Panama (Part 1: Planning)

Flowers

This month I’m off to my first visit to Panama, just in time, as it turns out, for the absolute worst of its rainy season!  I’m retired, thus pretty flexible in my travel availability, so  how did this happen? Well, I had some time in the Fall and I had hoped to visit South America (I have on my bucket list, visiting all the continents), but the more I looked at a trip to South America, the more I wanted to spend some time planning and prioritizing, so…

The trip to Panama morphed from a trip to Patagonia. In the interim I had also considered the Galapagos, a combination Galapagos-rainforest trip, Costa Rica, combined Panama and Costa Rica, and finally Panama. I found an incredible bargain trip to Panama but it had too many stops and too little time at the canal so I decided a DIY Panama trip was my trip (I couldn’t convince any of my relatives to come along, though).

I was able to make a booking.com reservation for five nights in a Panama City hotel cost for as much as one night in most other major cities of the world. This convinced me that I had chosen well.

Unfortunately, I failed to modify the time that I planned to travel:  November in Patagonia would have been a good idea;  In Panama, though,  it is apparently  the REALLY, REALLY, REALLY rainy season. Sad to say, a change in flight would have cost me $200 and Copa Airlines wouldn’t negotiate a change (I miss my Southwest). Well, I am  Floridian, so I think that I can deal with a little bit of rain (she said hopefully).

I initially tried researching the trip online, but beyond the hotel and flights, I have found the Internet time-consuming for researching  locality attractions. Google search generates Google and TripAdvisor reviews, and not much else.  So, as I have been doing for years, I bought a paper guidebook. After testing out the various options (researching a specific question), I chose Frommer’s Panama guidebook as my cheap travel assistant, and horror of horrors, bought it at an actual bricks and mortar bookstore (Yes, I know, very retro and reflective of my age).

Frommer wisely suggests that the DIY traveler not completely go it alone. So, with the list of local Panamanian tour operators from Frommer in hand,  I went back to the Internet with a better plan.  I looked at the various local tour operator websites.  Many have multi-day tours, but as I found out, most are only available during the peak tourist season as they have minimum number of participants. As always, traveling alone creates extra costs and issues. But I think that I finally found a tour operator through my various email inquiries that may provide me with what I need: a relatively  inexpensive custom tour. We’ve been working out an itinerary. In my next post, I’ll know better and can report on the rest of my plan.

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