The Traveling Steve's

Packing up and heading home from Chile

On our last day in Chile, we requested (and got) a 4pm late checkout at the Grand Hyatt Santiago, Chile, courtesy of my Hyatt Diamond status – quite a nice perk.img_9333  Our flight back to Miami was not until 8:45pm, so it worked out well staying in the room until 4pm, and then heading to the airport.  Believe me, we needed the time to pack everything up for our trip home!


Although we were only in our Hyatt room, one night, as we had gotten upgraded to the Diplomatic Suite, coupled with all of the wine and souvenir purchases we had really spread our things out in our room.   As these photos show, it looks like we were here for a month!


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Fortunately we had this large dining room table to set all our purchases on, and sort things out.  As we were bringing back 18 bottles of wine, we wanted to make sure we had everything accounted for U.S. Customs when we reached Miami, and were prepared to pay whatever duty it would be. img_4913-3 I had looked on the Customs web site, and it was a bit confusing trying to decipher their charts of duty.  It didn’t look like it was more than $1.50 – $2.00 a bottle, but there were different fees on alcohol content; below 14%, above 14%, etc, and much more for spirits which we weren’t taking home. They had a footnote for certain countries being exempt, and I thought Chile might be one, but we documented everything anyway not knowing what to expect, and fully preparing to pay whatever duty we owed.img_4914-3

Steve’s travel tip: Lay all of your receipts out and take a photo of them.  In our case I made up several photos with receipts for wine and separate receipts for non-wine purchases such as winery corkscrews or other souvenirs we bought.



In addition, we made two itemized lists of everything we bought; DOS did one for the wine, and I did one for the non-wine purchases, listing the price paid, description etc.  DOS even listed the winery, alcohol content, and label name, something that will be helpful later when we are home remembering the names and prices of wines should we want more later.


While we have a Napa Valley wine luggage carrier we use when we go to Napa, we did not bring it with us, but fortunately Jose (our guide from Uncorked Wine Tours) had some box carriers he sold thru a local store, and had them delivered to our hotel.  We literally could not have made it home without them – three containers each holding six bottles of wine.




After we finished organizing and documenting our purchases, we took one last photo of each, along with our itemized list in case we lost it.  I uploaded it to our iPads for easy retrieval should we need to show Customs our purchases.


We then walked over to the nearby mall and had a quick fast-food lunch.  I had a Grand Mac meal at McDonald’s, while DOS had a pizza from Pizza Hut.  Nothing fancy, but we’ve been eating fancy this while trip.  img_4955 img_4953 img_4956The food court was super busy, and somehow I found the only table in the middle of a huge school group of screaming kids celebrating someone’s birthday.  But at least I got my Grand Mac correctly without pickles or onions, thanks to DOS ordering it for me!

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After eating, we walked around the mall, and then across the street in search of packing tape and markers for our wine boxes.  We stumbled upon a ‘Home Store’ similar to a Home Depot in the States, and bought both markers and tape (plus extra tape) to seal our boxes of wine.

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No, we didn’t bring any plants or flowers home.  It looked just like a garden center store at home!


Back at the hotel, we took a short nap, as we had a nine hour overnight flight back to Miami.  Around 4pm, we had a bellman pick up our luggage, and checked out.  Here is our luggage while we wait for our pre-arranged transportation to the airport.  We left Orlando with two checked bags, and are going home now with six, including the three boxes of wine.  Leave it to DOS!


Unrelated, but I’m including this photo out our 19th floor window for later comparisons.  We have stayed here at the Grand Hyatt Santiago several times, and the last couple years have noticed this on-going road construction project in front of the hotel.  My guess is they are building a tunnel to bypass the busy roads, but it doesn’t seem like much progress has been made since our last couple visits.  I’ll compare this to our next visit and see if anything is different.


Not that we had a bad view; this was just the freeway exit to the hotel; our forward view was outstanding!


Our ride to the airport only took a half hour or so, even with the 4pm traffic.  img_4983 img_4990-1Once there, we checked in at the American Airlines Priority counter, and were quickly assisted by the next agent. As Executive Platinum flyers with American, on an international Business (First) flight, we were allowed three bags each, which like the Hyatt late checkout, is a nice perk.  img_5004 img_4998 img_5006Our flight was on a Boeing 777-200 series, which is configured with Two Classes; Coach and Business (First).  Basically, Business is the new First on these two class aircraft.

Steve’s Travel Tip: We were flying Business Class on American which is a One World partner, so upon seeing the LONG departure and security lines, we walked over to the LATAM premium checkpoint and waited mere moments to get thru, vs who knows how long at the main departure point.  If you’re flying AA on Business or First (on three class planes) you can use the LATAM premium lane which will save you a lot of time at departure.  The other nice perk was the nicer LATAM VIP lounge there, which we used up until departure.  img_5012 img_5016-1 img_5014On our last trip over July 4th to Easter Island, we had used the American Lounge which was nice, but the LATAM lounge being the flagship carrier in Santiago was a massive two level lounge with many sections.  There were at least three self-service bar areas we noticed, which offered liquors, wines, and food.

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We found a quiet area with a window view and had had a relaxing lounge visit for two and a half hours.  img_5008We then walked down to board our flight at 7:50pm, and arrived at the gate just as they started Priority Boarding. img_5053img_5064On this Boeing 777-200 series, DOS and I had adjacent seats in the forward Business/First middle section; i.e. side by side: seats 3D and G.  On this flight we were sitting forward side-by-side, and the middle portion divider was down so we could chat with each other, as well as have dinner together.

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We had a nice and quick 9 hour flight back to Miami, with good meal and drink service, from the Santiago based crew.

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Although we had individual TV screens, I did not watch any movies or TV shows on this overnight flight, instead just showing the flight map along the way.


We arrived in Miami at the early hour of 4:30am – ouch!  We both were able to sleep a few hours fortunately due to the 180 degree sleeper seats, but it’s still an early morning arrival.  We expected the worst from Customs since we were bringing back so much wine, but using our Global Entry kiosk, we checked the ‘Have something to Declare’, and we explained to the officers how much wine we had bought.  I was expecting to pay duty and show them all our receipts, but the polite gentlemen waved us thru without any duty charges.  We collected our luggage, and a Customs officer saw all my luggage and wine and did ask me how much I had, but then as DOS walked by I said it was for the two of us, and he waved us on thru; again very polite and professional.  Wow – I guess I expected the worst, and we had brought extra packing tape to re-seal the boxes should Customs go thru it, which they didn’t.

After clearing Customs, we re-checked our bags with American, and then went thru TSA screening before heading to the Admiral’s Club Lounge in Miami.  Our final flight back to Orlando wasn’t until 7am, so we had a couple hours to relax in the AA Club.  After the overnight flight, I felt like I was getting a cold, and as it would turn out, I was pretty worn out for the next week, fortunately working at home.  I think the the whole trip, coupled with 8 weeks straight of on-the-road finally caught up with me.  I was so tired I didn’t take any photos in the lounge there.

We flew back to Orlando, and arrived a bit before 8am, tired, but returning with wonderful memories, vino, and souvenirs.  It was a fantastic journey to Chile!  Welcome Home!

P.S. One of my favorite photos previously posted from the trip; at VIK winery.




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