Machu Picchu on Points and Miles


Prior to Covid, my husband and I had booked a tour to Machu Picchu. This got canceled and rescheduled for this fall. Although most of our hotels were with the group, our flights and some hotel stays were made with points and miles. I’ll add a few more possible hotels that are available as we talk today about visiting Peru, and more importantly Machu Picchu on points and miles. Note: credit card offers and redemptions were correct at the time of publishing this post but may have changed. 


We flew from Denver to Lima, Peru on American Airlines using AAdvantage Miles. We got those points from the Barclay Red Aviator Credit Card which gives you 60,000 AA Miles after just one purchase. This is the easiest way to earn points ever. Each of us had these points.

Additionally, I had some Citi Premier ThankYou Points that we transferred to American Airlines from the Citi Premier Credit Card. Currently, this card has a  bonus of 60,000 ThankYou Points and can’t be transferred to AA anymore.

We found web specials from AA for only 57K one way for each of us in business and first. These are great fares that American Airlines offers sometimes when you are looking for award travel.  However, you can’t change your flights. You can cancel and rebook but no changing of flights is allowed.

The Trip that Almost Wasn’t

One of the things we had to do before going to Peru was to get a negative Covid test. This had to be an RT-PCR test and it had to be within 72 hours of flying to Peru. Due to the fact that I had returned from our Cancun trip 2 days before we were leaving, and my husband’s work schedule, we booked the test for 10/7 in the evening. We were flying out at 7:00 am on 10/8.

I called the clinic we were going to get the test at and spoke to the receptionist/medical assistant. Using the form that listed our test needed, I asked her if they did those tests. She assured me they did. We showed up to get the tests and I asked her again. This is the RT-PCR test, right.  She told me it was the rapid antigen. I turned deathly white, I’m sure, and told her I had talked to someone a couple of days ago that told me they did the RT-PCR test. She told me she was the one I had talked to. I wanted to rip her head off (this is being said by someone who usually handles things calmly).

So there we were after all the clinics in the area had closed for the day and we were scheduled to fly out at 7:00 am the next morning. It is now 6:00 the night before and we have no COVID tests. I was truly afraid our trip to Machu Picchu on points and miles was in jeopardy!

Problem Solving

We called a couple of places and left messages just in case anyone was still around for a COVID test and headed towards Denver. I put a call into American Airlines hoping to find a sympathetic agent who could work a miracle for us and get us on a later flight (not sure what it would cost me in miles or cash). They were busy and would call me in an hour.

Denver gives Covid tests at the airport but you have to have a boarding pass to get it done because it is post-security. I thought of buying the cheapest ticket to anywhere just to get in to get a Covid Test.

As we were mulling all this over a nurse called us with the offer of coming back to a nearby clinic and doing a test for $150 at the infusion center he and his wife run. We could have kissed him when we met him. Our next worry was that my husband could test positive as he had breakthrough COVID only 3 weeks ago. Luckily, we both tested negative and were set. Hallelujah! Crisis averted.

Huge lesson learned: When you need a specific COVID test, talk to the nurse or someone besides the receptionist to make sure you are getting the right test. Also, never wait so close to traveling to get the test. If I had scheduled it the night before, we would have been fine and had time to find another one.

Denver – LAX

We were flying out of Denver at 7:00 am so we used an IHG free night certificate to stay in a Staybridge Suites near the airport. Because I have Platinum status, they upgraded us to a two-bedroom, 2 bath suite (not that we needed that room for a 6-hour stay).

At the early hour of 4:00 am, we awoke to start our Machu Picchu trip on points and miles. Our flight from Denver to LAX was in first-class seats. Breakfast wasn’t served – just a bar and juice.

When we reached LAX, I realized that one of the forms I needed in Peru hadn’t been printed out correctly.  Another stressful moment. This was a health form we each had to fill out and print for the Peruvian government about our health status. I went to a Star Alliance Lounge because I am a member, and even though I wasn’t flying a Star Alliance flight that day, a worker had pity on me and printed my paper.

Most of the Lounges in the International Terminal at LAX were closed so we didn’t even get to use a lounge there. Honestly, it was just a stressful stay there as I was madly trying to get my form printed out.


