I really envy those who are able to take advantage of these sales, especially since it costs me a fortune in either miles or cash to get to these bird-rich countries in South America! Click on the image for details and don’t forget to read the T&Cs!
Avianca has some really good deals going on right now that can get 2 people from Miami to Leticia in the Colombian Amazon Rainforest for less than $600! If you don’t live near Miami, then use Avios on AA for a shorthaul. Here’s a sample booking.
This is a really good opportunity for those in the USA who can take advantage of it, I know I’d be jumping on it!
As I’ve mentioned before, the miles and points game is getting harder and harder to win. Credit cards are harder to churn and airlines have tightened up on releasing award space, especially in business & first class. You will find yourself in economy class more often than not, not because you don’t have the miles but because you can’t find any other seats.
Yesterday, one of my favourite travel bloggers – Drew from Travel is Free posted an intriguing round the world trip using only low cost carriers (LCCs). One of the commenters led me to a similar post by Trevor of Tagging Miles.
So I started thinking, “I am an eco-tourism & birding travel blogger based in Australia, what could I do with LCCs”?
Air Asia is a given with a wide network all over Asia and serves several Australian airports. The closest to me in Brisbane would be the Gold Coast OOL. Cebu Pacific also has a nice network but only serves Sydney but once you get to Asia it is very cheap and very useful.
So even after the miles & points game is dead, I can still get to some amazing birding hotspots in Asia! But what if I want to go further away, say all the way to Africa? I’ll need to switch to a different LCC’s network. Enter FlyDubai. Now we can use either Colombo, Sri Lanka or Kochi, India as a connecting point and the best thing is that both places have access to great birding destinations – Thattekad and Kithulgala respectively!
So here’s an example of a one-way trip from Brisbane (via OOL) to Entebbe, Uganda which is one of the countries on my proposed “Godmother of All African Adventures“.
We would fly on Air Asia to Colombo on Air Asia and stopover a couple days to re-visit Kithulgala which I loved the first time we were there. I’ll convert everything to USD to suit most readers.
Please note that some LCCs will charge extra for checked bags, meals, seat assignments so you need to check the T&Cs of each carrier and consider if you would have any checked bags. If you can make these flights work for you, you can get from Brisbane to Uganda for $573.
If you booked direct from BNE to EBB, the cheapest fare I could find on Expedia to use as an example is this one on Etihad (which is a really good airline) for $811.
So you can save $238 by using the LCC option which may or may not be significant to you but you also gain the opportunity to stop over in Sri Lanka enroute! Or you may decide $238 isn’t enough to lure you away from flying a top rated airline that would earn you some miles in AA or VA’s programs.
I can think of many people who would prefer to pay more for Etihad and many who would choose Air Asia & FlyDubai. But it’s always nice to have choices!
Over the last few years, we have been concentrating on elaborate overseas birding trips funded by airline miles. Now that the miles opportunities are slowing down, we’ll be doing more road trips out of our home town of Brisbane to birding hotspots. This has always been part of the plan as I mentioned back around New Years. We are actually very lucky in that there are many to choose from within a 3-4 hour drive!
I thought I’d point out a few advantages road trips have over trips that involve flying.
Over the next few weeks, I will be blogging about some cool places you can drive to from Brisbane. We just returned from Lake Coomunda (green dot near Oman Ama) and Karara/Gore/Durikai (red dot). Then I will cover a road trip we did last year which was a bit longer and involved driving to Bowra Station near Cunnamulla (not on this map but to the west of Inglewood), the Stanthorpe/Girraween area (blue dots) and Lamington National Park (purple dot).
This is by no means a complete list of birding hotspots in Queensland, they are just the ones I have been to personally.
Sometimes you don’t need miles to get an incredible deal to your favourite birding hotspot!
Buy your ticket from July 3 through July 7, 2015 an travel between August 1 and October 25, 2015.
For 48 hours, all Lonely Planet digital chapters are just a $1 (reg. $4.95).
Download guides on restaurants, attractions, hotels and more for your favorite travel destinations. I’ll be stocking up on Ecuador and Colombia for next year’s trip!
Enter coupon code PAYPAL1 at checkout.
Terms apply. See offer terms below.
Offer expires 7/2/2015.
The latest IHG Pointbreaks list which offers specified hotels for a bargain 5000 points was less than inspiring. Oceana & Africa missed out completely. The complete list can be found here. The best options are for people doing USA road trips. This list is valid for bookings through 31 July.
Consider these possibilities if you are headed to South America. Cuiaba is the gateway to the Pantanal. The hotel is pretty nice although not the best location if you are going for an early start. We did this trip in 2012 before I started this blog so I don’t have posts yet but I will be blogging my past trips as soon as I finish the current trips.
HOLIDAY INN CUIABA
Although this hotel is a city property, Panama City’s small size means it’s not such a long drive to Soberania National Park. Get yourself an award ticket to PTY, a rental car and book a few nights for a long weekend of birding!
