One of my financial goals last year was to take a trip to the US, but we ended up going to Europe for two months (life is hard, I know) in the end, my second European trip of the year (very hard indeed), and the US were postponed… until now!
We made the decision at the end of the year, and will be going with BF’s sister and her boyfriend. There was a cheap flight on Spirit, $220 return for Guatemala to Ft Lauderdale, FL, plus $30 for a suitcase on the way back, because we plan on buying half a mall over there haha.
I used to make fun of middle-upper class Guatemalan who go to Miami once or twice a year just to go shopping, but after living in the jungle for over a year, I have to admit that consumer goods are pretty scarce. For example, if you want to buy a fridge in my town, you have about three places to go. Those three places will each have two or three fridges, limiting your choice to under a dozen at best. When I was shopping for a fridge, I wanted to look into the ones with an ice making machine, and there were only two options, in the whole town, both of them overpriced models from the previous year.
And that is a pretty good range of choices, because if you want to shop for clothes, 90% of the supply comes from the paca. The paca means packed clothes and those are second hand clothes coming from the US’ Salvation Army and other thrift stores in bulk, probably sold by the pound. I suspect there are some clothes that were donated “to the poor Guatemalans”, and some people make a business out of selling them. If you are really, really patient and like to browse for hours, you may find a real gem once in a while, otherwise, most of the stuff is dirt cheap, generally under $1 per piece, but it is not my idea of shopping for clothes. In my town, we don’t have one name brand store, and the few clothing stores showcasing brands like Nike or Abercrombie are just selling cheap imitations.
You can find most big brands in Guatemala City, at a 20 to 30% markup compared to the US. So when a flight is just $220, it is understandable that people go shopping to the US.
Miami is not one of our usual cheap travel destinations, but we should be fine still. We won’t be paying for accommodation, as BF’s father had a house in Miami that is now shared by his siblings so we stay for free for two weeks. Even better, we rented our room on Airbnb and will have a guest for a full month, paying us $800 to stay! That covers both flights and our round trip to Guatemala City.
The Miami house comes with a car, so I just rented a car for a day from the airport, as it is cheaper than a taxi for four, and we’ll take it back the next day when we go to a nearby mall to start our shopping frenzy. Because in spite of all those savings, it will still be an expensive trip. Remember if you are renting a car you should know you need to provide proof of insurance, Debenhams worldwide travel insurance can help you figure that out, otherwise the rental company will charge you an expensive daily fee on top of the rental.
I am not a big shopper but BF has been complaining for a while about me always wearing the same thing, and I have lost over 10lbs from the running so I can use a few things.
And I am not planning on going to Europe this year, so this is my one chance to treat myself at affordable prices. This is my shopping list:
I just bought a basic laptop three months ago but I sort of hate it, and my village is a great place to unload unwanted electronics for a reasonable price (I sold my old laptop to the maid for $200, so I think I can get at least 80% of purchase price for that one), so I am thinking about buying a super slim Asus UX21, which costs around $800. And a laptop case while we’re at it. I had a cool red one but lost it somewhere.
My old laptop was an Asus Eeepc and I loved it, it lasted almost four years, so I trust the brand and want to get another small light laptop. I want to look into the ones with solid state hard drives too, but I don’t want a Mac. $900 with accessories
Next big item, about $100 for a pair of running shoes, mine should be a bit worn by then and that should last me until the next trip to Europe. Will have to try a new brand as my first two pairs were from a French brand that doesn’t market in the US. I plan on flying without the old ones and testing the new ones over there in case I need to return them. I want an armband for my iPod as well, and maybe a running bra. $150
I live by the beach and have no nice bathing suit, which is a real shame. Mine are all dark blue or black and they have lots their stretch so that is a must buy as well. About $100 I guess, I am all ears if you know a nice brand as I am not familiar with US swimwear brands. $100?
