welcome to cancun first trip planning

How to Plan Your First Trip to Cancún

how to plan your first trip to cancun

Planning a trip should be fun. After all, you are planning time where you can relax, explore, and enjoy a new place while you avoid work or school for a period of time. Unfortunately, the reality of planning a trip is often stressful.

This is how you plan your first trip to Cancún. Here are the steps.
Step 1: Pick the Right Resort
Step 2: Get the Best Airfare
Step 3: Set Up Transfers and Transportation
Step 4: Get Travel Insurance

Step 5: Vacation Safe and Get Home Safe
Keep reading to get details on each step.

Embarking on a journey to Cancún? This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know for a memorable trip. Begin by selecting the ideal resort, with recommendations like Karisma Family of Resorts for families and El Dorado Maroma for adults. Discover tips on snagging the best airfare using tools like Southwest’s Low Fare Calendar for U.S. travelers or Google Flights for international journeys. Ensure a hassle-free arrival by pre-arranging airport transfers, perhaps with USA Transfers, to avoid unreliable taxi services. Planning your tours in advance, whether it’s historical excursions, adventurous activities, or family-friendly camel rides, is also advised.

Additionally, the guide stresses the importance of travel insurance, especially for unexpected medical emergencies or trip cancellations, and offers insights into navigating Cancún International Airport efficiently. Safety tips for enjoying Cancún’s vibrant nightlife and its stunning archaeological sites are also shared. If you’re visiting during hurricane season, the guide provides valuable advice on weather considerations. Whether it’s lounging on the beaches, indulging in the nightlife, or soaking up the culture, this guide ensures your Cancún vacation is both exhilarating and safe.

Step 1: Pick the Right Resort

When picking the right resort in Cancún, you first need to decide if your trip will include kids or not. One of the highest-rated, family-friendly resorts in Cancún is the Karisma Family of Resort and Spas.

Below is a table of the many Karisma Resorts you can choose from. We recommend El Dorado Maroma if it’s just adults going. If you’re taking your family we recommend Generations.

We’re excited to see the new Nickelodeon resort that is opening in 2020. Nickelodeon is obviously going to be a family resort. The new Margaritaville resort will be opening in March of 2020.

Our favorite for Adults Only is El Dorado Maroma!

About Karisma Hotels and Resorts

Karisma Hotels & Resorts, an award-winning luxury hotel collection which owns and manages properties in Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe, comprises an impressive portfolio including El Dorado Spa Resorts by Karisma, Azul Beach Resorts by Karisma, Generations Resorts by Karisma, Karisma Villas, Allure Hotels by Karisma, Hidden Beach Resort by Karisma, Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts, Sensatori Resorts, Sensimar Resorts, and Karisma Hotels Adriatic.

Properties have been honored with the industry’s top accolades including Conde Nast Traveler’s “Top 100 Hotels in the World,” Conde Nast Traveler’s “Top 30 Hotels in Cancún,” TripAdvisor® Traveler’s Choice “Best Hotels for Romance,” and AAA’s “Five Diamond Award” and “Four Diamond Award.” Karisma has received worldwide recognition for its creative approach to hospitality management and product innovations.

Step 2: Get the Best Airfare

Now that you’ve decided on a hotel or resort for your stay in Cancún, you should focus on how to get to this beautiful part of Mexico. We strongly recommend that U.S. based travelers take advantage of the Southwest Low Fare Calendar https://www.southwest.com/air/low-fare-calendar/.

This tool is really easy to use and allows you to search the lowest fares for an entire month. Simply type in your desired departure city and arrival city (Cancún) then choose your number of travelers, desired departing month and return month from the drop-down menus.

Finally, click the “search” button and the calculator will find you the cheapest fares on each day of your desired month. For example, I searched for fares for 2 adults traveling from Philadelphia, PA, to Cancún departing and returning in December. The calculator showed prices as high as $562 around the Christmas holidays and as low as $202 for some early week flights out in early to mid-December.

