Texas authorities urge students to avoid Mexico


As spring break draws near, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has issued a warning that advises college students to stay away from Mexico. The warning cites ongoing drug cartel violence as the main reason to avoid going south of the border, but also mentions criminal activity including homicides, gun battles, kidnappings, carjackings, rapes and more.

Popular resort destinations such as Cancun, Acapulco, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas and Tijuana are not exempt from the warning, which states these areas “can be havens for drug dealers and petty criminals.” Although the DPS acknowledges that many travel to Mexico without incident and that the Mexican government has made strides battling the cartels, it encourages travelers to carefully research any planned trips and always check the U.S. Department of State website for up-to-date information on security issues in Mexico.

Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of State issued a new Mexico travel warning that advised against nonessential travel to areas within 16 Mexican states. According to U.S. Department of State numbers, 120 U.S. citizens were murdered in Mexico during 2011, a number that has increased dramatically since the tally was at 35 in 2007. All U.S. citizens living or traveling in Mexico are advised to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Renewed Mexico travel warning threatens spring break travel plans

MexicoThe U.S. State Department has issued a new Mexico travel warning, superseding last April’s warning. Apparently, cartel violence stemming from drug trafficking, specifically violent struggles among the criminal organizations for control of trafficking routes, has resulted in a rising number of carjackings, kidnappings and gun battles throughout Mexico.

“U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter TCOs (Transnational Criminal Organizations) which engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico, says the State Department in the new warning posted on their website today.

Detailing the problem, the State Department says “The TCOs themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity. As a result, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to TCO activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery.”

Mexico government figures indicate that 47,515 people were killed in narcotics-related violence between December 1, 2006 and September 30, 2011, the warning states. Most of those killed were members of the criminal organizations.

The big problem: State Department numbers indicate that 120 U.S. citizens were murdered in Mexico in 2011, up from 35 in 2007, according to the warning.

Bad news for college students, the government says spring break destination Rocky Point is a key area in the international drug and human trafficking trades and can be extremely dangerous.

Arizona college student Juan Pantoja told KVOA.com, “I was there two or three months ago. I go down there often and go to Rocky Point. I have never thought twice about it. It’s always a good time.” University of Arizona student Chase Tsui added, “I would love to go visit my boyfriend’s family, but the problem is getting there. My mom still has this thing about going to Mexico, so she still doesn’t want me to go.”

The updated warning advises against nonessential travel to areas within 16 Mexican states, including Veracruz and the border areas of Aguacalientes and Zacatecas, and Colima and Michoacan says TravelWeekly but notes that no advisories are in effect for the state of Quintana Roo (Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum), the Riviera Nayarit, Mexico City, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara and Guanajuato (San Miguel de Allende and Leon).

Travelers are advised to stay within the tourist areas of Acapulco, Ixtapa, Mazatlan, Monterrey and Zihuantanejo.


Severed Heads Left at Mexican School

Flickr photo by scazon

New Los Cabos luxury resort, Grand Solmar Land’s End, celebrates grand opening


los cabos luxury resort

Located at the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula where the Sea of Cortes meets the Pacific Ocean, Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa Cabo San Lucas celebrates its official grand opening this weekend. The only new resort to open in Los Cabos this year, the resort was designed by the same architect who crafted the celebrity favorite Las Ventanas al Paraiso, HKS.

The most luxurious of the hotel chain’s five properties in Mexico, Land’s End resort is set on the site of the first Solmar Hotel built in the 1970s. 119 suites all offer views of the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez as well as amenities like two oceanfront restaurants, a full-service spa and beauty salon, a romance coordinator and more.

In celebration of the grand opening, stays of four nights or more are 50% for those traveling before July 31.
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Los Cabos’ famed Arch experiences infrequent natural phenomenon




Every four to seven years, the tide surrounding the iconic Arch of Los Cabos (El Arco) recedes to reveal a pristine, white sand beach. This natural phenomenon is happening today in Los Cabos. If you’re in the area, stop by and check it out!

Located in the region deemed “Lands End,” the southernmost tip of the Baja California peninsula, this arch is a popular destination for travelers looking to take scenic photographs. The swirling mix of blue and green waters mark the junction between the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez.

Photo Courtesy of Ale Delao

Next Great Place launches, enters into the travel sale site melee

travel sale site - next great placeWe’ll admit, we’re getting a little sick of seeing flash sale travel sites enter the market – there’s another one every day, each with a slightly different concept. It seems like we have to do an awful lot of checking each time we want to book a vacation – can we get $100 off on one site, a free upgrade there, and oh, referral bonuses here?

Which is why we were initially drawn to take a look at Next Great Place, launching to for limited public beta today. Functioning sort of like a cross between E-Harmony and Match.com for travel, the travel sale site bills itself as an “online travel planning company” and pairs qualified travelers with pre-screened resorts (in Cabo San Lucas and Vail/Beaver Creek to start).

Founders Tom Fillipini (co-founder of Exclusive Resorts) and Erik Mitisek have extensive travel industry experience and know the ins and outs of the travel market, but they found it increasingly difficult to plan travel for themselves and their families and find qualified luxury lodgings without the use of a travel agent who may or may not be motivated more by commissions than by providing the best possible experience for the traveler.

Unlike other sale sites, where travelers themselves browse and choose their preferred resort, Next Great Place puts the planning into the hands of dedicated (and salary, not commission-based) employees who then vet the proposals through pre-selected suppliers. After generating a “vacation request,” travelers will have customized proposals waiting in their inbox within 48 hours.

Travelers then have 48 hours to purchase the trip and lock into the preferred pricing. While the site is certainly limited in terms of locations and properties available at the current moment (there are about 10 resorts and only two locations on board), we’re intrigued by the model. The competition for business gives suppliers the incentive to engage in price competition and transparency, and also allows travelers to “lock in” on preferred pricing for times when occupancy may be low.

In our brief trial, we found the sample process of selecting a resort to be easy – simply check the box on preferred amenities (spa, golf, babysitters, ect.) and the resort comparisons come back with a simple click. The entire process took under five minutes!

We’re happy to report that the site is free … for now (register at www.nextgreatplace.com and you’ll be approved within a day or so), but they’re considering adding a yearly subscription fee of around $1,000. Book once, and you’ll receive that in credit towards your stay. We understand the need for a business model, but we’re not sure that travelers who have so many free resources on their hands will want to pay that high of a price for the service that can essentially be replicated for free on a number of other platforms. The site promises to add up to 100 destinations in the next five years, which would certainly be an enticing prospect.

The resorts are pre-vetted by Next Great Place, and, with names like Capella Pedregal and Esperanza currently on board, we’re sure that the business is committed to partnering with resorts of the highest caliber.

Unlike other villa rental sites, Next Great Place guarantees a response and pricing within 48 hours – so there’s little uncertainty and waiting.

We’ll certainly be watching to see if this model is replicated by other sites and to see if Next Great Place continues to grow.