Today, TPG Contributor Jason Steele offers his insights on how to use points and miles to make the most of your honeymoon.
Planning vacations with your travel rewards is what this hobby is all about, so how is planning a honeymoon any different than a normal vacation? As you’ll see below, I make the case that a honeymoon is unlike any other vacation you’ll take, and using points and miles to do so is one of the ultimate challenges.
1. You can’t “be flexible” with your travel. The first rule of award travel planning is to “be flexible”. While this is important advice on how to find scarce award seats, it’s nearly useless when it comes to planning your honeymoon. You can’t just tell your future spouse to pick a wedding date based on airline award availability, and most couples aren’t going to be happy choosing a destination solely based on where available award seats pop up.
2. You might not be able to build your reward balances in advance. In addition to flexibility, award travel is often about planning your trips far in advance. Couples often choose their wedding date with plenty of time to find award tickets, but not necessarily enough time to earn the points and miles needed.
3. There’s no room for error. Normally, I would have no problem booking a vacation on an island within a hurricane or typhoon zone, or to a place that has a history of political trouble. After all, travel is an adventure, and we wouldn’t see much of the world if we confined ourselves to the safest, most reliable destinations. Besides, you can always cancel or postpone a trip if the timing isn’t right.
But a honeymoon is an entirely different type of vacation. You don’t want to start your marriage with a series of travel disruptions or an “adventure” riding out a hurricane or a political uprising. Nor do you want the added stress of worrying about contingencies when you’ll already have plenty of other things on your mind in planning the wedding itself.
Given these considerations, let’s take a look at strategies for using award travel options to book your honeymoon.
Tips for planning a honeymoon with points and miles
1. If you have airline miles, focus on the air travel first. Air travel is going to be the most critical part of your award trip, and the part that needs to be planned furthest in advance if you’re going to use points and miles. Airlines make very few award seats available at the lowest mileage levels, especially to popular tourist destinations. My advice is to start thinking about honeymoon destinations soon after you have a wedding date, and look for award space right away.
2. Don’t worry too much about business and first class. You might imagine jetting off on your honeymoon in business or first class, but you can’t plan your trip around that idea. In my opinion, you’re better off booking an award trip to your preferred destination in economy class and saving your cash and rewards for other expenses, rather than letting premium cabin availability cloud your choice of destination. My wife and I flew in economy class on our honeymoon, and we were too excited to know the difference. Besides, you can take consolation in the fact that many of the new style business and first class cabins don’t even allow couples to sit very close to each other, which is never a problem in economy.
3. Splurge on hotels. When people think about travel rewards, they often think about airline miles first. Yet hotel points are perfect for honeymoon travel. First, major hotel programs such as Starwood, Hyatt, and Hilton offer awards valid for any available standard room with no blackout dates or capacity restrictions, so couples can plan their award travel around their wedding date, not the other way around. In addition, honeymooners tend to spend a lot more time in the hotel than other travelers, so you’ll want to stay somewhere nice. Thankfully, hotel points can be especially valuable when redeemed for luxury properties at vacation destinations.
4. Consider fixed value credit card reward programs. Both the Capital One Venture Rewards and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus offer double miles for all purchases, and miles are worth one cent apiece as statement credits towards travel rewards. This type of fixed value rewards program has several advantages. First, there’s no need to worry about award availability, since points are redeemed for paid travel. Second, you can use the points on any airline or hotel, so you’re not limited to a specific award program. Couples can use these cards to pay for their weddings and other expenses during their engagement, and on their honeymoon itself. They can then claim their rewards after they return for any airfare, hotel, car rental, vacation package, or even a cruise that’s paid for on the card.
5. Think about air travel passes. Whether you arrive overseas on a paid or an award ticket, you can book an air travel pass to maximize travel at your destination. Since honeymoons tend to be longer vacations, air travel passes are ideal for those who want to visit more than one place. Furthermore, honeymooners tend to seek far off islands and resorts that can be very expensive to reach. The beauty of air travel passes is that the price is fixed based on the distance flown, and unlike award travel, availability is virtually unlimited. My wife and I used an air travel pass when we went to Brazil on our honeymoon, and it allowed us to visit some very remote and exotic destinations while saving us a tremendous amount of money.
Advice from a soon-to-be groom
Finally, I spoke with a fried of mine, William Nagle, a points and miles enthuiast who is currently planning his own honeymoon. He offered the following suggestions:
- Call hotel agents and ask for advice on ways to redeem points. William found that hotel agents are very friendly toward newlyweds, and are happy to help you get the best value from your award travel. We also learned different ways to redeem points with SPG that we were unaware of, such as Starwood’s SPG50 awards.
- In the event that award space is unavailable, look for award space a day or two out from today. This will give you at least some idea how much award space the airline will open as they get closer to the flight date.
- Have a backup. If there is no award space and the promise of it opening up closer to the departure date is promising, purchase a refundable plane ticket and wait to see if the award space becomes available. The purchased ticket is insurance so that you’ll be able to take your trip either way, but you’ll get your money back (dependent on the airline policy) if the award space opens up.
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