to be having a Kahlua night so I warmed up with an Irish Coffee (Kahlua and Coffee) at the bar. Other than the bartender, it was just me and another person who turned out to be the bartender’s boyfriend (locals).   I talked to them and found out at this particular resort you can rent to buy a condo and then once you own it, they rent it out for you when not in use.  I definitely started dreaming about owning a Breckenridge condo like that…  

The next morning I woke up and went to go get breakfast at a convenience store at the resort.  I had some bacon and eggs to fuel up for the mountain — really good and extremely convenient to not have to leave.  After breakfast, I made sure to get my work done before I set out for a day of fun (the fact is, if you’re going to work and travel, you can’t slack off just because your’re traveling).

I checked out a snowboarding class that was being taught at the resort and I really enjoyed it.  One of my favorite philosophical things my teacher said was that, when snowboarding, you should “be your own consciousness.” This resonated with because it reminded me about the active thinking that skydiving coach discussed with skydiving (I guess flying through the sky and flying down a mountain are pretty similar).

After the lesson, I was pretty wore out so I hit the hot tub.  After this, I ran into two negatives with the hotel:  first, they showed on-demand movies, but I actually couldn’t order one, and (2) I ordered delivery from the hotel restaurant, but they never brought my order.  order an on-demand movie as advertised on the little flyer by my bed, but when I went to, they had no movies.  Eventually, I decided to grab my laptop to work and head down to the hotel bar.  The hotel was throwing a Christmas party for all the locals in the conference center, and it was great to see and connect with a lot of locals.  (Also, a big group of college kids came in causing the only bartender to have to I.D. and wristband anyone under 21 and kick a bunch of kids out… pretty funny to watch).

The next morning I woke up with sore from the snowboarding and, as I was leaving today, I decided to take it easy.   Before heading to Denver, I decided to head to downtown Breckenridge. The town has an awesome feel… in fact, I heard three songs in a row coming from different shops and restaurants that I loved including some Pink Floyd, Sublime and Rusted Root…  I knew I was in love.  I stopped and had some coffee and chorizo tacos from a coffee shop; however, I was not prepared for getting back to the hotel… I ended up getting lost, and then having to walk up a massive hill just to be late catching the CME to Denver.

The CME to Denver ran into an accident on the mountain that rerouted and detoured traffic for 3 hours. Thankfully, I didn’t have a flight to catch, but this may be something you want to prepare for and leave early.  Others were a little perturbed and some even missed international flights, but I basically got an unexpected scenic tour.  We went higher into the mountain on the detour and saw some awesome views.   My favorite scene was a frozen lake we saw visiting the highest town in North America,                 .

I stayed at the Super 8 in downtown Denver and really enjoyed it.  Of course, this hotel is a silver level hotel, but it was relatively clean and had a great view of downtown.  The only problem was I noticed my window lock was broke. This freaked me out even though I was on the second floor. I made sure to go see if there was any way someone could climb into my window and thankfully there wasn’t.  My hotel was across the street from Elitch Garden Theme Park, which I wish I had enough time to check out.

A local friend and I were going to meet for dinner, so we went to a great place called Denver Central Market.  It’s not a “central market” grocery store, but, rather, it has six different food options to choose from and a deli and bar.  Dinner was amazing… bar service wasn’t great though.  We went out for drinks in the area and then called it a night. 

I ended my time in Denver with some continuing legal education I had scheduled, and then headed to the airport.  Went to Lounge 5280 while waiting for my flight… loved it.  Definitely recommend it next time you’re waiting at DIA.  Easy flight home… did some work and used United miles to buy wifi inflight, which then let me alternate between devices throughout the whole flight (laptop for work, cellphone for messaging).

I learned a lot of new things this trip, all while enjoying one of my favorite new hobbies, friends, snow and education. Solid trip!  Thanks for reading about my trip, and safe travels my friends!

Las Vegas, Nevada

JP’s 24 Trips in 12 Months!

Trip No. 4:  Las Vegas, Nevada

Dates:  December 5 – 7, 2017
Hotel:   Ellis Island Hotel & Brewery

Recommendations:

  1. A Silver level Tripaly trip to Ellis Island is a great way to have a Vegas adventure on a budget!
  2. If you want to stay healthy while traveling domestically in the US, try ClassPass–you’ll be able to find gyms and classes in a lot of the cities you go to.
  3. The restaurant and brewery in Ellis Island are amazing and affordable.  Try them!
  4. Get a day pass for the roof of the Stratosphere. After you ride all the coasters, you still have access to the amazing view throughout the day.

