Points and miles kept me from getting trapped in Central America

Apr 12, 2020

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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.

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.

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