10 Weeks Traveling Around Latin America for Less Than $85/day

Getting Back on the Horse

After our original 5 month Latin America trip was cancelled in 2020, Whitney and I were very excited to replan at least a portion of the trip. We only had about half as much time to travel on this trip so our itinerary was significantly reduced, but we knew it would still be an amazing adventure. We knew that with Covid restrictions, international travel would be more difficult than on some of our prior long trips in 2018 (5 months traveling around the world) and 2019 (4 months exploring Europe). But we were willing to roll with the punches to get back to exploring the world. Neither Whitney nor I had ever been to South America or to the southern hemisphere at all, so we couldn’t wait to see some of the continent and how it compared to other places we’ve traveled.

Trip Breakdown

Overall the trip went really well, but there certainly were some ups and downs. We had more issues on this trip than on prior trips despite it being shorter and having less stops. On a long trip that’s largely planned out ahead of time, even small issues can throw the whole itinerary off. We knew that planning things too far ahead on this trip would be a mistake since the risk of an issue arising was much higher than in the past. Even so, we had a wrench thrown into our plans very early in the trip that caused us to have to do our best to adjust on the fly. Our original itinerary looked like this:

  • San Antonio, Texas (CSM conference): 5 days
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: 1 week
  • Mexico City, Mexico: 4-5 days
  • Guatemala: ~10 days
  • Costa Rica: ~10 days
  • Cancun, Mexico (“work trip”): 5 days
  • Colombia: ~2 weeks
  • Peru: ~2 weeks

Since the physical therapy Combined Sections Meeting (APTA CSM) was in Texas this year, we decided that with already having to fly from Virginia to Texas, starting our trip from there would be a good idea and save us some time instead of flying back to Virginia and leaving for Mexico from there. CSM went really well and we enjoyed meeting and talking to so many prospective Travel PTs and reconnecting with friends we hadn’t seen in a while. After the hustle and bustle of the conference, it was great having a week to relax hanging out at the pool and beach in Puerto Vallarta. Upon leaving Puerto Vallarta, the plan was to only spend a short time in Mexico City on the way to Guatemala. Unfortunately things didn’t play out that way. Whitney started feeling sick towards the end of our week in Puerto Vallarta and ended up testing positive for Covid while we were in Mexico City. After she tested positive, I began to have the same symptoms, so we had to cancel our flights and spend a week longer than expected quarantining in Mexico City. Luckily the illness was mild and only lasted a few days, so after that week we were fine, but the delay there caused us to have to change our plans for the remainder of the trip. The actual itinerary ended up looking like this:

  • San Antonio, Texas (CSM Conference): 5 days
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: 1 week
  • Mexico City, Mexico: ~2 weeks
  • Guatemala: ~2 weeks
  • Cancun, Mexico (“work trip”): 5 days
  • Colombia: ~2 weeks
  • Peru: ~2 weeks
  • Costa Rica: 5 days

Having to change our flight from Mexico City to Guatemala last minute made our flight options much more limited, and after looking at flight options from Guatemala to Costa Rica, we decided to stay in Guatemala longer before heading back to Mexico for the fixed-date “work trip,” and then saving Costa Rica for the end of the trip. After recovering from Covid and replanning things, the trip went much more smoothly, although we did run into some smaller issues with Covid restrictions and protests later in the trip in Peru.

We had an amazing time seeing Machu Picchu as well as the natural beauty in the areas all around Cusco, Peru. We were blown away by seeing the active Volcan de Fuego in Guatemala along with the clear water and breathtaking views at Lake Atitlan. We were baffled by the ancient architecture of the Mayans in Tikal and equally as dumbfounded by the Incan structures in Peru. We improved our Spanish and fell in love with the friendly locals throughout this trip. Despite the hurdles, we had a really great time.

Expense Breakdown

As far as expenses go, I didn’t really have a budget or goal for this trip. I just wanted to spend enough that our travels were comfortable and so that we got to do and see everything we wanted.

Below are my expenses for the ~10 weeks (72 days) on this trip. Stay tuned for Whitney’s more in depth post about all the fun things we did on this trip, but for now I’ll focus on the expenses incurred while traveling. Keep in mind that all of the expenses that I’ll talk about below are my expenses only, since Whitney and I have quite different spending habits at times. We split all shared expenses evenly, so I calculate the numbers below with my half of the shared expenses and then my individual expenses. I was much more lenient on expenses this trip, which has been a consistent trend lately as my net worth has grown and our business continues to do well. I still try to be frugal on big expenses but am much more likely to splurge on things now or spend extra to avoid hassle than on our first couple of long international trips.

