I like being master of my own destiny. I like to roll my own vacations and make all the arrangements myself. But I also like saving money, and everybody who travels knows that sometimes package deals from tour operators are the way to save a few bucks. When the deals are there, I do what any smart bargain hound would do --- I let the tour operator give me the cheapest seat on the plane.
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I also like traveling in Mexico. It's probably my favorite country to vacation in. So many great beaches. So many historical sites. So many cultural opportunities.
Over the last several years, I've done a handful of trips through a Mexican tour operator called Magnicharters. They're not going to be for everyone, since they only have departures out of Monterrey and Mexico City, but if your travel plans already include those cities, booking a Magnicharters package could be a very affordable way to add on a great beach getaway, since that's what Magnicharters does best.
There are a couple of non-beach destinations that Magnicharters serves (like the Yucatan capital of Merida --- a great jumping off point for exploring the Mayan heartland), but by and large, it's the big Mexican beach areas that Magnicharters serves: Acapulco, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta --- these are where the best deals are found.
How Magnicharters Differs from Other Tour Operators...
I've always been a cheapskate when it comes to travel. I love the victory of paying a low price almost as much as I love the actual vacation experience.
When I was living in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas, I booked a few package deals to Caribbean or Mexican beach resorts, and I got used to the normal routine of those deals. Flight check-in at the airport would be handled at an unmarked counter by ARA Airport Services employees, the flight would be operated by No Name Charters, and when you landed, a guy in a plain white T-shirt would direct you to a mixed fleet of buses or vans to get you to your hotel, whereupon you'd never see a tour company representative again until it was time to head back.
Magnicharters is a bit different. They own and operate their own fleet of aircraft, for one thing --- all Boeing 737s. When you arrive at either Monterrey International Airport or Mexico City International Airport, you'll see that Magnicharters has their own check-in counters that not only as nice as mainstream airlines, but that have carpets rolled out and a veritable army of yellow-shirt-clad smiling beautiful young people, eager to help you and speed on your way.
Magnicharters never ceases to amaze me. Their vacation packages are cheaper than those sold by the major airlines, yet their service is 10 times better.
Check-in is fast and friendly. Even if there's a line, one guy is checking your name against a passenger manifest and helping you affix luggage tags before you even reach the counter. Seat assignments are done at the counter, but it's usually a quick, straightforward process, and I have never had to wait more than about 5 or 10 minutes to check in for any Magnicharters flight.
On the planes too, service is excellent, with more yellow-shirt-clad flight attendants per flight than mainstream carriers provide. Full meals and full drink service is provided on every flight. Candies are provided when you board the flight, and all seats are comfortable with leather upholstery and more leg room than you get on mainstream carriers.
Not only is there no nickel-and-diming for drinks like you encounter on U.S. flag carriers, you're usually offered a second complimentary beverage. (Can you tell that I really like these Magnicharter guys???)
Almost all the flights are direct, though I've twice had return flights stop. Once, on a trip from Cancun, the flight en route to Monterrey stopped to discharge passengers in Mexico City, and on a trip from Puerto Vallarta, the flight stopped in Mazatlan to pick up passengers. Even in these cases, it was remarkable how intelligent and efficient the stop was conducted. Magnicharters had the passengers embarking or debarking those locations in the front rows so the second the cabin door opened, they were off or on the plane. I swear I don't think we were on the tarmac more than 10 minutes before the plane was airborne again. Southwest Airlines could learn a lesson in efficiency from these guys!
Arriving at your destination, again, an army of yellow-shirt-clad Magnicharters employees, organizing their clients into groups for the buses to their resort areas.
At each of the resorts I've stayed in, there's been Magnicharters employees available to help with everything. They were watching over the check-in process and making sure their clients didn't run into problems with "reservations not found", and when rooms weren't available promptly, it was Magnicharters employees who would take care of short-term baggage check and making sure it got delivered to your room. On the last trip we did through Magnicharters, a local representative called us the first evening to make sure that the hotel experience was good and he didn't even try to sell us an add-on daytrip package! It was simply a customer service call!
Sometimes I chuckle when I'm reading horror stories posted here about other tour companies. I never have bad experiences with Magnicharters. I don't know how they keep their service levels so high, or their employees so eager to help, but I'm glad they do what they do, and I'll definitely be flying with them again.
I know that the fact that Magnicharters only has packages originating in Monterrey or Mexico City will limit their usefulness to most folks reading this forum, but I hope that it might help anyone who is in a position to scarf on one of the deals offered by Magnicharters.
Finding out about Magnicharters deals is fairly easy if you're already in Mexico. Their ads appear in the Sunday editions of El Norte in Monterrey and in La Reforma in Mexico City --- just pick up a copy and see. You'll need to book deals with a local travel agent. I have no recommendations in Mexico City, but in Monterrey, I recommend Viajamos. Their office is in Garza Garcia, and they also have a good web site with current fare info and contact info: www.viajamos.com
Until next time, see you in the sky. As always, you just know I'll be sitting in the cheap seats!
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