The Deal Mommy

Camp Mom 2017 Planning and Transport Part 1- Costs and Lessons Learned

I’m finally cutting through decision fatigue and have most of Camp Mom 2017 booked. Today I want to share with you the Camp Mom 2017 planning process, transport details and pricing and lessons learned. In the next post I’ll share the Lodging options we chose. 

Camp Mom 2017 planning.

The Itinerary

  • Iguazu Falls, Argentina (2 nights)
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina (5 nights)
  • Colonia del Sacramento Uruguay (2 nights)
  • Vina Del Mar/Valparaiso, Chile (7 nights)
  • Cordillera de la Costa (2 nights)
  • La Serena, Chile (6 nights)
  • San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (3 nights)
  • Santiago (5 nights)

I anguished over the itinerary WAY more than I thought I would when booking tickets to Chile. Deal Dad requested culture (Buenos Aires), beach (Vina/Valparaiso) and Iguazu. I added Colonia because it’s famous for its sunsets and Uruguay adds a new country to our map. Flying into and out of Santiago while spending no time there is a bit weird. However, the Deal Kids and I will visit on our way home. 

When Deal Dad departs we’ll stay in Vina for 4 more days. From there we’ll detour a bit into a National Park, partly due to the amazing lodging I found. Then we head for a week in La Serena. I chose La Serena because of the combination of history- it’s the second oldest city in Chile- things to do in the region and climate. 

From there we head to San Pedro de Atacama to visit the driest place on earth. Finally we wrap up in Santiago before heading home. 


Camp Mom 2017 Planning: Transport

Getting there

Flights from DC to Santiago cost $1440 for the four of us paying cash. We’re flying Copa in E class so will earn 100% on many Star Alliance Airlines. On a 10,069 mile Round trip route (x4) that’s effectively a $400 rebate. If I’m organized enough I’ll get Deal Dad and the Deal Kids on an Egypt Air Family Account and be 1/2 the way to Star Alliance Gold with one vacation. I’ll keep mine credited on United as I’m already United Silver via Marriott Platinum. We also earned 2880 Arrival, points,  $28 in Orbitz credit and $6 back from ebates.

While we’re there

The flights to Iguazu are on Delta Skymiles. At 12.5K each for flights costing over $500 one way, it’s a solid redemption value. We earned the Delta miles via an American Express Platinum signup bonus. 

AAdvantage Miles take care of the flights from Iguazu to Buenos Aires. Flights within Argentina or within Chile are a great deal at only 6,000 miles each way. Avios are another option for within county flights, but with the vast distances involved AA is usually the best deal. We get a 10% rebate on 3 of the tickets due to our AA Aviator cards- which is also the source of most of the miles. The fourth is a complete freebie: Deal Girl had 6,000 butt in seat miles in her account. 

Camp Mom 2017 planning: Colonia

View from the Radisson Colonia. Image via Radisson.

We’re taking a round trip ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia at a cost of $200. The flights back to Santiago are a fifth freedom flight on KLM. We booked those on Ultimate Rewards points for 59K points total. Because we’re in July holiday season low level award flights were surprisingly scare on what should have been a common route. 

To get to Vina del Mar we’re renting a car for two weeks at the cost of $381. It’s higher than usual because I’m renting an automatic due to the terrain. I can drive a manual but am keeping it simple.  Autoslash may find a lower rate. From Santiago Deal Dad heads home and the Deal Kids and I head stay in Vina for four more days before heading to La Serena. 

We’ll leave the car in La Serena and fly to San Pedro de Atacama on LAN. The 500 mile flight was reasonably priced one way at $40 including a checked bag. We return to Santiago on LAN on a slightly more expensive flight: $72 for 650 miles. 


Using Bonnie rule math I’ll value most redemptions at 1.5 cents (I had originally said 2 cents but I think 1.5 is more fair). However, I’m going to continue valuing accruals at a penny for simplicity’s sake.

Totaling our costs we get the following:

Flights to SCL: $1440- $465 rebate and points =$985 net

SCL-Iguazu: 50K Skymiles and $120 taxes= $870 net

Iguazu-Buenos Aires: 22,800 AA miles and $34 taxes= $376 net

Buenos Aires-Colonia: $200- $6 points= $194

Colonia-Santiago:  53K Ultimate Rewards – $28 miles= $767

Rental car (10 days):  $381- $18 back=$363

Santiago-La Serena: $94-6 back back=$91

Rental Car La Serena=$154 – $6 back= $148

La Serena-San Pedro: $120- $18 Back=$102

San-Pedro- Santiago: $226- $24 back=$202


Total: 126,000 points and $2239 or $4129 net

I’m pretty happy with that amount considering the flights to Santiago alone could have cost that much. 


