- I've been booking credit card travel for years, but my 2020 destination is to take an epic trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands.
- Thanks to United's Excursionist Perk, with whom you can book a free one-way flight within your itinerary, I can take my dream trip for less than $ 200 out of my own pocket and about 40,000 United miles.
- With the sign up bonus on I can collect the miles I need United Explorer Card alone. If I want to cover accommodations or activities, I can use the Chase Ultimate Rewards points that have already been saved.
- The best rewards for credit cards can be found in the tips from Business Insider »
I have booked some stunning reward travel deals over the past few years that have earned me credit card points, but none of my trips match my 2020 plan: Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands.
The best part? All I need for this trip is 40,000 United miles, which I can collect on a credit card with the sign up bonus.
How to hack your reward redemption with United's Excursionist Perk
United has some quirks when it comes to redeeming miles. The most lucrative of these could be his excursion package.
With this benefit, you can book a free one-way flight, which, with some restrictions, is embedded in a reward ticket for several cities:
- Your entire trip must start and end in the same MileagePlus region.
- The free one-way flight must also start and end in the same MileagePlus region, but must not begin or end in the region where your entire trip begins or ends.
- You must travel in the same cabin class for your free one-way trip as for the previous flight.
- If you choose to embed more than one one-way flight in your multi-city itinerary, only the first flight is free.
For example, United books an award flight to Europe and travels to both London and Paris to cover the cost of the trip to one of the following cities:
- Chicago (ORD) to London (LHR) – 30,000 miles
- London (LHR) to Paris (CDG) – 0 miles
- Paris (CDG) to Chicago (ORD) – 30,000 miles
In other words, you need 60,000 United miles to book a return flight to London or Paris. With the Excursionist Perk you can visit both cities for the same price.
How I want to use the Excursionist Perk to cross two bucket list targets in one
If it's fun to visit London and Paris on a trip, I tend to be a bit more ambitious with my reward redemptions. When I looked at the way United defined its MileagePlus regions, I found that Peru and Ecuador were both in the same MileagePlus region in North South America.
Peru is home to Machu Picchu, and Ecuador is home to the Galapagos Islands, two destinations that I've had on my bucket list for as long as I can remember.
First, I had to make sure that United had flights to the right airports. The closest major airport to Machu Picchu is in Cusco, Peru, to which United flies. The Galapagos Islands are more difficult because there are no international airports on the islands. But I can fly to Quito, the capital, and quickly fly from there to one of the main islands of the Galapagos Archipelago.
While I had to travel alone from Quito to the Galapagos Islands, return flights can be booked for less than $ 200.
How many United miles do you need to travel to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands?
United no longer publishes the award table, but flights from North America to North South America typically cost 20,000 miles one way, which means that my entire trip would cost 40,000 miles.
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Cusco, Peru (CUZ) – 20,000 miles
- Cusco (CUZ) to Quito, Ecuador (UIO) – 0 miles
- Quito (UIO) to Los Angeles (LAX) – 20,000 miles
You can easily search for flight prices for a specific date by going to the United home page and using flight search. Click "Advanced Search" to do a multi-city search and select the "Book with Miles" option.
When I was looking for my trip, Saver Award flights were available in economy, which I wanted. Business class would be nice, but availability is much more difficult to find and I don't have enough time to save the miles required.
When it was time to choose a flight for my second leg from Peru to Ecuador, thanks to the Excursionist Perk, there were options for economy flights from 0 miles. Fortunately, it was one of the shorter trips without an overnight break.
In the end, the entire trip would cost me 40,000 miles and $ 125.15 in taxes and fees. I think this is a lot as a comparable cash route will cost you almost $ 1,000 and $ 850 when you are ready to stay overnight. With this redemption I get significantly more than 2 cents per value point, and collecting 40,000 United miles is a breeze.
So I plan to earn 40,000 United miles
United is one of Chase's Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, and I already have more than enough Ultimate Rewards points to transfer over 40,000 and book this trip now.
Ultimate Rewards points, however, are my favorite points due to their flexibility and high value, and United miles are fairly easy to earn. I also have enough time to plan this trip so I can wait a while to reserve flights while collecting United miles so I don't have to touch my Ultimate Rewards points.
I don't have to do anything to collect the 40,000 United miles Open the United Explorer Card and spend $ 3,000 within the first three months. This would earn me the card's sign-up bonus, which is currently 60,000 United miles – even more than I need.
I should have my United miles and be ready to book flights by April, and I plan to start the trip in October this year. I can also postpone it to April next year if availability is an issue.
I may use credit card points to pay for other parts of the trip, e.g. B. for accommodation, transportation or activities. With my Ultimate Rewards points I can book a full-day panoramic train journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu (22,600 points) or a day trip to the rainbow mountain of Cusco (3,666 points). I can even book small boat tours to the more remote Galapagos Islands for 18,000 to 25,000 points.
I look forward to starting my dream trip for just over $ 100, especially since collecting the miles I need will be easy.