When you have miles and points burning a hole in your pocket, it’s fun to explore some possible ways to spend your stash. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing lately.
My family just returned from our winter trip to Hyatt Lost Pines, and I am excited about our upcoming trip to Hawaii and our month-long summer rental. But after our most recent getaway, I can’t help but think that it’s time to expand our horizons a bit more.
The thing is, I’ve noticed that many of the people we’ve met on our recent vacations are, well, just like us. They look like us, they live in a neighborhood similar to ours and they speak the same language. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our vacations and we’ve loved our experiences.
However, something my youngest child said to me the other week gave me pause. We were talking about other countries and she asked if the people there speak “normal”. I explained that they speak a different language, but that is “normal” for that country. We speak English because of where we live. And she said, “No, we just speak normal.”
It’s time to take my kids out of their comfort zone! A country where English is not the primary language. Sure, we went to Mexico and left our resort a few times, but I still felt sheltered. My kids (and I) are ready for more.
So, I’m looking into booking a trip to Panama on miles and points.
I’m attracted to Panama primarily because of the Panama Canal. I’ve always been fascinated by it and I dream of going on a cruise ship through the canal. Unfortunately, the timing of most large cruise ships crossing through the canal doesn’t sync with school breaks. However, it’s possible to go on a smaller boat through the Panama Canal with tours based out of Panama City for a fraction of the cost of a large cruise.
Also, Panama is a Spanish-speaking country, and speaking Spanish is my hidden talent. I was a Spanish major in college and spent time in Spain and Guatemala. I’m sure my Spanish skills are a bit rusty, but I think I could get back up to speed quickly.
Panama is a 6-hour flight from Dallas (with stopover in Miami) but it’s in the Eastern Time Zone, so just one hour time difference.
Potential Panama Itinerary
We would stay in Panama City as a home base for three to four days. I would likely buy hop-on-hop-off bus tickets to take us to these major attractions:
Miraflores Visitor Center: This is right at the Miraflores locks, where visitors can wave to ships going through the canal. It also has a 3D movie that narrates the history of the Panama Canal as well as other exhibits.
Casco Viejo: Panama City’s historic district is full of old churches, museums, quaint shops and restaurants.
While staying in Panama City, it would be neat to take an aerial tram ride through the jungle and stop by Monkey Island. And of course, we would take a boat through the canal itself, likely a partial transit cruise and possibly a trip to the new expanded canal.
Flights on Miles
In 2017, my husband and I accumulated quite a few AA miles (see this post). Flights from Dallas to Panama City are only 15,000 miles each way (or 12,500 during off-peak season) plus about $82 in taxes. Cash prices for this itinerary run $500-$1000 per ticket.
AA has a lot of award availability, even for my family of five, during various months of the summer and during fall break. Tempting!
Hotel on Points
Hotels in Panama City are very inexpensive, both on cash and points. Based on our points stash, our two best options are Hilton and Hyatt.
Heck, we could even splurge for a night at the Waldorf Astoria Panama, which runs around 30,000 Hilton Honors points per room per night.
Or, we could use just 5000 World of Hyatt points per night to stay at the Hyatt Place Panama City/Downtown!
What’s Stopping Me from Booking Panama on Miles and Points Right Now
This trip sounds lovely, right? So why am I not already using our miles and points stash to book it?
A few reasons, actually. The main reason is that my husband is short on vacation time from work for 2018 based on our other travel plans. I’m already going to be traveling alone with the kids for two weeks this summer (and possibly three weeks if I add a trip to New Orleans on the MegaBus). Is it fair to keep traveling even more while my husband is stuck working? This trip sounds interesting to him, too.
The other reason I’m not pulling the trigger now is that we might need our miles and points for a bigger international trip next year. You may remember my post where I laid out our desire to visit either Paris or New Zealand. We are getting close to making a decision on that trip (I hope!), but we need to figure out how everything will shake out first to see if we can also fit Panama into our schedule.
Have you visited Panama? Where are you dreaming of going with your miles and points stash?
Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.