Hola Hualtulco

[trip style = beach + sun + budget-conscious]

It's 5:15pm on Dec 29th. Mr. Trip Styler and I are combing the travelsphere for a flash of sun-spiration. Huatulco, Mexico's heat and hues grab our attention. We've never been and the flight leaves in a day. As the sound of rain drips in a hypnotic drone from my balcony, spending the first week of 2014 consuming cervezas and guacamole al fresco turns from window shopping to buying. Before booking we check the weather report---an upside of last-minute travel---to confirm tropical temps and steer clear of the Polar Vortex. Seven straight days of sun makes the harried should we? moment before hitting "submit" so much easier: Hola Huatulco.

Hualtulco hugs the base of Mexico's Pacific Coast so far south it's the last major beach destination until Central America. "Do you love Huatulco?" "It's beautiful, si?" are the main questions asked by shopkeepers and taxi drivers. They're fiercely proud of their stomping grounds, a collection of 36 beaches and nine bays nestled into the cactus-covered coastline. If you have a private boat {or an affinity for bushwhacking} like some of the snowbirds we met, they'll tell you tales of many more beaches and bays.

Until recently, most of the spots I've visited in Mexico are driven by international tourism. Huatulco is different. Local hotels occupy every few buildings and far outnumber the big and beachy structures frequented by winter-averse margarita mavens. Beach dwellers are mostly Mexicans. Residents and visitors pay the same cab fares and eat at the same restaurants. This we're-all-in-the-same-boat approach to tourism is refreshing, like a cold Corona on the beach.


Arrocito Beach

Arrocito Beach

Tangolunda Beach

Tangolunda Beach

Chahue Beach

Maguey Beach

Maguey Beach

Maguey Beach

Maguey Beach

Tejon Beach

Tejon Beach

Tejon Beach

My beach read: Life by Keith Richards. About 200 pages in, you won't want to put it down. Tales of the Rolling Stones' shenanigans at concerts, in hotel rooms and on private jets will either conjure a love for your normal life or lust after fame.


Just opposite the main square in La Crucecita, Los Portales glows in technicolor with neon, plastic-woven chairs---a take on the famed Acapulco chair---bright lights and eye-popping dishes.

A bottle of Pacifico washed down my best chicken taco meal in Huatulco at Restaurante Arely, a festive locals' joint a few blocks off La Crucecita's main square.

MediterraneO, an on-the-beach, shipwreck-style restaurant we visited three times sporting swings as bar stools and wooden tables decorated with yellow gerbera daisies. Visit at night---9 or 10pm---to dance the night away to the rhythm of live music. Find it in the Santa Cruz neighborhood.

Don't rule out the beach for good food, either. At Maguey Beach we secured an umbrella and lounges for ordering a few Pacificos and guac.


Museo de Artesanias Oaxaquenas, a family collective of artisans making carpets, blankets and scarves by handweaving colors sourced from the land to dye local wool. Find it in the center of downtown La Crucecita.

Hotel Villablanca, a modest, little off-the-beach abode with included breakfast and WiFi. It's so well positioned two blocks from the beach, near a grocery store and a 15-minute walk from town that a flock of snowbirds winter here, meeting every day for breakfast and happy hour by the pool. Rooms are basic, beds are hard {common at local hotels in Mexico} and the grounds are well kept. From $60 per night.

- Cash is king. Credit cards are not widely accepted in local joints. Take out pesos as you need them at one of the many bank machines in town {HSBC, ScotiaBank, BancoMex and more}. - Brush up on your Spanish beyond "donde esta el bano" and "un cerveza por favor." English is not widely spoken.
- Cabs are very reasonable, with small trips starting at $2 or 25 pesos. Tip up.
- If you want to explore the local beaches, which I recommend, bring a beach umbrella. The breeze is light and won't overturn your shelter and there isn't much shade.
- Casual clothes are du rigueure {read: I never wore the wedges I packed, only my sandals, but know that I didn't stay at big, beachfront resort}.
- While you should always be street-smart when you travel, I never felt unsafe.
- Of course only drink bottled water and try all the local food!

[photos by @tripstyler]

Postcards From Puerto Vallarta

[trip style = beach + sun + weekend getaway]

Hola from Puerto Vallarta, the friendly city taco'd between Mazatlan and Acapulco on Mexico's West Coast. Less than a 4.5-hour flight from Vancouver, I'm not sure why my travels haven't taken me to this city saturated in colour and local warmth before now.

Since I'm on location until I fly home tonight, here are few photos as an aperitif---think of them as your guacamole before the full Mexi fiesta {full details about the town, the restaus and the hotels, as well as why I'm here coming your way on TS shortly}.

Hasta luego, Trish

PV Postcards {My hotel, Marival Residences and World Spa}

{Lush and historic Puerto Vallarta}

{Tableside deconstructed guacamole before it's sliced and diced to a chunky perfection}

{Fiesta in Bucerias}

{Sunset in the Riviera Nayarit - a crescent-shaped, far-reaching, sandy bay dotted by villas and resorts, a half hour from Puerto Vallarta}

[photos taken by @tripstyler while a guest of air transat/nolitours in puerto vallarta]

Find Your Calling

[trip style = benevolent] {video is below}

Three weeks ago I did the opposite of what 99.9% of travelers do in Mexico {read: sip salt-rimmed margs on the beach}---I revisited a place that completely changed the course of my life.