Accommodation: For the vast majority of this trip we stayed in AirBnBs. We did use some hotel points for our stay in San Antonio and paid for a resort type hotel in Puerto Vallarta. Our stay in Cancun was at an all-inclusive, but this was covered by a staffing company as an incentive for working with them. Since we were working online at least a little bit each day, a strong internet connection and a little extra space to work were important throughout the trip, which meant a little higher cost in some places. In some of the more touristy places on the trip, accommodations were overpriced, but that comes with the territory. We also decided to spend extra on the AirBnB in Mexico City that we quarantined in due to wanting some extra space and amenities while spending our time stuck inside.

  • Total for my expenses: $1,844

Food and drink: We cooked very little on this trip despite having at least a small kitchen in most of the AirBnBs we stayed in. We did our best to keep expenses a little lower by only having one big meal out in the evening each day and having a meal and snacks “at home” in the morning and afternoon. Eggs were a morning staples in most places that didn’t require too much in terms of effort and kitchen implements. In almost all of the places we visited on this trip, drinking the tap water wasn’t advised so we spent money each day on buying drinking water.

  • Total for my expenses: $1,521

Transportation: Flights in Central and South America are surprisingly expensive and limited. This was a rude awakening after the very affordable and easy transportation throughout Europe and SE Asia. There are few budget airlines, and the ones that do operate there are often just as expensive as regular airlines once all additional fees are accounted for. We also had to pay for many shuttles and private cars to get from the airport to places that we were staying. Places like Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and La Fortuna, Costa Rica are 3+ hours from the nearest airport with decently treacherous roads to get to and from. Due to this, ground transportation is costly and really added up during this trip. We used Ubers and taxis quite a bit in places where walking either wasn’t feasible or safe. We also paid for lots of boat rides at Lake Atitlan.

  • Total for my expenses: $1,751

Activities: We really did a lot on this trip. Many walking tours in various places, a cooking class in Guatemala, a food tour in Lima, a day tour to Tikal in Flores, and massages in Mexico. We also had a very busy all day tour to hot springs, hanging bridges, Volcan Arenal, and a waterfall in La Fortuna, as well as four separate very long day trips in Cusco including tours to Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, and the Sacred Valley. As you might have guessed, all of this added up to quite a lot in expenses. We had a great time on all of the activities though, so the cost was worth it. By the time we got to Cusco, we were tired and overwhelmed with planning, so we paid extra for a travel agent to book all of our tours for us as well as our transportation to and from the airport. Getting to Macchu Picchu is a little complicated, so it was nice to have a local set everything up for us even though it cost us more.

  • Total for my expenses: $982

My total expenses for 72 days on this trip including accommodations, transportation, activities, and food/drink were approximately $6,098! This comes out to an average of $84.69/day!*

*Keep in mind this is only my half of the expenses, and does not include Whitney’s expenses.

Summary of My Expenses

Spending that much in just 2.5 months seems a little crazy to me, considering I actually spent less than that on each of our longer trips in the past ($4700 total for 4 months in Europe and $5600 total for 5 months in Europe & Asia). With that being said, we used less points and miles on this trip than in the past, our accommodations were way nicer, and it costs significantly more to get from place to place in Central and South America. We also did way more tours and activities than on trips in the past. With all that considered, the cost really wasn’t bad. Since my fixed costs at home while traveling are very low now due to paying cash for our house, and we were able to work online on the business throughout the trip earning much more than the cost of the trip, I’m really happy with how everything went. Since our long trips in 2018 and 2019, our business has grown exponentially, so I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to keep up with day to day demands but we actually handled it very well. We were able to get some content ready ahead of time before leaving which helped a lot, and that combined with dedicating a couple of hours each day to work we stayed pretty well caught up throughout.

Being able to spend months at a time traveling all over the world while still earning income and growing my net worth was something I would have thought was completely impossible just a few years ago, but now it’s a reality. Whitney and I couldn’t be more excited about the life we’ve built over the years.

What’s Next?

Now that we know we can travel and still keep up with the business, at least for a while longer, we’re planning to do as much traveling as possible throughout 2022. We’re working on planning the rest of the year and things are still up in the air, but we know we will be spending a few months in Alaska, and we will have road trips on the drive to/from Alaska through Canada, visiting some of the National Parks there. We also plan to go back to Las Vegas in September for the Traveler’s Conference. After that, we may travel more around Central and South America at the end of the year, but we haven’t made any plans for that just yet.

Stay tuned to see how things go with our future trips. We’ve been very active on Instagram and on our Facebook page lately so be sure to follow there for all of our best travel pictures!

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