Welcome to Travel Diaries, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week's travel diary: A 22-year-old assistant editor goes to El Salvador to meet her boyfriend's family.
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Occupation: Assistant Editor
Annual Number Of Vacation Days: 10 (two weeks/10 business days)
Location: Dallas, TX
Trip Location: San Salvador, El Salvador
Trip Length: 11 days
Travel Companions: boyfriend, boyfriend’s sister, and a friend
Cost: We flew from DFW International and El Salvador International Airport, $458.16 for my roundtrip ticket.
Costs: We booked a condo in the city on Airbnb, $81.71 for my share for 10 nights. We spent one night at a house on the beach, $87.50 for my share for one night.
Travel-size toiletries from Target: $6.11
7:30 a.m. – I wake up on the couch in my parents’ house. I literally just moved out and into my own place but spent the night because not only is the house right by the airport, but I also want to leave my car while I’m gone. I laze around on my phone for much longer than I should before finally getting in the shower and ready for work. I’m keeping it lazy today with tights, a striped tee, a cardigan, and sandals. I make coffee and leave a little after 8:30.
9:00 a.m. – Clock in. We don’t fly out until later this afternoon so I’m only working half a day today. I work on the rest of the month’s social media posts as well as finalizing email contacts.
12:05 p.m. – Clock out. I stop by Ulta on my way back to the house for face wash. I get back to a power outage because someone hit a pole, so I have to finish packing in the dim natural light. $5.19
2:00 p.m. – My boyfriend H, his sister S, and their parents pick me up to go to the airport. As we’re passing the toll, I realize I forgot my wallet at the house. I try to call my dad, but he doesn’t answer. Then I call T, H’s best friend who’s coming on the trip with us, and ask if he can stop on his way to the airport and pick it up for me. Just after we check our bags, T arrives with my wallet and we go through security. Once through, T and I get Chick-fil-A ($7.65). Aside from the coffee this morning, this is the first thing I’ve eaten all day. On our way to the gate, S and I get Starbucks. A grande iced hazelnut latte with breve — my one true love. ($5.47). $13.12
5:00 p.m. ( Dallas time) – We take off. The guy behind me keeps pressing the screen on the back of my seat, and he’s being very excessive about it. I flip through a magazine while listening to some music, then read through old entries in the journal I brought. I took up journaling during my post-grad summer of unemployment, and it’s kind of amazing to reflect on that time and be reminded of how good God is.
7:00 p.m. ( El Salvador time, one hour behind Dallas) – We land in San Salvador and go through customs. T and I each have to pay a $12 fee since we’re foreigners, but H pays and refuses to take our money. H and S’s cousin, B, picks us up and we drive to Colonia Escalón, a neighborhood in San Salvador about 45 minutes away from the airport, stopping near our Airbnb to eat at a Chinese restaurant. I order water and we all split three large plates. H pays and insists it’s his treat.
10:15 p.m. – We get to the Airbnb, a nice and comfy 2-bed, 3-bath condo with great views of the city. We settle in, boys in one room, girls in the other, and go to bed pretty quickly. I knock out just before midnight.
Daily Total: $18.31
7:00 a.m. – We wake up and I shower after S.
8:00 a.m. – H arrives and has brought so much stuff for us: pupusas, coffee, creamer, milk, juice, and toilet paper. After breakfast, we get ready for the beach, the first thing on the itinerary S planned for our trip.
