Welcome toAway Game, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real millennial women embark on trips around the world and track theirtravel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week’s travel diary: A 22-year-old takes a chocolate-making class and drives a golf cart around San Pedro, Belize with her two girlfriends.
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Hometown: Houston, TX
Trip Location: San Pedro, Belize
Annual # Of Vacation Days: 17 (I used 4 for this trip)
Trip Length: 5 days
Travel Companion: Two girlfriends
Airbnb: $70. We got an AWESOME deal staying at Edmond’s Airbnb. It was only $50 a night, so split between the three of us, we each paid $70 for the entire trip.
New clothes, shoes, and other items like sunscreen: $50
(Things I probably would have needed anyway for summer.)
Gas money: $6 (I gave my sister gas money for picking us up.)
7 a.m. — I can’t stay asleep any longer no matter how much I try to force my body to sleep. I specifically went to church last night so I could sleep in today, but no luck. Instead I get up, make sure I have everything I want to take with me and shower and wash my hair. I have a pretty strict hair wash schedule that this trip has already thrown out of wack. I also have a mini tradition of always repping H-Town when I travel, so I put on a Houston Astros World Series shirt for the journey (did you know Houston won the World Series??)
10 a.m. — Friend 1’s brother drops us at the airport and we get there way earlier than we need to. It’s a Sunday and the notorious Houston traffic isn’t as bad as it usually is. We check in and hang out by our gate. We visit Einstein’s in the airport and I get a huge turkey bagel sandwich to eat during our flight. I pay with my card so I can reserve my cash for the trip. $10
1:30 p.m. — We land in Belize! We pick up our bags from baggage claim then find the taxi guy that our Airbnb host set up for us holding a sign with my name on it. On the way to the water taxi terminal we see a fruit stand, we stop and Friend 2 buys two bags of cut mango for $1! We arrive at the terminal and I pay the taxi for the three of us. $30
3 p.m. — The next water taxi doesn’t leave till 4:15 p.m. so we have about an hour to kill. We check our bags into the water taxi and go on a walking tour with a guy who works at the terminal but who is off duty. He takes us through the city and to the Belize sign. I was worried about leaving our bags unattended, but we take our valuables with us and it turns out fine. Friend 2 tips the guy $5 for his time. We come back and buy tickets for the water taxi to San Pedro. Round trip tickets are $25, so I pay $5 and Friends 1 and 2 pitch in an extra ten for my ticket since I got the cab. $5
6:30 p.m.- Two grueling hours on a small boat later, we finally make it to San Pedro! Our Airbnb host meets us on a golf cart, takes us to our apartment, shows us how to work the AC and connect to WiFi, and gives us a tour of the building. I ask him to suggest somewhere to eat dinner, and then ask him to join us as we continue to pick his brain about where to go and what to eat. We eat pupusas at a local place — my food and the host’s come out to $8. The owner notices us admiring the woman flipping them on the grill; he offers to have us come back tomorrow after 5 p.m. to have her teach us how to make them! $8
8:30 p.m. — After a long day of travel we are all tired. We take turns showering quickly and then get to bed.
8 a.m. — We wake up, get dressed for the day, and head to the water by 9-ish. There isn’t much of a beach where we are staying, but there is sand and water and that is good enough for me. We ask some women to take pictures of us and it turns out they are from Texas, too! After, we walk to a local chocolate place and sign up for the chocolate class they have on Wednesday. The class is $7.50, but I get a truffle and give Friend 1 the change to use towards her ticket to avoid carrying around Belize coins (here we can pay for everything in USD, but get change back in the local currency). $7.50
11:30 a.m. — We finally decide to find somewhere to eat! After exploring a few options, we pick a tiny restaurant. I get the breakfast plate which comes with fried eggs, refried beans, tortillas, cow’s cheese, some kind of cream cheese, and tomatoes. It’s really good. My friends get the fry jacks, which are the local specialty here. We find the food similar to Indian food.
12:30 p.m. — We go back to the apartment and get ready to go snorkeling. The weather is a little cloudy so this should be a good day to go.
