While most of you are agonizing over New Years Resolutions, I find myself having similar feelings about my travel plans for the next year. I think of a New Year in terms of the places I’ll go and with a limited number of vacation days, I know that I have to plan strategically to feed my wanderlust.
For my next international trip in 2016, I’ve decided to head back to Latin America. There’s a few reasons for this. While my wanderlust aches to explore new continents, Central and South America have a huge hold on my heart. I’ve now traveled to Costa Rica, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and Cuba and I still can’t enough of the warm and vibrant culture.
Because of the proximity to Florida, flights to Latin America are cheaper than flying anywhere else internationally. And did I mention how cheap it is when you actually get there? I managed to spend two weeks in Peru in 2014 for less than $2,000 and that included a 5-day guided hike along the Salkantay trek.
At this point in my life, Latin America makes the most sense. And I would thoroughly love to explore every country in it. With that said. I’m agonizing over which country to pick next. I’ve narrowed down to three options and I need your help deciding. I’ll be announcing which trip I’m picking on Jan. 3 at 6 p.m. via Periscope.
Here are my options:
Colombia has been on my list for a while but watching “Narcos” actually made me ache to visit this country even more. Yes, I realize Narcos would probably scare a normal person. But did you see those luscious mountains? Colombia is where I want to trace to footsteps of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, explore the country’s diverse landscape and get to know the people.
Pros: Colombia has cheap flights. According to a Kayak.com search, I could snag roundtrip airfare for $191. There’s Cartagena—the coastal colonial city with cobblestone streets and Caribbean influence. There’s art, music and culture in Bogota. There’s salsa dancing and cafes in Medellin.
Cons: Colombia is mucho grande and I only have 10 days to spend. While the airfare is cheap, I’ll likely need additional airfare or have to endure long bus rides to get to all my top destinations. And while Colombia is much more secure that it was 10 years ago, there’s a good chance I’ll be on this trip alone and I’m not sure how comfortable I feel with that.
This lovely little gem of a country has everything I’m looking for: the Amazon jungle, amazing beaches and a volcano. It’s small enough that I can likely do all those things in 10 days and from what I’ve been able to tell, bus tickets are the cheapest here.
Pros: According to Kayak.com, I can snag roundtrip tickets here for about $500 or less. There’s a 3-day mountain biking tour I can do of the Cotopaxi Volcano. There’s the laidback coastal surfing town of Montanita and I hear the seafood dishes along the coast are amazing and only cost $4-5. Another big plus here is that a wonderful couple I met on the trek to Machu Picchu will be traveling here in the spring. As much as I like solo travel, I love having shared adventures and I really like the idea of meeting up with my travel buds.
Cons: I can’t afford Galapagos and it’s on my bucket list. It’s really hard for me to imagine going to Ecuador and skipping the Galapagos Islands but no matter how I roll the dice it looks like it would cost between $800 and $1,000 just for this excursion, plus I’d also be short on time. I can’t decide if it’s worth it to go all the way to Ecuador and skip an experience that’s so high up on my bucket list.
Ever since I spent a week in Cuba last spring, I can’t stop thinking about going back. I’m literally obsessed with this amazing country and now that I have the lay of the land, I want to go back and see what it’s like to experience this country outside of a tour group. This time I’d skip the U.S. approved travel licenses and expensive charter flights and fly in through Cancun. As a travel blogger I think having the experience of going legally vs. illegally to Cuba would be valuable not only to myself but for my readers. Ideally I’d spend 4-5 days getting my diving certification in Tulum, Mexico and then flying into Cuba for another five days.
Pros: For this trip I’d get to knock out two countries in one trip. Right now Kayak.com tells me that flights to Cancun are about $300 from Orlando. Another ticket to Cuba would likely be between $200 and $300. Tulum has some amazing beaches, cave diving, food and Mayan ruins. Cuba has everything I love: grit, warm people, art, music and a million opportunities for off the beaten path adventures. It’s like traveling to a different planet but its only 90 miles from Florida!
Cons: I don’t really want to go back to Cuba alone. As much as I feel safe in Cuba, I am a walking target for getting taken advantage of. And as amazing as the Cubans are, I learned last year that they are very clever at finding ways to get you to fork over cash. The tourism infrastructure here is a bit unreliable—with no ATMs or easily accessible wifi. There’s also the thought that I’ve already been here and maybe I should go somewhere I’ve never been before.
See my dilemma? I need your help! I’d love all comments, suggestions and feedback on which trip I should pick! And don’t forget to subscribe to my e-mail newsletter below for exclusive weekend getaway ideas and updates on my travel plans.