9:45 a.m. – We arrive to the beach resort. It’s a $15 charge each, but H pays and once again refuses to take our money. We walk down the cliff and around the trails closer to sea level. We see lots of crabs crawling on the rocks, and the waves are huge. We make our way back up and S and I jump into the pool to cool off. We all order some drinks, a margarita for me, and kick back in some hammocks. Once we’ve finished our drinks, we walk down to the beach. The waves are so strong, almost all of us get knocked down at some point. It’s still a lot of fun though. We hike back up, order some appetizers, and swim in the pool. For some reason, I thought it would be okay not to put sunscreen on so by the time we leave, I’m pretty burnt. $26.32
1:50 p.m. – For lunch we go to a fancy seafood restaurant called Beto’s overlooking the ocean. I order grilled fish and we all split a dessert — caramel cake layered on chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. So good. H pays and insists on treating us, but after all telling him he can’t pay for everything the whole trip, we Venmo. I pay for the dessert. $21.67
3:45 p.m. – We stop at a boardwalk market but leave pretty quickly. There isn’t much to do or see, and S feels a bit uncomfortable here.
5:00 p.m. – We get back to the condo and I take a quick shower. I wasn’t planning on wetting my hair, but it’s so tangled that I just condition it. When I get out, I see that the sunscreen in my purse busted, so I clean up the mess. Hours ago, I mentioned wanting a cup of coffee, and B remembers and makes me one. We all get ready to go to dinner with some of H’s family from his dad’s side.
6:30 p.m. – Dinner is at some German restaurant where we all order two chicken plates and one sausage plate to share. White wine for me. I meet H’s grandmother, tía, and cousin, who T and I mostly talk to since we don’t speak much Spanish and he’s pretty fluent in English. It’s so cute to see how affectionate H is with his grandmother. Even though we’re literally the only ones in the restaurant, we don’t get our food until an hour later. H pays.
8:45 p.m. – Back to the condo with H’s family. I make coffee and everyone sits around talking. I have a small self-pity party for feeling so sunburnt and itchy. H’s family leaves after a bit, and I wash the dishes and get ready for the beach. H and S reserve a car for Tuesday through Thursday.
10:45 p.m. – I knock out.
Daily Total: $47.99
6:00 a.m. – I wake up. S and H said something about always waking up really early here. I don’t know if it’s the time difference — not that I wake up at 7 a.m. ever — but it’s true. I waste time on my phone, then doze while S showers. After I shower, I get ready in a white tee, green shorts, and brown sandals. B picks us up around 7:30.
8:15 a.m. – We stop by a pharmacy so S can get pads and I can get aloe vera. Unfortunately, the only one they have is the Hawaiian Tropic brand. I pay ($8.75). We stop at a Starbucks for two tall lattes— hot for S, iced vanilla for me. S pays, I Venmo ($4). We head out to breakfast along Ruta de las Flores, a beautiful drive up the mountain, with shops and stands along the side of the road. $12.75
10:00 a.m. – Breakfast is at an open-air restaurant full of greenery and flowers. I order a café con leche and a breakfast "típico": beans, cheese, crema, eggs, and plantain. S pays, we Venmo. We walk around the property, which has greenhouses, a small playground, rooms to rent, a few animals, and a banquet hall. Though H and I are not engaged, we are saving up for a wedding and plan on having a ceremony in the U.S., then a smaller one here for his family. We seriously consider having it in this venue — it’s about $2,000 for EVERYTHING (food, venue, service, and it’s pretty much already decorated). After I make small talk with the ducks, we leave to go to some adventure area. $8.55
11:30 a.m. – B pays for our entrance and we start a maze. H and T make us follow the “take every right” method. Though it’s technically correct, we all get tired of it real quick as it’s definitely not the most efficient way.
12:05 p.m. – Made it to the center! We ring the bell, take some photos and videos, then turn around and do it all again just so we can exit.
12:20 p.m. – We finally made it out, sweaty and tired S, B, and I walk to the car to grab some stuff and ask H and T to watch our bags. When we get back, their backs are completely turned to our purses as they look at a map of the maze and continue to discuss the best method (it would have been slightly quicker to take every left). I snatch the bags and we hide — they don’t even notice.
1:00 p.m. – We don’t want to walk back to the car in the rain, so we try to wait it out. Thankfully a truck comes around pulling a covered trailer, and we hitch a scary-but-fun ride going up the steep driveway back to the parking lot. We head out for the next stop on the agenda.
