Have you ever wanted to travel to South America and see all the amazing places there? Maybe you’d like to sample some of the cities in Central America as well? Recently, I just booked an Aeroplan mini-RTW in South America. Do keep in mind that I made these bookings before the September 1, 2019 Aeroplan changes. Prior to the changes, you’re allowed to have 2 stops and 1 destination (point of return). After the changes, you’re now limited to 1 destination (point of return) and 1 stopover.
With that being said, it’s still a great idea to redeem your Aeroplan miles to fly to South America after the changes. In this article, you’ll see a real example of how to book an Aeroplan mini-RTW in South America. Hopefully, it will give you an idea what the routing is like when going to your favourite destinations in this Latin American continent.
My Aeroplan mini-RTW in South America destinations
For my stopovers and destination point, I picked the following cities:
- Santiago, Chile
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- São Paulo, Brazil
I wanted to go to Santiago, Chile because I scored a British Airways Avios redemption to Easter Island for $23.68 for two people. Next, I wanted to go to Argentina because I want to go to Perito Moreno and Patagonia to hike to Mount Fitzroy. Also, because I collect countries, going to Buenos Aires is an easy access to Colonia, Uruguay as well.
Finally, I chose São Paulo, Brazil as my final stopover because I want to go to Lençóis Maranhenses which has been a dream bucket list of mine.
My sister and girlfriend also wants to see Iguazu Falls which we’ll definitely stop to see. Another benefit to seeing Iguazu falls is its vicinity to Paraguay. That’ll allow me to tick off Paraguay as a country visited in the famous Iguazu Falls triple border.
You might not want to do what I’m doing. I personally always maximize the amount of layovers because I like to collect countries. My goal for having layovers is to stay in a city for just under 24 hours so I can sample it before moving on. If I like that country, I will definitely return again one day and stay there much longer. Serbia, for example, is a country that I “sampled” and really enjoyed my time there. Therefore, I will go back there again one day and spend a month there.
For my Aeroplan mini-RTW in South America, here are the layovers that I personally chose:
- Belize (BZE)
- El Salvador (SAL)
- Honduras (TGU)
- Guatemala (GUA)
- Nicaragua (MGA)
- Costa Rica (SJO)
- Panama (PTY)
- Dominican Republic (SDQ)
After determining my routing, I then checked to see if I had enough MPM for this routings to work.
Maximum permitted mileage
After checking the Maximum permitted mileage (MPM), I got the number 11,567 (use this Aeroplan mini-RTW guide to find out the MPM).
Perfect, now I know how much MPM I have available,it’s time to validate the routing.
Validating the Aeroplan mini-RTW in South America routing
To determine if the routing existed, I used flightconnections.com and selected Star Alliance as the airline alliance.
Then, I checked each segments individually on the Aeroplan website (you can use United also but make sure to double check your segments in Aeroplan) to ensure the routing exist. If you’re feeling a bit confused by what checking each segments individually means, it’s basically doing a “one way” flight search from the starting airport to the departure airport on the Aeroplan website to make sure a direct flight is available and if the times work with your itinerary.
After spending several hours trying different routing combinations to see which one would work, I finally came out with this itinerary:
As you can see, not all the segments are in Business Class as I had hoped. However, upon closer inspection, with the exception of one Avianca segment, the other four Economy class bookings are in United Airlines. That means, I just need to keep checking closer to the date of the flight until they open up a business class seat for some if not all those segments.
To further validate my routing, I had to use a tool called GCMap to ensure that I’m below 11,567 miles per direction (Starting point to destination/point of return and point of return to starting point).
The furthest point from Vancouver (YVR) in this upcoming trip is Buenos Aires (EZE) and it came out to be 8,137 miles. So I’m right below 11,567. Here’s what the mileage looks like on GCmap:
From the point of return (Buenos Aires) all the way back to Vancouver (YVR), my total mileage came out to be 9,125 miles. So again, I am below 11,567 miles. Here’s what the return home flight looks like on GCmap:
Since both “sides” of the flight is right below 11,567 miles, this Aeroplan mini-RTW booking in South America is completely valid! It’s time to call the Aeroplan call centre.
Calling the Aeroplan call centre to book my Aeroplan mini-RTW in South America
After putting together my itinerary and validating it, I went ahead and called the Aeroplan call centre. The first agent that picked up the phone basically lied to me when I asked if I can give him my customized segments piece by piece. He said something along the lines of I’m not allowed to book with customized segments anymore and it’s a new rule implemented by Aeroplan. How annoying that he would lie to me. Regardless, I hanged up and called again.
The next agent that helped me was more helpful and after awhile, he managed to piece together my flights and provide me with a reference number. Unfortunately, because I have so many segments, he wasn’t able to complete the booking process and told me to call back the next day.
