Adding Cuba to My Crazy Mileage Run to Panama?!? The Logistics & My Mileage Options!

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mileage run cuba
Plaza Vieja, Havana. Photo by Brian Snelson.

Adding on Cuba?!?

Going to Cuba has always been at the top of my bucket list. I have heard so many great things about the country and I am terribly afraid that a lot will change as soon as hoards of Americans begin flooding their shores. With the U.S. continuing to ease travel restrictions, it is only a matter of time before it becomes the next tourism hotspot.

Today’s news about the latest restrictions to be lifted really got me thinking and that is a dangerous thing. I know with my time commitments that it will be difficult to schedule a dedicated Cuba trip anytime soon unless I spend a ton of money for a charter flight. The only opportunities to use miles require you to leave the U.S. first.

Tack Cuba on to my Mileage Run!

mileage run cuba
Streets of Havana. Photo by Jack Hickes.

As I was reading today’s Cuba news, a crazy idea came to mind. I am going to be flying to Panama and a little airline called Copa flies directly from there to Havana. (And I am even an elite with them.) So the idea was there, but could I make the flights work with miles? The answer is yes!

My previous mileage run itinerary (that I hadn’t booked yet) only allowed for one day in Panama. Since time is tight for me, that is all I allotted, but of course that doesn’t leave time for Cuba. So after shifting some things around, I searched and was able to place another itinerary on hold with an almost 4 day layover in Panama. (It is even $50 less than the previous one.) This would give me time to see the canal and some of the city and also allow me to fly to Cuba for 2 days. Perhaps I’ll only get a small taste of the country, but it will be a taste nonetheless.

Finding Mileage Options to Cuba

Next, I started looking at mileage options from Panama to Cuba. Avianca Lifemiles only charges 20K miles roundtrip in economy on the route, but unfortunately I discovered that one direction only has business class availability while the other has economy. Since one-way business class costs 20K Lifemiles (which is my entire balance), I needed to find a way back!

Thankfully several other Star Alliance carriers allow you to book flights to Cuba. Since I already have a balance of Singapore Krisflyer miles stashed away from a Suites flight I was going to book, I called them and was able to verify it would be 17,500 miles one-way in economy. Score!

Tallying it Up

mileage run cuba
Havana. Photo by Bryan Ledgard.

The cost of the roundtrip from PTY-HAV will be 20,000 Lifemiles (which I had no real plan for) + 17,500 Krisflyer miles (which are easily replaced via transfer from a number of flexible currencies) + $92.42 in taxes and fees. In cash, a roundtrip on the same flights in economy would be $675.30. The actual cost of the flights is $1280.40 since one of my legs is in business which is much more expensive.


At this point I have a few feelers out to friends I know who have been to Havana so I can nail down the best transport and lodging options. While the American Airlines itinerary to Panama is now on hold through tomorrow, availability on the Copa flights to Cuba could change at any time. I will most likely be booking this by tomorrow if I do, since I honestly can’t see a reason why I shouldn’t.

Once everything is nailed down I will create a how-to post showing my search processes and such, but I am so excited about the idea that I wanted to write about it now. What do you think? Is it a crazy idea or does it just make my mileage run to Panama even better? Let me know in the comments.

Shawn Coomer
Since 2007 Shawn Coomer has been circling the globe with his family for pennies on the dollar. He uses that first-hand knowledge and experience to teach others how to achieve their travel dreams for the least amount of money possible.

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  1. Just be very aware that time schedules there are not treated the same as here. This is the last part of your journey then it’s better because then if you get messed up some way, or delayed then it is not affecting all of the rest of your connections. I did just over 3 weeks at the end of last year and would recommend it, but obviously for more time. And I wish people would not be totally freaked out by trying to get there before it is ‘ruined’…they’ve got a LONG way to go to be able to even possibly serve much more tourism than they have now. I understand in a way, but having been there, for those of you that are not trying to put together some wild and crazy mileage run, just make plans to go when it makes sense for you, and spend a bit more time!

    • I agree that it won’t change overnight, but the truth is tourism is growing their quite rapidly because of the Europeans. From what I have gathered, thing are much different now than they were even 5-10 years ago. I have plenty of space on both sides of the Cuba portion so it should be ok.

      I agree that people should get there when they have time. In this case I do, but only 2 days. Had I not already been planning on being in Panama then I wouldn’t have done this whole thing in two days, but under the circumstances it works well and will be a good intro to the country and most likely the first visit of many!

  2. Don’t be silly! Only two days and you will not see much of Havana. I spent two weeks there in 2003 and still did not get to the eastern half of the island. We did spend 6 days in Havana. Don’t treat it as a game, enjoy it.

    • Maybe you didn’t see the part where I said, “Perhaps I’ll only get a small taste of the country, but it will be a taste nonetheless”. I only have a small amount of time. I wish I could go for longer, but I think given the changes that are most likely coming, it is better to visit even if only for 2 days then not to visit at all.

  3. Don’t confuse legal and smart. For years now, immigration officers from El Salvador to Paraguay have relished the chance to get up close and personal with anybody who hands them a passport with a Cuban visa stamped in it. No doubt they’ll be impressed by those quaint First Amendment rights.

  4. You should DEFINITELY do this. It’s a great opportunity and you’re right, if you wait till you have time to work it into your schedule, much will have changed. Go for it!! (This is the way I operate too, so of course I am in favor!)

  5. I may be a bit behind news, etc, but when you get to Cuba, should you go, you might be smart to ask the immigration fellows there to NOT stamp your passport. if you’re a US Passport user. Maybe you have a passport from another country. Just thought I would throw that in.


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