1:30 p.m. — We head over to the snorkel place. I asked our host to get us a good deal, but the best he is able to do is $40 when it should have been $45. We pay up and get going. Friend 1 was really nervous at first and gripped my hand most of the time but once she got the hang of it she had a blast. We also went to swim with sharks. The boat has made me a little nauseous so I opt to stay on board and take pictures of my friends. On the way home we stop at a supermarket and pick up a case of bottled water. It costs $9 for 12 big bottles, but I pay $5 and the other two pitch in $2 due to the amount of change we have. $50
4 p.m. — We had an awesome time snorkeling! This was both of my friends’ first time. I’ve been a few times before, but this was definitely my best experience I’ve had. The water is so clear! We go back to the apartment and freshen up.
4:45 p.m.- We still have time before the pupusa class so we get random snacks along Middle Street. Friend 1 finds a bakery cart and gets us all these pastry cones that we thought would be sweet but end up being savory. Friend 2 gets a fancy iced coffee that we all sip from and wings and rum & cokes (which are really more like a rum with coke) for us. We happen to be there during happy hour and the total is only $6! We get to the pupusa place right at 5 p.m. and they tell us they aren’t ready yet, so we walk over to a Chinese place to eat before making our pupusas. I pay for dinner — it’s a whopping $8 for lo mein and sweet and sour chicken to feed all three of us. The food is nowhere near as good as at home, but it’ll do. $8
6:15 p.m. — We head back to the pupusa stand, confident it will finally be time to make our pupusas. We say hello to the hostess and she tells us it will be just a few minutes. We wait. We watch as a woman start making pupusas. We see the owner and ask him about the class, he also tells us to wait and “another lady” will be coming to teach us. Ten minutes later, I ask him for a third time if the lady will be coming to teach us, and he finally gives us a real answer: No, she won’t be coming and he didn’t really mean it when he said we would get a class. I am so annoyed! I tell the owner very loudly he shouldn’t make promises he doesn’t intend on keeping. My friends pull me away and we walk over by the beach bars. They are all pretty empty so we just call it a night and head back around.
8:30 p.m. — We snack on chips and cookies we brought from home and head to bed around 12 a.m. It feels like we’re at a sleepover, I’m so happy to be here with my friends!
5:30 a.m. — We wake up and quickly get our things together, today we are heading back to Belize City via water taxi and are going on an all-day excursion!
6:30 a.m. — We arrive at the water taxi dock and purchase another set of round trip tickets. For some reason this stand only charges $20 round trip. We make our purchase and get on the boat. $20
8:30 a.m. — After another bumpy boat ride, we arrive back at the Belize City water taxi terminal. There is an option to fly back and forth, but that would be a $150 roundtrip… and we are not about that life. Friend 2 gets bug spray at the terminal and Friend 1 gets us water bottles. We meet our tour guide for the day who we locate via another board with my name on it. We get in his van with two other women and head to the first stop of the day: Altun Ha, a Mayan ruin.
9:15 a.m. — The ruins are much more impressive than I expected. I only agreed to go because Friend 1 was really interested, but this is definitely worth it. Since it is the low season and we are here pretty early, we have the entire grounds to ourselves! We take our time around the ruins and our guide explains what everything means. Friend 2 wants coconuts, I buy one for all three of us $6
11 a.m. — Next is lunch, which is included in our tour price. We get rice and beans and a sort of chicken curry, which reminds us of Desi food again.
11:45 am- Next is zip lining! I have a fear of heights but I’ve been preparing myself for this for months. We have an AMAZING time swinging through the trees and over rivers. The guides at the zip line place are total sweethearts and make us feel so at ease. We have to hurry to the next activity because we are running out of time.
3 p.m. — We change into our bathing suits quickly and take a hike through the jungle where our guide points out interesting trees and history. We then go tubing INSIDE A GIANT CAVE! Again the low season and getting here so late are in our favor, the entire cave is empty except for us. I really enjoy this part of the excursion, the caves are sooo beautiful. Apparently Belize is one of the only places in the world that offers cave tubbing.