I need a few t-shirts, a pair of jeans that fit my new bottom, maybe a dress, I have been checking that awesome site Worn on TV where you can see where to buy the beautiful dresses girls wear on your favorite TV shows, I liked a few from Revenge but can never remember which ones. Anyway, I have half a dozen dresses which are all nice, all fit well, and that I almost never wear, because in the jungle, who cares really, but I enjoy dresses so I may get one if I see a really cool one. A few formal tops or blouses would be nice too, but are not a must. $500
BF arranged a Victoria’s Secret delivery for my birthday, which was a really cool surprise, but once more, as I won’t go abroad again in a while, I want to stock up, 100% cotton underwear is hard to find around here and the heat makes it a must have. Too much information! Moving on. $80
Yes, Guatemala is a tropical country where it is hard to find a decent pair of flip flops. My favorite are Ipanema’s Anatomic models, which have an anatomic sole instead of a flat one. They are super comfy and sturdy, but I wear them every day and my last pair broke, so I am on a
$3 cheap imitation from the market at the moment They died. I really need a new pair. They cost about $12 and Amazon has free delivery so I can shop from the sofa. $20
That one is optional, but we are going to fly without a bag ($30 for a carry on, come on Spirit!!) and fly back with all that stuff. I plan on taking an empty soft bag with me so I can fill it up, but if I find the perfect laptop bag like the one I had my eyes on for black Friday, or a small suitcase with wheels, it will probably make the shopping list. $150
I am sure there will be other gadgets for the house, or a book, or something else. But since the weight is limited on the plane, I hope it won’t be too much. $100
Total: around $2,000.
Thank goodness the flight and accommodation are covered. I think I will save more than the price of the flight compared to buying the same items in Guatemala.
The plan is to fly with the clothes I am wearing, flip flops, and a small backpack with my laptop, toothbrush, running gear and a change of clothes. All the rest I plan on buying over there.
I think a day or two at the mall will be more than enough, maybe even too much, I plan on ordering some stuff online before we leave so it gets there when we do, and I have two weeks to try and return if needed.
Other things I am excited about
Let’s stop with the superficial stuff, I am really excited because I have never been to Florida, most of the things I have seen from Miami are from Dexter….
Road trip to the keys
Since we have a car, I’d love to take a road trip to Key West, maybe stay overnight, have a slice of Key lime pie and some seafood, swim, and whatever else there is to do. Do you see Cuba in the distance on a clear day?
Yes, I live on the beach, but in the middle of nowhere. So I am excited about seeing the ocean, walking/running along the coast, people watching, and a complete change of scenery.
I heard there were crazy things in Miami, artificial canals with multi million houses, the Art Deco old town, the beach front… And as a real estate junkie, I also did a bit of homework and saw some really, really cheap properties. Maybe I’ll come back with a new rental property, who knows!
And even if I don’t, I love looking at houses and buildings everywhere I go, imagine how people live, what their routine is like, and so on.
All you can eat seafood!
When we crossed the US with a motorcycle in 2011, BF and I used to have lunch at those Chinese buffet restaurants, it was almost as cheap as McD, $10-$15, and you could eat a great variety of sushi, shrimps, sometimes even oysters. Sure, they aren’t the nicest restaurants in town but the value for money is incredible, if you are smart enough to go for the high protein, cold options. If you eat fried rice you’ll be full before you can “bankrupt the place”. That was our game while traveling, we would sit there for hours, watching fat people go after two plates of noodles while we stuffed ourselves with peel and eat shrimps.
BF told me Miami had some awesome buffets, with crab legs, oysters and raw fish so we are in for several treats!
I will check the calendar for concerts or events while we are in town, hopefully something nice will come up.
After so much being on the road, I am super happy to go to one destination only. Get to know a place really well, enjoy the small things you wouldn’t pay attention to if you only had a day or two in town.
Have you been to Miami? What can you add to the must see attractions? Which is the best mall?