HOTEL REVIEW: How Simon Cowell Ruined My View at the Veneto Hotel & Casino in Panama

Reality TV judge Simon Cowell ruined my view, made me freeze in the shower and forced me to buy a Creamsicle-colored table fan. At least, that’s what I deduced after a chat with a bellhop during my stay at the Veneto Hotel & Casino in Panama City, Panama.

Whether anything he said was true, I’m not sure (some facts I was able to verify through Google searches, but others, no). But it sure does make for an interesting story. And the bellhop’s gossip certainly provides a possible explanation for some of the hotel’s shortcomings.

It started with an innocent question. “Are they renovating the casino?” I asked the uniformed hotel employee after he stepped into the elevator with me. I’d noticed that large sections of the sizeable casino were sitting empty — unlike other visits I’d paid to this Panama City hotel, when the second-floor venue filled with clanging slot machines.

“Yeah, that’s what they say,” he responded. “But I’d say they’re just f—-ing it up.” He smiled.

“Well, it does look a little messy,” I answered.

“That’s what happens when the government takes over,” the bellhop said. “They mess everything up.”

Why would a government take over a hotel casino, you may ask? Well, according to this gabby gopher, here’s what happened: The hotel’s owner, a New Yorker named Silverman, had a wife. She had an affair with reality TV star Simon Cowell. She got pregnant. There was a messy divorce in the works, and she was going to get half of everything.

“He didn’t want her to get any of the hotel, so he stopped paying taxes, and the government took it over,” the bellhop said. The hotel went downhill. It lost its brand affiliation as a Wyndham Grand property. Maintenance suffered.

And now, I had a guest room where the permanently fogged window obscured the view, the mostly cold water in the bathroom made every shower a chilling experience and the substandard air conditioning forced us to buy a table fan. The humid halls smell a bit like a swimming pool locker room, and the lobby sushi bar is abandoned.

In short, this hotel ain’t what it used to be. And oh, did I mention that this Panama City hotel has long been notorious for the scores of female prostitutes that traverse its lobby and casino? The Veneto Hotel & Casino is decidedly not for children; it only appeals to adults who are looking for nearly rock-bottom prices for accommodations that clearly need some attention. In case you’re still curious to know more, here are the details.

THE AMBIANCE: The Veneto Hotel & Casino, centrally located in Panama City’s El Cangrejo district, was designed with a bit of Las Vegas glitz. Giant flashing lights adorn the façade, and the elevators leading to the second-floor casino take visual precedence over the small reception area. But the hotel’s hard times have made it feel more like an older Las Vegas property.

Did Simon Cowell sleep in this bed at the Veneto hotel in Panama? Probably not.

THE ROOMS: After initially checking into one room, my husband (who arrived before I did) realized that the air conditioning wasn’t working. And they couldn’t fix it. So they moves us to room 1603, a standard double room. I’ve stayed at this hotel before and the décor is still decently attractive, with a large comfortable bed, carpeted floors, wood furnishings, a large flat-screen TV and a marble bathroom with a rather large shower. But the more we looked, the more we noticed the shortcomings. The windows were permanently fogged (in between the panes) so the view was largely obscured. Seams along the windows were frayed. The water almost consistently was cold in the shower. The safe deposit box didn’t work (although they were able to send someone to fix it). And the air conditioning was low-power to the point where we had to go to the mall and buy a table fan (a plastic confection in orange and white Creamsicle colors).

The TV and extensive cable system, as well as the free, powerful WiFi, were positives.

Permanently fogged windows in our room at the Veneto hotel in Panama.

HOTEL FEATURES: Our room rate included a free continental breakfast that was surprisingly good — it included an array of hot and cold food (including fruit, Panamanian specialties like carimañolas and made-to-order omelettes).

There is also a steak house onsite, as well as a currently abandoned sushi bar.

We made use of the small swimming pool, which sits atop a roof on the seventh floor. Also on that floor is a spa and a gym, which was not air conditioned and appears to be set in a former conference room.

The hotel’s large casino (supposedly under partial renovation when we visited) is a major focal point for the property, and sometimes hosts live music.

