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Points and miles kept me from getting trapped in Central America

April 12, 2020
4 min read
Points and miles kept me from getting trapped in Central America
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Before the world went crazy a few weeks ago, I ventured out on a trip with my mom to Nicaragua to review Calala Island, the private island resort bookable with World of Hyatt points. While my stay went smoothly, the same cannot be said of my journey home. Why? Because although it had been perfectly simple to fly into Managua Airport, by the time we tried to leave, governments around the world had begun closing their borders entirely.

This meant that on the day we were scheduled to leave, we arrived at the airport and were told at the check-in counter that our flight had just been canceled. When we asked for help, the desk agent shrugged, threw up his arms, and then said, "Stay in Nicaragua?"

Then he walked away.

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I consider myself a fairly savvy traveler, but my mom hasn't spent the last few years slinging on a backpack and jaunting off on error fares. Needless to say, when she realized we were trapped in Managua without a flight out, she became a little worried.

I became a little worried too, as I realized flight after flight had been canceled. Managua isn't a major airport, and most of its flights connect through other Central American countries. Since those were no longer an option, I was forced to look for direct routings into the US. According to Flights From, there are four options from which to choose: Houston, Atlanta, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. None of these were ideal since our final destination was Los Angeles, but getting back into the country was a priority.

Unfortunately for us, United had canceled its Houston routing, Delta had ended its Atlanta flights and Spirit had entirely sold out its flight to Fort Lauderdale. Our final option was a 6 a.m. flight the next day to Miami on American, but a quick search showed me that a one-way ticket routing via Miami to Los Angeles was pricing at about $1,500 per person.

Could we have paid that? I suppose, though it would have been burdensome, to say the least. Instead, I had my mom log on to her American Airlines account, where she just so happened to have 60,000 AAdvantage miles sitting around.

Now, the below flight isn't the one we took. By the time we needed to book, our only option was to route from Managua to Miami to Atlanta to Los Angeles — but it still cost us just 20,000 miles each to fly in first the whole way home.

That's a great deal no matter how you look at it, but coming at a time when the world was shutting down, these points were nearly priceless. Since we were staying an extra night, I headed over to my Hilton app to check out what hotels were available. Fortunately for us, there was a decent Hilton hotel available for 29,000 points per night, which I quickly booked.

I then argued with a cabdriver for ten minutes about cab fare, threw my luggage into his taxi and headed to the hotel for a short sleep before departing early the next morning.

We talk all the time about how points and miles can help you achieve fabulous trips around the world, but sometimes those same points can save you in times of strain. With nearly nonexistent options for exiting the country and COVID-19 forcing change around the world, time was of the essence in returning.

As for now, I'm home safely, waiting like all the rest of you for the time when it's ok to hop back on a plane and enjoy some more of that sweet, sweet jet lag.

Feature photo courtesy of American Airlines.

Featured image by AA parked planes at various locations including Tulsa and Pittsburgh. Photos courtesy American Airlines.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases