Trip Planning: $540.42 + 137,250 Miles + 2 IHG Free Nights= Trip for 3 to Nicaragua

NIcaragua Tourism
image: Google Maps

The school year ended on June 26 and we were off on a little adventure to Nicaragua that evening (or the following morning depending on how you look at it).

We left on a 2:00am flight out of JFK to Panama City before making our way to Nicaragua…

We spent around a week checking out a bunch of areas around the country and flew home on July 4, getting great views of the fireworks as we flew back over New York.

Now that we’re back, I’m a bit late on sharing what we booked and at what it cost whether it be miles, points or cash.

Here are the details of what we booked to make our trip to Nicaragua one where time was well spent around the country.

Picking the Destination:

Latin America is one of my favorite parts of the world and it’s been a few years since we’ve visited. Up to this point, Lucas hadn’t made it to this part of the world (and I’m not counting Kim and my press trip to Puerto Vallarta).

While picking a destination, I knew that Latin American was where I wanted to go for this trip. I narrowed our choices down to El Salvador and Nicaragua. The final choice was decided based on flight availability and Nicaragua was the winner.

The Itinerary:

Putting together an itinerary for Nicaragua proved to be a bit of a challenge. We were faced with a familiar problem- lots of things to see and do, not enough time to do them all.

With Lucas to consider, we wouldn’t be climbing tons of volcanoes (although he was a champ climbing one) and we also made the tough decision to pass up the Corn Islands and beachy surf area San Juan del Sur.

We decided to focus on the colonial cities of Granada and Leon (including trips from them), the island of Ometepe and a bit of time spent in the capital, Managua. (If I coud redo the trip, I would’ve tried to add a quick visit to San Juan del Sur somehow.)

The Flights:

I was trying my hardest to us American Airlines miles but the problem was that I could find availability on the way home but nothing on the way there. I decided to get creative and fly with United miles on Copa going to Nicaragua and we flew home on AA.

While I hated using valuable United miles, it was well worth it in the end. To get the dates needed, we flew business class on Copa.

We flew:

  • New York (JFK) to Panama City (PTY)
  • Panama City (PTY) to Managua (MGA)

Cost: 30,000 United miles + $11.85 per person for a total of 90,000 United miles + $35.55.

  • Managua (MGA) to Miami (MIA)
  • Miami (MIA) to New York (LGA)

Cost: 17,500 AA miles each + $68.10. We got back 1,750 miles per ticket from having co-branded AA credit cards making the cost 15,750 miles per ticket so we actually spent 47,250 AA miles + $204.30.

Total spent on flights: 137,250 miles + $239.85

Lodging/ Accommodations: We booked a mixture of paid stays and bookings made using free night certificates/ points.

  • Nights 1 & 2- Granada: Mansion De Chocolate- $65.33 per night, w/ tax= $152.88.
  • Night 3- Ometepe: Hotel Santa Cruz- $60
  • Night 4- Ometepe: Villa Paraiso- $75 (We were supposed to stay at Hotel Santa Cruz again but decided to upgrade a bit)
  • Night 5- Managua: Intercontinental Managua at Metrocenter Mall- used a free night certificate from the Into the Nights promo. If paying, room would’ve cost 25K points or $241.30 including tax. Cost- Free.
  • Night 6- Leon:  Best Western Las Mercedes- For some reason this hotel was pricing at $39.38 on Orbitz for a total of $45.72 w/ tax. I used my Orbucks to bring the cost down to $12.69 for the night. (Rooms were going for around $80 on the hotel’s site.)
  • Night 7- Managua: Intercontinental Managua at Metrocenter Mall- used a free night certificates from the Into the Nights promo. Again if paying, room would’ve cost 25K points or $163.83 including tax. Cost- Free.

Total cost for 7 nights accommodations: $300.57, two IHG Free Night Certificates and $33.08 Orbitz Orbucks.

Total Trip Planning Budget:

  • Flights: 137,250 miles + $239.85
  • Accommodations: $300.57, two IHG Free Night Certificates

Total Costs= 137,250 miles + $540.42 & 2 IHG Free Night Certificates

Considering this was the cost for three people, I think we did pretty well. Nicaragua isn’t exactly a place where you’ll find big name hotels in many of the areas. If chain hotels were an option, the cost for hotels could’ve gone down significantly.

I’ll be writing about our trip in upcoming posts. Stay tuned…

4 thoughts on “Trip Planning: $540.42 + 137,250 Miles + 2 IHG Free Nights= Trip for 3 to Nicaragua

  1. Nick- Sounds like the Hyatt might be another good option in the future. If we didn’t have the free night certs, my guess is that we would’ve stayed at a cheap, small hotel in Managua.

  2. Nick-Using Avios for flights within Nicaragua is defintitely a good tip!

    Prices listed for the Intercontinental are exactly what the cheapest room would’ve cost on the dates of our stays. That is why one night shows a cost of $241.30, the other closer to the price you mention at $163.83. (The hotel is very nice but didn’t feel $250 nice!)

    Any idea of what price point the Hyatt Place would be going for? (Award stay & $$$?)

    Ometepe was interesting to visit and I’ll be writing about it in my recap but we didn’t do a ton there. Some things weren’t appropriate to do with a 3 year old! (Based on talks with a bunch of other travelers, I don’t think we missed much though.)

    1. I’ve wondered how much the Hyatt Place there would be –my best guess is it would be a Cat 1. The HPs in Panama and Honduras are both 1, while Costa Rica is a 2.

      And totally agree that the Intercontinental is nice, but not $250 nice.

  3. Avios are great for travel from the east coast to Managua, just so long as there’s low-level availability on AA.

    Also, the Intercontinental at Managua usually doesn’t go for $240 per night, I think it’s usually more like $150 per night on average.

    And FYI for anybody thinking about heading down there: they’re opening up a Hyatt Place right next to the Galeria Mall, not too far from the Masaya Volcano, SUPPOSEDLY in 2015 though I haven’t been able to get confirmation on that. There was a minor fire during construction a month or two ago which apparently set them back a bit.

    I’m looking forward to the Ometepe report, I still haven’t been there yet unfortunately.

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