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When planning my vacations, I always let the miles decide where I go. When planning this year’s summer trip, I had a boatload of Delta miles to use and every time I tried to book a flight on Delta.com in business class, it was giving me their “medium” level or 200,000 miles. Being the spendthrift mileage hound that I am, I looked to other methods of maximizing my miles (ps this trip story was also featured in Conde Nast’s Maximize Your Miles Contest).
I loaded up my browser and powered up my trusty expertflyer.com account. I knew I wanted to go to Paris, which would cost me 100,000 miles roundtrip and I immediately found dates in July that worked well for my schedule. However, I have a minor case of travel ADD, so I really don’t need to be in one place for 10 days. I did a little research and started thinking Africa. At first I was going to do Senegal.. or maybe Ghana? However, after 3 days in Paris, I figured I’d need to relax, so I kept going east until I hit the Indian Ocean. Air France flies to Mauritius and Reunion, both in the Indian ocean, but the available flights didn’t work with my schedule. I did a little more research on www.flyertalk.com and found out that Air France codeshares with Air Seychelles for daily flights to Mahe. The Seychelles – yea, that sounds about right. I remember playing “spin the globe” in middle school and I landed on the Seychelles. Even though I may not have pronounced it correctly at the time, I told myself I would go there someday.
I plugged in my ideal dates and magically there were almost 9 seats available on every day I wanted. It was like finding a frequent flyer mile treasure! Knowing that Air France availability shows on Delta.com if you type it in exactly, I used their multi-city search and plugged in the flights and dates where I knew there was availability on expertflyer.com. Magically, all flights loaded and I booked the ticket right then and there for 120,000 miles and $245 in taxes. Yes, thats right – only 20,000 additional miles to go to the SEYCHELLES in business class. And those $250 in taxes? Well I paid for them using a voucher I had for volunteering to get bumped off a flight.
Total out of pocket expense for business class JFK-CDG (2 nights)- SEZ (5 nights)- CDG (1 night)- JFK= $0. My subway ticket to work costs more.
For laughs, I created the same itinerary on airfrance.us and to purchase it, was over $15,000. Not that I would spend $15k on a plane ticket (at this point in my life), but my Delta miles at face value yielded me over 13 cents a piece. I’m not trying to brag too much here, but the moral of the story is that you should never feel defeated when trying to use frequent flyer miles. Think of it as a puzzle and the rewards you can get when you crack the code.
I’m currently sitting in the JFK Terminal 1 Korean Air Lounge (free access due to my Skyteam Elite Plus Status), sipping a cup of green tea and relaxing before my flight to Paris. Once in Paris, we’ll spend two nights at the Park Hyatt Vendome, a room which is currently selling for 700 Euros a night. I used two Hyatt free nights earned from several cheap leisure stays earlier this year, so my total cost for that will be $0.
Once in the Seychelles, we are staying at Le Meridien Barbarons, which is running us 4,800 Starwood points and $90US a night- a bargain if you ask me.
I will concede I decided not to use my Hertz points for our rental car, because it only costs 35 euros a day and my Hertz points are better used for Manhattan rentals which can be over $100/day.
If anything, I hope my trip report (which will be posted throughout my trip, whenever I have down time – thanks for free internet for being Hyatt Diamond and Starwood Platinum) will inspire others to maximize the value of their points in order to live their travel dreams- the whole premise behind www.thepointsguy.com.
Safe travels and happy Fourth of July!