A Trip to Machu Picchu for Under $200 — Reader Success Story
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Teresa, who used rewards to save on flights for her and her husband to Peru. Here's what she had to say:
My husband and I wanted to book a trip to Machu Picchu this upcoming May, but our expendable income is limited since we're both students. Thanks to travel savvy friends and TPG posts, however, we booked a trip for two for less than $200.
Between conference travel, everyday spending and work trips, we were able to accrue points across various programs, including American Airlines, Chase Ultimate Rewards, SPG and United. I then signed up for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and earned the bonus of 50,000 points, plus 5,000 points for adding my husband as an authorized user (authorized user bonus no longer available).
I transferred 27,000 points to my husband's United account and booked two one-way flights from Chicago to Lima (with an overnight in Panama City) for 20,000 miles and $21.85 each. Next, I transferred 18,000 points to my British Airways account and booked two round-trip flights on LATAM between Lima and Cusco, with a fee of $15.17 per ticket. For our return, we booked flights from Lima to Kansas City for 17,500 AAdvantage miles and $52.80 each, and finally booked Southwest flights back to Chicago for 8,640 points and $5.60 each.
As for our hotels, we used SPG Cash & Points to book two nights at the Sheraton Lima Hotel for 2,000 points + $35 per night, and we plan to book a complimentary night at a Marriott property in Panama City thanks to the recent free night MegaBonus promotion. The total cost of airfare for this trip is $190.84 and 101,640 points. Is this the best use of points? Maybe not, but considering our very limited expendable income and the points we had available, we are extremely satisfied!
One of the most fundamental lessons to learn about award travel is that you can use miles from one airline to book flights on another. Teresa and her husband took advantage of British Airways' distance-based award chart and used Avios to cover their flights between Lima and Cuzco. Round-trip airfare along that route starts around $165 on low-cost carriers, so after accounting for the $15 per person in fees, they got a solid return of over 1.6 cents per point.
Most hotel programs offer a mixed points and cash award option, which can be helpful when you don't have enough points to cover your entire stay, or if you want to reduce your out-of-pocket cost. You may also be able to book with cash and points when regular award nights are unavailable. Just make sure to compare the mixed rate with the regular paid rate, since these awards don't always provide good value.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Teresa for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!