1:45 p.m. – We arrive at a village called Juayua. I buy some knock-off Converse ($14.99) to walk comfortably in, as well as a bundle of socks ($1). We walk around for a bit, T takes a picture with a snake, and we leave. $15.99
2:30 p.m. – We arrive at another village called Ataco. Once we find parking, we dodge the rain looking for a restaurant S remembers going to years ago. Thankfully the rain subsides pretty quickly.
3:00 p.m. – We find out S’s restaurant is closed and go to a different one. I order a carne asada plate and a horchata, but it’s made differently than the horchata I’m used to. To be honest, I don’t really like the texture and it’s not as refreshing as I was hoping it would be, so I let H have it. H insists on treating (I swear I pay for stuff on this trip). A little boy from Guatemala comes by with a tub full of stuff to sell. I buy two scrunchies, a bookmark, and a coin purse to give as souvenirs. $5
4:50 p.m. – H rents some buggies for us to ride around in the village. I ride shotgun in his, S and B go in the other, and T drives a four-wheeler. We drive up to a lookout spot and take some pictures of the valleys and a faraway lake right on the border of El Salvador and Guatemala, then drive back and around the village. It really is beautiful, with cobblestone roads and colorful home fronts. El Salvador has so much gorgeous vegetation. We leave around 6:00 p.m.
8:05 p.m. – We get back to the condo, and B makes S and I coffee, leaving shortly after. Now that I have WiFi, I post all my stuff to Instagram. H reheats some pupusas and we sit, eat, talk, and play around with Snapchat filters. The guy filter is so realistic it’s scary.
10:30 p.m. – I get up to take a quick shower, not washing my hair. I put aloe on everywhere and get ready for bed.
11:30 p.m. – I check my bank account. Our wedding savings account takes $50 out of each of our checking accounts every Tuesday. I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $42.26
7:30 a.m. – I wake up. We get a bit of a later start today, so I just laze around before taking a shower. I use this time to catch up on Money Diaries. How are people so casual about running multiple miles? Honestly: goals.
8:30 a.m. – We find out the ruins we were going to visit are closed during the week, so we can have an even slower morning. I finally get in the shower, put on more aloe (my shoulders are really feeling it today), dress in my black one-piece, black shorts, sandals, and a flannel, and make a cup of coffee. It’s good, but not as good as B’s. I pack a bag with a towel, sunscreen, aloe, and a cardigan to maybe “dress up” in later.
10:00 a.m. – We stop by the car rental place so S and H can look at the car and get more info, then head to breakfast at Mister Donut. I get a plate of eggs, borracho beans, cheese, and two chocolate donuts — they’re pretty big, so I give one to H I get another horchata and it’s much better than the one from yesterday. H pays, we Venmo. Before we leave, the boys go to the Nike Factory Store next door while S and I go to the bathroom. We wait a while for the lady in front of us, so I decide to just wait until we get to our destination. $4.95
11:00 a.m. – We’re on our way to a lake that’s in what used to be a volcano. I take a nap in the car. We split the gas we stop for along the way. $8
12:20 p.m. – Arrive at La Pampa, a nice restaurant with a great view of the lake. Though I already had a feeling, I go to the bathroom to find I’ve gotten my period. S says she never gets hers in the middle of the month, and I’m never four days early, so we both want to blame the other but it’s honestly probably both. This puts me in a mood, but I get over it. We order drinks (Coke for me), and lounge around for a while before walking/climbing down to the garden area. When we’re done, we climb back up and order. I get a chicken sandwich.
