My Next Trip: The Most Remote Airport on Earth

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It’s been almost 6 full weeks since my last international (points-funded) trip and I am getting antsy. What better time for a ridiculous routing award through South America and into the middle of the Pacific Ocean!

It was a sad day for me last year when British Airways transitioned to Avios.  While there are some great values to be had in the new program, the pricing rules prohibit any sort of crazy Barrow-like adventures.  Fortunately,  I was able to lock in one of the old British Airways programs ‘wow’ routings before the switch. I call it a ‘wow’ routing because pretty much every BA phone agent I talked to (I booked variations of this award 3 times) says, “Wow, I didn’t think this would work!”

map12000+ miles of  flights for 40000 miles

Bridging old and new award charts

Now for those award chart history buffs, you will notice the LIM-CUZ-LIM route probably wouldn’t fly as a legal routing with the old BA agents.  I actually bridged old with new for this trip and booked this part of the award using the new Avios short-haul focused award chart.  For whatever reason, the LAN flights for this one hour flight generally run 400-600 USD round trip.  With the new Avios program, availability is excellent and the total comes to 9000 Avios round trip plus about 13 USD taxes.

I’ll be honest while extremely excited for this trip, I am going in blind.  I really don’t have a lot of background knowledge on these destinations.  I booked this routing because I thought it was hilarious you could fly all these places for only 40K British Airways miles and ~100 USD in taxes total. For the old 100K BA credit signup plus a couple retention bonuses from Chase by threatening to cancel the credit card, I was able to book tickets for myself and both my parents to the most remote airport on earth! Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

I need suggestions!

That being said, I need help!  I don’t know a thing about Lima, Machu Picchu/Cuzco, Easter Island or Santiago.  I will be redeeming points for stays at the JW Marriott in Lima, Tambo Del Inka (Luxury Collection) near Machu Pichu/Cuzco,  Not sure yet in Easter Island and the W Santiago in Santiago.

Have you visited any of these destinations? What are the must see attractions? Any words of wisdom?


Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed on this site are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

About alex

Alex loves to travel and does so a lot. Logging 100,000 flight miles each year over the past 4 years, Alex uses points and miles to power his passion. Alex is continuously striving to experience the far reaches of the globe. In his day job, Alex is a Management Consultant frequently on the road advising Technology organizations. I love thinking about, reading about, and talking about all things travel. Feel free to reach me at pmmalex@gmail.com

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  1. I used an AA award to go to Easter Island a year and a half ago. Pretty much all the hotels there are B&B types… I think there is one “resort” but it’s remote on the island. That said, I highly recommend Taura’a Hotel. The owner and his wife are extremely nice and helpful. They’ll pick you up from the airport, they can hook you up on island tours that leave directly from the hotel, they make you breakfast every morning. Their service was absolutely top notch.

    Enjoy your trip!

  2. My wife and I went to Santiago and Easter Island in February on the same Avios burn.
    We loved the W in Santiago. We stayed at the explora on Easter Island. It was most definitely a splurge – but it includes everything. The excursions were top notch – planned to the T. Food and wine (all included) were fantastic.
    In Santiago, we ate at some pretty good restaurants (have admittedly high NYC standards). We also did private guided wine tours in the Casablanca and Aconcagua Valleys. If you want some more info or recs, please email me.

  3. If you are planning on a side trip to Machu Pichu (and you really should) from Cuzco, please know that you must travel there by train and have tickets to enter the ruins. Both are available online or via travel agents in Cusco. Both train and entry tickets are limited and do sell out at times. Overnight packages and day trips are available combining the two thru numerous agents; just be careful to book with a reputable company (I used TripAdvisior for recommendations). Enjoy.

  4. In Lima, I liked going to the catacombs and definitely should eat cerviche there. I liked Machu Picchu and Cuzco much better though Cuzco feels fairly touristy as everyone goes through there en route to Machu Picchu. Must see: Machu Picchu of course. 🙂 But in Machu Picchu, there’s a peak called Wayna Picchu where you get a spectacular view. Only 400 people are allowed up it in a day though I think you can buy advanced tickets ahead of time.

    If you like ruins, there is Ollantaytambo and others near Cuzco.

