Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

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Infomom2
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Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by Infomom2 » Sat Nov 24, 2018 12:14 pm

I am a single parent and my kids are almost 13 and 16. I am trying to plan, what is for us, a big vacation. I would like to go someplace warm where there are interesting things to do other than beaches and water-based activities (those are good too, just don't want them to be the only thing). know that's vague, but I like places where I can get a feel for the culture, etc.I need it to be easy to get around, and wouldnt want to have to take a plane somewhere else. I would want to avoid driving myself, if possible. I'm thinking only 5-6 nights. I prefer international.

I love the idea of an all-inclusive resort, but would not want to be somewhere where we never leave the resort. I know those are also very spendy. I know you will want to give a budget, but I really don't have an idea right now..it needs to be non-extravagant, but not roughing it either.

My older child is adopted from Guatemala and I have been several times; the last of which was with her about 10 years ago. I love it and would go back, but also wonder about going some place new. I have been to Mexico several times, so am not thinking there. I have thought a lot about Belize.

Kids have only been to West Coast cities/towns, NY and some surrounding cities. So, its hard because I am trying to create a very memorable vacation.

I have traveled a lot before kids, but it feels more complex now, especially with the need to be efficient with money. There seem to be some great airfares in February (which I would consider), but I am caught..book an airfare and then hope I can find a place to stay that is good or what?

We would be flying out from the PNW. I prefer to go in the winter to get away from the gray and rain; our summers here are lovely and short.

Any ideas or resources? I sometimes miss life before technology. I would love to go to the library, get some fodors, fromers, alternative travel books and research. I seem to go around in circles by googling on the internet. OTOH, forums like this are irreplaceable. Thanks!

sailaway
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by sailaway » Sat Nov 24, 2018 12:27 pm

You do know that there are still libraries and they still have those books, right? Nonetheless, one advantage of the internet is that you can look for lodging deals, such as Aribnb.

Has your child not been back to Guatemala in ten years? Seems like it might be time.

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Infomom2
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by Infomom2 » Sat Nov 24, 2018 12:34 pm

sailaway wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 12:27 pm
You do know that there are still libraries and they still have those books, right? Nonetheless, one advantage of the internet is that you can look for lodging deals, such as Aribnb.

Has your child not been back to Guatemala in ten years? Seems like it might be time.
My local libraries are awful; the books are so old they are useless. I have looked many times. Maybe its a function of me living in a different place with a better library back then.

Would love to go to Guatemala, but also looking into other ideas. I have another child and it would be nice to go someplace that is less about any one of us and also takes us someplace we have never been.

sambb
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by sambb » Sat Nov 24, 2018 12:51 pm

belize or costa rica are great. I wouldnt even consider researching at a library, though that is an option.., theres the internet at your figertips. Libraries, newspapers, etc arent really the way to look at this for most when you can google. On the net you can find plenty more up to date on these two areas. Good luck.

HereToLearn
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by HereToLearn » Sat Nov 24, 2018 1:12 pm

I was going to suggest Costa Rica also, however, that is prime season there, so I am guessing it would be expensive. We went in August, which is rainy season, but really lucked out with the weather. The vacation provided a nice mix of outdoor adventure for teens (zip lining, white water rafting, easy hiking) and beach time.

I would advise against driving after dark as the roads were not lit and you can encounter pedestrians and even livestock along the side of the roads. We also came across roads that were washed away with nothing more than a metal bar to deter traffic.

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by Irisheyes » Sat Nov 24, 2018 1:16 pm

I second the idea of Costa Rica though not sure what the flights are like from PNW. Nature and outdoor adventure in abundance, as well as beaches and good weather. (My 14 year old loved it last year, said it was the best place she'd ever been to.) It seems like CR also has a range of different price points for accommodation.

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by Shallowpockets » Sat Nov 24, 2018 2:09 pm

If you go to Costa Rica, be realistic. Your timeframe is 5/6 days. Do not expect to see the whole country in that time. I have been to C.R. six times for 2-3 weeks each time and never been to the same area twice. It looks small on a map but takes a while to get around.
It will be 3x at least what you paid in Guatemala 10 years ago.
For warm weather and prices that time of year maybe Hawaii from PNW would be a better choice.

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3wood
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by 3wood » Sat Nov 24, 2018 2:24 pm

I just took a NCL cruise to the western Caribbean and our favorite destination was Roatan. I've been to many Caribbean destinations and it had the nicest beaches and scuba diving, imo. Nice, friendly people and it felt safe. Only thing I noticed was people trying to sell things on the beach. They would ask nicely and quietly walk by when you decline not to ask again.