3:00 p.m. – The sandwich was good, it just fell apart. I drop some pieces to a kitten that was born and lives on the property. Before we leave, I order a café con leche to go. S and I split B’s meal ($23.79). I pitch in $10 for the waiter’s additional tip (all tickets include 10% tip, we just really liked this guy. H even had to hunt him down on his break to give him the tip). We were going to go to the lake, but don’t have enough time so we head back to the city, hitting a bit of traffic on the way. $33.79
4:50 p.m. – We get back to the condo and all lounge around before having to get ready for dinner. I go on Instagram, then fall asleep for a bit.
6:00 p.m. – Start to wake up and get ready for dinner with S’s friends, one of which is picking us up around 7:00.
7:40 p.m. – S’s friend arrives, and we head to a taquería not far away. The decor makes me want to watch Coco. I order a classic frozen margarita and a medium-sized nacho plate, then split a Nutella pie with S, which I pay for $17.70.
10:00 p.m. – As we start to leave and make plans with S’s friends to hang out later in the week, I begin to feel nauseous. I’m not sure if it’s what I ate or that in combination with my period. We head back to the condo because H and S’s tías, who are spending the night to go to the beach with us tomorrow, are waiting for us there. I start to gather my stuff out of our room since they’ll be taking the room S and I have been sharing and we’re taking the boys’ room. They’re sleeping on an air mattress in the living room.
11:30 p.m. – I still don’t feel good so I go to bed and fall asleep soon after.
Daily Total: $64.44
7:00 a.m. – I wake up feeling very rested and a bit better. It must have been the food because H and S, who also got nachos, and T, who had some of H’s nachos, don’t feel well either and all spend a lot of time on the toilet this morning. I make coffee as everyone starts packing. We’re staying at a nice house tonight right on the beach about an hour away.
8:00 a.m. – As H and S leave to pick up the rental car, I change into a comfy tee, green shorts, and brown sandals and pack an overnight. We’re spending the night at a beach house tonight about an hour away from the city. We’re not checking out of the condo, so I just have to pack an overnight bag. I realize I went to sleep with my makeup on last night. I use a makeup wipe, moisturize, put on sunscreen and some light makeup while trying to catch up on YouTube videos.
9:10a.m. – H and S finally get back with the car. H hops in the shower while we wait for their other tía and her friend to arrive. We load up the car and stop by Starbucks on the way out. Grande iced vanilla latte and bagel for me. S pays and I Venmo. $8
11:00 a.m. – Arrive to the beach house, a beautiful open-air, Spanish-style home with a pool, large yard full of palm trees, and a gate leading out right to the sand. We explore the three bedrooms, two of which have bunk beds in addition to a double. There’s a bird in one of the rooms, and the tía’s friend grabs him and takes him outside. We all claim rooms, and H, T, and I end up in the one the bird was in. Kinda gross since there’s some droppings on the double bed H and I will be sleeping in. We settle, then head to lunch at a seafood restaurant.
12:00 p.m. – We get a table literally on the sand. Though there’s a slight breeze, it’s still pretty hot. I want to eat something light and not warm, but can’t find anything on the menu. I’m a little irritated because of my period, my stomach, the heat, and the fact that I don’t know what to order. I get water and end up ordering lasagna.
1:30 p.m. – The place doesn’t seem that busy, but there’s still pretty slow service. They’ve already given us a complimentary appetizer, but we still haven’t gotten our food. S wants to cancel the orders and leave or just immediately take them to go so we can enjoy our day at the beach house, but H gets up to talk to the waiter. They say five more minutes, so we wait and get our food about ten minutes later. The lasagna isn’t bad, except that it’s literally just a noodle-lined bowl filled with melted cheese. H immediately asks for the check so we can leave as soon as we’re done eating. $10.67
2:10 p.m. – We head back to the house, then H, his tía, and I go to the supermarket less than 4 km down the road. We get bread, turkey, cheese, mayo, eggs, beans, wine, soda, water, and alka seltzer. H pays, splitting it with me, S, and T ($13.60). I also buy a pair of flip flops and some tampons. ($10.40) $24
2:45 p.m. – We unload the groceries, change into swimsuits, and all get in the pool. After a while we go out to the beach. H loses his sunglasses to one wave and S, their tía, and I get knocked down by another, leaving me with a knee scrape. Told you those waves were strong. We rinse as much of the sand off as possible and get back in the pool.
