Main image | 6 Spring Break Destinations: South America on a budget with kids

6 Spring Break Destinations: South America on a budget with kids

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Main considerations for route planning

South America on a budget - Planning the trip

There are 4 criteria that should guide your itinerary.

  • First off, zero in on your dream destination. Always dreamed of witnessing the majestic Iguazu Falls? Make it the centerpiece of your journey!
  • Next, consider what climate suits you best. Tropical paradise lovers will be enchanted by the lush landscapes of Rio and Colombia, while Patagonia offers a cool haven for those who thrive in chillier, more rugged environments.
  • Third, be honest about your budget. South America caters to a range of budgets.  Accommodation prices vary greatly between backpacker hostels and luxury resorts.  Food can be incredibly affordable if you stick to local markets and street food.  When calculating your budget, factor in entrance fees for attractions, transportation costs, and kid-friendly activities. 
    Pro Tip: Consider shoulder seasons (spring/fall) for potentially lower travel costs than peak tourist times.
  • Lastly, streamline your itinerary to one region. By minimizing travel time between destinations, you’ll enrich your experience, making every moment of your adventure both comfortable and packed with exploration.

6 best Spring Break Destinations for families in South America

Brazil: Beaches & Beyond!

South America on a budget with kids - Brazil

Main Attractions: Rio’s beaches, Iguazu Falls, Amazon rainforest
The best time to visit: June-August (dry season)

Peru: Inca Inspirations

South America on a budget - Peru

Main Attractions: Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Amazon rainforest
The best time to visit: May-September (dry season)

Chile: Land of Fire & Ice

South America on a budget - Chile

Argentina: Gauchos & Glaciers

South America on a budget - Argentina

Bolivia: Off the Beaten Path

South America on a budget - Bolivia

Ecuador: Rainforest Rendezvous

South America on a budget - Ecuador

South America on a Budget: Transfer Options

African Trip Types

Many first-time travelers to South America underestimate the vast distances and travel times involved. It’s a lesson often learned on the go. The primary modes of transportation across the countries include domestic flights, rental vehicles, and shuttle buses.

For most journeys, you’re likely to take to the skies. LATAM, a Chilean-Brazilian airline, dominates regional and long-distance air travel. Avianca is the go-to in Peru, while Aerolíneas Argentinas covers Argentina, GOL is Brazil’s favorite, and Amaszonas connects Peru and Bolivia.

Budget-savvy travelers and families looking for cheap flights to South America will be glad to know about the rising popularity of low-cost carriers like Chile’s JetSmart and Sky, along with Argentina’s Norwegian and Flybondi. These airlines are continuously expanding their networks with new interregional destinations. For instance, Sky recently launched routes to Argentina, Peru, and Brazil, and LATAM now flies from Santiago to Cusco.

A unique regional detail is that flights to Easter Island are exclusively operated by LATAM from Santiago, offering a budget-friendly option for families exploring South America on a budget.

Major airlines in South America

Navigating South America on a budget? Here’s your airline guide for family-friendly, cheap flights across the continent:

  • LATAM (Chile): Your gateway to the continent, including unique destinations like Easter Island. Heading to the southern tip, like Punta Arenas? LATAM’s your likely choice.
  • Avianca (Colombia): Covering South America, especially the northern parts, Avianca is a key player.
  • KLM (Netherlands): An international option with budget-friendly segments like Santiago to Buenos Aires, complete with a technical stopover and the perk of earning miles.
  • Aerolíneas Argentinas (Argentina): Offering continental flights and a direct route to Argentine Patagonia. Part of Skyteam, it’s also a chance to accumulate miles.
  • JetSmart (Chile): Spanning the region, including the breathtaking Patagonia, JetSmart is part of Indigo Partners’ global family of quality low-cost airlines, including Volaris (Mexico), Frontier Airlines (USA), and Wizz Air (Europe).
  • Sky Airline (Chile): Chile’s pioneering low-cost airline, serving destinations throughout the region, including Patagonia.
  • EasyFly (Colombia): A budget-friendly choice with an extensive network within Colombia.
  • Wingo (Colombia): Focused more on Central America and the Caribbean, this low-cost offshoot of Copa Airlines offers great deals.
  • Viva Air (Colombia and Peru): Supported globally, this low-cost carrier is part of the Ryanair and Tiger Airways family, ensuring affordable fares.
  • Flybondi (Argentina): Argentina’s first budget airline, serving destinations like Iguazu and Salta, though not yet Patagonia.
  • Norwegian (Argentina): Bringing the renowned low-cost model to Argentina.
  • Azul Brazilian Airlines & GOL (Brazil): Major Brazilian airlines, offering widespread domestic and regional flights, perfect for exploring Brazil.
  • BoA & Amaszonas (Bolivia): Bolivia’s leading airlines, with Amaszonas being a bit smaller but just as essential.
  • Tame (Ecuador): The flagship carrier for Ecuador, ideal for trips to the Galapagos Islands, alongside Avianca and LATAM.

Major bus companies in South America

In South America, bus travel reigns supreme over train journeys. It’s the perfect choice for covering short distances affordably. For those longer treks, consider boarding a sleeper bus. These double-decker marvels feature seats that recline to a nearly flat position, allowing you to catch some Z’s along the way.

Traversing the continent from north to south is a breeze with strategic bus changes: think Lima to Nazca, La Paz to Uyuni, Santiago to Puerto Montt, and more. Or, if you’re eyeing a straightforward adventure, hop on a direct route like Lima-Nasca and disembark whenever you spot your desired stop. Embrace the journey through South America on a budget, where convenience meets cost-effectiveness.

  • Cruz del Sur — This carrier offers routes within Peru and beyond, including an epic coast-to-coast journey from Lima to Buenos Aires. Then there’s the Chilean branch, perfect for a scenic trip from Santiago to Puerto Montt.
  • Cal Tur — Argentina.
  • Pullman, Turbus — Chile.
  • Peru Hop, Bolivia Hop и Equador Hop. Related tourist-oriented companies.
  • Reunidas — Brazil.
  • Busbud, Andes Transit — aggregators, though direct company bookings or ticket counter purchases might save you a few bucks.

Exploring South America on a budget doesn’t mean missing out on the scenic Chile-Argentina-Patagonia route. Sometimes, car renting could be more cost-effective and convenient for your travel plans. But it is important to consider that special documents will be required, such as insurance and official authorization of the renter, as well as the fact that the car will have to be handed over to the same country where you rented it.

The rental cost will depend on how long you need the car and what kind of vehicle you choose. For a quick example, renting a Suzuki for a short getaway could run you about $650. It’s a small price to pay for the freedom to explore at your own pace, making it a smart option for adventurers looking to see South America’s stunning landscapes.

Safety Precautions

South America on a budget

FINAL THOUGHT

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Zoey Peregrine Avatar

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