BEST FOR: Budget-conscious adult travelers who like large hotels with casinos, and are willing to put up with sometimes poorly maintained properties in order to get a great hotel rate (we paid about $59 a night) in a central location.

ROOM RATES: About $59 and up.

INFO & RESERVATIONS: http://www.venetopanama.com

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TRAVEL DEALS: Black Friday & Cyber Monday Means Up to 55% Off Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic

If you’re a good shopper, you’ve already checked out the two other roundups of Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel deals that I’ve published over the last few days. If not, don’t worry; click and view. And here’s yet another round of great travel discounts and hotel deals. You can get up to 30 percent off all-inclusive stays at Desire Riviera Maya resorts, 35 percent off at Nayara Springs in Costa Rica and a whopping 55 percent discount at Bahia Principe hotels and resorts in Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, Read on for the details.

Don’t forget: You can get some of the best rates on airlines, hotels, rental cars and cruises by using LatinFlyer’s own travel booking engine (it’s at the top right-hand side of this page if you’re using a computer or tablet, or at the bottom of each page if you’re on a cell phone), where it says “Save Big on Your Trip.” With one click, you can compare airfares and rates from more than 10 top travel sites, including Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity. No more wasting time when you travel!

Desire Riviera Maya Resort
Desire Riviera Maya Pearl Resort
Riviera Maya, Mexico
The Deal: Up to 30% Off
What Makes It Cool: You can get up to 30% off room rates at these all-inclusive Mexico resorts. Rates start at $160 per person, per night. You must book a stay of three (3) nights or more. Offer applies to new bookings only, and cannot be combined with any other existing offer.
Valid for Travel: Book November 24-27, 2017, for travel throughout 2018.
Info & Reservations:  http://desiresecretsale.com/

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DON’T MISS: Even More Black Friday & Cyber Monday Travel Deals Await!
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Nayara Springs
Costa Rica
The Deal: 35% Off for Cyber Monday
What Makes It Cool: This adults-only Costa Rica hotel will offer a 35% discount on a four-night stay on bookings made on Cyber Monday only. The rate includes free breakfast, mini bar (excluding alcohol), and daily yoga. The rate is $1,950 + tax total for four nights (ordinarily $3,000 + tax – a savings of $1,050)
Valid for Travel: Book on Cyber Monday 2017 for travel May 1-31, 2018 and August 16-November 15, 2018.
Info & Reservations: http://www.nayarasprings.com

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DON’T MISS: The Top 5 Things to Do in Peru
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Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts
Dominican Republic, Mexico and Jamaica
The Deal: Cyber Monday travel deals – up to 55% off
What Makes It Cool: In addition to up to 55% off nightly rates, the brand’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion includes up to two kids free at Grand Bahia Principe Punta Cana, Grand Bahia Principe La Romana, Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo and Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica, and one child stays free at the brand’s newest property – Luxury Bahia Principe Fantasia, and beachfront Luxury Bahia Principe Esmeralda in Punta Cana. Blackout dates apply. Kids free is applicable when staying with two adults.
Valid for Travel: Book between November 18 – 28, 2017 for travel between November 18, 2017 and December 22, 2018.
Info & Reservations: www.bahia-principe.com

TRAVEL DEALS: Black Friday/Cyber Monday — 40% Off Mexico, 4th Night Free Panama

I’ve found tons of great travel deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year, and this is the second of three installments, so if you’re hungry for good  travel discounts in Latin America, you’d better be checking here all week. Among the great deals in this roundup: 40% discounts off Mexico hotels, plus a “fourth night free” offer in Panama. Read on for the details.

Don’t forget: You can get some of the best rates on airlines, hotels, rental cars and cruises by using LatinFlyer’s own travel booking engine (it’s at the top right-hand side of this page if you’re using a computer or tablet, or at the bottom of each page if you’re on a cell phone), where it says “Save Big on Your Trip.” With one click, you can compare airfares and rates from more than 10 top travel sites, including Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity. No more wasting time when you travel!