5:30 p.m. – I get out and start to dry off, and go sit in a hammock and browse social media. As the sun starts to set, I step out onto the beach to try and see it, but it’s not as pretty as I thought it would be. I pick up a shell and go back.
7:15 p.m. – Dinner of eggs, beans, and bread. My stomach is hurting more now so I eat just a little. When I go to the bathroom to shower, I see a cockroach crawl across the floor and into the shower, and by the time people come in to see it/try to kill it, it’s gone. They try to tell me it’s just a dead one, even though I literally just saw it moving. When the tia’s friend shakes a towel that’s on the floor, it falls and she kills it (I knew I wasn’t crazy). I want to take her back home with me. I shower very cautiously and quickly.
9:45 p.m. – H, T, and I watch a couple of episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine before turning in.
Daily Total: $42.67
8:30 a.m. – I get up after waking up on and off for the past hour and a half. S and the señoras are making breakfast — eggs with veggies, beans, bread, and crema. H and I sit at the table and I snack on some vanilla wafer cookies in the meantime. The bedrooms are the only rooms with air conditioning, so it’s hot and very humid in the kitchen. After breakfast, H, T, and I go back to the room and take a nap.
11:00 a.m. – We wake up and I lounge around the pool while everyone swims, then we all take a walk along the beach. I haven’t had the energy to change into a swimsuit, especially since it’s still probably covered in sand. I can’t cool off unless I’m in the bedroom, so I’m a little irritable. Once I change clothes and the breeze picks up, I’m okay.
1:30 p.m. – Sandwiches and chips for lunch, then back to the room to chill.
3 p.m. – We start packing and cleaning up before driving back to the city. We get back to the condo around 5:00 p.m. and just crash on the couch and watch old cartoons.
7:20 p.m. – H, S, T., and I go to get food. It’s gonna be a chill night. We pick up Taco Bell for me and T, and Burger King for everyone else (H and S’s two tías are spending the night again). I spend a lot of time browsing social media and watching videos with H and T. $7
10:00 p.m. – I take a shower, start a quick load of wash, lay around, put my clothes in the dryer, and hop in bed. I think S is already asleep.
11:45 p.m. – Though it doesn’t necessarily hurt anymore, my stomach is still gurgling. After H gets out of the shower, he lays with me for a few minutes before heading to bed. I catch up on Money Diaries before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $7
8:30 a.m. – I wake up and browse social media for a while before everyone gets up and ready for breakfast. The tías left earlier this morning. I put on black shorts, a black top, and brown sandals, some BB cream, light contour, concealer, and some mascara.
10:20 a.m. – We meet S’s childhood friend at a breakfast buffet. I just get two small pancakes, some cantaloupe, a small bowl of cereal, and coffee. The cantaloupe isn’t that sweet, but it’s so refreshing. S pays, we Venmo. $8.75
11:45 a.m. – The five of us arrive at the Gallerías mall. I buy a pair of black platform sandals, change into them, and we keep walking around. $10
1:00 p.m. – We leave the Gallerías for another mall. I get two wooden crosses with floral designs, a small woven crossbody purse, a magnet, and a woven pouch for souvenirs and we keep walking around. $16.50
2:30 p.m. – Pizza Hut for lunch. Here, Pizza Hut is a sit-down restaurant with servers. We order two large pizzas (half supreme, half meat lover’s, half pepperoni, half cheese), two orders of breadsticks with meat dipping sauce, and two pitchers of soda. S’s friend from Monday night meets up with us. S pays, we Venmo. $7
4:00 p.m. – We go to another mall. There’s crazy traffic at the roundabout on the way. We meet up with T’s cousin who attends the university nearby.
