Yes this was the exact expression I had on my face about 5 hours into our trip... realizing we were driving to Mexico.
Though I had countless hours planning this endeavouring trip, I was clueless in what to expect. I am grateful for all the amazing resources that were out there. I don't think we would've made it without them.
On the Road in Mexico was my life saviour, everything I needed to know was in this group. The group was filled with knowledge, advice, tips, things I needed to know and loving people encouraging me along our crazy adventure.
Bill Bell, the founder of On the Road in Mexico, profound years of traveling in Mexico and his knowledge, made me feel safe and confident. We purchased our Mexican insurance through Bill and was given the most detailed road log a person could ask for. I am forever grateful for these tools and resources.
This road log was a gift when purchasing insurance from Bill. It came in a PDF file, which I printed at Staples (or your local office depot) and got it coaled into a book. Cost me around $10 CDN. Defiantly worth every penny, as this book literally had everything I needed once we got to the Nogales, Mexico border. (Note: I don't have any direct affiliation with this group or these products, this information is solely based on my experience and what we used.)
I highly recommend anyone driving to Mexico check out this site. You will not be disappointed!
The trip was officially begun, 4627km to drive, 3 countries to cross, many hours of driving and lots of site seeing to see. Our final destination was Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico.
Our van was crammed with 11 suitcases, 2 adults, 2 children, one over-sized dog and all our necessary travel knick-knacks the kids required, to keep quiet.
Road-tripping is a fun and a budget friendly way to travel with your family and fur babies. Though flying can be a quicker option, for longer stays I prefer to drive my own vehicle. From previous travels, the cost incurred to rent a vehicle can be very pricey and if you're frugal like me, I would rather spend the extra money adventuring. However, travelling in the winter months and throughout the mountains, can bring unexpected weather. Another big reason we couldn't fly, was Marvin was too heavy to fly cargo internationally.
One thing you don't get when flying, is the opportunity to capture all the beautiful scenery you see along the way. We absolutely love pit-stop photo opportunities.
Our itinerary and stops we made along the way:
Edmonton to Las Vegas, Nevada is approximately 22.5 hours without stops.
Las Vegas to Nogales, Arizona is approximately 7.5 hours.
Nogales Border Crossing to Navojoa, Mexico is approximately 7 hours. (This is not factoring border crossing time and time spent at the 21km tourist stop)
Navojoa to Mazatlan, Mexico is approximately 6 hours.
Mazatlan to Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico is approximately 6 hours.
Our plans were to drive from Edmonton to Salt Lake City, however there was a huge blizzard coming in and would've been snowed in. So we decided to drive straight to Las Vegas. I don't recommend people driving 24 hours straight with two kids, as they get cranky, irritable and restless, making mommy quite grumpy. We planned a few days in Las Vegas to celebrate New Years Eve and to break up the trip.
Our next stop was Nogales, Arizona. As suggested by many people in the "On the road in Mexico" group, it was advised to sleep the night and head across the border at dawn.
NOTE: Nogales, Arizona border crossing opens at 6am.
Six am came along trying to find our way to the border, we were lost like chickens with no heads. Google Maps kept leading us into back-roads and crossing into the river (like in the movies). Thankfully after 40 minutes of driving around, we finally found our way.
Crossing the border into Mexico
This was one hell of an experience I tell you. We are driving down the highway and all of a sudden we see a sign that says "Mexico", so we knew we were heading in the right direction. Than out of nowhere we see a gentleman in the middle of road stopping traffic.
We had absolutely no clue what was going on, my mind was flooded with frightening thoughts and I began to stress. We arrive to the gentleman, barely able to see his figure in the early morning darkness, he says, "Hola, ¿A dónde vas a viajar?". (Hi, where are you travelling too?) I somehow managed to understand what he was asking, I quickly blurted "Puerto Vallarta, gracias" and he let us through. That was it, that was our border crossing, my 5 minutes of hyperventilating was for nothing. Driving for another five minutes or so, we arrive to what appeared to be a check station. So being clueless, we pulled into a station and waited and we waited some more. No-one was coming to inspect us, I finally got out and asked a gentlemen from Arizona, what I needed to do. After be advised, that this inspection area was only for boats, trailers and RV's, we left. We were in Mexico, this was not a typical border crossing for us, there was no border officer, no-one checking your passport...nada!
We are in Mexico!
For anyone driving in through Nogales, be sure to stop at the 21km mark (if you have the road log, detailed instructions are in there), this is where you will purchase your tourist visas, TIP permit, and pay your vehicle deposit.
We are in Mexico right? Well, stupid me was dressed like it was summer, flip flops, capris and a light sweater. In early January, they have snow and it was below 0, not anticipating the time it was going to take at the 21km spot, I had time to freeze. The whole process took about 45 minutes to an hour, in the freezing cold! So if you are travelling in the winter, be prepared Nogales, Mexico can have snow. (The fun times)
Ahhhh we finally hit some sun and heat! It made the trip worth every single moment of our drive worth it. As you can see, we were a little over dressed for 30 above. I don't think it too much guessing where we were from based on our clothing.
Many people on the facebook group advised to split the trip up in 6-7 hour driving increments, for safety. We listened the first time around, but the next few times driving we drove longer hours and less stopping. In saying this, we were travelling with budgeted amount of money, no back up credit cards and were anxious to get to our new home. If our circumstances were different, we would've definitely taken more time to stop and visit along the way. (This is how our journey went, it wasn't always pretty but we took a chance and made it happen. We only live once right?)
Our next stop for the night was in Navojoa, Mexico. This city was definitely not a touristy place. There was no-one that spoke English here, I mean no-one. I had booked our hotels months prior, having a dog travelling can have it's disadvantages. In Mexico, there are very few hotels that accept mascotas (pets). So, all the 4-5 star hotels were a no-go. After countless hours of researching I finally booked our hotel at Hotel del Mayo, the trip advisor reviews were decent and hooch was allowed to stay.
Arriving to the room, I was a little overwhelmed and disappointed (is the kindest way I could put it). I literally had a breakdown outside of the hotel room, I don't know why, but I did! Maybe it was the thought of sleeping with potential cockroaches or maybe the build up of all the emotions building up. I knew I was totally overreacting and it was the tiresome that was playing an effect.
The kids, total opposite, they were completely oblivious in what was going on. They were super excited about being in a new hotel, they loved the hiding cubby in the closet and the pool that was too cold to go in. Just goes to show that kids have more of an imagination than adults.
After drinking six pack of beer, I slept like a baby fully clothed lol.
On the road again... we finally made it to Mazatlan. Where I finally was able to dip my toes in the sand, drink a nice cold cerveza and relax on the beach. Everything we sacrificed, everything we got rid of, the hours of travelling...it was worth this moment! I knew in my heart that we had made the right choice for our family. I can't describe the feeling, but I felt like a cement truck was lifted off my shoulders. My dream was finally coming true, it felt like a fairy tale.
We lucked out in finding a pet-friendly hotel to stay for the night, right on the Malecon (boardwalk), Aguamarina Hotel
Finally on the home-stretch the last 6 hours to go. We were all anxiously waiting to get out of the vehicle and get settled in to our place. While driving on the side of the highway, locals were selling oranges and bananas freshly picked.
HOME SWEET HOME! We had finally arrived to our new house and welcomed by our amazing Mexican family (friends). A huge thank you to them, for helping us find a place and getting us settled in.
Our 4627km trip came to and end. We were finally settled and ready to freely adventure for the next 5 months.