Lessons Learned

  • Jump on those fare sales. The biggest savings comes from the round trip flights. Flying 10,000 miles for $370 is a screaming deal. Anything under 4 cents a mile falls into  “mileage run” territory. Spending only 3.7 cents a mile on an actual planned vacation? Score. 
  • One way vs. round trip travel matters more here than in the US or Europe. I mentioned that our flight from SCL to Iguazu was over $500 one way. The exact same flight was $430 round trip going back to Santiago. Be sure to search both ways- worst case you can book the round trip and just take the first leg. 
  • Partner intra-continent or domestic one way economy awards are the way to go.  I saved a ton two of my intra-South America flights this way. It will be my first go to when spending miles from now on. 
  • Don’t forget to shop in Spanish. The Chilean LAN website often returned prices less than 1/2 of the American LAN site. I also successfully bought tickets on Sky Airline in Chile via Skype. Speaking Spanish without gestures or context was a challenge, but doing so saved me over $50. 
  • Traveling on the ground can cost more than traveling in the air. Costs like ferries and rental cars can catch you by surprise. Make sure to budget for them. 
  • Learn to drive stick! I’m using an automatic for the first two weeks because of the terrain. In La Serena I’m driving a manual and it’s 30% less. 

 The first two weeks of the trip is more accurately named “Camp Mom and Dad”.  Once Deal Dad leaves I’m on the ground with the Deal Kids for 19 more days. It’s been challenging to fill in the rest but I can’t wait to share our adventures! Please share any tips in the comments. 

The Deal Mommy is a proud member of the Saverocity network. 

Camp Mom 2017 planning: transportation. How we got to and around South America, what it cost, and what I learned.

16 thoughts on “Camp Mom 2017 Planning and Transport Part 1- Costs and Lessons Learned

  1. Kate

    Atacama amazing, but it is remote. Don’t know how you might feel about doing that with just one parent.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Kate,
      Great point. I think I’ll go luxury or not at all. Ultimate Rewards may come in handy here.

  2. Funny

    Atacama is harder on kids lungs than on adults. Extremely dry and high altitude. I had a very hard time breathing.
    Colombia is an overrated town. Save yourself being disappointed and do a day trip from EZE. That was enough for me
    Iguazo falls were incredible. Stayed at Sheraton with a falls view room
    Have fun whatever you do.
    BTW Of the 130 plus countries I have been to I felt the people in SCL were among the least friendly I have ever met. Always had to fight cabs to not get ripped off. Everyone warning me of bag snatchers etc. I am not a tourist I am a traveler and know how to try to be like a local so it was disappointing. the view from the Hyatt was incredible

  3. Winnie

    You gotta visit Mendoza! The food is cheap and amazing there. If you can rent a car, go out and visit the wineries in Valle de Uco. Their scale and operation make Napa wineries look amateur. Mendoza is a short flight away from SCL, or you can drive over the border and be rewarded with the amazing Andes mountain views. One warning about Santiago, it will feel very American compared to Buenos Aires. I personally enjoyed Buenos Aires more and I can’t wait to go back. Santiago just isn’t as charming a city to an American as Buenos Aires is. Valparaiso through.. pretty sure I left my heart there. Go visit Pablo Neruda’s houses – he has one in Valparaiso, one in Chile and one in Isla Negra. All worth a visit!

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Winnie,
      I go back and forth on Mendoza. What do you think about it with two kids 10 and 13? I just can’t wrap my head around it. Is there enough for them to do? Vineyards just isn’t gonna cut it.

      1. Winnie

        Ah, good point about activities for kids. We are a DINK couple so I don’t tend to think like a mom (sorry!). I’m not really familiar with Mendoza enough to say what are the kid friendly activities there.

  4. Winnie

    Oh, one more thing! A boat ride to the Devil’s Throat is a must-do while at Iguazu. Bring a water proof camera and be ready for an exhilarating boat ride. As with all border towns, be alert while in the town of Iguazu. There’s always people hustling making a living. (It’s not too bad, but always be safe.)

    I keep thinking of more things to share! The leather and wool products are generally of great quality in Argentina. Also, see if you can try out a famous local pizza place while in Buenos Aires. The best description I can think of is extremely cheesy delicious Chicago pizza. PorteƱos really know how to live and it shows in their food, including pizza.

  5. plane2port

    Congratulations on scoring that airfare! I like the way you’ve laid out your costs and thinking.

    Am I right to assume that you’ll be down there this summer? If so, the weather will determine where you’ll be able to go.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Thanks! Yes, we’re there for the month of July. Deal Kid asked for somewhere cooler, but I think that’s my challenge in planning. Americans don’t visit in July, which is both good and bad. Good because we’ll have a more native experience, bad because there’s a lack of info as to where to go and where not to go.

  6. Gilly

    Your kids will be bored to death in Mendoza, Go with your husband, not your kids. I am a proponent of slow travel and indepth, immersion of the area but I see why you want to jump around and when our son was young we did that too.
    We once went to London and Paris from the US for three nights on the ground. 1 in LON, Chunnel RT to Paris, 1 nt in Paris and back for 1 nt in London. I think back at that now and can’t believe it. We were all together so we had a great time.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Gilly, Thanks for the insight. I agree with you that our first two weeks are jam packed. Deal Dad’s limited vacation schedule dictates the faster pace. We’ll slow down in the last half.

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