  5. I am heading there next week (DTW-MIA-LIM-CUZ-LIM-MEX-DFW-DTW), with a stopover everywhere except DFW. Also not a bad AA redemption for 60,000 in business, if you take advantage of the North American gateway stopovers…

    I’ll second Lynn’s comment about purchasing your train and entry tickets in advance. If you’re a foodie with a subscription to Netflix, I’d recommend searching through Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations show database for cities that you’ll be visiting – it always gives me ideas for places to check out. There are also helpful forums on Trip Advisor that have helped me piece things together, definitely read the post regarding insect bites (http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g294318-i3352-k1480029-Bug_bites_from_MP-Machu_Picchu_Sacred_Valley_Cusco_Region.html)

  6. great timing on this post as I am headed to same places in the fall on my pre-Avios booking. I’ve booked MP Sanctuary Lodge for a night so owe can stay late and wake up early in MP before the crowds arrive. It’s ridiculously expensive per night but going all that way to see it, so figure it will be worth it.

  7. We stayed at Tambo Del Inka back in the winter and learned Peru Rail operates a train that goes directly between the hotel and Machu Piccu. So if you wanted to do a day trip you could. The spa there is also great. Also as soon as you land in Cuzco you should drive to Tambo del Inka because its lower so it gives you time to acclimate, and then look around Cuzco on your way back.

  8. My husband and I leave on a similar journey in a few weeks from the pre-Avios burn.

    A few things I have learned in my preparations —

    The elevation in Cusco is hard on many people, both young and old. I second the recommendation to head to Urubamba as soon as you arrive and then visit Cusco on the way back. Drinking coca tea (legal in Peru but illegal in the US) will help you adjust to the 11,000+ elevation in Cusco.

    Read this trip report as it has lots of helpful info (including the location of a LAN bag drop in the town of Cusco so you can spend time in town before you return to the airport): http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-reports/1316274-lan-j-peru-lima-machu-picchu-chile-easter-island-santiago-pics.html

    The train from Tambo has a very limited schedule with only one departure and one arrival per day which greatly limits the amount of time you can spend inside Machu Picchu. Also, many people have reported that the leg on the train from Urubamba to Ollanta is extremely slow and takes over an hour each way. We’ll be taking a 20-minute taxi ride from Tambo to Ollanta and take the train from there which gives us the flexibility to get to Machu Picchu early enough to climb Huayna Picchu and stay until the park closes before returning to Tambo.

    Make sure to buy your tickets for the National Parks at the Easter Island airport for $50 USD per person. If you buy them later they will cost you $60 USD per person or an even higher rate if you pay in Chilean Pesos.

    Tambo del Inka was an easy selection for our stay in the Sacred Valley (their C&P are a bargain), but we ended up spending months trying to find a good place to stay in Easter Island as the selection is not very good. We finally selected one recently that provided package discounts that include lodging, breakfast, tour and car rental. We have our fingers crossed that this works out.

    Lastly, I want to thank Erik for providing the link about the sand flies at Machu Picchu. Time to stock up on some DEET.

  9. nice booking but i did one better. i booked
    NYC-GYE (stop to goto galapagos)
    GYE-LIM (stop to goto cuzco/macchu pichu)
    LIM-IPC (stop in easter island)
    IPC-SCL (stop in santiago)
    SCL-Punta Arenas (Chilean Patagonia)
    crossed to Argentina by land (no visa fee)
    Return was
    El Calafate (Argentinian Patagonia)-Buenos Aires (stop in BA)
    EZE-NYC

    all in biz
    miss old ba

  10. Alex,
    Can you show how many points you used for each leg? I’m looking to book a similar itinerary, coming from JFK, but when I check from Miami, the BA points required add up to more than 40k.

    MIA-LIM = 12,500
    LIM-CUZ = 4,500
    CUZ-LIM = 4,500
    LIM-SCL = 10,000
    SCL-IPC = 12,500
    IPC-LIM = 12,500
    LIM-MIA = 12,500
    Total = 69,000

    Thanks!

  11. Jeff, as he mentions he used the old (pre-Avios) BA miles for most of it, and then Avios for the LIM-CUZ legs. So, the itinerary is impossible at 40k now.

  12. Thank you all for this excellent and timely advice. I have already incorporated several of your suggestions into my itinerary.

    @Jeff – As Jason correctly pointed out, this was a pre-avios booking for 40k combined with an (current) avios booking of 9K. (LIM-CUZ-LIM)

  13. Is anyone aware of using BA Avios miles between USA and Egypt, avoiding flying on BA flight and rather using a BA partner to avoid the BA fuel surcharges and fees? I am thinking of signing up for the BA 100K mile offer with Chase to take my family on a trip next spring to see the mummies and pyramids. Any comments will be appreciated on how to plan the flight. We would fly out from DFW.

  14. Alex–I know this is a dated post, but I’m interested in your comment on Chase BA retention bonus. I signed up for the 50k bonus last year, and my renewal date is approaching. How many Avios can I push for with reasonable success?
    Thanks!

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