Introduction: Easter In December

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Welcome to my next trip report, about a quasi mileage run that Ford and I took to Easter Island earlier this month, which includes travel in LATAM business class and a stay at Explora Rapa Nui.

Booking flights

Easter Island has been on my radar for close to a decade. Old timers will remember back when British Airways had a zone based award chart, and you could fly to Easter Island for the same cost as anywhere in South America, with stopovers. So I know a ton of people booked something like New York to Lima to Santiago to Easter Island and back, with stopovers in each city.

I wasn’t able to take advantage of that opportunity at the time (it goes without saying that the pricing is now completely different), but ever since then Easter Island has been on my radar. As an aviation geek Easter Island has also been on my radar due to how remote it is, and specifically the rules surrounding how only one plane can be flying there at any given point.

Anyway, this July LATAM published some incredible business class fares between Mexico City and Easter Island. Mexico City is easy enough to position to from just about anywhere in the US, and for that matter it has been years since I’ve been to Mexico City, so this seemed like a great opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

Specifically, LATAM had ~$1,150 roundtrip business class fares from Mexico City to Easter Island. Those were great fares to begin with, though the icing on the cake was that this would push Ford over the edge in terms of requalifying for Executive Platinum status.

So while I wouldn’t call this a mileage run, visiting a place you really want to visit while also having it help you requalify for status is a great combination. Our routing was as follows:

12/02 LA621 Mexico City to Santiago departing 6:55PM arriving 6:15AM (+1 day)
12/03 LA841 Santiago to Easter Island departing 9:30AM arriving 12:55PM
12/06 LA842 Easter Island to Santiago departing 2:55PM arriving 9:40PM
12/06 LA622 Santiago to Mexico City departing 11:40PM arriving 5:30AM (+1 day)

While American awards miles based on dollars spent on their own flights, when you’re booking through a partner airline they award miles based on distance flown, which usually works out to be much more lucrative for discounted premium cabin tickets. This trip covers a distance of 12,840 miles, so if crediting to American AAdvantage as an Executive Platinum member you’d earn:

  • 19,260 elite qualifying miles (150% of distance flown)
  • 2,568 elite qualifying dollars (20% of distance flown)
  • 28,248 redeemable miles (only 100% redeemable miles, plus a 120% bonus as an Executive Platinum member

Meanwhile I had already requalified for American Executive Platinum status, so decided to instead credit the flights to my Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold account, where I’d earn:

  • 16,050 elite qualifying miles (125% of distance flown)
  • 41,730 redeemable miles (225% of distance flown, plus a 100% elite bonus)

I value Alaska miles at close to two cents each, so it’s pretty awesome to earn $800 worth of miles on an $1,150 business class ticket.

Booking hotels

Easter Island isn’t a destination you go to for hotels, but rather one you go to for exploring, which we were excited about. There aren’t many luxury hotels on Easter Island, though I’ve heard that the one decent place is Explora Rapa Nui.

While I haven’t stayed at an Explora property, I’ve heard great things about them. They have properties in some really cool destinations, including the Atacama Desert, Patagonia, etc.

However, the hotel is pricey. Here are their normal per person rates for the dates we were staying (in USD):

As you can see, a three night stay would ordinarily cost you $5,040 for two people ($2,520 per person), which is steep.

However, at the time we booked they were celebrating their 10th anniversary, and they had a promotion where two people could stay for the price of one. The catch is that when one person stays there’s a 34% surcharge. In that case, that meant a three night stay for two people cost $2,520 plus 34%, or $3,377, or ~$1,125 per night. That’s about one third off.

It goes without saying that’s still a lot of money, and I’m very fortunate that we could splurge on this. However, I’d note that what impressed me is that Explora is truly all inclusive. You stay at some all inclusive places that aren’t really all inclusive, and you still have to pay for drinks, activities, etc.. At Explora virtually everything is included, from your airport pick-ups, to all your excursions (typically two per day, lasting eight hours), breakfast, lunch, dinner, alcohol, etc.

That’s still a lot of money, but there are plenty of hotels that charge you $1,000+ per night and then nickel-and-dime you for everything, while here there was actually some value to be had. Given that we were able to book during a sale, I was very happy with our choice.