This flight calculator tool will save travelers hundreds of dollars and possibly thousands, depending on the size of their traveling party.

For those traveling to Cancún from outside of the United States, we recommend using Google’s Flights tool, which can be found at https://www.google.com/flights.

To use this tool, first select round trip, one way, or multi-city from the drop-down menu. Next, select your number of travelers from the adjacent drop-down menu while specifying adults, children, and infants (on a lap or in a seat).

Your next drop-down menu choice will feature your flight accommodations preference where you can choose between Economy, Premium Economy, Business, or First Class.

The next step is typing in the city you choose to depart from and arrive at Cancún. For this example, I chose to depart from Berlin, Germany, with a party of 2 adults and two children and explored 5-day trips to Cancún in December.

A green number was present on Thursday, December 5 making it clear that it was the cheapest day to depart Berlin that month for a 5 day trip to Cancún.

If I chose to book a flight on Thursday, December 5, for my family of 4, I could get round-trip airfare for $4,143. Contrast that to if I would choose to depart for Cancún on Monday, December 16 where my airfare would cost $6,985 for a family of four.

As you can see, using the Google tool made me aware that I could save nearly $3,000 on airfare alone by planning my trip around the days when airfare is the least expensive. So, no matter where you are, please take advantage of one of these airfare tools to save money on your traveling expenses.

Step 3: Set Up Transfers and Transportation

Set Up Airport Transfers in Advance

When visiting Cancún, we recommend that you book your transportation in advance as there are unfortunately a number of taxi services that are not reputable. We recommend using USA Transfers to book your transportation to and from the airport to your hotel. We have personally found USA Transfers to have the best prices by far.

Their prices are clearly listed on their website so there will be no taxi drivers taking the “long way” in order to maximize their fee as you often see in Las Vegas and other tourist areas. It is important to note that all of your activities will likely occur in the Cancún Hotel Zone known as the Zona hotelera Cancún and that includes dining, shopping, and nightlife on the “Boulevard Kukulcan” making a rental car unnecessary.

A private van for my wife and me in the month of December is $68.97 plus $11.03 in taxes. That’s a total of $80 USD round trip. This is a private van that goes directly to your resort. In this case, we are staying at Karisma’s El Dorado Maroma.

In fact, we recommend that any travel you decide to do in Cancún be either booked in advance through USA Transfers or through having your hotel acquire you a taxi.

Once you have your arrival time, contact USA transfers to arrange transportation to your hotel as well as a time to pick you up to transport you back to the airport for your departure. You will have cost certainty, feel safe, and have one less item to worry about once you depart your home for your vacation.

Plan Your Tours Before You Go

It is also recommended that you plan any tours that you would like to do in advance. If you choose one fo the Karimsa resorts, they have an in-house adventure desk. You can contact the hotel to reserve your spots on the tours you are interested in advance of your stay.

If you are staying at a resort or hotel that does not offer their own tours, they likely will have a concierge on staff that can assist you in setting up tours through a reputable business. It is best for both your stress level and your safety to plan out tours in advance to make sure they live up to your expectations and are conducted in a professional manner.

You can take a historical tour to see scenes like Mayan ruins or a more social tour that explores the nightlife of Cancún. If you have children, there are several tours that involve camel rides that are sure to be a hit with the young ones.

Finally, if you are a thrill-seeker, there is an “extreme canopy adventure” through Cancún Adventure Tours https://www.cancunadventure.net/ that includes riding ten zip lines and a ride in an army truck.

Step 4: Get Travel Insurance

I can tell you that we do buy travel insurance, and we have used it. We got caught in a hurricane and needed it. I advise people to get it.

While it’s not mandatory to have travel insurance for Mexico, it’s highly recommended, especially since most U.S. health insurance plans may not provide coverage internationally. In Cancun, though generally safe, unforeseen medical emergencies can happen, and without travel insurance, you would be responsible for all related medical expenses, which could be substantial.

