Cheap Flights: Fly into Mexico from $76 in June

How can a single mom afford to travel so much? Budget airlines that offer dirt cheap flights. To be even more specific, Mexican budget airlines. In the 7 years since I moved abroad, there are three companies that have grown and continue to expand their service to international destinations. They now serve large U.S. cities: Vivaaerobus, Volaris and Interjet. They are also continuously adding new routes in Central America.

Small prices but Big Improvements

When I first flew with these companies, over 5 years ago, they couldn’t accept my U.S. debit card online and the websites were all in Spanish. I remember having to book online, print out a voucher and bring it to the local Oxxo (7/11 style convenience store) to pay in cash. I had the opportunity to fly with all three of them in the past few months, on different routes. I have noticed several attempts to bridge the language barrier and appeal to international travelers. They are now giving instructions in English and Spanish and using bilingual flight attendants. Of course, their websites also have English versions and will accept all major debit/credit cards. Still, when I travel one them, I am usually the only foreigner. Why? Because most non-Mexicans don’t know about these airlines.

Why don’t you know about these cheap options?

They won’t show up if you search on many of the travel websites, like Google flights, Orbitz, Travelocity, etc. But if you are willing to put a few minutes into checking out flights on their direct websites, you can end up saving hundreds on your airfare. To give you an idea, I flew from Merida to Veracruz on Vivaaerobus in March for under $50 with a baby and luggage. I also recently flew from Mexico City to Guatemala City on Interjet for under $200 again with the same baby and luggage. Below, you will find some of their upcoming deals, what U.S. cities they service and certain travel tips that I have discovered along the way.

Mexico’s budget airlines

Vivaerobus 

Service from: Houston, Texas

Vivaaerobus currently only flies out of Houston, but has extensive routes within Mexico if you plan to visit more than one city.

Best Upcoming Deal: Houston to Monterrey any Sunday, Monday or Friday in June for $76.55 (including 1 carry-on and 1 checked-in bag).

Travel tips: Vivaaerobus operates similarly to Spirit Airlines. They are a no-frills carrier. Expect to pay more if you are traveling with several pieces of luggage. They have three different fair rates: light, basic and smart. Each includes different amenities like additional luggage, preferred check-in and boarding, seat selection, etc. They have limited service from the U.S., but once in Mexico they have many route options at the cheapest prices.

Volaris 

Service from: Over 20 U.S. Cities, Ontario, Guatemala City and San Jose

Volaris has the largest presence in the U.S., serving many major cities and is expanding into Central America.

Best Upcoming Deal: New York City to Mexico City on June 26th for $111.13.

Travel Tips: Sign up for the VClub if you are planning to travel round trip or more than once with this airline within the year. If you pay in pesos, the Vclub costs $500 MXP pesos ($26.71 USD according to today’s exchange rate). However, if you pay in dollars, it costs $49.99. *One note: If you are traveling with a baby, Volaris is the only airline of these three that required an additional payment for infant luggage. This included a stroller, car seat and carry-on diaper bag. The other airlines checked my stroller for free at the gate.

Interjet 

Service from: New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Las Vegas and several cities in Latin America (including Cuba).

Interjet services a few major U.S. cities, but also Cuban cities and Guatemala City.

Best Upcoming Deal: Miami to Cancun on June 26th for $123.02.

Travel Tips: The light fare option does not include a checked in bag. It is an additional $25 USD for a checked in bag. Often times, you can choose the Optima fare category for the same price or just slightly higher. This option comes with additional benefits. You can choose your seat and are able to change the passenger name or your flight for a discounted rate ($35).

ALWAYS SEARCH IN THE LOCAL CURRENCY

Additionally, you should note that to get the best deal, search in the local currency. The following fares were in pesos and converted to dollars at the current exchange rate of 18.68 pesos to 1 dollar. The difference in the peso and dollar fares ranged from $6 to $33 for the same flight. If you are flying round-trip and/or with other people, that money can add up quickly.

To continue saving on these budget airlines

All three of these companies have sales and promotions all the time. If you are a frequent traveler, it is worth it to sign up for their e-mail alerts. Vivaerobus sometimes has flights up to 90% off (at $300 pesos, just over $15), Volaris and Interjet up to 50% off. Either way, they are basic and cheap airlines that will get you to your destination for a fraction of many other companies.

These were just some of the specials that I found for the month of June. July and August are the high season for American travelers to Mexico, so there are few deals to be found during those months. Of course, if you look ahead to September through December, you will find even better prices in the low season.