Viceroy Riviera Maya
Riviera Maya, Mexico
The Deal: Cyber Monday Sale
What Makes It Cool: This luxury Mexico hotel is offering up to 40% off, plus free breakfast and one $100 resort credit per stay.
Valid for Travel: Buy on Cyber Monday for travel November 27, 2017 through December 21, 2018.
Info & Reservations: https://www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/rivieramaya

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TRAVEL TIPS: Lonely Planet Names Top 5 Vacation Destinations in Latin America
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Galeria Plaza Reforma 
Mexico City, Mexico
The Deal: Black Friday/Cyber Monday hotel discounts
What Makes It Cool: Galeria Plaza Reforma is offering the biggest deal of the year – starting at $116/night. This limited-time promotion includes a $50 drink voucher each night to use at rooftop pool, with a five-night minimum stay at the property.
Valid for Travel: Book on Black Friday or Cyber Monday in 2017, for travel January 2, 2018 – December 29, 2018.
Info & Reservations: https://www.galeriaplazahotels.com.mx/en/reforma/

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DON’T MISS: Which Latin American Airlines & Airports Are the Best? 
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Red Frog Beach Island Resort & Spa
Bocas del Toro, Panama
The Deal: Cyber Monday Island Vacation Deal
What Makes It Cool: This Panama resort hotel, located on the Caribbean coast, is offering a “fourth night free” deal when you book three consecutive nights. This hotel deal also includes two free specialty cocktails, two free canopy zip line passes, free roundtrip airport pickup and island boat transport and free WiFi.
Valid for Travel: Book November 24, 2017 starting at 12am, until November 27 at 11:59pm, for travel from January 2 to April 8, 2018.
Info and Reservations: http://redfrogbeach.com/cyber-monday/

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PANAMA TRAVEL TIPS: EarthCam Video Shows 5-Year Panama Canal Expansion in 2 Minutes
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Seadust Cancun Family Resort
Cancun, Mexico
The Deal: 40% discount
What Makes It Cool: With a minimum seven-night stay, you’ll also get a Cancun Queen Lagoon Cruise, lunch included.
Valid for Travel: Book online between November 22 – 29, 2017, for travel throughout 2017 and 2018. Blackout dates include: December 24, 2017 – January 1, 2018.
Info & Reservations: https://goo.gl/Sn5bnN

The Top 5 Things To Do in Peru

Peru is a fascinating land of contrasts, graced with culture that ranges from pre-Hispanic to Spanish colonial to international, and natural beauty that includes soaring mountains, lush valleys, Amazon jungle and sun-soaked coastline. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in the wonders of Incan culture at Machu Picchu, take a sail on the world’s highest navigable lake and treat yourself to delectably sophisticated cuisine that incorporates elements from around Peru and around the world.

Indeed, with so much to see and do in Peru, it may be difficult to figure out where to start. That’s why LatinFlyer is lucky to have an expert sponsor partner, Coddiwomple Journeys, a tour operator that specializes in South America travel. With three highly customizable Peru tours, Coddiwomple Journeys offers plenty of opportunities to experience the best of Peru, with an insider’s perspective. And they’ve been good enough to share some of the most memorable things to do in Peru.

1. Get to Know the Inca Culture
No first-time Peru vacation is complete without a visit to the “Lost City of the Incas” — Machu Picchu. One of the New 7 Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this legendary 15h-century Inca citadel is a true bucket-list destination, and with good reason: the first time you see these ruins, set dramatically on a mountain range, it just might take your breath away.
The best way to fully appreciate Machu Picchu’s maze of temples, shrines and terraces is with a guided tour. Coddlewomple’s Sacred Peru itinerary takes you from Lima to Cusco — a historic city that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is a true meeting place of ancient Inca and colonial Spanish cultures. before heading into the Sacred Valley, for a ride aboard the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu. You’ll also be treated to a Vistadome rail trip to the Ollataytambo ruins. As with all of the Coddiwomple Journeys tours, expert guides will provide insider information about each site, and you can customize the trip to include the places and experiences that interest you most.