5:00 p.m. – We stop by Juan Valdez Cafe. I get a small vanilla iced latte and a brownie. H pays for me. We stop at a supermarket in the mall for mineral water, IPAs, water, bananas, and limes. H and S split it. On the way out, we stop at a toy store so S can buy Uno.
6:30 p.m. – After more crazy roundabout traffic, we get back to the condo. S’s friend from Monday and T’s cousin are still with us, and H’s cousin and tía from the German restaurant join us. We all play Uno until T’s cousin leaves, then we move on to Categories.
10:15 p.m. – Everyone else has left. I watch a couple of episodes of B99 with the boys, then bedtime.
Daily Total: $42.25
7:30 a.m. – I wake up and browse social media as B arrives to take H and S to drop off the rental car. We split it. I’m still having stomach issues. Ugh. $48.46
9:00 a.m. – We stop at McDonald’s drive-thru and start ordering burritos and McMuffins. I get a bottle of water and a McMuffin. $2.85
11:00 a.m. – We arrive at a village. It’s not crowded at all, and though it’s cute, there’s absolutely no breeze so it feels awful. It’s weird because I can see the bushes and trees moving slightly, but I’m not feeling this air. S and I browse the vendor stands. I buy a mug for $5 and a shot glass that I could have sworn the lady said was $3, but when I give her a ten, she only gives me a single dollar coin back. I don’t have the energy to ask about it, and it’s just a dollar. ($9) We walk around the village and into a cool art museum. We browse some of the sculptures and stop to watch a video on what I think might be the history of El Salvador. I honestly can’t really tell since it’s in Spanish. I drop my dollar coin in the donation box on the way out. ($1) We step into a nearby cafe to cool off. I feel bad coming in here and not buying anything, so I try to ask for an iced latte. I’m really shy about speaking Spanish, so it probably sounded bad. Instead of an iced latte, the lady gives me a hot latte with a few ice cubes in it. Again, I don’t have the energy to ask about it. I also get a lemonade for H ($4.40) We stop at a store and I buy another mug and a toy ($7), then three small keychain coin purses at another vendor stand ($3). We head back to the city for lunch around 1 p.m. $24.40
2:45 p.m. – At the restaurant, I order a Coke and pasta alfredo. I respond to a recruiter on LinkedIn who messaged me right before my trip asking if I’m interested in a proofreading contract for a retailer in a nearby city (back home, of course). I ask if it’s a remote opportunity and part-time, though I’m sure it’s not. Doesn’t hurt to ask though. Who knows if she’ll even respond. H pays, we Venmo. I split H’s meal with T. B drops us back off at the condo and I take a quick shower. $13.86
5:40 p.m. – We take an Uber to H and S’s stepfather’s sister’s house. H pays. It’s not that far away from where we’re staying, but it’s going to take about 30 minutes because of traffic. I read today’s Money Diary on the way. When we get there, we chat and eat pupusas and banana flan. I’ve actually never had flan before, but this one is sooo good!
9:00 p.m. – H and S’s step-tía takes us back to the condo.
12:00 a.m. – I take off my makeup, moisturize, take contacts out, bed.
Daily Total: $89.57
8:30 a.m. – Wake up. B is already here and talking to H in the living room. I sit with them for a few minutes, then get up to get ready. Green shorts, a black tee, and flip flops. Just a bit of contour, eyebrow touch up, and curl eyelashes today.
9:45a.m. – We head out to breakfast. I order pancakes and coffee. B treats us.
11:20a.m. – Go to a nearby anthropology museum and pay the entrance fee ($1). This museum had lots of cool displays ranging anywhere from the diaspora of Salvadorans around the world to their traditions for and legends of the dead. After browsing the art and history, we go to the gift shop. I buy an azucarera ($8.99) that will match the mug I bought yesterday perfectly. $9.99
1:15 p.m. – We go back to the Gallerías for one store that sells T-shirts. H gets four, T gets two, S gets one, I get none. There weren’t any that I loved, and for the most part, I didn’t like any of the materials. After buying the shirts, we leave for lunch up on a volcano (dormant, I believe… hope). It’s about 30 minutes away, so I start to read today’s Money Diary. Once we start going up the mountain though, it’s a pretty drive so I look out the window instead.
