At some point in 2019, Eric said to me, “You know you always get to plan where we travel.”
“Nuh-uh,” I rapidly denied.
But after some thought, I realized he was mostly right. Though we work out the details together, I often set the overarching direction we take in our full-time travel lifestyle.
So I gave him 2020. “This is your year,” I insisted.
Control freak Brittany is sticking to her promise…so far.
Evidently, the Baja Peninsula was high on Eric’s bucket list. So over the past few months, he’s been planning an extended visit. And after all the anticipation, our border crossing is on the horizon. We’re going to Baja!
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How Long Will We Be in Baja?
If all the last-minute pieces have fallen into place, we’ll cross into Baja this Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. We plan to be in-country for exactly two months, crossing back into California on April 4, 2020.
Who Are We Traveling With?
Most of our two months will be solo, though we hope to meet up with friends along the way. We’re leading a group expedition from March 14-29 with eight other rigs. (More on that shortly!)
Where Are We Going in Baja?
My first inclination was to plan our Baja route and camping spots in detail. But this isn’t how we travel in the U.S. In fact, we often wake up not knowing where we’re driving that day or sleeping that night.
So my first attempt at detailed Baja route planning stressed me out.
Instead, I decided to make a map with points of interest and recommended camping spots, and familiarize myself with Internet coverage. (Unfortunately, connectivity is still a necessary component of our travel life. Work keeps the wheels turning.)
Feeling much better acquainted with Baja, Eric and I have decided to semi-wing-it. In broad strokes:
- We’ll cross the border at Tecate and drive to San Felipe.
- We’ll stay in San Felipe for a couple of nights while we test our Internet options, talk to locals, and settle into Mexican life again.
- We’ll use our first weekend to explore off-grid, probably south to Bahía de los Ángeles.
- Eventually, we’ll make it to the bottom of the peninsula. We have a month or so to get there, so we’ll be in no hurry.
- By March 14, we need to be back in San Felipe to meet our overlanding group. Our planned route will take us back south through Baja California, dipping slightly into Baja California Sur.
- By March 29, we’ll be back at the border with our group, but we won’t cross quite yet. Solo again, we’ll probably use our last few days to enjoy Valle de Guadalupe wine country and Ensenada.
What Have Preparations Been Like Compared to Our Interior Mexico Trip?
For those who don’t know, we spent January and February 2019 overlanding 2,000 miles through the interior of Mexico. Preparing for Baja has been radically different.
First, almost all our vehicle modifications are done. Though we’ve added a few nice-to-have’s leading up to Baja, last year we were scrambling to pull together the necessities.
Second, we don’t have the same security concerns. We learned a lot last year, and one of the most important lessons was our Mexico fears were unfounded. Baja being much more touristed, we have even less cause for concern in this region. Of course, we’ll still follow best practices and our intuition when it comes to safety.
Third, our overlanding trip into interior Mexico consumed our thoughts. We planned everything in painstaking detail. Don’t get me wrong–our planning resulted in an extremely smooth trip. But this time, we’re going to be a lot more spontaneous and see how it turns out.
What Have We Done to Prepare?
- Vehicle insurance – We go through DeAnne at Rowcliffe Insurance. She was able to get us a slightly better rate than BajaBound.com, which we also looked at. Mexico only requires liability insurance. But because we still have a lien on our Jeep, the lien holder requires us to cover at least 80% of the lien value. We went ahead and covered the Blue Book value of the Jeep (though it’s worth tremendously more with mods).
- Out of Country Authorization – This is a letter of permission from the lien holder, saying it’s okay for us to take the vehicle out of the country. It was the hardest thing to get before our interior Mexico trip and, of course, no one in Mexico ever asked us for it. But evidently we could be asked for it, so we requested the letter again for Baja. Fortunately, we knew how to avoid last year’s issues. We attached our proof of insurance to the initial email AND clarified that the policy uses a day-month-year format (which caused confusion last time). Believe it or not, they sent our letter back the same day this time!
- Research route and campgrounds – To research campgrounds, I use “Traveler’s Guide to Camping Mexico’s Baja” by Church & Church, FreeCampsites.net, Campendium.com, iOverlander, and recommendations from friends. Campendium and iOverlander both have apps, and iOverlander doesn’t require an Internet connection to use. I also love Expedition Portal’s Baja article, which I’m using for overall route planning.
- Maps and campground book – In addition to buying the Church & Church book I linked above, we also purchased National Geographic’s Baja maps. Definitely get the bundle, which is cheaper than buying separately.
- Culturelle – Prior to interior Mexico, we consulted a pharmacist to see what we could take to boost our digestive systems. Caspian was barely two, so we were especially concerned about how the new cuisine would affect him. The pharmacist said Culturelle was the best probiotic we could take, so we packed several boxes. Happily, none of us had any sick days due to digestive issues, including our little guy. This time, we’re taking a full 60-day supply of Culturelle Kids for Caspian, and Eric and I are taking enough Culturelle for 15 days (we might restock along the way).
- Pesos – Last year, we exchanged $2,500 USD to pesos before overlanding through Mexico for two months. We spent about $2,125 of that, largely because we didn’t want to lose on the exchange back to USD. We had many opportunities to use our credit card instead, which has no exchange fee (Capital One Venture). I’m not sure how much we’ll exchange this time.
- Documents and photocopies – We have a large envelope where we keep all our original documents and photo copies. The only new things we have to photocopy for this year are our insurance policy and Out of Country Authorization.
- Advance payments – While it isn’t impossible to send mail from Mexico, it’s definitely more difficult (and slower, and potentially less reliable). For monthly payments we send by check, we made sure to send extra checks for the coming months when we’ll be out of country.
For a trip like this, you basically have to force yourself to anticipate what will happen in the next two months, and do as much as you can in advance. For example, tax season prep happens while we’re in Mexico. So we got our mail forwarded at the last minute, and we’re hoping all the necessary documentation will be there when we get the package on Monday. If not, we’ll have to do some fancy footwork to access our documents and get them to our CPA on time.
What Else Do YOU Want to Know?
I hugely regret how little I wrote about our interior Mexico trip. The night before we crossed the border, I wrote that I wanted to publish nightly logs of our trip. How did that turn out? Forty-three nights in Mexico, during which I wrote eight articles (womp womp womp).
I did capture most of the highlights, but so much was lost. I hesitate to set an unattainable goal with Baja, but I hope to do better this time.
With that said, what do you want to know? I’d love to tune my trip coverage to your specific questions. Put your questions in a comment and I’ll see what I can do to help.
Great article Brittany. It’s all very fascinating, any time that someone visits a place and shares a bit that’s new or something I’ve not heard of or details about a place I’ve been, but missed that particular aspect.. I’m always wanting to know, see, learn and experience more! 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing throughout your travels.
Follow Jeepsies adventure as they trek across Mexico - The Mazatlán Post
[…] consulted the Church & Church camping book (affiliate link) I referenced in my first Baja article, and a particular campground was calling to me: Centro Recretivo Mi Refugio. It goes by Mi Refugio […]