The genesis of this trip was pre-2015, but in 2015, Mark was struck down with heart failure. It was recommended that Mark should not fly.
This led to the planning for a cruise around South America with Princess Cruises.
However, Mark's condition improved and air travel was back on the agenda.
The realisation that it was not guaranteed that the cruise passengers would be able to land at Easter Island and they would only spend 17 days of the 90 day cruise in South America, and difficulties with planning their own excursions, meant that the cruise was dumped very quickly.
In 2016, plans were again put on hold when Mark as diagnosed with "the Big C" (cancer), but reactivated soon after when the cancer was quickly dispatched by the knife (radical nephrectomy).
After dumping the South America cruise plan, Mark and his wife Alexa planned their own trip using the Internet and the travel books in the local library. Some of their major bookings were done through Flight Centre and South America Travel (highly recommended), but Mark and Alexa booked most of the trip themselves using a combination of budget and more expensive stays.
Airbnb was used for many stays in South America and the USA and all went well, except for St. Augustine in Florida, where the host apparently got sick of taking bookings and took off to Texas for a holiday. Airbnb sent Mark a congratulatory email outlining a rebate, but neglected to mention that was because their accommodation had been cancelled - he only found that out from others on a blog. However, apart from that incident, all went well with using Airbnb. All of the residences were as advertised and had good hosts. Don't be afraid to use Airbnb, but always have a "Plan B" in your back pocket, just in case.
Using South America Travel for the Ecuador leg turned out to be life saver due to issues that arose and that they expertly resolved. The travel agency Expedia.com.au was used an attempt to overcome dissatisfaction with a hostel booked by Flight Centre, but that was an unmitigated disaster - Expedia.com.au is absolutely not recommended.
Mark and Alexa could not contact them, the Novotel Cusco where alternate accommodation was booked could not reach them by email or phone, nor could the head office in the US. Not a good situation when you are in a foreign country needing a quick resolution. Luckily, however, the hotel was most understanding. They corrected the booking and gave Mark and Alexa the highest discount possible, while being amazed that no one was able to contact that travel agency through the time of Mark and Alexa's stay.