The first half of the year has been devastating for Mexico, where the tourism industry is reeling from the global economic crisis, drug-related violence (even if mostly at a remove from popular destinations), and the H1N1 flu scare.
But if you're feeling adventurous and in the market for an affordable, crowd-free beach vacation, Mexico may never have looked better.
The Centers for Disease Control lifted its ban on nonessential travel to Mexico back on May 15, and the Mexican Tourism Board has launched a $90 million recovery plan. We highlight some of the best air/hotel packages and hotel deals below.
Liberty Travel air/hotel sale, from $315 per person
This mega operator has air/hotel packages on sale for properties in Cancún, the Riviera Maya, and the Riviera Nayarit. The lowest price we found was $315 per person for an air/three-night all-inclusive package in Cancún, including transfers. Accommodations are at the Oasis Cancun. Gateways are Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh; other cities are available starting at an additional $24.
Book by: June 30, 2009.
When: Travel dates vary; most are through December.
Details: Taxes and fees are up to $250 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement will vary. As is typical for all-inclusive packages, all meals, snacks, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, and resort activities are covered in the package price.
Contact: 888/271-1584, libertytravel.com.
United Vacations air/hotel sale, from $709 per person
United Vacations' packages in Cancún and the Riviera Maya are up to $620 less expensive than at this time last year. The biggest savings are for an air/seven-night all-inclusive package at the Riu Cancun. The package was $1,329 per person last year; now it's $709 per person. The main gateway is Chicago, with additional gateways available for an extra cost.
When: Through June 19, 2009.
Details: Taxes and fees are up to $196 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement will vary.
Contact: 888/328-6877, unitedvacations.com.
El Cid Resort sale, from $68 per room per night
The four El Cid properties in Mazatlán are offering 30 percent off summer rates and a complimentary room upgrade. If you book a stay of three or more nights, you'll also receive a resort-credit coupon book worth $300 in savings; it includes coupons for dining, city tours, boating excursions, and spa services. And kids 12 and under stay and eat free at the resorts when accompanied by an adult. The $68 per night rate is available at El Cid Castilla Beach. Rates are higher at the other participating resorts: the El Cid Marina Beach, the El Cid El Moro Beach, and the El Cid Granada Country Club.
Book by: June 30, 2009.
When: Through Dec. 20, 2009.
Details: Taxes and fees are additional. Based on double occupancy; single occupancy rates will vary depending on the resort. Room upgrade is based on availability.
Contact: 866/306-6113, elcid.com.
Occidental Hotels & Resorts free nights, from $92 per room per night
Six all-inclusive Occidental resorts in Mexico are offering free nights in destinations like Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, and the Riviera Maya. The lowest rate is $92 per room per night, with each second night free, available at the Allegro Nuevo Vallarta. Kids 12 and under stay free at the resort. Add $20 per night for the Allegro Cozumel, or $22 per night for the Allegro Playacar.
Book by: June 15, 2009.
When: Through Dec. 20, 2009.
Details: All taxes and fees are included. Based on double occupancy; no single bookings. Requires a two-night stay.
Contact: 800/858-2258, occidentalhotels.com.
Barceló Resorts promotion, from $139 per room per night
The 11 Barceló Resorts in Mexico are offering two free nights valid for a future visit to anyone booking a five-night stay this summer. The lowest rate is $139 per night at the Tucancun Beach Hotel in Cancún. For $21 more per night, upgrade to the Maya Caribe Beach or the Maya Beach in the Riviera Maya, the Costa Cancun, the Huatulco Beach, the Ixtapa Beach, or the Karmina Palace in Manzanillo. A five-night stay starts at $695, but you'll get two free nights if you return for a five-night visit through Dec. 18, 2010 (with no blackout dates).
When: Through Sept. 30, 2009.
Details: Does not include taxes and fees. Based on single or double occupancy.
Contact: 800/227-2356, barcelo.com.
Bookit.com hotel sale, from $152 per room per night
Bookit.com has a special section dedicated to Mexican hotels and packages. There are a ton of deals to sift through. We spotted one for the all-inclusive Hotel Riu Santa Fe in Los Cabos. Rates start at $152 per room per night, a savings of 40 percent off the regular rate. Also, through June 16, if you book a stay of five or more nights at any Mexican resort, you'll receive a $250 air credit per reservation.
Book by: June 25, 2009, for the Hotel Riu Santa Fe package; deadlines for other deals vary.
When: Through Aug. 22, 2009.
Details: Does not include taxes and fees. Based on double occupancy; no single bookings.
Contact: 888/782-9722, bookit.com.
If you've got your heart set on Los Cabos, the Convention and Visitors Bureau has just announced exclusive discounts with some huge tour operators.
Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal, and check the State Department's Mexico travel fact sheet for updates. Remember that U.S. citizens now need a passport or other qualifying document for travel in Mexico—get the details on our blog.