Our 2020 Latin America Trip

*by Whitney*

Planning Our Next Adventure

After our first two long international trips (Around the World in 2018 and EuroTrip 2019), we were planning our next big adventure for Latin America in March 2020! It seemed like a pretty quick turnaround, since we’d just gotten back from Europe in August 2019, followed by a big road trip and just one 13-week travel physical therapy contract. But we thought the timing would be perfect to head directly to South America after a company-sponsored vacation in Mexico (Club Core Med) which was planned for March. So at the end of 2019 we set out planning our 5-month long trip from March-August throughout Mexico, Central and South America!

Here’s a photo of us from Thailand in 2018!

Global Pandemic Strikes

Now that it’s May 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic is in full swing, you probably already know how this story ends. After several months of planning and having about half the trip already booked, literally days before we were going to leave, our minds were blown when the Club Core Med trip was suddenly cancelled. At first we were in denial about not being able to travel, because things were still evolving with the coronavirus. So we hastily made alternative plans to fly directly to South America from the US to our second planned destination, Lima, Peru, even though we couldn’t go to the company trip in Mexico. This new plan gave us 5 extra days at home instead of the 5 days planned for Riviera Maya, Mexico. During these 5 crucial days, everything got turned upside down. We went from thinking we were leaving the country for 5 full months abroad, to realizing maybe we could only do part of the trip because we might experience travel restrictions, to realizing we probably had to cancel the trip altogether.

We waited til the last minute to make our decision, as we continued to monitor news reports. During these few days, the US President declared a National Emergency, and he closed the US borders to Europe. In addition, many countries in South America started closing their borders completely or to travelers from certain areas, which in some cases included the US. This is when it really became clear that we would not be able to carry on traveling like we wanted to, as it seemed that many of the countries would not let us in at all, and the list of those countries was only likely to increase in the coming days.

Our new looks during COVID-19

Cancelling Our Trip

So, with much despair, we announced that we were cancelling the trip just a day or two before we were supposed to leave. While it was a devastating choice, this turned out to be a really good decision, because by the day we were supposed to fly to Peru, that evening the Peruvian government announced they were closing their borders completely, in or out. So, we would’ve either gotten there and immediately had to turn around and come back, or we would’ve had to report immediately to our Airbnb and be quarantined there indefinitely. Sadly, one of our friends and fellow travel PT was already in Peru and did have to self-quarantine for a couple of weeks at his Airbnb, before finally getting on a “repatriation flight” back to the US that had to be organized by the US government. We are really glad we didn’t end up going and getting stuck, because as things continued to evolve in South America, it became very difficult and at times scary for non-natives trying to get back home.

So after more or less being forced to cancel the trip, we had to begin the frustrating process of cancelling all of our individual flights, Airbnb’s, buses, etc since we book all of these things separately on our own, not through a travel agent or as a package-deal of any kind. We initially intended to have the entire trip booked before leaving, like we did with Europe in 2019, but we found ourselves short on time and had only booked about half of it. We’d basically done the same thing as we did with our 2018 Around the World trip. We had booked the first couple months, then the last couple weeks, which meant we had our beginning and ending booked, with the middle part open. Since the unexpected happened and we were not able to go, it turned out to be better that we had less booked. But still, a couple of months worth of individual airline tickets, bus tickets, and Airbnb stays is quite a lot to try to call and cancel, especially during a Global Pandemic when everyone is having to cancel their travel plans and try to get refunds. This continues to be a struggle even into May as we wait for returned calls and emails from dozens of agencies.

Croatia 2019 – missing adventures like this!

Our Planned Travel Itinerary

Since we hadn’t actually gotten around to writing a full post about our trip plans, I’ll give an outline here of our itinerary including what we had booked already and what we had planned to book:

Already Booked (Now Cancelled)

  • 3/11-3/15: Club Core Med in Riviera Maya, Mexico
  • 3/15-3/21: Lima, Peru
  • 3/21-3/27: Santiago, Chile
  • 3/27-4/2: Punta Arenas, Chile
  • 4/2-4/7: Puerto Natales, Chile
  • 4/7-4/14: El Calafate, Argentina
  • 4/14-4/21: Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 4/21-4/28: Montevideo, Uruguay
  • 4/28-5/5: Asuncion, Paraguay
  • 5/5-5/9: Uyuni, Bolivia (Salt Flats)
  • 5/9-5/13: La Paz, Bolivia
  • 5/13-5/15: Copacabana, Bolivia
  • 5/15-5/17: Puno, Peru
  • 5/17-5/23: Cusco, Peru
  • 5/23-5/24: Lima, Peru
  • 5/24-5/29: Quito Ecuador

Not booked (June-July)

  • Ecuador
  • Colombia
  • Panama
  • Costa Rica
  • Nicaragua
  • Honduras
  • Belize
  • Guatemala

Already Booked (Haven’t Cancelled Yet):

  • 7/29-8/5: Mexico City, Mexico
  • 8/5-8/12: Cancun, Mexico
Lamenting the trip we couldn’t take…

Now What?

When this all started unfolding, we were definitely in denial about cancelling the trip at all. Then, when it became clear we wouldn’t be able to do the beginning of the trip, we hoped we could still salvage some of the later parts. So initially we just cancelled March thru mid-May, and we were hoping maybe we could resume travel for Cusco, Peru and Quito, Ecuador, two places we were especially excited about. Now that we’re into May, it has become clear that this will not be a possibility, so we have cancelled that part of the trip as well. As you can see from the itinerary outline above, we had not yet booked June-July, so we don’t have bookings to worry about for then. As of now, we still have the very last part of the trip still booked in Mexico for the end of July/beginning of August.

We are hoping there’s still a chance we could resume traveling toward the end of July, depending on what’s happening in the world. So for now we are going to leave Mexico booked and see what happens. In the meantime, we are laying low in our hometown in Virginia and focusing our time on other projects since we can’t travel right now! As you may know from some of our other posts, we actually decided to buy a house in our hometown! So, there’s no shortage of home projects to be done now that we are homeowners. This doesn’t mean we are settling down for good though. It just gives us a place to stay when we want to be home, between travels! (More about our home purchase in future posts!)

So for now, we wait. We will see what the coming months will hold. We hope to be able to take some kind of trip later this year. Hopefully we can go to Mexico or somewhere in Latin America as planned, but even if not we definitely still want to do our cross-country road trip we had planned for the fall like we did last year en route to the Traveler’s Conference in Vegas (that is, if they’re able to still have the conference of course)!

Visiting the Grand Canyon on our 2019 roadtrip

But, time will tell. Stay tuned and we will update here and on social media about our travel plans!

Did you have to cancel any travel plans due to COVID-19? If so, what’s been your experience with cancellations for flights, accommodations, buses, etc? Let us know in the comments!



9 thoughts on “Our 2020 Latin America Trip

  1. Was supposed to be on a plane right now for Rome, Italy. They canceled the flight in late March and I was able to get a refund. I was supposed to be meeting my parents and sister, who were supposed to fly to London last week. Some things we had planned we were able to cancel but one of the inter-Europe flights we weren’t able to. It is such a bummer, but what are you going to do?


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