As a 21 year old college senior who had never been out of the country, I decided I would spend my last Spring Break across the border. I initially planned to volunteer in Guatemala with a small travel group, but as I gathered my application materials just weeks before leaving, flights had jumped from $400 to $800. Needless to say, my Guatemalan spring break fell through.
Well, I still had a brand-spanking-new expedited passport burning a hole in my pocket, and I was absolutely hellbent on using it. Browsing Expedia’s Last Minute Deals about a week before break, my best friend and I booked a deal on a 5 day vacation package to Cabo San Lucas. I was ecstatic, and the trip was everything I hoped it would be and more! So here are the 5 takeaways I have from those 5 days I spent in paradise:
1. Always Check Tripadvisor
Well, that’s more of a general traveling lesson, but I didn’t learn it until I went to Cabo! For me, the scariest part of booking my first international trip was not being the furthest away from my family or ending up in some kind Taken-esque scenario (in stark contrast to my mother), it was the thought of getting a hotel room with a soiled mattress, dusty furniture, or shitty plumbing (no pun intended).
Before this trip, I had always vacationed in rooms that looked nothing like the perfect management photos advertised online. I refused to be swindled again. Tripadvisor uses real visitor photos and has lots of detailed reviews that are always useful for weighing your overnight options. Ultimately, we chose our hotel because it was consistently reviewed as clean, safe/guarded, popular, and a conveniently located.
2. Sunscreen for All
Can I be candid? Yes? Cool. Us melanin-rich folk often joke about not needing sunscreen. Prior to this trip, I had spent 21 years of life never buying a bottle, wavering on the spectrum of brown and beige (tanning in the summers, paling in the winters) without an issue. I’d tanned on Florida’s hottest beaches, hiked through Colorado’s scorching landscapes, lived in Georgia’s oppressive humidity; but none of this prepared me for the power of Cabo’s sun.
Five days of exposure later, I was back in the States in my beloved dorm bed, flaking and peeling like a pubescent snake. All week long, I had to obsessively slather aloe on my hands, back, legs, even my feet! Do you know how hard it is to sell items in a body care shop with your skin falling of as you speak? Yeah, keep that image in your head. I learned my lesson the hard way. Don’t be like me.
3. Mexican Food In Mexico >>>>>>
I’m really picky about my Mexican food.
I’m a certified Mexican food snob. I love it. I could eat tamales, elotes, chalupas, and tostadas everyday for the rest of my life and be just fine. Plus I’m from Chicago – a melting pot of cultures and cuisine, so I know my ish. Every bite of food I had to eat in Cabo San Lucas was divine. The commercial restaurants are fun and offer more diversity on the menu, but I’d definitely suggest eating like a local from the mom and pop storefronts and carts – the best tacos I had on the whole trip were $2.50 (USD) and came from a small shack on the beach!
4. The Turn Up is Real
Granted, we went on Spring Break, so 95% of the population there was drunk and rowdy college students. Partying Did. Not. Stop. Remember that picture of our balcony view a few scrolls up? Well that pool area pumped music and served drinks from 9 am – 10 pm. The boats that most frequented the marina? Booze cruise vessels that made countless trips throughout the day and night, faithfully blasting Gangnam Style (remember when that was a thing?) at every embarkment.
But that was just outside our window; the real nightlife consisted of so many options that we didn’t even get to visit half – even if we stayed out bar hopping until the sun rose! Cabo never sleeps.
5. Leave the Plastic at Home
Many smaller, local places were not able to take debit/credit cards, and actually getting the ones who did to accept them to complete a transaction smoothly could get pretty difficult. I can’t count how many times my card number was written down without me understanding why, or how quickly my card was swiped through handheld machines I had never seen before, but next time I’ll know better. Just carry cash.
By the way, 1 week after returning to the states my bank deactivated my card after a fraudulent $200+ charge at a Cabo grocery store. Sigh.