2. Fall in Love with Lima
Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, the capital city of Lima is an intoxicating blend of colonial architecture, modern-day sophistication, great food and rich culture. The historic city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to a soaring, 16th-century cathedral as well as the mysterious, bone-filled catcacombs of the San Francisco monastery. Nearby, the ancient Huaca Pucllana archeological site offers a glimpse at the region’s pre-Hispanic past. Another must-see: Museo Larco, a museum with exhibits representing thousands of years of pre-Columbian history. Coddiwomple’s Best of Peru itinerary is one of three tours that includes time in Lima, and you can customize your stay to include the exact tours and sites that you want.

3. Savor the Flavors
Peru has become a culinary hotspot in recent years, as top Peruvian chefs like Gastón Acurio have taken their talents around the world. But there’s obviously no better place to sample Peruvian culinary creativity than in Peru. Whether it’s dishes with pre-Hispanic, European, African or Asian roots — or perhaps a pisco sour, the nation’s most famous cocktail — Peru knows how to satisfy the taste buds. Coddiwomple’s Eclectic Peru, which explores ancient civilizations, art and cuisine, is an ideal way to get an expert overview of the nation’s tastiest dishes, with mouthwatering meals in Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley. And Coddiwomple’s team can easily tailor any Peru tour to include as many unique culinary experiences as you like.

4. Take in the Natural Beauty
Your camera won’t get much rest when you’re on a Peru tour. Scenic vistas and spectacular landscapes grace every turn. Among the top can’t-miss sites are Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, where unique flora and fauna is complemented by interaction with local communities practicing age-old traditions. The historic city of Arequipa, meanwhile, three giant volcanoes provide a dramatic backdrop for lovely Spanish colonial churches and homes. About 160 miles northwest of Arequipa lies the Colca Canyon, a postcard-perfect Andean valley with pre-Incan stepped terraces and colonial towns.
Coddiwomple Journeys provides opportunities to experience Peru’s natural beauty in all of its itineraries. The Best of Peru tour features a trip to Lake Titicaca aboard the luxurious Belmond Andean Explorer train, with a visit to the floating islands of Uros and time among the descendants of the Incas. In the Colca Valley, Coddiwomple’s itinerary includes stops to view the ancient Saracocha and Sumbay Cave paintings, traditional hanging tombs and the Cruz del Condor, an ideal spot to watch condors. And, of course, Coddiwomple Journeys allows you to modify each Peru tour to include whatever excites you most about this fascinating South American nation.

5. Go off the Beaten Path, and Make a Difference
PromPeru, the nation’s tourism board, and Coddiwomple Journeys are among the organizations committed to sustainable tourism, which aims to protect the natural environment, sites and communities around Peru. Coddiwomple, for one, can help you plan a customized Peru tour with responsible practices that respect Peru’s natural and cultural treasures. And, rather than just going to the big, bucket-list destinations, you can also arrange memorable diversions to lesser-known regions that aren’t as strained with crowds of tourists. Whether it’s exploring the Peruvian Amazon, interacting with local communities in the highlands or even volunteering to aid local communities, Coddiwomple Journeys is the connection you need to make dreams come true.

TRAVEL DEALS: Black Friday/Cyber Monday Means up to 62% Off Mexico Hotels

Have you fallen into the Black Friday – Cyber Monday craze yet? Well, to help you along, I’ve got a fresh round of big hotel discounts that are available for the next few months, if you book during that all-important period. In addition, I found a cool sports-themed deal in Mexico City. Read on, and start planning your strategy for getting the best Black Friday deals soon!

Don’t forget: You can get some of the best rates on airlines, hotels, rental cars and cruises by using LatinFlyer’s own travel booking engine (it’s at the top right-hand side of this page if you’re using a computer or tablet, or at the bottom of each page if you’re on a cell phone), where it says “Save Big on Your Trip.” With one click, you can compare airfares and rates from more than 10 top travel sites, including Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity. No more wasting time when you travel!