Best tips and lessons learned:

  1. I always like to take a money clip to Vegas, so that if I go out, I’ll just take a certain amount of cash, leave the debit card at home and stay on a budget!
  2. Also, when it comes to budget trips to Vegas, go to the ATM before you land in Vegas to avoid high ATM fees and help force you to stay in your budget.
  3.  Pre-arrange your shuttle from the airport to your hotel in Vegas.  Taxis are way more expensive.
  4. To gamble on a budget, play in tournaments!  One fixed price, and you could play for hours.

My Las Vegas Trip:

The next trip was a last minute Silver-level Tripaly trip to Las Vegas!   Who doesn’t love a good trip to Vegas on a whim?!  This one was going to be on a budget, but with a Silver subscription and a few Vegas travel tips and rules, I knew it was going to be great.

As I work and travel as a professional and build a business, I appreciated having a later flight for this trip rather than an early morning one because I was able to really handle a lot of business before I left.  Travel and work requires you to really flex your time management skills.

This time I packed the night before (I’ve learned my lessons during all those early mornings…) but, I still forgot to pack one of my crucial Vegas items:  My money clip – If I go out in Vegas on a budget, then having a money clip, carrying very little and not bringing a debit card keep me to use my money clip it allows me to ration my money and not have to carry any credit cards I may not want to be using.  But, luckily, with upcoming snowboarding trips, I brought my  altitude supplements (you start a few days before you go to altitude, and work-out clothes to keep it healthy while In Vegas.

I had a Frontier flight with my silver level trip (so I had to pay for a carry-on and the service wasn’t the best); but, the flight into Vegas is beautiful…it’s all dessert and occasionally speckled with little towns or RVs grouped together.   All I can imagine is who lives in these little towns surrounded by nothing but dessert.

I took a cab from the airport to the Ellis Island & Brewery Hotel, where I was staying, but I suggest going through Bell Limousine ($11.00) or SuperShuttle ($20.00) which is much cheaper (Those are a shared van, but the guests are usually really nice and it’s efficient.).   Although this is considered a discount hotel, I found it perfect for this trip–clean, comfortable, and with all the amenities I needed (except a gym).

Renovations have been started on the hotel, so I can’t wait to see it in the future.  One thing to note though: there is a resort fee (and that is outside of the Tripaly subscription, so you have to budget for it), but you won’t find many hotels without one in Vegas. Regardless, the feel was so friendly, the staff was super nice and it featured a casino and four restaurants.  The crowd was local and a little older.

After lunch, I got some work done (because this was a last minute weekday trip), and then used ClassPass (one of my favorite apps while traveling) to find a yoga class around me.  I ended up taking a Lyft, but, in retrospect, it would have been much cheaper to rent a car.  Ellis Island offers parking and they offer really cheap rentals at the airport.

I went to True Fusion yoga which was an amazing yoga studio.  There were great teachers, it was a great space and I had a delicious smoothie after class (The Gorilla Slam).  A solid yoga workout was a great way to balance bad decisions on a vacation… 😉

On the way home, my driver told me that he loved the restaurant at my hotel.  He said all the locals loved it.  I couldn’t wait for the next night’s dinner there!

For tonight’s festivities, I wanted to hit the casino but stay on a budget.  How?  Tournaments!  By playing in a tournament, you pay a fixed fee, and if you play well or conservatively, then you can have hours of fun!  I found a website for all the Texas hold ’em tournaments, and it gave all int eh info.   I ended up going to Rio, where I played three hours for an entry fee of $80.00.   I had a blast playing and made it to the final four (but didn’t win). Feeling pretty satisfied, I took a taxi back to the hotel and called it a night.

After sleeping in, I realized that the hotel gave me free breakfast vouchers. This is a huge plus because I didn’t have to uber or taxi anywhere, and the breakfast was actually really good. I got some work done and decided to head to my next adventure:  The Stratosphere Hotel has an amazing view and roller coasters on the roof.  There’s a total of four, and I recommend you try them all or just get a day pass!  Then you can ride them all and enjoy the view multiple times throughout the day.  After that and another small tournament (lost) at Stratosphere, I went back to Ellis Island for the night.

