Back to Brazil: A Preview and Redeeming ThankYou Points

Posted by Adam YWW on February 20, 2016 in Trip Reports

So I just finished blogging my November 4-day trip to Brazil.  I actually have traveled since then, to New York for Thanksgiving and a long weekend in Puerto Vallarta in January.  But work’s also been super busy and I’ve taken on a leadership role in a community organization, so it took longer than I’d hoped to finish the blogging.  And in a few days, I’ll be heading back to Brazil – one of 2 trips to Brazil I have scheduled for the next few months.

Yaaaasssssssss!

Yaaaasssssssss!  (Although I’m actually missing Carnival)

Since 2011, I’ve traveled somewhere every Presidents’ Day Week- 2011: Barcelona and Lisbon, 2012: Chile and Argentina, 2013: Southeast Asia, 2014: the Seychelles and France, 2015: Australia.   But come December, I still didn’t have anything planned for February 2016.  I was hoping to do a trip to Colombia, but I couldn’t get flights to work out for under $425 that worked out for me.  Then I saw $475 airfares from DC to Brazil on American.  Since I already had the visa, and I barely scratched the surface of the country the last time I went, I figured it would be a great winter getaway.  The cheap flights were not available to Sao Paulo this time, though, just Rio and Brasilia.  I actually have wanted to go to Brasilia for a while, due to its being a very new, planned city and dorkfest for urban planning nerds.  And I had a ton of Citi ThankYou Points sitting around, meaning I could use those to book the revenue ticket on AA – earning miles for using points.

The itinerary I settled on was DCA-MIA-GIG, BSB-MIA-JFK-DCA, giving me a night in New York on the return to see the family.  I couldn’t get it to price out right on the ThankYou website, so I called and had a relatively painless experience.  The next morning, though, I saw that the ticket still had not ticketed and was marked as “Held” on the AA.com website and awaiting payment. I called ThankYou again that afternoon, and they assured me that they were going to take care of it.  The following morning, the ticket was canceled, since no payment had been received by midnight the following day.  O

I called back again, as this was a little bit silly, and an agent and her supervisor managed to be rebook me for the same price on the same flights.  A few hours later, it finally ticketed.  f note, this whole process is super annoying, because you have to call Citi ThankYou Rewards Service Center, wait for a representative, who then transfers you to the travel agency they use, where you have to wait some more.  They will not provide a direct number. But then I saw the amount of points that had been deducted was completely wrong.  When using ThankYou points, if you hold the Citi Prestige card, you can redeem your points for 1.6 cents per point on American Airlines flights, and 1.3 cents per point on other airlines.  So that meant my flight should have cost me about 30,000 points (while earning me over 10,000 AA elite qualifying miles). For some reason, though, 41,000 points had been deducted from my account- which is more than it would have been on any other airline– a rate of about 1.1 cents per point.  So I had to go through the process a fourth time, finally getting my ticket booked at the correct price.

With that done, I had to figure out how I was going to spend my time in Brazil.  I was torn as to whether hit Rio again at all, and decided not to — which works fine as I am actually going to Rio in May now.  I had heard mixed things about Sao Paulo, but decided with 10 days on my second trip to the country, I should at least check out the largest city.  From my research, it seemed Salvador in Bahia was a highly recommended place for tourists, due to its unique Afro-Caribbean influence and difference from the South.  That left a few days to play with, which I decided I wanted to be less urban.  Originally I thought about Trancoso in Bahia, but that’s way too expensive.  Then I looked at Florianopolis, a big beach town in the South.  Finally, I just settled on Morro de Sao Paulo, a village on Tinhare Island, a few hours from Salvador by boat.  (Getting from there to the airport is turning out to be an ordeal – stay tuned for that.)map

So here’s the plan:

  • DCA-MIA-GIG (main ticket on AA), connecting to a TAM flight GIG-SSA (Salvador)
  • 3 nights Salvador, at the Sheraton da Bahia
  • Catamaran to Morro de Sao Paulo
  • 2 nights in Morro de Sao Paulo
  • SSA-GRU on Avianca Brasil using Avianca LifeMiles points
  • 2 nights Sao Paulo, using IHG points at the Intercontinental
  • CGH (Sao Paulo-Congonhas)- BSB on TAM
  • 1 night in Brasilia
  • BSB-MIA-JFK-CA on AA

Hopefully I’ll be able to blog about this trip in a timely fashion.   And also not get Zika.  Or pregnant.

 

 

 

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