Tag Archives | Travel

American Airlines Restricts Ticket Sales in Argentina

I haven’t even been back in Argentina a full day and the dollar blue hits a record high of $15! That’s immediately followed by American Airlines announcing that they are restricting ticket sales in Argentina. Ahh, financial uncertainty how I’ve missed you.

american airlines argentina 300x225 American Airlines Restricts Ticket Sales in Argentina

We used to be so happy together.

American Airlines will no longer sell tickets to or from Argentina for purchase in pesos for more than 90 days out. Want to fly from Buenos Aires to New York after December 18? Sorry, you’ll have to choose a different airline (while you can).

American is implementing this measure because of the widening gap between the official exchange rate ($8.43) and the blue rate ($15.00). Without knowing where this will end up, they do not want to get stuck holding pesos that become more and more worthless everyday.

So, here’s why American Airlines is not happy (and how you can benefit)…

Assume I want to go from Buenos Aires (EZE) to Miami (MIA) for a week in October. If I”m on the American Airlines website in the United States, the fare comes out to U$S 1213. Switching my country to Argentina, I find the same flight for U$S 1688 (higher due to the 35% Argentine tax on travel). Which one do I book?

Well, paying for that U$S 1688 flight on my Argentine credit card, I’d get billed at the official exchange rate, and end up with a charge of ARS $14,230. Now, if I convert my dollars at the blue rate to pay off the credit card, I’d only owe U$S 949. That’s a savings of almost 25% off the flight for me!

The 35% travel tax implemented by the government last December was designed to make this practice less attractive, but since the gap between the official rate and blue rate keeps widening, this is once again an attractive option for booking tickets.

Only time will tell what happens next…

0

Summer Travel Hacking: How We Travel Cheaply Using Points and Miles

Our family is very lucky in that we get to split our time between Buenos Aires and the United States. This summer, due to work and personal commitments, we’ll be back in the States for almost 3 months, which means skipping most of the gray Buenos Aires winter.

While these trips are great, traveling with a family of four can be quite expensive. This is why I’ve become quite adept at playing the miles and points game as well as doing what I can to manufacture spend and earn as many points as possible. (If you’re not familiar with this, check out some of my other posts.)

This month, we’ll fly from Buenos Aires to Boston and then borrow a car from a friend. Over the rest of the summer, we’ve got road trips planned to Burlington, Montreal, Boston (twice), Lake George, the Berkshires and Mohegan Sun. We return in September from Boston to Buenos Aires.

Here’s the quick summary of how we’ve used miles and points to accomplish this without spending very much money:

Flight

We’re flying American Airlines from Buenos Aires to New York where we’ll spend three nights before flying to Boston. On the way back, we’re flying Boston to New York where we’ll spend one night before flying to Buenos Aires. (Unfortunately AA has since eliminated stopovers, so this routing will not work anymore.)

IMG 6842 300x300 Summer Travel Hacking: How We Travel Cheaply Using Points and Miles

American Express Centurion Lounge

We’ll also get to relax in the American Express Centurion Lounge at Ezeiza before our flight by having the American Express Platinum Card. They offer free food, drinks and even Freddo ice cream!

For our family of three plus an infant, this would have cost over U$S4300 if we had to pay for it. Instead, we’re using 50,000 miles per person plus $360 in taxes and fees. We obtained these AA miles from credit card signup bonuses as well as having a Bank Direct AA checking account that earns miles. (If you want me to refer you, let me know and we’ll both get 1,000 bonus miles.)

Hotels

intercontinental new york frontdesk 300x133 Summer Travel Hacking: How We Travel Cheaply Using Points and Miles

50,000 points per night

We’re spending three nights at the Intercontinental Times Square in NYC which would cost us U$S 1548.66 and be completely out of our budget. Instead, we’re spending $140 in cash and 80,000 IHG points which we earned most of from our mattress run in Buenos Aires. We also used a free night certificate that we get simply for having the IHG Reward Club credit card and paying the $49 annual fee. A pretty great deal!

On our first trip to Boston, we’re staying at the Best Western for $167.78 in cash – but, of course there’s a deal there too… We booked the hotel on Rocketmiles, which awards airline points for hotel bookings. We got in on a promotion they ran which will give us 6,000 AA miles for this stay. As I value AA miles at about $.02 each, this means a $120 rebate. Not bad. (If you use my link to signup for Rocketmiles, we’ll both get a 1,000 point bonus with your first stay.)

the liberty boston 300x199 Summer Travel Hacking: How We Travel Cheaply Using Points and Miles

12,000 SPG Points per Night

For our second trip to Boston, we’re staying at The Liberty Hotel. This would have cost us $913.31, but we’re using 24,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points instead. We earned these by spending on the SPG Amex card. These are some of the most valuable points around as they not only work for SPG hotels but also transfer to many airline programs. (They currently have a promotion for 30,000 bonus points if you sign up for the SPG card with my link. You have to spend $5,000 in 6 months, but that is easily done for free just by using Amazon payments.)

