3 Uruguayan Vacations You Can Book with Points and Miles
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Whether you’re looking for a city adventure, romantic couples retreat or ritzy beach getaway, Uruguay has something for everyone. Today, TPG Contributor Elyse Beasley Steinhaus takes a detailed look at how to use travel rewards to get there.
I’ve had my eye on Uruguay for a while now – ever since I read a blogger’s account of her trip there last December, to be exact. Truth be told, it was actually a photo of the bathtub at the Carmelo Resort & Spa that first drew me in, but I went on to learn about the beaches, wineries and old-town charm the country has to offer. Uruguay also happens to rank as one of 2015’s best-value destinations, thanks to a favorable exchange rate, which makes this the perfect time to start researching ways to book a trip.
And so just as TPG Senior Points and Miles Correspondent Jason Steele did for vacations to Paris, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica earlier this year, I’m offering a few different credit card combos that will yield enough points and miles to redeem two plane tickets and at least four nights at a hotel in Uruguay.
Getting to Uruguay
There are a bunch of different airports in Uruguay, though most are served by local carriers or only accept international flights seasonally. The largest airport, Carrasco (MVD), is located in the capital city of Montevideo, and is served by such airlines as American, Copa and LAN. If you time it right, you can take advantage of American’s Off Peak awards (offered from March 1-May 31 and August 16-November 30) and book a one-way ticket for just 20,000 miles.
While you can also access Uruguay by flying into one of Buenos Aires’ airports (EZE, AEP) and taking a ferry and bus to your final destination, I’ll focus on ways to fly to MVD. To get to another town, you can rent a car or pick up a bus from the Tres Cruces terminal in Montevideo.
1. Sightseeing in Montevideo
Although a little sleepier than its neighbor cities in Argentina and Brazil, Montevideo offers no shortage of things to do, from touring colonial Old Town and strolling down the city’s miles-long waterfront promenade to checking out one of the many museums. The quirky Museo del Gaucho y de la Moneda, which is dedicated to the history of cowboys and currency in Uruguay, is an especially popular choice.
Hotels — You have a couple hotel options in the city center, across various hotel loyalty programs. For Starwood loyalists, there’s the SPG Category 4 Sheraton Montevideo, available for 10,000 Starpoints per night. Four award nights will cost you 40,000 Starpoints, though if you extend your stay to five nights, you’ll get the fifth one free. If you don’t already have it, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express is a good option for racking up the necessary points. Currently, you’ll earn 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months. You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Starwood Preferred Guest.
Within the Club Carlson program, there’s the Radisson Montevideo Victoria Plaza Hotel, bookable for about $145 or 38,000 Gold Points per night. To get the 152,000 points necessary for a four-night stay, you could sign up for the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card ($75 annual fee), which offers 85,000 Gold Points — 50,000 after your first purchase and 35,000 once you spend $2,500 within the first three months.
A second card, the Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature Card ($50 annual fee), will get you another 60,000 Gold Points when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days. You’d still need 7,000 Gold Points, but given that the Premier Visa awards you five points per dollar — and the other offers three — by the time you hit the spending requirements, you’ll have reached your goal.
Flight — You’ll find the best deals if you can travel during American’s off-peak months for the region (March to May and mid-August through November), in which case you need just 40,000 AAdvantage miles per person for round-trip flights. You can snag 60,000 miles apiece after spending $3,000 in three months if you each sign up for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. The annual fee of $99 is waived for the first year.
2. Kick Back in Carmelo
As I mentioned earlier, the Carmelo Resort & Spa was what initially drew me to Uruguay, and this second itinerary is planned around a stay at the property. Situated on the banks of the Rio de la Plata, the hotel offers private terraces off every room and easy access to the Narbona Winery, just three miles down the road.
Hotel — As of summer 2015, the property switched ownership from the Four Seasons to Hyatt. It’s a Category 5 hotel, requiring 20,000 Gold Passport points per night. To work toward four award nights, you could apply for the Hyatt Credit Card from Chase, which gives cardholders two free nights at any Hyatt after spending $1,000 within the first three months. There’s a $75 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year.
To cover the remainder of your stay, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee, waived the first year), which offers cardholders 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Chase Ultimate Rewards is a Hyatt partner, so you can transfer points to the program and redeem for your stay.
Flight — You’ll earn a total of 100,000 bonus Avios and required tiered spending, (otherwise the consumer earns 50,000 bonus points after $3,000 spend in 3 months of account opening) when both travelers open a British Airways Visa Signature Card ($95 annual fee). This gives you enough to book two round-trip economy tickets to Montevideo for 50,000 Avios each. Carmelo is about three hours away by car or bus.
3. Party in Punta del Este
If a few days in Carmelo sounds too quiet, Punta del Este, a resort town just two hours from Montevideo, may be more your speed. Nicknamed the Hamptons of South America, it’s home to nightlife, five-star restaurants and high-end shops — plus that famous hand in the sand.
Hotel — The Conrad Punta del Este Resort & Casino is a Category 7 Hilton property and typically requires 50,000 HHonors points per night. However, I dug around and found a special rate of 38,000 for a King-size club room with a bay view, and I’ll use that rate for this example.
Signing up for the Citi Prestige Card ($450 annual fee) and spending $3,000 in the first three months will get you 50,000 ThankYou Points, which you can transfer to Hilton HHonors at a ratio of 1:1.5. One card for each traveler will yield 150,000 HHonors points. These cards come with a hefty annual fee, but other valuable perks as well, including a $250 annual air travel credit and a 4th-night free hotel benefit. This leaves us just shy of our 152,000-point goal, which you can easily accrue by the time you hit the spending requirement.
Flight — You can often find good deals for flights to Uruguay, such as $397 round-trip from select US cities to Montevideo seen earlier this month. If you’re set on using miles, though, you could snag an American off-peak award and fly to Buenos Aires for 20,000 AAdvantage miles one-way, and take a connecting flight to Punta del Este on Aerolineas Argentinas using 25,000 Delta SkyMiles. As this South American carrier’s flights can be prohibitively expensive, you’ll definitely want to book an award flight. Of course, considering that Montevideo is just a two-hour drive from Punta del Este, you might want to fly into the Uruguayan capital and rent a car or book a taxi instead.
As you can see, signing up for several combinations of credit cards and meeting their spending requirements can open up a variety of vacation possibilities in Uruguay. Hopefully, this post has provided some helpful tips and inspired you to plan a trip of your own to this South American country.
Have you ever booked a trip to Uruguay on points and miles? Share your tips in the comments!