South America 2017 By the Numbers

For each of our extended trips, we have posted a “by the numbers” blog entry, where we share various statistics from the trip – like how many flights we took, how much it all ended up costing, and much more. You can read about Asia by the Numbers (2012) and Europe By the Numbers (2012). And we now present to you, South America by the Numbers!

Ziplining outside of Mendoza

Complete itinerary:
Argentina: Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, El Calafate, El Chalten, Bariloche, El Bolson, Mendoza, Salta, Tilcara, Cafayate
Chile: Santiago, Valparaiso
Uruguay: Montevideo, Colonia

Nights Spent in Argentina: 62
Nights Spent in Chile: 9
Nights Spent in Uruguay: 6
Nights Spent in the sky: 2
Total trip length: 79 nights (~11 weeks)

The delightful Flecha bus in the Quebrada de Las Conchas

Number of airports: 11
Number of flights within South America: 6
Total amount of time spent on planes: 40 hours, 31 minutes
Longest flight: 11 hours 10 minutes, Buenos Aires to Dallas
Shortest flight:  1 hour 25 minutes, Ushuaia to El Calafate
Number of long-ish distance bus rides: 17
Longest bus ride: ~19 hours

Number of different places (hostel, hotel, bed & breakfast, etc) we slept: 19
Longest stay in one accommodation: 7 nights (AirBnB in Buenos Aires)
Shortest stay: 1 night (4x)
Average stay in one accommodation: 4
Number of free nights through reward points: 6.5

Good thing we know how to change a flat!

Alfajores eaten: 50
Empanadas eaten: at least 101…
Blog entries published (while there): 14  
Cooking classes taken: 2
Bikes ridden: 18
Bicycle flat tires: 3
Horses ridden: 4
Dental crowns broken: 2
Number of times we had our laundry washed professionally: 5
Luggage: 2 carry-on 40 liter backpacks, 2 small drawstring/collapsible bags
       – Jenny: 24 lbs
       – David: 21 lbs   

Us with all our luggage

Throughout the trip we used a money tracking app called Trail Wallet. We put all money spent into the app and it was able to track what we spent by category and help us stay on budget (really, it helped us be like “we still have another $75 to spend today, let’s get a fancy dinner!” – hah!).  Note that all costs below are for 2 people, unless otherwise specified.

Number of ATM withdrawal transactions: 55 (holy cow!!)
ATM fees (fully refunded, thanks to Charles Schwab!): $331.26
Travel insurance: $590

Flights total: $622
     – Round trip flight to Buenos Aires (paid mostly with American Airlines miles): $193
     – Regional flights (paid mostly with Chase Rewards points): $429
Other transportation (taxis, buses, etc): $1,122
Food total: $2,699
   – Restaurants: $2,111
   – Groceries: $470
   – Sweets: $118
Entertainment (includes tours, bike rentals, admission fees, etc): $2,591
Accommodations: $3,958
Misc (laundry, souveniers, pharmacy, etc): $368

Total amount of money saved by using miles/reward points: $5,826
   – Saved on hotels: $995
   – Saved on flights: $4,831

Total cost for 2 people: $11,950
Total cost per person: $5,975
Total daily cost per person per day: $76

(keep in mind that it would have been much more expensive without reward points defraying the cost.)

Comparing all our By the Numbers blog entries, the order of least expensive travel location to most expensive is:

1. Southeast Asia ($55 per person/day, in 2012)
2. South America ($76 per person/day in 2017)
3. Europe  ($98 per person/day in 2012)
4. United States (data not available)

One thing to note is that we were a little older for our South America trip and had saved up a good amount of money, so we were able to be a little more luxurious/not as penny-pinching as previous trips.  We still traveled as budget travelers, but allowed ourselves more splurges – and saved almost $6,000 through travel hacking!

Buenos Aires from the top of an urban lighthouse

See any statistics missing that you’re curious about?

6 thoughts on “South America 2017 By the Numbers

  1. I’m curious about the ‘travel hacks’! Impressive savings with points — wow! Wondering — were those accrued by a travel-related credit card? Wondering how we could do similarly! Thanks for sharing so much of your travels! Really incredible!

    1. Great questions Lauren! There is a whole community of travel hackers centered around a few websites, such as,, and That’s where I learned about the world of points/miles. All points we used were earned with credit cards. It is a good deal of effort to do it right and not screw up. For this trip, we used miles from American Airlines and points from Chase. The American points were earned through card-opening bonuses on the American Airlines card(s) (and Continental before they merged). For Chase, we both fans of the Chase Sapphire card. To maximize point earning and be fiscally responsible, we open cards with big bonuses, put all our spending on them and pay them off each month, be sure hit the minimum spend required to get the bonus, and close them before having to pay an annual fee (or, in the case of the Sapphire, we pay the fee because it’s a good card). So – it’s some organizing – we track it with a spreadsheet and calendar reminders. It all depends on what you’re aiming for. And yes, I recognize that this whole paragraph makes us sound crazy 🙂

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