To save money, many of us take a staycation in Florida. Why not? People fly here from all over the world to visit our beaches and Disney World. Staying close to home can save you loads of cash right? Maybe not.
Until a year or so ago, I never planned to visit South America. A friend from New Port Richey who retired in Medellin, Colombia kept telling me how much he enjoys life there and that I should give it a shot. I finally visted last year and I’ve been back twice since. [PHOTOS]
You can live like a king without spending a lot. In fact, the vacation almost pays for itself. Once you’ve paid your airfare, everything after that you’ll pay pennies on the dollar vs what you would pay during a Florida staycation.
Let’s break down my 1 week trip and compare what it would have cost me had I just stayed in Florida, instead of visiting Colombia. In some cases, we’re comparing apples to oranges. I’m also going to price the trips per person. Let’s also assume you already have a passport. But let’s give it a go.
Florida Staycation: Gas money is pretty much going to be your only cost for a Florida staycation. Let’s say $100 to get from the Tampa area to wherever you’re going and back… plus some gas money for short drives once you’re there. Total: $100
Colombia: About $400 for a flight and then $100 in Uber rides for the week. You do NOT want to rent a car in Colombia. If you think Florida drivers are crazy, you have seen NOTHING. Plus Uber rides are incredibly cheap. When I got back to the U.S., I looked at my credit card purchases and it was an endless string of $2-3 Uber rides. Almost all were about 15-20 minute rides too. Technically Uber is illegal in Colombia, but everyone uses it and it’s safe. Just note your driver’s rating and you’ll be fine. Total: $500ACCOMMODATIONS:
Florida Staycation: A week at a nice hotel in Florida will cost at least $1,000. You’ll pay a lot more than that in the super touristy areas. But let’s just say you found a deal. Total: $1,000
Colombia: High end luxury apartments on AirBnB are usually less than $50 a day – and those are in the nicer neighborhoods like El Poblado in Medellin or the Chapinero in Bogota. There are the typical Hilton type American style hotels, but you’ll pay much more and you get less of the authentic Colombian experience. Total: $350
Florida Staycation: Now here’s where you could see a BIG difference. The Florida theme parks ain’t cheap. But let’s say you find something far less expensive to do. So let’s say about $25 a day to be super conservative. Total: $200
Colombia: Taking the cable cars to the top of mountains costs around $5. The Gold Museum in Bogota was just over $1. The Modern Art Museum in Medellin was about $5. Everything touristy topped out at about $5, but let’s add in one guided tour specifically marketed to Americans for about $50. Total: $100FOOD:
Florida Staycation: This obviously varies in terms of how fancy you like to go when you dine. On vacation, I don’t do fast food but nor am I a Bern’s kind of guy. An average meal when I go out to eat in Florida tends to be in the $20 to $25 range after tip. Let’s calculate 2 meals a day dining out. Total: $500
Colombia: Even in the “gringo” (tourist) neighborhoods of Bogota and Medellin, you rarely pay more than $15 U.S. for a complete meal with apps, entree and a drink. At most of the quick bite sit down restaurants in the touristy neighborhoods, I paid less than $10 a meal. Total: $250
Adding all that up, I arrive at $2,200 for the Florida staycation. $1,200 for the Colombian trip. And I’ve gotta tell ya – I doubt I even spent $1,000.
Is Colombia for everyone? No. Even though I never really felt unsafe, if you’re traveling with a family, there are better options. It’s more of a trip for adults. My friends and I hit the casinos, there were long afternoons at cigar shops, nights out drinking Aguardiente (potent, be careful!), and meals at restaurants that weren’t ideal with kids.
All that said, most Americans have a really outdated idea of what life in Colombia is like. Pablo Escobar is long gone. The country has rebounded and residents are already complaining that the invasion of tourists like us is driving up prices and western-izing the culture. You know… kind of like how we complain about transplants from the north!