JW Marriott Mexico City Santa Fe
Mexico City Marriott Reforma
Mexico City, Mexico
The Deal: NBA Mexico City Games
What Makes It Cool: These two Mexico hotels are offering a “Stay for Breakfast” offer that’s timed for sports fans who want to attend the NBA Mexico City Games 2017, when the Brooklyn Nets face the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico. Tickets start at only about $22 per person. Room rates start at $327/night at the JW Marriott and $233 a night at the Marriott Reforma hotel. For a cheaper deal, opt for the two Courtyard hotels in Vallejo and Revolución, which start at $102 and $193/night, respectively.
Valid for Travel: The games are on December 7 and December 9, 2017.
Info & Reservations: www.marriott.com (use promo code S4B)

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MEXICO TRAVEL TIPS: Deer Island: A Sun-Filled Day Trip from Mazatlan 
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Mexico Grand Hotels
Los Cabos, Mexico
The Deal:
Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals
What Makes It Cool: Mexico Grand Hotels is offering Black Friday and Cyber Monday hotel deals at both Hacienda Encantada Resort & Residences and Marina Fiesta Resort & Spa. Room rates at Hacienda Encantada Resort & Residences start at $176/night and at Marina Fiesta starting at $137/night plus tax – that’s a 50 percent savings. To sweeten the deal, guests who take advantage of the Hotel & Flight bundle will receive a 60 percent discount at either resort.
Valid for Travel: Book November 23 through November 27  Both promotions are valid for travel through December 2018.
Info & Reservations: www.mexicograndhotels.com

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DON’T MISS: Latin America’s Most On-Time Airlines & Airports
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Oasis Hotels & Resorts 
The Deal: Black Friday/Cyber Monday Hotel Deals
What Makes It Cool: This Mexico beach hotel chain is offering savings of up to 62 off bookings at its all-inclusive resorts in Cancun and Tulum. Rates start at $117 on bookings at Grand Oasis Tulum, $124 at Grand Oasis Palm and $127 at Grand Oasis Cancun and Grand Oasis Sens. Or guests can book the brand’s most luxurious property – The Pyramid at Grand Oasis – with rates starting at just $160. All rates are per person, based on double occupancy.
Valid for Travel: Travelers must book between Nov. 17 – 27, 2017, for travel between Jan. 2 – Feb. 15, 2018.
Info & Reservations: http://oasishotels.com/en/

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HUNGRY? 5 Delicious Culinary Experiences in South America
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Temptation Cancun Resort
Cancun, Mexico
The Deal: Black Friday/Cyber Monday travel deals
What Makes It Cool: Enjoy up to 54 off off rates (starting at $150 per person per night) for travel throughout 2018 at Temptation Cancun Resort. You book a stay of three nights or more to get the discount.
Valid for Travel: Book November 24-27, 2017, for travel throughout 2018.
Info & Reservations: http://temptationsecretsale.com/

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DON’T MISS: How to Make Your Arrival Experience at the Cancun Airport Go Smoothly
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La Colección Resorts by Fiesta Americana
Mexico
The Deal: Black Friday/Cyber Monday hotel discounts
What Makes It Cool: 
Enjoy up to 50 percent off at La Colección Resorts by Fiesta Americana. Offer is also combinable with resort credit (up to $1,000)
Valid for Travel: Book November 24-28, 2017 for travel November 24, 2017 to December 28, 2018.
Info & Reservations: www.lacoleccionresorts.com (visit site-special offers- during booking window)

AIRLINE REVIEW: American Eagle E90, Mazatlan to DFW

During my most recent visit to Mazatlan to cover a bunch of fun stuff for TravelAge West, I flew American Eagle between Dallas/Fort Worth and this Mexico beach resort destination. This is a review of my air travel experience on the way back.