Additionally, travel insurance can protect you against other travel-related risks. For example, if you’re traveling during hurricane season, look for plans that cover inclement weather. Other benefits can include coverage for trip cancellations, delays, lost luggage, and emergency medical evacuation. If you’re engaging in adventurous activities, like scuba diving or jet skiing, consider a plan covering these activities, as they are often excluded from standard policies.

Lastly, some travel credit cards offer basic travel insurance benefits. If you have such a card, check its coverage limits and terms to see if it meets your needs. Otherwise, investing in a comprehensive travel insurance policy for your trip to Cancun is advisable to ensure peace of mind and financial protection. Sources like Travel Guard, NerdWallet, and VisitorsCoverage provide useful insights and options for travel insurance tailored to trips to Mexico and Cancun specifically.

Step 5: Vacation Safe and Get Home Safe

Unfortunately, Cancún and Mexico have been part of news stories and discussions as being unsafe. While this is a myth as violent crimes in Cancún are rarer than they are in tourist places like New Orleans, Louisiana, it is always important to stay wherever you are but especially in unfamiliar areas. We’ve also written another blog on this topic. You may find it helpful.


The Zona hotelera is heavily watched by the police and is almost entirely free of the drug-related violence that you may have heard about in the media. It is important to stay within this area, especially at night, and not venture out into the outskirts in Cancún on your own.

This is just common sense. Our family is never really out at night. I know that young people want to partake in the nightlife. These tips will help keep you safe at night.

  • Stay together
  • Go out with a full charge on your phone
  • Don’t drink too much (Use the 1 for 1 Strategy when out drinking. 1 bottle of water for every drink)
  • Keep your mixed drinks with you at all times

Adventures and Trips

If you do plan to take tours or trips, make sure you are taking them reputable services that have been recommended to you from a site like ours or from your actual resort or hotel. During the day you may want to visit one of the famous markets such as Mercado 23 for a feel of local Cancún, but you’ll want to protect your valuables if you do go as the markets are frequented by pick-pocketers.

In general, many of the tips to staying safe in Cancún will be similar to what they would be any urban area where tourists visit. It is important to not stray from familiar surroundings unless you are accompanied by people you trust who know what they are doing.

While on the beach avoid people trying to sell you anything and give them a firm “no” and they will move on to other potential buyers.

Most Definitely Visit an Archaeological Site While You’re In Cancún

The area is a treasure trove of archaeological wonders, offering a unique peek into the ancient Maya civilization. A must-visit is Chichén Itzá, which is about two hours from Cancun. This UNESCO World Heritage site is renowned for its iconic pyramid, El Castillo, a marvel of Maya astronomy and architecture. Don’t miss the chance to see this historical gem.

Closer to your base in Cancun is the El Rey Archaeological Zone, conveniently situated within the Hotel Zone. It’s perfect for a quick yet enriching glimpse into the Maya’s past, with its ruins and a small temple. And, if you’re up for a scenic drive, head to Tulum. Perched atop a cliff overlooking the Caribbean, this historically significant walled city offers breathtaking views. Its well-preserved frescoes add to its allure.

These sites are more than just tourist spots; they’re gateways to understanding the advanced and fascinating Maya civilization. Each offers a different experience, so try to include them in your itinerary to fully appreciate Cancun’s rich history.

You Better Go See Playa del Carmen While In Cancun

While vacationing in Cancun, a trip to Playa del Carmen is highly recommended. Just an hour’s drive south of Cancun, Playa del Carmen offers a distinct vibe with its laid-back atmosphere and picturesque settings. This coastal town is famed for its palm-lined beaches, turquoise waters, and the vibrant Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), a pedestrian street teeming with shops, restaurants, and bars. It’s a perfect place to experience a more relaxed pace while still enjoying a rich mix of cultural and leisure activities. The town is also a gateway to nearby attractions like the eco-parks of Xcaret and Xel-Há. They are known for their natural beauty and offer snorkeling, swimming, and a glimpse into the region’s ecology and history. Whether you’re looking for a day of shopping and dining, a beachside relaxation, or an adventurous outing, Playa del Carmen seamlessly blends these experiences, making it an unmissable destination during your Cancun area vacation.