Later that night I went to dinner at the main Ellis Island restaurant, and the food was amazing and so affordable.  Great for an amazing meal on a budget.   I also had the best flight of beers at my life (huge pours, delicious, and brewed right there at Ellis Island!):

All an all, a Silver level trip to Ellis Island in Vegas was affordable, kept me in my budget, and a great adventure.  Take your next trip to Vegas with Tripaly and keep it all within your budget!

Thanks for reading about my trip, and safe travels my friends!

Cancun, Mexico

JP’s 24 Trips in 12 Months!

Trip No. 3:  Cancun, Mexico

Dates:    November 16-19, 2017
Hotel:    Hyatt Ziva Cancun

Recommendations:

  1.  If you stay at Hyatt Ziva or another hotel with a swim-up room option, I recommend it!  It’s so much fun to be able to step out of your room straight into a pool.
  2. The coffee bar and baristas at Hyatt Ziva are awesome!  Great way to start your morning.

Best trips and Lessons Learned:

  1. If you’re going to use a transfer company (always going to be cheaper than taxis), make sure you book ahead of time.  They often close the online booking twenty-four hours or more in advance of departure.  
  2. Remember to pack all beach essentials, such as sunglasses/sunscreen. If you have to buy these items on property it’s going way more…ridiculously more.  
  3. Double check your pockets when going through security. I accidentally left one coin in my pocket and it caused a whole situation that delayed me about ten minutes.  
  4. When returning, have your immigration slip in hand. This makes for a much easier transition.
  5. To call the US from Mexico, you dial 00 + 1 + the phone number).
  6. If you’re going to do something like renting jetski’s or excursions, always remember to book earlier in the day if you can.

My Cancun Trip:

Trip number three was to Cancun…and the night before, I did it again:  not packing and getting ready for the trip ahead of time… so I was hurting in the morning.  But… when I got to the airport, I started off with a brisket taco with avocado at the Earl Campbell’s in the Austin airport with a coffee… and felt so much better.  

My flights, including my connection in Houston, went smoothly.  I only had to go from Terminal C to D at IAH, but remember: when traveling international, sometimes the connection flights are much further apart so it’s best if you try to plan it out before and know where you are going. We made it to Cancun early, and Olympus Tours was my transfer again from the airport to the hotel again, and, of course, they were there waiting. This is something you have to pre-arrange, but it’s extremely worth it.  One of my friends who was coming on a different flight forgot to pre-arrange it, and he ended up having to pay quite a bit more using a private taxi.

I stayed at the Hyatt Ziva Hotel, which is an all-inclusive (I definitely fell in love with all-inclusive resorts in Barcelo Maya). The resort was beautiful, and the staff were very friendly and attentive.  I was staying in the “Adult Tower,” so we went to check-in in a separate room that had delicious food and snacks plus a fridge full of cerveza and a full bar.  Unfortunately, since my room wasn’t going to be ready until around 4 o’clock because someone had decided to stay late (just got to roll with it while traveling).  So, I ate, drank, did a little work on my laptop, and had some lunch with some friends who were also staying at the resort.

The room I choose had a swim-up patio…you open your sliding door and you literally have a spa tub and a pool outside your room.  I highly recommend it!  The room also had its own private concierge waiting for me, who informed me he would be refilling the mini-bar daily (good to know!).  I did notice it was a little louder in my room because we had the swim-up pool, so just keep that in mind when selecting your room.

Surprise to me:  I look outside in the pool and it turns out some my friends had gotten their rooms right next door!  We ended up partying in the swim-up pool which was a blast.  It was a little too cool, but if you stayed in the sun or under water, it was perfect.   While partying, we ordered a bunch of room service — because it’s an all inclusive, all the room service is included!  It was pretty amazing…

I was sharing the room with a friend, and the hotel was very accommodating in bringing up a cot bed and switching out the couch (even though we didn’t pre-arrange it).  After relaxing for a bit, we headed down to a party on the beach. Who would have thought Tequila would be the drink of choice?  😉  There was a lot of people out chatting, drinking and having fun.

I woke up and needed coffee ASAP (post-fiesta caffeine to start the day…).  The hotel offered an amazing coffee bar with top-notch baristas.  I had the best (and only) coconut latte of my life.

