A $200 Trip to South America — Reader Success Story

Oct 5, 2017

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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how points and miles have helped them get where they want to go. Each week I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you’re interested in sharing your own award travel success story, email it to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!

Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Eduardo, who booked a trip to Peru and Argentina with points and miles. Here’s what he had to say:

Without your blog, I don’t think the South American vacation I took this past spring would have been possible. I ended up spending next to nothing for all my flight and hotel reservations!

I started my trip by flying from Miami to Lima, Peru to visit family there. I booked the round-trip flight for 35,000 AAdvantage miles at the SAAver award rate, and since I was able to stay with my family, I had more points to spend on other parts of the trip.

I then booked an award ticket from Lima to Buenos Aires on Oneworld partner LATAM for 12,500 AAdvantage miles. I spent five nights at the Sheraton Libertador (a Category 3 Starwood property) for 7,000 points per night, and I only paid 28,000 points after getting the fifth night free. I absolutely loved Buenos Aires, and am definitely looking forward to visiting again in the future!

American Airlines had no availability for my flights within Argentina, and my SPG account was running low after having also redeemed several trips earlier in the year. That’s where reading your blog came in very handy! I transferred 192,000 Marriott Rewards points to SPG for 64,000 Starpoints. That allowed me to book the Sheraton Iguazu for two nights at 12,000 points per night. My SPG Platinum status got me upgraded to a suite with amazing views of the waterfalls!

I then transferred 35,000 Starpoints (including the 5,000-point bonus) to LATAM at a 1:1.5 ratio. That gave me enough kilómetros to book my flights from Buenos Aires to Iguazu and from Mendoza back to Lima. My flight from Iguazu to Mendoza was booked using 12,500 Delta SkyMiles for a SkyTeam partner award on Aerolíneas Argentinas. (I had 10,000 miles left from previous travels, and got the last 2,000 by transferring points from my Corporate Diners Club card.)

To top off this amazing trip, I stayed at the Park Hyatt Mendoza by transferring Ultimate Rewards points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonus to my Hyatt Account. Despite being a Park Hyatt, the Mendoza property costs just 8,000 points per night for award stays, so I only used 24,000 points.

My total cash cost for these awards was less than $200, with most of that going toward airline award booking fees. Had I booked all this without points, the trip would have easily been in the thousands of dollars! I’m not sure what my redemption rate was for each flight and hotel stay, but it was the trip of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to book my next one using points and miles.

Eduardo got his fifth award night free at the Sheraton Libertador in Buenos Aires.

Transferable points are the bread and butter of award travel. Aside from giving you access to multiple airline and hotel programs, these points insulate you from devaluations and offer transfer bonuses (like the one Eduardo got from SPG) that can help you get even more value out of each redemption. I tend to value transferable points more than other rewards, and I recommend adding some to your portfolio if you haven’t already.

Eduardo’s story brings up another important point: It pays to weigh your alternatives when booking award flights. Mileage requirements vary widely from one award chart to another, so you shouldn’t confine your search to the frequent flyer programs you’re most comfortable with. When you’re traveling on an unfamiliar route, take some extra time to see if a more lucrative option is available.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Eduardo for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you.

Again, if the strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me and the whole TPG team by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions at the top of this post). Feel free to also submit stories of your most egregious travel mistakes. In either case, you’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured Image courtesy of Werner Büchel via Getty Images.

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