 

Online Teachers: Make More Money Being Effective

Online teachers are popping up everywhere as the demand far outweighs the supply. This is one of the quickest ways for a native English speaker, or Spanish or Chinese, etc., to find online work and, if they want, to begin traveling. Teaching online offers the flexibility to work from home or abroad while gaining a stable income. It is also particularly attractive to people like me, a single parent and/or a stay a home mom with a young child that I would prefer not to put in daycare (I couldn’t afford it anyway!). I also enjoy the freedom of being able to work wherever I want, as long as the internet connection is stable and fast.

But what about licensing/certification/degrees?

Yes, in a perfect world, all online teachers would have degrees, certifications and/or licenses, but there simply are not enough qualified teachers to fill the demand. Countries like China, Japan, Russia and those in the Middle East will pay top dollar for effective online teachers. But what does an effective teacher mean exactly? In my opinion, it is one that will help the student improve his/her language skills in each and every class.

One of the biggest mistakes that amateurs make, upon becoming an “online teacher”, is that they think they are being paid to have a conversation. While this is a ploy often used in recruitment advertisements (i.e. “Make Money by Speaking English!), there is much more to being an online teacher. In fact, I have gained a number of private students who come to me from other teachers. Their biggest complaint is that the teacher expected to chat for the class and had not prepared anything formal.

Tips for being an Online Teacher

Here are some hints and tricks to make your online teaching as successful as possible so that you can retain students long term:

  • Prepare: You need to prepare a lesson plan as if you were a teacher in a classroom. Even conversational lessons need to have a list of vocabulary to focus on and at least one grammar point. Sometimes online companies will provide lessons for you, but you still need to take a few minutes to look through the materials and make 2 – 3 backup activities that you can if you finish early. It is easy enough to create a role-play based on almost any material to keep the class going and provide additional practice.
  • Dress Professionally: Yes, one of the benefits of working as an online teacher is that you can literally do it in your underwear. But from the chest up, you need to be presentable if you are on camera. If you work in a hot climate, like I do, make sure to have acceptable shirt or blouse nearby to put on for your classes.
  • Environment: Although this is a great job for a stay at home parent, you need to make sure your environment is appropriate. Students don’t want to hear crying babies or toddlers or to be constantly interrupted during their classes. If you have young children, I would suggest scheduling classes while they are asleep (which is possible with the time zone changes in many parts of the world). You can also enlist a mother’s helper, to play and entertain them while you work (this is what I do), or you can work opposite your partner’s schedule… but either way, children and other interruptions, like televisions, pets, and traffic are distracting to the student.
A quiet environment is a must for online teachers. Voices, noises, pets, traffic, etc. can all distract and frustrate the student.
  • Correct: Students need to be corrected as much as possible. You will have to figure out when it is appropriate to immediately correct, or when to wait until the end of the activity (for example, reading a text), but you should try to correct the students as much as possible. It is even better if you can record the new vocabulary and pronunciation mistakes to include in the after class feedback. Correction is even more important for adult students, who want to see progress in their learning with each class.
  • Visual Aids: According to the Multiple Intelligence Theory, there are several types of learners. The majority are strongly inclined towards visual learning. In an online class, you can use an interactive whiteboard (I use http://www.realtimeboard.com) and/or screen sharing to help increase the visuals. You can also use this to point out corrections and pronunciation errors. Repetition of the words will also reach auditory learners. Sometimes students need to repeat a work up to five times before they can say it easily and you should be aware of that and be patient with them.
Use colorful visual aids to introduce new vocabulary. You can find plenty of examples on Google image search.
  • Adjust your Speech: You will need to speak slowly and clearly for even advanced learners. What seems like slow motion to you may be overwhelming to them. They will need time to absorb the information and think of a response. Speaking slowly helps to give them that chance without a misunderstanding or a long, awkward pause while they think of an answer.
  • Feedback: All students should receive some type of feedback following each class. It is important for adult students, and parents, to see the progress that the student is making. Feedback can come in many forms, but generally, you can prepare a report (even from a template) which includes new vocabulary from the lesson, grammar points, advice and perhaps homework assignments. I choose to send an e-mail that contains the materials used in class, screen shots, lesson notes, and homework.