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by Duckie » Sat Nov 24, 2018 7:04 pm

Infomom2 wrote:I would love to go to the library, get some fodors, fromers, alternative travel books and research.
Fodor's Travel and Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Frommer's and Frommer's Forums

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by White Coat Investor » Sat Nov 24, 2018 7:07 pm

My wife and I loved our trip to Belize. Snorkeling, SCUBA diving, zip lines, tube caving, cool archaeological trips to Mayan temples, everyone speaks English, nice accommodations and my favorite hike in the world. What's not to like? (Other than paying US prices for everything.)
1) Invest you must 2) Time is your friend 3) Impulse is your enemy | 4) Basic arithmetic works 5) Stick to simplicity 6) Stay the course

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by Watty » Sat Nov 24, 2018 8:23 pm

sailaway wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 12:27 pm
I'm thinking only 5-6 nights. I prefer international.
For such a short trip I would put a high priority on going to some place you can get a direct flight to especially in the winter time. The problem is that something like a snowstorm on the east coast can mess up flights all over the country and finding three seats on the same other plane can difficult.

A flight early in the day would also be less likely to be impacted. Also look at how often an airline flies into your final destination, if there is only one flight a day then you will have a hard time finding another flight if you miss a connection.

TTBG
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by TTBG » Sat Nov 24, 2018 9:19 pm

I don't know if it would fit your budget but you might check backroads.com. A friend of mine took her teenagers on a trip thru them and loved it since they handled all of the logistics. It wasn't cheap but she enjoyed travelling with other adults and her kids had fun with the other teens on the trip.

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by TravelGeek » Sat Nov 24, 2018 9:36 pm

Infomom2 wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 12:14 pm
I would like to go someplace warm where there are interesting things to do other than beaches and water-based activities (those are good too, just don't want them to be the only thing). know that's vague, but I like places where I can get a feel for the culture, etc.I need it to be easy to get around, and wouldnt want to have to take a plane somewhere else. I would want to avoid driving myself, if possible. I'm thinking only 5-6 nights. I prefer international.

I love the idea of an all-inclusive resort, but would not want to be somewhere where we never leave the resort.
We love Belize. Both the coast and the jungle. About a decade ago, we spent time at the Banana Bank Lodge - it advertises itself as some sort of equestrian vacation resort, but I never went on a ride (my wife did one or two) and there were plenty of other activities to choose from:

https://www.bananabank.com/tours-transfers/

Since you mentioned Guatemala, we took a day trip to Tikal from BB Lodge (arranged by them).

We also like Placencia on the coast. We don’t stay at resorts and instead rent a cabin on the beach.

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by texasdiver » Sun Nov 25, 2018 1:13 pm

Costa Rica.

You don't say which city you are flying out of but Alaska Airlines has direct flights to San Jose and Liberia from PDX. The plane stops at LAX so it isn't a nonstop but you stay on the same plane so no connection to make.

My wife and I have taken our similar age kids to Costa Rica several times. We normally stay at beach towns on the Guanacaste Coast (NW Pacific Coast) but the country is small and we venture to other parts as well. Costa Rica has far more variety than Belize. You have mountains and cloud forests and a lot more varied adventures to be taken.

I know nothing about which all-inclusive resorts to recommend in Costa Rica. We are more independent travelers. We just arrange for a VRBO rental and do our own thing but then we are a bilingual family so maybe that is easier.

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Infomom2
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by Infomom2 » Fri Nov 30, 2018 1:34 pm

Thanks so much! I somehow didn't get the notifications for the new posts, so am just finding them today.
I will look into all of these options.

If anyone still wants to give recommendations, we would likely by flying out of PDX.

focusedonwhatmatters
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by focusedonwhatmatters » Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:51 pm

Although you say you want international, you also say you want something simple. I'll put in a plug for the big island of Hawaii. To me, Hawaii is a good mix of easy (no currency changes, no safety concerns, no driving concerns, no language barriers), but also a different cultural feel. Other islands are great as well, I just find the big island to be the most affordable.

You could take an early flight into Kona for a few days where you could go snorkeling, rent bikes, go on hikes, tour the cloud forest, go on a boat tour, go stand-up-paddle boarding or kayaking, go on a helicopter tour. Then you could drive up to the observatory, then head over to the Hilo side for a night, then go to Volcano National Park for a day and fly out of Hilo on a red-eye.

