Maximizing Miles for Free Flights to South America

Today I spent the day figuring out how to maximize our miles for free flights to South America. I think I came up with a great plan but I would like your opinion if I’m missing some trick and any other suggestions.

My husband and I are planning on a one-year trip in 2014–yeah, I know it’s a long way away but it was cool to know we already have almost enough miles to take the trip if I wanted to do it next year. Our ultimate goal is to spend most of the time in Spain but we want to spend the winter in warmer Spanish-speaking countries. And, my other goal besides flying mostly for free is to spend $1000 in Guatemala and not more than $2000 per month durng the rest of the trip for both of us.

Here’s what my husband and I have in our frequent flier accounts currently:
196,000 American Airline Miles
121,000 British Airways Miles
60,000 Chase Sapphire Points (can be transferred to an airline program 1:1 BUT we need these points for other trips prior to this trip)
73,000 Starwood Preferred Guest Points (can be transferred to American Airlines)
(By the way, most of these miles came from credit card sign up bonuses that I explain in this post.)

Our Plan to Get the Most Free Flights to South America with the Least Miles:

January–spend 1 month studying Spanish in Guatemala
Los Angeles to Guatemala City: 15,000 miles x 2 people=30,000 miles with American Airlines

A Few Days in Mexico City in Transit
Guatemala City to Mexico City: Bummer but I think we’ll have to pay for this flight–about $200/person on Interjet

February–spend 3 weeks in Peru
Mexico City to Lima: 12,500 miles x 2 people=25,000 miles with British Airways (on LAN flight)

Feb/March–spend 3 weeks in Chile (emphasis on wine tasting and hiking)
Lima to Santiago: 10,000 miles x 2 people=20,000 miles with British Airways (on LAN)

March/April–spend 3 weeks in Argentina
Santiago to Buenos Aires: 7,500 miles x 2 people=15,000 miles with British Airways (on LAN)

April-December–Spain
Buenos Aires to Madrid: 42,500 miles x 2 people=85,000 with British Airways (on LAN)

December–back to the U.S.
Madrid to US (somewhere): 20,000 miles x 2 people=40,000 with American Airlines

Here are the negatives of this plan:
1. We are currently short 24k on British Airways but I’m certain we will earn those miles by then
2. We are going to try to get a “retiree” visa for Spain to allow us to stay in the country longer than 90 days. Not sure if we can do this…any other ideas??
3. We might be moving too fast through South America
4. The fuel charges with British Airways to Madrid are quite high (over $600 for 2 tickets)
5. Because we are using miles, we have to plan in advance so we can’t be very spontaneous between countries

So that’s the plan so far…any advice would be greatly appreciated!

British Airways Executive Club
British Airways Executive Club
American Airlines AAdvantage
American Airlines AAdvantage
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