Final Thoughts for online teachers

While this is not expected to be your certification as an online teacher, I hope that the previous points will be helpful to your new career. Successful online instructors are ones that provide value to the student and show them that they are advancing and learning more with every class. Also, as a final note, smile! You want to show the student that you are enjoying your job and the time you spend with them.

In my next article, I will be writing about communicative activities which can be used in the online classroom in order to get students speaking in the target language. Stay tuned!

Mexico: Living at the Beach on $800/month

One of the first questions that people ask before moving abroad is how much money they should expect to spend per month. And the answer is always, it depends. Which is true. This post is specific to the country of Mexico, which right now has a favorable exchange rate for those who are making dollars. But it still depends on the city, location within the city, the size of the dwelling and lifestyle factors. There seems to be two types of expats that relocate to the developing world; those who want to live like a king and those who want to blend in with the locals. I am definitely the latter.

That being said, I do enjoy eating out a couple times a week, and I love my margaritas on the beach. I’m sure we could slice the budget down even further by giving up those luxuries, but I’d rather not. I decided to relocate with my daughter to Progreso, in the state of Yucatan, Mexico. It is a small beach town. There is a retired ex-pat population and cruise ships stop here 2 – 3 times per week, but other than that, it isn’t a big tourist destination, which is exactly what I wanted. It is about 4 hours by bus to Cancun so we are also close enough to a major airport and a tourist hotspot if we want a little more adventure.

Progreso is a small, quiet and relaxing beach town.

Our Expenses in progreso, mexico

Rent: $200 USD monthly for a furnished studio apartment with separate kitchen and bathroom. Utilities (electricity, water, cable, and internet) included.

Part-time nanny: $35 per week

Food: $30 per week ($25 at the grocery store and $5 at the market)

Well baby visit: $20 once a month

Vaccines: free

Formula and Diapers: $16 per week

Transportation: $3.50 per week. (I take a taxi to the supermarket at the entrance to the town once a week.)

Laundry service: $3 once a week

Spending money per week: $57.50 for eating out, buying clothes, medicine, etc.

Personal Insights on mexico

As you can see, we don’t spend much money at all compared to living in the U.S. Mexico has always been a bargain for expats, but even more so recently. The exchange rate, which is nearly 20 pesos to 1 dollar, helps save a lot of money monthly, especially on formula and diapers. I also make my own baby food with fruits and vegetables from the market and a blender.

One of the biggest money savers is that we don’t need a car. Our apartment is located 2 blocks from the beach and 4 blocks from the town’s market and supermarket. Everything is within walking distance and my daughter loves to go for walks in the stroller. Our other entertainment is the beach, which is free.

Her stroller is our main mode of transportation, even on the beach.

And although she isn’t quite ready to play at the parks, there are plenty of them around. Overall, Mexico is a very family friendly country and you can find children playing in the streets and at the parks well into the night.

There are plenty of free parks for kids and some have exercise equipment for adults.

I try not to eat out every day, but when I do want to treat myself to a margarita, they run about $3 at the beachfront restaurants and food is $5 – $8 per plate. If I go to eat at the market, meals are $2 – $3.50. At the end of the week, I always have spending money left over.

Additionally, if I were a single person, I would be spending just $576 monthly, as the nanny, pediatrician and baby items run about $224 per month.

To make sure you get the best deal possible when you move to mexico or abroad

  1. Learn the local language. If you don’t, you will end up paying much more for housing.
  2. Rent a hotel room or Airbnb for a few days. You will find the best rental prices by walking around and looking for “for rent” signs.
  3. Ask the locals (The lady that owns the laundry mat found our current apartment for us).
  4. Weigh the pros and cons of the location. You may pay more to be downtown but if you save on a car payment, gas, maintenance and insurance, it may be worth it.
  5. Ask your landlord about throwing in appliances and/or furniture. Mine was able to lend me a gas stove and propane tank so I didn’t have to purchase one myself.

Do you have questions?

I hope that this has been helpful to you if you are considering moving abroad. If I have forgotten anything or if you have a question, please comment below.

If you are considering moving to Latin America, I provide online Spanish lessons. You can find more information about them here.

Note: Prices are in USD and have been calculated at a 20 pesos to 1 dollar exchange rate. The actual rate at the time of this post was 19 to 1. In recent months the peso has fluctuated between 18 and 22 to a dollar.

 

Work Online: The Best Entry Level Jobs

More and more companies are hiring employees to work online. If you are thinking about becoming a digital nomad, or have already made the decision to, then you need to figure out a way to support yourself financially during your travels. Additionally, if you are a stay at home parent, working online can be especially appealing as you can save on commuting and childcare costs.