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by MotoTrojan » Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:55 pm

focusedonwhatmatters wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:51 pm
Although you say you want international, you also say you want something simple. I'll put in a plug for the big island of Hawaii. To me, Hawaii is a good mix of easy (no currency changes, no safety concerns, no driving concerns, no language barriers), but also a different cultural feel. Other islands are great as well, I just find the big island to be the most affordable.

You could take an early flight into Kona for a few days where you could go snorkeling, rent bikes, go on hikes, tour the cloud forest, go on a boat tour, go stand-up-paddle boarding or kayaking, go on a helicopter tour. Then you could drive up to the observatory, then head over to the Hilo side for a night, then go to Volcano National Park for a day and fly out of Hilo on a red-eye.
Agreed. Lots of cool excursions to be had.

All-inclusive is cheaper often if you drink much but doesn’t sound like this trip. My GF and I did a trip to Cancun area for $1550/ea 6 nights non-stop flights. A steal.

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Infomom2
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by Infomom2 » Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:57 pm

focusedonwhatmatters wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:51 pm
Although you say you want international, you also say you want something simple. I'll put in a plug for the big island of Hawaii. To me, Hawaii is a good mix of easy (no currency changes, no safety concerns, no driving concerns, no language barriers), but also a different cultural feel. Other islands are great as well, I just find the big island to be the most affordable.

You could take an early flight into Kona for a few days where you could go snorkeling, rent bikes, go on hikes, tour the cloud forest, go on a boat tour, go stand-up-paddle boarding or kayaking, go on a helicopter tour. Then you could drive up to the observatory, then head over to the Hilo side for a night, then go to Volcano National Park for a day and fly out of Hilo on a red-eye.
Thank you. I would definitely consider Hawaii. I feel that sometime the flights are not cheap from here (believe it or not) and then once there things are expensive..my impressions may be wrong, but that is what I found when I looked into it briefly.

focusedonwhatmatters
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by focusedonwhatmatters » Fri Nov 30, 2018 3:04 pm

Infomom2 wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:57 pm
focusedonwhatmatters wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:51 pm
Although you say you want international, you also say you want something simple. I'll put in a plug for the big island of Hawaii. To me, Hawaii is a good mix of easy (no currency changes, no safety concerns, no driving concerns, no language barriers), but also a different cultural feel. Other islands are great as well, I just find the big island to be the most affordable.

You could take an early flight into Kona for a few days where you could go snorkeling, rent bikes, go on hikes, tour the cloud forest, go on a boat tour, go stand-up-paddle boarding or kayaking, go on a helicopter tour. Then you could drive up to the observatory, then head over to the Hilo side for a night, then go to Volcano National Park for a day and fly out of Hilo on a red-eye.
Thank you. I would definitely consider Hawaii. I feel that sometime the flights are not cheap from here (believe it or not) and then once there things are expensive..my impressions may be wrong, but that is what I found when I looked into it briefly.
Flights are a lot. But the big island has reasonable room rates (I paid $129/night recently at a Sheraton) if you can go at off-peak times. If you get a place with a mini-kitchen you can save on meals as well. You can also look into an Air-bnb. Many of the activities I listed are free or pretty cheap. Others, like the helicopter tour, are a splurge. I took my teens to Hawaii and they enjoyed the free activities as much as the pricey ones. My favorite quote of the trip was "Mom, this whole trip has been a highlight!"

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by quantAndHold » Fri Nov 30, 2018 3:14 pm

Flying out of PDX...have you considered Cabo? Alaska goes there, and prices for flights tend to be reasonable. A lot to do, good weather in the winter.

Or Hawaii, which is very cost effective if you rent a condo instead of a hotel. Then you can eat most or all of your meals at home.

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by jodydavis » Fri Nov 30, 2018 3:24 pm

Another vote for Belize. I think teenagers would have a lot of fun there. You could stay at a jungle lodge (from ultra luxe to simple), see lots of wildlife, explore cool Mayan ruins, take a day trip to Tikal (awesome), lots adventurous things to do (google Actun Tunichil Muknal, cave tubing, etc.). And if you have extra time, you can combine this with a few days at the beach on San Pedro, with great diving, etc. Pretty easy to get around, no language issue, and they use the U.S. dollar.

Costa Rica would also be a good option. Wildlife and scenery is better than Belize, better beaches/surfing, volcanoes, and perhaps more adventure tourism (river rafting, etc.), but few/no Mayan ruins, which at least for me, made it a bit less interesting.

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Infomom2
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by Infomom2 » Fri Nov 30, 2018 3:51 pm

Thank you! This is all great info! A couple of more pieces of info about our family just in case anyone wants to throw in more opinions about what would be best for us. I am reading all the links, but overthink this as we can't often afford to do this kind of vacation, so I want it to be good.

