When I was in year 4 we studied the Aztecs. Since then, from the tender age of 8, I have always wanted to visit Mexico.
This was reaffirmed when I did a semester abroad last year: an anomaly amongst other Erasmus students, I actually went to classes, especially the ‘Pre-hispanic America’ module. I was hooked, I needed to see these temples.
I’d always wanted to travel during the second summer of University. Initially I was set on China and South East Asia, but when an opportunity arose to go to China for a year, I spontaneously sent a text to my travelling buddy saying ‘fuck it – let’s go to Mexico,’ and off we went to STA.
I’m very fortunate in that the people I am travelling with are happy to let my overly-organised self do all the planning. They also know I know exactly where and what I want to do, and are happy to follow. Because of this, I have ended up planning the entire six week holiday, minus the basic route which we all agreed on.
I have yet to leave, and some the things I have done may turn out to be redundant or stupid, but for now, here are some things I have done to plan my trip:
1. Actually plan it! A lot of people don’t plan. Of course this doesn’t always mean a bad trip, but if you don’t it may mean you can miss things which may not be open during parts of the year, or not know they’re happening. For example we’re going to a random town called Juchitán de Zaragoza for two days, because we read in the guidebook that there was a festival taking place on those dates. If we hadn’t known that, we wouldn’t even have thought about going there. Also, in places like Cancún, good hostels get filled up quickly, and personally I’m not so keen for a sharing a grotty bed with cockroaches.
2. Cross-reference hostels. Don’t get sucked into only using the Hostelworld website, because using them can sometimes be a rip-off. Read what sites such as tripadvisor says about a hostel too (reviews may differ), and refer to a guidebook. I also recommend Googling the hostel as well – if it has it’s own website that’s usually a god sign. Also, by reserving directly with the hostels you can often get a cheaper deal. Hostelworld is useful though, and I have booked a few places through them – but only after checking that it was both the cheapest way and that the hostel wasn’t a total dive.
3. Get a guidebook, for the obvious reason that you probably won’t have internet! Lonely Planet ‘On a Shoestring’ guides are really good. You also learn important info in them, such as border tax (in our case, for example, leaving from Belize to Guatemala) and the best ways to reach destinations.
4. Be aware of safety. It’s no joke. I don’t want to poop on the party but you really do have to be careful, both for health reasons and security reasons. The best thing to do is have a read up on www.fco.gov.uk, the UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, and keep yourself updated. Also, get all your jabs done well in advance because some take a few months, for example rabies is three doses. At Southampton Unidocs you need to first book a ‘travel appointment’ with the nurse, where an assessment of all the vaccines you will need is done, followed up with appointments for the actual jabs.
We’ll see if my obsessive planning pays off! Upon my (tanned) return you’ll find out.