Disclosure: Basic Travel Couple, LLC has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Basic Travel Couple, LLC and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.
Once upon a time, there was a 13-year-old boy who walked into a classroom that was like every other one he encountered before. A same old desk, heavy textbook, and dusty chalkboard but this particular class would have a lasting impact. The class was Biology 101 and the lesson was on Charles Darwin and the Galapagos Islands. This particular lesson inspired me to add the Galapagos Islands to my bucket list. After almost 20 years of impatiently waiting; I have finally crossed it off of my list with the help of some award points, travel miles, and my new best friend pictured below!
Flights to the Galapagos
Flying from Buffalo NY is always challenging given the airport size and flight options available. Most people who visit the islands choose to fly into one of those islands and depart from another which allows you to maximize your time. This new information led me to the United Airlines portal with a huge decision to make; flying to Quito, Ecuador in Economy for 20,000 United Miles or Business Class for 35,000 United Miles. I knew that I had a stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards Points which transfer 1:1 to United so for only 15,000 additional United Miles I pulled the trigger on the Business Class flights! 🙂
BUF to UIO
Flight 1: 35,000 + $16.85 in Tax
Flight 2: 35,000 + $16.85 in Tax
Total: 70,000 United Miles and $33.70
Flights from Quito Ecuador to Galapagos Islands
While planning the flights from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos I was duped by Google Flights. Let me explain so that I can save you from potential future frustration. If you search using the map view it shows you prices for $94 one way which is a great deal. UNTIL you actually click through and see what it’s only $94 if you are a resident of Ecuador!
With the Google Flights mistake, I was left with a few options: Pay the cash fare, use points through my Chase Portal with my reserve giving me a cashout at 1.5 cents per point, or transfer to United. Let’s break them down below:
Cash Fares were over $200 per/person each way so that was a hard NO!
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Using Chase Ultimate Rewards points would cost me 14,160 points each way per person. On the other hand, I could transfer points to United and fly one way for 12.5K plus $18.64 in taxes and fees per person. Based on three options above, the most cost effective option here was to transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines.
For the flights from Quito, Ecuador to Santa Cruz, it cost 25K United Airlines Miles plus an additional $37.28. Since the most time effective option in the Galapagos is to fly into one island and depart from another, I looked at flights from San Cristobal back to Quito. Luckily, United also offers 12.5K options with $12.50 in taxes and fees. For 25K United and $25 we had our flights back to Quito!
UIO to GPS
Flight 1: 12.5K United Airlines Miles + $18.64 in Tax
Flight 2: 12.5K United Airlines Miles + $18.64 in Tax
Total: 25K United Airlines Miles + $37.28
SCY to UIO
Flight 1: 12.5K United Airlines Miles + $12.50 in Tax
Flight 2: 12.5K United Airlines Miles + $12.50 in Tax
Total: 25K United Airlines Miles + $25
Flights from the Galapagos back to Buffalo
I looked at a few different options for return flights from Ecuador back to New York based on my points bank. I found a pretty awesome offer for Business/First Class Seats via American Airlines for 30K per person plus $141.38 in taxes and fees. What was interesting about this offer, was that for some odd reason it was actually fewer points to fly in Business/First than Economy! I couldn’t think of a better way to end an amazing bucket list trip to the Galapagos Islands than flying up front in lie-flat seats back to Buffalo.
UIO to BUF
Flight 1: 30K American Airlines Miles + $141.38 in Tax
Flight 2: 30K American Airlines Miles + $141.38 in Tax
Total: 60K American Airlines Miles + $282.76
If I didn’t have a nice stash of American Airlines Miles I would have looked to book a different day for saver economy which is usually wide open if you look far enough in advance. An economy ticket from UIO to BUF in Economy would only run me 17.5K American Airlines Miles which would have saved me 25K in AA miles. For the additional 25K, I’d say that it was definitely worth it for this great experience!
Basic Recap of Points Used for this Trip
Buffalo NY to Quito Ecuador – 70K United (transferred from UR) Miles and $33.70
Quito to Santa Cruz Island – 25K United (transferred from UR) Miles and $37.28
San Cristobal to Quito – 25K United (transferred from UR) Miles and $25
Quito to Buffalo NY – 60K AA Miles and $282.76
- 120K United/UR Miles
- 60K AA Miles
By using points and miles, my out-of-pocket costs to fly round trip in BUSINESS CLASS to the GALAPAGOS ISLANDS was only $378.74! I’d like to point out that the points used above may seem like a huge chunk but the reality is that I accumulated all of them from only three credit card signup bonuses. This was truly an amazing trip and one that I certainly could have not done without all of our basic travel points. If you’re interested in visiting the Galapagos and have questions about planning a trip be sure to reach out to us and we hope you enjoy our other articles below!
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Disclosure: Basic Travel Couple, LLC has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Basic Travel Couple, LLC and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.