Introduction: Patagonian Summer time | One Mile at a Time

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READ MORE FROM THIS TRIP

• Introduction: Patagonian Summer time
• Courtyard Marriott Santiago Las Condes Evaluation
• 5 Issues To Do On Easter Island When You’re Carried out Seeing Statues
• Is Torres Del Paine Nationwide Park Value Visiting?
• The Finest Of The Relaxation: A Mini-Roundup Of My Chilean resorts
• Delta Sky Membership Santiago Evaluation
• Salones VIP Pacific Membership Santiago (Worldwide Terminal) Evaluation
• Delta Sky Membership Atlanta Terminal F Evaluation

Each winter, my husband and I succumb to the vitamin D deficiency that plagues New England, and use our miles to get as distant from winter as potential. Our journey has to fulfill one in every of two standards:

As far south within the Southern Hemisphere as potential (most daylight)

Or

As near the equator as potential (most heat)

This yr, we selected Chile, which has been a very long time coming. We’ve each been wanting to go to the favored Torres del Paine Nationwide Park for years, in order that appeared like the plain “foremost occasion.”

However we had been equally intrigued by Easter Island, and the timeframe labored properly with our schedules.

And admittedly, if I’m touring that far in late December, I certain as heck would moderately spend at the least a number of the time in a spot the place I’m swapping my down jacket for a tank high.

Our strategy

Whereas I like Ben’s champagne-laden opinions with a aspect of caviar, I don’t have a lot so as to add when it comes to airline opinions on this journey. Maybe extra importantly, Ben and Tiffany are each roughly 1,000x higher at taking lodge photos than anybody else I do know, yours really included.

And getting the precise lighting for elevator/bathe/meals photos is definitely actually exhausting. Who knew?

So whereas I’ll be weighing in with just a few lounge/lodge opinions, I additionally need to give the locations a good shake. And in the event you’re nonetheless pining over the dearth of flight opinions, I don’t assume anybody sums it up higher than Tiffany, on this submit.

However to begin, I figured it might be value speaking by the reserving course of, as a result of there are a few fascinating nuances in the case of journey inside Chile.

Particularly when seemingly half of the North American continent decides to affix you down there.

Attending to Patagonia & Easter Island

Earlier than we get began, I need to make one factor clear – this journey was in regards to the vacation spot, not the journey. Which is de facto only a fancy manner of claiming that whereas our factors undoubtedly helped to offset the prices, the last word aim right here wasn’t the killer candy spots that some award charts supply.

Clear expectations.

Whereas vacation award journey is all the time a little bit of a conundrum, I’ve discovered the week between Christmas and New 12 months’s tends to be possible – if not nice – when it comes to award availability.  Sadly, we dragged our ft a bit of longer than we should always have on account of some exterior circumstances, and watched a number of awards go us by, together with American’s 787 enterprise class out of Dallas, and LATAM’s 787-9 out of Miami.

What might have been

Heck, even Delta had some saver-for-them availability on their 767 out of Atlanta, for the low(ish) value of 110,000 SkyMiles one-way.

See also  JetBlue and Southwest flights from $44 one-way

As we watched these awards come and go, it grew to become clear that dragging our ft wasn’t an choice, and we’d want to leap on the subsequent saver award area in enterprise class that we might discover.

Finally we settled on Copa Airways out of Boston for 60,000 United MileagePlus miles per particular person. I received’t be reviewing these flights, since Nick already has us lined (and sadly, little has modified up to now three years) however I’ll depart you with these three extra observations:

The service was considerably higher on the flight from Panama Metropolis to Santiago than the flight from Boston to Panama Metropolis. When you think about getting an amenity equipment and never being woken up from a nap as a result of “BREAKFAST” to be stellar service.
Panama Metropolis is insanely simple to transit by, because you don’t have to alter terminals or re-clear any form of security. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it once more, even on a good connection.
Final fall, Copa began to roll out their new 737 MAX aircrafts, which supply totally flat beds. Effectively, we all know what occurred with the 737 MAX, so whereas there could also be a flat mattress expertise in your distant future in the event you’re connecting by Panama, I wouldn’t rely on it anytime quickly.

Our actuality

Within the meantime, the dentist’s chair is way from essentially the most glamorous award on the market, however beggars (and mileage redeemers) can’t all the time be choosers.

Getting residence over New 12 months’s

If touring the week between Christmas and New 12 months’s limits award choices, touring residence the weekend after New 12 months’s introduced a dearth of awards that made me surprise if I ought to simply transfer to Chile. It grew to become fairly clear fairly quick that enterprise class redemptions had been out of the query, so I went with the subsequent greatest line of protection: if I can’t get a enterprise class award, go along with the airline the place I’ve essentially the most standing.

So after many months of deliberation, I turned to my beloved, considerable, and persistently devalued foreign money of selection: SkyMiles.

I’m hesitant to even admit what number of miles I spent, however I’ll inform you that the category of service rhymes with “schmeconomy.” Even Consolation Plus was bought out.

Delta doesn’t permit World Improve Certificates for use on award tickets, so I spent the higher a part of the autumn checking to see if award costs had dropped, and praying for an op-up.

Torres del Paine

Provided that our journey was centered round this vacation spot, every little thing else form of hinged on our means to truly get into the park, so reserving this was the subsequent logical step. Our authentic plan had been to hike the well-known “W” path, a preferred ~80 kilometer multi-day trek that attracts avid hikers from internationally.

Sadly, that recognition has labored to the park’s demise. Whereas hikers might as soon as roam free and camp wherever they needed inside the designated areas, the elevated visitorship had environmental impression that led to the park instituting a reservations-only system in October of 2016.

