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Mexico City is a fascinating destination no matter what type of traveler you are. There’s great food, incredible nature nearby, interesting drinks to sample, and plenty of history. Better yet, it’s only a short flight away from most of the United States and on a similar time zone, so jet lag won’t be a concern if you only have time for a short trip.
It’s fairly easy to get flights to Mexico City (MEX) from just about anywhere in the United States. Mexico City is the hub for Aeromexico. You can find nonstop flights from most major cities, or a connecting flight with their partner Delta.
United and American also have flights to Mexico City from most of their hubs. Alaska, Jetblue, and Southwest have all discontinued service to Mexico City, but you can use Alaska miles to fly on American.
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card
35,000 SkyMiles after $1,000 spend in the first 3 monthsLearn more
If you want to use miles for your trip, Delta is a good first place to look. They have a very close relationship with Aeromexico, so you have a lot of options using Delta SkyMiles – and sometimes you can get an incredible deal.
For example, in mid-August you can book a Delta flight from Dallas (DFW) to Mexico City (MEX) for just 11,000 miles.
40,000 SkyMiles after $2,000 spend in the first 3 monthsLearn more
However, this example also shows that Mexico City has notoriously high taxes and fees – in this case, you’d have to pay $114.27 on top of your miles. Most of these taxes are priced in pesos, so the amount of tax fluctuates with the exchange rate.
At this deeply discounted price, you’d still be getting 1.2 cents per mile, which is not terrible by any means, especially for SkyMiles. But when the mileage rates are closer to normal, it becomes a worse deal.
You can see here that Aeromexico’s nonstop flight doesn’t get the same mileage discount – even though the cash price is actually cheaper, you’d have to pay the standard price of 23,000 miles plus $108 in taxes – a value of just 0.7 cents per mile, even calculating on the more expensive “classic” economy fare.
Other mileage programs offer similarly low value. For the same dates, American Airlines offers a non-changeable “web special” ticket for 20,000 miles, or a standard award ticket for 30,000 miles. Like Aeromexico, you’d pay $108 in taxes for this nonstop flight.
That same ticket would cost you $260 for basic economy, so you’d be using 20,000 miles to save $152 – again, just 0.7 cents per mile.
50,000 miles after $5,000 spend in 3 monthsLearn more
United offers even worse value, with prices starting at 35,000 miles roundtrip.
When ticket prices are low, you can often get significantly better value with bank points. For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can pay just 17,333 Ultimate Rewards points for those same American Airlines flights.
Citi ThankYou Premier card holders would pay 20,800 ThankYou Points at 1.25 cents per point (this drops to 1 cent per point as of August 23, 2020). Even using American Express Membership Rewards at 1 cent per point (26,000 points) would get you better bang for your buck than using American or United miles.
In all of these cases, you’d pay no additional taxes (they’re included in the points price), and you’ll even earn miles in your frequent flier program of choice.
Most of the major hotel chains have a presence in Mexico City, and there are some great deals to be found.
Marriott has by far the widest variety of hotels in the city. On the more luxurious end of the Marriott spectrum, you can stay at the Le Meridien for 20,000-30,000 points per night. For 40,000-60,000 points per night, you can choose between the J.W. Marriott, the W, or the highly-rated Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel.
If you’re trying to save your points, consider the Four Points Colonia Roma, which will cost you just 15,000-20,000 points per night. Plus, with Marriott, you get a free night on stays of five nights or more.
IHG loyalists also have some great options. The Holiday Inn Zona Rosa is in a perfect location for visitors and costs a shockingly low 10,000 points per night. At the other end of the spectrum, the Intercontinental Presidente in Polanco is just 35,000 IHG Rewards points per night.
Depending on where you need to be in the city, there are several other Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Crowne Plaza properties in between these price points. If you have the IHG Premier credit card, you’ll get your 4th night free on stays of four nights or longer.
There are fewer options for Hyatt loyalists. The two most central locations are the Hyatt Regency Mexico City and the Strata Hamburgo. Both hotels are Category 3 properties costing 12,000 points per night.
If you’re interested in staying a bit further out, the Hacienda Pena Pobre has great reviews and is a Category 4 property costing 15,000 points per night.
The two Hilton hotels located near the city center are the Hilton Mexico City Reforma and the Hampton Inn and Suites Mexico City – Centro Historico. You can expect to see prices at these hotels starting around 20,000 and 10,000 Hilton Honors points, respectively.
When shopping for hotels, be sure to keep in mind that Mexico City is absolutely massive, so be sure to look at a map to see where hotels are located before booking. You wouldn’t be the first traveler to think they got an incredible deal at the JW Marriott Santa Fe, only to realize that you’re staying in a suburban office park an hour away from the city center.
Just 25 miles north of the city is Teotihuacán, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the largest city in the Americas, and is home to some of the region’s most significant pyramids. It’s an easy day trip (or even half-day) – just make sure you get started early to beat the city’s notoriously bad traffic.
Comfortable and frequent bus service is available from the northern bus terminal for less than $5 USD roundtrip (search for Autobuses del Norte or Terminal Central del Norte), or you can hire a driver or book a private tour.
Admission to the pyramids is similarly inexpensive, so you can have an amazing experience for very little money. There are also numerous group and private tours available.
Mexico City has a wide variety of ridiculously affordable museums, from the massive National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropología) to more specialized institutions like the Folk Art Museum (Museo de Arte Popular) and the Museum of Memory and Tolerance (Museo Memoria y Tolerancia).
Smaller museums have also been built in and around the homes of major historical figures like Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Leon Trotsky.
Seriously, you can’t go to Mexico City without having tacos for at least one meal (or preferably every meal). There are, of course, a variety of options for every price point, from street corner tacos in virtually every neighborhood to a ten-course taco bar omakase tasting menu at Pujol (ranked the best restaurant in North America in 2019).
For something in between, El Califa is a popular chain with locations across the city. You can even find vegan tacos at several places in Roma Norte, like Gracias Madre Taqueria Vegana or La Pitahaya Vegana.
For flights to Mexico City, credit cards that earn transferable (re flexible) points that can be transferred to airline partners or used in a bank travel portal are ideal.
Chase Ultimate Rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, allow you to use your points to book flights in the Chase travel portal. While Chase points are worth 1.5 cents each in the travel portal with the Sapphire Reserve, they’re still worth 1.25 cents each if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred. Of course, you can also transfer Chase points to partners like United MileagePlus and British Airways Executive Club.
Amex Membership Rewards points can also be transferred to airlines such as Delta or redeemed via Amex Travel for cash tickets. If you go with the latter route, it’s best to have the Business Platinum Card from American Express or the American Express Business Gold as you’ll get a 35% or 25% rebate on the points you use, respectively.
When it comes to hotels, Marriott and IHG both offer multiple credit cards that will give you enough points to easily cover a weekend getaway. The IHG Premier card is particularly attractive for a long weekend, since you’ll get the fourth night free on award bookings for four nights or longer.
Mexico City is an incredible place to visit, and while you’re not going to be able to take in the entire city in a weekend, a week, or even a month, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy delicious food and fascinating cultural experiences without breaking the bank.
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