As a resident of Florida, I often have the opportunity to take advantage of the inexpensive flights to Central America. As long as you're enough of a gambler to risk getting into and out of Miami, no matter where you go (with the exception of Columbia, maybe), you'll be much safer. And if your choice is Mexico, not only will you be safer, but nowhere else are North Americans afforded such a cultural difference so close to home. And I'm convinced that a few days in Mexico can be had at less cost than staying home, even after paying your plane fare!
And if your wife is like mine, the last thing you want to do is give her a few "free" days at home - she'll undoubtedly determine that the only thing she can do is to run to the mall and give the limits on her credit cards another test! However, not only will your cash go much further in Mexico, but remember, you've got to carry back all you buy on the plane - you'll only overbuy once! Next time you've got a couple of days, grab one of the cheap flights to Mexico City.
Please allow me to say that if you want to keep your Mexican trip inexpensive, do not go to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco; these are the tourist traps of Mexico. If that's what you want, OK, but if you want to experience the cultural difference of our two countries, go elsewhere. Besides, the people will be friendlier. Sure, it's quite possible to cheap it out in Cancun, but when the total population is in the business of separating tourists from their cash, friendliness becomes a job. Be aware that your intrusion into the life of the locals in a tourist area will quite possibly not be appreciated.
But Mexico City is a good compromise; it's cosmopolitan, but not considered by the locals to be a tourist draw. And it's still very representative of the Mexican culture. Here you can find the most expensive and the extraordinarily reasonable, and be equally welcome at either. I once booked into a $6 hotel room (double!) whose major faults were a soft bed and a cracked sink in the private bath. And I have fond memories of many encounters with Ciudad locals which only reinforced my feeling that most Mexicans really like U.S. citizens.
One of your first cues that you're in a relatively safe place, is that the streets are still buzzing at 11 pm. One big reason, of course, is that Latin Americans eat their evening meal much later than do most of their neighbors to the north. The other reason is that it appears to be a "latin" thing to visit on the streets in the evening. It happens in Spain and Portugal, and apparently in Cuba and Central America too.
We were visiting Mexico City the summer following the earthquake, and had just finished our first dinner, a wonderful meal at the Lincoln Restaurant in The Alameda section, when we decided to join the procession on the sidewalks. As we walked, we were amazed at how some buildings were apparently untouched by the quake, but right next door, only a pile of cement remained. We were later told by more than one native that the reason was that the owners of the devastated buildings had paid off the inspectors (there WERE building codes in effect!), but that those buildings which still stood were owned by those unwilling or unable to pay!
Suddenly we came upon a well lit, glass fronted store, with 25 or more customers milling around. The object of their interest was a series of bins which lined the walls and middle of the floor, each filled with huge piles of the most attractive creations I can ever remember seeing in one single place. And from the smell which wafted out the front door, each piece must have had a taste to match its looks. This was obviously a bakery, but not like any bakery in the States; sort of a cross between one of those warehouse groceries, and an old fashioned hardware store.
There was no way we were going to move on without first taking a closer look, so we proceeded inside. We stood mesmerized for a minute by the smells and the sounds, all signifying a level of human pleasure not often experienced. Now we realized we were drawing the attention of the many patrons, not because we were obviously tourists, but because we were the only ones there without an aluminum tray in one hand and tongs in the other. We quickly grabbed those essentials and joined the hunt for the ultimate Mexican baked good, no easy task in the face of so many gorgeous choices.
Having finished a heavy meal not more than an hour ago, we really were not ready for the obvious feast of comestibles which would result from our adventure - and a good thing that was! If not for being stuffed, we may have left there with several huge bags full, as we noted most doing. The first thing I saw was a conch shaped item, larger than a cookie, but obviously very crumbly and short; I took one. I then turned to a chocolate covered pastry somewhat like a pigs ear, but oozing a caramel between the layers on the bottom; and I took one. I moved past the next several bins, each containing a progressively enticing piece, and naturally I responded by adding each to my tray (we later conceded that the guava pastries were the best of our selections). I glanced up and noticed that I was not yet 1/10th of the way around, and already well past my allotment of grease and sugar for the next week. As I caught my wife's eye, we broke into some very serious laughter. I just knew that the locals were enjoying this too - this had to be repeated every time a tourist discovered the bakery.
It's hard to describe the variety of cookie/pastry/cake things that were available; literally hundreds! I'm quite sure many were simply a different shape of the same thing - however, since I didn't try one of each, I really don't know. But I did try enough since that initial experience that I can tell you that the quality of Mexican baked goods is far better on average than what we have here at home. In fact, it was my Mexican bakery experience that caused me to shift my thinking in regard to what the average Mexican diet actually was. Far more Mexicans eat fresh pastries and breads each day (and vegetables, fruits, meats and fish too), than do most Americans (Norte Americanos). Maybe not as much, but most certainly fresher. It gives one pause.
We finally conceded that we had all we could possibly handle in the next day or two, and consolidated our trays for checkout. It takes a few days to get a feel for the peso in relation to the dollar, and we were not ready for the cost of our collective selections; in all we had some ten or twelve items, and the total, we slowly realized, was less than $1.00. If this was junk, that would be one thing; but this was quality stuff! We rejoined the crowd on the street, and traded bites of each wonderful piece as we slowly wound our way back to the hotel, marveling at how a third world country could make us feel so suddenly deprived.