Agencies offer cheap rates to Mexico

By Jennifer Amaviscva

Special to the Arizona Daily Wildcat

Mexico has long been University of Arizona students' spring break playground. Visions of beaches filled with slightly inebriated, half-naked coeds bring students to Mexico in droves.

But students, cramming for tests and writing papers, need to plan now for the next month's vacation and brush up on various border regulations before traveling.

"The key to getting the best package rates and availability is to plan ahead. Many students wait until the last minute and miss out on some great deals," said Delia Carrington, a travel consultant for Campus Travel, Inc.

Travel agencies offer a multitude of spring break packages to a variety of popular Mexican destinations. These include Mazatlan, San Carlos, Cancun and Cabo San Lucas.

Most packages include round-trip air transportation, lodging and transportation from airport to hotel. Students, however, need to be aware of the fine print.

Vacation package rates depend on double and quadruple occupancies of hotel rooms. A student traveling alone or groups not filling the required occupancies could end up spending the night with complete strangers. In most cases, however, there is an option to pay a higher price for privacy.

Also, Carrington explained, students making reservations usually need to put down a deposit. These deposits, deductible from the package price, range from $100 to a percentage of the total cost.

Students should plan their budget based on the amount of alcohol they intend to consume, Carrington said. "Food is very affordable. You can get a great meal for two, including margaritas, for under $10 in San Carlos."

In fact, according to Carrington, some students bring their own food and bottled water in a cooler on the plane to cut costs.

When traveling over the border into Mexico, a student must have proper identification to return to the United States.

In addition to a picture identification (driver's license), a student must also present proof of citizenship. The most common forms are an original or notarized copy of the student's birth certificate, a military identification card or a voter's registration card.

If the student intends to travel further into the Mexican interior, a temporary visa good for 30 days will be issued, usually on the plane.

Students planning to drive across the border have many more rules and regulations to watch out for. Mexican automobile insurance, in addition to American coverage, is required.

Mexican insurance rates, like American, vary according to the year and make of the student's vehicle. Again, students need to read the fine print to ensure the optimum coverage in event of an accident.

Cydney DeModica, of the American Automobile Association, said that when motorists choose Mexican auto insurance, they need to decide between liability and full coverage.

"Students need to ask themselves, 'Can I afford to mid

lose this car?" DeModica said.

If a student is traveling to Rocky Point, the process is straightforward. The motorist will need Mexican insurance but there are no hassles at the border.

Crossing through Nogales to the Mexican interior is a whole different story. At the 21 kilometer checkpoint, a motorist must show a promise to return, a car permit, American and Mexican insurance, and a temporary visa for each passenger. In addition, the owner of the car must present a U.S. credit card. The credit card must be in the same name as the owner of the vehicle.

AAA will prepare all of these documents before the trip for $20 for nonmembers and free of charge for AAA members. For the past few years, AAA has been authorized by Mexico to offer standardized forms to make the paperwork easier for tourists.

DeModica explained, "These papers need to be filled out before you arrive at the checkpoint. In fact, the Mexican government has a line reserved for AAA which cuts through all of the red tape. After all, if your paperwork is incomplete, it's a long way to travel to be denied access and have to turn around."

DeModica also added that the Mexican government has been working hard to improve road conditions and hotel accommodations.

One destination DeModica recommended is San Carlos. Only five hours from Tucson, it is sometimes referred to as "Arizona's beachfront." The road to San Carlos is new, and so are the hotels overlooking the beach, she said.

Carrington also recommended San Carlos as an affordable student destination. Campus Travel offered a package to San Carlos for under $200.

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