4:15 pm — We have absolutely no time. Our boat leaves at 5 p.m. and we are about 45 minutes away from the terminal! We don’t even have time to change back into our clothes. The guide makes a beeline and weaves through traffic to get us back to the terminal. He even calls the terminal people and ask them to wait a few minutes for us. We pay the guides as we are jumping out of the car, $90 plus $5 for each of the two guides, and run to the boat. Thankfully, we don’t have to waste time buying tickets again as we have our return tickets already. $100
7 p.m. — We are back in San Pedro! All three of us fell asleep sitting up in our seats — we are so tired! We dump our backpacks in the apartment and forage for something to eat. We find a tiny taco stand and enjoy the best food of the trip. A woman makes them for us right in front of our eyes and we get fresh fruit juice. $5
7:45 p.m. — All the bars still look dead so we wander around trying to find something else fun to do. Men have been catcalling us all night, but we just ignore them and stick together. We happen upon a carnival! Everything looks a little rickety, but we opt for the ferris wheel. I bargain with the ticket guy and instead of paying $4 per person, we pay $3 each. Friend 2 pays. Remember my fear of heights? This rickety ferris wheel brings it out in me and I grasp the handlebar while my friends enjoy themselves. When we make it back to stable ground we decide to call it a night.
8:45 p.m. — Disappointed again with the nightlife, we stop at a supermarket and pick up some coconut rum and a creamy mixer to have at the room. I pay for the majority of it. $15
9:30 p.m. — We drink a little but are too tired to go all out. It feels like another sleepover and we stay awake for as long as we can before finally sleeping.
9 a.m. — We wake up refreshed and happy after “sleeping in”. We start getting ready for our final full day on the island.
10:30 a.m. — Our day starts with the chocolate making class. This class was WELL worth the money. We learn about the Mayan history of chocolate, the ancient process, and get to try samples. We all want to buy chocolate to take home, but decide to come back later to do so.
11:45 a.m. — We go to a golf cart rental place as we need a vehicle to get to Secret Beach! I negotiate and we get the cart for $10 per person and spend $3 each on gas. Gas is extremely expensive in Belize, we’re talking $6-7 a gallon. Thankfully, golf carts don’t require too much gas. We fill up and hit the road. $13
12:30 p.m. — We arrive at the beach! It is so beautiful I am so happy we came. We split wings, coconut rice, and plantains. The food is pretty good. Friend 2 gets coconuts for me and her (Friend 1 doesn’t want one) and we sip in the sun. There is a woman selling coconut tarts, so I get two for me and Friend 2. We hold a photo shoot for ourselves in and out of the water. The small crowd and the weather are both perfect condition for a great shoot and a perfect afternoon. $4
3:30 p.m. — I could honestly stay at the beach all day, but alas, we have things to do and places to see. There is a very poor system to pay at this beach bar, we could have easily walked away without paying, but of course we wait to pay. Friend 2 pitches in $20 to cover the $25 tab and I pay $5. Friend 2 pays back Friend 1 later. $5.
4:30 p.m. — We drive back through town and go to the other side of the island to visit Rum and Bean, a fancy coffee shop. I pay for Friend 2’s drinks since I didn’t properly pay for lunch. It’s really expensive! I was telling the girls we should share since the drinks are huge, but no one listens to me. Me and Friend 2 get coconut mocha coffees and I finish half of mine. It’s super tasty, though. $12
5 p.m. — We to back to the chocolate place and get stuff to take home, then to another store we passed by previously that makes creme liquor. I buy stuff for my family, my best friend, and my best friend’s mom. I also pick up a magnet ($2) to keep by my desk at work. I have a habit of buying a magnet from all the places I travel to using my PTO and keeping them as a reminder for when I get frustrated at work — they help me remember that all my recent travels are a result of working. Friends 1 and 2 are interested in buying way more souvenirs so we spend some time finding more items for them to take home. $45
6:30 p.m. — Finally back in the apartment, we shower the salt water away and get dressed up for our last night in Belize. We are told it’s Ladies’ Night at Pedro’s Inn, so we head out there around 8 p.m.
