I’ve spent the past year here in the Member Services department helping countless members research and plan their vacations all over the world. I love helping them find great deals in great places so I was very excited when my boss suggested that I take a vacation of my own. Using Hopaway Holiday, the condo portion of Coast to Coast, I was able to take a fabulous vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in early November of this year.
I started planning out my vacation nearly a year in advance. I had to think about where in the world I wanted to go. Did I want to go on a cruise or did I want to book a condo? Should I go somewhere warm or should I learn to ski in the snow? How many people did I want to take? These were just some of the things I had to consider before I could continue planning my vacation. I decided on Puerto Vallarta, Mexico because I speak the Spanish language and because upon doing some more research, I found that it was a safe, friendly, and inviting place to go in Mexico.
My next step was looking for availability. With Hopaway Holiday, you are able to book up to a year in advance. I can take extended time off almost anytime between November and April so I had a very flexible travel window, which is very beneficial when using the condo program. I ended up booking a beautiful 2 bedroom unit that could sleep 7 at Park Royal Los Tules for $699 for the week. I had the option of choosing a few different smaller studio or one bedroom units that slept anywhere from 2-5 in the $399-$599 range but we liked the idea of having more privacy. I booked our unit in March and although our friends eventually couldn’t come with, having the larger unit was amazing!
Now that I had the condo booked, I started looking at flights. I had to decide whether it was worth it to fly out of our hometown or if it would be better to drive to and fly out of a larger airport. I saw that there were a few direct flights out of Denver which is only a 6 hour drive from us so I set up a price alert on them to watch for a great price. I ended up booking our flights about 6 weeks out from going. We were able to save about $300 per ticket by driving to Denver and we got a bonus mini vacation out of it too!
I have passport from previous travels which was still valid well past the dates I’d be in Mexico but my significant other had never been out of the country so I tasked him with getting a passport. This can take a few months to process so I was nervous that he was procrastinating so much but his passport arrived in August, well before our trip. For those of you who already have a passport, you’ll want to check the expiration date; most countries require it to be valid for at least 6 months after your visit date.
Before I left, I did some research on the weather in Puerto Vallarta and I am glad that I did. The weather was 85 and sunny the entire trip, a big difference from the 35 and windy at home in South Dakota. Because we were flying in and out of a cold place, I did pack a small duffle bag full of warm clothes to keep in the car but we took shorts, swimsuits, and sunglasses with us to Mexico.
In addition to knowing where your passport is at all times, it is wise to make a couple of copies before you leave home and to leave one with someone trusted and to keep the other in a separate place in your luggage in case you were to lose your passport.
Once we got to Mexico and cleared customs, we met our ride to the resort. There were several taxis available, however since the pickup service was complementary from the resort I decided to take advantage of it. Once we got to the resort, our check in process was really quick, I just showed them my printed conformation from Hopaway Holiday, signed for the room, and we received our wristbands. Our resort wasn’t all inclusive so the wristband was nothing more than an indicator that we belonged there. Most resorts will try to entice you to attend the “Welcome Breakfast” with free gifts of one kind or another. Unless you’re willing to give up a morning of your trip to learn about timeshare, you may want to decline attending the Welcome Breakfast.
We were located towards the back of the property, 30 seconds from the beach and right next to the restaurant (which was delicious) and one of the 8 pools. We arrived at our unit and were amazed at how beautiful it was. I had booked a 2 bedroom unit and just thought that it would be similar to my apartment but I was so wrong. We were on the bottom floor overlooking the ocean. Our unit had a master bedroom with a king size bed, a pull out sofa, a vanity in the room, a bathroom, a TV, AC unit, and a sliding door to part of the patio. The other bedroom had two beds, both somewhere in-between a twin and a full size, a bathroom, TV, AC, and a couch. There was a room off of the hallway in our unit that had a queen size bed in it with an ac but no TV so it didn’t quite count as a bedroom by their standards. There was also a full bathroom off of the hallway. Our unit had a full kitchen (complete with a water cooler and a complementary 5gal jug of water) and in the living room there was a TV, AC, 2 couches, and another sliding door to the patio. Our unit was so nice that even our neighbors, sweet sisters from Tennessee who had owned timeshare there for 30 years, had to ask us how we got it. I felt pretty great having used Hopaway Holiday to get such a great unit.
When we left home, we jokingly set a goal to be on the beach by 2pm on the day we arrived, and by golly we were close! We set down our luggage and immediately changed and went to the beach which was behind the property. Although the beach is public, it was clean and wasn’t crowded. One thing that we liked was that our resort had security that patrolled the back wall by the beach to make sure only those of us with our wristbands were on the property. Everyone who worked at the resort was super friendly too! I’ve been studying Spanish for 6 years now so I had no problem conversing with the staff and other guests but my significant other speaks zero Spanish. I was worried that might be an issue but almost everyone we ran into spoke at least some English which was very nice.
With this being our first trip to Mexico, we didn’t venture out too often or too far, however we did go on an excursion which drove us past downtown and the Malecon as well as into the mountains/jungle to a tequila tasting where we learned about how it was made and sampled some local varieties. From there, the bus took us to where the Predator movie was shot and we spent a few hours there before heading back to the resort. One thing that was really nice was having a shopping center across the street from the resort. On our second day there, we ventured out to the shopping center and went to the supermarket to stock up on supplies for the week. We got some eggs, bread, coffee, yogurt, and a couple other things so that we could make breakfast and snacks in our kitchen. We also ventured back to the shopping center on our last night there to pick up some last minute souvenirs and before we walked
down the street to pick up dinner to take back to the resort.
One nice thing about the condo program is that even though you rent by the week, it is up to you how long you stay within that week. For us, it was much cheaper to fly back to Denver on Friday so we decided that we would check out on Friday instead of Saturday. In talking with our neighbors, they told us that they used to do that too because ALL of the condos in the area check out on Saturday so it was much easier to travel home on Friday. We checked out and made our way to the airport with plenty of time to spare. We flew back into Denver and immediately missed being on a beach in our bathing suits. As soon as we got back to my car, I put on my winter coast and was very glad that I had left some warmer clothes in there for the trip home.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my vacation to Puerto Vallarta and would go again in a heartbeat. Going on this vacation also helped me to better understand the process of planning a vacation so now I feel I can better help YOU, our members, as well as testify first hand that YOU have a fantastic product that can help create memories in beautiful places all over the world. It’ll be a while before I venture out on a longer vacation again but I can’t wait to plan that trip, and help you plan yours too!