When I was 15, I had the opportunity to visit San Felipe {a little town at the top of the Baja} on my spring break to help build a clinic. The project was significant because the fishing town is isolated and only reachable via a a three-hour, straight-as-an-arrow highway from Mexicali. Without a proper clinic in town, people were dying on the side of the road while trying to reach Mexicali for acute care.

Along with a team of teens from Vancouver, BC, I chiseled concrete, dug trenches and painted to help give the residents something everyone should have access to, but many in the world do not, basic medical care.

I went down with the idea that I'd help the 'poor people' in Mexico. After all, they lived differently than me: in houses constructed with plywood scraps, built on sand, and surrounded by fences constructed of barbed wire and prickly cactus. I could NOT have been more misinformed. I have the locals of San Felipe to thank for changing what I care about, how I spend my time and how I spend my money. To them, I am FOREVER grateful.

Expedia recently got wind of my story, so I went back to San Felipe with a camera team. It is my HIGHEST honor to have revisited the place that disrupted my worldview and changed my course. The just-launched two-minute video is part of Expedia's new campaign: Find Yours.

Eighteen years ago, I found my calling---something I do quietly behind the scenes, but is probably one of the most important parts of my life---find yours.

Can't view this video?

ps - stay tuned, behind-the-scenes photos of San Felipe to come on Friday! And, one other video has been made about Dave & Deb finding their harmony, check it out!

The Savvy Traveler :: Jason

[trip style = beach + sightseeing + weekend getaway]

Jason's got it down. Each year he travels to a trio of far-flung locales on a big trip and a bevy of beach destinations on smaller trips. Along with weekends away, this has him escaping Vancouver at least once a month, all while holding a major role at one of Canada's most respected and longstanding retailers. The only way to couple his long work hours with his love of travel is to plan ahead and then go for it---even when it seems inconvenient. Extended weekend in Chicago, why not? Three-week, multi-country itinerary? No problem. Spot this stylish jetsetter---with a penchant for layering grey tones---traveling alongside his globetrotting partner, Hjalmar.

1/ What are your top 3 trip styles & why?
We typically break down our yearly vacations into major trips, minor tips and weekend getaways:

[trip style = weekend getaway] Managing the hectic work schedules of two people who live to travel is tough. Weekend getaways are a must! Our two-day escapes range from trip style = wine tasting in Kelowna to trip style = skiing in Whistler. Extended weekends involve trip style = beach'ing it in Hawaii or checking out the trip style = urban restaurant scene in Chicago.

[trip style = sightseeing] Every year we plan a longer vacation {anywhere from 2-3 weeks} focusing on destinations we haven’t yet explored. We love to experience new cultures, architecture, cuisine, etc. During this type of holiday, we typically pack in as much as possible, jetting to 3-4 different cities/countries. A few years ago we did London, Egypt and Dubai and last year we did Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

[trip style = beach] Since our major trips aren’t always the most relaxing and weekend getaways are too short to unwind, we definitely look forward to a week to 10 days on the beach, and nothing more. It’s usually a week in Mexico. It's the kind of trip where I don't feel guilty for doing absolutely nothing!

2/ What items are always on your packing list?
- Kiehl's Facial Fuel {moisturizer and SPF in one}
- Anything in grey {this color goes with everything and it's seasonally neutral}
- Flip flops
- Summer scarf
- Christian Dior duffle bag {the perfect carry-all...and it's grey of course}
- iPhone {I don't leave home without it -- staying connected is a necessity for me}

3/ Carry-on or checked bag?
If it’s a week or less, carry-on! I avoid checking luggage whenever possible. It slows everything down from the check-in to the baggage claim! When I'm only doing carry-on, I can get through check-in, security and customs in less than 10 minutes, and for weekend getaways, this is a must! However, for those longer trips where I do check a bag, I still tend to pack light. It’s less about what I’m bringing, and more about what I’m bringing back!

4/ Last trip, next trip & what destination{s} are on your radar?
Last Trip: Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong

Next Trip: Yearly pilgrimage to Coachella in Palm Desert

On My Radar: Later this year we’re headed to London, Holland and Turkey. We’ve also planned a weekend trip to NYC. Our next two major trips in the coming years include Australia and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

5/ Do you have any travel rituals you follow each time you jetset?
Naps! We tend to always take a nap or rest between 4-6pm. This way we recover from a long day of sightseeing and are ready for a night on the town. Splurge! We seek out and splurge on the best restaurant in town, usually relying on the recommendations of locals or friends. Research! We always figure out the must-sees and the must-dos everywhere we go. The internet is good, but pair it with the advice of people you trust!

6/ What's the one destination you could return to year after year?
Puerto Vallarta. For the past couple years we've spent our New Year's Eve holiday in PV. There’s a large group of our friends who go every year. It’s a great way to relax after a long year and a crazy holiday season, and re-group for the coming year. It’s a quick, fairly cheap way to holiday in sun and sand.

More Savvy Travelers
Marisa, Vacation Time Escapist
Shaun, Packing Like A Rock Star
Christina, Taking Care Of Biz

{If you know anyone who should be featured in our once-monthly The Savvy Traveler series, drop us a line!}

[photo c/o jason]