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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how award travel has affected their lives — the exotic vacations they’ve planned, the trips they’ve made to be with family and friends, the premium seats and suites they’ve experienced and so much more, all made possible by points and miles. I love to travel and explore, and it’s an honor to be able to help so many of you get where you want to go.
I want to share these success stories with all of you more often, to help inspire you the way you inspire me! So every other week or so I select a story that catches my eye and post it here for everyone to enjoy. Two weeks ago I posted a story from TPG reader Todd, who booked a round-the-world wedding trip with his fiancée.
Sticking with the wedding theme, today I want to share a story from TPG Reader Vanty, who used her travel rewards to book a honeymoon trip to several destinations in Southeast Asia. Here’s what she had to say:
I just read your post from a reader who was able to go to Europe for under $300 and i wanted to share my own story!
My fiancé and I got engaged in Brazil last year during the World Cup (a trip we paid for with miles, of course). We’re getting married this November, and I have a lot of family back in Vietnam, so we’re holding a second wedding ceremony over there. We figured we might as well make a honeymoon out of it, especially since he has never been to Southeast Asia.
For our long flights overseas, we booked business/first class tickets using American Airlines miles that we earned last year from the Citi / Advantage Executive World Elite MasterCard (when it was offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 miles). We made use of American’s Oneworld partners, and will be flying from Los Angeles to Bangkok on Cathay Pacific, and then back home from Saigon on Japan Airlines.
Our flights cost 55,000 miles each way (per person) for MileSAAver awards to/from Asia Region 2, plus $103.80 in fees. There were no booking fees, since American no longer charges you to call in for flights that you can’t book online — finally, a change that benefits us!
I redeemed Club Carlson Rewards (before they eliminated the bonus award night benefit) to book two nights in Bangkok at the Park Plaza Bangkok Soi 18 for 28,000 points, and two nights in Phuket at the Radisson Blue Plaza Resort Phuket Panwa Beach for 44,000 points. To fly from Bangkok to Phuket, we could have booked an award on Malaysia Airlines, but that involved a layover, so we just paid $140 each for round-trip flights on Bangkok Airways. I can’t wait to use the infinity pools in Phuket; plus, ferry day trips to Koh Phi Phi island (where they filmed The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio) are only $20!
To get from Bangkok to Hanoi, Vietnam, we took advantage of British Airways short-haul awards and redeemed 4,500 Avios per person (plus $58 in fees). I booked us at the Sheraton Hanoi for 3,000 Starpoints per night using some of my sign-up bonus from the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express.
Our wedding ceremony is in Da Nang, which is close to Ho Chi Minh City. To get there from Hanoi, we could have redeemed miles with Singapore Airlines, but we couldn’t find saver level awards, so we instead paid $73 dollars for the short flight on low-cost carrier VietJetAir. I used Hyatt points to book us at the Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and Spa with a beach view for only 12,000 points per night. I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card so I was able to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt at a 1:1 transfer ratio.
We’re so excited for our honeymoon, and would have never imagined being able to fly first/business class to Asia and stay in luxury hotels with points and miles! I only discovered your blog and started collecting points in January of 2013, so I’ve come a long way in the last few years! Thank you TPG for helping me learn where to find the best offers and how to get the best value out of my points!
Points and miles are much easier to come by when you’re able to jump on the best sign-up bonus offers. While Vanty and her fiancé had to meet high spending requirements to earn their AAdvantage miles, their efforts paid off, since those round-trip business class tickets across the Pacific would normally cost several thousand dollars apiece. That’s one of the reasons why I think international first and business class awards make for the best redemptions.
Vanty showed a lot of savvy not only in how she chose to redeem her rewards, but also in when she chose not to. For some award travelers, the goal is to minimize cash costs. While I don’t fault anyone for following that strategy, it doesn’t always provide the best value. Each month I publish my valuations of points and miles to give readers a sense of what rewards are worth. If you’re redeeming for well below those amounts, you might be better off just paying cash, as Vanty did for some of her flights. Learning when to redeem points versus when you should pay cash will help you maximize your award travel down the line.
I love this story, and I want to hear more like it! To thank Vanty for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on her travels, and I’d like to do the same for you.
If the tips and strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me (and the whole TPG team) with your own award travel success stories by emailing email@example.com and putting “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, you’ll have our utmost appreciation, and a gift card to jump-start your next adventure (purchased from Office Depot with my Chase Ink Plus, of course).
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you! Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.