At last I’m able to write my last budget post of our trip! I know this series wasn’t a favorite of my readers just as it wasn’t a favorite of mine to write, but I persevered and have now documented every dollar, mile, and point we’ve spent on our one-year, RTW trip. I wanted to show how you don’t have to win the lottery to travel. Instead, you can thoughtfully plan and budget and experience all the world has to offer without breaking the bank. We stockpiled airline miles to help us save on our long-haul flight costs and hotel points to save (or splurge) on accommodation costs in the countries we visited. And we used resources such as Airbnb and Uber to travel cheaply elsewhere.
We set an aspirational goal of spending $1,000 a week for both of us. Towards the end of the trip, we got a little more lax in our spending as we—for instance—were less willing to walk for miles with our heavy backpacks and more likely to grab a cab than we were in the beginning. For the 44 days we spent in Latin America, we averaged $1,200 a week. But the weekly spend rate for our entire trip, which included 47 weeks of travel (since we didn’t count the time spent on our trips back home), averaged out to $1,143. [I’m not going to put the final figure here just for fear of sticker shock, but an enterprising person could simply multiply those numbers together]. So, about $570 per person per week to see 52 countries, about 150 cities, and countless world wonders. Not bad… not bad at all.
The last two months of our travel throughout Latin America saw us using exclusively planes to get between our destination countries. We were able to use points for four of the journeys, including a lengthy stretch between Montevideo and Mexico City for just 20,000 United miles each. We also enjoyed one two-legged journey in business class from Costa Rica to Peru. The rest of the flights we paid for in cash, but we also stayed in the Latin American countries for longer than average, which helped keep our overall transportation costs at a reasonable level.
Accommodation costs were right in line with our trip average in Latin America. Splitting Airbnbs with friends and family that visited in Lima, Valparaiso, and Santiago helped us stay in great places at low prices. We used 8,000 Starwood points to stay two nights in Montevideo, 12,000 Hilton points plus cash for two nights at a Garden Inn in Santiago, and 30,000 Hilton points for three nights at a surprisingly great Hampton Inn in Mexico City. Although I said goodbye to Doubletrees and its free cookies in Asia awhile ago, I was pretty excited to use the waffle maker each morning at the Hampton Inn. It’s the little things, you know?
Food and Drink
Our food and drink spending was pretty high in Latin America. We had lots of friends and family visiting during this stretch, so that meant a lot of meals and cocktails out on the town. We were surprised at how wonderful the food was in Lima and had several memorable (though pricey) meals there. My sister and Kelly are awesome budget travelers and we made dinner in several nights, but all the wine tastings I had planned in Chile definitely added up. Finally, in Cuba, our food budget was higher than usual since we felt obligated to take full advantage of all of the mojitos, lobster, and shrimp on offer there.
Miscellaneous spending was quite low for this stretch. Unlike Asia, there were no expensive visas to procure in Latin America. We lucked out when both Chile and Argentina decided to waive their reciprocity fees ($160 per person each) right before we visited. Machu Picchu was the largest single component of our miscellaneous spending. It costs us about $135 just to visit the historic sight, not including the train tickets and other transportation requirements it took to get there. Other items in our miscellaneous spending were our gaucho ranch visit, two horseback riding sessions, and our cigar souvenirs from Cuba.
Highlights and Lowlights from Latin America
Favorite Dining Experience
Hers: Grilling with my family in Costa Rica and the home cooking we experienced on the gaucho ranch in Uruguay (I guess I’m getting a little tired of restaurants after a full year of dining out…)
His: The legit parrilla we visited in Montevideo
Favorite Sightseeing Experience
Hers and His: Machu Picchu was the coolest single sight we saw on the trip due to its remarkable preservation and remote mountain setting
Most Frustrating Travel Experience
Her: Navigating our tiny little car along the unpaved roads in Uruguay (my teeth still rattle when I think about it)
His: Barreling along the highways in Cuba with no seatbelts and Mariah Carey’s greatest hits blasting