Special snowflake adventure for the snowflakeless
December 4, 2012 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out a special-snowflake adventure for under $3000 per person, leaving this weekend?

A friend and I (both mid twenties) have off Dec 8-21. Originally planning to go learn to ski in Utah and stay with friends, but given the warm weather and iciness, decided to postpone that trip.

We've been to Western Europe and Central America recently so I would like to try another region than those. Not opposed to staying in North America.

We're both into adventures and good story fodder and trying new things. We don't want to sit on a beach all week. Warm is better but I'm not opposed to cold weather as long as there are people out and about, and preferably the option for winter sports.

We both like nightlife and good food. I don't eat meat except fish, he loves meat but will gladly experiment with veggie/pesci things. Good beer and cocktails are hobbies of both of ours. I'd be interested in hiking or outdoorsy things but don't want that to be the ONLY thing we do. Other than kinda seedy hostels he's not really interested in "roughing it" (unless it's for something story-worthy like hiking the Inca Trail)

As for the cost, just want to keep the whole trip under $3000 each including flights, flying out of Houston. That probably eliminates most of Asia and Australia / NZ. We don't need to be gone for the whole 14 days but at least a week would be great.

If you have any suggestions that even loosely fit the above criteria, fire away. Thanks!
posted by ista to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. For $3k, you could have a grand old time in Accra, Ghana.

Ghana Tourism Authority
Lonely Planet

posted by mykescipark at 1:20 PM on December 4, 2012

FYI, considering s/he wants to leave this weekend and obviously can't get a visa that fast, Ghana (and other visa-requiring countries) are off the list.
posted by Flamingo at 1:24 PM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Not sure of the weather this time of year, but Colombia is fun and not particularly expensive once you're there, and Houston has several direct flights to Cartagena, Medellin and Bogota (or did when I last travelled down there). You could stay on the north coast and travel from Cartagena east - there are resorts and national parks to visit. I liked Parque Nacional Tayrona in particular, and they had some huts you could rent that were decent - I got a hammock instead b/c it was cheaper. Taganga was nice if touristy. Cartagena was great. You could then fly to either Medellin or Bogota, both of which are fun. I don't believe a visa is required, though for the national park you'll need a yellow fever vaccination certificate (but don't need that generally). Good luck! I'm jealous.
posted by slide at 1:41 PM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: Orbitz has Last Minute Deals

How about a Road Trip?

Start in Las Vegas, drive to LA, go up the California Coast.

Check out Missions, wineries, Madonna Inn, Santa Cruz/Monterrey/Carmel, San Francisco, Napa.

Or do Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, down through Sedona and Phoenix.

Either way, lots to see and do. Get a luxury yacht of a vehicle, like a Lincoln or something. If you like a place, hang out. Check out the sites, enjoy cigars, cocktails and steaks/Salmon.

Another option is the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, then up to Vancouver and Whistler (for winter sports.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:46 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about Buenos Aires? It'll be high summer there, and Kayak Explore is showing flights at about $1500 from Houston. That's expensive, but you could definitely spend a week or two in Argentina for $1500 apiece.
posted by Sara C. at 1:48 PM on December 4, 2012

I'm not too familiar with warm places so I'll give you a couple of cold places with lots of activity that you might find interesting.

Montreal, Quebec is a cool destination with lots of beer, food, people, nightlife and stuff to do. They also have lots of breweries in the area too that you could visit.

Whistler, British Columbia is lots of fun too. Really relaxed atmosphere, loads of people from all over the world, good nightlife and just lots of fun! It's one of my favourite places.
posted by cyml at 1:48 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

since you're doing this so last minute, you could sort out what airline uses Houston as a hub, and then search the deals they've got.

It looks like United uses Houston as a hub, and these are the last minute vacations they have available.

Also play with Kayak- again, keeping your flights at 1k or less, and see what you can do/what looks appealing.

I'd apply that to a few other airlines, and see what you can do- as it's so last minute, I'd look to spend about 500 round trip on airfare, about 800 on lodging (assume 50/per person per night- this will be luxiorious in some locations, and a hostel in others), and the rest on food/amusement/railpackage etc.
posted by larthegreat at 2:00 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not agreeing with Accra. Lived there the past three years; it is boring as hell.

3000 dollars could get you round-trip to Cape Town, a week's stay at a decent hostel, or better yet an apartment/room with airBnB and you can check out Robben Island, Cape of Good Hope, the township, and a hundred other things.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 2:01 PM on December 4, 2012

Seconding Buenos Aires. I spent a pretty decadent 5 days of shopping and eating in nice restaurants there last September for about US $1,000 once I was on the ground, including a pretty sweet apartment in Palermo Soho for around $200. I would highly recommend the opera if you're into that kind of thing, good seats are a fraction what they would cost in any American/European city and the opera house is breathtaking.

If you get bored, I've heard Patagonia is an easy/cheap flight away for some outdoors fun, but I didn't have enough time to do this myself.

Have fun, I'm jealous!
posted by justjess at 2:02 PM on December 4, 2012

Do you dive? You could get certified and do a bunch of dives in that time someplace awesome. Just make sure you pick a place with a good safety reputation! With $3k see if you can do western pacific over the Caribbean. The diving is a millionty times better.

Or you could learn to surf.
posted by fshgrl at 2:09 PM on December 4, 2012

Thailand! Bangkok is intense, then you can go to the south and go to giant beach parties and learn to rock climb in Railay, and swim in the world's most beautiful beaches. Plus you can see islands full of monkeys. If I had 3K, I'd go to Thailand for sure. There are also a lot of people your age / backpackers to meet up with.
posted by kellybird at 2:15 PM on December 4, 2012

OP mentions not wanting to do Southeast Asia. That said, prices aren't that crazy, if you pick the right dates.

One problem with SE Asia over other destinations is sheer distance, not to mention the crippling jet lag involved. OP and friend will lose a solid 24 hours on each end due to traveling (if not longer depending on layovers), will lose another day or so due to jetlag upon arrival, and need to be home a couple days before their vacation officially ends in order to get reacclimatized to CST. That leaves them maybe ten days in country and free of debilitating brain fog.

Ten days is not a lot of time for a trip to Thailand, especially if OP's travel companion isn't into "roughing it" and they are specifically not that inclined to go there.
posted by Sara C. at 2:38 PM on December 4, 2012

How about visiting the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope?
posted by Sophont at 3:15 PM on December 4, 2012

I've always thought one of those Central American schools that groups some combination of Spanish immersion, yoga, surfing and spinning poi would be just awesome. You just might do a search and place a couple of international phone calls and see what you can wrangle at the last minute.

Here's one that let's you customize a week starting Dec. 16.

A bit of searching will net you more options in this realm.
And don't forget to check out airbnb for cool lodgings, wherever you go.

Do report back! I'm sure we all want to know where you ended up!
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 4:27 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about North Africa? You could get a cheap flight to London or Paris, then bop down Morocco or Algeria. Istanbul could also be interesting on a whole lot of levels.
posted by vecchio at 7:31 PM on December 4, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions! Since we're still kind of stuck on the skiing thing, we ended up booking a few days in Whistler and a road trip down to Seattle and Portland for some craft beer, live music and low-tax shopping (icky weather or not!)

Glad to see Buenos Aires recommended a couple times, it's on my list but I'd love to spend more time researching for such a large culturally rich city. The learn-to-surf option in Central America is also a great one.
posted by ista at 7:26 AM on December 6, 2012

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