Chicago to Ecuador, Galapagos, Manuas (amazon) back to Chicago - December 2013

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by Traveling Momma, Mar 4, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. Traveling Momma

    Traveling Momma Silver Member

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    I've moved this from General Travel discussion to Points and Miles as I noticed I received lots of views but not responses. Perhaps this is the better forum to post questions of this nature.

    Hi all -
    We are planning a 12 day trip from Chicago to Quito, Ecuador over to the Galapagos then to Manuas (amazon jungle lodge) for about 3 days, back to Quito and then home to Chicago over December 26 - Jan. 4th, 2013/14. We are a family of 3 and want to fly business or first class on points. I believe we have enough for all 3 of us at about 400,000 on AA. We also have 80K in UR and 50K in Marriott Rewards.

    How should we go about searching for 3 of these tickets together? And, I believe we should look at LAN for Guayaquil and Manaus, correct? Any direction on the best methodology of searching for 3 seats together in business or first on AA or partners, is welcomed. Your comments on the best product and ways to make this itinerary work best are appreciated.

    Thanks, Blue.
     
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  2. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    We were in the Galapagos last year. We flew to Quito for one night and then down to Baltra for the Galapagos. After 6 nights on our ship we flew back to Quito for one night and the next day we flew to Coca for the next part of our journey. We stayed at Napo lodge, and if you have not yet booked your Amazon portion, I would give serious consideration to Napo. They were absolutely fantastic and if I remember correctly it is the only lodge owned and run by an indigenous tribe. It does require a two hour motorized canoe and then a two hour paddled canoe to get there, but it is well worth it.
    We saw four different kinds of monkey, sloths, sea otters, caymen, all kinds of birds and spiders and the guides were extremely knowledgeble.
    We spent three nights there and then went back to Quito for two nights just to see the city. I personally was not impressed with Quito, but we took a tour there to the teleferico, the old city and other tourist attractions. Another part of that trip was going to Mashpi lodge in the mountains. It was extremely overpriced and the road there was miserable, so I would not recommend it.
    We did not fly on points, but we did use points for the upgrades on American. The domestic flights did not have anything other than coach, but they were short flights. There were five of us on the trip, the wife and our three grown kids.
     
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  3. harvson3

    harvson3 Silver Member

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    At present, LAN doesn't fly to Manaus, and the only routes there from Ecuador on point-burning airlines seem to be through the southeast of Brazil (SP, BSB, and Rio), Panama City, or Miami. You might wait for the TAM/LAN merger to complete to see if new routes open up, or you can go downriver by boat.

    I would also recommend more than three days in the Amazon, as the farther you can get from Manaus, the better. But my bias is clearly visible at left.

    In that limited timeframe, in your position, I would stick to Ecu/Per/Col for eco-adventures, rather than traversing into Manaus. Consider Iquitos, for example.
     
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  4. kyunbit
    Original Member

    kyunbit Silver Member

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    You can access the Amazonia for cheap in Ecuador. Why go to Manaus?
     
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  5. Espan

    Espan Silver Member

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    Agree with the advice to get your Amazon on in Ecuador. Napo Wildlife Center is great, and one of several run/hosted and/or owned by local peoples. Kapawi is another. A few more rustic ones as well.

    Some great dining in Quito. Coquus, Zazu and Alma are on the top of my list. Not Ecuadorean, but if you're not acquainted w/ great S American cooking, you can't go wrong at either Astrid y Gaston or La Gloria.

    The San Francisco and La Campania de Jesus churches are pretty impressive in my book.

    For the Galapagos portion, the Metropolitan Touring ships are some of the best for big boats. You can do a good island/hopping land based program as well, staying in Puerto Ayora and on Isabela and perhaps one more island. Red Mangrove is a good option for this route.
     
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  6. Traveling Momma

    Traveling Momma Silver Member

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    Great recommendations all! Based on your suggestions I'm going to change my thoughts on what we do. The reason for needing to be in Quito on the way out is that I'm climbing Cotopaxi with a family member who's flying int. My hubby and child will return to ORD and I'll stay on acclimatizing and eventually climbing with my brother. I may have to purchase flights to get within SA but as long as I get from Chicago to Quito it shouldn't be too expensive or uncomfortable in coach.
     
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  7. kyunbit
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    kyunbit Silver Member

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    Good luck on your Cotopaxi climb. Since you want to go to Amazonia before the climb, I would advise you to have a gap of at least 3 days (if not 5) between the the return and the climb. The reason: those mosquito and sand fly bites really sting and it would be really uncomfortable if those bites are covered under a number of layers.
     
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  8. free101girl
    Original Member

    free101girl Silver Member

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    We just did a r/t in AA Business on an award, DEN-MIA-UIO (Quito), in order to visit the Galapagos. The equipment from MIA-UIO was relatively new, with semi-lie-flat seats. Service and food were decent. No significant fees on the redemption ($5 per ticket or per leg, IIRC), which was a nice change!

    Presumably there are ORD-MIA legs available on AA so you should be able to make a similar connection.

    One bit of advice on booking with miles: always check for ONE seat first, because there may be only one available at a reduced mileage level. I was able to get a reduced-mileage award for one of our seats each way, and then a regular SAAver award for the other seat. Saved a lot of miles that way.

    Also, I found the seats were not released at the 330-day mark, but they became available at 328 or 329 days. So keep trying if you don't find seats right away.
     
  9. tjbrooks

    tjbrooks Silver Member

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    By my math you're planning on spending only 3-4 days in the Galapagos? That's a real shame. You'll want a whole week, and a 7-day cruise is preferable. A land-based trip is only good if you're moving hotels every other night. Otherwise you won't see a good variety of flora/fauna, and the underwater options will suffer. The quality of guides is lower too. If you read Rapid Travel Chai's trip report, you can see why rushing the Galapagos is a bad idea, when you compare his pictures to any cruisers photos.

    Here are my pictures.
    http://picasaweb.google.com/dtgalapagos
    This is what you get on a day boat trip.
    http://boardingarea.com/blogs/rapid...-a-hurry-is-it-worth-it-part-2-on-the-ground/

    Rather than rushing Galapagos, then rushing the Amazon afterwards, consider exploring the cloud forests and unique towns around Quito instead. We took a great eco-lodge day trip our first day in Quito. Absolutely gorgeous.

    You might want to start looking into availability soon. We went with Celebrity, which for Galapagos is fairly high-end, but they use dynamic pricing and we got the lowest fare of the year. A quick glance show Xmas rates are roughly double the standard rates. Other boats also charge a premium that week.

    Id highly recommend picking up the Boyce guide on Amazon, used for $6 or $8 digital. It hasn't been updated since 2004, so some info will be outdated (boat names/flights/film handling tips) but its the only guide that's written for travelers. Any guidebook that combines mainland Ecuador is fairly useless.
    http://www.amazon.com/Travelers-Galapagos-Islands-Non-Series-Guidebooks/dp/1588433897/

    Consider using Avios for the UIO/GYE-GPS/SCY flights. Apparently if you have them search LAN Ecuador (XL) inventory, it shows up at 15K RT. Sure beats the $350-400 fares for extranjeros.
     

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