It pays to have a backup plan or three when travel plans fall through

Kathryn and I have two weeks of vacation coming up next month. How we’re planning to spend those two weeks has changed three times in the past two months.

Plan A: Learning Spanish in Mexico City

Our original plan was to return to Mexico City for two weeks of Spanish classes. We had picked out a school and had reserved fifteen nights in a two-bedroom Airbnb with a rooftop patio in the hip Roma Norte neighborhood. We were rather looking forward to learning by day and enjoying good food and drink by night.

A couple weeks ago, by chance, I stumbled upon a blog post discussing an upcoming water outage affecting Mexico City. Apparently the only way they can update some of the existing infrastructure is to divert water away long enough to do the work. I did some research and discovered the outage would be widespread, including the neighborhood where we’d be staying, and would coincide with our stay.

I contacted the Airbnb host who reassured me the building had sufficient capacity in its cisterns to ride out the outage. A few days later, though, she wrote me again and said she was no longer convinced the work would be done within the time allotted or that the cisterns could be refilled if they were depleted. Likewise, Kathryn contacted the owner of the Spanish school, just a few blocks away, and his assessment of the interruption was, in not so few words, this is Mexico.

Neither of us relished the thought of being participants on a Spanish-language season of Survivor, especially if there was no shot at a million-dollar prize at the end. We canceled the Airbnb and the class.

Plan B: Relaxing beachside on the Mexican Riviera

Having abandoned our plans for Spanish study in Mexico City, we were left to figure out what to do with our nonrefundable airline tickets. The airport in Mexico City is in a neighborhood that wasn’t supposed to be affected by the water outage, so we could still fly there and travel elsewhere in Mexico. That formed the basis of Plan B.

I looked at a map and noted that Mexico City isn’t so far from the Pacific coast. A little more research revealed Acapulco could be reached by bus in about six hours, and Zihuatanejo was several hours further. Neither Kathryn nor I had ever been to Acapulco, and my only time in the Zihuatanejo area was to more recently developed Ixtapa, just to the north. And although I’d been imagining a vacation that involved a bit more mind power, I didn’t have any trouble imagining seven to ten days of sitting by the ocean letting someone bring me endless cervezas.

So that became our new plan. We’d arrive in Mexico City, spend one night at one of the nicer airport hotels, then take a bus to Acapulco for several nights, followed by several more in Zihuatanejo. By the time we’d be ready to head back to Mexico City, the water situation should have been resolved.

Fortunately, I didn’t make any nonrefundable deposits for the Mexican Riviera because, after a few days, it finally occurred to me to check the latest State Department travel advisories. As it turns out, Acapulco and Zihuatanejo are both in the Mexican state of Guerrero, which is under a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” warning. To put the warning in perspective, Afghanistan and North Korea are also Level 4. Unlike some parts of Mexico with the same threat level, this advisory made no exceptions for larger cities or busier highways.

I’ve sometimes been accused of being adventurous in my travels, but crashing waves and cheap beer aren’t worth dodging bullets. We decided to give up on Mexico for now, eat the change fee for our nonrefundable tickets, and save the credit for a date and destination to be determined later. However, it still left us with the question of what to do for two weeks in November.

Plan C: Camping lakeside in Arizona

Having given up on Mexico but also having agreed that quietly drinking beer at the water’s edge was an acceptable way to spend a couple weeks, we decided we’d just pack up the car and drive to one of our favorite camping spots in Arizona. It would require almost no additional planning, since no reservations are permitted at the campground we had in mind. If we started our drive after church on Sunday, we’d almost certainly find a good site upcountry as weekend campers started their drives back to the city.

Of all the plans, this is the one we held for the shortest period of time, less than 24 hours. Shortly after putting this plan together, Kathryn got a phone call concerning the health of a family member in New England. Fortunately, this plan was also the easiest to abandon.

Plan D: Visiting family in New England

Since we already had an airline credit, we’ve decided to use it now to fly to New England to see family. We’re flying into Manchester, New Hampshire, which I learned yesterday is ground zero in New England’s ongoing opioid crisis. We’re going to rent a car there and drive to Ipswich, Massachusetts, where we’ll stay with one of Kathryn’s cousins.

I’m sure we’ll also eat well in New England. We usually do.

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