So, how much did it all cost???
Trip Start Aug 30, 2011
9Trip End Sep 14, 2011
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I'm going to do a little Q&A based on questions I've been asked and address expenses:
Q: How do you decide where to go?
A: A lot of it depends on budget and desire. I've been wanting to go to Central America for about a year, but we didn't have the money. So we've been going on road trips. We knew we wanted to go to Belize, but Thomas found great airfare on AirTran flying into Cancun, MX. The tickets were about $150 cheaper which equates to $450 for the three of us. That's why we flew into Cancun. Then we had to look at bus routes to get us down to Belize City. I've been to Playa del Carmen, MX before and had enjoyed the beaches, hence 2 nights at the beach before heading to Belize City.
Q: Do you use a travel agent?
A: No, most of our research is done on-line and with travel books.
Q: Do you travel with a tour group?
A: No, we like the flexibility of creating our own itinerary. And we like the adventure of the unknown.
Q: How do you find your hotels?
A: Depends. If we know where we are going in advance, then we used Hotels.com to book the hotels this time. (Great discounts and a free night after 10 stays!) But when we arrived in Caye Caulker, Belize, we didn't have any reservations, so I got a couple of leads from a travel book, and we walked around with our suitcases until we found a suitable spot. We found a decent bungalow off the main strip for one night, then changed hotels because I wanted to be at the beach with an ocean view (2 more nights.) For the last leg of our trip, we went back to Playa del Carmen and went to the same hotel we had stayed in when we first arrived. We didn't have a reservation, but we pulled out the cell phone in the lobby, and booked a room for three nights on Hotels.com on the spot.
Q: How do you find buses?
A: We go to internet cafes and look up bus routes between the cities that we are traveling to and from. Mexico and Guatemala have great bus service (modern buses with air conditioning.) Belize doesn't. We took two chicken buses (old U.S. school buses) to our destinations. They are hot and crowded and make tons of stops along the way. We jumped on one bus that was so crowded there were four to a seat. Mecca sat on my lap, and the other woman had her child on her lap.
Q: Why do you move around so much?
A: Because traveling is an adventure and we like to be immersed in a country and culture.
Q: How far in advance do you plan your trips?
A: Varies, but I would say two to four weeks out. We are firmly committed to a trip once we purchase the airline tickets (if flying somewhere.) We probably purchased our tickets two weeks out. If we are going on a road trip, I personally like at least 3-4 days to get ready, but Thomas can be ready in a couple.
Q: How long do you save up for your trips?
A: We really don't save up per se. We look at a calendar and see when would be a good time to travel based on our schedules. Then we look at how much money we have and how much money we expect to come in, then how much money we need to manifest to go somewhere. Then make sure we have enough to pay our current bills.
Q: Does Mecca travel with you?
A: Always. (I'm still waiting for a honeymoon.) We homeschool her and this is part of her education. And she's just darn fun to be with!
Q: Aren't you scared traveling to Central America?
A: I'm not going to lie, sometimes it does get a little scary. We are always dealing with the unknown even when we've done our research and have talked to people. Like being dropped off at the border of Guatemala. We had to exchange money from someone we didn't know, and then a shuttle driver was trying to pressure us to take his service to Tikal, which was very expensive. And the military police had rifles and menancing expressions which made them look like they were ready for a fight to break out. But before we even get on the plane, I bless our trip and know that we are safe and divinely guided. I use my intuition to make sure we don't get into any real jams. And it always works.
Q: How do you budget for your trips?
A: We start with airfare (can we get a great deal?)
We purchased 3 tickets for $905 including taxes and fees, not bad!
Then how much do we want to spend per day?
We figured at the low end $100 per day ($100 x 16 days = $1600)
At the high end $150 per day ($150 x 16 = $2400)
Our budget is now anywhere between $2505 and $3305 (for air, hotel, meals, tours, and buses and shuttles.) Now this is in theory. How did we actually do? Pretty darn good! We stayed within our range.
Our cute hotel in Playa del Carmen was $56 per night. Our hotel in Antigua was about $90 per night. On average our hotels were $50-70 per night.
A couple of the hotels offered breakfast (which saves.) If the hotel had a refrigerator we would buy some yogurt and fruit for breakfast. We usually had an inexpensive breakfast, light lunch (if any) and a decent dinner. We splurged on our last night for dinner. Then of course there is ice cream, coffees and other treats throughout the day. (All of this is included in the budget.)
Where we did spend a lot was on buses and shuttles. The bus fares are reasonable, but they add up. We traveled from Cancun, MX all the way down to Antigua, Guatemala and back with several stops in between. Close to 1,000 miles roundtrip.
If anyone would like more specific budget information, please let me know. I did keep some receipts.
The point is--traveling is an adventure and it doesn't have to be expensive. We have a great time and budget in a way that works for us. Every family is different, but it is possible to travel with your kids and have a great time.