2:20 p.m. – We’re seated on the patio. Everyone else orders pupusas, but I’m really not feeling cheese right now, so I order a fried shrimp appetizer, some fries, and a coke. A dog comes up to the railing and I drop some fries and fried skins to her. H pays for me, but I’ll probably Venmo him later.
4:40 p.m. – Drive back to the condo to start getting ready for karaoke tonight with S’s friends from Monday night and H’s cousin, who arrives around 6:00 p.m.
6:45 p.m. – I take a shower and lay around before getting ready to go out. My hair is naturally straight, so I never do anything to it. I just spritz a rose spray and let it air-dry. BB cream, concealer as “foundation” (I personally think the Makeup Revolution concealer is a great dupe for Shape Tape!), cream contour, cream blush, curl eyelashes, and a couple of coats of mascara. I put on a beige tank, thin cardigan, tights, and the platform sandals I bought the other day.
8:00 p.m. – S’s friend picks us up and we go to a semi-indoor plaza with bars and restaurants. I’m not a big drinker, but I go ahead and order a daiquiri, which I’ve never had before. Is it always so sour? $5
9:45 p.m. – Arrive at the karaoke bar and it’s totally dead. We try to go upstairs to the rooftop bar, but the guy tells us there’s no space. I’m also not much of a partier, so I’d totally be down to go back to the condo (lol), but we drive to another karaoke bar a few minutes away in hopes that it’s more lively.
10:15 p.m. – Arrive at the other karaoke bar and sit for a few minutes. It’s definitely more lively, but for some reason (maybe because it’s an older crowd?), everyone wants to go back to the other karaoke bar... so we do.
11:00 p.m. – We get a free round of shots, but literally tequila is the last thing I want, so I skip it. H’s cousin and I order a pizza to split. I pay. Someone knocks over the shot I didn’t drink and it lands all over my foot *upside down smiling emoji* S’s friend sings a couple of songs, H sings a song, and then they sing a duet. Literally only one other group is here but the lights and music are going pretty hard so it’s kind of fun. More people show up later in the night. $10
2:00 a.m. – Finally get back to the condo. It’s technically 3:00 a.m. my time. Regardless, I never stay up this late anymore so I’m exhausted. H’s cousin is spending the night, S’s friend (who drove us) is hanging out for a bit, and T orders a pizza. At 2:55, I'm the first to go to bed.
Daily Total: $24.99
11:20 a.m. – Wake up. Last full day! I’m not necessarily excited about leaving, because I have really enjoyed being here, but I am looking forward to going home. I get up and clean around just a bit, make some coffee for me, S, and H’s cousin, then start getting ready when B arrives to pick us up. White tee, green shorts, flip flops, and a red flannel to take with me in case I get cold.
1:00 p.m. – We head downtown, a busy and very pretty historic district. We walk a bit through the Metropolitan Cathedral, where Monseñor Romero, a revolutionary Bishop during the civil war who was assassinated while preaching, is buried. He was recently named a saint by the Vatican, and there’s a very cool monument above his grave that people can go to to pray. We then walk to a cafe. I order an iced latte and split a chocolate caramel cake with S. H gives me some of his burger and S gives me some of her panini. H pays and we Venmo, but he refuses to take money from his cousin. I love how generous he is, especially with his family. I pay him for the latte and the cake. We walk around more. In the central plaza, there’s a small band playing and people are dancing. H tells me how the plaza used to be abandoned, and he’s very happy to see how it’s turned around. $7
3:00 p.m. – H’s cousin takes the bus back home as we leave downtown to drive to Los Planes up in the mountains. We arrive at a restaurant to meet more of H and S’s family. For some reason, I‘m feeling unusually anxious about meeting H’s family and not being able to talk to them, but thankfully I relax later in the evening. We reveal to B’s wife and daughter, sitting directly across from us, that we’re saving up for a wedding and they literally scream. It’s very welcoming, I guess you could say. I order water and a pupusa. H pays for everyone (I’m so serious about his generosity). The view is spectacular! We take some pictures – which really don’t do it justice – until the clouds roll in and block the view. We’re that high up.
