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.
- 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
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.
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.
- 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.
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