THE ROUTE: Mazatlan (MZT) to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW); Embraer ERJ-190 (E90); 2 hours, 20 minutes; economy class

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DON’T MISS: LatinFlyer’s Airline Reviews Tell You What’s REALLY on Board! 
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THE DEPARTURE: The Mazatlan airport is relatively small (just 10 gates), but it’s clean and modern. I thankfully wasn’t flying Volaris or Viva Aerobus, both of which had extremely long check-in lines snaking through the terminal. At the American Airlines check-in area, I had a rather swift and pleasant experience: I was directed first to a check-in kiosk, where a helpful, bilingual agent was on hand to answer questions, and also tag my bag (which I paid $26 to check). He then directed me toward the bag drop at the check-in counter, but I didn’t actually need to go to the counter, since another agent greeted me quickly, weighed my bag and said I was ready to go. In other words, I didn’t stand in a single line during the check-in process. Not bad!

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TRAVEL TIPS: Latin America’s Most On-Time Airlines & Airports
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I had some time to kill, so I shopped at a couple of the souvenir stores and had a quick lunch at Carl’s Jr., where 1980s and 1990s hits like “Word Up” were blasting from the video screen. Afterwards, I proceed through security, where only one person was in front of me and the entry was efficient.

Don’t plan on spending much time in the post-security departure area; there’s only a food cart and two very small duty-free shops. If you’re hungry and desperate for souvenirs, do your business before going to the gate. One thing I did love about the departure concourse: an airplane hopscotch game plastered on one part of the floor (I gleefully hopped through it) and also a series of big letters, also on the floor, that described all the international flights that leave from MZT (including airline, aircraft type, distance and estimated flying time). These visuals provided some entertainment while strolling down the concourse.

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DON’T MISS: Why You Need Extra Time if You Fly Interjet from Cancun
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THE AIRCRAFT: Boarding was on time for the American Eagle Embraer E90. First class was in a two-aisle-one format, while in economy (where I sat) there were two seats on either side of the aisle. The seats were new but the typical slim size for smaller aircraft, and overhead storage was minimal.

INFLIGHT SERVICE: The flight attendant offered on-alcoholic beverages and our choice of pretzels or cookies (those amazing Biscoff cookies, which I love).

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MEXICO TRAVEL TIPS: New Airline Regulations May Mean More $$ for You in Mexico
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THE ARRIVAL: We landed a bit early at Dallas/Fort Worth, which meant we had to wait for our gate to be available. As often happens at DFW, it was quite a long walk to get to the immigration area, but I passed through Global Entry quickly and my luggage was waiting by the time I got to the baggage claim. Customs was a breeze too, thanks to the Global Entry lane, but passing through the TSA PreCheck lane to get back to the gates for my connection was extremely slow, with only one agent and one lane open, and a wait of nearly 40 minutes.

Lonely Planet Names 5 Top Destinations in Latin America

If you haven’t decided on where to travel next year yet, you might want to take a gander at Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel rankings for 2018. You’ll find some interesting options in Latin America scoring especially high. So as you plan your coming vacations, keep these five places in mind — they’re the must-visit destinations, according to Lonely Planet.

Top Country to Visit in Latin America
Chile: This South American nation scored an impressive #1 in the rankings, thanks to its fascinating geographic extremes (think super-dry Atacama Desert and the wilderness of Patagonia) as well as the trendy capital city of Santiago. Chile is, in fact, the only country in Latin America to score in this list.

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CHILE TRAVEL TIPS: 5 Things To Do in Santiago de Chile’s Hip Lastarria District
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Top Cities to Visit in Latin America
San Juan, Puerto Rico: You’ve heard some sad news from Puerto Rico‘s capital in recent months due to the hurricane. But that doesn’t mean that this Caribbean metropolis isn’t worth visiting, with its fascinating history, beautiful architecture, tasty cuisine and — of course — stunning beaches.

Guanajuato, Mexico: This historic city in central Mexico is graced with loads of beauty, both architecturally and naturally speaking. And it’s gaining a higher profile thanks to its role in the Pixar movie “Coco.”

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PUERTO RICO TRAVEL TIPS: Top 5 Reasons to Visit Puerto Rico This Year
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Best Region to Visit in Latin America
Los Haitises National Park, Dominican Republic: Located south of Samaná Bay in the Dominican Republic, this national park is marked with canals and forests — a nature lover’s paradise.

