Well, the departure date is finally upon us. As we sit in the Atlanta airport, anxiously awaiting our flight to Santiago, I am thinking back to all the effort that has gone into planning this amazing adventure. And for those of you that know me, it will be of no surprise that spreadsheets were our best friend as we went through this process.
As previously mentioned, on one of our first dates, we talked about the places we each really wanted to visit. Neither of us had traveled to South America and there were several wonderful countries that ended up on both of our wish lists. So, we started with a total “brain dump” of all the interesting, fun, exciting, and adventurous places on this vast continent we could think of. We quickly realized that seven weeks was not nearly enough time to see, do, eat, and enjoy all of the places on that original list.
After the brain dump, we had to start the difficult process of removing certain places, activities, and even countries off the list. Once we narrowed it down to a manageable list of places, it was then time to start determining where we wanted to go, what we wanted to see, and what crazy adventures we thought we’d get into. This in and of itself was one tall order. Our approach? Divide and conquer.
Emily had certain regions that she didn’t want to miss, and I did too. So, we each took the lead on those regions, deciding what we most wanted to do. Once we had an outline of stops on the itinerary, we needed to determine how many days to spend in each place. We started by creating lists of the things we wanted to do and places we wanted to see in each city. We consulted websites, blogs, and travel books from The Lonely Planet and Frommers. Mostly, we guessed, and I’m sure there will be times when we wish we had more or less time in a place. Finally, we built in some downtime so we don’t arrive home needing a vacation from our vacation.
With the rough schedule planned, I was free to do what I thoroughly enjoy doing: figuring out the transportation, working with Emily on accommodation, and putting together the trip budget. And that is when the spreadsheet morphed into a beast of it’s own!
Planning Tools and Planning Lessons
Our itinerary covers large sections of Chile, Peru, and the Galapagos Islands. With this much ground to cover, we had to rely on airline travel. One of my first trip mistakes was not realizing there are two different price points for airline travel in Peru. There is one price for those with residency in Peru, and another for non-Peru residents. I thought we were going to get flights from Lima to Cusco and back for less than $100 each! When I went to book flights a few weeks later, I realized I had been looking at the prices for Peruvian residents. So, our flights ended up being more expensive than I had originally budgeted. It’s probably not the first mistake we’ll make on this trip…
As for accommodation, we ended up using Booking.com for all our non-tour based travel. We both spent a lot of time looking at various travel sites trying to find good deals on accommodation, only to come back to Booking.com. The site is really easy to use, has reviews from other users, and keeps our itinerary all in one place (aside from a spreadsheet, of course). We also used Google Flights to do research and find flights in and between countries. Finally, we also had help from friends and family who have traveled to this part of the word. Thank you for your advice!
It’s hard to believe we’re just a flight away from this once in a lifetime adventure. I’m looking forward to sharing more once we’re on the ground and making our way through Santiago, Chile, our first stop. ¡Hasta luego!