Day 1: Chicago to Santiago

We are off on another spring break adventure! This time, we are headed to Patagonia National Park, home of the final Explora location we have yet to visit. To start the journey, we made our way to O’Hare on the blue line, as usual.

Traditional pointing!

Although we are going to Chile, it made more sense (given flight times and options) to fly direct to São Paulo first (vs a layover in Miami, Atlanta, or Houston), then take a flight to Santiago. We had plenty of time to hang out in the United Lounge thanks to some free passes we acquired as a super-important United credit card holder. However, not that super-important, because we first got rejected from the United Polaris lounge and had to slum it in the regular United Club Lounge with the riffraff.

Arriving at the gate on time, there was a small hiccup when we discovered there was no plane. Obviously this caused a delay, but we had plenty of time to make our next flight, so we weren’t worried. Once we boarded, I discovered I was seated next to my future self. We both had the same water bottle, kindle, headphones, and card games on our phones. In short, she was a joy to sit next to.

We have a plane!

Let’s get a move on, Sky Chefs!

We survived the Bermuda Triangle

We arrived in rainy São Paulo a mere 12 hours later and realized we did not actually need the visas we had painstakingly applied for, reapplied for, and paid for. Apparently that requirement was moved back and will start in April. But hey, they are good for 10 years, so I guess the option to re-see the world’s greatest waterfalls still stands.

Rainy, 75 degrees, and humid

Customs was quick and easy for the shortest trip to Brazil ever. There was a little drama at the baggage carousel after we waited for all the bags to arrive, but did not see ours. An airport person came over to us and said we should check out the manual/oversized luggage area. We did, and of course, our very normal-sized bag was happily waiting for us.

When you fly thru Brazil just to get to Chile?

The delay and the luggage search worked out perfectly because we arrived at check-in for our next flight exactly four hours before the flight — the earliest time you are able to check in bags. We found the same restaurant we ate at last year and ordered some breakfast. After that, we found a lounge just to lounge. No food or drinks needed.

Professional lounging

Finally, it was time for our flight to Santiago. Here’s an LATAM pro tip for everybody out there… pay the extra 10 dollars for priority boarding. We learned this on previous trips to South America, and it is totally worth it. Didn’t have to mosh pit with anybody in group 4/5/6, successfully stashed our carry ons, and settled in.

South America coast-to-coast (well, kinda)

Crossing the Andes

Arriving in Santiago, it was once again nice to not be in a rush, because the Chile PDI border control operation wasn’t either! One PDI agent was on the clock to handle the entire line and, boy, was he thorough. Thankfully, our only plan was to check into the hotel airport and relax. On the plus side, no waiting by the baggage carousel this time!

We walked over to the hotel for the night. It’s a lovely 84 degrees here, so we grabbed an outdoor table at the restaurant and enjoyed Patagonia beers and a delicious meat sampler.

Beers and blog

Just one more short-ish flight tomorrow and a six hour drive to go before we make it to Explora and Patagonia National Park!

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