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Roadtrip: Peru and Chile

Where are we off to next?


View Peru to Chile & World Trip 2012 on noahv's travel map.

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Here's where we're heading next, after three-and-a-half months in lovely Cusco, Perú. It's been wonderful here, and we'll post a full recap of things we loved, didn't like too much, etc., but now we're getting ready to pack up our bags again and hit the road.

Here's a quick overview:

We are heading by bus from Cusco to Puno for some kayaking on Lake Titicaca. From there, we head to Arequipa and a visit to Colca Canyon to see the majestic Peruvian condors. Then we make a break south for the border, crossing into Chile at Tacna/Arica. Once in Chile, we are going to be staying with some Couchsurfing contacts as we work our way down the coast, with a stop in San Pedro de Atacama to visit the Atacama Desert - the driest in the world and also one of the most scenic.. Then some more busses, and we get to Santiago on Halloween.

A quick day or two in Santiago to allow us to regroup and repack for our trip to Patagonia, and then we fly to Puerto Montt, and get on the Navimag ferry Evangalistas for 4 days heading down through the glaciers and fjords of Chile. When we arrive in Puerto Natales we will do some exploring of the Torres del Paine National Park for about a week (working on the exact specifics now).

Torres_del_Paine.jpgPatagonia.jpg

Patagonia offers us an impressive menu of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The hard part is deciding how to make the most of our six short days! November is late Spring in Southern Chile, so we expect to feel right at home with Seattle-like weather (a.k.a. anything goes). Parque National Torres del Paine is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and home to one of the most impressive mountain and glacial areas on earth. We plan to stay in some refugios in the park, hike, and soak in the beautiful landscape. Our visit could also include hiking the "W Circuit" which includes Torres del Paine Base, Nordenskjold Lake, Cuernos del Paine, the French Glacier, Paine Grande, Grey Lake, Paine and Pudeto.

When we are done exploring Torres del Paine (at least in the time that we have - I'm sure we could spend longer), we will go down to Punta Arenas to catch a flight back to Puerto Montt.

We will spend just under a week on the mystical island of Chiloé, where we can experience an older way of life with traditional foods, local customs, and an amazing natural environment. Although we have yet to decide on our specific itinerary on the island, it is sure to involve a bit of kayaking, hiking, and general appreciation of this unique place.
Chiloe_Horses.jpg Chiloe_Island.jpg

After a return ferry ride from Chiloé, we will do some more exploring of Valdivia and the surrounding areas, including historic Spanish Forts, German beer, and beautiful ocean views. We may rent bikes and explore or just enjoy a break from hiking.
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Finally, we fly back to Santiago for some time with Juanchi and his family. We will explore Santiago and Valparaiso and maybe even get some time at the beach, before we have to pack up again and leave South America for good as we head across the Pacific on 1-Dec.
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Lot's of adventures to come in the next two months, and we will do our best to take lots of pictures and post stories of our experiences! Let us know if you want more details of our itinerary - we will be covering more than 4200 miles in the next 2 months!

Posted by noahv 07:50 Archived in Peru Tagged itinerary rtw planning Comments (5)

Fair Airfare

(from Noah)

Booking-Ai..Tickets.jpg
One of the biggest expenses for any RTW trip is airfare - no surprise there. Also no surprise is that doesn't seem to be an "easy" answer to the question of "what is the best RTW airfare ticket for me?" Depending on your itinerary, duration of trip, flexibility, and frequent flyer miles, you'll need to do some research to find the best fit for your needs. Luckily, there are a number of sites that have done a lot of the legwork for you. Since we just went through this entire process for ourselves, I can also share the outcome of our decision.

Short answer is that we went through AirTreks for our tickets. This is a company based out of San Francisco, that focuses primarily on RTW travel. They were recommended to me from someone I met a while back from one of the Meet Plan Go! get-togethers (I wish I could remember who - but thank you!).

I initially reached out to the AirTreks team over a year ago, just to understand what services they provide, and had a great conversation with a consultant, during which I learned a couple of important items:

  1. we were way to far ahead of the airfare booking window (typically 11 months) for any sort of fare estimates,
  2. we might not have to book the whole trip at the start (and, for a trip duration of over 12 months like ours, it might not be possible),
  3. Daniel (my consultant) had personally been to many of the places that we are planning on going to, and had some excellent itinerary insight that went above & beyond simply getting the best deal on airfare.

During this same time, I was researching other options via some great sites - I started with an article by Tim Ferriss, which pointed me to Chris Guillebeau (who also runs the Travel Hacking site). I considered joining the Travel Hacking Cartel, but (since I'm a geek) decided to try it on my own. I also looked at the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forums, since they are typically useful for all sorts of travel info and advice.

From there I did some poking around with the airline alliance sites, before I stumbled on BootsnAll. Through the BootsnAll sister site Round The World Tickets and Meet Plan Go, I realized that I had a good solution with AirTreks.

Note: what works for me/us may not work for you. We are a family of four, with some flexibility in terms of destinations and timing, but also some hard targets that we wanted to hit. We did not have a lot of FF miles to work with, nor were we comfortable with doing point-to-point airfares on the fly as we needed (we didn't want to get split up on multiple flights out of a given location - however this might be more attractive to single or pairs of travellers). For those of you with gobs of FF miles, even across multiple airlines, playing the FF miles game to consolidate these and using an airfare consortium to book a true RTW ticket. The FlyerTalk forums is a good place for this research.

Flash forward to Jan 2012, and Daniel and I reconnect for serious discussions on our initial itinerary (from the US to Peru through Chile to New Zealand via Rapa Nui and Tahiti, and ending in Sydney for New Years). Daniel was a great guy to work with - listened to what we were interested in doing, answered our (dumb) questions, gave us info from his personal experience that we would not have gotten otherwise, and helped us come up with a solid itinerary (places and dates). Daniel then took that info away and came back a week later with flight recommendations and cost estimates. Anne and I got on the phone with Daniel for an hour review session, revising and tweaking the dates and destinations (Daniel came prepared with options), and, at the end, we pulled the trigger and booked the airfare for our family.

AirTreks offers trip insurance as well - basic insurance is included with every airfare purchased (for US and Canada residents), which is a great deal. We opted to do the Full Monty and purchased the additional exclusive insurance, which includes double medical coverage, trip cancellation insurance, and double emergency evacuation coverage. Hope we never need it, but just in case something bad happens before or during the trip, we are guaranteed to get our money back. Since we're going to be on the road for such a long time (with kids) we felt this was an important item to have. Again, ymmv based on who you are and your risk profile.

End result is that we have the flights that we wanted, on the days that we wanted, with solid insurance behind it. I don't feel like we paid a premium to get it either. Sure, maybe in this age of the Internet we could have done it a bit cheaper if we did it all ourselves online, but based on the customer service from AirTreks, the personal guidance from Daniel, and the fact that we can always contact AirTreks for help on the way (like a real travel agent), we're very comfortable with this outcome.

One final note, with any big purchase comes the inevitable "buyer's remorse". Sure, it got our adrenaline flowing and the butterflies in the stomach flying around when it came time to give our credit card digits for the purchase, but this is certainly tempered by knowing that you have a partner in the purchase - that's the way we feel with AirTreks. If you want more info, please leave a comment!

(full disclosure: links to AirTreks are referrals on this page. This does not change our opinion of the service or products that AirTreks provides).

Posted by noahv 10:35 Archived in USA Tagged tickets rtw airfare Comments (1)

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