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Do you have a happy place? For me, it is laying on a beach, a soft tropical breeze blowing, with a refreshing drink in my hand. The travel bug has a firm grip on us and we want our vacations to be “exotic.”  Frequent travels for business and to see family are nice, but once a year we want to branch out and go somewhere special and different!

Belize woman on dock in Belize with coffee
My idea of heaven! Enjoying my morning coffee on the hotel dock.

Our first trip was a cinch to plan as we already had the resort in mind. We figured out the logistics on getting there and what to do based on the resort and its offerings.  (Read about our trip to Mahahual here and here.)

We listed our “must-haves”:

  1. Beach
  2. Warm
  3. Affordable
  4. Accessible
  5. New (to us!)
  6. Off-season
  7. English speaking

Requests for time off from work must be made three months in advance which meant I submitted the request before we even chose a destination.  This is not the ideal way to plan and I don’t recommend it – it takes away the flexibility you may need in reserving accommodations and getting the best airfares.

1.  Beach

We live in Durham, NC, which is just a two-hour drive to the coast.  Sadly, we haven’t spent time on the beach here in many years.   (Hmmm, that may be a future blog idea and excuse to go!)  We both love being on the beach so that is our number one priority when choosing a destination.  Looking at the globe, that means lots of possibilities! Based on last year’s fiasco with the Sargasso (seaweed) problem in Mexico, beach research now includes checking for odd natural phenomena in the areas.

2.  Warm

October is a strange time of year. It is not as hot and humid in most tropical places (good for people like me who tend to overheat) but it also means that some locations are a bit too cool. Bermuda was a top runner until I saw that their temperatures were similar to Florida (same latitude). There was no point in going to a beautiful beach and being unable to enjoy it due to the temperatures!!

Belize San Pedro, seen from water
San Pedro, Ambergris, Belize

3.  Affordable

The price factor is a big component for us, the blog’s name The Common Traveler is for a reason after all. Being in our 40’s, we are absolutely not willing to stay at a hostel and sacrifice our creature comforts.  At the same time, I can’t see spending hundreds of dollars on a hotel room when the entire vacation will be spent lounging on the beach and exploring the town. The hunt for the perfect hotel is one of the hardest parts.

4.  Accessible

With only a week at a time for most vacations, I don’t want to spend hours upon hours switching planes, waiting for connections, or driving for hours around endlessly. My time is limited so I don’t want the travel to the location cutting in on my vacation!!

5.  New (to us!)

Life is too short to see the same thing over and over again! Mexico is really big and we could have chosen just another spot there, but exploring a completely new locale was important. We debated going to an island such as Bermuda, Aruba, and Curaçao, or whether to try another county in Central America like Costa Rica or Nicaragua. With us being open to just about anywhere, the possibilities were nearly endless.  I see lots of travel destinations in the future!

6.  Off-Season

We like to travel to destinations that are considered off-season. The cost is reduced, giving us more bang for our buck. It also means fewer travelers trying to book the same seats, making flight arrangements easier.   The hidden beauty of off-season travel is that you get more of the local flavor. When it is high season for tourists, businesses cater to the tourists. When it is mostly the locals in town, businesses cater to the locals. You get to meet the actual residents of the area rather than fellow tourists and you get to interact on a more cultural level.  Another bonus??  The lines are shorter and so is the wait for a table at dinnertime.

Belize Lobster tail
Lobster season in the Caribbean!

7.  English speaking

Being fluent in French and Spanish, I am pretty open to any destination. Allan understands a lot of Spanish but really didn’t want to rely on me for translation this time. The language decision did narrow down our possible destination choices. Once we factored in English as a primary language, the list narrowed to Belize, Bermuda, and multiple Caribbean islands such as Curaçao and the Virgin Islands.  There were more countries than I realized at first, but one or both of us had already been to them, making them not new to us!

Once we narrowed it down according to language, Bermuda came off the list because of the temperatures (but I will see and feel those pink sands one day). Then I eliminated most of the islands due to a need to transfer flights (leaving from Raleigh required connections) or the cost of the flights was simply too high.  That is how we came to decide that we would spend our getaway vacation in Belize!

This is the first part of a four-part blog on Belize – read about traveling, what to do and the best restaurants in San Pedro. And don’t miss out on visiting neighboring Caye Caulker. Feel like mixing up some activity with your relaxation? Check out our adventure and relaxation itinerary suggestion – where we recommend also experiencing the ATM Cave!

Happy travels!

Annick, The Common Traveler

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