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DOMINICAN REPUBLIC TRAVEL TIPS: Top 10 Things To Do in Santo Domingo
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Best Value Destination in Latin America
La Paz, Bolivia: South America’s highest capital La Paz is a hotspot for culture, and Lonely Planet loves that you can get by easily on $30 a day here. They also praise the boutique hotels and “hip coffee joints” that now dot the city.

TRAVEL DEALS: Up to 55% Off Hotels in Mexico for Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Get ready: Black Friday is November 24 this year, followed quickly by Cyber Monday. And the Black Friday travel deals are already being released, so I’m giving you a preview, with 55 percent discounts at Velas Resorts in Mexico and 20 percent off at the Westin Los Cabos. In addition, you can snap up a last-minute hotel discount even sooner at Sanctuary Cap Cana, a luxury Dominican Republic hotel and resort. Read on for the juicy details — and if you don’t subscribe to LatinFlyer.com yet, now’s the time to do so; there are more hot travel deals to come!

Don’t forget: You can get some of the best rates on airlines, hotels, rental cars and cruises by using LatinFlyer’s own travel booking engine (it’s at the top right-hand side of this page if you’re using a computer or tablet, or at the bottom of each page if you’re on a cell phone), where it says “Save Big on Your Trip.” With one click, you can compare airfares and rates from more than 10 top travel sites, including Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity. No more wasting time when you travel!

Sanctuary Cap Cana
Dominican Republic
The Deal: Rooms start at $180
What Makes It Cool: This luxury, adults-only Dominican Republic hotel is offering rate of $180 for a junior suite with an ocean view. The price is per guest, per night, based on double occupancy. Other rates start at $238 for a Castle Junior Suite and $252 for a Monarch Villa Suite.
Valid for Travel: Book through November 15, 2017 for travel through December 23, 2017, with a minimum of four nights.
Info & Reservations: https://sanctuarycapcana.com

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LATIN AMERICA TRAVEL TIPS: Top 10 Things To Do in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
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Palace Resorts
Mexico
The Deal: Black Friday/Cyber Monday
What Makes It Cool: Palace Resorts is offering up to 55% off rack rates for Black Friday/Cyber Monday at its Mexico all-inclusive resorts. In addition, kids and teens stay free, and all stays of three or more nights include up to $1,500 in resort credit and free transfers to and from the Cancun airport.
Details and booking windows below:

Black Friday
Booking window: Nov 24 – 26, 2017
Travel by: Dec 23, 2018

Cyber Monday
Booking window: Nov 27- 30 , 2017
Travel by: Dec 23, 2018

Info & Reservations: www.palaceresorts.com

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DON’T MISS: Latin America’s Most On-time Airlines & Airports
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Velas Resorts
Mexico
The Deal: Black Friday/Cyber Monday travel deals
What Makes It Cool: Black Friday travel deals from the all-inclusive Velas Resorts include discounts of up to 50 percent, as well as spa credits, discounts in the boutiques, airport transportation, suite upgrades, unlimited golf and up to two kids staying for free. Rates start at $161 at Velas Vallarta, $241 at Casa Velas, $291 at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, $427 at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, and $457 at Grand Velas Los Cabos.
Valid for Travel: Book on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, for visits through 2018 (restrictions apply).
Info & Reservations: www.velasresorts.com

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LATIN AMERICA TRAVEL TIPS: 5 Tasty Culinary Travel Experiences in South America 
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Westin Los Cabos Resort & Villas
Los Cabos, Mexico
The Deal: 20% Hotel Discounts
What Makes It Cool: This luxurious Los Cabos hotel is offering 20 percent off its rooms for stays at the end of this year and beginning of 2018.
Valid for Travel: Book From Wednesday, November 22 – Monday, November 27, 2017, for stays between December 7, 2017 – Monday, January 15, 2018.
Info & Reservations: (866) 716-8108 and ask for special rate “DAILYDI”

Dia de los Muertos: Day of the Dead is a Vibrant Event in Mazatlan, Mexico

Día de los Muertos — Day of the Dead — is an important cultural tradition in Latin America, and especially in Mexico. It’s a time to remember and honor deceased loved ones, with visits to the cemetery and lots of quality family time. It also happens to be a fascinating time for anyone taking a Mexico vacation, as the visuals are especially striking. I found this to be especially true during my most recent visit to Mazatlan.

