We never planned to honeymoon. That is, not right after the wedding anyway. It represented another big, expensive, and personal decision that we just weren’t ready to make. We told people “oh, if we do anything we will just crash at my dad’s timeshare” or that “maybe the caribbean, somewhere, someday.” Honestly though, between weddings and Ganer’s travel for forensics I could count the number of weekends we had off together on one hand. The other days of the week we threw ourselves into our respective jobs and at night did what still feels like too many hours researching for the wedding. So, we put it off. How hard can it be to decide on a vacation once you’re blissfully married, right?
It wasn’t until after our wedding that I realized the function of a honeymoon outside of it’s obvious luxury: quality time to rest and reflect as a couple.
My post wedding high lasted into the day after our wedding. We booked one night at a hotel to delay the 10 hour drive home. We stayed up late, drank, and perused all the video and images that had been posted so far. We got home and the next day Ganer had to leave for a week to attend a conference in Vegas. We debated pulling from the last of our savings to buy me a ticket to join him but ultimately (and responsibly) decided against it. I spent that week in a kind of… haze. I had never, ever been more tired and excited at the same time. I missed him desperately but also felt immensely secure. It was a confusing week. It wasn’t until the day before he came home that I had some motivation to get back to editing. Before we knew it, life was relatively back to normal.
As we began to crave a little travel and quality time, we started to research what options we might have for a honeymoon. We asked our married friends where they had gone and how they enjoyed their experiences. We checked expedia, southwest.com, airbnb.com, oyster.com, insertyourfavoritetravelsite.com multiple times a day for weeks trying to decide on the right country, the right beach, the right accommdations, at the right price. We watched our “budget” (I use that term loosely because we had already accepted some CC usage) grow 3x what we were originally comfortable with. All the while we kept wondering why this was so hard? We avoided nights out with friends just to research for the honeymoon. Then I realized, OH MY GOD I’M WEDDING PLANNING AGAIN [please get me out of here]. So, at the advice of a dear friend, we put it away. We had to accept that these trips are often gifts from newlyweds’ parents. We had spoiled ourselves plenty and should just enjoy being married.
We went home for Christmas and family showered us with love and support for our new marriage. We ate our faces off, slept, and played in sunny Louisiana. We knew that our trip back to KY would mean real winter this time. Not that 50-60 degree winter. REAL, 15-30 degree winter. Realizing that we would be home for a solid month in that REAL winter before classes began, we found a little more motivation to go SOMEWHERE.
You see, Ganer and I are hardworking and diligent people. But we are also the most impulsive functioning adults you’ll ever meet. Early on in our relationship, we’d take whatever we had left at the end of the month and just… GO. No real budget or plan, just something to get us out of BG. Even if we had to eat big slices of pizza on the beach instead of going to a restaurant, the beach was worth it. So why the hell is this “honeymoon” any different? I had enough flight points to book two round-trip tickets to Playa del Carmen (a popular honeymoon destination). So we booked it. We found an airbnb spot that sounded pretty nice. So we booked it. From there our plans were: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It wasn’t the smoothest of planning processes, but it was great practice in making decisions together, trusting our guts, and knowing that we had to decide to make it fun. We weren’t going to be able to buy the relaxing, worry-free experience of an all-inclusive resort. We knew we could get a better deal later but we didn’t want to wait that long. So we opted for something else: a DIY, balling on a budget, day-by-day honeymoon.
I should also note that this was only my second time out of the country. The first time doesn’t REALLY count given that it was also to Mexico (Rosarito, by the CA-MX border, for HS seniors looking to get drunk for the weekend). I was a little nervous and PDC was not only close, but somewhat familiar. I nervously held onto my passport and might have taken the customs form too seriously (I almost cried at my small errors I wrote in pen, thinking I’d be detained and thrown in a mexican jail).
It was certainly a busy time of year because of both it being peak season in the caribbean but also PDC was hosting the BPM festival (a 10 day electronic dance concert) that converged with the first two days of our trip. Getting through customs in Mexico was probably the least fun. It took a good two hours and we were both sweaty and thirsty. Then our van was stopped by the police and we had to change drivers. Then we tried to find food and realized BPM festival had taken over everything (imagine scantily clad teenagers EVERYWHERE). We got to our room and tried every positive spin you could think of but we were both pretty bummed. We found refuge in a dive martini bar and forgot our initial disappointment.
The days only got better and better. Day 2 we explored playa, ate at a restaurant off 5th with a feminist theme and specialized in fresh local food. We watched vendors try to hustle tourists and found the local groceries. This was also the day that I brought out my nearly dead XTi to start people shooting. I immediately felt a shift in perspective. When I am shooting, I go from a mindset of judging my surroundings to appreciating them. You can’t be disappointed when you are looking for what’s interesting in your immediate world. We found a clear section of beach and dove in with a cover over Ganer’s iphone. We finally started to play and we remembered why we were there. It wasn’t to lounge about. We wanted to see another part of the world together.
