The Road to Rio, affordable accommodations and activities

Today’s the day! We leave for our 43 day adventure tonight!! We’ve been counting down the days now for over a year, it’s crazy that the time has finally come. I could hardly sleep last night with excitement. Hopefully I’ll be so tired by the time of our flight that I will be able to sleep the whole way!

A huge part of travelling that can make or break a vacation is accommodations. Staying somewhere close to the sites and attractions is important, but those places can often break the bank. So, finding a good happy medium between price and location is key. When we began researching for the accommodation portion of our trip, money was obviously one of our key objectives to continue to stay within our modest budget. Its important to state now, cheapest is not always the best. Especially in regards to accommodations!! I really needed to find places that would make me feel safe and comfortable in an otherwise very unfamiliar environment. Knowing there was going to be a language barrier in many of the places visiting, we have decided to stay in the more touristy areas where English will be common and other travelers will be found.

-AirBnb has treated us very well in the past- our hosts in Croatia went above and beyond all expectations so we decided to start our search there. In our initial search we found many very affordable places in all the cities we are traveling to through Airbnb. Great places ranging from $12/night-$50/night. Depending on the host, airbnb can be a great way to get an inside look on a city from places to eat and drink to places that are safe and tourist friendly.

-Hostels are also an affordable way to get a great location and meet some other travelers that have similar interests. Out of comfort though, we tend to opt for the pricier private double rooms which can cost more than an equivalent Airbnb. There are many perks to using hostels though, such as low risk reservations without cancellation penalties, last minute availability and social spaces and times to meet fellow travelers.

-Hotels are the most expensive option for accommodations, so we only searched for rooms and rates that could be covered by points that we acquired through credit card offers.

Our accommodations are as follows;

Cusco, Peru – 9 nights in a private double room with shared bathroom in a hostel. Approx $25 a night. We opted for a hostel although there are many really affordable air bnbs starting at only $12 a night. The hostel offered risk free booking, with no cancellation policy or penalty for cancelling a reservation. We are planning on booking an Inca Trail 3-5 day trekk to Machu Picchu through a company that offers discounts for those filling last minute cancelled spots on the trek. We will not know the exact dates of the trek until arrival so we decided a risk free hostel reservation would be the best option for accommodations while in Cusco. Filling in last minute cancellation spots on treks can save up to $300/person, since day treks are always an option we decided to take the risk and hope a cancellation occurs for the multi day trek.

view from Huayna Picchu

Lima, Peru – 1 night in Lima where we are paying cash for a 3 star hotel for $60. We choose a hotel for this stop because it seemed like the easiest option considering our short time there and because it was so affordable. Like Cusco, Airbnbs where very affordable, but many have a 2 night minimum during peak season so we decided a hotel was best for our situation.

Santiago, Chile – 3 nights in a 5-star Grand Hyatt Hotel for 7,500 Chase sapphire points. Since our arrival and departure flights are really late and really early and many air bnb have tight arrival and departure times we decided to seek options through hotel points acquired from credit card offers. After many nights in a hostel we also figured this would be a good place to rest and recover with all the amenities and luxuries of a 5-star hotel. Not being sure when doing laundry will be an option, here we know we will be able to do laundry and regroup.


Our big activity in Santiago is snowboarding! John and I often go snowboarding in Vermont during the Winter and figured this would be a great experience, and when else can you say you went skiing in July?! Since bringing all of our snowboard gear is not an option, we will be utilizing the Hyatt’s activity concierge and booking a day pass with gear rentals and transportation to and from the hotel all for under $100/person. This is definitely one of the perks to staying at a 5-star hotel, private bookings and transportation would have added up and cost much for than $100 each.


Buenos Aires, Argentina – 7 nights in an Airbnb in the center of the historic centre for $37 a night. We really chose this place based on location. For $37 a night, and in such a nice apartment we figured this was our best option.


In Buenos Aires we will be visiting my old college roommate Kristin, so we opted for a larger apartment where we could accommodate her if she would like to stay with us a few nights. The location of this apartment is also close to her classes so we will be able to visit with her most days and learn about the city through her experiences. Along with visiting Kristin we are planning a short day trip to Uruguay to visit Colonia, trips such as this are about $100 for the ferry ride and tour guide.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2 weeks in an Airbnb in Barra -a very safe area of Rio known for its beaches and modern lifestyle. Here we will be joining some of our friends for the duration of the Olympic Games. This is our most expensive stop at $500 a person for the 2 weeks.4ab68791_original

We knew finding an affordable place to stay during the Olympics would be difficult so we actually started looking last summer and booked these accommodations almost 13 months in advance! All the affordable places fill up quickly for events such as this. Although it may seen very expensive at $500 a person for the 2 weeks, broken down its only $35 a person a night and compared to other places in the area during this time we got a very good deal. The hotels I have researched for this time frame in Rio during the Olympics are well over $300 a night, staying in accommodations like that would be far too expensive and make this trip financially impossible.

While in Rio, we are planning on going to as many Olympic events as possible – we already have tickets to most of the Gymnastics Competitions, Beach Volleyball, Track and Field Finals, and Basketball. We will be working on getting more tickets while in Rio (more on how we acquired tickets to come in future posts). John will be volunteering for the Golf competitions, this is very exciting since this is the first year golf is in the Olympics! Besides the actually Olympic events we are planning on exploring the city and visiting tourist attractions. And don’t worry mom – I will be staying safe and aware of my surroundings!!


Post Rio, 5 nights – We have kept the remainder days open for any additional sites and places we feel we would like to visit in the Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo areas. On this list I have put the Iguazu falls! Still making arrangements for this portion of the trip.


The trick to finding accommodations that fit into a budget is research! Knowing all possible arrangements and prices allowed us to compare and contrast hostels vs airbnb vs hotels and find a right mix. Cheaper is not always better. Like in Buenos Aires, we opted to stay in a little bit nicer of a place so we could have a good location and be able to accommodate our friend. This best deal we got for this trip is the 3 nights at the Hyatt, booking with points saved us nearly $700 and with all the amenities included in a 5-star hotel, we are definitely going to get out money   points out of this part of the trip. 75,000 points is a lot, but I think it will be well worth it for what is included.

So here we go! Off on our trip! I will be posting as often as I can about our daily adventures on our Road to Rio so you can stay up to date.



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