This was a large airplane and we had lay-flat seats. Hallelujah! After a nice lunch of barbecue short ribs, I took a nice nap and woke up just in time to land in Miami.

Here we went into the American Airlines Flagship Lounge. I had never been in one before so I can’t compare it to others but the lounge was huge, had a lot of food, and best of all, a made-to-order guacamole station! Loved it!


Our flight to Lima was just in regular first-class seats. I would have enjoyed lay flat seats again. However, it certainly beat sitting in economy seats. Dinner was a delicious risotto and baked chicken with a Caprese salad and a yummy dulce de leche tart. This was a 5-hour flight and using points and miles to fly on our trip to Machu Picchu really made our experience more affordable.

Hotel in Lima

A couple of years ago I got a Wyndham Credit Card (random for me) and had some miles I needed to use or lose them. Luckily, Lima Airport has a Wyndham that you can walk to from the terminal. This was perfect for us as we were going to be through customs at about 2:00 am. We got there a day early to relax before the tour started. We needed to meet the tour on the 10th at 7:00 am so staying at the Wyndham Costa del Sol was a perfect choice for us. It definitely wasn’t fancy but it had a nice breakfast buffet with made-to-order eggs and filled our purpose of resting before our tour. The ability to use points (and miles for flights) significantly reduced the costs of our trip to Peru.

From our hotel, I could see a Holiday Inn Express that would be a good option also if you needed to stay near the airport. Lima is a big city so you can find multiple options with any of the major hotel brands like IHG, Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton for rewards stays. We only spent a few hours in Lima touring and we got on a Latam flight to Cusco. The flight to Cusco is only a little over an hour long and costs about $100 each way.


The nearest large city you can fly into and visit Machu Picchu is the town of Cusco. It is an interesting stop in and of itself. The colorful clothes the people wear, the Plaza de Armas, the nearby Sacred Valley, the ruins of Sacsayhuamán and Tambomachay, the Cusco Cathedral, and the Coricancha Temple all combine to make it an interesting stopover. It is also a great way to acclimate to the altitude.

We stayed in the Marriott Palacio de Inka and it was the perfect spot for walking around the city. It is truly a gorgeous hotel that you could stay at for 50,000 points or a 50K Marriott annual night certificate. I would happily return to this hotel. A wonderful breakfast was included with our stay and we enjoyed dinner in their courtyard one night. There are multiple uses for hotel points from many different brands in Cusco.

Courtyard of hotel with plants

Courtyard of the Palacio de Inka in Cusco.  picture courtesy of Marriott hotels.

Large Brown Cathedral

The Cusco Cathedral is located on the Plaza de Armas.

Inside of Rock House with man sitting with items to sell

Visiting Ollantaytambo and this man’s simple home was incredibly interesting!


The Main Event – Machu Picchu

From Cusco to Machu Picchu, you will take a train. The IncaRail Train is a popular option and costs about $50 a person. We actually were in Ollantaytambo at this time so we took the shorter route. You will need a transfer by bus to the entrance of Machu Picchu which will cost extra. You can even include the cost of your ticket into Machu Pichhu for a total of $166 a person. Here is another link to purchasing tickets for the site.

Because we booked with a tour group, I did not have to worry about all of this so I don’t claim to be an expert. I can tell you – it was magnificent and we were lucky. The day after we went there, they closed for a day due to rain! We were so fortunate because we experienced only mild sprinkles.

Man and woman standing in front of large mountain and ruins

There we are – ready to hike down into the ruins of Machu Picchu!

Ancient ruins made of stone

The majesty of Machu Picchu!

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Machu Picchu and if I was younger would like to have hiked the Inca Trail. We saw porters who supply and carry food, sleeping blankets, etc for that way of traveling into Machu Picchu. It takes about 4 days to do it from Cusco and there are several companies that provide this service. For me, using points and miles to get to Machu Picchu and reduce the costs, was perfect.

Bottom Line

Although we used a tour for our trip, we were able to use points and miles to Machu Picchu to significantly reduce the price. You can definitely use miles for your flights and points for your hotel stays to make a memorable trip to Machu Picchu possible. Is Machu Picchu on your bucket list?


Ancient ruins with big mountains

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. American Express is a Travel Mom Squad advertiser, but we always show the best public offer even when we don’t earn a commission. Terms Apply. 

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