The following days we walked all over PDC, danced, drank, and ate a lot. The highlight of the trip was going on a 3-part snorkel tour with a local guide named Luiz. He brought us to Yal-Ku lagoon where I 1) finally got the snorkeling thing right and 2) got addicted to snorkeling. The water was this crazy mixing of underground river and ocean. It was wildly blue and we saw more fish than we could count. At Akumal bay, we swam over multiple sea turtles, rays, and barracuda. The third destination was Dos Ojos cenote (which is a cavern created by the underground river which the locals depend on for drinking water) where we swam through formations (some thousands of years in the making) with flashlights to catch all of the glory from above and below. Ganer made a video! Our tour ended with a mayan lunch with fresh jaimaca juice!
We really enjoyed walking past all of the resorts and swimming in the best water we could find (it’s all public). Our condo had a kitchen and my favorite meal was provided by Ganer. We loved sampling ceviche and mezcal cocktails at various restaurants. Our favorite beach was actually off the town of Tulum. The view from our terrace got more beautiful each morning. By the time it was our last night, we were looking to extend our stay.
However an impending snowstorm at home in KY and rain in PDC encouraged us to go ahead and leave after 5 nights. All in all we really loved our time and are already discussing plans to go back. Here are some photos from our trip (shot on my first ever DSLR and iphones) and below I’ll leave tips/thoughts/advice for anyone who might be feeling an off-the-resort trip to PDC and surrounding Riviera Maya!
Video: (prepare for a lot of booty shots… thanks ganer.)
You don’t have to stay on a resort if you can’t afford it.
Planning ahead is cool. However, if you have other things going on it’s okay. You can have a honeymoon 2 weeks from today and it will be fun.
Quality time together trumps all other priorities.
If all you can afford is to lock yourselves in your bedroom to sleep off the wedding for 4 days, do it.
Check your passport expiration and give yourself at least a month if you need to get it updated.
The weekend was crowded. Knowing what we know now we would travel like a Tues-Tues schedule with excursions on the weekend.
Although they accept USD you will get the best rates using Pesos. It is up to vendors to decide the rates if you choose to use USD. Take out some money from your bank ahead of time to tip your driver when you arrive.
It may have been the time of year but the bus station and shared ride vans had a TON of people waiting for them. We were glad for our private transfer.
For short trips, we used taxis which are priced based on the zone they are traveling to. Familiarize yourself with the pricing and agree on the cost before getting in. For distances 15-60 minutes away we took the collectivo vans and it cost about 3 bucks.
The culture is beautifully relaxed, diverse, and casual. Don’t worry too much about your outfits. I forgot my jewelry and makeup and it was for the best. Remember your sunglasses, bathing suits, sandals, and cover ups.
I’ll only wear yoga pants for plane travel from here on out.
Locate the DAC market for fresh produce and yummy juices. All organic and local.
Pack legit biodegradable sunscreen or buy it here.
Vendors will leave you alone with a simple “no thank you.”
We started our immunizations just before the trip so they may not have worked. If you plan to travel here, check out the CDC’s recommended vaccines and get them early. We had no trouble, but it’s good to do anyway.
I drank the water 3 times. Yes I know you’re not supposed to but I’m forgetful. I was and still am fine.
Their economy depends greatly on tourism. Everyone is extremely kind and accommodating. Please dismiss anyone who has told you that this city is dangerous or that you shouldn’t travel outside the resort.
English is common but it is good to know basic spanish for getting around and expressing niceties.
Call your mobile provider and get some basic data set up. We needed access to our apps quite often. Speaking of, here are the ones we depended on the most:
Tripadvisor, converter+, google translate, google maps, and chase bank.
The streets are weird but there are plenty of maps along 5th avenue (avenida 5). Speaking of…
5th avenue is super touristy. Go, I guess, but we really recommend dining and drinking off the main street.
Sample some mezcal and ceviche.
Get a massage (2 for 70 minutes = $40 USD)
There are so many great places to eat, but we most enjoyed La Perla and La Luna y Las Estrellas in (in Tulum).
Tulum was gorgeous and will probably be where we stay if we head back to the area. It’s bohemian and not overcrowded.
Many of the guided tours are crowded and their guides may depend heavily on tips. We recommend Mexico Blue Dream and Living Dreams Mexico for personalized, friendly, and fair services.
Get up early. You’re facing east and the sunrises are stunners. You’ve got a full day of playing to do anyway ;]