6:45 p.m. – We say bye and head back to the condo. I can tell H is sad about not only leaving his family, who he hasn’t seen in years, but also about leaving El Salvador, where he lived until moving to the U.S. only eight years ago. I know he’ll be fine, but I wish there was something I could do for him. When we get back, T and I watch some B99 while S cleans up a bit (I know, I know, we should have helped) and H browses his phone.
9:00 p.m. – I’m getting kind of hungry so I use H’s phone to order McDonald’s on UberEats. Chicken nugget meal for me, and H orders a McChicken and “McPatatas,” loaded potato wedges. Obviously it’s his card being used, but I Venmo him. More B99 before I take a shower and go to bed. $14
Daily Total: $21
3:50 a.m. – I snooze my alarm twice and finally get up at 4:09 a.m. For the first time maybe ever, I’m the first one up. I brush my teeth, change into black shorts, a striped tee, and flip flops, and pack the last of my stuff. I take a beige cardigan with me to wear.
4:50 a.m. – B picks us up for the last time (we’re all going to miss him), and we load up and drive to the airport. The sky is starting to brighten and the air is a little chilly. It’s a really sweet send-off.
6:15 a.m. – We’re checked in and trying to scramble all of our cash to give to B since we didn’t have time to stop and get him a gift. I pitch in $5.75 in dollar coins and quarters (it’s all I have unfortunately, but I swear we gave him a good amount), which we exchange for bills. We meet B in the food court before security and have breakfast. I get a chocolate chip muffin and a cafe con leche. ($3) $5.75
8:00 a.m. – Buckled in on the plane. Now back to reality!
Daily Total: $5.75
How did you prepare for this trip?
Since I traveled with two people who grew up in the country, they planned everything and I just went with the flow.
Did you use credit card points/miles to pay for parts of this trip? If so, please explain further:
I opened a new credit card at the beginning of the year and because I spent more than a certain amount in a certain amount of time, I received reward points that I used to pay for some of my flight.
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation?
Reward points covered $158.78, the rest I was able to pay off pretty quickly. During the trip, H and S paid for every outing since they don’t have international fees, I Venmo’d my part.
When did you book your flight? Do you think you got a good deal?
I’ve never traveled here so I honestly couldn’t say whether I got a good deal. But we went during the rainy season, so I believe it was a bit cheaper than other times of the year.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
It would definitely either be the village in Ataco, which was just so picturesque with the cobblestone streets, or the downtown area, which was so vibrant.
What was the best meal or food you ate while you were there?
The nachos… Just kidding. Maybe it was the location, but our breakfast at El Jardin de Celeste was my favorite!
Would you stay at your Airbnb again?
I’d absolutely stay at the condo again, it was such a nice place to relax. The beach house I probably would pass on, but that’s only because I absolutely cannot take the heat.
Where were you located and would you recommend staying there?
We stayed in Colonia Escalon in San Salvador. It was a nice, safe area that was close to everything. I’d definitely recommend! As for the beach, we stayed in San Luis La Herradura, which was a very pretty area.
Is there anything you wished you had time to do, but didn’t?
I wish we could have seen the ruins.
Do you feel like you were there for the right length of time?
I think 10 (technically 11?) days was the perfect amount. I wasn’t homesick, but by the end of the trip I was looking forward to going home.
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