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This popular Mexico beach resort city, located on the Pacific coast, is known for its sun, sand and shrimp (it’s a major fishing port). But it’s also home to a beautiful historic downtown, and it’s rewarding place to visit for culture and events — including one of Mexico’s best Carnaval celebrations, a richly programmed cultural festival and, of course the annual Day of the Dead, which takes place on November 1 here.

During my recent visit, I was treated to Día de los Muertos on multiple days in and several different ways. Even before the official celebration, I took a day trip to El Quelite with a tour company called Pronatours, where we visited a cemetery that was being decked out with colorful plastic flowers and decorations, followed by a stop at a bakery to sample pan de muerto (a tasty bread baked specifically for Day of the Dead) and lunch at El Mesón de los Laureanos, a fabulous restaurant with a memorial altar stood.

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At the grand opening of a new spa at the upscale Marina El Cid hotel, staff members arrived with their faces painted in traditional skeleton form, with costumes representing everything both indigenous and post-colonial cultures — and some broke out in song, as you can see in the video.

On the actual day of Día de los Muertos, hundreds of people head to downtown Mazatlan. For a truly cultural experience, try to get tickets to the evening’s performance at the Teatro Angela Peralta, a gorgeously restored 19th-century theater, which this year hosted a music-and-dance tribute to Pedro Infante, a legendary Mexican actor and singer who died 100 years ago.

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Following the performance, it was time for the Callejoneada, a traditional promenade — something like a participatory parade, in which people (both in costume and out) stroll down the historic streets to sounds of banda and other music. I joined some fellow journalists in the crowd and passed by dozens of creatively costumed people (including many dressed as a catrina, a female skeleton dressed in elegant 19th-century garb), as well as high-flying acrobats on one corner. It was a wonderful evening.

Even a few days after, my Day of the Dead experience wasn’t full over. The following weekend, I visited PP Club, one of Mazatlan’s five LGBT bars, and was treated to a drag show in which each of the performers were dressed up with full Día de los Muertos style. It was an especially festive way to wrap up this unforgettable celebration. My recommendation: If you’re thinking of going to Mazatlan, be sure to arrive at least a day or two early, and stay a few days after. You won’t want to miss out on the many different ways to experience the event.

TRAVEL DEALS: $180 Sanctuary Cap Cana, $1,100 New Years Eve in Buenos Aires

For this week’s roundup of the top Latin America hotel discounts, I’ve found a great low rate for an all-inclusive suite at Sanctuary Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic, as well as a festive New Year’s Eve getaway at Palo Santo Hotel in Buenos Aires. Read on for the details and start planning your end-of-year vacation.

Don’t forget: You can get some of the best rates on airlines, hotels, rental cars and cruises by using LatinFlyer’s own travel booking engine (it’s at the top right-hand side of this page if you’re using a computer or tablet, or at the bottom of each page if you’re on a cell phone), where it says “Save Big on Your Trip.” With one click, you can compare airfares and rates from more than 10 top travel sites, including Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity. No more wasting time when you travel!

Sanctuary Cap Cana
Dominican Republic
The Deal: $180 for a junior suite
What Makes It Cool: This adults-only Dominican Republic beach hotel is offering special rates for its junior suites.
Valid for Travel: Book through November 15, 2017 for travel through March 31, 2018.
Info & Reservations: www.sanctuarycapcana.com

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Palo Santo
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Deal: New Year’s Eve Celebration Pack
What Makes It Cool: This Argentina hotel is offering a special Buenos Aires vacation package for New Year’s Eve that includes three nights in a room with a private balcony, a welcome bottle of champagne, buffet breakfast, dinner for two in a Palermo steak restaurant and admission to a party at Niceto Club. The rate for the three-night package is $1,100.
Valid for Travel: New Year’s week 2017/2018.
Info & Reservations: www.palosantohotel.com

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