8:15 pm- We get to Pedro’s Inn and… you guessed it. TOTALLY empty. We decide to go to a restaurant on the beach called Blue Water grill where they have an “I Love Belize” sign. We get Asian noodles and jerk chicken pizza. I try the local beer. I’m not a beer person at all, but I actually like this one. $14
9:30 p.m. — Not wanting to turn in too early on our last night, we walk by the water close to our apartment and ride the golf cart around a little more. Finally, we decide to call it a night. We get back to the room and pack up.
11:30 p.m. — We chat and fall asleep eventually.
5:30 am – Early morning once again! We get ready and make sure we haven’t left anything behind, then run to catch the 6:30 a.m. water taxi. I snap at Friend 2 who is taking way more time than we can afford. We are seated on the boat at 6:22, and the boat takes off right after! If we had arrived at 6:30 we would have missed it. So much for “island time”. We leave the golf cart keys with the ticket attendant who will keep them until someone comes to pick them up.
8:30 a.m. — We arrange for a taxi driver to take us to Old Belize where we plan to eat breakfast. Unfortunately, we get there and the whole place is closed. He takes us to a deli instead where we grab some food. I get Jamaican patties and a mini pot pie for breakfast, as well as some snacks from the neighboring market to eat on the plane and to take home. $10
10 a.m. — We get to the airport. I apologize for being impatient with Friend 2 as we end up having more than enough time. Our flight home is delayed by an hour. I feel bad for making us all wake up so early when we could have taken the 8 a.m. taxi and reached Belize City by 10 a.m., but my friends tell me they understand my reasoning and none of us knew the flight was delayed until we got to the airport. I planned this entire trip and felt some pressure about everything going right, the other two having fun, and getting stranded. We go through our pictures and craft our Instagram posts as we wait to board.
1:30 p.m. — We finally board our flight! We had a great holiday but there is no place like Houston.
5 p.m. — We land and get their baggage. My sister comes to pick us up and we stop at Chick-fil-A on the way home. I hand my sister my credit card and pay for everyone’s order. $20
6:30 p.m. — We make it home and my friends have their siblings pick them up from my house. I take a shower and settle in to do some skincare to hopefully repair some of the damage the last week has incurred. I give my gifts to my family and tell them about my trip and then get ready for work the next day, but thankfully tomorrow is Friday and then I have the weekend to recover.
How did you prepare for this trip?
I read every blog about Belize that I could find. I scoured TripAdvisor and Instagram and spoke to my coworker who had visited Belize for his honeymoon.
Do you think you got a good deal on your flight?
We booked three months before the trip, so pretty far in advance. I do think we got a good deal because I checked the same flight a month later and the price had jumped to over $600.
Is there anything about your trip you would do differently in retrospect?
In retrospect, I should have definitely used less time for this trip. I should have left on a Thursday after work and gotten back on a Monday. A lot of the places we were interested in trying were closed on Sunday and Monday, and as I’m planning my time off for the rest of the year, it would be nice to have an extra day or two. I would have also stressed less. Everyone in Belize (except the papusa guy) was so nice and willing to help us. And I should have had more confidence in myself that I knew what I was doing and would be okay. I was worried we were going to be there during rainy season, but the weather was absolutely great, we didn’t see a drop of rain.
Would you stay at your Airbnb again?
Yes, Edmond was fantastic. Especially for the price. He told us he is building another building for Airbnb apartments, so maybe I would try one in the new complex.
Where were you located in the specific city and would you recommend staying in that part of town?
We were in San Pedro, to be honest I’m not sure which part exactly. It was a nice area, I felt really safe since we were surrounded by family tourists and locals with families, though we did get cat called every time we left the apartment, it was never anything beyond “hey beautiful” (not saying this is okay, just that it didn’t make us feel unsafe, just annoyed/uncomfortable).
Is there anything you wished you had time to do, but didn’t?
It would have been nice to spend more time at the beach, but I was already sunburned so maybe it was for the best!
Do you feel like you were there for the right length of time?
Yes, I think 3 full days on the island was enough. It’s a very short flight from Houston (2.5 hours) which also helped me justify the short time we were there.
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