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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. Last week I posted a story from TPG reader Jonathan, who earned travel rewards from wedding expenses so he and his fiancée could add a bit more luxury to their honeymoon.
Today I want to share a story from TPG Reader Yvonne, who accumulated AAdvantage miles from a number of different sources to take her family on vacation. Here’s what she had to say:
My story isn’t as glamorous as others, but parents all over the world should be able to relate. I’m a single mom with three kids, and traveling to far flung places with my family is difficult financially. I’ve been trying to earn enough AAdvantage miles to take us on vacation, and have gotten many valuable tips from your website.
I jumped on the Cadillac test drive offer as soon as I saw it on your site last fall and earned 7,500 miles that way. Instead of signing up for the Citi AAdvantage card when it offered 30,000 miles, I took your advice and waited until the offer for 50,000 miles came around again. I shop almost exclusively through the AAdvantage online portal and keep an eye out for when my favorite stores increase the miles per dollar offered. I even got 25,000 miles when I switched to DirectTV based on a tip you shared in the past.
Finally, this summer I was able to fly all four of us to Kauai at a cost of $40 + 180,000 miles. If we had paid cash, those tickets would have cost us $3,000! I also had enough miles to rent a car — I know, I know, it’s not one of the best ways to redeem AAdvantage miles, but it was worthwhile in my case because I was able to save cash for other vacation expenses. We got a free place to stay (courtesy of my parents’ timeshare), so all in all, we had a fabulous vacation and spent only about $100 on gas, airline fees and taxes/fees for the rental car.
The rest of my family (who had to pay full price for their airfare) are now getting into the points and miles world. Of course, I told them about The Points Guy, and I’m hoping they can learn how to get their next vacation practically free as well. Thanks for all your help!
There are plenty of ways to earn points and miles, including some you might not have thought of before. Yvonne did a great job pooling miles together: She got a good boost from the sign-up bonus on the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard, but she also took advantage of a number of one-time promotions and looked for opportunities to maximize her return on regular expenses. That’s a winning award travel strategy for sure!
Of course, how you redeem miles is just as important as how you earn them. Yvonne may have needed to arrange her travel around family plans and academic calendars, but if you can make the dates work, American’s off-peak awards offer a substantial discount on travel to Hawaii (and other destinations). Rental cars aren’t the most valuable use of miles, but one of the common mistakes award travelers make is to try and squeeze every last cent out of each redemption. What matters is that your rewards help you take the vacation you want, not necessarily the one that’s worth the most.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Yvonne 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!