Our family of four loves Guatemala, so we decided it would be great to stay for 2 weeks and attend language school.
Sounds like a super idea until you start adding up the numbers, and even in inexpensive Antigua, Guatemala, the costs add up. The hotels in Antigua are absolutely beautiful. They are a mix of old world charm, with brightly painted walls, brick and stone, and relatively not that expensive. The nicer ones go for $200 a night and the lower end for $90. But that adds up after 14 days.
That’s when we contacted the language school, Don Pedro de Alvarado, and they suggested we stay with a local family. In fact, the school would even arrange the details. They offered us three options ranging from “rustic” (vaguely translated, no private bathroom), “comfortable”, and “luxury” (vaguely translated, personal T.V.). We opted for the “comfortable” accommodations. They included private bathrooms, internet AND 3 meals a day for $140 a week per person. YES! The room included 3 meals a day, cooked by locals. Not only cooked by locals, but we actually sat down and shared a meal with them around their table. Our decision to stay comfortable was based on the desire to spend more time with the host family, whereas the luxury option was more like a hotel. Add it up, for 14 days our family of four STAYED and ATE for $1,100.
- Obviously the price!
- Local, home cooked food. We were asked about dietary restrictions before hand, and our host was even sweet enough to pay attention to the things we gobbled up and the things we left on our plate. When we wanted a change of pace, we would let her know in advance, and go out to a restaurant instead. ALSO… this momma did not have to cook! Or do dishes! For FOURTEEN days!
- Relationships. We loved getting to know the host family. The language proved a little tricky but it forced us to practice Spanish and it never was a barrier or problem. Some nights after dinner we would play board games and our host family would join us. BEST MEMORIES ever!
- On-line reviews. Before arrival we were able to see the reviews of prior visitors to the host home. We even had the choice to change our accommodations.
- The food choices. While our host was very accommodating to dietary needs, we did not have any choice about the meals she made. As a lover of different cultures, I’d probably put this in the PRO column, but as a mother of 2 young boys, it had its difficult moments. Of course there was food they didn’t like! It was such a teaching moment for us. My kiddos may not be thankful for the specific food she cooked but they can be thankful for the hard work that went in to it. On days the days the food wasn’t our favorite we made a stop by the ice-cream shop and indulged in a treat.
- The privacy. Staying at a home we had our own rooms and bathrooms but we did share the house with 2 other guests and the host family. Sometimes on vacation, you just want to be alone with your family. We balanced this with time outside the house and occasional meals out.
- Less control. Usually when I am hotel shopping I am super picky. Obviously, with the home stay, our options were more limited.
We had such an incredible 2 weeks, I decided to look into possible host family options in other countries. Turns out, it’s quite popular. Most of the host families were tied to language schools but even if you weren’t interested in classes, the school could put you in contact with host options. Using the schools gave me security. They depend on the quality of their host homes for their reputation and therefore usually weed out the unreliable places.
I realize skipping the hotel and staying with a host family isn’t for everyone or even for every vacation, but if you are up for an adventure and truly desire to know the people and food of different cultures, I’d say it is an amazing option!
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