Awhile back I’ve set a goal to do at least one nice getaway with just my husband each year. Most of our spare resources go towards family vacations, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
Still, I am determined to carve out a special time where my husband and I can focus on each other. After 25 years together, I can say with absolute certainty that semi-happy marriage requires work and effort. You can’t just set it on autopilot. Otherwise, the relationship can wither away, and one day you may realize that your spouse has become a mere roommate you can’t stand. I’ve seen it happen.
I used to feel guilty about having too nice of a vacation without kids, so aside from one exception for our 20-year wedding anniversary, we usually just drove to a nearby beach in Florida while burning hotel points. Not anymore. Last year we had an amazing (and fancy!) getaway in Costa Rica, and later this year we plan to fly to Saba island in the Caribbean and stay in a nice cottage there.
I have a few requirements for these sort of trips. First, we can’t be gone for more than five nights total. We can’t spend too much money on hotels, and the flights have to be mostly covered with miles. Last but not least, no jet lag, since it takes a few days to adjust to a major difference in time. While I would love to do a safari in South Africa or relax in a Bali jungle, four to five nights (that includes flights) just isn’t enough time to realistically make it happen.
So instead I look for unique experiences closer to home. For next year I was thinking about flying to Monterey in California and maybe checking out Alila Ventana Big Sur resort (via Hyatt points) or possibly staying a few nights in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was also looking at going to Quebec City, which has been on my radar for a long time.
But then I thought of another option: Peru. Getting there from Florida isn’t that much harder than flying to California, and there is no jet lag involved. Plus, my husband and I have talked about going to Machu Picchu since we first got married.
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Credit goes to Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash.com
I asked myself what prevents me from flying there for few nights, and couldn’t come up with a good excuse. Sure, there was some civil unrest at the beginning of the year, but it appears that things have calmed down. Of course, it all could change by next year, but the same can be said about the rest of the world. Just look at the events unfolding in Paris at the moment. Going somewhere often requires a leap of faith. And let’s face it, it’s not like staying in the United States can guarantee safety. You might get shot at your local grocery store.
I am concerned about potential altitude sickness, though we have visited Pikes Peak in Colorado and didn’t have any issues. Of course, that was 15 years ago…
Anyway, Peru it is.
Mileage options for getting to Cusco
One option was to use my Alaska miles for a flight from Miami to Cusco with a connection in Lima. The cost is 25k miles one-way in economy, and 45k miles in business class. I could also use Delta miles, but the cost in economy was 36k miles for the same exact economy flights, no discount for round trip booking. And business class, well, I think you know the answer.
I could also use British Airways Avios for AA or LATAM. However, with the latter, the website can’t seem to put together an itinerary that includes Cusco, despite the fact that LATAM flies there. You can separately redeem 13k Avios from Miami to Lima, and then 6k Avios from Lima to Cusco. Perhaps calling BA would solve the issue, but I didn’t bother. Truth be told, I need to save my Avios for a flight from London to Tampa anyway (my cheapest overall option for this route). Plus, Alaska offers free cancellations on awards, while BA charges $55 per ticket.
Ever since LATAM left Oneworld, using Avios on this carrier has been a challenge.But it’s still possible, and if you take advantage of 30% bonus on transfers from Amex that runs through the end of August, you can get a pretty sweet deal. I’m almost out of MR points, so it’s not an option for me.
Redeeming Avios on AA is a pretty good deal as well, as long as you plan to only fly from Miami to Lima (13k Avios). But it would also require buying a separate LATAM ticket from Lima to Cusco, not ideal in a case of a delay. Plus, AA only flies at night, and I try to avoid those type of flights like the plague.
LATAM has a flight from Miami to Lima that leaves at 5 pm and gets in at 10 pm. We can overnight near the airport and fly to Cuzco the following morning instead of taking a red eye. Fortunately there is Wyndham property located right next to Lima airport. In fact, you can just walk there.
There were only economy flights available via Alaska miles from Miami to Peru, so that’s what I reserved. Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal, since Miami-Lima route takes 5.5 hours. We can handle that, plus it’s a daytime flight. For the way back, we could fly in business class as long as we were willing to also connect in Santiago. Flying out of the way and making an extra connection just so we could be in a more comfortable seat? No thanks.
So, my total cost is 50k miles and $90 per person, booked as one-way flights. Alaska program also charged us $25 nonrefundable fee per person for using miles on a partner airline. Annoying, but it is what it is. Refundable fare would have cost us $900 per roundtrip ticket, so it’s a decent, if not spectacular value. The bottom line is, without miles I likely would not even consider going to Peru. We have enough expenses as is. I burn my miles for things I actually want to do, not what gives me crazy cents per dollar in value, allowing me to brag on social media to a bunch of strangers.
And yes, using Avios would technically be a better deal, especially if a BA agent could piece together a connecting itinerary (a big if). But I look at my future travel plans when making these types of decisions, and using Alaska miles made the most sense.
Paying less than $100 per night for hotels
We will only have three nights in Sacred Valley, and plan to spend two nights in Ollantayatambo and the last one in Cusco before our early flight back to the US. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that you can get a relatively nice place in Ollantayatambo for less than $100, so that’s the route I’m taking. We could stay in one of fancier resorts in nearby Urubamba, but it’s not quite as convenient for a rail trip to Machu Picchu. We will mainly be there to explore, so location trumps fanciness.
In Cusco I planned to use 15k Wyndham points on a room in a super cool converted colonial mansion until I’ve discovered that I can reserve it for $93 per night instead. At this rate I might as well hang on to my points and use them on Vacasa property.
Since we will be getting to Miami at 7 pm, I’ll probably use points on a hotel and drive home the following morning. We live 3.5 hours from Miami, so it seems safer to go that route. It does mean that we will be switching hotels four times during five nights. But that’s the beauty of traveling with just your spouse. It’s an adventure. With kids I would likely have to come up with a more sensible plan.
Will my marriage survive this trip? Stay tuned.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.