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Hikers should now guide campsites or refugios (heated dorm-style bunkhouses) prematurely by the central reserving system number of de-centralized, unbiased operators whose web sites could or could not have translation providers.

And most of those slots are snapped up at the least eight months prematurely.

We rapidly realized that reserving a trek on the W, a month earlier than departure throughout peak season, was form of the hiker’s equal of claiming “I’m going to make use of my United miles to fly my whole household around the globe in Swiss First Class.”

In different phrases, it simply wasn’t occurring.

We ended up discovering post-new-year’s availability on the centrally positioned (and aptly named) Refugio Torre Central for 3 nights, which would supply quick access to the preferred sections of the path and permit us to see most the W with out having to hold a heavy pack.

However the location got here at a value. Extra particularly, it value $160 per particular person per evening for, primarily, a mattress in a dorm room and two mediocre meals.

I’ll have extra to say in regards to the park’s basic logistics in a later submit, however for now, I’ll depart you with this reflection: it value extra to remain in what was primarily a hostel on the base of the “W” trek than it might have value to remain on the W Resort in Santiago.

By a big margin.

Intra-Chilean flights

In comparison with pulling this collectively, every little thing else felt simple – however we weren’t out of the woods but. The following largest hurdle was attending to Easter Island. LATAM is the one airline that flies to Easter Island’s airport, with twice-daily flights from Santiago and weekly flights from Tahiti. Consequently, accomplice award availability – by American AAdvantage, British Airways Avios, or in any other case – is just about nonexistent.

I’ve learn stories from folks indicating that they couldn’t discover award availability for a whole yr, and whereas that occasional unicorn could exist, it certain as heck isn’t going to point out its face throughout one of the crucial standard journey weeks of the yr.

We ended up paying greater than I’d have preferred for a one-way ticket from Santiago to Easter Island’s IPC, and a return flight to Punta Arenas (the gateway to Torres del Paine) with a compulsory connection in Santiago.  With a bit of little bit of foresight and additional planning, you possibly can switch Marriott Rewards factors to LATAM at a three:1 ratio with a 5,000 level bonus for each 60,000 factors transferred.

However maybe essentially the most sensible approach to maximize worth on LATAM is to guide instantly by their Chilean web site. I didn’t love the chance that goes with displaying proof of citizenship, so I shied away from this selection, but it surely sounds prefer it doesn’t matter. My good friend Jeremy was capable of guide round-trip enterprise class for round $600, with zero proof of citizenship required.

At the very least we all know for subsequent time.

Again on the mainland, issues get comparatively simpler, with LATAM, Sky Airline and JetSMART all servicing Punta Arenas. I’m not an enormous fan of flying unknown low-cost carriers in new international locations, and fortuitously, the LATAM flights had been priced comparably to the others. Our return flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago set us again $248 per particular person, and we might have carried out even higher if we had been extra versatile with our time that day. 

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Inns

Most of our locations aren’t serviced by main lodge chains, however Marriott has an enormous presence in Santiago. We are typically actually selective with reserving aspirational properties, particularly after we are on what quantities to primarily a 30-hour layover. So, for 2 nights in Santiago, 35,000 factors for a wonderfully serviceable Courtyard by Marriott felt like a stable selection.

For all of our different stops, we used the fundamental however utilitarian reserving.com for some primary however utilitarian resorts. Not one of the properties are actually value reviewing individually (although I’ll do a basic roundup), however nothing broke the financial institution, both.

Airport Parking

That is most likely essentially the most mundane subject I’ll ever write about on right here, however for these of us who should drive a number of hours to get to a serious worldwide airport, it’s undoubtedly a factor. And whereas I’ve sometimes succumbed to egregious parking charges or reserving one-way rental vehicles, I used to be lastly launched to the fantastic world of airport lodge “Keep and Park” packages.

Oh my gosh, how have I been lacking this for therefore lengthy??

We had been flying out of Boston’s Logan Airport, the place the “official” economic system parking zone prices $26 per day. With our flight leaving at eight AM, we had deliberate to remain within the space the evening earlier than anyway, and we got here throughout a deal that included one evening on the Courtyard Marriott and fourteen days of airport parking for $280. 

In essence, we paid lower than we might have for the “economic system” park lot and bought our lodge evening at no cost.

And sure, the whole room and parking fee certified for incomes Marriott Bonvoy factors.

Backside line

Generally, we plan journeys round killer mileage redemptions or wonderful lodge offers. However on the finish of the day (and name me old school), I’m nonetheless going to prioritize the vacation spot over the journey, utilizing factors and miles to complement wherever I can. Clearly, this journey fell into the latter class.

And with two far-flung, distant locations that we are going to most likely by no means go to once more, I used to be okay to pay the “vacation spot premium.” In any case, we weren’t going for this:

A lot as this:

I look ahead to sharing our adventures!

P.S.

When you’re nonetheless actually craving for a assessment of Delta’s 767 economic system product, I wrote a haiku about it:

Seat was fairly tight

Good films dangerous meals and small

Amenity kits

READ MORE FROM THIS TRIP

• Introduction: Patagonian Summer time
• Courtyard Marriott Santiago Las Condes Evaluation
• 5 Issues to do on Easter Island When You’re Carried out Seeing Statues
• Is Torres del Paine Nationwide Park Value Visiting?
• The Better of the Relaxation: A Mini-Roundup of my Chilean resorts
• Delta Sky Membership Santiago Evaluation
• Salones VIP Pacific Membership Santiago (Worldwide Terminal) Evaluation
• Delta Sky Membership Atlanta Terminal F Evaluation

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