I took a walk around the resort to really take in all the scenery.  Unfortunately, I found that the resort featured a dolphin pool.  I AM OPPOSED TO KEEPING DOLPHINS IN CAPTIVITY AT RESORTS.  That’s all I have to say about that.  I’m not going to tell anyone how to run their business or judge a culture for doing things, but I just hate seeing such beautiful, intelligent beings trapped in such small, insufficient environments simply to amuse hotel guests. 

I went back to the coffee shop and found a nice spot for me to sit and get some work done with a view of the beach and people strolling by for people-watching.  After I finished work, I went back to the swim-up pool, which is long and perfect as a lap pool, to swim some laps for exercise.  The weather was beautiful–the pool water was perfect temperature and extremely relaxing.  After a quick shower, I fell asleep fast for a quick power nap.  I woke up, handled some work calls and got back to enjoying the resort.  This trip I definitely was going to take it slower and spend more time on-resort.

The next day was my last one so I made sure to make the best of it.  I wanted to check out downtown Cancun a bit, so I walked a bit and went to a nearby club called Mandala.  They were having a pool party with a DJ, but I wasn’t really digging the vibe.  Please note that downtown Cancun can definitely feel a bit sketchy–they do regularly have travel warnings about Cancun, so stay away.  Anyway, I went back to the resort pretty quickly.

I ended up renting a jet-ski they had on site for an hour.  They had a great deal for groups (we had got a group of four people together).  We booked ahead of time (remember to book ahead!).  We cruised and had a great time… felt very exciting and fun, but also very safe.  We had a professional with us taking photos and making sure we were safe and we had a huge area to explore.  Really enjoyed it!

By the time we finished and got cleaned up, I was starving.  We tried to have dinner at the Japanese restaurant, but the wait was ridiculously long since they don’t take reservations.  There’s a lot of people at all-inclusives, so that kind of thing can happen.  We ended up at the Italian restaurant instead, which was just fine.  After that, we found a rooftop bar with a dance party going on, and we had a great time.  Unfortunately, a small fight did break out… but nothing more than you’d see at any normal gathering of drunk dudes. 

After getting some rest, I woke up and had the perfect amount of time to hit the gym before taking off.  The resort has an amazing gym with a nice view and (when at an all-inclusive, you definitely need to remember a little self-care and fitness).  When I was done it was about time to check out… and it turns out I didn’t have enough time:  I’m used to just dropping off a key and walking out…I didn’t expect to sit down and go over my bill at checkout, so I was running late to my shuttle.  Thankfully, Olympus tours was there to take me back to the airport without any trouble, even though I was late and kept them waiting 5-10 minutes.

One last note:  more and more airports are adding these new types of open, stylish dining and drinking options with self-serving touchscreens.  I love tthese!.  IAH was looking better than I could ever have imagined!  Enjoy them as you’re passing through airports if they’re there.

There’s always more to say, but I’ll leave you with this:  Hyatt Ziva Cancun is a great all-inclusive to spend a few days at with friends.  Thanks for reading about my trip to the Hyatt Ziva Cancun., and I encourage you to sign-up and take your next last-minute travel adventure with Tripaly!

Washington, D.C.

JP’s 24 Trips in 12 Months!

Trip No. 2:  Washington D.C./Baltimore, Maryland

Dates:   September 21-24, 2017

Recommendations:

  1. Succotash is a new restaurant in downtown D.C. that combines Southern comfort food with Asian influences.  Check it out for dinner and drinks and you won’t be disappointed!
  2. Download Capital Bikeshare and plan to bike around downtown using the app.  It made everything so much easier!
  3. D.C. is a town full of museums.  Do your research ahead of time and plan a day just for museums.  There’s so much to learn!
  4. If you go to Maryland, make sure you go to a crab feast!

Best tips and lessons learned:

  1. Baltimore and surrounding areas have some great spots, but, unless you have an event or specific destination, I would generally avoid downtown Baltimore.
  2. Do not plan on walking around downtown D.C.  That’s too exhausting.  Use the bikeshare!

My Washington D.C Trip:

The last time I went to Washington, D.C., I was about four years old… so, for my second trip, I was really excited about exploring D.C. and surrounding areas.