Bottom line

I didn’t know what to expect going into our trip to Easter Island, but I found it to be magical. The more trips I take with Ford, the more we both realize that we have the most fun on trips that are nature-focused. Our best trips over the past couple of years have been to Easter Island, Svalbard, Bhutan, Hawaii (where we actually went out and explored the nature every day, rather than sitting on the beach), etc.

While we had a great time in Mexico City and it exceeded my expectations in just about every way, I couldn’t help but find myself drained once again while there. So I think over the next year our goal is to take even more nature trips rather than city trips.

Thanks for following along!

  1. @ Kurt — Yep, it could have. I booked flights before looking at hotels, and by the time I got around to hotels the fare was gone, or else I would have booked four nights.

  2. @lucky : Is there adequate award availability for partner airlines using Alaska miles? I’ve heard some issues with redemptions on Emirates recently.

  3. @ Kevin — Nope, the layover was too short, as I found the domestic to international transit at SCL to be a real pain.

  4. @ DJ — They certainly do have issues with seeing some award availability, and it’s more of a niche program than others, but I find there are some awesome uses of Alaska miles, which is why I value them more than other currencies.

  5. @ Readers — Please stay at a local hotel when you go to Easter Island. You will have a much more authentic experience and directly help the locals, not a big corporation.

  6. @Kurt, @Lucky: Coincidentally, I took basically the exact same trip (flights & hotels) just a few weeks before Ben. Only difference was that the dates that worked for my fare were four nights. I called Citi Prestige to do 4th night free at Explora and they told me it was NOT eligible – they view it similar to a safari, as an “experience” destination where the price includes more than lodging. I ended up going with 3 nights at Explora (min stay required) and 1 night at Hare Boutik, which I also highly recommend (while nowhere near the experience/luxury of Explora, great people and one of the nicer options remaining).

  7. Glad you are realizing what types of travel work best for you as a couple. This is one of those things that takes time to figure out, and once you have a good idea of what works for both of you, planning trips becomes much easier and more fun.

  8. @Kevin: There’s no airline lounge on the domestic side of SCL.

    The only domestic lounge is a credit card/Priority Pass lounge, called “Pacific Lounge”, which also offers day passes. If I remember correctly, it’s around 20 USD, so it might even be cheaper to pay rather than using Priority Pass, depending on the type of membership. And if you’re just visiting for a quick cup of coffee, there are two coffee outlets which are much cheaper …

  9. @Lucky, really want to go here and only have AA miles that would work. Would it be 40K one way from NYC on economy using AA miles (North America to South Pacific) OR would it be 30K+XX (NYC to South America 2 + South America 2 to South Pacific) because of that rule that you can’t transit through another region. Really would help to know so I know how many miles I need earn/burn. Thanks!

  10. In 2012 you booked it for us in business class round trip at 80,000 miles, which included Peru, Easter Island, and Santiago. Machu Pichu and Easter Island the same trip! Ah, the memories. Glad you had a good time Ben, we enjoyed the Explora as well.

  11. @ Stvr — There will be, but I’m publishing it separately. This report covers travel starting in Mexico City.

  12. @Lucky sorry to hear about the tight connection as I think you would have enjoyed the lounge. Maybe a good reason to return to SA and review some of the other Explora properties for us…

    @Andy: I was referring to the LATAM VIP lounge in the international terminal which you have access to on the way back to MEX.

  13. Thanks for highlighting this fare sale. I’m not easily impressed but Easier Island really surprised me. Best trip I took this year.

  14. @ Lucky, how many days did you spend at Easter Island? I’m planning to go there with family in late June/early July and can’t decide on number of days. Any insight from other readers is also appreciated.

  15. @sarwar

    It depends on your type. I just like to hit the highlights and I thought one day was enough. I planned for two but misconnected. The island is small and it gets boring pretty quickly. If you want to take your time though, three days should be more than enough.

  16. @Gene. Amen
    @Sarwar – 2 full days, plus the days you fly in/out. Please use local tour guides and hotels.

  17. $1000 per night?!!!

    It’s been so many years since I was in Easter Island. In those days, there were not the 15 moais shown in your first picture. There were only 4. But it didn’t cost $1000 per night.

    As always, another good article by Lucky.

  18. @Lucky I do NOT think the Citi 4th night free would apply. I have recently had trouble on a number of occasions trying to book properties such as this one that included “guided activities” as the agent described. If you believe this to not be the case, I’d love to know. Thanks

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