For our Montreal road trip and our Berkshire stop, we took advantage of the IHG Priority Club Points Break. This quarterly offer from IHG is one of the best deals in the travel world. They offer discounted 5,000 point per night rates at a select number of hotels. Since you can “buy” IHG points for $.007 each, this works out to only $35/night! The deals sell out fast, but we managed to snag two nights at the Holiday Inn Express Montreal ($373.09) and one night at the Holiday Inn Berkshires ($167.54). So, for 15,000 points ($105) we managed to get $540.63 in travel.

mohegan sun 298x300 Summer Travel Hacking: How We Travel Cheaply Using Points and Miles

Great deal at the Park Hyatt nearby.

Next on the road trip list is a surprise concert for my wife at Mohegan Sun (she never reads the blog, so no worries about her finding out). We needed two rooms for the night so that her mother can watch the kids, and unfortunately the Mohegan Sun Hotel is independent and ridiculously pricey at $599/night! Luckily, there is a Hyatt Place nearby with a free shuttle to Mohegan Sun and a more affordable price of $488.40 for both rooms. Of course, what makes this even better is that it’s only 8,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points! That’s $.03 per point which is a great redemption value! We simply transferred the points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt and booked the rooms.

A weekend trip to Lake George means two rooms at Country Inn and Suites. This would have cost $1,061.16 during the peak summer season, but I had won two free night certificates from a travel blog and used that for one room. For the other room, I used 38,000 Club Carlson points for one night and got one night free as a beneift for having the Club Carlson branded credit card.

conrad nyc 300x199 Summer Travel Hacking: How We Travel Cheaply Using Points and Miles

50,000 Points per Night

And finally on our way home, we decided to spend one night at The Conrad New York. The cost of this night would have been $486.30, but instead we used 70,000 Hilton HHonors points that we earned through a credit card signup bonus. We’ll also get free Internet and free breakfast as well as late check out for having Hilton Gold status (from our credit card).

For a couple of other trips, we needed more space than a hotel would provide and booked some great accommodations on AirBNB for less than the cost of the local hotels.

Whew! It took a bit of effort, but when you look at what we get:

  • $4300 airfare for $360 and 150,000 AA miles ($.026 per mile)
  • $1548.66 Intercontinental New York stay for $140 and 80,000 IHG points ($.017 per point)
  • $167.78 Boston Best Western stay to earn 6,000 AA points ($.028 paid per point)
  • $913.31 The Liberty Boston stay for $0 and 24,000 SPG points ($.038 per point)
  • $373.09 Holiday Inn Montreal stay for 10,000 IHG points ($.037 per point)
  • $167.54 Holiday Inn Berkshires stay for 5,000 IHG points ($.034 per point)
  • $488.40 Park Hyatt Mohegan Sun stay for 16,000 Hyatt points ($.030 per point)
  • $530.58 Country Inn and Suites Lake George stay for 38,000 Club Carlson points ($.014 per point)
  • $486.30 Conrad New York stay for 70,000 Hilton HHonors points ($.007 per point)

Adding it all up, that’s almost $9,000 in travel for only $547.78 plus points and miles. Not too bad IMHO… And this is why it kills me when I hear from friends who redeem their credit card points for gift cards at $.01 each. There is so much more value in those points!

0

Using Skymiles To Get To Buenos Aires On Aerolineas Argentinas

I still have a few hundred thousand Delta Skymiles from a promotion that they ran in 2011 where you could effectively buy miles for 1.06 cents each. This has meant that low-mileage (60,000 mile) coach tickets from the US to Buenos Aires have been costing me U$S 636 and low-mileage (100,000 mile) business class tickets only U$S 1060. As a business class ticket is typically U$S 3700 or more, this is quite a deal.

aerolineas argentinas eze jfk skymiles 300x199 Using Skymiles To Get To Buenos Aires On Aerolineas ArgentinasThe problem, of course, is that Delta is notorious for not having much low-mileage availability. Things are so bad that Skymiles are often referred to as Skypesos. Still, by being very flexible and checking the Delta website frequently, I have been able to book three Delta business class flights, one Aeromexico business class flight and a Delta coach flight with these miles.

Sometimes though it can be impossible to find any low-level space, even with being flexible, as I recently found when looking for a trip back to the States in the April/May timeframe. Delta was showing nothing at all. Nada. Zilch.

Luckily, I remembered that Aerolineas Argentinas was also a Skyteam member (as of August 2012) and had recently added a new Buenos Aires (EZE) to New York (JFK) direct flight as of December 2013. Of course, the Delta website does not show any of this award space.

aerolineas argentinas award space 300x276 Using Skymiles To Get To Buenos Aires On Aerolineas Argentinas

Lots of Buenos Aires to New York award space

That meant it was time to head over to the Air France website and search with their award booking tool. (Just sign up as a free Flying Blue member and you’ll get access to the site.) It worked great! Aerolineas Argentinas had a lot of low level award business space available. Plus they’re flying new Airbus A330-200 planes with lie-flat seats in Club Condor.

