Tickets to these parts of South America will normally run anywhere from $800-$1200 each, but dog’gonnit we just can’t stand to actually pay money for flights any more. One of my first real dives into the Wanderlusting World was a family trip for 6 to Medellin Colombia – a flight that cost us $564… no, not $564 each, but total… for 6 of us. The reason it was so cheap was because we had only to pay the taxes – the fares were covered by 150k AA miles which we got for signing up for a pair of Citi AAdvantage cards.
While the world of travel credit cards is a little more stingy today, it’s still entirely possible to get to Colombia, or Ecuador or Peru for that matter, on a single credit card application.
Here’s the deal: late last year, a merger between US Airways and American Airlines was approved. Since that point, it’s been possible to book US Airways flights with AA miles and vice versa. I have always felt like AA’s award chart (which you can always find on our Using Airline Miles page) is the most generous – particularly when you’re looking at flights to Europe and northern South America. So it makes sense to use those points on AA.
Right now there are cards which offer bonus points for both US Airways and American Airlines, but at some point in the future, expectations are that the Barclaycard US Airways MasterCard, will soon go away. What that says to me is that people need to get the card while it still exists and is offering a healthy bonus of 30k points.
This is one of the cards that doesn’t waive the annual fee for the first year, so you will have to fork over $89 right off the bat, but the good news is that there’s no minimum spending requirement – you’re awarded the bonus points after the first purchase.
When booking your flight, you’ll have to fly between 1/16 and 6/14 or 9/7-11/11 (when AA’s Saver fares to South America are available). You’ll have to pay some taxes as well, but it’s a small price to pay for a flight that would normally reach four figures.
You could also follow Sheldon’s excellent instructions on how to book a stopover on American Airlines and turn this trip into a 3-destination uber-vacation with stops in a domestic gateway city like LA, Dallas, or Miami, and open-jaw flights into and out of two of these great countries to visit.
As if you needed convincing, now I’ll provide you with some tantalizing details on each of these countries to fuel your urge to make something like this happen… soon.
As always, if you ever have any questions, we invite you to comment below or to read our FAQ page.
We absolutely loved Medellin, but I think you’d be thrilled if you went to Cartagena, or Bogota, too. Colombia is not the drug-torn world it once was. When we told people we were taking our family (including 4 kids under the age of 7) to Colombia, so many people looked at us with utter disdain that we finally started telling them we were taking them to Disneyworld. It was so much less controversial.
But take them to Colombia we did, and what a great time we had. I’ve written enough about this that if you’re interested in reading more, you’re better off just to see what we’ve written about Colombia.
The great majority of people who go to Peru, go to see Machu Picchu – and for good reason – it’s an incredible place to visit. But if (or when) I go to Peru this fall, it will be for the Great Amazon Raft Race – a three-day race through remote parts of the Amazon on balsa-wood rafts that teams build and race themselves.
Peru is a great place for adventure, but it’s also a great place for history, culture, and food. You could also go visit the Uros reed islands in Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake on earth.
Ecuador has an abundance of wildlife and untouched rain forest that’s ripe for exploration. You’ll have to fly into a big city like Quito or Guayaquil, but get out of there as soon as possible and enjoy what really makes Ecuador unique.
You’ll also want to check “stand on the equator” off your bucket list. And because we also like getting hotels for free, look into booking a stay at an eco-lodge on booking.com or another travel site and get your purchase reimbursed by the Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard®.
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Thanks for wanderlusting with us.