Saturday, August 29, 2009

Choosing A Last-Minute Destination

Sherman Oaks, California

If you live in North America, the cheapest international getaways are usually Mexico or Central America. That’s particularly true if you live in Southern California where $150 roundtrip air fares into northern and central Mexico are not unheard of.

My first notion that you could actually vacation in Mexico came from an episode of Moonlighting. David and Maddie were each returning to the office after time off; perhaps it was the first episode of a season. Maddie had been in New York City, David in Mexico. They engaged in repartee which, at the time, I thought was witty and sophisticated but which would probably seem forced and brittle if I heard it again. My teenage travel tastes were aligned with Maddie’s. Gotham was the Glittering City. Who wants to go to Mexico?

I do. I’ve been to Mexico every year or two since I moved West, and it’s one of the most unfairly maligned places. Mexico’s problems are serious, but, like America’s dangers, they’re concentrated in specific areas you can easily avoid. The thought that gang violence in Chihuahua State would scare tourists away from Cancun – almost 2,000 miles and several pre-Columbian civilizations away – is pathetic. Americans should learn how to read a map and stop being such nervous Nellies.

After a few hours of internet plinking, the cheapest international flights I could find for the weekend were trips to Los Cabos ($353 on Alaska Airlines), Mexico City ($370 on United), Guanajuato/San Miguel de Allende (the hipster destination was $417 on Continental) and Oaxaha ($422 on Mexicana). Some tempting non-Mexican destinations were Panama City ($414 on Mexicana), São Paulo ($685 on AeroMexico), Stockholm ($552 on U.S. Airways) and Tegucigulpa ($595 on TACA).

As I surveyed all the options, I was mindful of the fact that this was a self-consciously low-budget trip. But I immediately fell back on a spendthrift habit: Buying a bunch of guide books to help make the decision. I logged the first expense of the trip, $64.59, in purchasing guidebooks to Guanajuato/San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca and Panama.

Then it was a process of elimination. It might be cheap to fly to Stockholm but it is never cheap to be there. Cabo is a party scene for the people I hated in college. The colonial heartland of Mexico deserved a longer, slower trip, as did the indigenous areas in the south.

The destinations fell away until there was only one town left. Mexico would have to wait.

I’m going to Panama City.


Books: $64.59
Airfare: $414

TRIP TOTAL: $478.59

COST PER DAY: $478.59

Pictured: This is a difficult post to illustrate.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be watching, sir.
Have a good trip.

3:48 PM  

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