Fees paid for the Aeroplan mini-RTW in South America
The next day, I called again and referenced my previous night’s bookings. The agent that was helping me was irate at first that the agent from the night before did not complete my bookings. I explained to her in a friendly manner that the gentlemen helping me the night before did a great job, but he ran out of time due to the call centre closing for the day. The lady then went ahead and confirmed my segments and had the ticketing department complete the ticketing process.
I was actually quoted over $750 for my taxes and carrier fees which created a jaw dropping reaction in me. “$750+ IN TAXES?!” I exclaimed, and the lady said it’s because I have so many segments and that the airport taxes is quite high in certain cities I’m visiting. I reluctantly paid the fees.
Thankfully, the next day, I checked my credit card and my actual fees came out to this:
- $346.10 – taxes and carrier fees
- $31.50 – booking fee
- 110,000 Aeroplan miles
Looks like the fees quoted to you over the phone is not always accurate! My girlfriend had the exact same experience where the fee quoted to her on the phone was much lower than what she actually paid.
Travel itinerary and plan of action
Unfortunately, I have an overnight layover in Houston, Texas. In this case, I have to exit the airport and get an accommodation to stay in until my connecting flight the next morning.
My layover in Belize is extremely short at only 3 hours and 27 minutes. Regardless, I am going to attempt to leave the airport to get my Belize passport stamp and take some pictures outside. Then I’ll head back in and catch my flight to El Salvador.
Arriving from Belize, I will have an overnight layover in the city of San Salvador. I have roughly 20 hours and 4 minutes layover in San Salvador. That’s a relatively long time and I bet I can squeeze in one sight seeing activity in the morning before I have to fly to my next city.
One of the countries with the highest murder rate per capita in the world. I have a 3 hour and 50 minute layover here which is just enough time to leave the airport to get my passport stamp. I don’t plan on staying here for long because I rather not explore this country which I heard is beautiful but have security issues.
I’m a pretty experienced traveller but I don’t take risk if there’s no “must-see” places in the country. For me, getting that passport stamp is more than enough. My next flight connection from here will take me to Guatemala.
My stay in Guatemala City is an overnight layover. I’ll be exiting the airport and I’ll have 10 hours and 27 minutes to find an accommodation, go to sleep, then fly out the next day.
Another long layover! My layover in Nicaragua is an awesome 23 hours and 55 minutes which gives me plenty of time to go sight seeing in this country! I also arrive in Nicaragua relatively early. 8:09am to be exact. This gives me time to check in an accommodation, drop off my stuff, then go explore!
When I’m done in Nicaragua, I fly out the next day to go to Costa Rica at 8:04am.
I arrive in Costa Rica at 9am and have an awesome 23 hour and 33 minutes layover here. I will also be reuniting with Karen at the airport when she arrives at about 9:55am.
Our plan here is to see the sloth sanctuary which has been in Karen’s bucket list for quite some time. The next day, we fly out to our final connection city before reaching our first stopover.
We have a 5 hours and 15 minutes layover in Panama. I’m not really sure what we can see and do in that short of a time. We essentially have 3 hours to explore so I’ll have to do more research on that.
For Chile, we’re going to Easter Island and that’s the main place we’re going to explore. We’re spending 3 days there before flying back to Santiago.
We’ll probably also check out the city of Valparaiso because Karen for some reason wants to check it out. We won’t have time to see the Atacama desert unfortunately.
Our trip to Argentina will be cool. We get to trek in Patagonia to see Mount Fitzroy. We’ll also check out Perito Moreno. Afterwards, we’re going to do a day trip to Colonia in Uruguay to tick it off as a country visited.
And of course, we’re going to eat tons of the famous Argentine beef!
For Brazil, the main places we want to check out are:
- Lençóis Maranhenses
- Iguazu Falls
- Cross over to Ciuded del Este in Paraguay to tick off as a country visited
With time permitting, Karen and my sister will see the Cristo Redentor and the Jericoacoara beach.
After we fly out of Brazil, we will connect through Panama again and then fly to the Dominican Republic. We have a 16 hour and 3 minutes layover here.
With that short of a time, we hope to do a little sight seeing and try out as many local food as possible.
Then sadly, it’s time to fly back home to end the trip.
There are many combinations you can book yourself an Aeroplan mini-RTW in South America. I’m sure for many of you who haven’t travelled to South America yet, Peru will be on the top of your list (because of Machu Picchu, obviously).
Colombia is also a great place to use as a stopover because Bogota is a key city for connecting flights within South America.
And of course, going to see the Bolivian Salt Flats is a must if you travel within South America. My itinerary is perfect for those who wants to explore the Southern corner of South America but I think if you’re picking 2-3 stopovers and it’s your first time in this continent, I would definitely highly recommend picking Peru and Colombia as your first stop.
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