How to Get More Free Stopovers and Use Fewer Miles on Your Next Trip to South America

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Did you miss 20k Miles (or Less) to All of South America All Year yesterday? That post is a competing trick with this one, and it might be an even better deal for you.

Chicago to Santiago “should” cost 30,000 American Airlines miles each way in economy. And you “shouldn’t” be able to stop in Peru on the way to Chile (or even layover there.)

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Do not pay 30,000 American Airlines miles for this award!

Instead of playing by American Airlines’ rules, though, we can combine our American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios to book dream trips to South America with more stops for fewer miles.

In the Chicago to Santiago example, we could pay only 15k American Airlines miles plus 10k Avios each way and stop in Peru either or both directions.

I’ve already explained how American Airlines has incredible off peak awards that allow you to travel for large swaths of the year at discounted rates. For Central America and Northern South America–Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador–you can fly one way from the US for only 15k miles for seven months out of every year.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 11.02.00 PM An off peak award to Northern South America plus one or more Avios awards creates a dream vacation with more stops for fewer miles.

How do I put it all together?

This is a simple three-step process:

  1. Put on hold a roundtrip from your home airport in North America to somewhere in Northern South America–ideally Lima, Peru–during the off peak window to Northern South America.
  2. Book one or more Avios awards into Southern South America.
  3. Book the held American Airlines award.

The benefits this has over booking a normal American Airlines award to Southern South America are two-fold:

  1. This is cheaper. Instead of paying 60k American Airlines miles roundtrip to Santiago, Chile, you could pay 30k American Airlines miles and 20k British Airways Avios.
  2. This allows more exploring. American Airlines awards–other than Explorer Awards–can only have a stopover at the North American International Gateway City. That means you couldn’t stop in Lima before hopping to Santiago. By combining an American Airlines award and British Airways Avios award, you can.

Holding the American Airlines Award

Head to and search for a roundtrip to Lima, Peru between January 16 and June 14 or September 7 and November 14.

I strongly recommend selecting Lima as the destination of the American Airlines award instead of somewhere else in Northern South America for two reasons.

  1. Peru is my favorite country in the world. See my Peru Top Ten.
  2. Lima is the closest major city to the major cities of Northern South America. That’s important since our second award will be a British Airways award, which has a distance-based chart.

If you really want to see a lot of cities, though, you can book an open jaw American Airlines award that goes into Peru and out of Ecuador or vice versa. Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador both have flights to Southern South America.

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Searching on is quite easy, and space is very good during the off peak period since airlines always release a lot more space when fewer people want to buy tickets.

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When you find your roundtrip or open jaw American Airlines award for 30k miles, the next step is to put it on a free five day hold while you book your Avios awards. This is one of the choices after inputting the passenger info.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 11.29.28 PMBooking the Avios award(s)

Next, you should ticket one or more Avios awards. From Lima, LAN flies the following routes to Southern South America.

  • La Paz is 7,500/15,000 Avios each way in economy/business
  • Santiago and Buenos Aires are 10,000/20,000 Avios each way in economy/business
  • Sao Paulo is 12,500/25,000 Avios each way in economy/business

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If, for instance, you want to stop in Lima and Santiago on your trip, you would have held a roundtrip to Lima, and you would now book a roundtrip award from Lima to Santiago with Avios on

If you want to see Quito, Lima, Santiago, and Sao Paulo on one trip, you would have held an open jaw from your city to Quito, returning from Lima with your American Airlines miles. Then you would book Quito to Santiago, Santiago to Buenos Aires, and Buenos Aires to Lima with Avios.

Stops in each South American city for only 30k AA miles and 30k Avios.

Stops in each South American city for only 30k AA miles and 30k Avios.

An interesting variant is to book the Avios awards in business class. Even on some very short routes like the 3hr30min flight from Lima to Santiago, LAN flies its 767s with fully flat beds in business class.

Beds are widely available from Lima to Santiago for 20k Avios + $31 one way.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.21.39 AM Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.21.44 AM Booking the American Airlines Award

The reason we held the American Airlines award earlier was to ensure we could get all the flights we wanted. Now that the Avios awards are booked, circle back to the held award and ticket it on

Free (or Cheap Oneways)

Nothing stops you from adding on free oneways before and after your main American Airlines award if you live in Miami or Dallas where the flights to Northern South America take off. If you live somewhere else, you can add Cheap Oneways.


American Airlines and its partner LAN fly all over South America. American Airlines’ off peak awards to Northern South America–at only 15k miles each way–are the cheapest way to get to South America.

From your landing point in South America, you can travel the continent on inexpensive distance-based Avios awards. The combination of the two can create an once-in-a-lifetime trip to South America for fewer miles and with more stops than a standard award.

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8 Responses to How to Get More Free Stopovers and Use Fewer Miles on Your Next Trip to South America

  1. This really makes me want to go there. Wanderlust. Sigh.

  2. Once again, you live up to your name by providing great value through creative thinking. I love your site!

  3. Did you mean to use Lima because it is the most southern citiy in what AA considers Northern South America so that your distance using Avios will be less?

  4. If necessary, couldn’t these two tricks be combined? Free oneway, off-peak–>15k AA award to Lima, peak–>10k BA award to Buenos Aires? Advantageous in certain cases.

  5. Hi,
    Great idea!! However, I am heading down very soon and no time to wait for the off peak award. Plus, I don’t have avios. I would still like to use the stopover idea. How can I get a stopover in a place like Lima, or better yet, mexico city, cancun, panama city etc. with the rule about the stopover has to be in the last gateway city in north america? I need to fly LAN I think but on aa’s website I can never get any LAN to show up. Can I still get the stopover using my aadvantage award flying on partner airlines? Thanks!

    • LAN isn’t searchable on, only You can only get a stopover at the North American International Gateway as you said, so stopping in Lima is out of the question. Mexico City and Cancun are possible if you fly from there to South America. Stopover rules are the same whether flying on AA or AA partners.

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