This was a pretty complicated itinerary that required several different air mile programs to complete. You can find my guide to using miles to get to Central America here. I used miles from my Top 8 recommended programs. Simply put, we flew from Brisbane to Belize, overland to Flores, flew Flores via Guatemala City to San Jose, Costa Rica; and another short hop to Panama. From there we flew Panama to Las Vegas, rental car to LAX, flew to Maui, then a short hop to Honolulu. The final return was Honolulu-Brisbane. Now let’s break it down into individual airline awards.
1. US AIRWAYS – South Pacific-Central America award in business class – 120,000 each. This was the hardest one to get as it was in August when availability trans-Pacific is at a premium. The other challenge I had to deal with was that US was starting to enforce maximum permitted mileage though there were still some agents who didn’t seem to have a clue. My first suggested itinerary used ANA via Tokyo on a 787 to Seattle but for some reason US agents couldn’t see that space even though I could see it easily on UA’s tool. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as there were problems with 787 aircraft leading to many cancellations. We finally booked the open jaw using Thai from Brisbane – Bangkok – Seoul, Air Canada from Seoul – Vancouver, then United (only had economy seats available) from Vancouver – Houston – Belize. BNE-BKK-ICN-YVR-IAH-BZE. The return was easier, a simple Honolulu – Seoul – Bangkok on Asiana, then a tight connection to Thai for the final flight to Brisbane. HNL-ICN-BKK-BNE. We used miles earned from the Grand Slam promo held annually from 2008-2011.
2. UNITED AIRLINES – Central America award Flores – Guatemala City – San Jose, Costa Rica. Easily booked online at United for 7500 miles each using flights operated by Aviateca and Lacsa as part of TACA. Miles earned from credit card sign-ups.
3. AVIANCA-TACA LIFEMILES award San Jose – Panama in economy for 7000 miles each. Original flight was on Lacsa but when this flight was cancelled I got them to put us on Copa. Miles sourced from Lifemiles Visa sign-up.
4. LIFEMILES award on Copa, Panama – Las Vegas, 15,000 miles each. I specifically chose Vegas as our point of entry to the USA after research showed there were very few international flights to LAS so customs would be easier. I was right, it was a breeze! Miles sourced from Lifemiles Visa sign-up, the shopping promo from Oct 2012 and needed to top up some miles & cash.