(Toubab Krewe at Bele Chere Festival in Asheville, North Carolina -July 2010 Street festival photos by the Asheville event photography company Performance Impressions – © 2010 David Oppenheimer – All Rights Reserved)

The night before the trip, I got passes on Jukely (one of my favorite apps) to see Toubab Krewe in Austin at Empire Control Room.  If you haven’t seen them, they put on a great show!  But, it was another one of those times when I went out late before an early morning flight… never a good idea!   Also, here’s a tip: pack the night before your trip if you’re going to go out the night before!  

The morning of my flight was rough… in fact, I was the latest I have ever been to catch a plane!  Regardless, as always, I tried to get as much work done on the plane as I could and caught a nap.  I have to give props to Southwest Airlines too — I had one of the nicest, most attentive stewardesses ever.

I flew into Baltimore, and the first part of the trip was in the Baltimore area.  The first adventure: Comic Con!  If you haven’t been to a Comic-Con, it’s definitely worth checking out even if you’re not a big comic person.  Where else are you going to meet people like this:

The event was in downtown Baltimore.  While the convention center was nice and we enjoyed drinks and dinner at a nice restaurant across the street, I generally would advise avoiding downtown Baltimore!  

The next day, we started the day with a true Maryland crab feast. If you’re from the South like me, you’re probably pretty familiar with crawfish boils.  I’ll admit it:  Maryland converted me:  I prefer a crab feast.  The seasoning is less spicy (which is better for me) and crabs are a lot more filling than crawfish.  If you have the opportunity, when you visit Maryland, go to a crab feast!

That afternoon, after the crab bake, I took a Lyft into D.C. When I go to a city like D.C., and I don’t have a plan, I like to start off at a coffee shop.  On my ride there, I found a convenient Pete’s Coffeeshop and downloaded the Capital Bikeshare app.  

Trust me:  if you’re going to D.C. to explore a lot, download the Capital Bikeshare app and use the bike system!  A couple of tips with the bikeshare:  (i) make sure you stay on top of your time because you have to check the bikes in every hour or so or you get charged a higher rate, and (ii) be careful in cross-walks because D.C. drivers do not yield to bicyclists with the right of way.  I explored all over the Capital Mall and downtown on my bike taking in a lot of the sights.  I did not plan or have much time for museums or tours, but next time I come, that’s what I want to do.  There are so many amazing museums to explore in D.C.

After exploring the city, I went out for dinner and drinks.  I started at Succotash, a new D.C. restaurant that fuses Southern with Asian influences.  I went to the upstairs bar, and enjoyed an amazing meal of spicy fried chicken and vegetables with flavors I’ve never tasted before, and also really appreciated the friend waitstaff.  

After dinner, I got on my app Hooch to find a nice bar.  Hooch is a really great app for people who travel because, if you’re in one of the cities Hooch is in, you can get great bar recommendations and one free drink.  Check it out!  I went to the Columbia Room, which is a really solid cocktail bar.  I talked about liquors and ingredients with the bartenders and ended up having such a good time trying out their different cocktails that I definitely didn’t stay for just one… Also, I highly recommend their desert menu–the ice cream sandwich is incredible.

The next day I spent in D.C. again and enjoyed coffee shops while I caught up on work and enjoyed the scenery and vibe of the town.  Very low key, just like I needed after a long day of exploring before…  When I had to go back to Austin, my one regret was that I did not pick a museum or two and plan to spend one or two full days just taking it in.  There’s always next time!

D.C. is a must-go destination, and its worth more than one trip.  Thanks for reading about my adventure to Baltimore and D.C., and I encourage you to sign-up and take your next last-minute travel adventure with Tripaly!  

Riviera Maya, Mexico

JP’s 24 Trips in 12 Months!

Trip No. 1:  Riviera Maya, Mexico

Dates:   Sept. 10 – Sept. 12, 2017
Hotel: Barcelo Maya Palace

Recommendations:

  1. Riviera Maya is an amazing destination that everyone needs to visit.
  2. Barcelo Maya is a top-notch, all-inclusive resort.
  3. Xel-Ha Eco-Park is a fantastic excursion and an amazing way to spend the day.
  4. Olympus Tours is a solid, reliable transport company for your transfer to and from the Cancun airport.

Best tips and lessons learned:

  1. There’s often no wifi on flights over the Gulf of Mexico so be sure to download local copies of your work if you need to work on the flight.
  2. Make sure to plan at least one day of pure relaxation and chilling when you are at Barcelo Maya (or any all-inclusive).  Doing nothing rather than excursions and exploring can be crucial!
  3. If you need to work in your hotel room while your significant other is sleeping, bring eye shades and a lap desk light.  Trust me!
  4. Get strong bug spray if you are going to an eco-park.  The bug spray they sell there, while having natural ingredients, simply doesn’t work.  You’ll be much more comfortable covered in deet.  