As they had a lot of availability, my next step was to see what low-level mileage options Delta had from New York to Boston (my ultimate destination). For this I went back to the Delta site and looked at First Class award availability from JFK-BOS in that same time frame. Luckily, a couple of options came back and I then compared those with the Aerolineas Argentinas availability to find flights that worked. I wrote all of the flight numbers down and then called Delta to book this itinerary as it could not be booked online.

Luckily, the Delta rep that I got was pretty good and while he had never booked Aerolineas Argentinas before, when I fed him the flight segments with flight numbers (EZE to JFK, JFK to BOS, BOS to JFK, and JFK to EZE) he found the same availability and the trip priced out to 100,000 miles plus U$S 107.32. There’s a $25 phone booking fee that can not be avoided.

He was able to book my seats for the Delta flights from New York to Boston, but could not assign seats for Buenos Aires to New York. He gave me a Aerolineas Argentinas record locator and with that I was able to call them directly and get my seats assigned. All set!

Of course, Aerolineas is notorious for their poor performance and customer service, so we’ll have to see how it goes. I’ll be sure and post a review of the flight afterwards.

Some things to know if you want to use Skymiles to get to Buenos Aires on Aerolineas Argentinas:

  • I only touched lightly on how to look for these award tickets. You can also read the Rapid Travel Chai blog on how to book Aerolineas tickets with Skymiles for some extra details.
  • Delta just recently devalued their award chart. After June 1, 2014, low-level award flights from the US to Buenos Aires will cost 125,000 miles. icon sad Using Skymiles To Get To Buenos Aires On Aerolineas Argentinas
  • If you’re not in New York, you can also search Aerolineas availability to Miami as they also have a lot of low level space. The biggest issue is getting to JFK or MIA if you are not in those cities.
  • If you’re coming from the US to Buenos Aires, you may be able to add on a stopover in Buenos Aires and continue on to another city as well for the same number of miles. For example, New York -> Buenos Aires (4 day stopover) -> Mendoza -> Buenos Aires -> New York.

If you need to get Skymiles, there’s a few good ways:

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of the best all-around travel cards. Points earned here can be transferred to numerous hotel and airline partners. They currently have a 40,000 point signup offer.
  • The Delta Amex cards (personal and business) offer 30,000 miles at signup.
  • American Express Membership rewards points can be transferred to Delta.
  • The Starwood Preferred Guest Amex cards offer 25,000 points at signup and can be transferred to airlines. For every 20,000 miles you transfer to Delta, you’ll get 25,000 Delta miles.

Anyone have any experience on Aerolineas Argentinas to the States?

0

Our Buenos Aires Staycations (AKA Mattress Runs)

When my wife told her friends that we were spending last Saturday night at the Puerto Madero Holiday Inn Express, they were a bit confused. Why would we be going 15 minutes away and staying at a hotel in our own city?

Welcome to the world of a points junkie.

Due to a combination of promotions and offers from IHG, our stay at the Holiday Inn Express last Saturday night and our stay at the Intercontinental Buenos Aires this coming Saturday will net us enough points for up to 12 nights at an IHG property, all for a cost of less than U$S 240. This is what’s known as “mattress running” – staying at a hotel for the sole purpose of earning points or status due to reduced rates or promotional offers.

IMG 5550 001 300x300 Our Buenos Aires Staycations (AKA Mattress Runs)

Romantic Dinner at Bice, Puerto Madero

For the first night of our mattress run at the Holiday Inn Express Buenos Aires , we ended up with 35,792 points. These points, conservatively, have a value of U$S 250.54, and with the IHG Points Break promotion can be good for up to 7  nights at an IHG hotel. Our cost? About ARS $1000, which at the blue rate is U$S 104. Not a bad deal for a one night stay. Plus, we got a night out away from home, free breakfast and lots of air conditioning! We also spent some time in Puerto Madero – an area we do not frequently make it to.

With the IHG Big Win promotion, our stay at the Intercontinental this coming weekend will get us at least another 25,000 points (it’s hard to know exactly how many points it will be with all the overlapping promotions), and yet another chance to get out of the house for something different. We’ll get to enjoy the pool, gym, spa, highly-rated restaurant and, since it’s supposed to be over 100 degrees on Saturday, lots of air conditioning too.

See, staycations can be both fun and profitable! (UPDATE: Our two nights got us a total of 65,576 points. This can very conservatively be valued at U$S 459.)

If you’re looking for a hotel deal yourself, check out two Marriott promotions that can be combined to give you 2 free nights plus bonus points after two stays (or 3 free nights after four stays):

While this one is probably not worthy of a mattress run, if you have any planned trips, it may be worth changing hotels and staying at a Marriott brand to take advantage of this. (Please note that a stay is defined as consecutive nights at the same hotel regardless of check in/check out activity.)

 

0

Buenos Aires Expat Life | Sitemap

Privacy Policy