Trip Report: Family Travel to South America

Family Enjoys Award Trip to Colombia and Chile

Medellin, Columbia
Jasmine and Shawn Reece overlooking Medellin, Columbia

South America had long been a blank space on my family’s map of places visited. A few years back we spent 18 months traveling around the globe, but we never made it to South America. Coming into 2014, a visit was on the top of our to-do list. In August we finally made it, taking a last-minute trip to Colombia and Chile in celebration of my son Shawn Reece’s 14th birthday.

The logistics of the trip were tricky since my wife Jasmine could only stay for the first week of the trip and I had to fly to Washington, D.C. for a conference at the end of the trip while my son returned home. The entire trip was booked just days before departure.

To get to Colombia we used our AAdvantage miles to fly LAS-MIA-MDE. Medellin has a storied history and reputation as being the home of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel in the 1980s and ’90s. Since then the city has modernized and done its best to shed its violent past. Situated in a valley, Medellin is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. During our three-day visit, we attended the Feria de la Flores (Flower Festival), Medellin’s largest festival. We also took a city tour including visits to local restaurants, scenic viewpoints and even one of Escobar’s drug houses.

Bogota Street Artist
Street artist creating his works in Bogota, Columbia

The next stop on our trip was Bogota, Columbia. We had originally planned to fly from MDE-BOG on LAN Colombia using 4,500 Avios, however there were no flights available at the last minute due to the festival. Instead, we were forced to suffer through an overnight bus ride between the two cities. (What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!)

Bogota is a vibrant and energetic capital city. There are a number of chain hotel options and we chose to stay at an impressive Park Inn. Some of the must-do’s in Bogota include: visits to Monserrate and the Botero Museum, a ride on the insane Transmilenio bus system and taking time to watch the many street artists work.

Following a week in Colombia, Jasmine returned home (BOG-MIA-LAS) while Shawn Reece and I flew from BOG-SCL on Avianca. For accommodations in Santiago, we stayed at the Grand Hyatt where I paid with cash and points and used a Diamond suite upgrade as a birthday surprise for Shawn Reece. The hotel was great and we enjoyed ending every day in the lounge staring out at the sunset over the snowcapped Andes mountains. During our time in Santiago, we took a walking tour of the city, hiked down San Cristobal Hill in the blinding fog, spent a day at the local amusement park and took a trip to the coastal city of Valparaiso to ride funiculars and marvel at the amazing street art.

After almost a week in Chile, Shawn Reece and I flew back to the U.S. by redeeming 20,000 AAdvantage miles each. Luckily I was able to get us both on the same flight from SCL-DFW. In Dallas we split up and he headed home while I flew to Washington D.C. In the end, the trip was a huge success. We visited areas that had long been on our bucket lists, stayed in wonderful hotels and saved thousands of dollars by using miles and points.

Valparaiso, Chile
Street art gracing a wall in Valparaiso, Chile

Name: Shawn Coomer of Miles to Memories, a Prior2Boarding blog

FFP miles earned: 

  • 110,000 AAdvantage
  • 20,000 Avianca LifeMiles

Hotel points spent: 

  • 15,000 IHG Rewards
  • 3,000 Starpoints
  • 20,000 Hyatt Gold Passport
  • 38,000 Club Carlson

Approximate trip cost:

  • Hotel: $320
  • Airline: $491
  • (Both were reimbursed through Arrival miles.) $719.90

Airline(s) / Routing:

  • Jasmine: American Airlines LAS-MIA-MDE and BOG-MIA-LAS
  • Shawn Reece: American Airlines LAS-MIA-MDE, Avianca BOG-SCL, American Airlines SCL-DFW-LAS
  • Me (Shawn Coomer): American Airlines LAS-MIA-MDE, Avianca BOG-SCL, American Airlines SCL-DFW-LAS

Month/year of trip: August 2014