CROWNE PLAZA PANAMA
There seems to be some kind of racket in Arusha where all taxis charge $50 to the airport. I am no fan of taxis at the best of times and even less so when I think I am getting ripped off. Now for most people, your safari company will pick you up at the airport (maybe with additional charge so ask) but most people also stick around Arusha for a day or so afterwards to sightsee on their own. When you are ready to leave, if you ask your hotel to call a taxi, it will cost $50. Taxis on the street may be more willing to bargain but they do tend to jack up the prices for foreigners going to the airport. Some of the domestic carriers do have shuttles but we were on Ethiopian Airlines that didn’t have a shuttle.
You don’t have to put up with these rates, here’s how to get 2 people to the airport for around $10. Here’s the basic route using L’Oasis Lodge (highly recommend) as a starting point.
Step 2 – You will see a bus station and usually several people waiting for buses. Mini-buses will pull up and the conductor will shout the destination. When you hear “Moshi, Moshi, Moshi”, hop in. The fare is around 3000-4000 Tanzanian Shillings, about $2.50 USD. The mini-bus will be crowded and if you have heavy luggage (which you really shouldn’t) you may want to pay for extra seats. It will take around an hour to the junction. Tell the conductor you are hopping out at the airport junction road. You won’t be the only one, though you will probably be the only foreigner.
Step 3 – At the junction, taxis will be waiting and approach you. We paid 10,000 TZS, around $5 USD. Since we had plenty of time, we had lunch in a cafe and I decided to get my hair braided while my husband got a shave.
I’ve always had big dreams and big plans to travel to lots of countries where I can see wild birds and parrots in particular. Dreams are not enough, I also carefully spreadsheet my goals for accumulating enough miles to make these dream trips come true. I’d like to say I am in charge of my own travel destiny but in some ways I can’t be. Having your country’s currency lose 20% of its value can throw a huge monkey-wrench into even the best laid plans.
This first chart represents the last 6 months for those who have AUD and want USD. Pretty shocking, especially when you consider how many tour operators quote in USD.
This chart shows the last 5 years to give a bigger picture. We’ve had some ups and downs but mostly ups. It’s been a good few years for Aussies!
This year we are only doing one overseas trip to Thailand and Malaysia for birding and the Cook Islands (to see family). The AUD has also gone down against the Thai Baht, but the overall cheapness of the country makes the visit still economically possible. Surprisingly the AUD has pretty much stayed the same against the Malaysian Ringgit.
Next year we are in trouble. I had big plans for Peru, Bolivia, the Caribbean (birding) and the USA (to see family). The birding in Peru & Bolivia requires dealing with locally based tour operators who price their packages in USD and you have to pay a substantial deposit up front and the balance 30 days before arrival. We can’t do these trips as DIYs as you have to use private river transport (Peru) or possibly small planes (Bolivia) packaged with accommodation and birding excursions. So the unfortunate result is these two trips have to be postponed to a time the AUD is more favorable. The Caribbean is also USD-centric but I can use points in some places like Puerto Rico and Hotels.com Welcome Rewards to ease the pain and all other expenses would be paid on the spot, not in advance.
I still want to go birding in South America so what to do? The answer is to find countries where I can book and pay for lodges online ad-hoc and watch for discounts on hotel booking engines such as Pointshound & Rocketmiles. I found the ideal countries in Ecuador & Colombia. Ecuador is small, easy to get around and other than the Amazon region I can book lodges online and pay for guides and other expenses when we get there. Colombia is no longer as risky as it used to be and has an amazing bird list, plus it’s still cheap.
We can use Lifemiles for Aerogal in Ecuador and Avianca in Colombia and also use Avios for LAN in Ecuador and Colombia. In fact either option even gets us to the Galapagos! Some places can be cheaply accessed by bus. By choosing countries where I can pay with Aussie credit cards or withdraw the local currency from an ATM against my Aussie bank and avoid involving USD, I can keep the costs down and take advantage of better rates in cheaper countries.
The lesson here is don’t let currency fluctuations derail your whole trip! Peru and Bolivia will still be there when the AUD goes up again…………..and it will. Just be flexible and look for alternatives, they are out there!
UPDATE: The deal is dead and the codes are no longer being accepted by Expedia.
HT: Doctor of Credit for this fantastic deal! It’s only one use per account and you have to stay at least 3 nights and most of our trip is one night or 2, but it worked out cheaper to just book 3 nights and check out in the late afternoon on the 3rd day rather than pay 2 nights.
Receive an instant $100 coupon discount on a qualifying hotel booking of three (3) or more consecutive nights at select hotels when you use the offer code DISCVR105. Receive an instant $150 coupon discount on a qualifying hotel booking of four (4) or more consecutive nights at select hotels when you use the offer code DISCVR151. Receive an instant $200 coupon discount on a qualifying hotel booking of five (5) or more consecutive nights at select hotels when you use the offer code DISCVR201. Please find a list of hotel properties excluded from this offer below.
There are a lot of eco-lodges you can book through Expedia so here’s a great chance to save money where you normally wouldn’t! I just wish our trip to Ecuador & Colombia for next year was in booking range!
If you can use this deal, don’t take too long. Although it is valid until March 15, 2015 for travel completed by no later than August 31, 2015; I have seen promos like this get shut down earlier due to massive response.