Should You Shop When You Get There?

This mainly pertains to those who would be renting a house or condo or staying at a non-all-inclusive resort. You may want to shop when you get there. It will certainly make your packing easier. Cancún has plenty of great places to shop. One of which is Costco. Like Costco at home, you’ll find everyday stuff you love in great quantities for your vacation. You can read about the Cancún Costco on another blog we wrote.

Navigating Cancun International Airport

Navigating Cancun International Airport, one of Mexico’s busiest, can be a smooth experience with some preparation and knowledge. Firstly, it’s vital to have all necessary documents, like your passport, boarding pass, and entry forms, ready and easily accessible. This can expedite your journey through the airport. Consider using electronic copies on your phone as backups.

The airport offers fast-track services and self-serve kiosks to save time during immigration processing. These options can help bypass long lines and queues, especially during peak times. For ground transportation to your hotel, it’s recommended to pre-book. This ensures a secure and comfortable ride and saves time and hassle upon arrival.

Staying hydrated and having snacks can be crucial, as navigating the airport can be tiring. Packing a refillable water bottle and some light snacks can be helpful, especially considering the higher costs of purchasing these items at the airport. Also, familiarizing yourself with some basic Spanish phrases can enhance your interaction with locals and airport staff, as English is widely spoken but not universal.

Beware of the Shark Tank: Don’t Make Eye Contact 😉

Upon arrival, you’ll go through immigration and customs, which can take up to two hours. In all of my trips to Cancun International Airport, it has never taken longer than about 30 minutes. Having your documentation ready can speed up this process. After customs, the “Shark Tank” area is where you’ll find transport and timeshare counters. If you’re not interested, it’s best to keep moving and don’t make eye contact. Pre-arranged transportation should be waiting outside; they usually hold a sign with your name.

For transportation, there are various options such as taxis, private services, public buses, rental cars, and shared shuttles, each with its own pros and cons. Taxis and buses don’t require advance booking, but for private services, rental cars, or shared shuttles, booking ahead is advisable to avoid delays. Remember, Uber doesn’t operate at the airport for pickups but can be used within Cancun.

Lastly, it’s important to note that safety precautions like keeping valuables secure and using TSA-approved locks for your luggage are advised. The airport is generally safe, but standard safety measures should always be followed.

Consider Hurricane Season When Planning Your First Trip

When planning a trip to Cancun during hurricane season, which officially runs from June to November, it’s crucial to be aware of the weather conditions. The peak months for hurricanes are typically September and October. While Cancun has a warm average temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, the hurricane season can bring hot, humid conditions with occasional heavy rains and thunderstorms. It’s advisable to check the weather forecast before booking your trip and be prepared to adjust plans if necessary. Packing appropriate rain gear and having a flexible mindset can also enhance your experience. Despite the potential for hurricanes, Cancun remains a beautiful destination with plenty to offer during these months​.


I think you will find your trip to Cancún to be an amazing experience that will have you wanting to make a return trip as soon as possible. With the beautiful beaches, great weather, plentiful nightlife, and various dining options, Cancún has something for everyone.

Whether you are looking to relax, party, or experience a new culture, you can do it all in Cancún. Take some of the advice in this article to avoid getting overwhelmed in the details of planning a vacation and book your trip to Cancún, we’re confident you will be glad you did.

We’ve been to the Cancún area a lot. We’d love to help you plan your trip.

These are some other blogs we’ve written that may help on your first trip to the Cancún Area:

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