One of the main reasons I travel is to marvel at our planet’s beautiful landscapes. To do so, I always include short or long hikes in my itineraries.
Instead, some will take a trip geared towards achieving walking goals. Hiking is also part of the slow travel trend, where you take your time to discover a place and become aware of your ecological footprint.
I wanted to combine my passion for hiking in the mountains with my love for reward points to find strategies to save money. Here are strategies related to the three top places in the world:
- Western Canada
France is the first destination that comes to mind when I think of hiking. This country has created hundreds of hiking trails throughout the country and its territories. They are known as GR for Grande Randonnée. They are numbered and marked. The most famous are the GR20 in Corsica, qualified as the most difficult; the GR10 crosses the Pyrenees, and the GR5 crosses the Alps.
I am also thinking of the Camino de Compostela, whose reputation extends beyond the European borders. This pilgrimage stretches over two countries, France and Spain, and totals nearly a thousand kilometres that motivate travellers worldwide.
Expenses on walking trips are often limited to the basic needs of food and lodging. The refuges, campsites or accommodations with local people are generally what we find on our road. The points strategy will be to save on transportation to get to the destination and to get a good night’s stay before or after the project.
Under the Skyteam alliance, Flying Blue is the Air France and KLM’program, two big players that serve a large part of Europe.
The best way to earn points quickly for this program is through American Express credit cards and then transfer to the program of your choice. You can also use their online shopping portal to accumulate your everyday purchases.
See the American Express Membership Rewards program guide for complete details. Once you arrive in Europe, you can take internal flights to different destinations.
For example, St-Jean-Pied-De-Port is the most common starting point to begin the Camino de Santiago. If you are arriving from France, the two closest airports are Biarritz airport (1 hour) and Pau-Pyrenees airport (1h30). There is also the option of taking the TGV from Paris.
For the famous GR20 in Corsica, four international airports serve the territory. The airlines with the most frequent flights are Air France, Air Corsica and ITA. All three are members of the Skyteam alliance and operate with the Flying Blue program.
For the front and back-of-the-line hotel expenses, the easiest way is to use American Express Membership Rewards points to reimburse yourself for costs incurred without having to go through a portal or limit yourself to a hotel chain. The latter may not be present in hiking areas.
Other interesting hiking tours in Europe:
- Stubaier höhenweg in Austria
- Crossing the western highlands in Scotland
- Coastal path of Cabo de Gata in Spain
- Zagori loop in Greece
- The crossing of the Italian Dolomites
- The Tatra Mountains on the border between Slovakia and Poland
Going to Patagonia is like living in a postcard, it’s so beautiful! This region which constitutes the southern tip of America, straddles Argentina and Chile.
It is an outdoor paradise, and many travellers go there to do the W circuit or the O circuit in the Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. The route is trendy, and accommodation must be booked several months in advance.
On the Argentine side, legendary hikes include:
- Perito Moreno glacier,
- Mount Fitz Roy or
- the Laguna Torre.
However, these landscapes must be earned because you must make a physical effort, in addition to weather that changes quickly.
As with the previous strategy, the focus will be reducing travel bills to the site and shelters booked online.
Aeroplan + Reward Points
To reach Chilean Patagonia, you must take a flight to Chile and then an internal flight to Punta Arenas. The latter is served mainly by LATAM, Sky Airline, Jetsmart and Aerovias DAP. None of them are part of the airline program alliances.
The options are to use Aeroplan points for the flight to Santiago and then book a flight on the airline of your choice by paying with a credit card and getting a refund in travel points.
To reach the Argentine side, your Aeroplan points will take you to Argentina, but again, you’ll have to combine with another program to get to EL Calafate in Patagonia. Aerolineas Argentina, a member of the SkyTeam Alliance, will allow you to use your Flying Blue points for the missing flight segment.
Aeroplan fares start at 40,000 points in economy class for one-way travel from Montreal to Santiago de Chile and from Montreal to Buenos Aires.
The second option is to complete the book with travel points such as the NBC À la carte program, where 3 Mastercard credit cards are offered:
or the HSBC Rewards with one of the following cards:
Reservations can be made on their rewards sites (for better value) or on your chosen site to apply the points after purchase.
Regarding accommodation, you will not have the choice of renowned hotels. Only the refuges or tents you will book well in advance via internet. Here, only the travel points option remains in the account.
Other interesting hiking tours in South America:
- Loop of Quilatoa in Ecuador
- Around Cotopaxi
- Inca Trail in Peru
- Tour of the Alpamayo in Peru
- Chapada Diamantina National Park in Brazil
I often say that Canada is the most beautiful country in the world. Canada impresses me when it comes to natural landscapes and marked hiking trails.
Its immense territory offers a diversity of landscapes that goes from coastal villages to boreal forests to snowy peaks. Several long-distance hiking trails, the most famous of which is the West Coast Trail, are well known.
Outside of these significant projects, Western Canada is full of short hiking opportunities, often supervised by national or provincial parks.
Travelling within the country can simplify your vacation planning. With the passport crisis and the pandemic, the ease of staying on this side of the border is an asset. Another benefit? You don’t have to worry about exchange rates and conversion fees. You’ll be able to use your credit cards with conversion fees that are less interesting abroad.
Companion pass + American Express Membership Rewards
Travel to North America on Air Canada is possible with the companion pass. You book one ticket, pay for it in cash, and then apply for the companion pass for the second ticket. Since you don’t have to pay for your ticket with the Aeroplan credit card (used to obtain the pass), you can pay with a card that offers reward points and then apply them to reimburse the expense.
Other expenses incurred on this type of trip include lodging and national park entrance fees. The Parks Canada pass can be a good saving rather than paying for admission by the piece.
To reduce the cost, as well as for the accommodations that may be in the park or the surrounding area, the strategy will be to reimburse the bill after the trip by using your American Express Membership Rewards points or those of the banks. If you prefer to rent an Airbnb on the outskirts of the parks, take the time to check out the Milesopedia Airbnb guide.
Other interesting tours in North America:
- North Coast Trail
- Glacier National Park
- Jasper National Park
- Appalachian Trail in the U.S.
- Pacific Crest Trail in the U.S.
In conclusion, remember that many long routes can be segmented to do only part of them or even to reach a single summit if you have less time or if it is more convenient for your physical condition.
To do this, various points and good planning will help you cut the costs of your hiking project.