My Riviera Maya Trip:

One of the great destinations that Tripaly regularly offers is Riviera Maya.  I had never been there, so when Tripaly offered a long-weekend, platinum trip there, my girlfriend and I made the last-minute decision and jumped on it!

We had an early morning flight from Austin.  I enjoy spending my pre-flight time at the airport in Austin at the Saxon Pub.  If you plan on working during the flight, I find this pre-flight time at the airport is a great time to make sure you’ve got local copies on your laptop of any files you need on the flight (in case there’s no in-flight wifi).

Our flight was on Southwest, and the staff were incredibly nice and helpful.   We upgraded to seats to the front row where we had tons of extra leg space.  Though I appreciated the extra leg room, there was no seat in front of me to put my bag under, so make sure you keep that in mind when picking your seat, especially if you need easy access to a laptop or other items in your bag.

While on our layover at DFW, we ate at Ling & Louie’s.  I definitely recommend it.  We ordered a delicious stir fry to share, and the service very fast (which is great when you have to catch a connection).

The flight into Cancun is stunning as you get near the coast.  As we got closer, there are vibrant, colorful reefs and the shades of blue and green in the water are absolutely breathtaking. As you approach the airport, you see a small city surrounded by rainforests, as far as you can see.  

Tripaly’s recommended transfer company from Cancun airport is Olympus Tours.   They have free wi-fi, different options for rides, and, as you book in advance, they are there expecting you.

We had a Tripaly platinum trip, so our hotel and room were top notch.  When we arrived we were taken to a private check-in area with an open bar and hors d’oeuvres.  

This was my first all-inclusive experience and I was blown away.  Our room was spacious, well designed and stocked.  The food at the resort was delicious, well-prepared and full of options and variations.  We started at one of the open buffets which was quick and easy.  For dinner, our concierge had arranged a reservation for us for a “Festival Dinner,” with seven chefs coming together to create a seven-course meal.  Each chef prepared something different, with each dish being unique and unexpected.  It was an amazing first afternoon and evening.

For me, as a traveler and a professional, I have to work while traveling, so the next morning, I woke up early before our excursion to work.  I didn’t come properly prepared for this… If you’re going to work in a hotel room with a significant other, you may want to consider getting eye shades for him or her and a lap desk lamp for you…

Our big adventure for the trip consisted of a day at an eco-park called Xel-ha.  The park had snorkeling, cliff jumping, ziplining, hiking, biking and great food and open bars all day.  It was a perfect way to spend the day for us!  We started our day with snorkeling… beautiful water and wildlife.  The craziest thing we saw were stringrays (big ones).  Others encountered a barracuda… but we didn’t run into him.  One thing to avoid:  the water slide.  The walk up the seemingly endless flights of stairs is exhausting and the ride down the slide is extremely painful–so not worth it!  After zip-lining, cliff-diving, biking, hiking, and other adventures, plus eating and drinking all day… we were pretty exhausted.  We met some nice people, had some shots and laughs, and then caught our bus back to the hotel.

The forecast for the entire trip said it was going to rain… but luckily, in Cancun, if it rains, it’s real short and then good weather after that.  When we were leaving the park, it started to pour, but it didn’t last long and then it was back to beautiful weather.  We didn’t really get out to enjoy it though… after that long day at the park, we went to bed real quick after a nice dinner and some drinks in the evening.

The next day was our last, but we weren’t going to fly out until later in the afternoon, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the resort.  I started the day with a nice long walk on the beach.  The waves were soothing, the sand was soft under my feet and my mind felt clear–I felt alive and well.  After that, we got to enjoy the huge pool and swim up bars.  The water was perfect, the bartenders were attentive and the other guests were nice and social.  I wish we had more than a few hours before we had to leave!  Also, I really appreciated how clean the pool area was. This resort really was taken well care of all the time!

Overall, this was an amazing trip. I would definitely recommend the resort as well as the eco-park. Thanks for reading about my adventure to Riviera Maya, and I encourage you to sign-up and take your next last-minute travel adventure with Tripaly!