Kids really love staying at hotels and eating in restaurants, and this is part of the appeal of a vacation to us, so I am not really thinking an airbnb type route. Saving money on some meals with a fridge, mircowave is great, though. Kids are pretty athletic, but I am not (not terrible by any means,I walk hilly areas daily, but really challenging activity is not a good fit for me). We are not really into ruins. Something like a jungle lodge would be really thrilling to the kids, I think, and it would be fine it it were not a traditional type hotel. Belize does sound appealing, but the other options do as well. Cabo sounds like it could be an easy flight, but it is all just resort/tourist stuff?

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by texasdiver » Fri Nov 30, 2018 4:32 pm

Infomom2 wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 3:51 pm
Thank you! This is all great info! A couple of more pieces of info about our family just in case anyone wants to throw in more opinions about what would be best for us. I am reading all the links, but overthink this as we can't often afford to do this kind of vacation, so I want it to be good.

Kids really love staying at hotels and eating in restaurants, and this is part of the appeal of a vacation to us, so I am not really thinking an airbnb type route. Saving money on some meals with a fridge, mircowave is great, though. Kids are pretty athletic, but I am not (not terrible by any means,I walk hilly areas daily, but really challenging activity is not a good fit for me). We are not really into ruins. Something like a jungle lodge would be really thrilling to the kids, I think, and it would be fine it it were not a traditional type hotel. Belize does sound appealing, but the other options do as well. Cabo sounds like it could be an easy flight, but it is all just resort/tourist stuff?
We stayed at this place a couple of years ago: https://www.leavesandlizards.com/

We stayed in the Monkey House. Highly recommended for families. It's in the highlands of Costa Rica outside of La Fortuna and Lake Arenal. The owners are American expats so easy to deal with in terms of both language and expectations. You almost need to rent a 4x4 to get there but well worth it. You rent a cabin and they have a full service restaurant with excellent food on the premises. You sit with the other guests and families so dining is a great way to meet other families staying there and make friends. The food is superb. Or you can eat in town in La Fortuna if you want. It's not all-inclusive, you only pay for the meals you eat on the premises so you can eat out other places all you want. But they are a bit far away.

They can arrange pretty much any kind of excursion anywhere in Costa Rica and have very good bilingual guides on-call. Costa Rica is a small country and this place is fairly central so you can get to much of the rest of the country on day-trip excursions. They arranged a variety of local excursions for us. The day-long horseback tour through the Costa Rican mountains to a hidden waterfall and natural swimming pool was the highlight for the kids. If you have longer then a week then I'd suggest splitting your time, spending half in the mountains at a place like this and then half at a beach resort.

2stepsbehind
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by 2stepsbehind » Sat Dec 01, 2018 3:17 am

If your teenagers are 13 + 16, you should consider having them research potential destinations + have them rank the potential options + flag activities of interest. This both reduces stress on your part by getting them involved in planning + minimizes grumbling on the back end (you guys said you wanted to do this!).

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by AlohaJoe » Sat Dec 01, 2018 4:06 am

Infomom2 wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 12:34 pm
My local libraries are awful; the books are so old they are useless.
Every library I've ever been to has Inter-Library Loans that allow you to get a book from any library in the country and not simply the ones on the local shelves. One time I wanted to borrow a rare, out of print book on Japanese garden techniques and it took a month or two to arrive. But usually they get there in a week.

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by FireProof » Sat Dec 01, 2018 7:26 am

Seems like Portland has a lot of deals to Hawaii - then again, if $129/night is considered cheap there, it may beworth it to spend a bit more on the flights to go to Central American or Southeast Asia.

https://www.fly4free.com/flight-deals/portland/

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Infomom2
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by Infomom2 » Sat Dec 01, 2018 10:54 am

Thanks for this site. I had not heard of it!

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by LarryAllen » Sat Dec 01, 2018 11:06 am

Oahu.

FrankLUSMC
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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by FrankLUSMC » Sun Dec 02, 2018 6:35 pm

Check this out, I don't know of any teen who could pass up a tree house on the beach!

https://www.costaricatreehouse.com/

Edited to add: Plus there are 8 or more tree house type hotels on either coast. I just linked to the first that came up.

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Re: Vacation for single parent and 2 teens: Belize or where?

Post by Super Hans » Sun Dec 02, 2018 7:50 pm

Panama might be worth considering, too. We found there was a lot to do around Panama City, including some history and the curiosity of the canal. Granted, the beaches weren’t spectacular, but it sounds like that’s not going to be the focus of your trip anyway.

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