Thought Exercise: Redemption from Chicago to Spain/Portugal

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by Ed Chandler, Jul 12, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. Ed Chandler
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    Ed Chandler Silver Member

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    Hey, all

    I'm planning a trip to walk the Camino to Santiago in March of 2013 ... but obviously I need to get there first. I'd like to think I've got the basics of award redemption down and I know I can get there and back with no real difficulty on the miles I have accumulated. However ...

    There are just soooo many variables, opportunities, and little tricks of the trade that YOU all know that I'd hate to book only to end up thinking, "If only I'd known ..." Things like FrequentMiler's blog posts regarding free one-ways and the advice about booking BA redemptions on Iberia to avoid surcharges are exactly the sorts of things I mean. What else should I be considering?

    I'm not asking for specific routings because several of you offer that as a paid service and it's not my intent to pick your pockets. Rather, I'm just looking for advice of the, "Consider this loophole..." or "Whatever you do, don't ..." variety.

    I'm originating at ORD, needing to fly into Spain or Portugal in early March, and have sufficient miles for round-trip coach fares on UA, BA, or AA.

    Any pointers?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Would the starting or ending point be Santiago de Compostela? If so, there's an airport there, probably having mostly IB flights from MAD and BCN, perhaps some LCC like Easyjet. Would you do an open jaw at the other end and, if so, where? Will you do other things in Spain or elsewhere on this trip? I'm envisioning something like USA-MAD few days MAD-start point walk end point-BCN few days BCN-USA. Despite sharing the Iberian peninsula, there aren't lots and lots of flights between Spain and Portugal, so it probably doesn't make sense going through LIS, although you can easily drive from Porto to Santiago de Compostela.

    BA Avios are good for short flights, so plan on this for the domestic flights to and from the walk on IB.
     
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  3. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Since El Camino always ends in Santiago and you did mention Portugal I have to assume you will be doing the "Portuguese way" which starts in Lisbon (as opposed the more popular Northern way which starts outside San Sebastian)

    You will need to get to MAD ( BCN is too far east and way out of your way ) using the your AA or BA miles preferably AA which be can used on IB (and avoids the ridiculous YQ charges on BA)
    There are tons of flights daily MAD/LIS
    IB has about five daily I think so you can use your AA or BA miles for awards failing that Air Europa usually has one-way fares for about $100.00.

    For your return the nearest airport to Santiago is perhaps Vigo (40 Miles???) and IB has three or four direct flights daily to MAD.

    As a change after your little walk I would recommend you rest your aching feet by taking the train back to MAD perhaps with stops in Avila, Zamora or Salamanca ( or all of them which are very much worth visiting) There is also a night train from Santiago which will put in any of the above cities and continues on to Madrid.

    Check out renfe.com for train schedules, rates etc
     
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  4. Ed Chandler
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    Ed Chandler Silver Member

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    Thanks, guys. Yeah, I was intentionally vague about my peripheral plans so I didn't quash any good suggestions.

    The overarching plan is to do some "normal" sightseeing in Spain/Portugal after finishing the Camino. So I'd thought perhaps I'd fly into Santiago, drop my non-hiking luggage, travel overland out to Sarria, and begin hiking back. (@newbluesea: That mean's I am planning on the more popular Camino Frances route, not the Portugese route.) Once done hiking, it'd be off to see what I could see. I have no real agenda at this point.

    Iberia can get me from ORD to Santiago on the outbound ... no problem. Then I could play it "easy" and return from MAD. I'm just interested in any more creative or interesting ideas anyone may have. So, yes, a post-Camino train ride from Santiago to Madrid is perfectly within the realm of possibility. Heading down to Lisbon may be as well. (I do like a good port.) Again, just looking for suggestions from those who may have gone that way before.

    Thanks again.
     
  5. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Here a website that seems to have a fair amount of information even though they are obviously a commercail entity geared toward providing services to walkers/hikers
    http://www.caminoways.com/destinations/camino-de-santiago.html

    We spent some time in Northern Spain two years ago and the area around San Sebastian is still one of my favorite regions in the country. Your plans seem feasable enough although getting from Santaigo to the start point might involve some convoluted logistics since there is no direct rail or air link(even between San Sebastian and Vigo)
    I am more convinced that going the train route is best and you might be best served by purchasing a Eurail pass, consider leaving your stuff in Valladolid or Burgos heading out by train to northeast and picking them up on the way back from Santiago.

    And then of course you could always rent a car:)

    Edited to add I just re-read your last post and you mentioned starting in Sarria and the Camino Frances there seems to be some confusion here since the Camino Frances starts in France hence the name in le Puy.
     
  6. MSPeconomist
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    Most flights, major railroad lines, fast roads, etc. in Spain radiate out from Madrid, with BCN also being somewhat of a hub. Since with Avios you pay per segment, you could fly into Madrid, spend a few days getting over jet lag, store unwanted luggage in your hotel (or Madrid airport) and fly to your stating point. At the end of the hike, fly back to Madrid, retrieve baggage and explore Spain, possibly ending in BCN and leaving from there.

    Vigo is quite some distance from Santiago de Compostela, which has its own airport.
     
  7. Ed Chandler
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    Ed Chandler Silver Member

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    Coming back to this after a long distraction, sorry.

    To clarify my camino route, I'll be starting in Sarria and walking the same route one would take if one had started at St. Jean Pied de Port.

    But back to the main question:
    Most seem to be suggesting that I use AA miles to fly AA or IB metal from ORD to MAD. Okay, cool. Are there any less-than-obvious reasons that I would do anything else? (e.g. Having just noticed that IE operates seasonal flights to Santiago, I might position to Boston, use the "sweet spot" in Avios redemption to get to DUB, then IE to SCQ. It's clearly convoluted, but I can't even weigh the option until I know about it.)
     

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