Many jobs can be done remotely, such as web design, graphic design, APP developers, etc. But, most people don’t have the skills or training (or the time or money to go back to school) to obtain these positions. In this article, I am going to outline the realistic online work opportunities that can get most people on the way to infinite travel. And to be clear – you won’t find any scams on this list or MLM jobs. These are legitimate positions which will help you earn a stable income, as long as you have access to the internet.

It’s important that you don’t get discouraged by the salary estimations listed below. If you are traveling through most parts of the world, you will be making much more than the local salaries (for example, I am currently in Mexico where the minimum wage is about $4 per day). It will allow you to live comfortably and perhaps save a little along the way, depending on your lifestyle.

my recommendations for entry level jobs to work online

  1. Teach English (or another language) online

This is how I make my living as I travel. I teach English and Spanish online. While I have my university studies in language education and teaching with technology, this isn’t a necessity in this field. There are plenty of Asian-based, online English companies that will hire and train native English speakers to teach online. You can expect to earn $8 – $16 an hour with most companies. If you are starting out in this field, I can recommend trying Tutor ABC, Open English (if you are bilingual Spanish/English or Portuguese/English) or Education First. They are the largest companies, with comprehensive training for new teachers and many students. If you enjoy working with children, try VIPKid, which pays a little higher.

  1. Virtual Assisting

More and more VA jobs are becoming available as people are working from home and don’t necessarily have the room to have a live assistant in their home office. Additionally, you may end up working for someone abroad who needs your native English language skills. VAs are responsible for checking e-mails, setting appointments, communicating with customers and anything else an in-person assistant may be asked to do. Pay varies depending on the location of the company but a U.S. based one should pay at least $7.25 an hour.

  1. Customer Service/Support

Companies like Amazon, top hotel chains, and United Healthcare are hiring remote agents to handle incoming calls (there are also thousands of sales related remote call center positions available but these don’t guarantee a steady income and most people don’t enjoy selling). You may be dealing with upset customers, making hotel reservations or helping patients with insurance questions, just like a call center employee would in an office. Amazon was advertising their positions just before Christmas at $10 an hour.

  1. Data Entry

If you are somewhat familiar with computers and are a fast typist, then data entry may be a good fit for you. Companies hire people to fill out their software with information on customers, purchases, internal statistics and more. You may have to be trained on their software or it could be in Microsoft Excel or another program that you are already familiar with. Pay varies depending on the company and type of information, but the median wages are around $15 per hour.

  1. Non-medical Transcription

Transcription is the act of listening to an audio and typing what you hear. It’s as simple as that. It does require you to be very fast at typing and detail oriented, but there is a large demand for this type of worker. I have done freelance projects in the past, transcribing YouTube videos for English materials. Other possibilities may be transcribing podcasts, radio broadcasts, television programs and more. Non-medical transcription requires no special training other than an excellent grasp of the target language. Pay is usually determined by the number of words you have to type or per hour of audio, so the faster you type, the more money you will make.

Travel to exotic destinations without having to take off work. 

Options for Certain Skilled Workers

These jobs deserve some honorable mentions, although they may require some type of industry knowledge or training:

  • Medical transcription
  • Medical billing and coding
  • Call center technical support
  • Social media marketing
  • Content/technical writing
  • Translation

Legitimate Job Websites to find Remote Work online

There are many more websites to find remote work, but these are ones that I have experience with personally. You can also find remote positions on big job websites like Monster.com.

  • Ratracerebellionhttp://ratracerebellion.com/ In addition to their big list of work from home jobs, this website has a separate section for call center/customer service jobs.
  • Upwork https://www.upwork.com/ Make a profile and then begin searching. This website has plenty of jobs in each of the categories listed above. In addition, you can easily find online English teaching jobs on this website.
  • Freelancer https://www.freelancer.com This website is best for finding data entry and virtual assisting jobs. You will also have to make a profile to be able to submit proposals.

Equipment/Set-Up

  • A quiet, professional place to work (no dogs barking or children crying in the background if you plan to teach online)
  • A laptop
  • A USB connection headset (I recommend the Microsoft Lifechat LX-3000, which many companies use as their standard equipment, which can be purchased at Amazon.com:

  • A strong internet connection (note: some companies require a hardwired connection with a LAN cable. You can purchase one here:

 

FYI: The above are affiliate links.